IS CAPITALISM HARD-WIRED INTO OUR GENES ?
In the last few days I've been involved in some discussions on the Estate Tax at riting on the wall
and over at Brad DeLong's Semi Daily Journal
. I couldn't help but notice that the sound and fury of the debate exceeds the actual economic importance of the Estate Tax in practice by several orders of magnitude. Why does this particular tax, that is mostly avoided and yields on $ 18-30 billion annually, seem to ignite fervent debate ? ( Dave Schuyler
is firmly on the fence
on the Estate Tax, an exceptional position)
According to The Economist
, the answer might lie in our genes. Researchers are now offering the theory that Homo Sapiens won out in the Darwinian race with their seemingly physically superior
Neanderthal cousins because we engaged in trade and specialization
while Neanderthals did not. Homo Sapiens, in other words, used a Non-zero sum evolutionary strategy:
"One thing Homo sapiens does that Homo neanderthalensis shows no sign of having done is trade. The evidence suggests that such trade was going on even 40,000 years ago. Stone tools made of non-local materials, and sea-shell jewellery found far from the coast, are witnesses to long-distance exchanges. That Homo sapiens also practised division of labour and specialisation is suggested not only by the skilled nature of his craft work, but also by the fact that his dwellings had spaces apparently set aside for different uses. .......Initially, the researchers assumed that on average Neanderthals and modern humans had the same abilities for most of these attributes. They therefore set the values of those variables equal for both species. Only in the case of the trading and specialisation variables did they allow Homo sapiens an advantage: specifically, they assumed that the most efficient human hunters specialised in hunting, while bad hunters hung up their spears and made things such as clothes and tools instead. Hunters and craftsmen then traded with one another. According to the model, this arrangement resulted in everyone getting more meat, which drove up fertility and thus increased the population. Since the supply of meat was finite, that left less for Neanderthals, and their population declined. A computer model was probably not necessary to arrive at this conclusion. But what the model does suggest, which is not self-evident, is how rapidly such a decline might take place. Depending on the numbers plugged in, Neanderthals become extinct between 2,500 and 30,000 years after the two species begin competing—a range that nicely brackets reality. Moreover, in the model, the presence of a trading economy in the modern human population can result in the extermination of Neanderthals even if the latter are at an advantage in traditional biological attributes, such as hunting ability. "
Perhaps socialism really does go against human nature.