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Ep189 - The Biological Case for Democracy and Capitalism

  • Broadcast in Education
Mixed Mental Arts

Mixed Mental Arts


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Both Daron Acemoglu (MIT economist and co-author of Why Nations Fail) and Dacher Keltner (Berkeley psychologist and author of many books including Born to Be Good) have appeared on The Bryan Callen Show before. They both were amazing and that is reason enough to bring them back and put them on together to see what happens. But, wait. There's more. Because these two together have the power to do something unprecedented in human history. At least since Plato's Republic, humans have debated the best form of government. (Plato thought it was a "Philosopher King" aka give someone like Plato or Bryan absolute power but recognized that democracy was the least bad system.) However, this has long been an endless debate in which people make the case for the system of government they're biased towards and then dismiss every other opinion as biased. In fact, this highly predictable criticism was leveled at Daron Acemoglu and his co-author James Robinson in the wake of Why Nations Fail. Acemoglu and Robinson build a fantastic case for why politically and economically inclusive societies outperform societies that aren't in their book. However, as American academics at MIT and Harvard respectively, it is easy (if you're so inclined) to dismiss them as being biased towards democracy and capitalism. Acemoglu and Robinson have given the argument for politically and economically inclusive institutions new force but there is a way to make their argument irrefutable. And that ladies and gents is where Dacher Keltner comes in. Professor Keltner studies (among other things) the psychology of power. For a long time, humans have recognized as Lord Acton put it, "That absolute power corrupts absolutely." What was mere observation has now (thanks to Keltner and others) become established scientific fact. We can now no longer deny that power changes the way people think. They become less empathetic and more impulsive. This problem was naturally solved in hunter-gatherer societies by mechanisms