Surviving Human Nature

Some Topics

  • Democracy -Democrats and Republicans

    A popular assumption is that democracy is good and everyone should have one. The reality is quite different. Athens Greece is often given credit for inventing democracy. But in Athens only one in 10 residents could vote. Women could not participate and slaves had no rights. Those who did vote were often tempted to vote in favor of war. Athens flourished for a few years but the Greek empire and Athenian democracy was over within 150 years. While the Greek legacy was carried on by the Romans and spread through Europe, the real story of ancient Greece is tragic, not heroic. Elections are often thought to be the essence of democracy, but as human groups grow larger and social organization more complex, the ideal of citizen controlled government becomes impossible. The Economist Intelligence Unit assessed the kind and quality of governments in 167 countries during 2008. Only 30 countries had full democracies, representing 14.4% of the world population.

    The Economist's 2010 report stated that:" The dominant pattern in all regions over the past two years has been backsliding on previously attained progress in democratization. The global financial crisis that started in 2008 accentuated existing negative trends in political development."World problem progressed in 2011. The Economist prefaced their analysis: “2011 was an exceptionally turbulent year politically, characterized by sovereign debt crises, weak leadership in the developed world, dramatic change and conflict in the Middle East and North Africa and rising social unrest throughout much of the world.” By December 2011, 25 countries full democracies; 53 countries were flawed democracies; 52 were authoritarian and 37 were hybrid regimes.

    According to the 2016 Democracy Index almost one-half of the world’s countries can be considered to be democracies of some sort, but the number of “full democracies” has declined from 20 in 2015 to 19 in 2016. The US has been downgraded from a “full democracy” to a “flawed democracy” because of a further erosion of trust in government and elected officials there. The "democratic recession" worsened in 2016, when no region experienced an improvement in its average score and almost twice as many countries recorded a decline in their total score as recorded an improvement . Eastern Europe experienced the most severe regression. The 2016 Democracy Index report, Revenge of the "deplorables", examines the deep roots of today's crisis of democracy in the developed world, and looks at how democracy fared in every region.(Economist Intelligence Unit. Democracy Index 2016. Accessed Online Jan 2017)

    Politics in modern democracies have revealed basic human tendencies that require deep understanding. Some questions are: Why are their democrats and republicans, liberals and conservatives? Why doesn’t everyone have the same preference and come to the same conclusions, given most of the facts? Why isn't everybody nice?

    The conventional view of political opinion recognizes a spread of political preference using the metaphor left to right. The moderate left is equated with liberal and socialist and the moderate right is equated with “free-enterprise” and conservative. Liberal-Socialist describes a tendency to share and conservative expresses a tendency to self-serving policies and hoarding. The extreme left is considered to be communism and the extreme right is fascism. In practice, communism and fascism tend toward the same place – dictatorships. In Britain, Canada and the USA, right and left political parties dominated political contests and have tended toward the center as time has past. In Canada, the New Democratic Party (NDP) and a Quebec separatist party offered options. Although NDP parties elected governments in a few Canadian provinces they were never able to beat the conservative and liberal parties in federal elections.

    Each political party has members who are right or left, but moderates prevail, as they should. The extremes are populated by authoritarian humans who tend to use intimidation, coercion and punishment to achieve domination. They want to become dictators if they achieve political power.

    Moderates tend to be more conciliatory and will use the threat of force but avoid combat unless attacked. This tendency toward the center represents, hopefully, an evolution in political processes. In Canada, the federal Conservative Party was obliterated after forming an unpopular government, leaving the country with a choice of a Liberal Government or voting for one of the minority parties. This would be equivalent to the Republican party in the US being reduced to a few seats in the Senate. After many years, an unstable coalition of more right wing parties revived a conservative party.

    Clearly, traditional political polarization is unstable and new approaches to democratic government are desirable and may be possible. In the both the USA and Canada reform parties have emerged to offer and alternative to a dichotic political choice and "reform" refers to almost any point of view that does not fit comfortably in the neatly divided liberal-conservative camps. The main arguments between the left-socialist and right-conservative are about the distribution of resources, the use of force and the regulation of individual activity. The dialectic can be traced back to root group dynamics and the ever-changing balance between self-interest and group interest, between belligerence and peaceful negotiation. In the USA in 2004, similar differences were described as “cultural” and political rivalry was renamed ‘culture wars.”

    Primate groups all tend toward the center, but food scarcity and threats from the outside are stresses that disturb the status quo. There is a mixture of group and individual mandates and a healthy primate group is flexible, rearranging priorities and ideology as circumstances demand. Groups are larger and more egalitarian when resources are abundant. Larger groups divide into smaller groups and become edgy and competitive when resources are scarce. Groups always compete with one another, but temporary truces and coalitions keep the peace most of the time.

    Political theories, especially the revolutionary ones have always been wrong. Marx was a smart man trying to solve the problems of poor workers oppressed by authoritarian, industrial leaders and governments. But the application of Marxism in Russia was ignorant of human nature. His theories were untested and arbitrary. We now know what happens when you violently overthrow an unjust but working system and replace it with an ideology that intends to redistribute wealth and make everyone equal. You get a political and economic system that does not work and you get tyranny, cruelty and poverty. Humans have innate tendencies that will not change.

    Any political-economic theory that proposes to fundamentally change the way humans operate will fail. The only lasting way to change political and economic systems is to allow them to become more congruent with human nature. Successful political systems must work with and not oppose human nature to become stable over a long-term measured in thousands of years and not four-year terms of office. Stability will require a high degree of autonomy for local groups and tolerance for diversity among these groups. Meaningful political changes emerge slowly and are built from the bottom up rather than imposed from the top down. Citizens of the 21st century can be quite sure that top-down solutions will not work and the tendency toward centralized political and economic control will need to be modified or abandoned.

    Each citizen of a democracy does have a responsibility to protect his or her freedom and right to life by insisting on bottom-up solutions to problems. This means that the local community decides what is in its best interests; not a distant and autocratic authority.

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      The author is Stephen Gislason MD The book is available in print and eBook version ( for download.) 362 Pages

    • "The 20th Century was the century of domination of planet earth by a single species. Human activities have become all pervasive and clusters of human constructions have replaced the natural world in all habitable regions of the planet. Human events are deeply troubling overall but at the same time, much has been accomplished in reaching for a sustainable, good life for some but not all humans. The 20th century will be remembered as the century of waking up to the universe as it is. We woke up to our own nature and responsibility and can no longer plead ignorance ."

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