Are we genetically capitalist?


Cowen takes issue with Greg

Clark, who has an interesting thesis – that world economic history

can be explained by a move from a Malthusian world where the most successfully

violent were the most reproductively successful, to a capitalist world where

the richest were the most reproductively successful. Here’s the chart:


Cowen’s problem is that Clark hasn’t explained a particular advantage for England,

where the industrial revolution was born, over the rest of Europe. But I don’t

see this as a problem. I see Clark’s thesis as explaining the economic history

of all of Europe, not as trying to explain why England’s growth rate took off

marginally earlier than other countries’ growth rates.

I’m quite convinced by Clark, actually, because his thesis fits neatly into

that of Dan Gilbert, of

Stumbling on Happiness fame. We’re genetically bound to strive to make money,

and to believe that making more money will make us happier. And maybe the real

hope for a country like Bhutan, which seeks to maximize "gross national

happiness" rather than GDP, is that its population doesn’t have the same

genetic makeup and therefore doesn’t have the same urge to destroy the commons

in the search for wealth.

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4 Responses to Are we genetically capitalist?

  1. 99 says:

    What we will probably never get to know is that is which species died off suddenly as a result of evolution deformations that could not be corrected (on biological scale). Perhaps capitalism killed the dinosaurs.

    Consciousness night not turn out to be an advantagous trait. In 10,000 years, we have grown quickly as a species, but perhaps capitalism is on the last stage of (now social) violence, expanding to resource destruction in addition to the massive inequities it forces upon the majority of humans.

    Nature doesn’t really establish value beyond longevity, right (the last one alive wins, perhaps)? I’m sure there’s lots of philosophy on this I don’t know about, but even though our social structures have gotten more complex, there are examples of other species (ants come to mind) where socially complex systems with large populations are far more sustainable.

    Oh, and what about that study that show, was is the Danes, as more content than most, only because they has experienced so little success?

  2. Dean Hedges says:

    thank you for bringing the thought of genetic captialism up for discussion …

    your blog comments have been based on to these various locations … … very interesting idea … but … there is also this thought …

    “For material civilization is not adequate for the needs of mankind and cannot be the cause of its happiness.”

    (Abdu’l-Baha, Abdu’l-Baha in London, p. 29)

  3. dsquared says:

    Doesn’t this thesis that “the richest are the most reproductively successful” have a little problem called “all the demographic data everywhere in the world”?

  4. Felix says:

    Yes, I daresay it does, although we are talking about the Industrial Revolution here, and apparently it actually held up, back then.

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