Saturday 21 March 2015

Reverse socialism - the modern poor 'exploit' the rich (biologically)

It is a striking fact, which took many years to creep-up on my awareness, that socialism/leftism is wrong about almost everything.

I can still recall the bombshell effect it had on me when Gregory Clark remarked in a conversation that the industrial revolution had been a much greater advantage for the poor than for the rich. Exactly the opposite of what I had been taught, and what every reformer and philanthropist has believed to be the case since the mid 1800s.

In the modern world, biologically speaking, the poorest have the greatest reproductive success; and in economic terms, the trend has for several generations been towards a situation in which the poor are the real rulers.

Now it is factually the case that it is the poor majority who 'exploit' (i.e. live-off, reproduce at the expense of) the rich minority. 


If the industrial revolution began to bite from about 1800 in England, then this was when the survival of the children of the poor became above replacement levels - and the population began rapidly to grow from the bottom-up for perhaps the first time in human history - or, at least, the first time in a couple of thousand years.

At pretty much the same time, the wealthier classes began to reduce their fertility. For a while, the wealthiest families would still have reared (on average) more children to adulthood than the poorest, but pretty soon the poor began to outstrip the rich, as fertility among the wealthiest declined and declined without stopping - to well below replacement levels.


The point I am making here is that in industrial society (since c1800), the transfer of wealth goes from richer to poorer - until nowadays, people who are net economically unproductive and indeed net consumers of resources, who do little or no productive work, who are able to raise all the children they may choose to have, or have by accident; at the expense of the rest of the society.

In pre-industrial societies such people and their children would have died en masse, - despite working productively all the hours God sent- mostly from starvation and disease, plus high rates of accidents and violence.


So, in the agrarian past, the usual pattern was for ruling classes to extract more resources than they generated, and they used these resources to raise most of their numerous children. Each new generation of adults mostly had 'higher class' parents in a world of overall downward mobility.

Meanwhile the poor, whose resources had been taken from them, were so poor that they raised on average almost no children to adulthood. The children of the poor were 'culled' from each generation. No matter how many children the poor produced, only very few survived. 


With the industrial revolution these tendencies reversed.

So, what I was wondering is whether there is some kind of underlying, fundamental cause, operating from about 1800, which links the loss of resource-extractive power (or will) of the upper classes with their decline into sub-fertility. 


Why do the upper classes since c1800 'allow' most of their resources to be extracted from them; and does the answer to that question also explain why the upper classes have (pretty much) stopped having children?

This passivity looks like decadence - exhaustion, disease, dysfunctionality.

Indeed, since the mid-1960s, the upper classes have taken an ever more active role in increasing the transfer of both resources and child-rearing away from themselves and onto poorer and ever-poorer sections of the human population.

This goes beyond decadence - and looks like deliberate self-destruction, willed suicide



Crosbie said...

It would be hard for the wealthier classes not to help the poorer classes. It is hard to see other people struggling to maintain minimum standards and failing without trying to give help. This isn't suicidal behaviour, or not necessarily.

I note you say that fertility of the wealthy fell at the same time of fertility of the poor rose. A mechanism which springs to mind for this coincidence is unavailability of domestic help in raising children. So long as marriage for a poor woman meant death for her children, spending a lifetime raising the children of the wealthy was an attractive option. Once even the wife of an propertyless unskilled worker could raise children of her own, she was no longer available to raise the children of the wealthy - except for the *extremely* wealthy of course who could hire those few women prepared to serve in that way. It may be the case that the number of children that can be raised - on average - is not simply a matter of material resources, as you sometimes seem to suggest. There may be some hard-to-determine scarce human quality which we each have only so much of - 'care', 'patience' - 'psychic energy', if we wish to borrow metaphors from physical science in that New Age way - I don't claim to know what that limiting factor is. If so, a most important resource that the wealthy took from the poor was that thing: care, time, human warmth, whatever that thing is. Now the flow goes the other way. The wealthy give their time and care to the poor as teachers, doctors, and social workers.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Crosbie - I think the answer is Christianity - decline thereof.

BTW- I understand that the highest proportion of the population ever to be employed as domestic servants in England was in the Edwardian period leading up to the 1914-18 war.

Anonymous said...

This woman has a theory about the change in fertility patterns, as a form of social competition-

Before the time frame she discusses, it was not as possible to increase the status of your children by reducing the number and spending more money on each one. With a global trade society growing rapidly, investment in education paid off well as there was lots of need for literate, numerate people in offices.

Also, not wanting your children to be downwardly mobile is a choice. If you are upper class and your children will be upper middle class, that's one thing, but if you are lower middle class and they may well be poor, that's another. She apparently is a "non-natalist" which is to say believes having children is a bad choice because they may have bad lives.

The well-off today aren't terribly burdened by payments to the poor. They probably regard the idea of having five children who will be lucky to graduate from a bad high school and get a minimum wage job as horrible. They want to optimize life gratification, which for them comes only partly from children and family life but more from money, status and enjoyment.

The change in fertility patterns she talks about says a great deal about modern leftism, but what exactly I'm not prepared to say.

Bruce Charlton said...

@dl- Thanks for the link - I remember when this article came out.

One of the interesting things which come out of the research into IQ and personality about the business of 'raising children' is how little influence parents have aside from their genes (which determine the intelligence and personality) - genetics and luck account for most of the variance - schooling and all the rest make little/ no measurable difference to outcomes like income, jobs, status. The research literature suggests that people find their own level (with a lot of noise from luck/multiple small factors).

In other words, having a large number of kids sent to state schools and cheap colleges makes little measurable difference to their ultimate socioeconomic position, and if they are home schooled their chances are probably increased.

JP said...

The poor don't really live off "the rich". The poor live off the middle classes, who pay most of the taxes. It is an alliance of the top and bottom versus the middle.

What is the cause of the "reverse socialism"? My short answer: democracy. The poor have the numbers, and the rich want their votes. Therefore, the rich are happy to bribe the poor with other people's money (i.e., middle class money) in exchange for votes.

This explains the increase in this phenomenon since 1800, since democracy gained increasing power in the 1800s and especially the 1900s.

Bruce Charlton said...

@JP - That's a bit of a quibble over definitions and boundaries of rich, which applies to only some countries, and some of the rich within those countries - the point still stands: the poor live off the rich at a national and international level.

ajb said...

"In other words, having a large number of kids sent to state schools and cheap colleges makes little measurable difference to their ultimate socioeconomic position, and if they are home schooled their chances are probably increased."

When homeschooling started to gain popularity in the U.S., the initial standard argument was that parents would be unable to educate their children as well as paid professionals. Then statistics started coming out which showed this wasn't the case. The argument then moved to 'socialization', a much squishier topic. Even here, though, the statistics suggest that on average, homeschooled children are as well or better 'socialized' than public or private school peers.

JP said...


If "good socialization" means the kids will have the same attitudes, values, and behaviors as the other kids in public school, all right-thinking parents should wish to avoid such "socialization".

Nathan said...

The French Revolution gave a cliff-notes version of the next 200 years.

A.B. Prosper said...

I'm not sure about that The rich do control the means of production after all therefore most every penny is recaptured. They are subsidizing themselves really and paying for the economic game to continue. And for security too but that's a given.

Imagine a thought-experiment where we payed people who were poor and dysgenic not to have children. On its face this sounds like really good policy but would it be?

Ignoring for second the theological aspects, the economic result would be population decline each increase in automation . I suspect in the end the only winners would be the Malthusian Greens.

Thus we end up subsidizing people. The problem comes in when issues involving assortive mating and status come into play, Quality people do not want to and often cannot have children on the allotment they are given and they don't. Instead you get the people that will until the accumulated weight of poor breeding end and catabolic shrinkage ends the system via natural selection.

The solution is an end to the 40% youth unemployment and underemployment. If we do that the natural population tendencies which are higher than just the economic numbers would suggest among native Europeans should correct much of the problem.

Throw in some patriarchy and you'll probably get growth,

Bruce Charlton said...

@ABP - You have missed the point of my posting! I am talking about *biology*, and what I have said is objectively true (assuming the facts are correct), not a matter of opinion!

Biologically (in terms of reproductive success) the rich support the poor; the poor exploit the rich.

The richer population could raise as many children as they can produce - women could have up to twenty, and men even more - and the probability is that all of them, every single one, would survive to sexual maturity - but, in the modern world, the poor can do this as well (the kids will be raised elsewhere). Any and every child that is born is raised at the expense of the community, with no upper limit.

Also, if you look elsewhere on this blog (search mutation accumulation) you will find that the differential reproduction rates between rich and poor is probably *not* the main dysgenic force - probably most important is the loss of natural selection pressure (mostly by very high child mortality) which used to sieve out of the gene pool the large majority of people born each generation who carry new and deleterious mutations.

A.B. Prosper said...

Ah, Thanks for the clarification. I get