Growing Pack Behavior in Juvenile Homo Sapiens

I threw together this presentation, entitled Growing Pack Behavior in Juvenile Homo Sapiens — or — Making Kids Play Nice for an in-class presentation today presentation.


Putting Humanity, and Schools, in Context

We’re the Cooperative Ones

But not Buffalos, Apparently

Schools as Gardens

An Obvious Polymorphism

Guess which one wasn’t in our text?

An absolute majority of people are Wary Cooperators

Free-Riders Go Home!

Ways of Influencing Peer Pressure

Exploit Social Bonds

Little Kids

Bigger Kids

What Changes During School

The Conclusion


McCain-Lieberman 2008

Thermometer Adds Support for McCain-Lieberman Ticket,” by Matt Stoller, MyDD, 29 November 2006,

The blogosphere is abuzz with speculation on the 2008 election. Barnett is supporting a flake while Safranski is going for the brain. However, it’s hard not to get excited by this:

While Lieberman’s high rating went largely unremarked in our discussions, you can be sure it did not go unremarked among the Unity08 crowd, who are stepping up their operations. And you can be sure that it did not go unremarked among the think tank The Third Way, and Lieberman’s staffers and supporters. They look at their guy and they say ‘We beat the best the left could throw at us, and Joe now has a battle-hardened national constituency he did not have in 2004’.

It gets even more interesting, as Michael Bloomberg takes the number seven spot, wtih 51.1%. The aggregated power of Bloomberg/Lieberman/McCain is formidable when paired with a wounded reactionary base. If Republicans make the calculation in 2008 that they must run away from Bush, a calculation that seems obvious, then a McCain/Lieberman ticket looks quite appealing. Both characters have stood against their party, and their financial base will be unparalleled. Lieberman could just print money in Connecticut, and he’ll be able to do that again in 2008. DC culture will pump massive amounts of cash into their coffers, the GOP base will get behind McCain and Lieberman, and it’s not clear to me if the Democratic Party can stay unified in the face of an assault like that, especially because McCain and Lieberman are both setting themselves up as reformers (Lieberman and Schumer may be fighting over ethics right now).

Certainly McCain-Lieberman would be a better choice than Tom Daschle. Or, gack, John Kerry.

The Purpose of Democracy

McClean, I. (1986). Some recent work in public choice. British Journal of Political Science 16(3): 377-394. Available online:

I’m back at Lincoln (from a brief journey to South Dakota) and hard at work at an expanded version of “The Suicide Bomber Type.” 378:

The other point of contact is with the normative theory of democracy. The only writer to tacke this convincingly so far is W.H. Riker in his Liberalism against Populism, which has already been reveiwed here by Albert Weale. Riker concludes that the General Possibility Theorem is fatal to the claims of populist democracy. Government cannot obey the “will of the people” because there is no such thing. There is almost certainly no state of the world that is socially preferred to all other possible states of the world. In any complex society, there is almost certain to be a cycle among winning alternatives, so that there is none that cannot be beaten by at least one other. Hence, according to Riker, democracy and and should only be a system where the people can get rid of intolerable leaders, not one in which they choose the best alternativeness. The echoes of Schumpeter are striking. There is an important issue for normative theory here, but so far Riker’s challenge has scarcely been taken up.

I agree, but I would add hobbling is equally important, as people may choose to trust their leaders with more or less power in different domains. Both checks & balances and initiatives & referenda are part of this process.

I wrote something similar a few months back:

The more you do something, the more you purposefully practice something, the better you get. At the same time, people have an inborn capacity for “learned helplessness,” where people save time for purposeful practice in a domain that matters to them by eschewing domains where they have less skill (and thus, have practiced less). Thus: politics should be left to the experts.

This approach is fully compatible with democracy. Research by the professors in this class have indicated genetic predispositions to democratic norms, including a preference for deliberative justice and an aversion to corruption and “big-man” behavior. In democracies the people will feel when this behavior becomes uncomfortable to them and will be able to throw the crooks out. Absent such social freeriding by politicians, however, it may make more sense for the government to by run by people who actually know what they are doing. For every decision that actually affects people’s well-being in a way they can predict (which, as we have seen, normally involves corruption or big-man behvaior) there are innumerable ones that require a modicum of experience and knowledge, unobtainable from slogans and rallies.

On most issues mass politics is probably the worst of all possible systems, because it combines our inability to think rationally with our genetic predilections for manipulable thought. The government should not be corrupt, should not be ostentatious, and should not have an agenda obnoxious to the people. Beyond that, leave politics to the politicians. Leave it to the experts. And whatever you do, keep it away from the people.

Good stuff.

The Development of Christianity

Changing Horses,” by Sara Ronbinson, Orcinus, 24 November 2006, (hat-tip to Tanguerena at John Robb).

The history of religion is characterized by fanatical movements that started out full of ecstatic zeal to change the world one person at a time. From the Wahabists to the Methodists, religions are usually founded in a rush of passion — which (if it doesn’t fatally fracture in the intensity of the initial torrent, which is the fate of most new faith groups) gradually subsides to a calmer, more intellectual and inclusive order. In this second phase, the groups typically become more outwardly-focused. They [Religions] start dealing with the world as it is, instead of as their theology tells them it should be. Most of what we think of “mainstream” churches started out in the first phase, but have by now been in this second one for a very long time.

The Mainstream Churches Sara is referring to – the Episcopal Church, the Evangelical Lutheran, the Presbyterian Church (USA) — may have gone on this path, but I doubt it. Indeed, few major religions start out in this way.


A Patient Victor

Christianity is an inherently political religion. The faith of the carpenter utilizes insurgent warfare methodology to develop a deconflicted fighting force that the Romans and Jews wisely resisted. Indeed, Christianity turned inward after it conquered Rome, which goes against Sara’s hypothesis.

Broadly, the same was true for Islam as well.

One Man’s Descent Into Madness

Jonah Goldberg links to a New Yorker profile of Lou Dobbs.

An excerpt:

Dobbs’s rabidness provokes his critics. Not long ago, the Times columnist Thomas Friedman told a law-school audience, “And then you have a blithering idiot like Lou Dobbs, in my view, who’s using the platform of CNN in a news frame. . . . This is not news. And so we have a political class not making sense of the world for people and that’s why the public . . . is so agitated.” The Economist said that one might expect “CNN’s flagship business-news programme . . . to strive for economic literacy,” but, instead, Dobbs greets “every announcement of lost jobs as akin to a terrorist assault”; The Nation accused him of “hysteria and jingoism”; the Southern Poverty Law Center said that Dobbs “failed to present mounting and persistent evidence of anti-Hispanic racism” in his reports on anti-immigration groups like the Minutemen; one Hispanic group urged Time Warner to take Dobbs off the air.

In his new book, Dobbs says of Friedman, “His name calling would bother me more if he were anything more than a tool of international corporatism and a card-carrying member of his own Flat Earth Society.

Read the whole thing.

Help a friend. Take a survey

A closer friend of mine, who also went through the CITI rigamarole, is in the middle of an epic marathon on human-subjects experiments. He has been extremely helpful to me in setting of mine. I owe him a lot.

One of his projects is a simple, three page survey. It will not be used for presentation or publication. There are no complicated forms to fill out.

The survey took me about two pages to fill out. It does not ask for any personal information. Please take it, and help out a friend. 🙂

Take the survey now. Let your voice be heard!

Christianity and the Military-Industrial Complex

Larry Dunbar, a polymath interested in genetics, psychology, and many other subjects has a new post synthesizing his thoughts on Christianity and the Military-Industrial Complex:

Take for instance the statement: the military/industrial complex will bring about world peace. Someone, a lot smarter than I, said something to that effect, and actually believes this to be true; it is his reality.

The real amazing thing is that this person pretends to be a follower of Jesus of Nazareth. Although I have never read the teachings of Jesus, I have been around the practitioners of Jesus all my life.

The military/industrial complex is what Howard Bloom calls a resource shifter. In Jesus’ time the moneychangers would represent them. I think Jesus had something harsh to say about moneychangers. I may have misunderstood, but I don’t think it had anything to do with world peace.

Larry is referring to my writings on Embracing-Defeat and Jesusism-Paulism. In the former series I argue that a military-industrial complex is necessary for victory in protracted struggles, and that are defeats in Vietnam, Lebanon, and Somalia are tied to a lack of a military-industrial-counter-insurgency complex. In the latter, I explain how early Christians used 4GW to conquer the Roman Empire and establish an order based on universal human dignity.

I’m interested in Larry’s thoughts, and I hope he expands on them. However, I don’t think the point he uses in his post is persuasive. Of course anything shifts resources, because anything costs. The question is whether the shifted resources are worth it. In the case of the Military-Industrial Complex the answer is a clear yes. Indeed, it’s hard to think of a more Christian task for a great nation than building one.

Thank God, truly, that we are half-way there.

Advent ADR 560, an Example of User-Hostile Design

I’ve wasted a good portion of this day of Thanksgiving break on the awful, awful, awful Advent ADR 560 Universal Remote Control. Everything about it is poorly designed. The remote itself is cryptically labeled, the online PDF is designed so as to be nearly impossible to print, and the web designer seems to be actively hostile to human-computer interface concerns.

I wouldn’t give the death penalty to the CEO. Not quite that much.

Jim de Wilde on the Blogosphere and Academia

According to his homepage:

In his teaching activities, he has been on the faculty of the University Of Western Ontario School Of Business (now Ivey) and the Faculty of Management at McGill University, where he is now a Dobson Fellow in the Centre for Entrepreneurship. He has also taught venture capital strategies at the Rotman School of Business at the University of Toronto. His B-School activities have also included applying the Rotman venture capital strategies course to the Finnish context at the Helsinki School of Economics, and lecturing at the London Business School. He has a PhD in political science from McGill with a dissertation focusing on the Canadian public policy process and competitiveness in technology sectors.

Indeed, it appears that Dr. de Wilde’s disertation is available from Amazon. Thus, I am quite happy to be listed in the same paragraph with Abu Aardbark, Davos Newbies, Duck of Minerva, FDNF, and Oxblogs a “case study in ‘the new curriculum.'”

For some context, the article begins as follows:

The next stage of the new media revolution going on around us is the fusion of education and sophisticated new media journalism into single “branded” products. The Financial Times, Wall Street Journal and New York Times remain the premier “educational content” in social, political and economic issues in the English-speaking world. The depth of analysis done in FT, WSJ and NYT has not been converted into an educational curriculum which can complement organized educational products. Ironically, the business model underlying Pearson, Dow-Jones and the NYT is increasingly under pressure despite their brand being the hallmark of quality analysis. In this environment, the challenge of turning this content into usable customized curriculums and other business models remains an opportunity for knowledge management and strategic information in old media companies.

The traditional academic system of refereed articles is limited in offering a solution to the new problems of organizing usable knowledge in a rapidly-changing world. The incentive structure of traditional academics does not value public education and encourages hyper-specialization. On the other hand, even though the collaborative knowledge of the open-source era has produced new patterns of organizing knowledge, it has also created risks for those who want safeguards against unverified writings and the blurring of the lines between opinion and analysis. There is still an essential role for “credentialized” or “certified” expertise. Some in academia view this as an inevitable tradeoff between relevance and reliability. The market appetite is for both. These issues are not new, but they are now encountered daily. With this in mind, it is worthwhile to look at new media blogs, wikis and new designs for organizing and validating knowledge.

Interested in more? Read the whole thing.