Episode 196 – Whispering Beta Males and Alpha Billionaires
It’s time for females and whispering beta males to get together and deal with alpha billionaires.
o:01 Back in Black?
2:03 Kenan Malik was in Brisbane
But he was a bit flat and lacking energy.
4:04 Landon Hardbottom
Landon sent us a message.
5:11 The Goodness paradox by Richard Wrangham
In this “Budget Special” episode, we will talk about tax and money and fairness and equality but let’s set the scene by first discussing us as a species.
How did we evolve as a species?
The Goodness Paradox by Richard Wrangham
We are low on the scale of reactive aggression (a hot reaction of lashing out and losing one’s temper) but high on the scale of proactive aggression( cold planned and deliberate).
Tolerance is rare in wild animals but common in domesticated animals. Humans are a domesticated version of an earlier human ancestor. We differ from our ancestors like a dog differs from a wolf. How did that happen? We self-domesticated through the selective force of execution which reduced our reactive aggression
Primitive hunter-gatherer tribes show very little infighting but high levels of inter-tribal violence. Among small scale societies such as hunter-gatherers, the kill rate is higher than rates recorded in Russia, Germany, France, Sweden and Japan from 1900 to 1990.
Reactive murderers have less activity in their prefrontal cortex associated with low concentrations of serotonin. The pre-frontal cortex underperforms.
Psychopaths use proactive aggression. They have lower activity in their amygdalae. The amygdalae underperforms.
Studies show that the two types of aggression can evolve separately.
Humans are far more domesticated than any other animal. We have inbuilt desires to co-operate and a high threshold before producing reactive aggression. Why?
Domestication has surprising biological markers. Floppy ears, white spots, smaller bodies, shorter faces, feminised males, smaller brains but not smaller cognitive ability. These are non-adaptive responses in that they don’t serve a useful purpose. Like a male nipple.
1959 fox experiment started. By the 4th generation, they were wagging their tales. After 10 years, piebald spotting appeared.
Neural-crest cell migration
Neural-crest cells are unique. They appear in embryos, migrate through the embryo but disappear very early however many organs are at least partly derived from them. Melanocytes rely heavily on neural-crest cells. If the neural-crest cells migrate slowly and disappear before reaching the tips of the body then the melanocytes don’t get there either resulting in tips and tails that lack melanin and end up white-haired.
Neural-crest cells give rise to the adrenal gland. Reduce it and you consequently reduce hormone production and consequentially reduce emotional reactivity.
Neural-cell migration affects jaw size and teeth size. Slow migration leads to smaller versions. Ears are floppy if internal cartilage is too short. Again, dependent on Neural-crest cell migration.
Brain size reduction seems to be associated with Neural-crest cell migration. The reduction seems to be in areas concerned with sensory processing and also seems to be associated with a smaller amygdalae.
Has domestication occurred in the wild?
Yes, Bonobos and Chimpanzees. Separated by the Congo River. Bonobos have higher levels of serotonin, smaller brains, shorter faces, smaller teeth and the males are more feminised. Also, more homosexual activity. There must have been selection against aggression which resulted in a domestication syndrome. Bonobos had better food sources (no gorillas). Females didn’t have to travel so far so could form larger sub-groups who became big enough and co-operative enough to fight off bullying males.
Could human females have done the same? No evidence of this. More likely is capital punishment.
Studies show capital punishment in every inhabited continent including the Inuit, North American Indians, Australian Aborigines and African foragers.
The famously peaceful bushmen of the Kalahari killed a murderer amongst them. Everyone stabbed him. An Eskimo group, the headman, with the approval of the community, shot a murderer. Sometimes Australian Aboriginals would hand the victim over to a vengeance party from a neighbouring tribe and let them do the killing. Even social transgressions. Aboriginal women killed for observing secret men’s business. Sometimes an almost claustrophobic adherence to group norms. WW2 concentration camps. Thieves were killed.
Humans had language and were able to plot. Thus able to kill an alpha with minimal risk.
It seems Neanderthals were less socially adept.
The point test. Wolves fail. Chimpanzees fail. Dogs pass. Wild foxes failed. Domesticated foxes passed. Reduced fear allows the animal to look more closely at the human signals.
We fear the killing power of men in our group so we obey group norms and look after our group members but we are very ready to kill foreigners.
Untutored children have very prosocial inclinations. Shame and embarrasssment are useful signs of how important it is to conform to group norms.
A new kind of dominance. The limited power of the alpha male has been replaced with the absolute power of the male coalition. Strongly conformist behaviours provided a safe passage through life.
Coalitionary proactive aggression has brought great good, but also enormous harm in the form of wars.
Language based conspiracy gave whispering beta males the power to join forces and kill alpha male bullies. The selection against alpha males led to males becoming, for the first time, egalitarian. Who knows how we might evolve over the next 300,000 years but if would-be despots escape sanctions then the process could go into reverse.
Individual freedom is a recent invention and is contrary to our evolutionary development.
Beta males have forgotten how to pull alpha males into line. Modern society is allowing aggressive alpha males to flourish where before they may have perished. Eg Alex Jones of Info Wars and Jeff Bezos.
26:15 The 12th Man gives a Japanese example.
30:25 We don’t need Billionaires. And they are bad for us.
From Umair Haque
Do societies need billionaires, or do billionaires need societies? Which one is more true?
As I read this, think about Jeff Besoz, the world’s richest man.
The justification for billionaires — which is a product of American thinking, that then spread around the globe — goes something like this. Without billionaires, we won’t have progress, wealth, riches, security, or fortune. In short, billionaires equal prosperity. It’s trickle-down economics, in a slightly cleverer disguise.
[or, Billionaires have earned their money so they should keep it]
Now let’s look at reality. Do you see any of these grandiose, amazing, mythical benefits of billionaires having, well, actually materialized in America? I don’t. It’s self-evident to see that the rise of billionaires didn’t result in prosperity, wealth, riches, fortune. The average American is broke. He lives paycheck to paycheck. He’s crushed by debt he can never repay. He lives a life of psychoeconomic trauma, something like a neo-peasant, constantly worrying if his overlord will dispossess him just because the harvest — which is beyond his power to control — failed. It’s a terrible plight. Billionaires didn’t make any of that go away — in fact, they seemed to make it happen.
Europeans societies have (far) fewer billionaires. But they have much, much greater progress. Along every single dimension you can imagine, and then some. They have functioning healthcare, retirement, education, media, and so forth — and people have higher incomes and savings, too. Billionaires don’t equal progress. In fact, the precise opposite is true — preventing millionaires from becoming billionaires results in progress. That is why Europe is at a higher level of development than America today — it is a social democracy, whereas America is still an industrial capitalist economy, just a decayed, decrepit one now.
The American version — or the capitalist version — of the myth of prosperity goes like this. I will only do something to benefit you if you pay me to do it. … the more I am paid, the more whatever I have done must have benefited everyone.
[but] … Jonas Salk gave away the polio vaccine. Do you know what he had to say about that? “Can you patent the sun?” The inventors of insulin, too, intended their discovery to be made free. Sir Tim Berners Lee didn’t patent the WWW and make a killing — he made it public. Einstein and Newton didn’t charge anyone billions for discovering gravity and relativity — which went on to be the linchpins of two industrial revolutions.
The greatest discoveries and inventions in history have never come from the greedy, selfish, and predatory — that’s a myth capitalism wants you to believe, but it’s badly wrong. They have all — every single one — come from imaginative, curious, determined minds, who found things so mysterious and awesome, they could only give them away, in the end, share them.
… what are billionaires really doing? Well, they are essentially finding ways to “privatize” portions of those wonderful gifts, which are really all of our birthright.
Billionaires are just finding ways to hoard progress … billionaires aren’t creating prosperity. In fact, they are sitting atop a series of public goods — vaccines, antibiotics, the WWW, roads, hospitals, electricity, the alphabet — and simply finding ways to privatize their benefits, and, often socialize the losses accrued along the way. When an internet billionaire carves off a chunk of the WWW — that’s privatizing a public good. When a pharma company charges a huge fortune for some new drug — that’s privatizing many public goods, which the discovery of that drug rested upon. Billionaires aren’t the creators of prosperity. They’re it’s monopolists, its predators, the sharks cruising the waters of civilization.
[so Billionaires rely on the civilization built by our ancestors. They rely on it more than average workers therefore they should pay more]
Back to Jeff Besoz and Amazon
Capitalism is failing in America, and Amazon is both the cause and beneficiary of much of the breakdown. Jeff Bezos said, “We’ve had three big ideas at Amazon that we’ve stuck with for 18 years, and they’re the reason we’re successful: Put the customer first. Invent. And be patient.” He might have added three capitalist practices familiar to his company: (1) Pay no taxes; (2) Drive competitors out of business; and (3) Exploit workers.
There are essentially three positions that a thinking person — at this juncture in human history — should take when it comes to billionaires. One, a society shouldn’t have billionaires, period. Two, a society shouldn’t have billionaires while a single child or adult still lives in poverty. Three, a society shouldn’t have billionaires until everyone (and that means everyone) has something like a decent middle class life.
45:00 What if Australia implemented the Elizabeth Warren Wealth Tax?
Check out our page.
The Richest 250
I’m not in it.
Thanks to The Australian we can estimate an Elizabeth Warren wealth tax would generate $8.34b.
What is Davos?
Richard Feloni: What does Davos stand for in your view? Do you have any particular thoughts on this year’s, specifically?
Anand Giridharadas: I think Davos is a family reunion for the plutocrats that broke the modern West. I’ve never been to it, so I’m a cultural critic looking from a distance, but it seems to me to be a gathering of people who think that they are changing the world when they are exactly what needs changing.
Was this year a turning point?
Rutger Bregman a Dutch Historian (author of Utopia for Realists) was at Davos. Full video.
Whilst Bregman’s words are winning applause it also worth highlighting the comeback that Byanyima gave to Ken Goldman, the former CFO of Yahoo, who criticised the panel for being one-sided and highlighted the current unemployment rate in the US and how the US has helped reduce worldwide poverty.
While agreeing that tax avoidance is a big issue, Ken Goldman (former CEO of Yahoo) said “instead of taxes … instead of redistributing wealth, what are we talking about in terms of creating wealth? Frankly, what people really want is the dignity of a job.”
Another panellist, Oxfam International executive director Winnie Byanyima, forcefully rebutted Goldman’s remarks, pointing to the story of a worker named Dolores from a poultry processing plant. Dolores, she said, told Oxfam that she and her co-workers had to wear diapers to work because they were prevented from taking bathroom breaks while working. A rideshare app driver she had ridden with recently in Kenya told her he could only afford to share a room with two other drivers; they slept in turns.
“This is in the richest country in the world,” Byanyima said, of the United States. “Those are the jobs we’ve been told about, that ‘globalisation is bringing jobs’. The quality of the jobs matter. It matters! These are not jobs of dignity.”
Bregman and Byanyima’s remarks have since reverberated around the world, after being captured in a short video published by the trending video site, Now This. The video was viewed more than 6 million times, yet another indication that conversations about income inequality – and what were formerly seen as radical solutions to address it – are striking a nerve with the wider public.
1:00:50 The Budget
The spin from Scomo and Frydenberg. There are no big ideas. They are just tinkering at the edges.
1:05:30 ‘Staggering’: $90 billion lost in resources tax
An Oxford University expert says Australia would be $90 billion better off if it adopted European-style resource tax policies and argues the Turnbull government has given up on collecting a meaningful amount of revenue from some of its most valuable resources.
In one of a suite of new submissions to a Senate inquiry, Oxford Institute for Energy Studies academic Juan Carlos Boué warned unless Australia “radically overhauled its fiscal regime” it would have the second lowest share of government revenue from oil and gas in the world.
Australia is on track to eclipse Qatar as the largest exporter of gas by 2020, but is expected to only earn $600 million in 2018 – the same amount of revenue the government earns in beer tax every year – compared to Qatar’s $26.6 billion.
Calling the result “a silver medal finish that no Australian should desire,” Mr Carlos Boué, a former industry consultant, found Australia had an effective tax ratio of 21 per cent on gas resources, falling below the 35 per cent or more taken by the North Sea nations of Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway and Germany.