Friday, 21 January 2011

Income Differentials: A Darwinian Perspective

This was written in response to a recent article about the “relatively” high salaries paid to BBC executives.
The BBC justified the salaries with the standard argument that it has to compete for “talent” with the private sector
Even so, the ca. £140,000 per annum involved seems pretty paltry compared with the millions that some bankers, CEOs, film stars, and others make.
Here a human-evolutionary, i.e. Darwinian, view of the situation:
Evolution adapted us (emotionally and behaviourally) to the “natural environment”, as it existed (on the African savannah, or wherever) long before the advent of civilisation, which represents an “artificial environment” where the intra-tribal and extra-tribal environments that once comprised our natural environment are conflated and confounded.
Thus, what we call “society” represents both our TRIBE (which, in the interests of our collective survival, as a tribe, evolution intended us, to put before our individual self-interests) and the extra-tribal environment, which included other – friendly, rival, enemy or simply unknown – tribes, and which evolution did not hard-wire us to put before ourselves, but on the contrary, to put ourselves and our own tribe first.
Economically, our own tribe has been reduced to just ourselves and immediate family, with the rest of “society” serving as an extra-tribal environment, to be exploited to one's own (family's) advantage. Originally, it was just the aristocracy and clergy (as substitute tribes) which cooperated, through the power structures of the state (which they created), in exploiting the rest of society, but over time other self-interest groups (acting as substitute tribes), especially certain professions, managed to secure advantages for themselves and their members (laid down in the legal power structures of state and economy) in exploiting their extra-tribal, i.e. social, environment.
What this view reveals is the perverted Darwinian nature of our situation and civilisation, which represents an evolutionary cul-de-sac. Unless we can find a way out of it, the relentless self-exploitation of both our natural and human environments will inevitably lead to our self-destruction.

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