Re: poly: democracy, etc.

From: Damien R. Sullivan <>
Date: Wed Feb 11 1998 - 12:59:54 PST

On Feb 11, 12:39am, d.brin wrote:

> of rigid, hierarchical oligarchy, because it emphasizes that an
> administrative class -- those who serve the oligarchs -- should be chosen
> on a meritocratic basis. (Though not the oligarchs themselves.) Indeed, it

Well, there was a crude meritocratic theory: the Mandate of Heaven, by
which a ruler who had famine and rebellion on his watch could be
legitimately deposed. This strikes me as similar in effect to one
theory of how the US really selects its Presidents: economy good, keep;
economy bad, toss.

> Who would better typify the Athenian 'democratic party'?
Is the Athenian 'democratic party' a shining model of anything? I'm
reading _The World of Athens_ now, and it claimed that Plato's hostility
to democracy had roots in the treatment of Socrates.

Then there's the ambiguous case of a colony or imperial subject which
rebelled and was subjugated. Athens voted to kill all the males and do
the other nasty extreme things. The next day they changed their minds
and sent a ship after the first one to try to stop the massacre.
Apparently this has often been pointed to as an example of the
fickleness of the radical democracy, although the author pointed out
that few other governments have admitted to a mistake in that manner.

(The mercy ship made it, just in time, unless history has been
dramatically exaggerated.)

> Damien>>Um... I doubt harems in historical times have had much effect on
> society. Are you saying the leaders spread their genetically ingrained
> tendencies through the population? I doubt it, and happily predict much
> attack of this idea if you present it, and much scorn if you don't back
> it up very heavily.
> Pah! Just look at the difference between male and female sexual fantasies,

I would hardly deny that males would like harems, and I know about the
gonad size/polygamy correlations, having been two both of your last
Caltech talks as well has having read the _Third Chimpanzee_. I was
challenging your apparent claim that the harems actually materialized
enough to have a large recent effect, that we've inherited anti-civilized
from a bottleneck of leaders.

Our sexual desires can be explained by reference to bottlenecks in an
earlier species, if need be, although I doubt that's its necessary.
It's logical for males of most species to want to have sex with as many
females as possible; whether harems actually form would be related to
male/female size differences and the ability of a male to keep rivals
away. By the correlations you cite, humans should _not_ be a species
dominated by harems. A few males get an expanded range, yes, but we're
not gorillas or lions.

Recap: yes, we're polygamous, but mildly so, and I don't think it's at
all clear that has much to do with the dislike of criticism.

> Damien>>And I don't think most prehistorical societies had large harems.
> We're a mostly monogamous species (with cheating); harems arise with
> (concentrated) societal surplus. Extant 'primitive' societies are more
> marked by egalitarianism and social insurance schemes.
> Where the devil did you get this stuff, Damien? First, the egalitarianism
> of 'primitive' societies is pure romantic hogwash. Imagine 12 year olds on

>From my anthropology class, Jared Diamond, and Richard Posner. I've
asked my anthro teacher for confirmation. Perhaps there's a
misunderstanding, rooted in my ambiguity: when I said prehistorical I
was thinking of hunter-gatherers, although I think the main difference
possessed by subsistence farmers is higher densities and lower living
standards. People may cheat on each other a lot, with an obvious bias
toward more attractive and successful people, but no one can afford
a proper harem. The effects you claim would be limited by surveillance,
and further I'd say that the males selected for would be good hunters,
and perhaps good leaders of their rather intelligent fellows, not people
who would be good at dominating peasants.

> Damien>>Best not to appeal to genes to explain any behavior younger than 10,000
> years.
> I didn't! This has been going on for a VERY long time. Though now that

That's where I'd deny the effect of sexual selection on civilization.

> you mention it, I believe there may be evidence that humans have changed
> genetically in one radical way. The invention of beer created an

I think the Incas are adapted to their heights, but I don't know if this
is genetic or due to being born up there. Europeans are adapted to
digest cow milk, but again I don't know if that's genetic or due to a
different inherited intestinal fauna. That shouldn't be too hard to
determine, if someone tried.

-xx- GOU Learning From Others' Mistakes X-)

"Does it occur to you, the fallibility of CIT thinking? Flux-thinking.
You have prophetic dreams, remember? You can dream about a man drinking
a glass of milk. A week later you can see Yanni drinking tea at lunch
and if seeing him do that has a high shock-value, you'll super the
dream-state right over him, you'll swear you dreamed about him doing
that, exactly at that table, and even psychprobe can't sort it out after
that." -- C.J. Cherryh, _Cyteen_, Grant ALX
Received on Wed Feb 11 21:03:36 1998

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