Why do people think and act diametrically different?

Jeff Leskovar has some interesting answers

From Jeff Leskovar’s article (from 4th December 2021):

Individuals have three main parameters by which they constrain their decisions: property, time, and social hierarchy. Social hierarchies apparently exist to reduce conflict among individuals as do property rights by allowing individuals to know who should defer to whom with regard to each other and physical objects. An individual’s decisions are delimited by these three dimensions, time (time preference), space (property), and social hierarchy. Social hierarchy exists in the minds of individuals so it is like the imaginary plane in the field of mathematics.. We have the real dimensions of time and space along with the dimension of social hierarchy or status. These control the majority of human behavior in the quest for survival and reproduction.

Time preference and social hierarchy are fundamental to understanding the “why” of human action. Putting social hierarchy front and center is especially useful in political science, since politics is the pursuit of social status, as well because it explains why people seem to fall into two different political groups, the left and the right. This theory explains a long list of behaviors engaged in by the left but not the right. Here are some examples:

  • Declining to debate
  • Engaging in ad hominem or using other logical fallacies if they do attempt to debate
  • Becoming emotional if one disagrees with them
  • Refusing to grant the right of free speech to people they disagree with
  • Refusing to associate with people on the right
  • Unfriending people on social media because of political disagreements
  • Marching in the street
  • Living in big cities

Why do leftist seem to have no curiosity about how they may be wrong or why other people may have different opinions? Why do leftist always assume evil motives on the part of those who disagree with them? Why are leftists so hostile to people who disagree with them? Applying considerations of social hierarchy explains all those leftists behaviors and answers all the above questions.

The answer, in short, is that “leftism” is the modern version of tribal, collective, “follow the herd” (which actually means “follow the leader”) thinking, while everyone else to some extent use their faculty of reason to try to figure out what exactly is going on and act on it for their benefit. Both strategies of action are necessary for survival. But they are mutually exclusive. We can engage in both, but not at the same time.

That means inevitably that, in any given circumstance, those choosing one basic survival-strategy will deem those who at the same time choose the other strategy as either “stupid” or “evil”. “Stupid” because they don’t seem to see the danger they are in, or “evil” because they are endangering others – “knowingly”.

Leskovar doesn’t say this, but I think he implies that the “follow the leader” types are much less inclined to discuss their action than the “let’s think this through rationally” types.

In addition, there is a strong incentive for those close to the top of the hierarchy to prevent others from climbing higher. Thus their incentive is to make everyone else a) follow the leader(s) and b) do things that will make it difficult if not impossible for the leaders to be replaced by others. In other words: Leaders are inclined to enhance and support “follow the leader” type behaviour, which will surprise exactly nobody who stops to think about it.

Leskovar explains:

By making some basic simple assertions about human nature and society and then building logically from these statements we can find explanations for many puzzling features of human society, especially politics. These assertions are the following:

  • “Human society always has a natural hierarchy
  • In any moment of decision for human action there are two different fundamental heuristics that can be used to make that decision. One method of decision making is to observe what everyone else is doing and doing the same. The other is to observe reality and use reason to decide how to act at any given moment. These two ways of decision making are fundamental survival strategies. These can be restated as thinking for yourself versus following the crowd. One uses reason and the other does not.
  • It is a fundamental human drive to seek belonging in the group and to seek to rise in the hierarchy. Human decision makers weigh the potential impact on social status at all points in the decision making process.
  • The strength of that drive for status and social belonging varies among people with some having a low drive and others a high drive for improved status. The status drive seems to intensify in people as they rise in status.
  • It is natural to be disdainful of people of lower status and this natural reaction varies in its intensity among individuals. The amount of disdain correlates with the status drive meaning people with a high status drive are probably more likely to disdain lower status people with more intensity than those with less status greed.
  • People tend to worship those of higher status. The intensity of this varies among individuals and probably intensifies as status increases.
  • Since the pursuit of social status is a zero sum game with all gains in status meaning a relative decrease in status for others, people tend to want to prevent lower status people from achieving higher status. Envy is the emotion that tends to trigger action to prevent others from achieving higher social status.”

Leskovar was given an interview with Tom Woods recently, in which he pointed out something highly interesting (prompted here). Namely that ‘Christianity said to people: “Don’t treat the low-status people badly. They are all equal in the eyes of God.” That could have a big part in explaining the rise of Europe. For a thousand years or more, people at the top of the hierarchy were less likely to oppress low-status people. I think that is now going away, and I think we’re getting the fruits from that from this Covid thing, which was very oppressive.’

The host, Tom Woods, doesn’t explore this aspect further, but the whole interview is worth listening to nonetheless.