Predators Create Compassion

 

Those who follow my writing on Ricochet (support groups are standing by now at 1-900-God-Help-Me…) know that I am fascinated by the tribal nature of humans, and how we freely choose to organize ourselves into groups. In times of peace, countries break down into smaller and smaller factions, so they can do whatever they want. But in times of war, even countries that hate each other will form massive coalitions to defend themselves from an outside threat. They may have argued about things before. But in times of war, these previously antagonistic groups suddenly care about one another. They say that the enemy of your enemy is your friend. So one could argue that enemies create friends. Or rather, predators create compassion.

The corollary to this concept is that the lack of predators allows us to do whatever we want, and to become self-centered. Security creates narcissism. Bill Clinton thought he could get away with anything, and he did. Medieval kings and Popes often seemed crazy. They weren’t crazy, but they felt little fear of repercussions from their actions, so they did whatever they wanted. Dirty cops act with impunity and hide behind their badges. Mobs are a group of people who agree on something, don’t feel the need to defend their actions, and tend to do horrible things. And then there’s Hunter Biden.

Hunter Biden led a fairly normal life, for a long time. He was married to his lifelong sweetheart for nearly 25 years. They had three kids, whom they loved very much. But then his Dad became the second most powerful man in the world, and Hunter was offered an enormous amount of money for doing not much of anything, by people he’d never met. Soon, he was sleeping with the widow of his recently deceased brother, he got an Arkansas stripper pregnant, married a South African Instagram model a couple weeks after meeting her.

Did Hunter Biden suddenly go insane? No. He just suddenly realized that he could do whatever he wanted to. And that is not a healthy state for anyone; just ask Emperor Nero. The problem with the behavior of the untouchables is that it’s NOT irrational. It’s just that it’s untouchable.

I recently heard Douglas Murray in a podcast point out that the reason that modern academics have become so radical is that they lack natural predators. They don’t have to defend their thinking, so their behavior becomes ever more odd and disconnected from reality.

So, as I see it, it’s not their fault. It’s just like water flowing down a river. You can build a dam if you want to, but eventually, at some point, somehow, that water will flow downhill; there is no other way.

So paradoxically, only if we are forced to defend our thoughts or ethics, do we develop an interest in (and compassion for) the thoughts and ethics of others.

You would think that compassion could bloom only in those who were completely secure in their own position. Oddly, the reverse is true. The more secure you are, the less you care for others.

Humans are odd and vicious creatures.

There is a reason that for much of human history, until fairly modern times, the leading cause of death in our species was murder.

This is why capitalism is the only system that has ever increased tolerance among diverse populations. When we look out for ourselves (and ONLY then), we look out for others. Ayn Rand was, in my view, clinically insane. But she understood this fundamental aspect of human nature.

So the pursuit of happiness is important to me, but not nearly as important as it is to you. I will tolerate you only if I am permitted, and dare I say forced, to look after my own interests.

Humans are odd and vicious creatures.

A lack of predators turns one into a sociopath. You lose interest in the concerns of others. So any effort to insulate our citizens from the consequences of their own actions will result in societal upheaval. Only the fear of the consequences of their own actions will encourage them to care for their neighbors. So individual freedom leads to social tolerance and peace.

That’s not how it should be. That’s just how it is. Water will flow downhill. There is no other way.

Humans are odd and vicious creatures.

Don’t take my word for it. Just ask Bill Clinton, and Hunter Biden, and Emperor Nero, and Gary Hart, and Greta Thunberg, and Martin Luther King Jr, and Tom Steyer, and Al Gore Jr, and AOC, and many, many, many, many others.

Only humility can protect against this disease. And humility is not the natural state of humans. This is the genius of the Judeo-Christian ethic. It makes humility normal. Or at least, attempts to do so.

Humans are odd and vicious creatures.

Predators create compassion.

There is no other way.

There are 24 comments.

Become a member to join the conversation. Or sign in if you're already a member.
  1. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    Dr. Bastiat:

    I heard Douglas Murray recently, in a podcast, point out that the reason that modern academics have become so radical is that they lack natural predators. They don’t have to defend their thinking, so their behavior becomes ever more odd and disconnected from reality. 

    ..

    You would think that compassion could bloom only in those who were completely secure in their own position. Oddly, the reverse is true. The more secure you are, the less you care for others. 

    Good one, Doc. And I don’t mean just the part quoted above. The whole article is a keeper. 

    • #1
  2. JoelB Member
    JoelB
    @JoelB

    And competition creates customer service.

    Fascinating perspective.

    One question @drbastiat   – Who preyed on academics in times past?

     

    • #2
  3. Jim McConnell Member
    Jim McConnell
    @JimMcConnell

    Outstanding, Doc. There are so many jewels in that short post! 

    I hope you don’t mind if I copy it and send it to a few of my relatives who need a little broader education.

    • #3
  4. Henry Castaigne Member
    Henry Castaigne
    @HenryCastaigne

    JoelB (View Comment):

    And competition creates customer service.

    Fascinating perspective.

    One question @drbastiat – Who preyed on academics in times past?

     

    I hear in fairytales that Academics had different opinions in ancient times and that they debated each other. I know it sounds like fantasy but there is some not crazy archeological research that suggests it might be true. 

    • #4
  5. Henry Castaigne Member
    Henry Castaigne
    @HenryCastaigne

    Check out the Ring of Gyges for another perspective. 

    • #5
  6. Caryn Thatcher
    Caryn
    @Caryn

    Henry Castaigne (View Comment):

    Check out the Ring of Gyges for another perspective.

    You’re agreeing with Dr. Bastiat, correct?  That’s certainly how I remember the story.  Invisibility makes for enormous untouchability!

    • #6
  7. Henry Castaigne Member
    Henry Castaigne
    @HenryCastaigne

    There was a neat podcast about oikophobia awhile back. The argument is that when Empires become so rich and powerful that they don’t have to defend themselves they cease to do so. We have the richest and most technologically advanced society in the history of the world and we are among the least racist and the most free society that has ever existed. Yet, we are committing suicide and taking pills (though there has been some improvement on that front).

    We need to figure out how to keep our virtue with all this wealth, peace and technology.

    • #7
  8. Henry Castaigne Member
    Henry Castaigne
    @HenryCastaigne

    Caryn (View Comment):

    Henry Castaigne (View Comment):

    Check out the Ring of Gyges for another perspective.

    You’re agreeing with Dr. Bastiat, correct? That’s certainly how I remember the story. Invisibility makes for enormous untouchability!

    As I recall, the Ring of Gyges suggests that people are always jerks they only get to unleash their inner sociopathy once they obtain power. So I think I must disagree with Dr. Bastiat, power reveals the evil that was already there. Political power is like eating after midnight for humans.

    Top 10 Ways to Unleash Your Inner Evil

    • #8
  9. Phil Turmel Coolidge
    Phil Turmel
    @PhilTurmel

    JoelB (View Comment):

    And competition creates customer service.

    Fascinating perspective.

    One question @drbastiat – Who preyed on academics in times past?

     

    Their patrons.  Usually nobles of one form or another.

    • #9
  10. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    Phil Turmel (View Comment):

    JoelB (View Comment):

    And competition creates customer service.

    Fascinating perspective.

    One question @drbastiat – Who preyed on academics in times past?

     

    Their patrons. Usually nobles of one form or another.

    They preyed on each other in the past. I’m not sure they’ve stopped doing it, but they seem to have driven one of their prey species to extinction.  

    • #10
  11. Suspira Member
    Suspira
    @Suspira

    Dr. Bastiat: I recently heard Douglas Murray in a podcast point out that the reason that modern academics have become so radical is that they lack natural predators. They don’t have to defend their thinking, so their behavior becomes ever more odd and disconnected from reality.

    I’d like to see the department heads of our state universities go before a panel of legislators and justify their budgets. It might cut down on some of the taxpayer-funded hogwash.

    • #11
  12. Old Bathos Moderator
    Old Bathos
    @OldBathos

    Don’t know that I would frame it solely in terms of whether there are deadly adversaries at hand.  There is a broader set of circumstances for each of us that determines our choices and opportunities.  In many instances, being denied is a blessing.

    There are only two tragedies in life: one is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it.  -Oscar Wilde

    I t is likely that Hunter Biden could have been a more normal, decent family guy if he were limited in his choices of occupation and lifestyle.  Virtually unlimited funds and the clout to establish some legal immunity for misbehavior could bring a lot of us to a life of strip clubs, alcohol, expensive toys, and coke.  I look at Biden the Younger and think ‘there but for divine grace, strong family ties and a few million bucks go I.’

    The ultimate adversary is the absence of sustenance and shelter.  We focus on our group, sanction shirkers and takers and hammer out a common purpose to keep that enemy at bay.  If instead, we were all rich, served by robots and Star Trek-type replicators for whatever consumer goods we wanted in a post-scarcity world, would we know how to act? How to form any social order? Or would we all be Hunter Bidens?

     

     

    • #12
  13. MichaelKennedy Inactive
    MichaelKennedy
    @MichaelKennedy

    Henry Castaigne (View Comment):
    I hear in fairytales that Academics had different opinions in ancient times and that they debated each other. I know it sounds like fantasy but there is some not crazy archeological research that suggests it might be true. 

    It’s why Latin was the language of the educated.  They could communicate even if they came from different cultures and languages. Education was expensive and, therefore, treasured and protected.  Today, education, even at graduate school level, is cheap because of student  loans or, in other countries, free universities, and students spend their lives in useless studies that lead nowhere.

    It is one reason we have the climate change scam.  I think Eisenhower warned against government grants as income for academics.

    https://www.acsh.org/news/2017/12/26/eisenhowers-less-famous-warning-government-controlled-science-12219

    https://cei.org/content/eisenhower%E2%80%99s-second-farewell-warning

    Ike noted that the government’s need for ever more advanced defense technologies would mean a growing reliance on science and scientific advisors, noting:

    Akin to, and largely responsible for the sweeping changes in our industrial-military posture, has been the technological revolution during recent decades. . . . A steadily increasing share is conducted for, by, or at the direction of, the Federal government.

    That trend, he noted, might change the nature of the “free university, historically the fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery.” Partly because of the huge costs involved, a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity.” 

    • #13
  14. Tom Hall Member
    Tom Hall
    @TomHall

    JoelB (View Comment):

    And competition creates customer service.

    Fascinating perspective.

    One question @drbastiat – Who preyed on academics in times past?

     

    At one time in the not-so-distant past academics challenged each other (only sometimes in a predatory way) to approximate the sense of threat that kept them (more) honest. 

    • #14
  15. Henry Castaigne Member
    Henry Castaigne
    @HenryCastaigne

    Didymus Corridor (View Comment):

    JoelB (View Comment):

    And competition creates customer service.

    Fascinating perspective.

    One question @drbastiat – Who preyed on academics in times past?

    At one time in the not-so-distant past academics challenged each other (only sometimes in a predatory way) to approximate the sense of threat that kept them (more) honest.

    I feel like Luke the farm boy learning that the Jedi were actually real.

    • #15
  16. Full Size Tabby Member
    Full Size Tabby
    @FullSizeTabby

    Dr. Bastiat: In times of peace, countries break down into smaller and smaller factions, so they can do whatever they want. But in times of war, even countries that hate each other will form massive coalitions to defend themselves from an outside threat. They may have argued about things before. But in times of war, these previously antagonistic groups suddenly care about one another. They say that the enemy of your enemy is your friend. So one could argue that enemies create friends. Or rather, predators create compassion.

    Reminds me of an aspect of family dynamics that fascinates me. Brothers (generally) fight with each other. But, the instant a third party (i.e., neighbor boy) starts picking on one of the brothers, the other(s) will (generally) immediately side with his brother, no matter how hard they may have been fighting with each other just minutes earlier. 

    • #16
  17. Isaiah's Job Member
    Isaiah's Job
    @IsaiahsJob

    Ayn Rand was, in my view, clinically insane. But she understood this fundamental aspect of human nature.

    She was far less so before her doctors told her it was a-okay to stay up writing all night, every night on Benzedrin, Dexedrine, and Dexamyl. Coming of age during the Russian Revolution probably wasn’t helpful to her mental stability, either. 

    • #17
  18. BenMSYS Member
    BenMSYS
    @BenMSYS

    You’ve started a chain of thoughts and I thank you for it. Nice article.

    One question though. I’m in the first hundred pages of Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari. He mentions that deaths in the pre-Agricutural Danube valley show, by a small sampling size of a skeletons from various sites, that roughly 4.5% of people from the time died violently (page 60 if you are following along at home.) He contrasts the Danube with grave sites from other areas that hint at much higher rates of violence, but conveys as a larger point that violence in the ancient world was not evenly distributed. 

    I’ve always been of the opinion that, as you mentioned, for most of human history you were more likely to be murdered than die any other way. Harari seems to object to that notion. I’m not certain either way, but I found it interesting.

    • #18
  19. Doug Kimball Thatcher
    Doug Kimball
    @DougKimball

    So this is corollary to the old “absolute power corrupts absolutely” idea, so the way to counter this inevitability, you must dilute power, that is make every person sovereign, so no one accumulates enough power to become a menace.  Interesting idea.  I think you would find some agreement among our founders.  The problem with this theory, while it is true in part, is that in order to organize and maintain a civil society, people must cooperate and delegate authority (power), that is abbrogate their sovereignty at least in part, to make and enforce the rules of that civil society.  We can’t all have our own rules and our own dungeons.  Cooperation is required, and leadership.  And in a free society with property rights, we must accept the fact that some will accumulate large fortunes, and that wealth is also power, a means to influence, a freedom from toil and a means to corrupt.

    The key ingredient in the maintenance of a civil society is virtue.

    Virtue is the antithesis of corruption, the antidote.  Our founders knew that laws alone would not maintain a civil society.  We also needed virtue, an often fleeting and transient force.  That is why terms were limited, impeachments allowed and our governance built as a constantly churning force.  They understood the parcity of virtue and the inherrant corruption of man.

    The creatures you describe, those who find themselves so powerful and insulated from societal law or retribution that they can act with impunity, are ambitious and talented men without virtue, lacking in self-control, prone to corrupt impulses, selfish desires and arrogance.  They are simply, men.  You see, virtue is not necessarily an attribute required for “success” or “leadership.”  In fact, a lack of virtue is often an advantage in gaining political or economic power as it allows one to justify unethical, unlawful and immoral behavior.  So therein lies the problem.

    • #19
  20. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist
    @WesternChauvinist

    What Doug said and, in addition, suffering creates compassion. I know this from experience. Or, alternatively, it creates bitterness and anger and victimhood, which excuses almost any bad behavior and explains why our SJWs are so noxious. 

    And I hate to disagree with the good Doc again, but capitalism, contra the implication it is every man for himself, is the most altruistic of economic systems possible, so long as government acts to secure a level playing field rather than picking winners and losers. A free market entrepreneur must voluntarily produce a product which a consumer voluntarily chooses to purchase. It is in the entrepreneur’s interest to sell what the consumer wants or needs. Competition among entrepreneurs makes things better for the consumer in terms of quality and price. But, the entrepreneurs are competitors, not predators. There’s a difference. I disagree with the idea that “predators” have a positive role in society. 

    • #20
  21. MichaelKennedy Inactive
    MichaelKennedy
    @MichaelKennedy

    Doug Kimball (View Comment):

    So this is corollary to the old “absolute power corrupts absolutely” idea, so the way to counter this inevitability, you must dilute power, that is make every person sovereign, so no one accumulates enough power to become a menace. Interesting idea. I think you would find some agreement among our founders. The problem with this theory, while it is true in part, is that in order to organize and maintain a civil society, people must cooperate and delegate authority (power), that is abbrogate their sovereignty at least in part, to make and enforce the rules of that civil society. We can’t all have our own rules and our own dungeons. Cooperation is required, and leadership. And in a free society with property rights, we must accept the fact that some will accumulate large fortunes, and that wealth is also power, a means to influence, a freedom from toil and a means to corrupt.

    The key ingredient in the maintenance of a civil society is virtue.

    Virtue is the antithesis of corruption, the antidote. Our founders knew that laws alone would not maintain a civil society. We also needed virtue, an often fleeting and transient force. That is why terms were limited, impeachments allowed and our governance built as a constantly churning force. They understood the parcity of virtue and the inherrant corruption of man.

    The creatures you describe, those who find themselves so powerful and insulated from societal law or retribution that they can act with impunity, are ambitious and talented men without virtue, lacking in self-control, prone to corrupt impulses, selfish desires and arrogance. They are simply, men. You see, virtue is not necessarily an attribute required for “success” or “leadership.” In fact, a lack of virtue is often an advantage in gaining political or economic power as it allows one to justify unethical, unlawful and immoral behavior. So therein lies the problem.

    Another factor is the size and power of government.  Mark Twain could write, “No man’s life, liberty or property is safe while Congress is in session” and it was a joke then. It is not now.

    • #21
  22. Henry Castaigne Member
    Henry Castaigne
    @HenryCastaigne

    Humans seem to need to struggle.

     

    • #22
  23. Ilan Levine Member
    Ilan Levine
    @IlanLevine

    JoelB (View Comment):

    And competition creates customer service.

    Fascinating perspective.

    One question @drbastiat – Who preyed on academics in times past?

     

    When there was diversity of thought in universities, professors had to defend their ideas against attack. That must be what he was referring to.

    • #23
  24. Dr. Bastiat Member
    Dr. Bastiat
    @drbastiat

    Ilan Levine (View Comment):

    JoelB (View Comment):

    And competition creates customer service.

    Fascinating perspective.

    One question @drbastiat – Who preyed on academics in times past?

     

    When there was diversity of thought in universities, professors had to defend their ideas against attack. That must be what he was referring to.

    That’s exactly what I was referring to.  They debated, and attacked, each other.  That’s why they were there.

    Now, with independent thought essentially outlawed, things are getting strange, because they know they can act with impunity, as long as they say leftist things.

    • #24

Comments are closed because this post is more than six months old. Please write a new post if you would like to continue this conversation.