The Extinction of Politics

A speculation on the relationship between Ecology, Politics and Government

Dedicated to John Adams


When The Origin of the Species appeared in 1859 the first people to appropriate Darwin’s

ideas were the wealthy, who quickly promoted pseudo-scientific arguments using “natural

selection” to rationalize their domination of society. At the time, anarchism, communism and

socialism were all perceived as serious threats to the existing social order. Evolution seemed to

offer a solid scientific rebuttal. This line of defense was eventually discredited, however, and

today the phrase “social Darwinism” is universally recognized as a negative comment on half-

truths that use “science” to excuse oppression and racism. The very mention of Darwin’s name

in a political context is now likely to raise eyebrows. Nevertheless, in the following essay I have

chosen to revisit the connection between evolution and politics. I justify this by examining the

same subject and drawing wholly different conclusions.

In the 19th Century Darwin was enlisted to justify the status quo. Fetid slums, child labor,

eighteen hour workdays and global imperialism were all rationalized as necessary

manifestations of a pre-ordained natural process. Today, I would use Darwin to discredit, once

and for all, the notion that such atrocities can any longer be justified; arguing that contemporary

class divisions and the nationalistic sparring of global geopolitics are an anachronistic
evolutionary inheritance from the pre-industrial era. Under the ecological dynamic governing our

species during that former period class structure provided a vital advantage to human

populations competing (militarily) over limited habitat (agricultural land). Class oppression and

warfare were as inevitable as famine and pestilence; all necessary parts of a self-regulating

natural ecosystem (much as the original social-Darwinists had in fact argued). However, in the

post-agrarian, industrial world which emerged during the 19th Century that ancient natural

system was upended. Famine and plague are largely behind us now. Social violence should be

as well. Oppression and warfare are no longer unavoidable parts of a balanced natural system,

they exist primarily because human social institutions which evolved under the former dynamic

actively perpetuate them. As a species, our means of existence changed practically overnight,

but social structures which arose over the course of millennia are not easily replaced. To end

oppression, warfare and environmental insanity we must modify the institutional mechanisms

which facilitate it.

It is my contention (contrary to popular wisdom) that our Constitutional system of government

is foremost among those anachronistic institutions upholding class divisions and perpetuating

military aggression. The framers meant well but they were hardly Revolutionaries; they made

modest adjustments to the traditional English governing institutions that they were familiar with.

The resultant system was appropriate to the 18th Century but failed to anticipate the stunning

changes that would inevitably be wrought by industrialism in the following centuries.

From the 19th Century onward there have been countless calls for an end to the economic

subjugation and interminable military conflict perpetuated by traditional governing institutions,

but the arguments used, on both sides of the debate, have generally lacked coherence.

Supporters of the established order jettisoned Darwin in favor of Adam Smith but their

arguments remain pseudo-scientific, with “market forces” replacing “natural selection” as a

convenient excuse for a wide range of destructive practices. Proponents of change have shown

even less creativity, making little effort to bolster the doctrine of Karl Marx despite despite its
substantial shortcomings. Both sides regularly resort to couching their arguments in the

language of Judeo-Christian morality, demonstrating that more scientific arguments have clearly

fallen short of the objective. Neither side has ever seriously questioned the fundamental

structure of Republicanism. In this environment of intellectual stagnation, nationalist and

capitalist propaganda either goes unchallenged or receives ineffectual moral rebukes. Two

centuries after the birth of Marx, oppression and warfare are as pronounced as ever, while the

environmental consequences of the industrial revolution threaten to overwhelm human society.

If social justice and environmental sanity are indeed possible, they will surely require an

advancement of the intellectual position supporting them.

The struggle between progressive and conservative forces hinges on ideas. The success of

progressive goals depends (at least partially) on the quality of progressive concepts, and these

remain mired in the past. There is as much orthodoxy on the Left as the Right. To move forward

we must first confront our preconceptions. The views which I express in the following pages are

unconventional, but I take comfort from the example of John Adams, who always possessed

the courage of his convictions even when those convictions were universally unpopular. I

dedicate this essay to Adams and quote him freely throughout because I believe that any

argument against our Constitution should answer directly to the minds which created it. His

thinking was central to the design of our Constitution but he was also a tremendous critic,

especially in later years. Perhaps after two centuries we may yet wish to consider those


The Theological Interpretation of the Constitution

Study government as you do astronomy, by facts, observations and experiments; not by the

dogmas of lying priest or knavish politicians

Whatever is not built on the broad basis of public utility must be thrown to the ground
Theoretical books upon government will not sell. Booksellers and printers, far from purchasing

the manuscript, will not accept it as a gift

Experience and philosophy are lost upon mankind…

John Adams

John Adams was eminently qualified to lead our Country; a Harvard trained lawyer and

polyglot with an encyclopedic knowledge of Western history, he was well equipped to judge on

the important issues facing a young nation. As part of this broad wisdom, he had a firm grasp of

two fundamental truths:

 Government is (or should be) a science, not a superstition.

 Dogma and misunderstanding (which permeated the subject even then) are an

insurmountable obstacle to its progress.

If these obstacles held sway in Adam’s day, during the enlightenment, how much more so now,

in an age when U. S. Lawmakers openly reject the virtues of liberal education and scientific

knowledge; publicly disavowing the theories of Evolution and human induced climate change.

Most contemporary Americans would endure a root canal before reading Locke, Rousseau or

Montesquieu. Our elected representatives are no exception to this sentiment. In a more

thoughtful age, Adams made a sincere contribution to the political literature and suffered the

rest of his life as a target for every sort of libel and slander; all because he dared to suggest (on

the basis of voluminous historic evidence) that an overly democratic Republic might have some

serious unanticipated consequences. Today, no establishment intellectual would dare to

question the divine perfection of our Constitution’s general plan. It would be an act of social
heresy and professional suicide, contradicting the revered tenets of modern political science.

But what kind of “science” enforces a rigid doctrinal orthodoxy?

In natural science we've abandoned leeches and kite flying for genetic engineering and

quantum computing, but the science of government stands motionless! After two centuries we

still argue over the precise intention of the framers, as though unable to think for ourselves. If

computer scientists at MIT spent their days scrutinizing Benjamin Franklin's lab notes would we

take them seriously? If your doctor discounted the existence of microbes would you continue

visiting her? This isn't political “science”, it's theology! The Constitution has become a sacred

tablet which the patriarchal pretenders of our society use to uphold a status quo from the pre-

industrial era.

Grand Ayatollahs and Supreme Court Justices both wear black robes while enforcing

conformity in the name of an ancient document, but there is a critical difference. The will of Allah

is inscrutable whereas the earthly intentions of the framers were clearly stated in plain English

at the beginning of their document. Secular ends demand secular means. When government

becomes destructive of those ends it is the right of the people to change their means. This is the

province of science, not religion. But the theological interpretation of the Constitution has

become so ingrained we are blinded by it. Instead of doubting the institutions of government we

accept their suitability as an absolute given, even when the actions of that government

are frequently repulsive to us.

Medieval peasants accepted the Catholic church as we accept the institutions of our

Republic. On faith. Even the Inquisition was accepted as god's work, just as Guantanamo is

considered defensible by many today. Even those who disagree with such atrocities seldom

blame the institution itself: a wicked Cardinal? - yes certainly; a corrupt politician? - what else;

But a failed institution? - no absolutely not; the Church and Republic are both beyond reproach

no matter what horrors are perpetrated in their name. We must pray harder and campaign more

vigorously. In the end virtue will prevail, both in heaven and on earth.
For the faithful this attitude is understandable. Gods will is mysterious and we mortals must

submit. For the secular follower of a political ideology, however, this attitude is inexplicable. The

ideology is simply a tool established by mortals for an earthly goal; social harmony. When the

tool fails to serve we must examine it to understand the problem. When we identify the problem

then we may seek to repair it.

Our Republic is often described as an experiment. If the framers were scientists their trial

appears to have gone astray. It would seem wise then, under the circumstances, to review their

thinking so that we may analyze the situation intelligently. We should examine their words not

as a sacred text but as laboratory notes, seeking clues, not religious instruction. Our world has

changed almost beyond recognition since the 18th Century. What scientist imagines their

experiment will be duplicated when virtually all of the original conditions are altered? Instead of

expecting something so improbable we should study the problem, like Adam’s “astronomer”,

with an eye for “facts”, not “dogma”

The framers lived before Darwin. Were the implications of his work not profound with respect

to human government? Surely they were no less radical than the revelations of Copernicus for

astronomy. Where is the long overdue re-examination of "political science" that was so clearly

indicated by Darwin's theory?

Abuses and Usurpations

I know but one principle or element of government, a constant and perpetual disposition and

determination to do to others as we would have others do to us

Justice is the only moral principle of government

John Adams
Not to belabor the obvious but rather in the interest of securing our footing, we should start at

the beginning and renew our understanding of the framer’s purposes. What postulates did the

framers accept? What durable wisdom did they derive from three thousand years of European

and Mediterranean history? On what solid foundations did they erect their work? Do these

premises still work for us today? No assumptions should be above review.

Predictably, the framers concurred with Socrates and nearly every other philosopher (except

perhaps Machiavelli) by stating unequivocally that Governments are created for the benefit of

those to be governed. “Freedom”, “happiness“ , “safety“, “justice“, “domestic tranquility” and

“general welfare”; these are the goals of Government. Government is expected to provide these

goods, and ultimately derive its legitimacy through the “consent of the governed” who believe

that these functions have been fulfilled. This position isn't science, it’s philosophy, but surely this

is one article of faith which even today we may all accept. In fact, it seems so incontrovertible as

to be scarcely worth mentioning, except for a glaring inconsistency: the elephant in the room

which is so painfully illuminated by these words. If government is an institution that provides for

the general welfare of a consenting populace, why is our society so unwell, and why is it that our

consent is so clearly forced?

What are we to do with this information? Is this not an enormous problem? The Republic was

instituted to support our health and happiness, and yet:

 What justice when a small fraction of the population holds most of the wealth and, by

virtue of this wealth, enjoys an unlimited power to manipulate the political system?

 What freedom, happiness and tranquility when the overwhelming majority, having little or

no wealth, are de facto slaves to these wealthy overlords?

 What welfare when our use of the earth’s resources threatens to render the earth


 What safety when the common defense threatens to annihilate us?
 What consent when fewer than one citizen in ten approves of his elected


What person would seriously contend this is “a more perfect union”? Are these “the blessings of

liberty”? If “Justice is the only moral principle of Government” then how may we call this state of

affairs anything other than a horrific failure?

If we truly revere the framers, as so many claim to, then we must acknowledge this glaring

and horrific discrepancy between the stated purpose of their creation and the reality of the

actual existence which we now lead. And if we will admit the obvious, and concede that our

Government has become counterproductive to the desired ends, then we must look for some

flaw in our Government. It is pointless resorting to the theological interpretation of the

Constitution. Adopting a moral tone and blaming plutocrats, political parties, lobbyists,

corporations or any other group, is futile. Of course these parties are flawed, we are all flawed,

but it is the function of Government to account for these flaws and protect us; from each other

and also from ourselves. Remember Madison, the “father” or our Constitution:

If men were angels no government would be necessary

The imagery was religious but the reasoning was purely secular. Government must account for

the deficiencies in human nature. When government fails to achieve that purpose it is absurd to

blame that failure on the citizens. When the citizens run amuck we must look to the Constitution,

not the people. The other view is backwards.

The framers experiment has unquestionably gone awry. If we share their wish for social

harmony but recognize the yawning chasm between intention and reality which has grown up

over the past centuries then we must take action. Otherwise that pit may swallow us. To start,

we must abandon the theological interpretation of the Constitution and consider the problems of

government like true scientists, with an open mind. Many theories are possible, in the following
pages I advance but one, believing that of all the myriad changes, the central and most

important transformation ought to be in how we view ourselves. If, as Darwin insists, we are

primates, then we should look to the natural world for answers as readily as we consult any

treatise on philosophy. And we should attempt to view our "modern" institutions with the same

objectivity as a Margaret Mead, a Jane Goodall or even a Gregor Mendel. Then perhaps we will

finally catch a glimpse of those flaws which threaten to destroy us.

“Checks and Balances” revisited

Food, Raiment, and habitations, the indispensable wants of all, are not to be achieved without

the continual toil of ninety-nine in a hundred of mankind… The controversy between the rich

and the poor, the laborious and the idle, the learned and the ignorant, distinctions as old as the

creation, and as extensive as the globe, distinctions which no art or policy, no degree of virtue

or philosophy can ever wholly destroy, will continue, and rivalries will spring out of them. These

parties will be represented in the legislature, and must be balanced, or one will oppress the

other. There will never probably be found any other mode of establishing such an equilibrium ,

than by constituting the representation of each an independent branch of the legislature, and an

independent executive authority, such as that in our government, to be a third branch and a

mediator or an arbitrator between them. Property must be secured, or liberty cannot exist.

The great art of lawgiving consists in balancing the poor against the rich in the legislature.

John Adams

The above statements by Adams may provide a clue as to where the framers’ trial went

wrong. Proponents of our political system rarely tire of extolling the great virtue of its “checks

and balances”, but as Adams states quite clearly here, the elaborate mechanism of our
government was created solely for the purpose of maintaining a social order in which the "rich"

are supported by "the continual toil of ninety nine in a hundred". Over two centuries before the

Occupy Wall Street protests, the most thoughtful of the framers makes it clear that the

Occupiers are absolutely correct in their assessment of American society. Similar explanations

of our Constitutional system appear throughout The Federalist. What Adams says here, was

once common knowledge among all educated people.

It would be unfair to condemn Adams and his peers. Class divisions are as old as civilization

and the framers were both wealthy and pragmatic. We cannot reasonably imagine they would

have attempted to create a Utopia. They simply wished to design a Republic which tempered

the excesses of grinding despotism and revolutionary anarchy. Set in the context of the 18th

Century, their thinking was progressive and humane. But is this thinking still appropriate today?

Nominally, the virtue of this class balancing act was that each party would be protected. The

one percent would be limited in its oppression of the ninety nine; the ninety nine would not

overthrow the one. Order would be maintained and property would be secure. Well, we have

had order and property has been tremendously secure, but the benefits derived by the ninety

nine are surely overstated.

The essence of checks and balances was to maintain the status quo. Neither the rich nor the

poor could fundamentally alter the system by themselves. But the status quo was not static, it

was a dynamic system called Capitalism, and two centuries of buying, selling, research,

investment and consolidation have generated an entirely new status quo based on technology

the framers never even dreamed of, like automated mass production, nuclear power, artificial

intelligence, WMD's and genetic engineering. Surely this is a transformation worth

contemplating. If the entire “art of lawgiving” consists in maintaining an economic system based

on manual labor, what happens to Government when manual labor becomes virtually irrelevant?

Did this transformation not remove much of the bargaining power once held by those

The “Class System” is not just a worn out Marxist cliché. It is a recognizable feature of the

social landscape in every civilization which has ever existed. Adams describes its perpetuation

as the central problem in Government. That being the case, is it unreasonable to examine this

system in detail? Would it not be scientific to examine the history behind the central feature of

our political system? Is it not at least conceivable that an understanding of the class system may

shed light on the self evident failures of our Constitutional government? Can we do this without

simply being derided as “Socialists” or, god forbid, “Communists”!?

To accomplish this examination, it may be desirable to frame the subject differently and shift

from “politics” into “ecology”. Not that these two subject are necessarily so different, but it does

fall outside of our habitual ways of treating the subject.

An Ecological theory of Class

How is the nature of man, and of society, and of government, to be studied or known, but in the

history and by the experience of human nature in its terrestrial existence?

John Adams

History (or her-story if you prefer) is not just a collection of facts, it’s a narrative. We use

selected facts to tell a story that suits our taste. It’s a version of the old tale about three blind

men describing an elephant. Each “sees” an entirely different creature. Similarly, there have

been a variety of themes used in historical storytelling:

 Traditionally there was the great man approach, which concentrated on the one percent;

major actors like Alexander, Caesar and Charlemagne.

 There is a Cyclical theory which suggests empires and civilizations rise and fall, as if

driven by some sort of cosmic pendulum.
 The notion of Progress represents a linear historical theme in which humanity is

constantly improving. This is really just a warmed over version of Christianity in which a

futuristic Utopia has been substituted for the second coming.

 Some historians concentrate on technology. This is surely relevant but is it the driving


 The Marxists concentrated on social class and technology both, which seems a more

balanced approach. But they also accepted the notion of progress and this was


 Economic historians follow the money. Charles Beard made this school famous.

 Popular historians (like Howard Zinn) concentrate on regular people, the ninety-nine

percent, which is a nice change from the great man school, but does it explain history?

But has there ever been an Ecological school of history which explains the evolution of our

social and political institutions primarily as selective adaptations allowing some human

populations to compete more effectively in the eternal struggle over habitat? Not so far as I

know, but I don’t understand why not. We are terrestrial creatures after all; we exist within the

context of the earth’s biosphere and are a part of the complex web of ecological relationships

which describe it. We are born, we grow, we reproduce and we die. Our populations compete

for habitat and are limited by the available resources like all other creatures. Surely these facts

have a bearing on our history. No theory of history is complete. Each is a model, a

simplification, an effort to extract the most important elements from the full complexity of

available information. An ecological interpretation of the class system may also be a gross

simplification, but doesn’t it make sense to at least consider this perspective?

Whether we wish to admit it or not, humans are primates. As Jared Diamond has noted, to

any impartial observer “humans” are clearly a variety of Chimpanzee. If you go back far enough

our ancestors were naked, inarticulate scavengers with little of note to distinguish them from
countless other species. Somehow, in the amazingly brief (from a geologic perspective) space

of a hundred thousand years or so, we elevated ourselves to our current grandeur. This is the

“history” of our “terrestrial existence”. Adams died before Darwin published but surely he would

have appreciated the implications of Evolution. Human social institutions, like government, did

not arise out of a vacuum, nor were they invented by philosophers. Our ecological history

created them. Surely this history is relevant to our understanding of these institutions.

Today, in the 21st Century, most people seem to feel that the usual rules don’t apply to

humans; that whatever our problems may be, they defy analysis in the same terms that we

would apply to other species. Well perhaps there is truth in this, a species which manipulates

nature on the scale that we do does seem to play by different rules. But it wasn't always like this

for us, and if we consider human history from an ecological perspective this may offer us some

novel insights. Like every other creature, we adopted social behaviors which suited our means

of existence; once useful, now these behaviors have become harmful. Understanding how these

social habits arose may be the first step towards controlling them.

Like many other species, humans are competitive, territorial and violent. Modern humans

may sometimes belie this statement, but only on a good day. We justify this behavior with

customs, codes and legal finery, but in the final analysis we are as primitive as two hyenas

fighting over the same carcass. Unsurprisingly, our primate forebears are the same way. Jane

Goodall had to wait a few years before witnessing her first full-on Chimp “genocide”, but now,

after decades of close observation, we know that Chimps are no nicer than humans. They lack

weapons but they’re hardly pacifists. And those distant human ancestors who followed the

Chimps weren't so different either. Jared Diamond, who has spent decades observing the

modern remnants of Paleolithic hunter/gatherer populations, has also noted a violent streak.

To paraphrase loosely, he suggests that it was a major event in human history when people first

learned not to kill strangers on sight! These indigenous cultures are already far removed from

Goodall’s Chimps, but there is certainly an undeniable family resemblance.
The Earths resources are finite and life is a violent affair. Each species struggles for its niche

in the total environment, specific populations compete with neighboring groups for a domain

within that hard-won niche and individual creatures fight for place within their respective

populations. These considerations apply to Chimpanzees, they applied to Paleolithic primates

(whom we arbitrarily choose to call “human”) and they applied equally to those Neolithic

populations which stumbled upon agriculture. Today, we manipulate our environment with

godlike powers, but our social forms remain the product of an earlier time when humanity was

still weak, and daily violence was an unavoidable fact of life. If we wish to be less violent today

we should consider how we got that way in the first place.


F ollowing the last ice age, our ancestors learned of a new way to acquire food.

Agriculture allowed humans to extract sustenance from the earth more efficiently than hunting

and gathering; it was a highly successful adaptation for our species, giving us a huge advantage

over every other creature. We are told this shift to agriculture was the beginning of “Civilization”

and clearly it was the beginning of something enormous (whatever we choose to call it) but it

was not the end of our subservience to the fundamental requirements of ecology.

Every population (of any species) will breed and multiply until it reaches a limit where the

birth rate and death rate balance each other out. There are fluctuations of course, but behind

these fluctuations there is a fundamental ecological relationship based on the full complexity of

the earths organic and inorganic systems (in essence, everything from variations in the jet

stream to the latest mutation of some microbe). For humans, agriculture altered these
relationships fantastically, but our species was still subject to the eternal necessity of balancing

its population.

Many of the factors limiting population growth can be labeled as environmental - like

weather, predation and topography - but in addition to these externally imposed limits there are

also self-imposed limits. Some creatures will eat the offspring of their rivals, some will eat their

own offspring, and “war” is known even to ants. Consciously or not, each species understands

the nature of limits and will use violence against its own kind in the service of necessity; either to

limit competing groups inhabiting a contiguous domain or to eliminate competing individuals

within a population. Jane Goodall witnessed this behavior among Chimpanzees, Jared Diamond

has noted it among hunter/gatherers, and all of the same forces continued to apply even after

humans gained agriculture.

If anything, agriculture would only have served to intensify our violent

tendencies! Hunter/gatherers don’t achieve the population density of agricultural humans so

there are fewer opportunities for conflict between groups, and when hunter/gatherers do

experience conflict there is presumably a good chance that one group may move, rather than

fight. But agricultural humans are tied to a specific geographic domain along with their crops,

and agricultural humans achieve far greater population densities than their hunter/gatherer

relatives, so serious conflict between groups seems much more likely.

In conflicts between hunter/gatherers and farmers, the farmers will normally have the

advantage because of their greater population density and organizational skills. The

hunter/gatherers are outnumbered and presumably retreat into the wild. But when the

hunter/gatherers have all been displaced and a regions agricultural potential has been fully

exploited by various populations of farmers, then the neighboring agricultural populations will

eventually come into conflict when all of the good land has been occupied. It’s inevitable;

oftentimes disease or famine may control the population, precluding the necessity for inter-
group conflict, but at some point two agricultural societies expanded into one another. The

resolution of this conflict had to be violent.

There is an account in one of the classic histories describing an armed incursion by Gaullist

settlers into territory claimed by the Romans. When confronted by an envoy over this breach of

Roman sovereignty the Gaul leader scoffs at their contrived legalistic reasoning:

We take this land by right of the ancient law which says that men who are hungry will cultivate

land which is empty. Evict us if you dare, but you may expect to pay dearly for this earth.

These Northern “barbarians” had a much clearer grasp of reality than the “civilized” Romans.

There is little reason to believe this encounter was anything other than a typical event in human


Form follows function. Human agricultural societies are designed to do two things:

 extract sustenance from the earth

 defend (or extend) the domain of a given population.

The specific behavioral features which maximize these functions are universal to all agricultural

societies across the globe and they are as fundamental to civilization as the wheel and fire. Job

specialization and regimentation; every society has them, and they were (for most of human

history) absolutely essential.

The peasantry, comprising the bulk of society, worked diligently to produce as much food as

possible, but despite their superior numbers, this group was always controlled by an aristocracy

of professional warriors who protected the domain (or realm) from competing groups. This

aristocracy relieved the peasants of their agricultural surplus and also pressed them into

service as rank and file foot soldiers when needed. A class of lawyers, priests, traders and

artisans supplemented this arrangement, but most people were peasants, while a relative few

concentrated their full energies on warfare and government.
Human society was organized in conformance with the principles of ecology. Population

levels would be regulated either by famine, disease or violence. Famine and disease may have

been equally important from a quantitative perspective, but violence provided the organizing

principle for our social structure. The exploitation of the peasantry was the foundation of all

military power, and military competition has been the backdrop for all of human history. Right or

wrong, good and evil; these concepts were irrelevant. Violence was essential to the operation

and maintenance of this social organism. The military aristocracy pressed the peasantry as hard

as possible because their surplus supported the army. If they failed to do this, some stronger

neighbor would invade and do it for them. In fact, there is archaeological evidence suggesting

that humans were actually much healthier, on average, before the advent of “civilization”; in

other words, the aristocracy often pushed the peasantry to the brink of starvation. The stock

image of the downtrodden peasant has a real basis in fact. Progress and Civilization, if such

things truly exist, came with a very heavy price tag.


By now, this arrangement undoubtedly looks familiar, and the political overtones are

inescapable. Yes, it is the same class system alluded to by Adams. In recent centuries the

aristocracy of professional soldiers has been displaced by a less colorful class of Capitalists, but

the regimentation of society for the purposes of oppression and conquest is a fact "as old as

creation". It’s not just a cliché, the class system is as real as death and taxes and gravity. The

bulk of humanity have been exploited and frequently slaughtered in the service of this social

adaptation since the beginning of history. Once agriculture was discovered, this behavior

became a necessity. Farming allowed humans to expropriate a much greater share of the

earth's resources, but the price for this success was a grinding mechanistic social system which

keeps "civilization" on a perpetual war footing while simultaneously reducing most humans to
the level of interchangeable parts in this evolutionary automaton. It is a machine designed for

conquest and subjection, without conscience or remorse.

Is this the system that the framers were so intent of protecting? Is the maintenance of this

brutalizing social machine the “central problem of government”? If there is even a shadow of

truth in this supposition then surely we must acknowledge that the perpetuation of this social

automaton in the 21st Century represents a dire threat to our health and happiness. In the

framers era, this class system remained the essential basis for all society; they sought to make

the system run as smoothly as possible and we may admire them for their effort. But

contemplate for a moment the manifest insanity of allowing such a mechanism to continue

running in a world where all of the original ecologic parameters have been radically transformed

and humanity now holds the power to mold its environment and manage its population with

science, not violence. What purpose is served by war today? Why must there be oppression in

the midst of plenty? Regard the modern world and ask yourself; does this not look like the work

of a machine run amuck?


Despite the straightforward logic of this argument for a an ecological theory of class and

notwithstanding the framers own documented assertions regarding the class-oriented function

of checks and balances, most people will probably find it very difficult to reconcile this view of

the U.S., as a conservative bastion of ancient class divisions, with the more accepted

perception of our Republic as a progressive product of the Enlightenment; a modern bulwark of

individual liberty. But regardless of the stirring language in the Declaration of Independence,

was the Republic created by the Constitution really so very different from the Feudal forms of

government which still prevailed in Europe at that time?
The French peasantry which revolted just a few years after the Convention clearly fit the

description of an oppressed agricultural class, but were the Pennsylvania farmers of the

Whiskey Rebellion really so different from their peers on the opposite side of the Atlantic? No

doubt the Revolution was a watershed moment in American history and certainly life in North

America was tremendously different from life in Europe, but were these differences of degree

and detail or did they signify an actual fundamental divide between two wholly different


Yes, the colonists enjoyed a larger degree of personal freedom and better economic

prospects than most European peasants. The lightly populated habitat of North America offered

a vast range for agricultural expansion with little of the population pressure experienced by

Europeans living on a continent that had been filled up for centuries. Also, the colonists were, in

the early years, largely absolved from much of the Royal taxation burdening their peers on the

other side of the Atlantic. And in addition to these advantages, the oppressive Catholic and

Anglican churches were largely excluded from the Colonies. But still, in the final analysis the

republic created by our Constitution was an economic and military enterprise, like any fief or


The several states agreed to joint taxation for the purposes of a common defense;

reasonably assuming they might have to defend their territory from various European powers, or

put down a rising of the peasantry (like Shay‘s Rebellion). It was a compact created in secrecy

by a group of the most powerful men in the Confederacy and the results were obnoxious to

many of the farmers who bore the brunt of the burden for supporting this venture. Some, like the

Whiskey Rebellion farmers in Pennsylvania, even resorted to violence, but the military

aristocracy defeated them easily. No, it wasn’t the French Revolution, but the fact that wealthy

individuals on this side of the Atlantic feared an American version of the French Terror

suggests that there were deep class divisions here as well.
Despite all the mythology of American "Exceptional-ism" it seems as though the principal

differences between the east and west shores of the Atlantic in the late 18th Century were

primarily a matter of degree. A new population in a previously unexploited habitat enjoyed

possibilities not open to the rival population remaining in the ancient environs, but the

fundamental nature of social organization was essentially the same. The most substantial

difference between the two populations appears to have been the means by which they chose

their rulers. In continental Europe, inherited titles were the norm and elective positions the

exception; in the U.S. there were to be no inherited titles, the very idea was outlawed. All rulers

would be elected.

This final difference, on which so much blood and ink have been expended, is universally

regarded as something more than a mere detail. Americans across the political spectrum regard

their voting rights as a sacred privilege marking them a free people; the keystone of their Civil

Liberties and a great gift from the Enlightenment. But this hallowed institution seems to co-exist

very easily with obscene extremes of wealth and poverty. It has been no obstacle to slavery,

conquest or oppression. Why, even Adolf Hitler was elected once, and in its original usage, the

word “dictator” referred to an elective office in Rome.

From the Revolution to the present, Americans have elected more than a hundred

Congresses and dozens of Presidents. Through all of this we have consistently maintained a

class structure with an astronomical gulf between rich and poor, and we have rarely gone more

than a few years without engaging in a war somewhere. Superficially, it does not seem that our

society is so exceptional or our institutions so novel. Yes our middle-class was perhaps larger

and more prominent than any previous society and we can probably thank the framers for this

fact. Checks and balances may indeed have afforded some protection to the 99%. But if we’re

looking at the big picture, the rudiments of the class system are clearly present. Based on

results, it’s not obvious that voting is such a revolutionary act or that our society is so unique as

many would believe.
Is it possible that most of the advantages enjoyed by Americans are largely a product of our

unique geographical heritage and that these advantages have relatively little to do with our

political institutions? Is it possible that our society is much more traditional than generally

acknowledged? Is it conceivable that Voting, the heart of our political process, is not actually

a progressive practice? Perhaps we may even describe voting as an ancient practice; an

evolutionary adaptation at the very heart of the class system. Certainly this might go a long

ways toward explaining some of our more intractable problems.


Democracy… I have always been grieved by the gross abuse of this respectable word. One

party speaks of it as the most amiable, venerable, indeed, as the sole object of its adoration; the

other as the sole object of its scorn, abhorrence, and execration. Neither party, in my opinion,

know what they say.

Is not representation an essential and fundamental departure from democracy? Is not every

representative government in the world an aristocracy?

Permit me to ask whether the descent of lands and goods and chattels does not constitute a

hereditary order as decidedly as the descent of stars and garters?

There is a natural and unchangeable inconvenience in all popular elections… he who has the

deepest purse or the fewest scruples will generally prevail

The multitude have always been credulous, and the few are always artful.

John Adams
Consider (hypothetically) the origins of the class system in the first agricultural society many

thousands of years ago. A series of good crops had swelled the population until warfare

between two competing populations was inevitable. Bloodshed was imminent. This prospect

raises an interesting question; who created and led the first army? We may not know his name

or what he looked like but we can certainly make a respectable guess about his character,

personality and m. o.. He was the shrewdest, toughest son of a bitch in the group; able to prod,

con, intimidate, inspire or simply pummel his peers into battle.

Most importantly, he had the foresight and calculation to understand that conflict was

inevitable and the element of surprise a powerful ally. He may actually have used this solid

rational argument to persuade a few people, but others required a more creative approach. For

those ruled by fear, he painted a horrific picture of the devastation they would experience by

waiting for the enemy to attack first. For the greedy and hungry, he held out the promise of new

lands to till. For the lustful he described the women they would enslave. The weak, he simply

had to intimidate. And for those who were truly ambitious, his peers in violence and cunning, he

held out the prospect of shared rule over this new dominion (some of these individuals died

mysteriously in the days following the great battle, but others went on to become his trusted

lieutenants). And with every audience he emphasized the ugliness and the backwardness of the

“barbarians” on the other side of the river/hill/forest etc…As superior and virtuous beings, they

would easily prevail over those savages.

Was this individual not a politician?… Was this process not a political

campaign?… Was he not “elected” by his peers to be their commander and

chief?… Has this process really changed so much in ten thousand years?

If you can accept the premise that ecological forces have been the primary determinant of

human social behavior then the existence of this archetypal leader seems a foregone

conclusion. Beginning in the Neolithic era the principal function of social organization became

the acquisition and defense of a group domain: agricultural land. With myriad human

populations all competing for this resource only those groups with the most effective strategy

could succeed. Job specialization, social stratification and economic exploitation, all in the

service of military efficiency, were inevitable. The individual human with the strength and

cleverness to facilitate this process served an essential role. To paraphrase Nietzsche (correctly

I hope), these individuals were the "architects of violence who built states". We hate politicians

now but in the beginning they served an important purpose. Of course these leaders did not

appear magically overnight nor was their tenure always long lasting. They were creatures of the

political process, fleeting figures who occasionally earned the lasting tribute of a few lines or

pages in recorded history but were most often forgotten like all the other millions who came

before us. The only thing durable in politics is the act itself, certainly not the actors. There is an

inescapable timeless logic to this process of political organization. Consider the following key


fundamentals of political behavior

1. Size matters. A larger group will ordinarily conquer a smaller group. Size demands

organization (i.e. - leadership and a chain of command). The imposition of this organizational

hierarchy may be entirely violent (i.e. - the largest members of the group impose their will) but

violence begets violence and the larger the group the greater the burden which the frictional

forces of anarchy will impose. In a social machine designed for the application of external

violence, internal violence saps efficiency and threatens the decomposition of the group. A

successful group must impose obedience with a bare minimum of overt violence.
2. Majority rule is the most efficient (least violent)) procedure for imposing universal obedience.

All members of the group capable of military service (all those who represent a potential

anarchic threat) participate in the group decision process. Any position adopted by a majority

receives the acquiescence of the minority, who are outnumbered and recognize submission as

the safest course; for themselves personally and also presumably for the group. There is

nothing inherently moral about this procedure. It is a process of thinly sublimated violence,

barely removed from civil war.

3. Majority rule is about individual and group survival in a world of danger and scarcity.

Dominance of the population over external rivals is key, but so too is the victory of particular

factions in the internal struggle over finite resources. Fear and hatred are the principal currency

of this contest. Logic may intrude but emotion ordinarily prevails. Individual political actors are

ruthlessly rational in their social calculations, but the material they work with is human emotion.

To pretend that politics (or economics for that matter) is driven primarily by rational self interest

is an absurd fantasy. And to the extent that reason does intrude it is the reason of pure

selfishness. Philosophy, justice, virtue and altruism have virtually no place in politics. Once

again, there is nothing inherently moral about this process. Quite the opposite.

4. Military efficiency requires unanimous obedience. Once a consensus has been reached

everybody falls into line. Dissent, once a harmless or even beneficial behavior (among hunter

gatherers) becomes a direct threat to the group survival. Dissenters are rarely tolerated.

5. There are risks associated with leadership, a position which attracts violence from both

internal and external competitors, but the risks are compensated by the rewards associated with

social status. Opportunities for breeding are greater and the status of the parents is (to some
degree) transmissible to the offspring. The chief has his wives, the king his harem or

concubines, the politician his interns. This behavior is as old as mankind.

6. All leadership has its roots in this political process. Even hereditary leadership (monarchy)

has its origins in popular politics. The first monarch in a line (no matter how great a warrior) is

also always a politician and all descendants must always protect their political position.

Otherwise a usurper will likely prevail. In terms of moral "legitimacy" (which is indistinguishable

from popularity under the system of majority rule) a tenth generation monarch may exceed a

first term President. From a purely moral perspective, a king has as much right to his office as

any elected president.

7. Victors will attempt to consolidate their position by limiting the political rights of losers.

Whenever possible, weaker social groups will be reduced to slavery. The specialization of

warfare to include cavalry and armor was probably the basis of one such disfranchisement.

Racial, ethnic and religious minorities are also routinely deprived of rights. Economic superiority

too can frequently enable even a technical minority to engineer political victory and


8. Conversely, rights may be extended to previously excluded groups (freed slaves, women and

the propertyless classes). This expansion of the political class lends an air of democratic

legitimacy to the proceedings but politics remains an amoral process in which power, deceit and

emotion ordinarily prevail.

9. The interests of leadership are not necessarily synonymous with those of the common

population. In the early Neolithic era, when individual populations were smaller and existence

more tenuous, the survival of the group and the survival of the leadership class were

probably one in the same, but as time passed and populations became larger and more
established political survival of the leadership became a separate priority from group defense. A

small city/state may be vulnerable to total annihilation but a larger nation much less so; in the

latter case the greater threat to leadership comes from usurpation not invasion. Any policies

which consolidate power may be employed, even when they are demonstrably harmful to the

group at large. Interminable fruitless wars and the deliberate incitement of internal factions (ie

"divide and conquer strategies ) come to mind. Machiavelli gave this behavior its handbook.

10. The separation of the leadership class from the general population for purposes of

procreation (the institution of Royalty) confirms the preceding point. As long as royals breed

(primarily) with other royals then (from a functional standpoint) the royals are parasites and the

commoners are their host. Aristocratic indifference and snobbishness may be seen as healthy

traits (for the aristocracy). In the current age the institution of royalty has been abandoned but

intermarriage among the wealthy is the norm and marriage outside of this convention is fairly

unusual. From the standpoint of pure function, is the one percent not a form of royalty?

The foregoing stark description of majority rule as a blunt, blind evolutionary instrument, bears

little relation to the morally righteous "deliberative Democracy" that we learned about from our

middle school civics teachers. The real world is more nuanced than theory of course and

perhaps that fairytale vision of civilized political discourse has existed for fleeting moments here

and there, but doesn't the Darwinian construct correspond much more closely to the generally

observed unpleasant phenomena which we regard in the news every day? Does it not also

seem to complement Adam's theory fairly well? Recognizing the social warfare at the heart of

class society he attempts to establish a lasting truce by giving each side a permanently

recognized institution. Of course it's still better to possess political rights within this system than

to be excluded entirely (like a medieval serf or a contemporary "guest worker"), but the

Darwinian interpretation (and much practical experience) both suggests that suffrage is of

exceedingly limited value. There are no guarantees that the results will correspond with
anything approximating reason or justice. And if the political process looks more like civil war

than a civilized debate then this follows perfectly from the evolutionary explanation. Yet most

people shrug off all objections to the political process as pointless. They insist there's no

alternative. But this position doesn't bear scrutiny.

Not Politics

It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government

except all the others that have been tried.

Winston Churchill

A lie repeated with sufficient frequency is often confused for the truth. The assertion that

democratic politics represent an absolute moral good with no conceivable alternative is a

statement falling into this category. People typically like to quote Winston Churchill when making

this claim. Let us consider this position seriously. First, how can something be an absolute good

when so much that follows from it is clearly evil? As a confirmed agnostic I do not use the word

"evil" lightly, but how else to describe the obscene levels of economic inequality, environmental

devastation, endless warfare, chronic incarceration, ignorance and sloth which characterize our

society? All of these sins, for which we have any number of convenient excuses and

scapegoats, must ultimately be attributed to our Democratic system and the "law of the land"

which enables such atrocities to exist. Second, when it comes to delegating State authority for

the purpose of composing government institutions there are at least three well known ways of

doing this without the intervention of politics and voting. Politics is not the only way to organize

a society. Below are the alternatives.
Royalty - Kings did not appear all over the planet by accident. The stability of monarchy was

often preferable to the anarchy of politics. In many times and places an accident of genetics was

found superior to the vicissitudes of political conflict. But it does not flatter the vanity of the

citizens to be removed from the choice of their leaders; and in an age of urban living,

widespread literacy and mass communication royalty has been all but extinguished. This does

not prove that politicians are more responsive than kings to the needs of their subjects, it is

simply an accident of the modern age.

Merit - Confucius instituted the first known civil service meritocracy well before Christ. It lasted

into the 19th Century and now has imitators around the globe. Public examinations for positions

in Government service are a well established fact for most government employment outside of

the legislature. In other words, the great majority of government workers are chosen on the

basis of demonstrated merit, not a political contest. It is only the handful of "public servants"

who write our laws that have managed to elude this trend towards professionalism in public


Chance - In 5th Century b.c.e. Athens, a lottery was used to fill most government positions. We

still use it today; for jurors and also (until recently) for soldiers. Montesquieu called it the natural

choice for a Democracy.

Machines - In an age of computers and artificial intelligence this fourth option is at least worthy

of mention. Few humans would accept the reign of a digital king perhaps, but it is at least

conceivable that such a thing could exist (in a parallel universe perhaps)

Politics and majority rule possess no intrinsic moral or practical superiority! It is simply

one of several mechanisms which play a role in human government. Merit, Chance and Royalty

are other mechanisms which have been resorted to but politics (thus far) has always been the
dominant constant. It is the gravitational force to which all other mechanisms have been

subservient. The usurpation or deposition of kings and emperors by the forces of politics has

been as dependable as the storms of winter, and the role of jurors and civil servants has been

that of a bit part in the larger drama of politics. But what if politics itself were to lose its

primacy and some combination of merit and chance became the reigning force in human

government instead?

In the pre-scientific era Politics was arguably the only way of maintaining the class system

which was central to the preservation of the human ecological dynamic. With myriad populations

all competing for the same resources only the strongest and cleverest could prevail. Politics is a

form of natural selection by which the strongest and cleverest homo sapiens lead their

respective populations in the larger global competition. But, to the extent that this competition

has (in recent millennia) been tempered by an impulse towards stability and justice (rather than

expansion and subjection) politics has been supplemented by these other mechanisms (merit

and chance). Now (under the influence of science) Homo sapiens have arrived at a point where

stability is essential, and further competition borders on suicide. Has the time finally arrived

when politics must become subservient to these other more recent mechanisms? What

would this mean? How might such an epochal shift be facilitated?

This is an enormous question, probably best tackled elsewhere. For now, in this essay, let it

merely be said that it is quite plausible (theoretically) to construct a government in which political

behavior is largely suppressed. To a great degree political behavior defines us, it is integral to

our species, but if we choose (at long last) to consciously recognize the severe dangers

associated with it we may then construct institutions which deliberately hinder it. Chance and

Merit would unquestionably play a central role in these institutions (hereditary leadership,

probably not) but the details are open to debate . With the experience of the past few centuries

to inform us, it no longer seems reasonable to imagine that Republican institutions and universal
suffrage will lead us to social justice and environmental sanity. These are relatively new

priorities for Homo Sapiens, reflecting an enormous transformation in our relationship to the

planet. Does it not make sense that a staggering alteration of our relationship to the physical

environment might also necessitate a major restructuring of our social institutions?


If voting changed anything they'd make it illegal

Emma Goldman

Today, there is profound universal disillusionment with politics and government but virtually no

serious conversation regarding potential alternatives to our enshrined Constitutional system.

The sternest talk comes from those who would amend the Constitution to protect campaign

finance reform, but there were multiple efforts on this front prior to Citizens United and the

results were unimpressive. Anyhow, to "take the money out of politics" is a laudable goal but

would require much more than just campaign reform. It would also be necessary to address the

"revolving door" between government and industry, the "free speech" of "independent" groups

(an impossibly murky Constitutional swamp) and the simple fact that ninety-nine out of a

hundred American don't have the financial independence or leisure to pursue a career in politics

(that just leaves the one percent doesn't it?). By the time politics is truly reformed it may no

longer be recognizable as politics.

The prevailing attitude imagines that politics is an inherently noble pursuit and everything would

be fine if only we could purify the process by removing the corruption of currency. But a

Darwinian interpretation of history suggests that corruption is the essential nature of politics! If

we understand "corruption" as the pursuit of naked self interest by all available means then this
pretty well defines politics; it is nothing more or less than a relatively non-violent process of civil

warfare. To imagine that the results will ever correspond with anything remotely resembling

social justice or environmental sanity is to expect something which has never been and never

will be. Those rare occasions when we came anywhere near to these goals may be explained

as aberrations; the exception which proves the rule. The violence and oppression of the

class system are as old as creation, and politics is the process which keeps it all running

smoothly. Yes, it's better to have political rights than not, and universal suffrage was (arguably)

a step forward in human social evolution, but there is absolutely no evidence or reasoning to

support the notion that the existence of universal suffrage will ever change the fundamental

nature or outcome of the political process. Emma Goldman was right, If voting represented a

threat to the status quo it would be illegal.

John Adams believed that "justice is the only principle of government". He also believed we

would only achieve this principle by studying government with the objectivity and dispassionate

removal of an "astronomer", but has anyone actually ever bothered to follow this sensible

advice? Probably not if they wanted to keep their job. The social sciences are all inherently

subversive but dissent generally leads to unemployment and self censorship provides the best

"competitive advantage" for scholars hoping to evolve to the level of tenure. Still, at a point in

Homo Sapien development where our species very survival is something of a question mark

surely the time has finally come to take Adams seriously.

What would scientific reform actually entail? How do we create a truly just and sustainable

society? Clearly this is an open question with no definitive or final answers to be forthcoming.

But surely too, at the very least we must expand the horizons of our inquiry to acknowledge the

fact that "evolution" and "politics" are not necessarily unrelated subjects. Then perhaps we may

finally learn to live like true civilized beings and construct a government which realizes Adams
principle of justice. Until then, so far as I'm concerned, homo sapiens will remain nothing more

than a most exotic and dangerous variety of chimpanzee.


There is a widespread (and in my opinion misguided) notion that Progressive goals may

someday be achieved in the arena of politics. Education, organizing and political reform are

seen as the keys to this final victory; patience and perseverance, the virtues that will get us

there. But it is my contention that Democratic Politics represents an unwinnable war, an

evolutionary dead end. Justice and sanity will never be the outcome. Human behavior is a

constant (at least in the short term) and politics is a process which elevates the most destructive

aspects of that behavior to the level of high art. If we would see our species survive and prosper

in the coming centuries we must acknowledge this fact and begin a substantive conversation

about rational alternatives to the status quo of our existing political institutions.

If have any openness to such a viewpoint and have comments then I’d love to hear from you.

Rather than using the DKOS forum, however, I would ask that you email me.