[ExI] extropy-chat Digest, Vol 84, Issue 15

Keith Henson hkeithhenson at gmail.com
Mon Sep 13 15:43:44 UTC 2010

On Mon, Sep 13, 2010 at 5:00 AM,  BillK <pharos at gmail.com> wrote:

> On Mon, Sep 13, 2010 at 5:06 AM, Keith Henson  wrote:
>> You might want to read Gregory Clark's article "Genetically
>> Capitalist? ?The Malthusian Era, Institutions and the Formation of
>> Modern Preferences (2007)"
>> He argues (from looking at probated wills) that the English over at
>> least 20 generations underwent selection as severe as that used by the
>> Russians to make tame foxes out of wild ones. ?But your point is
>> exact, evolution is way to slow to make any effect in 4 generations,
>> the most we have over the next century.
> Providing you remember that there is no such thing as a 'capitalist gene'.
> Clark was talking about a meme. That's why other countries learned to
> do what Britain did. And when the meme faded, Britain stopped being a
> capitalist star.
> As is now happening with the US.

No, he really was talking about genes.  And while there is not *a*
capitalist gene, there are certainly a mess of psychological traits
presumable under genetic control that definitely contribute to being a

Among the obvious, low time preference (the ability to put off rewards
into the future) and the psychological traits needed to work far
beyond immediate needs and a high level of impulse control.
Resistance to alcoholism is probably important too.  Less obvious but
important are the psychological traits behind literacy and numeracy.

And while it is politically incorrect to claim differences between
races, Clark makes the case that peoples who have been selected this
way really are different (on average and some of them a lot) from the
hunter gatherer baseline.  That's why (he claims) the capitalist memes
didn't do very well when trying to transplant them other places in the
world that have not undergone a similar genetic selection in the
context of a stable agrarian society.

Now Clark may be wrong, but he sure backs up his arguments with a lot of data.


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