The Blue And The Red

I found a really interesting article on how thermodynamics affects political persuasion. Conservatives and Liberals.

The Theory of Island Biogeography is a theory of species population distribution. There are major evolutionary implications in the ability of a species to distribute itself across space and time, not to mention the curious thermodynamics associated with this distribution. That is, species that can modulate their thermodynamic properties in response to environmental changes dramatically increase their probability of survival. In humans, there is no better example of thermodynamic modulation than conservatism and liberalism.

One of the more prominent biogeographic variations between conservatives and liberals is population density. The conservative-liberal asymmetries in population density are easily seen in the voting patterns of urban, suburban, and rural environments. As a general rule, the greater the population density, the more liberal the population. In the 2004 US Presidential Election, the Democratic candidate, John Kerry, won every city with a population over 500,000. This same pattern was repeated in 2008 with Barack Obama.

The mystical and long-standing relationship between liberalism and urbanism is common across all cultures, and raises several interesting questions: is this a self-selection process, whereby the conservatives flee to the suburbs leaving the big cities to the liberals; or, does urban life liberalize people? There is certainly much evidence for the self-selection effect, but we also believe that high-density living tends to liberalize people, although the evidence is less clear.

I had an interesting discussion with the author. I said that it was interesting that reproduction is lower in cities than in lower density areas. He said that was true of animal studies and seemed to be true for humans but it was not well researched in humans.

Here is an interesting bit:

In their groundbreaking study of island biogeography, M&W noted some interesting trends that apply directly to the study of political-religious disposition. First, a species that is able to establish populations on more than one island in an archipelago greatly reduces the risk of extinction. At first blush, this seems to be irrelevant to the study of conservatives and liberals. However, it is founded upon two behaviors that improve species viability: the ability to increase habitat range; and the ability to create genetic diversity. In other words, increase the habitat and genetic ranges, and increase the survival probability of a species, not to mention the acceleration in the rate of evolutionary change. From our information gathered so far, we believe that conservatives increase habitat range to a greater extent than liberals, and liberals increase genetic diversity to a greater extent than conservatives. Interestingly, conservatives and liberals, at opposite ends of the political spectrum, seem to be at the center of the survivability of the human species.
There is much more and it is one of the most interesting things I have read in a long time. Need I say that you ought to read it too?

What is my conclusion relative to politics? Both political parties are right about the proper way to live. In their ecological niches. If we wanted to help people prosper where ever they live we would have to change the geographical distribution of borders. But that might require a change to a City State model. Tough when things are already intermixed. How to square that circle? A libertarian model of politics would work. That is to say the government imposes the very minimum of social rules so that people can best live according to their particular geographical niche.

A book that covers the idea that political and technical change is geography specific from a somewhat different perspective is Geography and Revolution.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon on 11.21.09 at 02:30 PM


Isn't the city-state model...extinct?

Brett   ·  November 22, 2009 7:37 AM


Yes. And that may be a problem if politics continues in the current vein.

There needs to be a separation of cultures. Either we do it with boundaries or we do it in our minds.

M. Simon   ·  November 22, 2009 10:28 AM

The study of social evolution has seen some extraordinary advances over the past two decades, and the above topic is receiving a lot of current interest. What underlies this divide (city vs. countryside, Republican vs. Democrat) is really a manifestation of two fundamental and opposing behaviors, namely cooperation vs. competition. In cities, cooperation tends to be a more effective evolutionary strategy (hence the preponderance of communitarians and collectivists). Whereas in dispersed areas (i.e. suburban/rural), competition seems to work better (hence the preponderance of rugged self-reliant individualists). The history of civilization is record of the evolving conflict between these social behaviors. It's worth noting that, historically, mega natural disasters have tended to harm cities disproportionately, and yet, cities continue to be established and grow. It also seems to be true that totalitarianism is most often cultivated in cities, then leads to domination and exploitation of the rural areas, and then to an eventual uprising and revolt. An interesting question is, will we eventually evolve beyond the point where cyclical confrontation is inevitable?

Tom   ·  November 22, 2009 12:15 PM


Good question. An understanding of the fundamentals of the problem will go a long way towards damping the oscillations. That is something new.

My proposal is that government stay out of the social and economic spheres and just focus on keeping the peace - the libertarian solution.

M. Simon   ·  November 22, 2009 12:23 PM

I am a lifelong Liberation, but have long since tired of promoting those ideas. For those that understand the importance of freedom and individual rights, it's preaching to the choir. For those that fear having to survive using their own intelligence and productivity, no argument with suffice. I tend to seek out esoteric knowledge in the hope that I can better predict near-term future events and thereby have a little advanced warning before it hits the fan.

Tom   ·  November 22, 2009 3:43 PM

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