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The Benefits of Inequality

Soulskill posted about a month and a half ago | from the depending-on-which-side-of-the-equation-you're-on dept.

Science 254

New submitter MutualFun sends this article from Science News: Which would you prefer: egalitarianism or totalitarianism? When it comes down to it, the choice you make may not be as obvious as you think. New research suggests that in the distant past, groups of hunter-gatherers may have recognized and accepted the benefits of living in hierarchical societies, even if they themselves weren't counted among the well-off. This model could help explain why bands of humans moved from largely egalitarian groups to hierarchical cultures in which social inequality was rife.

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Why would this surprise? (5, Insightful)

digsbo (1292334) | about a month and a half ago | (#47665871)

So many people refuse to think for themselves. I don't really have a problem with that, except when they persecute me for exercising that right myself.

Re: Why would this surprise? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47666143)

Well monkeys, wolves and other social animals don't live in egalitarian groups so the used that humans did so is odd.

Re: Why would this surprise? (2)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about a month and a half ago | (#47666251)

Well monkeys, wolves and other social animals don't live in egalitarian groups so the used that humans did so is odd.

Except that there is no evidence that ancient human societies ever lived in egalitarian groups. There are some societies, such as the Mosuo [wikipedia.org] , that come close, but even they have some hierarchy. Semi-egalitarian societies do best when they are geographically isolated, such as in remote mountains, and thus sheltered from a human activity that is best suited to highly hierarchical organization: war.

Re:Why would this surprise? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47666523)

Obligatory XKCD. [xkcd.com]

Assuming people who disagree with you are idiots doesn't do you any good. Even if they are wrong, calling them idiots isn't going to get them to listen to you and possibly change their minds. Most likely, they have different backgrounds (perhaps ones filled with misinformation), priorities, or values.

Re:Why would this surprise? (4, Informative)

digsbo (1292334) | about a month and a half ago | (#47666585)

When did I say they were idiots? I didn't. I said people refuse to think for themselves. I'm talking about people who have said, "I don't want to think about it, that's what government is for." Verbatim, and many other near variants, when I challenge the status quo on everything from the drug laws to the banking system. I actually had a guy recently say to me, after I was critical of the banking system, "Well, it's what we have, and it works." And he's a fairly intelligent guy. He just doesn't want to think about that question, because it's emotionally painful to realize how screwed up things are.

False choice (4, Insightful)

For a Free Internet (1594621) | about a month and a half ago | (#47665875)

Bullshit bourgeois propaganda.

Communism is a classless, stateless society and the road to communism passes through the dictatorship of the proletariat.

Re:False choice (4, Insightful)

0123456 (636235) | about a month and a half ago | (#47665965)

The problem is that the road through the dictatorship of the proletariat is a dead end.

Wrong again! (3, Funny)

For a Free Internet (1594621) | about a month and a half ago | (#47666083)

Capitalism is a dead end, literalluy. Mass thermonuclear holocaust.

Where the workers have taken power (Paris commune, October 1917 revolution) they made advances that no capitalist government ever could make. Despite their encirclement by bloodthirsty bourgeois armies. Despite the bureaucratic degenration of the Russian revolution. The facts don't lie. Read about the vital statistics in Russia before and after the 1992 Yeltsin-Bush counterrevolution.

Revolution meant emancipation for women, gays, national minorities, Jews, and it meant the transformation fo Russia from the poorest, msot backward country in Europe to a global scientific-industrial superpower.

Wha we need now is a SOVIET AMERICA as part of a WORKERS WORLD!!!!!!

Re:Wrong again! (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47666409)

The USSR was great!

If you weren't ukranian, Slavic, gypsie, Christian, an "enemy of the state", or just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Re:Wrong again! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47666613)

The USSR was great!

If you weren't ukranian, Slavic, gypsie, Christian, an "enemy of the state", or just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Some examples of being in the wrong place at wrong time would be: Polish, Latvian, Estonian, Lithuanian, Czech, Hungarian, Romanian, Bulgarian, Albanian, Serbian, Croatian, Bosnian, East German, etc...

Re: Wrong again! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47666801)

Of course the US would alway treat everyone fairly regardless of skin colour or religion

Re: Wrong again! (1)

Jeremiah Cornelius (137) | about a month and a half ago | (#47667055)

Of course the US would alway treat everyone fairly regardless of skin colour or religion

Yes, equally farmed for their labour.

Re:Wrong again! (1)

mirix (1649853) | about a month and a half ago | (#47666825)

Slavs ran the show, if you didn't notice.

Re:Wrong again! (2)

sd4f (1891894) | about a month and a half ago | (#47667011)

Your history needs a lot of refinement. Soviet Russia didn't become technologically powerful until WW2, after the USA gifted them entire factories to make stuff as part of the war effort. Then the soviets infiltrated many companies and government research missions with their spies sending back heaps of information, and took in heaps of german scientists after WW2 (so did USA). If anyones technological prowess depends on some richer or advanced countries benevolence, then I don't think you can really claim that the glorious revolution was all that much a success.

False choice (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47667133)

There will never, ever be a "classless, stateless society". Humanity simply doesn't work that way.
There will always be people who want to lead and there will always be people who want to be told what to do.
I do not see a classless society as a desirable or even possible goal. I'd be willing to settle for at least pulling the very bottom class of people who can't take care of themselves up to lives of relative comfort - at least have their basic needs met.

After all, after basic needs are met, happiness and fulfillment in life has _absolutely nothing_ to do with wealth. People who don't understand that are doomed to lives of discontentment no matter how hard they push for their greed and desires.

Careful Libtards! (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47665921)

This is peer reviewed research. RTFA before you once again prove that you're just as capable of rejecting inconvenient "science" that doesn't agree with your world view as the "deniers" you bitch about.

Re:Careful Libtards! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47665947)

the research is only as good as the model. peer reviewed in this case just means it was interesting enough to publish, not that it proves anything. you're also a troll so why even explain this to you?

Re:Careful Libtards! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47666049)

aren't poor models one of the main arguments "deniers" offer when discrediting climate science?

Re:Careful Libtards! (2)

onproton (3434437) | about a month and a half ago | (#47666247)

Hello Troll, I think your confusion lies in your inability to comprehend scale or derive useful meaning from data. In your frustration, lashing out seems your only recourse - but there are other ways of coping.

Re:Careful Libtards! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47666709)

Well so far we've got one that asserts a "bad model" was used and another that complains the paper's conclusions are based on research hidden behind a paywall. I guess the former paid for the paper to reach his conclusion about the model, or maybe he just pulled that out of his ass.

In any case, both precisely fit the pattern with which we're all so familiar with AGW deniers (bad models, hidden data, etc.,) exactly as I implied would happen.

If I'm a troll I'm a damn good one.

Re:Careful Libtards! (1)

sjames (1099) | about a month and a half ago | (#47666271)

It's also paywalled, making rendering all but a bare assertion invisible to me.

Natural questions which I might have read the answers to include "Is the lack of egalitarianism at all a benefit or did they get suckered into a hierarchy first for its benefits and then have it devolve?".

Re:Careful Libtards! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47666565)

It's also paywalled, making rendering all but a bare assertion invisible to me.

AGW deniers point out undisclosed and missing climate data [blogspot.com] used in the most widely cited works as a reason to doubt the science. Good to see you understand their frustration.

Re:Careful Libtards! (2)

sjames (1099) | about a month and a half ago | (#47666969)

If, unlike the current case, there were dozens of studies with data that I could reference instead, I wouldn't be frustrated.

But go ahead, condemn your grandkids to hell so you can make a buck today. Mark your grave well so they'll know where to piss.

Or... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47665927)

We could stop automatically assuming a hierarchy has to involve unequal distribution. Perhaps being at the top of a hierarchy is enough of a social motivator that people would take on those responsibilities without taking an unequal share of everyone else's work?

Re:Or... (2, Insightful)

0123456 (636235) | about a month and a half ago | (#47665995)

Indeed. Under communism, comrade, all pigs will be equal. It's just the pigs at the top will have instant access to executive jets, Zil limos and dashas in the country, while the pigs at the bottom will wait twenty years for a Trabant.

Re:Or... (1)

slew (2918) | about a month and a half ago | (#47666687)

Indeed. Under communism, comrade, all pigs will be equal. It's just the pigs at the top will have instant access to executive jets, Zil limos and dashas in the country, while the pigs at the bottom will wait twenty years for a Trabant.

That would simply be the fact that some pigs are more equal, right [wikipedia.org] ?

Re:Or... (5, Insightful)

mirix (1649853) | about a month and a half ago | (#47666887)

Yeah, because the only alternative to American style inequality is Soviet style inequality, right?

Re:Or... (2)

smaddox (928261) | about a month and a half ago | (#47666983)

What's the difference, again?

Re:Or... (2)

rogoshen1 (2922505) | about a month and a half ago | (#47667147)

in the American style, we can blindfold ourselves with "social mobility".

Was it Steinbeck who said something along the lines of "Socialism never took off in the US because the poor see themselves as temporarily embarrassed millionaires."?

Can't leave (3, Interesting)

Sowelu (713889) | about a month and a half ago | (#47665935)

I don't know about "benefits"...even the abstract says that one of the main triggers to accepting leadership was that the populace had nowhere to go, or that it was too costly to leave.

Re:Can't leave (1)

Roger W Moore (538166) | about a month and a half ago | (#47666267)

I don't know about "benefits"...even the abstract says that one of the main triggers to accepting leadership was that the populace had nowhere to go, or that it was too costly to leave.

So really not much has changed. Let's face it if colonizing Mars became possible and cheap tomorrow there would be a mass exodus from the Earth as millions of people left to get away from the dodgy politicians and corporations we all have to put up with today...ironically only to end up with their own dodgy politicians and corporates a century or two later, at least if the colonization of America is anything to go by.

Re:Can't leave (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47666451)

Don't you think that one of the reasons why we won't invest seriously in space is not rocking the boat of the selected few?

A century or two? (1)

publiclurker (952615) | about a month and a half ago | (#47666733)

You are quite the optimist.

Re:Can't leave (1)

khellendros1984 (792761) | about a month and a half ago | (#47666849)

There's a Heinlein short story that covers the scenario (still on Earth), but in a independent "reservation" for exiles, called Coventry. Someone opts to go there as punishment for a crime, expecting an individualist anarchic utopia, but finding another little world of corrupt governments, unethical bureaucracies, etc.

Re:Can't leave (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | about a month and a half ago | (#47666673)

Egalitarian also implies no one is in charge. So big projects never get done, no one organizes defenses, no one settles disputes, etc. When someone does step forward and take the lead sometimes the others refuse to follow and will leave, which has happened in some more modern groups like communes.

Re:Can't leave (1)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | about a month and a half ago | (#47667129)

No, egalitarian is not mutually exclusive with meritocratic. Equality of opportunity is one thing, equality of outcome is something very different (and considerably worse). This is a key fact that pretty much all of modern progressivism seems to miss - provide for and protect the weak, encourage and reward the strong, and it'll all work out.

Re:Can't leave (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47666979)

I think by living you automatically were placed in vicinity of other people and some of them were just convinced of their superiority and one of these superior warriors was a leader. The rest automatically were underlings and so a hierarchical society has been created because benefit of living in such a society was two fold then: protection from other groups and not being beaten or killed for attempt to escape your duties. So at the end this was a function of population density. Which I suppose is normal - more items usually use up all vertical space and have to be stacked up.

Re:Can't leave (2)

suutar (1860506) | about a month and a half ago | (#47667207)

one trigger to tolerating excessive disparity, that was. In the simulation, if the top isn't skimming off too much, the rank and file are still better off than the egalitarians, which would make the heirarchy worth it even in the absence of difficulty leaving. It's when the top is raking off too much that the rank and file start wanting to jump ship.

This is not evidence; this highly simplified model (5, Insightful)

B-Town (740527) | about a month and a half ago | (#47665939)

As a rule, I'm skeptical of everything that uses evolution to explain societal structures. Most of the time it just boils down to a nifty story devoid of any evidence. That seems to be the case here: 1) Come up with a point you want prove 2) Rejig the currently accepted but highly unrealistic assumptions in the field until the model gives the desired result 3) Publish! I see this kind of nonsense in economics papers all the time. Heartening to see that we aren't the only ones cursed with pointless theorizing.

Re:This is not evidence; this highly simplified mo (3, Insightful)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | about a month and a half ago | (#47666963)

I was about to write the same thing (sorry, no points to mod you up).

About the strongest claims from evolutionary sociologists / psychologists / etc. that I'm willing to entertain are of the form "We can see how X could have led to an evolutionary benefit when we assume their world operated like Y. So, if the world really did operate like Y, then maybe evolutionary pressures were a reason X was true." Modulo the plausibility of X and Y having been actually true for a significant fraction of the population being discussed.

I've sometimes wondered if I'm being too hard on those academics because I don't fully understand their claims, or because they know stuff that I don't. But I find it completely plausible that their community is simply engaged in a huge group-think circle-jerk.

Re:This is not evidence; this highly simplified mo (1)

khallow (566160) | about a month and a half ago | (#47667025)

Models aren't evidence by definition. And it's a reasonable concern to consider whether the axioms of evolution apply in the first place.

The huge obstacle is the assumption that societies have inheritable traits. There are examples of societies that adopt traits from successful past societies. And there are examples of societies that were unable to do because the previous society was far more advanced and the technology was needed to adopt many of the previous society's features (eg, the barbarian kingdoms that sprung up in the wake of the fall of the Eastern Roman Empire).

Re:This is not evidence; this highly simplified mo (1)

sd4f (1891894) | about a month and a half ago | (#47667159)

I agree with the top-down perspective, it's especially noticeable that a lot of people try to find only evidence that proves their preconceived opinion, rather than finding evidence to develop an opinion.

Different approaches for different situations (5, Insightful)

nine-times (778537) | about a month and a half ago | (#47665967)

Some people assume that totalitarian/hierarchical organizations are simply inherently bad, and "democracy" is inherently good. Really, it's more about the situation and context.

For example, even in our modern "democracy", our military still uses a top-down hierarchy with a rigid chain of command. There are good reasons for this. When you're in dangerous situations, organization and timing can become vital to the survival of the group, and survival tends to trump social justice. If the military commander has a plan that requires a troop of soldiers move to a particular location in a short amount of time, you don't want people standing around debating, or wondering whether the plan is fair. You need people to follow orders immediately, or else a lot of people might die.

There have been situations in humanity's past when this would have been true of social/governmental organizations too. If the chief needs everyone to mobilize in order to avert disaster and keep the entire tribe from being wiped out, then you don't want a lot of debate. The whole setup worked pretty well for a while.

Of course now, things are different. Most of our lives (speaking at least of the people reading Slashdot) are relatively safe and comfortable. We don't need to follow orders immediately and unquestioningly in order to stay alive. Also, our society is larger, and the concentration of power is greater. The danger of taking time for debate is not greater than the danger of a bad ruler with absolute power over a society, so totalitarianism seems like it's not such a great idea.

Re:Different approaches for different situations (4, Insightful)

mlts (1038732) | about a month and a half ago | (#47666459)

We really need different organizations. As above, the military needs to be strictly hierarchical. However, the civilian leadership needs to be representative of the people's wants. Here is my proposal:

Instead of elections, why not have all representatives be picked from a lottery of all citizens, similar to jury duty. Instead of a jury picking a foreman, they nominate and elect a president.

This way, the elected people are truly a cross section of the governed, voter fraud isn't an issue, and with proper enforcement of bribery laws, the big "campaign donations" that plague the US wouldn't be an issue. After four years, a new lottery takes place, and a new bunch of people get into office.

Re:Different approaches for different situations (1)

Skarjak (3492305) | about a month and a half ago | (#47666959)

The problem is that most people selected would probably lack the expertise required to deal with matters of law.

Re:Different approaches for different situations (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47667181)

so in other words nothing would change

Re:Different approaches for different situations (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47666973)

The elected should not be a true cross section of the population.
The majority of the population would never get elected by anybody, because they are too apparently not capable of doing the job, and no one wants them get put in charge by a random lottery either.

Re:Different approaches for different situations (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47666987)

Instead of elections, why not have all representatives be picked from a lottery of all citizens, similar to jury duty. Instead of a jury picking a foreman, they nominate and elect a president.

How would they fare against a huge lobbying force? They'd be overwhelmed with information about some candidates and the rest wouldn't have a chance.

Re:Different approaches for different situations (1)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | about a month and a half ago | (#47667157)

This. And the temptation to get rich quick on the part of random citizens would swiftly lead to a degradation of society to an unacceptable level. Pass our proposal, we'll put you on the board for life.

Re:Different approaches for different situations (1)

Lotana (842533) | about a month and a half ago | (#47667067)

You seem to be of the opinion that anyone can competently lead. I do not believe this to be the case. Imagine your lottery picks some jobless guy with mental issues. How about racists or extremists that will make next four years hell for some people they don't like? How about selfish "screw everyone as long as I get rich" types?

OK, we need to now sort the people into electable/not electable. The criteria would already be a thorny issue. How do you judge competence for such a position? If you seek experience of leadership, this will effectively swing the balance to already rich and powerful.

Even if you get a good, intelligent, charismatic, altruistic leader: After four years the next one most likely will undo or heavily modify the policies set. After all each leader wants to leave a mark, especially if he/she cares about some specific issue. No controversial, but necessary public project will last longer than four years!

This four years thing is already an issue in this day: Why should the leader ever care about long term if he will be long gone by then.

I am sure there are other problems, but I do not have any answers or ideas. Social structure, fairness (both short and long term) and ethics are so complex. Especially since every single actor in the system is inherently selfish and greedy.

Re:Different approaches for different situations (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47666701)

> If the chief needs everyone to mobilize in order to avert disaster and keep the entire tribe from being wiped out, then you don't want a lot of debate.

Which explains why a constant state of war and terrorism is so desirable to the "chief."

We have always been at war with eastasia...

Re:Different approaches for different situations (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47666991)

You are not very agile are you?

Re:Different approaches for different situations (1)

poity (465672) | about a month and a half ago | (#47667017)

This doesn't seem like an issue of "democracy vs totalitarianism" -- it's only about the emergence of hierarchies for group decision making. Democratic republics and dictatorships all have decision making hierarchies, it's just that one set of decision makers is chosen by and has the support of the people (most of them anyway), while the other set choose themselves and is forced on the people.

Has Justine Tunney tweeted this yet? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47665971)

Tunney and the rest of the Silicon Valley "neoreactionaries" are going to be all over this...

Intellectually dishonest (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47665997)

Inequality wouldn't be so bad if we had a robust safety net and didn't fuck people at the bottom. It's one thing to be poor, it's another to have to survive day to day worrying about food, shelter, health care, etc. As long as we keep screwing people, any argument defending inequality is completely void of substance or ethics.

Re:Intellectually dishonest (-1, Flamebait)

0123456 (636235) | about a month and a half ago | (#47666009)

The only way to enforce equality is to make everyone equally poor. Commies are great at that, which is precisely why no sane person takes their 'OMG! Inequality!' nonsense seriously.

Re:Intellectually dishonest (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47666101)

False Dichotomy

Re:Intellectually dishonest (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47666153)

I suppose that Capitalism is a step up then, making only 90-something percent equally poor and the remaining percentage astoundingly rich.

The problem with any system is people. Pure free-market Capitalism is wonderful, but cannot exist, much like Pure Communism.
Imagine anything else with the 'rules' as enforced by either system in the real world. A baseball game where the owner of one team simply goes out and pays the pitcher of the other team to throw easy pitches, or pays the governing body to make a rule where any team that plays their team is only allowed to take 5 steps per minute or something equally unfair.

Economic systems usually come down to who can cheat the most effectively. If everyone did the same thing as the people that 'rise' to the top, we'd all starve to death. In any system.

Re:Intellectually dishonest (1)

sjames (1099) | about a month and a half ago | (#47666331)

It's more like whichever team is in the lead gets to set the ground rules any way they like and the penalty for leaving the game is death. Inevitably, whatever team gets the first run by skill or dumb luck will win the game.

Note that it doesn't matter if the game starts with any ground rules at all or even if the only rule is that there are no rules, it will devolve the same way every time.

Re:Intellectually dishonest (3, Insightful)

reboot246 (623534) | about a month and a half ago | (#47666531)

Under Communism, man exploits man.

Under Capitalism, it's the other way round.

Re:Intellectually dishonest (1)

umghhh (965931) | about a month and a half ago | (#47667061)

People talk about capitalism as if there were one. If there is one principal system you can call capitalism it is a very simple and not very realistic one. In all our societies some market and some ownership of property exist. These are basic for capitalism or rather for capitalist society yet private property and market exist even in communist countries like Cuba, Soviet Union or NK. All complementing features for such systems may differ slightly and thus a person in some states may have more customer rights in another it may have to sue instead, in some there is a safety net in another it is just a concrete floor somewhere. In some places markets have more rules than in others. In reality an absolutely free market does not even exist. Leave capitalism alone - it is just a tool or a basic way the economy operates - all other things that make this economy and society in which it is embedded function are adds on and those adds-on make a difference between the systems. We call some type of such systems communists albeit this has more to do with political freedom and oppression from the state and some others capitalist albeit there is a huge difference between Denmark, Germany, UK, Canada and US for instance. These countries are based on capitalist principles but their function is very different in few quite important aspects. So Capitalist as an description of a society is just insufficient. You have to be a bit more specific.

Re:Intellectually dishonest (1)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | about a month and a half ago | (#47667177)

I suppose that Capitalism is a step up then

In absolute terms, yes, it's seen generation after generation experience an improved quality of life. That computer you're typing on and the vast information networks you're able to access are in no uncertain terms the result of capitalism. That's not to say that laissez faire capitalism is a good thing, it's not. But let's not make false equivalencies here.

Re: Intellectually dishonest (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47666205)

The average wealth in China and Russa increased under comunism, just not as fast as Europe or America.

Re: Intellectually dishonest (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47666817)

Also, it didn't help the US and Europe werent coming from bone crushing extreme poverty. China also had all the baggage of imperialism left over as well.

Re: Intellectually dishonest (1, Funny)

rogoshen1 (2922505) | about a month and a half ago | (#47667175)

when you murder *millions* of your own people, it's pretty easy to talk about average wealth increasing.

Re: Intellectually dishonest (1)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | about a month and a half ago | (#47667185)

Under communism, you wait for bread. Under capitalism, bread waits for you.

So, nonsense.

Re:Intellectually dishonest (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47666655)

The more robust the safety net the worse the "inequality". Safety nets encourage laziness which increases the number of poor who never have any incentive to leave being poor because their most basic needs are being met and working means losing that free money.

Re:Intellectually dishonest (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47666755)

> Inequality wouldn't be so bad if we had a robust safety net and didn't fuck people at the bottom.

Entrenched inequality is bad for the health of society. If you are poor and have very little chance of ever becoming not poor, then why even try? Same thing on the other end, if you know that no matter how badly you fuckup, you are going to be just fine, then why worry about fucking up?

always a lack of middle ground (3, Insightful)

liquid_schwartz (530085) | about a month and a half ago | (#47666003)

as if nothing exists between absolute equality and absolute inequality. "Only a Sith deals in absolutes." - Obi Wan Kenobi

Re:always a lack of middle ground (5, Insightful)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | about a month and a half ago | (#47666059)

It is a common problem with absolutists. They think everything is binary when it's nested case statements with table-driven variables.

There is no either or - there is A B C C1 C2 D E1 NULL. And the boundaries between A and B are artificial limitations not found in nature, but only in perception.

Re:always a lack of middle ground (1)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | about a month and a half ago | (#47666999)

It is a common problem with absolutists. They think everything is binary when it's nested case statements with table-driven variables.

It's a problem wth all absolutists? ;)

Re:always a lack of middle ground (1)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | about a month and a half ago | (#47667057)

It is a common problem with absolutists. They think everything is binary when it's nested case statements with table-driven variables.

It's a problem wth all absolutists? ;)

all but the cute ones.

Re:always a lack of middle ground (2)

Frequency Domain (601421) | about a month and a half ago | (#47666073)

Yeah, and on top of the observation that this isn't a binary choice it should be noted that "equality" can be assessed along many dimensions.

Re:always a lack of middle ground (1)

onkelonkel (560274) | about a month and a half ago | (#47666567)

"Only a Sith deals in absolutes." - Obi Wan Kenobi

Every time I see that quote I have to add "Do or do not. There is no try."

All I want to know is.. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47666033)

Where's my motherfucking Obama phone, you faggots!

Agrarian shift caused mass underfeeding (1, Informative)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | about a month and a half ago | (#47666039)

In the archeological record, we can see people got smaller and weaker when they moved from hunter-gatherer societies to agrarian ones where assets were not shared on a more equal basis.

But, live in your Ayn Rand fantasy if you must.

Just stop pretending Science supports it.

Re:Agrarian shift caused mass underfeeding (1)

Kingofearth (845396) | about a month and a half ago | (#47666897)

I heard that the reason people got smaller and weaker when they moved to agrarian societies was because they went from consuming a wide variety of foods which together provided ample nutrition to consuming mostly a single crop, generally a high-carb grain, which was enough to keep them alive, but didn't provide the necessary amounts of certain nutrients needed for optimal health.

I'm not nessessarily trying to dispute your implication, I just remember this from the Brief History of Humankind course I took on Coursera and thought it was relevant.

Re:Agrarian shift caused mass underfeeding (1)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | about a month and a half ago | (#47667049)

And I'm pointing out both conclusions may be equally valid.

More egalitarian societies were demonstrably better for human height, weight, and skeletal development. That part is a fact.

Hierarchical society = Division of labor (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47666045)

You can't have one without the other.

Re:Hierarchical society = Division of labor (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47666759)

Yeah, they also talk about how we transitioned from "small, egalitarian groups" to "much larger groups" with much higher inequality.

This, to me, seems to be an absolutely natural end result of simple growth: As a group of people grows, it's more likely to require "leaders" and "administrators" and "managers" to maintain a cohesive direction and focus. People realized that banding together into larger groups, which allowed people to divide & specialize in terms of labor, was more efficient at resource gathering & growth than remaining small. As they grew, though, they realized a need for coordinators between various specialist groups was required to remain efficient.

And thus was hierarchy born.

Mostly useless (3, Interesting)

onproton (3434437) | about a month and a half ago | (#47666069)

Yes, Capitalism is the accepted economic system because it produces results; if those same results persist through extreme levels of inequality is a different matter. If what you are trying to say is that the current levels of inequality are actually beneficial for society, I believe most economists would disagree. See The Great Depression, this article [theguardian.com] , or this book [amazon.com] . No one knows what they threshold really is, but no one argues that there isn't one.

Totalitarianism all the way (4, Insightful)

kruach aum (1934852) | about a month and a half ago | (#47666077)

Democracy is just a terrible system of government, but it turns out it's all we can trust ourselves with to not fuck shit up. The vote of a retard counts just as much as the vote of a genius, and that's ridiculous, but what's even more ridiculous is that everything else has turned out worse.

Ideally we would be ruled by a benevolent artificial intelligence who can determine without outside input what is best for everyone.

Re:Totalitarianism all the way (3, Insightful)

onproton (3434437) | about a month and a half ago | (#47666127)

Which is why we don't actually have a democracy, we have a republic, in which all of us have the wonderful freedom to choose between corrupt representative 1, or corrupt representative 2. Perhaps if democracy could be implemented without the polarizing effect of the 2 party system, or in a way that allowed more direct voting on actual issues instead of arbitrarily grouped policies it would be more functional - but then again maybe not.

Re:Totalitarianism all the way (1)

paulpach (798828) | about a month and a half ago | (#47666467)

Ideally we would be ruled by a benevolent artificial intelligence who can determine without outside input what is best for everyone.

No. Ideally we would not be ruled at all, and you would be free to do whatever you want as long as you don't harm others.

Re:Totalitarianism all the way (1)

kruach aum (1934852) | about a month and a half ago | (#47666501)

"as long as" signifies a condition that needs to be enforced. I'd rather the enforcer be benevolent.

Sounds familiar (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47666627)

"It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried."
~ Sir Winston Churchill

Re:Totalitarianism all the way (1)

Rinikusu (28164) | about a month and a half ago | (#47667035)

Furthermore, there are plenty of self-described geniuses who are actually retards, and vice-versa. It's like someone making fun of Hinduism and then espousing the veracity of the fucking Bible.

Math loves to be Anthromorphized! (4, Informative)

Prien715 (251944) | about a month and a half ago | (#47666079)

Terrible summary and title.

From TFA:
Our model predicts that the transition to larger despotic groups will then occur when: (i) surplus resources lead to demographic expansion of groups, removing the viability of an acephalous niche in the same area and so locking individuals into hierarchy; (ii) high dispersal costs limit followers' ability to escape a despot. Empirical evidence suggests that these conditions were probably met, for the first time, during the subsistence intensification of the Neolithic.

So availability of resources to a minority and the inability to escape cause large despotisms, much like CO2 and Greenhouse gases cause global warming. Climate science should be renamed "The Benefits of Global Warming". Or after a man's parachute fails to open he "realizes the benefits of gravity in assisting his painless disassembly".

I know it would be odd to ask for editors to, uh, you know, edit.

I think it more likely happened like this.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47666129)

Groups of hunter-gatherers may have recognized and accepted the benefits of living in hierarchical societies such as not getting killed by resisting whoever had seized power through use of force.

Re:I think it more likely happened like this.... (1)

tomhath (637240) | about a month and a half ago | (#47666283)

Or maybe by recognizing that a member of their group who was especially good at organizing a hunt should be the one who organizes the hunts. Even if that meant he got some extra reward for being the best, the rest of the group benefited from his leadership.

What do you mean inequality? (5, Interesting)

Savage-Rabbit (308260) | about a month and a half ago | (#47666179)

I'll take a meritocracy over a completely egaitarean society any time and I suppose that makes me in favor of inequality but I also reject the kind of society the USA has become where a few have risen to the top and roll boulders down on anybody else trying to rise by his own merit. Now feel free to color me radcal but any meritocracy will eventually become a plutocracy which is why bloody revolutions (pandemics like the black death also work wonders) are necessary at regular intervals to level the playing field. I'm not sure that's quite what Thomas Jefferson meant when he said: "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants" but it's close.

Equality of OPPORTUNITY or RESULTS? (3, Insightful)

mi (197448) | about a month and a half ago | (#47666255)

The word "equality" is meaningless without the clarification: equality of what? Hair color? Penis size?

In the context of politics, the following two equalities are usually meant by the arguing sides — even when neither side makes their own meaning explicit:

Equality of Opportunity versus Equality of Results .

The "all men created equal" concept is about equality of opportunity: you start with (roughly) the same things as everybody else and whatever you achieve (or not achieve as the case might be) is due to your own industry, frugality, and, perhaps, genes. We might be created equal (subject to gene variations), but what we do after the creation is up to us.

The equality of results is the opposite: whatever you do, you will have (roughly) the same things at the end: if you are more successful than average, the State will tax you to ensure the results of the less successful aren't too different from yours — a concept lovingly referred to as "spreading the wealth around".

A large number of politicians made careers of conflating the two equalities — by harping at the absence of latter and implying, the former does not exist. Such demagoguery patently dishonest not only in theory, but also in practice [ft.com] ...

In the past, Life was War. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47666431)

Social structures evolved to fight the perpetual battle for survival.

Where survival is no longer a battle, such structures may not be optimal.

Benefits of Staying With Your Abusive Spouse (1)

onproton (3434437) | about a month and a half ago | (#47666483)

basically has the same meaning as the title of this article.

Horse pucky!!! (1)

EmperorOfCanada (1332175) | about a month and a half ago | (#47666491)

Small tribes typically ran on some basic math. A charismatic leader would band together with a small group of thugs who would then tax the rest of the tribe right up to but not the breaking point. The idea was to balance having enough thugs that no grouping of the remaining tribe members (except for maybe all) could take them on, while not having too many thugs that the spoils were spread too thin.

Then if the chief's son took over and didn't understand this balance either he would cut back on the thugs and get overthrown by someone who could then gather more thugs, or he would have too many thugs to feed making thuggery unattractive, or he would over tax the tribe resulting in being killed by an angry mob.

Basically nothing has changed in the last 100,000 years. My hope for a truly modern society is one where we brutally tax thuggery. My suggestion has long been that tax levels should be partially set by the ratio of the average salary to the highest salary. So a guy earning 20x the average salary would find himself facing a 100% income tax level. The corporate tax would also be based upon the salaries of the employees as compared to an area average. So a Walmart may very well find itself owing 150%+ corporate income tax in a rich city if it tried to pay its employees minimum wage.

Re:Horse pucky!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47667003)

Best Idea I've heard in a *long* time.

That's why it will fail.

Gini coefficient (3, Informative)

Animats (122034) | about a month and a half ago | (#47666535)

This is a naive article. For a better analysis, see "How Asia Works" [amazon.com] , which is a comparison of the coastal Asian countries, how they developed, and why. Development requires several phases. One is raising agricultural productivity. There's the heavy-handed approach, which comes in the communist form of collective arms and the capitalist form of big plantations. Then there's the light approach, which involves lots of little services like tractor rental and agricultural agents. (The heavy-handed approach works well only for flat land. Hill operations require too many local decisions.) There's thus a visible relationship between what a country looks like and its Gini coefficient. [wikipedia.org]

The second phase of development is about industrialization. Where investment goes really matters. Market forces do not direct investment towards overall economic growth, but toward short-term profit. The successful "Asian tigers" all had very directed investment controls, and how well countries did relative to each other depends on how well investment was directed.

The book has lots of country-by-country comparisons, both statistical and on the ground. It's worth a read.

Nothing new here (0)

taustin (171655) | about a month and a half ago | (#47666621)

Egalitarian is for people below average. Elitism is for people above average. Nearly everyone believes they're above average.

This is also why conspiracy theories abound. If you are above average, but cannot excel, it must be the fault of some dark conspiracy that oppresses you.

It's human nature (4, Insightful)

reboot246 (623534) | about a month and a half ago | (#47666647)

In any group of people some are going to be better at some tasks than others. We put value on those tasks depending on how much they're needed or wanted by society. In a society like we have today, doctors are more valuable than burger flippers so they're paid more. It's not always that simple, but that's the way we tend to perceive it.

True superiority is actually unifying. False superiority is where the problems come from. When the king (or democratically elected government) begins to believe that they are all-knowing and infallible, people are right to oppose them.

"was rife" (1)

jmd (14060) | about a month and a half ago | (#47667021)

and still is rife.

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