this post is prompted by a (brief) discussion in the comments over @dennis’ place. anonymous objected to me saying that pre-christian (i.e. pre-outbreeding) europeans were not, amongst other things, democratic — germanic tribes had things, for instance, he says.
yes, a lot of societies have democratic elements to them — even hunter-gatherer bands, i do believe, generally operate according to a system in which everyone (at least all the men) gets to voice their opinion on which way the band should head tomorrow or something like that. but no other society ever developed a western-style, parliamentarian-type democratic system except for europeans. here’s robin fox on this curious phenomenon [pgs. 60-61]:
“Again in England, it was not until 1688, after a bitter civil-religious war and a period of hard totalitarianism, that we were able to set up a system whereby political factions would compete for votes and, most amazingly, the losers would vountarily cede power. [fox's emphasis.] This transformation took a long time and hard practice with many missteps….
“But far from being a fact of human nature, this voluntary ceding of power after elections, this basic feature of liberal democracy, actually flies in the face of nature. It is self-evidently absurd. Our political opponents are always disreputable, and their accession to power will be the ruin of the country. Listen to the rhetoric of campaigns: it almost amounts to criminal malfeasance to allow the opponents to take over. Yet that is what we do after a mere counting of heads: cede control to the villains and incompetents.
“The cynic will say that the only reason we allow this to happen is because we know that in truth there is no real difference between political parties in these systems, and so we join in a conspiracy of the willing to take turn and turn about. Even so, this willingness that we take so for granted is an amazing and unusual and a fragile thing. Ajami quotes an Arab proverb, min al-qasr ila al-qabr: ‘from the palace to the grave.’ Once you have power, in the name of God and the good of the people, you keep it, and the voluntary relinquishment of power is simply seen as weakness or stupidity….
“And our Western democracies still struggle with nepotism, corruption, and cronyism, whose energetic persistence should tell us something…. How could we believe, then, that we could walk into a country like Iraq and do in a few months, or even a few years, or even several decades, what millennia had failed to evolve spontaneously? Because ‘the Iraqi People,’ like everyone else, ‘loved freedom’?”
earlier in this chapter, fox explains how, of course, there is no such thing as “the iraqi people,” but instead that there are lots of tribes in iraq who do not want to share power with other tribes, and certainly do not want the members of other tribes governing over them.
parapundit, waaaay back in 2002, wrote about how the inbreeding practices of middle easterners hampers the development of democracy in those regions. he referred to stanley kurtz’s writings on the matter (stanley kurtz, btw, is a very, very smart fellow and i recommend reading anything and everything by him and taking what he says very seriously) — here are just a couple: Marriage and the Terror War and Marriage and the Terror War, Part II. in that second essay, kurtz wrote:
“Once your subject is the social meaning and function of kinship, the Muslim world stands in stark contrast to every other society in the world — traditional or modern. This contrast, I argue, has everything to do with why Muslim societies have difficulty accommodating modernity, why Muslim immigrants resist assimilation, and why some Muslims are attacking us.
“The key ‘functional connection’ between Middle Eastern marriage practices (which are not religiously dictated, although they are sometimes justified in religious terms) and Islam itself would appear to be the creation and reinforcement of a pervasive cultural tendency to form in-groups with tightly monitored boundaries….
“If we want to change any of this, it will be impossible to restrict ourselves to the study of religious Islam. The ‘self-sealing’ character of Islam is part and parcel of a broader and more deeply rooted social pattern. And parallel-cousin marriage is more than just an interesting but minor illustration of that broader theme. If there’s a ‘self-sealing’ tendency in Muslim social life, cousin marriage is the velcro.“
there’s no way a “self-sealing” society is going to adopt modern, liberal democracy (and why do we keep insisting that they do, anyway?). our modern, liberal democratic system requires an open society. it requires the “atomization” of individuals — i.e. that they are not joined at the hip to their extended family members or clans or tribes. it requires society to be corporate in nature [opens pdf] — and that requires outbreeding.
if stanley kurtz explained to all of us online that the muslim world would not become democratic over-night because of their endogamous, cousin-marriage practices, steve sailer explained the why.
in an essay published waaaay back in 2003, steve wrote:
“The biggest disadvantage [from inbreeding], however, may be political.
“Are Muslims, especially Arabs, so much more loyal to their families than to their nations because, due to countless generations of cousin marriages, they are so much more genealogically related to their families than Westerners are related to theirs? Frank Salter, a political scientist at the Max Planck Institute in Germany whose new book ‘Risky Transactions: Trust, Kinship, and Ethnicity’ takes a sociobiological look at the reason why Mafia families are indeed families, told me, ‘That’s my hunch; at least it’s bound to be a factor.’
“One of the basic laws of modern evolutionary science, quantified by the great Oxford biologist William D. Hamilton in 1964 under the name ‘kin selection,’ is that the more close the genetic relationship between two people, the more likely they are to feel loyalty and altruism toward each other. Natural selection has molded us not just to try to propagate our own genes, but to help our relatives, who possess copies of some of our specific genes, to propagate their own.
“Nepotism is thus biologically inspired. Hamilton explained that the level of nepotistic feeling generally depends upon degree of genetic similarity. You share half your personally variable genes with your children and siblings, but one quarter with your nephews/nieces and grandchildren, so your nepotistic urges will tend to be somewhat less toward them. You share one eighth of your genes with your first cousins, and one thirty-second with your second cousin, so your feelings of family loyalty tend to fall off quickly.
“But not as quickly if you and your relatives are inbred. Then, you’ll be genealogically and related to your kin via multiple pathways. You will all be genetically more similar, so your normal family feelings will be multiplied. For example, your son-in-law might be also be the nephew you’ve cherished since his childhood, so you can lavish all the nepotistic altruism on him that in an outbred family would be split between your son-in-law and your nephew.
“Unfortunately, nepotism is usually a zero sum game, so the flip side of being materially nicer toward your relatives would be that you’d have less resources left with which to be civil, or even just fair, toward non-kin. So, nepotistic corruption is rampant in countries such as Iraq, where Saddam has appointed members of his extended family from his hometown of Tikrit to many key positions in the national government.”
steve and stanley and parapundit were all talking about a particular sort of tribal society with a particular form of cousin marriage — father’s brother’s daughter marriage. this form of marriage has been practiced by the arabs since before mohammed arrived on the scene (iow, they have been inbreeding for a very long time). the arabs introduced it to iraq and other places like afghanistan and pakistan and libya in the 700s. the peoples in those places may, of course, have been inbreeding in other ways before their conversion to islam. in any event, they’ve all been inbreeding for many centuries, so liberal democracy is not going to come natural to any of these populations.
but, edogamous mating is endogamous mating, and inclusive fitness is inclusive fitness. what has to be remembered is that there are different degrees of inbreeding (uncle-niece, first-cousin, second-cousin, third-cousin … tenth-cousin, etc.) as well as different types (paternal and maternal being the basic division — paternal results in the “self sealing” societies kurtz described; maternal gets you more alliances with outside groups). while centuries of father’s brother’s daughter marriage results in strongly tribal societies in which liberal democracy doesn’t fit at all, even lesser degrees of endogamous mating don’t seem to be all that great for fostering democracy.
example: the greeks.
we’ve seen that greeks have been practicing endogamous mating for who knows how long (at least back into the mid-1800s, presumably since forever). they don’t marry their first-cousins since that is against the greek orthodox church’s regulations, and they tend to avoid second-cousin marriage. but they do marry very locally — within the same village or neighboring village — preferentially to a third-cousin. (of course, things are probably changing nowadays with moves to urban centers.) the result? the extended-family is very important to greeks — and those familial sentiments spill over into the larger society. nepotism and corruption are very common in greece. almost nobody pays any taxes if they can help it.
“In the last half-century, three main families have dominated Greek politics.
“The center-left Papandreous have produced three prime ministers: George; his powerful father, Andreas, who founded Pasok, the governing Socialist party; and Andreas’s centrist father, also named George.
“The previous prime minister, Kostas Karamanlis, is the nephew of Konstantinos Karamanlis, a four-time prime minister who founded the New Democracy Party and led Greece in 1974 after the fall of the seven-year military dictatorship.
“Mrs. Bakoyannis and Kyriakos Mitsotakis, a member of Parliament with New Democracy, are the children of former Prime Minister Konstantinos Mitsotakis, who led New Democracy in the 1980s and early 1990s and who often sparred with Andreas Papandreou.
“‘These personalities’ — especially Andreas Papandreou and Konstantinos Karamanlis — ‘helped Greece’s development in recent decades as much as they obstructed it,’ said Dimitris Sotiropoulos, a political scientist who has written on post-junta politics in Greece.
“These governments helped rebuild a traumatized country, but they also hardened the system to serve their own cadres and supporters, Mr. Sotiropoulos said….
“Over the years, leaders from each of the families have promised to end corruption. Kostas Karamanlis, a cigar-smoking lawyer with a doctorate in international affairs from Tufts University in the United States, led New Democracy to victory in 2004 on the promise that he would make government transparent, efficient and clean. Five years later, he left politics in disgrace, after his scandal-ridden party lost to Mr. Papandreou and Pasok, who have also promised to stamp out corruption.”
uh … not a good sign that liberal democracy is working very well in your country when political dynasties keep dominating the scene. (er, oops. *ahem*)
but what about on the ground? how do the greeks decide for whom to vote? according to their consciences or according to family ties? well, kinda-sorta both. here’s an account of a sticky voting situation in some local politics in meganisi (featured previously in this post) which pitted one man’s (babis’) brother (stathis) against his father-in-law (petros m.) [pg. 128]:
“[S]ince kinship could not be discounted, Nikos and his family were quite literally placed in a genealogical double bind. The person in the most invidious position was of course Babis, who had to choose between his brother and his wife’s father. I do not know on what grounds he based his choice, though I suspect they were ones of political conviction. At all events, he opted for his father-in-law and quite decisively. But if Babis’s dilemma was resolved according to political convictions, this certainly did not prevent him from trying to further his cause through family connections. Indeed, he went the rounds of all his and Stathis’s relatives and advised them not to vote for his brother. In this he must have been quite successful, for, as Nikos later explained to me, though Stathis made a respectable showing, the votes he secured were all philika psiphismata (friendly votes) and not oikoyeneiaka psiphismata (family votes). In fact the family had ‘brought him down.’
“Needless to say, my host, Nikos, was himself caught up in these unfortunate events and, with the rest of the family, voted against his relative Stathis, and for his (more distant) relative, Petros M. The exception was Nikos’s wife, who voted for her brother Stathis, As Nikos explained, she could scarcely have done anything else — though, as he admitted, it did result in the embarassing oddity of a husband and wife voting differently. As for Nikos’s old mother, Stavroula, she simply voted for whom she was told — Petros M.
“Stathis himself was outraged by this family betrayal and went so far as to boycott Nikos’s kaphenio for several months. Nikos thus paid a price for his part in the family/antifamily pact — and it should be noted that the price itself was measurable in terms of the values of kinship: the loss of the patronage of his beloved kouniados [baptismal/marriage sponsor]. But the real interest of this episode lies in the fact that although it was clearly recognized that votes could be cast along family lines — hence Babis’s visiting of all his relatives; hence Nikos’s contrast between “friendly votes” and “family votes” — in the final analysis kinship was incapable of controlling the vote, and not because an appeal to kinship lacked persuasion or because individuals had their own political ideas, but because kinship itself [author's emphasis] actually split the vote. Instead of providing the basis for corporate action, the very complexity and multiplicity of kinship connections meant that, politics aside, people’s loyalties were divided. Kinship could be appealed to; its weight could be thrown on the scales; but nothing resulted from it automatically. It might be expected that one would vote for a relative, but in the end one could only vote for the relative by whom one was most persuaded.”
so, close kinship did not entirely win the day — babis did not vote for his own brother, stathis, but rather for his father-in-law. however, babis and stathis’ sister, nikos’ wife, did vote for her brother. and although nikos didn’t vote for his brother-in-law, in voting for petros m. he was voting for a more distant relative.
but the expectation that family would vote for family was obviously there. stathis boycotted his brother-in-law’s establishment afterwards because he hadn’t voted for him. and the greeks have set phrases for distinguishing family votes (oikoyeneiaka psiphismata) from friendly votes (philika psiphismata)? well, that right there illustrates that liberal democracy is not working 100% in greece.
as the author describes it, all of the kinship ties in greece (from all of the inbreeding) means that corporate action is difficult. family looms large in greek politics — it is not a situation of community members voting for representatives — it is family members picking and choosing amongst family members to best represent — or to get them into a position from where they’ll be able to dole out favors to — other family members.
a lot of endogamy creates tribes, for which a liberal democratic system is anathema. but even a lesser amount of endogamy seems to throw up hindrances to liberal democracy as the members of such a population are more focused on getting the best for their extended families, or even clans, rather than on what is best for all. obviously, other hbd traits, like the average iq and average personality type of a population, play huge roles in all of this. genetic relatedness and the consequent inclusive fitness-related drives and behaviors that influence the patterns of social behaviors within a society are simply another layer of biological factors to be considered when trying to understand human actions.
update 11/25/11: see also the corporate nature of european societies and liberal democracy
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