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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Social Order

Culture matters, sometimes in a big way. See here:
Compared with students from developed Western nations, students from less democratic countries like Saudi Arabia, Oman and Belarus tended to punish not only free-loaders, but also cooperative players, with the result that cooperation in their groups plummeted.

When players had the option to punish, the groups tended to display more cooperation, which is consistent with past research showing that the ability to punish can help foster cooperative behaviour. However, in some countries, 'selfish' players also punished cooperative players, perhaps as a means of revenge for punishments they had suffered, or maybe as a way of punishing do-gooders for showing them up. The researchers called this 'anti-social punishment', and the groups where this occurred tended to cooperate less.

Anti-social punishment occurred more in those countries, including Belarus and Saudi Arabia, shown by surveys to have less faith in the rule of law and less belief in civic cooperation. In a commentary on the findings, published in the same journal, Herbert Gintis of the Sante Fe Institute, said the results challenge the way people have tended to view capitalist democracies. "The success of democratic market societies may depend critically upon moral virtues as well as material interests, so the depiction of civil society as the sphere of 'naked self-interest' is radically incorrect," he wrote.
Man existed as a social and political creature long before there was anything like a modern economy. Cultures in which the individual learns to compete and cooperate while possessing a moral compass based upon something like the golden rule are at a distinct advantage. They can gain from more of the positives and fewer of the negatives in a free market system compared with other cultures. Institutions are a reflection and reinforcement of a societys' culture and beliefs. That this matters and that a free a moral people will fare better than people in a culture of envy or a collectivist society is my idea of social justice.

5 comments:

joe shropshire said...

Fish ain't biting, I guess. My apologies. Here, fishy, fishy, fishy...

erp said...

Is it the ability to punish or to expose a players selfish behavior that causes them to cooperate?

aog said...

I suspect that it's the overall belief in whether one can profit long term from actions. For many peasants, for generations, achieving excess wealth was just an excuse for the local Eagar-style free marketeer to rob you and possibly your neighbors. If you can't win, then trying is stupid, and other people trying is a hassle you don't need. Tie that to the jealousy that is part of human nature and you'd get this behavior.

Bret said...

aog wrote: "...local Eagar-style free marketeer..."

You mean thief?

I see, so Harry thinks that everybody is like the Belarussians and Saudi Arabians.

Harry Eagar said...

It doesn't have to be everybody.

As I told my young son when he left something out and it was stolen: Even if only one person in 100 is a thief, if you leave something out where 100 people will see it, it will be stolen.

There's a school of thought that says the character of European warfare changed significantly with the introduction of the potato, because foraging soldiers could no longer just load up the peasant's entire crop in a cart and carry it off.