reverse dominance hierachies

To succeed in the world it is not enough to be stupid, you must also be well-mannered.


So we know that our leaders are idiots

1) We project idiocy on them and there is a fair amount of Dunning Krugar going on.
2) We really do seem to prefer to vote for idiots, think back to our prime minister or worse the American president
3) Astute politicians know our preferences and give us what we want (the ones who win anyway)

It seems to be a major flaw in representational democracy to the point of leading us to the apocalypse.


More usefully, we know that if you appear to be smarter than your peers, either by
1) working too hard
2) allowing peers to demonstrate their incompetence
OR worse
3) doing your work competently

a lot of people aren’t going to like you 🙂

Sometimes that is OK?
The ones that do like us are the “right” people.

From “Isogoria”

Why are our leaders so slightly above average?
Because, Eric Falkenstein explains, humans prefer reverse dominance hierarchies:

The gist of his idea is that a love of dominance was so bred into the human species (males above all) during their long, shared hominid past, that they developed an innate distaste of being dominated by others. Thus armed with a motive, and using the cooperative skills which language and their big brains conferred upon them, all the lesser males in a group who were in danger of being dominated by an alpha male, would form a ‘reverse dominance hierarchy’ to put the would-be tyrant in his place. In this way, dominance behavior, while not eliminated entirely, could be moderated and dispersed.

As the anthropologist Harold Schneider puts it: ‘all men seek to rule, but if they cannot, they seek to be equal’. Upstarts are put in their place in a variety of ways. For example, !Kung bushmen will mock the gift of someone, because they see gift giving as an attempt to signal superior status. In effect, they ridicule this act because they see it as a pretext (clever bushmen!). In more complex societies, groups of men actually kill the upstart for a crime conveniently determined. Thus, egalitarianism is an implication of this aversion to strong rulers.

So much political punditry is a farce because all these policy wonks parse the words of politicians as if they were The Oracle at Delphi. Any real depth in these remarks is like reading one’s anxieties into inkblots. If you read the text of any politician, the main feature is its blandness, the smarmy, recycled clichés that allow listeners to believe it means whatever they want it to. The president of the US, like the president of your senior class, or the general secretary of the UN, is someone chosen for his malleability and his simultaneous ability to appear non-malleable, as if we want him to be smart sounding but not smart. It’s tolerable once you realize its comical.

At the margin there are differences, sometimes greater than others, but one must admit that the main attribute of such ‘leaders’ is being ingratiating and non-threatening to the greatest number of people. Humans do not wish to have ‘rulers’ with high intelligence or education, because these people would be less controllable.

I think we can all agree that this explains why we‘re not in

See Also

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Skip to content