I just got this in an email and thought it was very interesting, and ultimately pertinent to what we're doing here on the IBA. I don't know who wrote this first part, but the second part is by the Science Editor, Roger Highfield. -CW
WE GENERALLY TEND to emphasize the role of government policies and institutions and de-emphasize the role of culture in the success or failure of societies, and this is why runaway immigration that results in massive groups of immigrants than can never be assimilated in the general culture (such as in France, for example) are such a threat. They transform societies into the culture of the immigrants in the areas where it really counts, into the kind of societies those immigrants were risking their lives to get away from.
The UK and in the United States are particularly under threat, because (despite flaws) one of our greatest cultural "assets," if you will, is the general context of fairness, cooperation and the rule of law.
It's worth noting that every single English-speaking country without exception —
America, Britain, Australia, New Zealand, etc. —
is by any measure broadly successful. Every single Islamic, Arabic-speaking country, for example, is largely unsuccessful (if you ignore oil wealth, which —
like winning the lottery —
doesn't come from a culture that leads to success, but blind luck).
I would assert that this horribly stark dichotomy has nothing to do with colonialism or exploitation or anything of the kind. It has everything to do with the everyday functioning of individuals, which is based on the core assumptions of individuals about their own role in society.
This idea can be oversimplified thus: English-speaking cultures in general, and the United States in particular, believe both in the "win-win" scenario —
situations that benefit both of us are possible —
and in the idea of making personal sacrifices for the good of society.
Islamic, Arabic-speaking countries (as well as Russia and others) tend to NOT believe in the "win-win" scenario, but instead in the idea that every transaction or interaction has a winner and a loser, and that making personal sacrifices for the good of society means you're the loser and other people are the winners.
This is precisely why Iraq is ungovernable.
We went in there with the assumption that by establishing a democracy, good society would follow. It turns out that the "zero sum game" assumption of Iraqi (and Islamic and Arabic-speaking) culture won't allow democracy or any of the benefits that come from democracy. Iraqis will refuse to sacrifice anything for their clan, will refuse to allow their clan to sacrifice anything for their larger religious group, refuse to allow their larger religious group to sacrifice anything for the nation. If they win, I lose. Therefore, I must win at the expense of others. Americans are confused and frustrated by the failure of progress in Iraq, but the reason is that, broadly speaking, Iraqis themselves spend as much time working toward the failure of other Iraqis as they do on the success of their own groups and selves. That's the prevailing attitude of that culture.
Back to immigration: In the United States, we're allowing the rapid, unprecedented formation of two societies: 1) the melting pot, where immigrants from 210 countries come in and culturally assimilate; and 2) the Latino society, where immigrants assimilate, but into a separate, alienated Spanish-speaking, Spanish-culture melting pot (Mexican-dominated, but international). Having two cultures and two languages (like Canada) is problematic enough. The bigger problem is the growth and flourishing of the Spanish-language culture's zero sum, if-you-win-I-lose view of the self vis-a-vis society, which brings us all down.
This will not only erode one of the best things about our Anglo-Saxon tradition, but it will result in a society that functions more like Iraq and less like New England.
This cultural shift will hurt not only melting-pot Americans, but Latino-Americans, too, because America will lose many of the cultural attributes they risked their lives to enjoy.
Anyway, sorry for the ramble. It was sparked by this report:British sense of fair play proven by science
By Roger Highfield, Science Editor
The British sense of fair play has been scientifically proven by experiments held in 16 cities which show that, by comparison, the Russians and Greeks thirst for revenge.
The idealised games held around the world have shed new light on the way in which people co-operate for the common good —
and what happens when they don't.
The research published today in the journal Science shows that taking revenge is more common in relatively corrupt and undemocratic traditional societies based on authoritarian and parochial social institutions, where citizens think it is acceptable to dodge taxes or flout laws because criminal acts frequently go unpunished.
The international study looked at the extent to which some people will sacrifice personal gain to benefit the wider public, while 'freeloaders' try to take advantage of their generosity.
In earlier work, scientists devised a financial game in which participants had to decide whether to commit their resources —
to a common pot or hold back and reap the benefits of the others' community spirit.
Without a financial punishment for those who did not make public-spirited investments, but continued to exploit the generous nature of others, co-operation rapidly foundered.
Based on this game, Prof Simon Gaechter and Dr Benedikt Herrmann at The University of Nottingham, and Dr Christian Thoni at the University of St Gallen, Switzerland, studied the behaviour of people in 16 cities around the world, from Boston and Bonn to Riyadh, Minsk, Nottingham, Seoul and others.
Prof Gaechter says: "To our knowledge this is the largest cross-cultural study of experimental games that has been carried out in the developed world."
Levels of co-operation were remarkably similar across all 16 cities, they report.
However, against the predictions of economists, behaviour changed dramatically when everyone's contributions were revealed —
and players were given the ability to punish other player by taking tokens away.
As previous studies have shown, players were willing to part with a token of their own in order to punish the low investors or the freeloaders who had exploited others.
But striking national differences then arose when freeloaders were punished for putting their own interests ahead of the common good.
In countries such as the US, Switzerland and the UK, the freeloaders accepted their punishment, became much more co-operative and the earnings in the game increased over time.
However, in countries such as Greece and Russia, the freeloaders sought retribution - exerting revenge on those who had punished them —
even the model citizens who had paid their way. Co-operation for the common good then plummeted as a result.
In societies where the modern ethic of co-operation with strangers is less familiar and the rule of law is perceived to be weak, revenge is more common and co-operation suffers, comments Dr Herrmann.
What is fascinating about the behaviour in the games is that they parallel measures of norms of civic co-operation and rule of law made by social scientists, says Dr Herrmann. These norms cover general attitudes to the law, for example whether or not citizens think it is acceptable to dodge taxes or flout laws.
In societies where this behaviour is widespread and the rule of law is perceived to be ineffective —
that is, if criminal acts frequently go unpunished - anti-social "revenge" punishment thrives.
"In societies where public co-operation is ingrained and people trust their law enforcement institutions, revenge is generally shunned," he says. "But in societies where the modern ethic of co-operation with unrelated strangers is less familiar and the rule of law is weak, revenge is more common."
Economists are keen to understand the decision-making processes behind co-operation, as working together for the common good is crucial for progress in any society - not least for effectively addressing big issues such as recycling and tackling climate change.
The issue of how to make the public share responsibility for common problems such as climate change was most vividly illustrated by Prof Garrett Hardin, of the University of California, Santa Barbara, in his influential 1968 paper 'The tragedy of the commons'.
He used the example of a public pasture. Each herdsman will add one cow after the other to a common field, because the benefit of an additional cow goes exclusively to the herdsman, but the cost of overgrazing is shared by all and the pasture will end up ruined.
"The rational herdsman concludes that the only sensible course for him to pursue is to add another animal to his herd. And another; and another.... But this is the conclusion reached by each and every rational herdsman sharing a commons. Therein is the tragedy. "
Dr Hermann says: "There are numerous examples in everyday life of situations where co-operation is the best option but there are incentives to take a free ride, such as recycling, neighbourhood watch, voting, maintaining the local environment, tackling climate change, and so on. We need to understand why people behave in this way because co-operation is very strongly inhibited in the presence of anti-social punishment."
In a commentary in the journal Science, Prof Herbert Gintis of the Santa Fe Institute, New Mexico, confirms how: "Anti-social punishment was rare in the most democratic societies and very common otherwise.
"Using the World Democracy Audit evaluation of countries' performance in political rights, civil liberties, press freedom and corruption, the top six performers among the countries studied were also in the lowest seven for anti-social punishment. These were the USA, UK, Germany, Denmark, Australia and Switzerland."
He adds: "Their results suggest that the success of democratic market societies may depend critically upon moral virtues as well as material interests, so the depiction of civil society as the sphere of 'naked self-interest' is radically incorrect."
Labels: democracy, Infidel Citizen Warrior