Our primate ancestor leaders were directly dominant, out of explicit self-interest. While top animals provided the useful function of keeping the peace among lower folk, they weren’t shy about using their position for personal advantage (e.g., food, mates) whenever possible. But limited communication abilities limited their dominance. Human tyrants use language to better coordinate to give orders and identify disobedience, and so can dominate more strongly.

Can I borrow your time machine?

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anon, you overestimate eagerness for and ease of a successful challenge. The existing coalition in power doesn't need much overt dominance to resist a challenge, as most folks' default is to let sleeping dogs lie. You have to motivate people to overcome inertia to support your challenge.

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In general, when you violate domination norms, you should worry about wider audiences, who need to keep up their reputation for punishing clear violations of anti-domination norms. But if the observers that watch them are hardly paying attention, these audiences may ignore your dominance, as long as you offer a thin veneer of excuses for it.

But there are other, higher-order effects. For one thing, challengers are incented to expose norm violations rather than hush them up, since this weakens the incumbent leader. Groups can plausibly coordinate to improve transparency, since current challengers provide a focus point for cooperation efforts. Sure, leaders might try to disrupt emerging coalitions. But any such efforts would be quickly punished as overt attempts at dominance.

So as long as leadership remains contestable, norm violations should be punished fairly effectively. What am I missing?

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I would feel a whole lot happier about your posts using "ancient ancestors" reasoning if you either1) Gave some links, citations, anything to give me a way to see if this is actually a reasonable description of what our primate forebears actually did,or2) Restructured your language (or at least add some disclaimer at the bottom of posts) to make it clear that what you're more interested in, and perhaps really doing, is looking at a stripped down model of human behavior where you've removed most of the complicating aspects of the modern world and how education/community affects people.

Being a former physicist, I want to assume that case 2) is what you're really doing. Constructing a harmonic oscillator model for humans, so to speak.

In case it's not clear, the reason it bothers me is that I'm unsure if your arguments actually depend on your assumptions about our distant ancestors being true, or if that's quite irrelevant.

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