How Do the Powerful Get the Idea That They ‘Deserve’ More? Lessons from the… Laboratory

By Yanis Varoufakis, professor of economics at the University of Athens. Cross posted from his blog

The ‘haves’ of the world are always convinced that they deserve their wealth. That their gargantuan income reflects their ingenuity, ‘human capital’, the risks they (or their parents) took, their work ethic, their acumen, their application, their good luck even. The economists (especially members of the so-called Chicago School. e.g. Gary Becker) aid and abet the self-serving beliefs of the powerful by arguing that arbitrary discrimination in the distribution of wealth and social roles cannot survive for long the pressures of competition (i.e. that, sooner or later, people will be rewarded in proportion to their contribution to society). Most of the rest of us suspect that this is plainly false. That the distribution of power and wealth can be, and usually is, highly arbitrary and independent of ‘marginal productivity’, ‘risk taking’ or, indeed, any personal characteristic of those who rise to the top. In this post I present a body of experimental work that argues the latter point: Arbitrary distributions of roles and wealth are not only sustainable in competitive environments but, indeed, they are unavoidable until and unless there are political interventions to keep them in check.

The laboratory experiment central to this post took place some time ago and involved 640 volunteers. It revealed that rigid hierarchies might emerge even among people who are, to all intents and purposes, identical. Of course, discrimination cannot emerge unless there is at least some distinguishing feature (e.g. some are ‘left-hookers’ or have green eyes, some are men while others are women). So, to test the hypothesis that systematic discrimination can emerge when subjects seem identical to each other, the experimental design made it impossible for one participant to discern anything other than a wholly arbitrary feature of the ‘other’; a feature that is commonly known to be uncorrelated to the character, application, intelligence, motivation or ability of the person involved. What feature? We simply assigned, at random, the colour Blue to half our subjects and the colour Red to the other half. Could such an arbitrary colour assignment seed stable conventions that discriminated terribly between the Reds and the Blues; i.e. people that were, otherwise, indistinguishable (and who knew that the colour assignments were random and, therefore, meaningless)? The answer is, contrary to anything economic theory can explain, a resounding ‘yes’. [Click here for the academic paper, published in The Economic Journal, reporting on this experiment and here for a longer chapter on the same topic, published recently in this book. Click also here for the slides of my most recent presentation on this subject.]

What does this all mean? What lesson can we learn, from these laboratory experiments, about our societies? Are there insights here that can be of help to political activists and civil rights organisations struggling against systematic discrimination? Below, I offer a brief summary of the empirical findings and answer questions posed by Nick Hadjigeorge concerning the political significance of these issues for civil rights activists.

INSIGHTS FROM THE LAB – in six points

1. Experimental evidence shows that large-scale arbitrary discrimination can be sustainable on the basis of some distinguishing feature that everyone knows is independent of personal character, skill, aggression, IQ, temperament etc. If we can reproduce rigid patterns of discrimination within an hour, in a laboratory, then feminists, anti-racists and critics of the vast inequalities between social classes have powerful evidence that it is perfectly possible for societies to distribute the good social roles (and the wealth emanating from these) independently of the personal virtues powerful white men invoke to justify their riches and power.

2. Given their evolutionary stability, the patterns of discrimination become institutionalized in human societies because people begin to believe that they deserve what they are getting or not getting (as part of the distribution that results from the evolved discriminatory conventions). The ideology of entitlements, in others words, follows on the coattails of arbitrary distributions of social roles and income.

3. Members of advantaged and disadvantaged groups behave differently based on this dynamic, expect the ‘other’ group to behave differently and, importantly, allow their ‘expectations’ to become more than predictions: to become ethical expectations (e.g. the advantaged tend to believe that it is right that they should be getting more than the disadvantaged and vice versa).

4. Advantaged people engage more in hostile behaviour toward one another, and they feel entitled to their winnings.

5. Disadvantaged members learned to expect less and to develop a greater capacity to act collectively and cooperatively against the logic of free-riding. As a result, even though this is not necessarily what motivates them, they manage to recoup some of the losses from being disadvantaged (in their dealings with the advantaged group) by managing to cooperate with one another.

6. The explanation of how real power evolves, and what makes it sustainable, is to be found in the mind, and the beliefs, of the majority of the disadvantaged who succumb to the ideological belief that they are entitled to less than the advantaged.


Your analysis began with empirical observations of discrimination amongst populations of birds, before you proceeded to human behaviour in the laboratory. Do you have more to say about the institutionalization process that we observe in human societies?

Humans have a capacity that animals lack: the capacity to rationalise ex post and to develop moral (or normative) beliefs. Whereas in bird populations discrimination is based just on a Darwinian replicator mechanism (which ensures that conflict is minimized through the division of birds between those which are programmed to act as hawks and to those that behave dovishly), human societies are at least one order to magnitude more complex. As in the ‘Animal republic’ so too in human societies the socio-economic games we play (also known as… patriarchal, racially-charged capitalism) are quite primitive and conflictual, giving rise to social divisions between advantaged and disadvantaged groups. The difference is that humans question the conventions around them. They need reasons for accepting them. So, they devise them surreptitiously, covertly, subconsciously. They convert the observation “this is what I am getting” to the belief “this is what I am entitled to”. When predictive beliefs acquire a veneer of ethicality, they become solidified and the social order is stabilised. But, at the same time, an opposite force is at work; a subversive one that is akin to mutations in biology. These mutations are acts of rebellion (e.g. a Spartacus or a Malcolm X) that destabilize the social order and the dominant ideology. It is through this tussle between the adaptive, conservative, replicator dynamic and the subversive rebelliousness of political mutations that human history evolves. The institutions of slavery, patriarchy, racism, capitalism etc. all came about in this manner. And were all subverted in that manner too.

Is it your impression that your experimental subjects behaved according to socialization, or is it the result of innate brain-wiring, as in the bird example?

The only innate, hard-wired, aspect of this ‘socialization’ process has to do with our need, as humans, to rationalize; to have reasons for accepting the conventions regulating our behavior. What David Hume describes in his Treatise of Human Nature as the surreptitious conversion of an ‘is’ to an ‘ought’. It is this ‘thirst for reasons’ that is the source of the ideology that solidifies behavioural patterns of discrimination and cooperation but also of the ideology of rebellion, subversion and resistance.

Advantaged members feel entitled to their winnings. What sense do the disadvantaged members feel? Is it injustice, etc?

Yes and no. The disadvantaged experience a mix of emotions. Partly a sense of injustice, partly a sense of pride for not being exploiters, partly an indignation against the advantaged but also partly moral condemnation of other disadvantaged people who are ‘uppity’, who think they deserve better and who seek to subvert the advantage of the advantaged. After all, the greatest opponents of feminists have been women (who proclaimed that women should stay in the home) and the police forces that attacked anti-Apartheid protesters in the South Africa were mostly black…

What is your opinion on the Civil Rights Movement? Did its members successfully utilise their power as members of the disadvantaged group?

Yes. Broadly speaking, the second great difference between human societies and stratified bird populations (besides our capacity to rationalise and to develop normative beliefs) is the fact that humans, possibly courtesy of Logos (speech, language and reason), tend to correlate our mutations. If you think of mutations as individual acts of resistance against established discriminatory conventions, politics is what happens when these individuals attempt to correlate their mutations, thus giving them a great deal more power to overturn the current conventions. In the 1960s the Civil Rights Movement accomplished this with great success, especially so in view of having recruited into the coalition of subversives members of the advantaged group (e.g. whites who rode on the buses with blacks). If the Movement failed in something it was in that it had no answer to the massive loss of blue collar jobs after 1973, a loss that undermined the vast majority of disadvantaged Americans. But this is another story…

Looking ahead, how do you feel about current movements of disadvantaged members exercising their collective power?

It is the historic duty of victims of arbitrary discrimination to contest it tooth and nail. It is also inevitable that they will keep trying, despite the Sirens that strive to keep them on their sofas, glued to the idiot box, or to immerse them in a cloud of mindless, cheap, plastic consumerism against the background of economic insecurity. The bad news is that, since the 1970s, the economic bedrock on which the civil rights’ movement stood has become increasingly brittle. The Crisis of 2008 gave out some hope that the dispossessed would take heart and, through the Occupy Movement, reclaim part of the moral high ground in this never ending struggle. The jury is still out on this. But there is good news: As long as mindless, irrational and multiple patterns of discrimination survive, the human spirit will always produce serious challenges to it and, in so doing, will keep the flame alive.

Does your game theory model/research provide any insight into how these groups should behave?

No. It simply empowers them:

• with the demonstration that the discrimination they are up against can be as idiotic as it is sustainable

• with proof that the fact that discrimination, inequality and exploitation is rampant and everywhere is no sign that there is some worthy rationale behind discrimination, inequality and exploitation

• with evidence that, however sustainable discriminatory norms and practices may seem, they can crumble and disappear once we expose their reliance on false beliefs that resemble a type superstition functional to the interests of a tiny minority.

How resistance and Civil Rights groups will organize against discriminatory patterns, and how they will subvert the latter’s ideological ‘cover’, is for them to work out and for us to support.

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  1. abynormal

    reminds me of ‘A Class Divided’ experiment
    a 3rd grade teacher not only taught it…she took the practice to prisons

    “After you do this exercise, when the debriefing starts, when the pain is over and they’re all back together, you find out how society could be if we really believed all this stuff that we preach, if we really acted that way, you could feel as good about one another as those kids feel about one another after this exercise is over. You create instant cousins,” says Elliott. “The kids said over and over, ‘We’re kind of like a family now.’ They found out how to hurt one another and they found out how it feels to be hurt in that way and they refuse to hurt one another in that way again.” Jane Elliott

    (start’m young by living it as adults…not so easy but what value isn’t worth it?)

  2. McKillop

    Does it begin with an “I”?
    Seems so to me regardless of the attributes to which each of us, or all, lays claim. The wealthy claim entitlement to their wealth – granted by those who value wealth through being taught to discriminate. Healthy and handsome people, beautiful by arbitrary standards, do not merely acknowledge fortune in their making but also appear to think that personal effort sustains the beauty. Engineers sneer at others but are mocked for lacking social graces or an appreciation of anything literary but for ‘bonehead English’. Artists on Elgin, patronized nominally by the managerial class here in town, consider themselves entitled to more respect than those who express support and the guys who work in the mines and mills and smelters, those upon whose backs we are all carried, are considered to be less worthy of reward than store owners or realestate brokers.
    People who specify particulars are more worthy than those who generalize, I’ve found.
    The discrimination is probably arbitrary, and perhaps innate, but is either taught or encouraged.
    I also think that those who believed that they were not entitled to their power or wealth or acclaim would either give it away or seek out other rewards, say, even, asceticism. Failing that they might merely seek out _more_ of that which they mistakenly believe will provide satisfaction.
    Are obsessive people ever sated?

    1. abynormal

      “Are obsessive people ever sated?”

      the Cure remains confident…it’s never enough
      “Holding it up for just once more
      One more time to fill it up
      One more time to kill
      But whatever i do
      It’s never enough”

      “He who does not trust enough, Will not be trusted”
      Lao Tzu

      1. Stephen

        TRUST is the byword.

        We are putting out the sacred call people.

        Our mission is to restore the people to sovereignty through knowledge, and only then will they be armed with the virtue to take political and judicial power. The people have it in their power to disarm and defeat the enemy of Liberty both foreign and domestic if they only understood the principles of freedom and stand upon them.

        To take political power is to control our elected representatives, by bringing them into obedience through fear of the people, this is accomplished by understanding the office of & becoming an elected committeemen, and then execute the powers of the Common Law Grand Jury.

        To take judicial power is to control our courts by understanding jurisdiction and bringing into subjection all government officers and officials using common law courts by opening courts of record and executing “people” authority, it’s that simple!

        But, to successfully apply political and judicial power you must have a sense of justice and mercy which is synonymous with virtue. And to get virtue you need to have a relationship with your creator. If everyone exercised these principles America could shake off the chains of tyranny, reinstate our republic, and bring down the NWO “literally overnight”. This is the only way to save the nation, without power you are powerless!

        Join our endeavor and save our Republic, one people at a time! (NOT PERSON, SEE BELOW)

        We are Non Partisan – A partisan person is “one who is blindly or unreasonably devoted to party positions.” Therefore a partisan cannot possibly serve the constitution. George Washington warned us against political parties he said “they only succeed in pitting one group against another”.

        The cause of the grassroots movement is the awakening to our constitutional crisis, for it to be engaged in partisan politics would further serve the demise of our constitutional republic. The genius of the progressive movement is their exploitation of partisan politics, which they created, to subvert our constitution. Grassroots groups are natural and spontaneous whose primary objective is to reinstate the constitution, to be partisan would be counter productive.

        Traditional power structures are orchestrated and designed to harness grassroots movements “they must always be suspect” and will be proven corrupt if they are partisan – divisive – take control of choosing candidates.

        Grassroots are founded local, control is local and most events are local. To collaborate with distant groups are necessary for unity but if events become dictated by them you are no longer grassroots.


        TOTAL US Counties



        New York 2-27-14 (62 counties)
        Florida 3-15-14 (67 counties)
        Connecticut 3-15-14 (8 counties)
        Rhode Island 3-15-14 (5 counties)

        More information and learning material is on our website.

        This is John, the founder on an interview, and he lays it all out for you.

        Please take some time to at least watch and know what we are trying to accomplish for our country and let others KNOW.

        Sample learning:

        If unsure still, attend our National Monday Night Call. – Ask away.

        Or dip your toe in the water at our meet-up group.

        Keep up with our progress State by State here:

        To become a Common Law Jurist in Your County, please register here:

        Thank you for listening, we need all of you.

        In Faith,


  3. JGordon

    “they manage to recoup some of the losses from being disadvantaged (in their dealings with the advantaged group)”

    That will be (if it happens, as opposed to say, extinction) the salvation of humanity. And it should not be the case that the disadvantaged seek to possess exactly what the advantaged posses, but rather they should seek to build alternatives to the unsustainable lifestyles the “advantaged” currently enjoy. The key idea to keep in mind here is that the “advantaged” folk of today are the ones who will be least likely to survive the horrors that are in store for us in the (probably near) future, much like you can’t expect a sedentary, morbidly obese, diabetic with a heart condition to run a marathon.

    Also, I watched Max Keiser today and saw him talking about how governments are researching and designing autonomous drones that will go around disposing of disfavored people in the near future, thus ending this whole Enlightenment thing. And a bunch of nuclear plants could suddenly melt down and sterilize the earth’s biosphere due to a solar flare–which is not an improbable event at all (we missed one by 9 days in 2012 Either of those would probably spell the end for all of this agitation and theorizing about equality for the disadvantaged. And because of that and the point above I still think that a lot of people here are missing the boat regarding where their priorities ought be, and I always have the sense that the people I see who are talking about social just and equality and such are at least somewhat delusional.

    1. abynormal

      there’s historical & present lessons/solutions everywhere…here’s one im chewing on:

      Kenny Williams: Okay Cuch, why’d you bring me all the way up here?
      Cuch: You’re standing at the center of two worlds.
      Kenny Williams: Yeah, well, I thought I left that other world behind.
      Cuch: **Well don’t look through their eyes, look through your eyes.** From here you can see forever – the past, the present, the future. See, the Creator scattered us to the four winds so we could prove that we’re human by finding our way home.
      Kenny Williams: Well, always trying to find your way home can make a man crazy.
      Cuch: Hmmh, sometimes you have to go all the way around the world to find your way, and sometimes you’ve got to put pride aside to get there. Me, I’m home.
      Kenny Williams: This is like, what, a sacred site or something?
      Cuch: This? (chuckles) This is just a big rock. (walks away laughing)
      ~Edge of America

  4. Brooklin Bridge

    We create problems faster than we evolve to solve them. Our population explosion, resource depletion, societal collapse, environmental catastrophe staring out at us like the bare earth after a locust feeding frenzy, all stem from that.

  5. Law

    Imagine putting the thief in charge of a coin mint and putting the saint in charge of gathering the dead leaves off the floor?!?
    That’s the current state of human affairs.

  6. Will Shetterly

    “If the Movement failed in something it was in that it had no answer to the massive loss of blue collar jobs after 1973, a loss that undermined the vast majority of disadvantaged Americans.”

    If Martin Luther King had lived, the Movement might have been ready. He kept his focus on poverty when the Movement focused on social identity.

    1. Massinissa

      RIP MLK’s “Poor Peoples Campaign”. They always leave information of that out of schools and books and documentaries. Largely on purpose.

      Cant let people get any ideas, yeah? They have to whitewash the revolutionary leaders like MLK to be as unrevolutionary as possible.

    2. Carla

      Yes, thank you for saying this. King knew there would be no real civil rights without economic justice.

  7. washunate

    Interesting post, but I don’t know if it actually addresses the title – the how?

    Natural selection has been quite effective at reproducing offspring of people who acquire finite resources. If people at all levels (not just the super wealthy) didn’t fundamentally feel like they ‘deserved’ their wealth, the guilt would be so overwhelming as to paralyze future action, thus negating the evolutionary benefit of acquiring the resources in the first place.

    This tidbit fascinates me:
    “The answer is, contrary to anything economic theory can explain, a resounding ‘yes’. ”

    Why can’t economic theory explain that? Cooperation, tribalism, self vs other, whatever framework one prefers, is a fundamental aspect of human society. How is it possible that a theory of political economy wouldn’t incorporate the basic tendency of humans to form arbitrary groups in order to better the odds of accumulating resources that (at least until recently) were associated with further success of the group?

    I would highly recommend one turn on ESPN. March Madness and Spring Training coalesce this time of year. Please tell me economists understand that these are completely arbitrary arrangements of human interest and alignment.

    1. psychohistorian

      Economics is a mythology created as a fig leaf of cover for unfettered inheritance and ongoing accumulation of private property. Its only connection to our reality is through the faith it requires of all to believe TINA to our centuries old class system.

    2. Alex Tolley

      I too an perplexed that economic theory cannot explain this. We know that there are models to show herd behavior, the benefits of group identification, etc.

      The arbitrariness of the group trait selection should also be expected, as we know that the traits reinforced by sex selection are also arbitrary.

  8. sublimejah

    Facts don’t matter anymore. Reason is only used when it benefits the elite. The civil rights movement was only successful because large numbers of people took action, they were willing to be arrested, be outed, they took on the hate knowing the risks. We saw how quickly the authorities dispensed with Occupy, no one is willing to be made a criminal for their beliefs. I suppose one day I may become a criminal for my beliefs.

    1. Banger

      The Civil Rights Movement could not have been nearly as effective as it became without considerable pressure from the top. During that period we were locked in the Cold War and so that the fact that the U.S. was divided into favored and less-favored racial groups was inhibiting U.S. foreign policy objectives. It was imperative that, on paper, the U.S. appear to be a society open to all racial groups. In addition, Americans had a strong sense of mission during the 50s and 60s to spread well-being and freedom throughout the world–the feeling was genuine if a bit foolish and naive. It spawned movements for social equality for people who were disempowered one the one hand, on the others it spawned imperial wars. The interesting fact is that black people achieved a sense of dignity and legal rights they lacked but, also as a group, did not benefit much economically from their new status–the wealth gap actually increased from 1967 to the present time and the reaction to the Civil Rights movement has played a big factor in increasing misery for black people through discrimination in the “justice” system and the policy of mass-incarceration. Similarly, while schools were officially de-segregated urban school systems education for African-Americans did not improve much.

      Martin Luther King knew that whatever gains he made were not enough and his efforts and saw the struggle for a decent society to be much deeper. When MLK connected the dots and understood the connection between the national security-state and class-warfare he was shot down like a dog in the street. Just to refresh memories, J. Edgar Hoover regarded MLK as the most dangerous man in America. Three leaders in the 60s who wanted to transform American society were gunned down.

  9. allcoppedout

    I’m afraid this post only reveals how hopeless economists are in respect of science and the rest of the human sciences. There is much deeper work than this. Washunate gets at some of what we should be discussing and acting on, though I probably disagree with how it’s put above. One can hardly disagree with Yanis’ opening paragraph. As Psychohistorian says, inheritance is one of the key aspects. Why should the rest of us suffer disadvantage as a result of historically accumulated private money, often from slaving, looting, war profiteering, the ludicrous “non-productive investment” Yves points to and so on?

    Hierarchies and leadership exist in animal communities and with considerable differences in what humans create (anthropology). We are biological animals, but this hardly means we have to put up with “naturally occurring” aspects of this such as domestic abuse or women as second-class because we men hit harder.

    How would we be motivated in a more egalitarian and peaceful society? How would we get necessary work done if we all had a guaranteed income an more or less inalienable tenure of a decent home and utility use? Would we let our biology ruin it all? How would we police such a society?

    There are similar questions about what really goes on now. Why are some to be motivated by being able to gather a gaggle of gold-diggers by being able to pay £150,00 for a bottle of champagne and others by scraping for crumbs? What work really needs doing? Why, after a 4-fold rise in productivity are so many of us back to work conditions not unlike (in some ways) a whole family scraping away in a mine, when one bread-winner sufficed before the productivity increase?

    This debate can be found in academic archives. There are more answers than many would suspect.

    1. TimR

      What I want to see talked about, or disputed and put down if anyone cares to, is the idea bandied about among some Conspiracy Theorists that Darwin, Galton, and the Huxleys (among others?) seeded a Eugenics idea among their class, a Multi-generational Gameplan (perhaps sketched at least in some details in Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, and more recently (concerning other aspects) in Zbiegnew Brezinski’s 1970s Technotronic Generation, an anticipation of the Internet Age.) This idea was (it is alleged) taken to heart by the Morgans, Rockefellers, Carnegies, Fords, et al, i.e. the Big Kahunas of Capital. Who perhaps in their genetic intermingling with the Royal Bloodlines of a financially faded European aristocracy, picked up a further encouragement to view themselves as a specially privileged class — formerly ruling by “the divine right of kings,” now by “the scientific right of genetics.”
      John Taylor Gatto, for instance, cites historical sources showing what a terror the Establishment of the early 20th century felt, that their “good stock,” their special genes, which had triumphed in the “free market,” would be watered down among the barbarian hordes immigrating to America. And so on. I can hardly summarize all the particulars of this idea, but I want to bring it up in case it encourages anyone to look into it more; and because I welcome any skeptics who feel they can point out flaws.
      To me it explains a lot — the Skull & Bones type secret societies, the awful ideas foisted on the public, which make sense if they’re *trying* to create a sub-human servant class that offers no resistance to their (and their progenies’) eternal rule. It also answers the question Why would anyone want that much money? It’s not about greed or possessions or luxury; it’s about taking part in this almost religious Mission to create a “utopia,” in their POV.. Note that this is more or less what Plato proposed (and other philosophers since) in his Republic, for a perfect society… rule by Elites, and a strictly class-stratified society. Only now with “science,” many perverse ideas become possible that would never have been dreamt of before.

        1. TimR

          I hope it surfaces, I’m curious to hear anyone’s take on this outside the few alt media pundits I’m already familiar with…

      1. Nathanael

        Oh, the start of this is utter nonsense. If you’ve actually read Darwin, or a substantial amount by any of the Huxleys, you’ll understand what their actual views were. I suggest you do so. They understood that the concept of eugenics was ludicrous, because they *actually* understood evolution. (You can only evaluate what genes were “good” after the fact, generations later — and what was “good” depends on chances of environment.)

        The self-serving ideas of the Goulds, Fords, Morgans, etc., are another matter, and best described by Veblen.

    2. Banger

      Good thoughts. Really you are getting to some essential questions that we answer through the PROCESS of trying to answer them. The essential issue is why do we have rigid hierarchies dominated by (usually) men who seek power over others? Dominance hierarchies are fairly normal in both animal and human societies and we can’t avoid that fact. Why do you and I see egalitarianism as a more positive solution to our collective problems? Why do conservatives believe in stricter hierarchies and social inequality?

      Here we enter the world of Kohlberg’s stages of moral development and also the world of deep paradox. Those at the highest level of moral development are the most egalitarian–yet the majority are stuck in more “primitive” stages. Great leaders (those on top of the hierarchy) are egalitarians because that ensures the survival of the tribe. In contrast, those at the bottom are usually less developed and more in awe of pure power and force. If you look around, you see it is lower-class people that tend to use and venerate the use raw power to enforce rules on children and encourage politicians to adopt harsh and punitive policies when dealing with criminals and social minorities. In contrast. Upper middle class people tend to encourage non-violent ways of dealing with children and even minorities—as for policies they tend to be more liberal and compassionate at least in intent. I’m not going to comment on upper-class people because they benefit directly from hierarchy and violence.
      The issue in our society is why do we have people at the top of the hierarchy who are morally undeveloped? Societies thrive when people at the top are more morally developed at least on the tribal level. Phil Jackson as an NBA coach thrived because he preached that his teams should be brotherhoods going contrary to the NBA tendency to create special rules for its stars. Jackson convinced stars like Michael Jordan to buy into their roles as egalitarian leaders and his spectacular success as a coach, unmatched by any coach in any sport, was based on his ability to shape teams to be real teams even in a culture that encouraged rigid hierarchies. It is interesting that Jackson as always been the object of hatred by most sportswriters who live at relatively primitive levels of moral development who are deeply attached to the application of the dominator culture. You can see the paradoxes involved.

      The weird fact is that those of us who comment here should be leaders–we are the natural leaders because our moral development is higher. Conservatives have been very alert in criticizing the left as “elitists” because they are right–we on the left believe we do know “better” because we do and we rightly judge the right as being “inferior” in moral development because they advocate strict hierarchy–but their idea or “leadership” is primitive because mass-societies break up the natural human tribal arrangements based on mutual trust. Athletes followed Jackson because they knew they could trust him because they had the opportunity to interact with him daily and they could directly see, with all their senses, that not only could he be trusted but his egalitarian attitude was a sign of strength not weakness.

      These are difficult issues and we need to move away from political correctness and understand that our future depends on leaders who live out the highest level of moral development and depends on them (us) asserting our leadership even though our social mores encourage authoritarian leaders whose power depends on social alienation. Without egalitarians at the top of the political hierarchy we cannot, as we can see, deal with the urgent social, political, moral, environmental issues that we face.

      1. allcoppedout

        Much to agree with Banger. Though Machiavelli rather blew this all up in his recognition of lying. I could vote for your imaginary leader, but have voted for these promises already. Tony Blair talked this up. He was the exact opposite.

      2. Nathanael

        Nice comment, Banger.

        Why aren’t the egalitarians leading? Frauds. Frauds who have been *misleading* people. Frauds who are most likely psychopaths. Psycopaths are a recurring problem for any society. They don’t create anything which is long-term stable, but they don’t actually *care*, because they’re congenitally incapable of thinking long-term.

  10. paul

    Question: If Control’s control is absolute, why does Control need to control?

    Answer: Control… needs time.

    Question: Is Control controlled by its need to control?

    Answer: Yes.

    Why does Control need humans, as you call them?

    Answer: Wait… wait! Time, a landing field. Death needs time like a junkie needs junk.

    And what does Death need time for?

    Answer: The answer is sooo simple. Death needs time for what it kills to grow in, for Ah Pook’s sake.

  11. LAS

    Sometimes I feel the reason we get so much propaganda, lobbying and unfair discrepancy propagation from the rich & powerful is because deep down they know they don’t deserve to be treated apart. To maintain their slim edge of being apart they have to keep fighting for it over and over again. They can never accumulate enough wealth and power to insulate them from fear of not being elite by nature in truth. That’s where the insatiability comes from.

    As touched upon here, a large part of the process is convincing other people they deserve disparate treatment of a lesser kind. Disparate treatment can start in the family. The step-children might be neglected or resented. The small polarities escalate until – voom – some persons are ejected from the family, looked down upon and cut from the will, etc. Then the story telling begins: what they did to deserve ejection.

  12. Christina Marlowe

    The above observation by Mr. Paul hits the nail on the head: Control. And Pathological, to boot. Pathological being that IT acts, spreads, metastasizes, destroys, kills, just like a disease; And in the case of a great many men, “Control” acts just…like…Cancer.
    Human Existence = Total Devastation

  13. JohnB

    The real question is: Do those justifying their advantage/privilege, actually believe a word of what they’re saying?

    It’d be good to get some kind of empirical study on that – because I have a mighty hard time figuring out, if the people spouting a lot of the rhetoric I read, actually believe what they’re saying (too afraid of the cognitive dissonance and implications, of what it means if they’re wrong, to accept criticism), or whether they’re just pathological liars.

    When you read about control fraud in banks, like from Bill Black, you read that the CEO who wants to commit fraud doesn’t even have to solicit fraud, he just has to create perverse incentives, and then those below (who handle making the loans), will – by themselves – engage in actions that increase risky loans for increased short-term profit, which results in bonuses etc..

    A lot of that doesn’t involve knowingly engaging in fraud, and can include a belief that it is justified – there’s no way of knowing the stats, for who knows it’s fraud and who believes it’s not (not like there’s going to be an empirical study on that anytime soon), but the possibility that it is seen as justified is the point here.

    So, what if we apply this to the gigantic network of think-tanks promoting right-wing/Libertarian/neoliberal propaganda?

    Maybe a significant portion of the people involved in all of that, at all levels, actually really believe in what they’re doing, and ‘perverse incentives’ (as Bill Black would put it) are in place, to encourage research and studies that promote elite/advantaged interests, and justify their position – and everything countering that is suppressed (perhaps not consciously though, but because of the ‘culture’ in place, of the advantaged) – and the people involved really do see this as all right and proper.

    Hell, I’d say a lot of them supporting it, are the ‘co-opted disadvantaged’ – i.e. those mentioned in the article, the disadvantaged who act against other disadvantaged people who challenge advantaged/elite power.

    If that’s the case, then that network of think tanks and such, is far more brittle than it seems: It should be possible to get people within these organizations to see through their own delusions/biases through reason, to see the faults in what they are supporting, and then they could be co-opted into acting as internal whistleblowers, who examine how this functions from the inside, and who can then report to journalists the details of what is going on, and expose it in embarrassing ways, that then get a lot more people to question it.

    It’d be similar to Edward Snowden and the internal psychology of the NSA – there’ve been a good few articles about the response from the NSA, and how there’s a view within the internal community, that they are the ‘victims’ in all of this, not the people they’ve been spying on.

    I think more journalists should pry into that think-tank network; not from an external point of view like NSFWCorp/Ames/Levine and such have done, but from the inside, by trying to co-opt and seek whistleblowers.

    1. allcoppedout

      Our peers are most discouraging John. Know your place mate, so to speak. It could be a major feature of leader idolatry is to make those around us feel small.

  14. Minor Heretic

    I have known a number of people who have inherited wealth. The common behaviors/emotions I observe are a combination of secretiveness, shame, the manufacture of an economic cover story, and often an attempt to “earn” the inheritance through hard labor.

    One friend of mine admitted to feeling as if the money wasn’t really hers. A couple of wealthy men I know spent a large part of their lives doing rough manual labor despite the fact that they could have done something much more in keeping with their intellects.

    I can easily see another group of inheritors going into denial in another direction. Clannishness and delusional self-justification are options as well.

    At the core of both options is a fundamental sense of insecurity. We care how we are viewed. Even chimps and dogs exhibit a basic sense of fairness. Also tribalism. It must be deeply wired into us. Faced with an arbitrary unfairness that colors society’s perceptions of them, wealthy people will build coping mechanisms.

  15. SAKMAN

    Great, now we understand the problem. No average person will comprehend any of this or even attempt to. Share this on Facebook and see the responses you get. I suspect very few. My friend group is highly educated and successful, and they could care less about these topics no matter how many times I try to expand their minds with it.

    There was another article about political action not so long ago. This article and that article should give a clear indication of how challenging effecting real change is. The bottom line is you need a platform and a leader otherwise there can be no change. If you have such a leader they are targetable and will be killed. Therefore the only way is to go the route of the Jews. Make a book. That book must be written for and understandable by the masses, it must have simple rules

  16. Banger

    The central reason why the elites feel justified and empowered is that they are elites–they are in power. They are in power because people who live in modern societies are alienated not only from their own individual natures but to the nature of society and human nature in general. This is a complicated story that lies at the heart of Western Civilization. We are constantly faced with coercive forces that stem from a breakdown of trust and, therefore, community. Human beings are meant to be cooperative and interconnected in long-standing face-to-face relationships not relationships governed by competition, aggression and violence. The ruling elites know, at least subconsciously, that they are a requirement in such a culture and that most people expect, again subconsciously, to be ruled so that order can exist in some form.

    An important part of this is to notice that real political opposition is composed of either complaining and whining (the left) or the contrary movements on the right, on the one side more authoritarianism and the other nihilistic and anarchic. There is no credible community-based opposition either in electoral politics or even in social movements. This fact needs to be noted and taken into account.

  17. impermanence

    For crumbs, the lackeys [today’s professional class] are more than willing to sell-out the rest [as has always been the case].

    Are there any doctors, lawyers, accountants, teachers, etc., left [in the private or public sector] who don’t know EXACTLY what’s going on?

    Is there anybody in the insurance industry, on Wall Street, or government, who does not know EXACTLY what’s going on?

    It is the professional class that controls the law-making process, and, with a tiny bit of leadership, can begin to turn the tide. Instead, their leadership takes the money and runs.

    The Elite have only their money to bribe good people into poor choices.

  18. allcoppedout

    I rarely see anything in the comment section here that disturbs me as the blandishments of main media do. I use NC as a sort of news filter and reminder not all the world is like Face Flop. Thank the Lord for you guys.

    Elites feel justified for all sorts of ‘reasons’. The over-arching ideology is “meritocracy”. Banger says above that we were ‘built’ for face-to-face cooperative stuff and there is some evidence large brains come about for such purpose. Primitive societies are even more murderous than ours though (Pinker).

    In a sense we all get up ourselves on this. I might insist on equality for everyone (I do try), but even this is always going to be approximate and can become just another form of elitism (I’m more of an equalist than thee). Political correctness is a particularly vile example. I really hate people being made disabled by social non-provision, gender or racism but am hardly likely to cede equality to my blind mate (or his dog) in crossing busy roads.

    The rich are beyond the pale. They are essentially the Undead of Attic tragedy. In short, living lies. Those of us with good IQs at eleven generally get some advantages from what passes as education. Yet large scale brain development and adolescence don’t ‘finish’ until 25. And just what is IQ in terms of meritocracy? Why should the very limited skills of academic education select for elite status or winning a lottery, being born of rich (and even caring) parents?

    The moral stuff here is tough. We standardly fertilise 6 eggs in the test-tube baby process. You can only use one by law. Do you go random, giving each egg as fair chance, or select out those with genetic abnormality and choose the ‘best’? I have no practical problem in making the choice. But I’d be discriminatory.

    We are hampered in understanding ‘leadership-elites’ by false history, virtue ethics fables and probably the weird ‘nature red in tooth and claw’ “science” Tim mentioned above. I haven’t seen any modern political constitution that contains the line ‘and the rich shall inherit politics’. It’s a fait accompli though. No reason supports it.

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