The Troglodyte Progressives


Noting that, for all the challenges of modern life, humanity is better off right now than it has ever been, Glenn Reynolds suggests that some of our more-persistent hangups might derive from long years of slow evolution:

Our brains are still wired, in large part, for caveman times: A time when the stock of wealth was largely fixed (hunter-gatherers couldn’t create more antelopes, or more berries), so that if one person had more, that inevitably meant that another had less, and when strangers — meaning, basically, the people over the next hill — had every reason to try to take it away from you. These two caveman attitudes produce the zeal for redistribution that is now marketed as socialism and the tribalism that is still a major part of politics.

We don’t live in the caveman era now. Wealth isn’t fixed, but the product of human ingenuity — cavemen couldn’t make more antelopes, but we can invent gadgets and services that never existed before. And in free markets, we entrust our lives to strangers not of our tribe every time we fly in an airplane, drive on the highway or check in to a hotel.

From this point of view, insisting on dividing people into tribes so that the finite yield of the hunt can be distributed is the thinking of troglodytes.  Sounds about right.

  • James

    No, of course there’s absolutely no reason to think that there are physical limits on the earth around us, or that we should try to share to some extent within a larger context of competition and free markets. I can totally see how comparing another group of politically-minded people to half-apes would be appropriate, given. . . cough. . . *sharing*.

    I see what you mean. You’re not extrapolating an otherwise reasonable generality to cover all situations at all. Not even a little. 😉

    • OceanStateCurrent

      The more significant part of the “troglodyte” definition is the cave dwelling, not the genetics. Although some definitions include “reclusive and reactionary,” which I think captures the interesting turnabout that has made progressives fit that category better than modern conservatives in some regards.

      And the “dividing into tribes” thing is the throwback, not the sharing thing.

      • Rhett Hardwick

        I have noticed in discussion that only in American English does the concept of “getting a piece of the pie” incorporate the idea making the pie bigger. In American English “making money” implies creating wealth, not taking from a static quantity; thereby depriving someone else. I understand the expression in Greek is “getting money”. I can’t recall the exact expression in Spanish, but it does reflect the idea of taking it from someone else. Can anyone add the French, or German? Capitalism does now prevail in Europe, but the old expressions persist. A belief in static wealth seems necessary to a belief in communism.

        It is interesting to note that at communism’s apex in Russia, we regularly sold them huge quantities of grain. In short, they couldn’t feed themselves. Some may recall that the “collectivists” killed the farmers by famine when they “redistributed” all of the grain from Georgia and the Ukraine. Generations of farming skills and knowledge were lost. Troglodytes for sure.

  • Bobby

    “…that we should try to share to some extent within a larger context of competition and free markets”

    Funny how some use harmless and deceptive terms like “sharing” when they mean “confiscation.” Sharing is done through voluntary means, charities and so forth. It is also well documented that Conservatives are more charitable than the again incorrectly termed ‘progressives’ whose charity more often involves advancing their causes with other people’s money.

    • Rhett Hardwick

      I believe that is now known as “nuancing”, before that it was “dog whistle” for those ideas they disliked.