I recently finished the book “The Evolutionary Psychology Behind Politics” by Anonymous Conservative. This book proposes that conservatism and liberalism are outgrowths of human psychologies that have evolved based on r/K Selection Theory. The book has influenced some prominent conservative thinkers, and is interesting and makes a reasonable case for the hypotheses its author proposes.
I’m going to offer my summary of the major themes of the book, as well as my own criticisms of it. To start, what does the anonymous conservative say:
- There are two main reproductive strategies, r-selected, and K-selected. r-selected species (e.g. rabbits) thrive in environments where resources are plentiful and favor fast reproduction of large numbers of offspring. K-selected species (e.g. wolves) dominate environments where resources are limited, and favor high investment in a small number of offspring.
- The author shows how typical attributes of r and K selected species map to liberal and conservative ideologies respectively.
- A theory by which the two strategies evolved in humans is proposed. This can be boiled down to the liberal’s love of equality of outcome vs. the conservative’s desire for outcomes to be determined by meritocratic competition.
- The evidence of brain differences in the amygdala, which is responsible for threat aversion, and the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), involved in the experience of pain, is presented, including evidence that the amygdala is larger in conservatives, while the ACC is more strongly developed in liberals.
- Evidence of a genetic difference involving dopamine receptors is presented. The relationship between the variations, the adoption of liberalism, and the incidence of anxiety and depression is discussed.
- The influence of upbringing on psychology is discussed, as well as the reversal of sexually dimorphic traits in liberals.
- The traits of ideologues are explored.
- History is examined in the light of the hypothesis. The hippie movement of the sixties, the Renaissance, the fall of Rome, and Nazism are related to r/K behaviors.
- The evidence for causality of conservatism by economic hardship is examined.
- The author argues the innate superiority and goodness of conservatism.
- A hypothesis for the boom and bust nature of civilizations is presented.
- The implications of birth control, peaceful competition, cities, welfare, and laws upon the liberalism and conservatism are analyzed.
- How the two interact with war, crime, and terrorism are explored.
- Oppression, communism, socialism, and Nazism are viewed in light of the hypothesis.
- The author concludes that liberalism will inevitably lead to overpopulation and scarcity, which will cause society to collapse, leading to a new round of conservatives, spurred by the need to compete for survival, generating new advances, until liberalism is able to grow once more and begin the cycle anew.
While I find the theory to hold much truth, providing satisfactory explanations for a lot of otherwise hard to understand historical events like the rise of Nazism, I do not agree with the author’s conclusions. If man were an animal, incapable of reason, perhaps we would be doomed to repeat the pattern of the rise and fall of the Roman empire over and over again. Fortunately, there is hope that we are (or at least can be) more than that.
The Anonymous Conservative’s assertion that liberalism will inevitably lead to a population explosion seems to fly in the face of the evidence of sharply declining birthrates in Europe, Canada, and Japan, which would also be occurring in America were it not for the massive influx of third world immigrants from Latin America. This phenomenon can be attributed to birth control. Humans are unique in our ability to override the inborn urge to procreate, and thus we have the ability to turn the tide of population growth before the carrying capacity of our world is exceeded.
I believe the threat posed by incautiously welcoming vast numbers of immigrants from less evolved cultures at a rate that doesn’t allow sufficient time for newcomers to be absorbed into our existing culture, as we are currently seeing in Europe, poses a far greater threat to western civilization than excessive breeding by the native liberal population, which is what the author contends will inevitably bring down any civilization. In fact, Japan is at risk of severe depopulation (see Japan’s depopulation time bomb).
Despite disagreeing with some of the author’s opinions and conclusions–I don’t believe that conservatism is innately good, nor do I find it entirely superior to liberalism–I found the book well worth reading. The theory holds real explanatory power, and seems to predict likely outcomes, assuming that thoughtful opinion is ignored and natural inclinations are mindlessly followed. Those looking to understand history and the subconscious psychology of man would do well to take the time to read it.