This was typical small village behavior in Nordics less than 100 years ago. When your survival depends on the village coming to your help when you are in trouble, you pay for it by giving up some freedoms. Social control is used to keep everyone in line.
Economic historians have noticed how egalitarian small village farming limited the innovation in agriculture. You could not adopt new crop or radical new technology easily unless everybody was on board even if everyone was farming their own piece of land (you need to come together for investments, risk sharing and emergency work). In contrast, independent big landowner changing something was just one man doing the decision.
What is the best socioeconomic system depends on the circumstances. For long term survival purposes conservative, cohesive and close willage/tribe and demand sharing/palace economy is probably the best.
But you then pick out a specific socioeconomic system as "probably the best" without specifying those circumstances - unless you mean "long term survival" to be those circumstances? If so, survival of what? Village/tribe systems? The problem seems circular, put this way. I'd even suggest that circularity is the root of the uncertainty in your "probably."
I hope I don't sound like I'm picking a fight; my reaction is just what springs to mind, and you're touching on a topic I find important.
Maybe I should have been more specific. In a environment where survival is uncertain survival values and system that maximizes survival is the best. Innovation and individuality succeed in a systems where basics are covered and system can be trusted to work.
Example of wrong system: preppers with single family bunkers loaded with weapons and food. If the society collapses the best way to guarantee your survival is to join into tight group with shared values who take care of their own (like Amish). in Mad Max situations conservative evangelical communities with medieval values would wipe the floor with roaming biker gangs.
I must say I'm very fond of this hypothetical amish vs. biker gangs throwdown.
Yes, just as life must bend to the contours of the environment it inhabits or otherwise perish, and there are a lot of permutations to the environment so life has evolved in so many ways, the best socioeconomic system is the one that serves the unique needs of a population. Whether it's encouraging social cohesion, resource sharing, trade, resource management, religion etc. it needs to be considerate of the people it binds.
The right tool for the job.
This seems to have the same purpose as the Law of Jante we have in the Nordic countries.
It is rather interesting that it is more often interpreted as a national characteristic - something uniquely Scandinavian - than a characteristic of the lower classes, which was the intention of the author.
As somebody from the UK it's strange that I find a certain source of solace from this kind of culture even though practically it doesn't seem to make sense to dislike those who are succesful.
Except even in this case, others must be aware of the person getting things done. If you managed to do a lot of work and people literally didn't notice or attributed the work to someone else, you won't be respected by them. So what ends up earning the most respect is the ability to spread knowing of your accomplishments without appearing like you are boasting about your accomplishments. That said, in such a system the people likely think they are valuing the person quietly getting things done, ignorant of what they actually value.
As someone who have lived in a few countries and visited many more, I think the law of jante is a description of the social dynamics of scandinavian societies much more than of anywhere else (Denmark much more than Sweden)
There are other dynamics with somewhat similar results - a French friend told me that 10 years ago, starting your own company in France was the thing you did after you failed to get a job delivering the mail - leading to very little entrepreneurship - though he said it is changing in the last 5 years.
I have visited them and indeed I find a certain split between my experience of people's cultures and values say in the south of france and italy than I do in germany or russia.
I'm not sure if I really want to make the conjecture that there are two kinds of societies but I feel that on this issue it would certainly seem that way.
Does that mean they're useful in modern society? Not necessarily.
Being anxious might have helped my ancestors prepare for unexpected famines. Being aggressive might have helped them lock down the resources they needed to survive.
Do those emotions help me as an adult software engineer in Houston? Heck no. Anxiety and aggression just get in the way of a well-lived life.
I think you're not really in touch and being honest with yourself if you don't think both aggression and anxiety play a crucial role in your life. Or maybe you just have different definitions of those words than I do.
I've been trying very hard to break out of this cycle and can tell you first hand it's not in anyway beneficial or pleasant and is actually very very destructive.
I see your grandparent may have something I've noticed is a common misconception, not just in the analysis of the value of human traits, but also in the analysis of modules in software, and other engineering projects.
This misconception boils down to believing that just because a trait/emotion/module is not being used for the "reason" it was originally intended (scare quotes to prevent implied creator relationship to evolution) that the trait/emotion/module is unusable, or bad.
That's an interesting viewpoint, usually coming from people who believe that their world is governed by fairness. I'm not sure that's reflected in reality.
Sometimes aggression is constructive or useful in situations like negotiating. Sometimes it is counterproductive and considered harmful.
What I took away from the OP is that we cannot blindly act on our emotions - that having an intermediate, self-reflective and self-questioning step in how we act and think is vital in order to be happy and successful in the world in which we live.
And, of course, this includes questioning the self-questioning. Sometimes it's the wrong time to question, and it is the right time to act on unfettered emotion.
The question is, when? ;)
For instance, rather than worry constantly about impending doom you can just calmly go about preparing for worst case circumstances. Same result -- perhaps a better result -- and far less suffering.
We should all seek to calmly and rationally seek the best interests of ourselves and people around us, without having to be paralyzed by fear, anxiety and other negative emotions.
All motive lies with emotion and feeling. Who gets fat without taste buds?
Anxiety instills fear in the consequences of bad code being released into the wild.
Aggression allows speaking your mind when others around do not meet the standards you espouse.
Such things remind me all too often of the fix point combinator and what not. But I'm anxious to miss the point, because at some point logical reasoning doesn't work anymore and leads into a trap, e.g. in case of greed.
Hard times create strong men,
Strong men create good times,
Good times create weak men,
Weak men create hard times.
Anxiety makes you consider consequences of your choices and take action based on it.
Aggression helps you fight for what you think is important.
There is a lot of this in the West too, although to a lesser degree and in a less open way. Its one of those ancient behaviors and systems of values that we keep applying today that don't make much sense anymore.
We don't live in small villages anymore, doing hunter-gathering or communal agriculture.
In today's society, everyone should feel free to try new things, learn and achieve their full potential, without having to deal with this constant social pressure that leads us to be as average as possible, in order to avoid standing out from the group and get punished for that.
It's not clear if this pull to be as average as possible is something embedded in our genes or if its purely cultural.
Even among crabs (where the wikipedia page doesn't provide source to back up its claims as to the crab's intent), pulling another crab down creates a stepping stone opportunity for another crab to climb out. In the absence of clear trusting coordination (like you see in army ants, ignoring the fact that many ants sacrifice their lives toward a goal), crab-bucket fighting maximizes individual survival chance.
Or it could be beneficial. It goes both ways. Putting a talented person in the position to succeed can create enormous value for a lot of people, not just themself.
When I see someone bought a new car, I will pray “I hope his car is useful and he can benefit from it, I hope that someday I will have a car like his or even better”.
While it might be hard in practice, so far it helped me stay positive to everyone.
Both could be translated as enviousness but have a slightly different meanings. While Missgunst is definitely negative and maybe even destructive, Neid does not need to be negative and can have the meaning like in the example you gave.
In Swedish, envy is green (grön av avund), but jealousy is black (svartsjuk).
English has "emulous", mentioned upthread, and also "admiration" and "inspiration".
Example: do you wish you had a beautiful, new, fast car like your acquaintance; or do you wish they had an accident and lost their car (and/or got injured while in it)?
Helmut Schoeck wrote a great treatise on the subject of Envy. 
We can only ever trick ourselves into believing we truly have nothing.
In a way a broken engine tricks itself into not working. “You’re 300HP, just start, dude!”
I think depression, suicide, and much of the time addiction are clear signs that humans can break and not have the strength to 'turn back', at least not with a ton of help.
They may feel very very far from making the choice to ask for help, but a choice it remains and it never goes away. Asking for help from God in these situations and opening your heart to the possibility of salvation can be extremely powerful. I've met people with severe, debilitating depression that immediately lifted upon setting foot in a church, never to return. It's a lot more common than you'd think. The religious angle should not be overlooked.
Nobody is so broken that they can't be fixed.
Fact is that ‘choice’ is obviously a part of problem itself, not something you ‘just’ do or do not. Look, you can likewise say that you know people who chose to go to long vacation, get/drop a family, buy something, get happy with it – and they never looked back. Religion is not special in this regard, because you have to choose it before it helps. But some people can’t choose, because they are broken, like an engine.
If what you're saying is as black and white as you put it, it means cult members, those severely abused in relationships, the psychological tortured, severely addicted, and so on ultimately only have themselves to blame. I'd say that is more dehumanizing than the alternative.
Of course those are extreme examples, and of course in all of those cases some have been able to make choices. But I find it callous and presumptuous to argue that those who didn't choose to be helped somehow just... chose not to choose? didn't try hard enough?
In reality choice is a murky concept. Philosophical debates about free will aside, practically speaking the most generous and human assumption is that depending on all sorts of factors, we have various degrees of choice. And sometimes the best help we can give people is to, with as much respect and wisdom as possible, choose for them.
Going even further, I find the whole idea of independent choice rather murky. I think we have consciousness, and experience a degree of choice, and avoiding learned helplessness is important. But so much of what I consider 'me', is so obviously strongly affected by those around me who shape and shaped me, that I cannot help but conclude that I'm not even remotely a product of my own choices in more ways than I'd like to admit. And that's not even getting into the whole issue of the subconscious playing a significant role in much of what I do!
The example most commonly cited as a revolution of inequality is the French Revolution, yet the people did not protest because the ruling class enjoyed feasts of wine and meat while they ate grain and water, as had been the case since time immemorial. It happened because the masses were required to pay ever larger taxes to subsidize a government that was increasingly in debt with very little to show for it, all because of the actions of those that lived in luxury. And this happened at the same time that famine was sweeping the nation magnifying the absurdity of it all. Put another way, those in power were destroying their nation and demanding the poor pay for their failures. That's not about inequality, it's about unfairness.
And I think this generalizes to the entire article. People do not generally seem to care about equality -- they care about fairness. The Waltons and Elon Musk are both billionaires, but they are perceived in vastly different ways. Imagine if we lived exactly as we do today, yet the vast majority of wealthy obtained their wealth and behaved in a fashion similar to the Waltons. The stability of this nation would be quite different.
How can you possibly claim it's fair if those 1000 all started with different opportunities, different abilities, and different privileges?
And this is the standard for life. In most things just putting in the blood, sweat, and tears is enough to end up well above average - and that's well more than what's needed to succeed. And this gets even nicer in real life since it's not just a race. There are a practically unlimited number of fields enabling people to try whatever they want and aim to put their unique characteristics to optimal usage letting them be the one with the 'homefield advantage.'
Well, no, the food crises immediately preceding the revolution meant that the people weren't even getting their expected grain and water. But the bourgeoisie (a class that was the middle class in the pre-capitalist economy of the time and which hadn't really existed “since time immemorial”) wasn't the target of the Revolution, indeed, while the masses and their discontent were powering it, the bourgeoisie was largely leading the Revolution.
Seems to me, a lot of people in modern society still excercise this ritual.
Perhaps the insulting was ritual in the sense that an airport check-in person asks if you packed your own bag today. They're listening to the tone of your reply rather than the words. Similarly, if the insulters of the successful hunter are truly envious then there will be a different tone to their insults. Then a problem is exposed. Note that this ritual isn't encouraging envy (which is a harmful emotion). Rather it is helping to expose any envy that may have arisen, in a safe manner.
The flipside is that some people try to arouse envy in others. In modern times by conspicuous consumption, bling, expensive shoes, super-yachts, bragging on social media, etc. Such people deserve to be mocked until they've updated their idea of success.
Yet we are morally obliged to differentiate between them and those who've made original contributions: artists, inventors, innovators, problem-solvers and so on. Our survival in the long term actually depends on the latter group. After all we shouldn't be aiming to thrive for an 'extraordinarily long period of time', but indefinitely, just as the Ju/’hoansi would no doubt have preferred to.
Are you sure that's not just checking to see if honest innocent victims might have been conned by a criminal?
It depends on what the goal is. If the goal is to produce abnormal outsized returns: they likely come from standing out. Being somewhat contrarian against the tribe helps with finding new pastures - infact it might be the only way.
If the goal is to maximize egalitarianism, which is a worth-while goal, then having mimetic/conforming attitudes would be a virtue. Envy is a by-product of our mimetic desires.
Feeling envious for someone who has purchased a new house, a new car or established a new business would make you strive to have one for yourself would be regarded as a positive influence of envy.
Virtues of a software developer:
1. Lazyness. Lazyness is the first step towards efficiency. Why was the dishwasher invented?
2. Impatience. Impatience is the first step towards performance optimization.
3. Being Anti Social. This allows hyper focus.
4. Pride. The desire to strive ever harder for better code, simplicity, maintainability, more features, etc.
I honestly don't know where you're going with this and I'm not even trying to malign you.
This is an assumption, and I think it is manifestly not always true. Have you ever benefited from some piece of regulatory unfairness, which was set up without your knowledge or consent (possibly before you were even born)? For example, if you use services that are partly or fully paid for by taxes, are you aware of exactly where all the tax money comes from, and who is taxed more than you think is fair and who is taxed less? (I'll take it as a given that no one thinks the tax code is totally fair, though people disagree on what would be fair.)
While some would never have a thought of harming another over perceived better off neighbor, most would take action as some form of irrational justice. And if they were found out or caught, the 'actual' justice would never be forgiven, despite all this being their own doing.
Many leave this type of village environment for different cultures and more maturity.
I'm of the opinion that egalitarianism is not a desirable outcome. Hierarchies (but not necessarily ultra-hierarchies as I like to call them) are much more preferable and have demonstrated to be the better pick for humanity.
Better in what way? The Ju/’hoansi have lived in this egalitarian society for some 200k yrs. It has obviously served them quite well.
 Original article
Empirialism, dispite all of it’s atrocities, have resulted in more stable and peaceful periods during which cultural and technological progress is made.
Personally, I believe it might be better to have a single source of coercion, which is transparent and democratically scrutinized, than to have those dispersed in order to diffuse influence. Many nowadays will argue for more distributed government, taking hints from the apparent successes of “coopetition” in the marketplace. But that space was carefully constructed over millenia of trail and error by governing bureaucracies. It works well because there’s a leviathan that took away every individual’s opportunity for coercive action AND instituted a justice system to distribute justice in a controlled fashion. It also enforces property rights so you don’t end up with robberies out of spite. Without it you get people distributing justice among themselves, resulting in bloody family feuds and cycles of revenge killings.
I feel people arguing for anarchism (and I like anarchism in theory) typically do not seem to appreciate just how violent most of human history has been before highly centralized state and justice systems.
Furthermore, there's no reason to assume that a less centralized, less coercive approach might not be the next step in our 'progress'. Our technological developments, among other things, might make that more possible.
(I think that any such change would might not work very well if implemented revolutionary-style though, and I'm unsure what other approach might work)
Just how violent was it? This seems a difficult assertion to make. The modern state arose at some point in the 15th century; I don't recall the Renaissance being that much more peaceful than Medieval times in Europe.
Better in the way that western civilization (with America leading the way) has been built on hierarchies. People in the States don't even realize how good they have it there because of this fact alone. Many egalitarian models have been attempted elsewhere and failed terribly only leading to mass deaths or eating out of the garbage can as is the case in Venezuela. Majority of the attempts at egalitarianism (if not all) are dehumanizing at best and murderous at worst.
A lot of people would want to come to America - myself included - but I've come to detest the perils of illegal immigration as is the case in my country where we have our own version of the same problem being faced by America with illegal aliens pouring in in droves. Luckily we have strong borders and Americans should also be thankful for a president that cares about these issues and is willing to take the heat for it.
America for example invented neither the scientific process, nor the enlightenment, nor democracy, nor philosophy, and so on. Even the legal system is based on ole Roman traditions.
If you mean it's more prosperous, then yes. Though places like the nordic countries and Switzerland would beg to differ, at least on average.
And what America did offer wasn't because of "hierarchies". If anything America offered individualism, and being more independent. And it was way more egalitarian before inequality rose after the 80s.
I don't think that exhaust the causes. Not to mention it borders on the racist (the lazy self-selected breed of the poor, and the high achievers smart rich).
Instead, if you people have more individual liberty, they'll be less likely to work together and stop politicians and corporations from stomping on them.
Add grubby moguls that stop at nothing (the never ending legacy of the robber-baron) and have politicians, media, and judges in their pockets, and you're going to get rising inequality.
Despite that that is an incorrect statement (it has been addressed by coldtea's comment), my original question tried to hint towards a wider view. It's not as simple as saying western civilization is better. Is it better for the individual? How? Is it better for humanity? How? Is it better because we have cars, computers, airplanes and what not? Would all humans have starved to death without it? And then what is the cost of western civilization? Does it carry those costs? After all, hierarchical systems have stood for some of the worst atrocities in both historic and more modern times. When a ruler can send millions to war with some other ruler because he (let's be honest it's mostly a he) has the power over "his" people.
Western civilization is what we have and know but what is to say that the world couldn't have been in a better place if history had taken some other turns?
Scapegoating is an age-old tactic used by the powerful and there's tons of evidence that inequality on the level seen in the US is not a good thing. On the other hand, the evidence that immigration is terrible and that stronger elements of socialism (at least Europe-style) don't work is quite lacking.
I'm not saying we should go for full on state socialism USSR-style, but there's a lot in between.
"filthy-rich class (that your president represents)" - If you mean he represents the rich because he used similar methods to get rich in the past, okay - like a token symbol? IF you mean he represents them in his current government role, I think you are wrong. I think many of his policies are very contradictory to what the wealthy wanted. From replacing O-care to the illegal immigration enforcement, these issues are things most of the wealthy have been against from what I understand.
Scapegoating as a tactic for either side is annoying.
When you say "evidence that immigration is terrible", please understand some in the US are rallying for complete open borders, most are saying legal immigration is not terrible, it's good for the country, and we want the process to be better. A small few are against immigration, however it appears that certain media outlets and those who want to change the course of democrat vs republican want people to think that enforcing the laws that have been on the books for years means people are evil, racist, and want no one to enter the country.
Both sides are saying different things about the same thing. It appears the republicans / conservatives are listening the to media and social justice warriors, hearing what they are saying.
Stronger elements of socialism? Europe style? What do you mean? Work or don't work, we've tried more and less feed stamps, rent vouchers, healthcare things for the whole country and state by state these things have varied and swung a bit one way and then the other. So yes there is a lot in between.
I don't think most of those things are going to make much difference with the rich vs poor actually. I do envy some of the programs I have read about in the UK and other countries that are close, but the populations here are very different, and country wide things are major.
One of the things that actually is working to put pressure on wealthy to put more money in the pockets of the lower and middle class is limiting the amount of readily available people who will work and live illegally.
You say "your president" and then later say "we should go for" - so I am confused as to whether you are outside the US or in it.
There are many pieces to these complex issues, what works in Detroit is not going to work in Burbank. Scapegoating a person or class you don't like is not helping to put facts on the table, just appealing to emotions and encouraging others to buy into the group feels.
So, just be aware that what we're seeing in this article is a pro-socialist/-communist stance, broadly dressed up in anthropological mythos in order to make a political point, which seems to be "envy is a moderator of inequality", whereas there is a big point missed: not being envious of anyone, equalises everyone.
I read it as an evolutionary biology/psychology explaination for much of human political sentiment. It’s well established that hunter gatherer tribes (the predominant mode during most of human evolution) are very egalitarian.
Science and studies can be utilized to skew towards a specific and deliberate narrative.
Somewhat tangentially, this is why science and conservatism have always had a tumultuous relationship. Most scientists are curious by their very nature whereas conservatism requires that status quo be observed and if questions must be asked then it has to be, as Burke alluded to, in small digestible portions. Revolutions are typically uncalled for and most of the time things tend to degenerate into worse conditions than what was being fought against initially. Case in point, a country that is on my continent - Libya. Things are worse now than under the revolutionarily deposed Muammar.
This is a very 1st world sentiment. If you live on less than $1/day, you are not equalized even if you're too hungry to feel any envy.
I don't agree, you can ask for redistribution so the weakest in society are helped.
The more people can fully help themselves, the less I have to help them, the more of my production I get to keep.
The increased standards of living of all people, increases the potential for all. More wealth in the economy, more capital that can be invested, more income, more potential jobs.
Speaking simplistically, if my neighbor is doing better, now we can trade. Whereas perhaps he previously, in poverty, could not afford to trade with me. I just gained a new customer and perhaps he can fulfill a demand I have the other direction.
The human mind in general is extraordinary when taken to its potential. Even people with median IQs are capable of tremendous productivity and contribution when they're unleashed.
Violent crime in the US has declined dramatically at exactly the same time the US has dramatically expanded its welfare state. It's highly unlikely that's a coincidence (or solely to be chalked up to removing lead from the environment). People that are less desperate are going to be less violent, they will commit fewer crimes, it will produce a safer society.
At the far end of the scale, I dramatically benefit from there being more Einsteins, not less. I benefit from more Edisons and Teslas, not less. A stronger society ensures that less Teslas die in childhood, and reach their full potential rather than otherwise languishing.
How many great inventors were lost in Mao's genocides and famines? Or otherwise languished in 40 years of extreme, forced poverty with minimal education and sustenance? Plausibly a lot.
The higher the income of the bottom ~2/3, the less welfare they require, the lower taxes can be, and the more they can net contribute to society. The lower taxes are, the more capital becomes available in the private sector to save and invest. As an example, if you considerably move up the incomes of the people in the 30% directly below the median (not the bottom 20%), then they require less of the tax revenue to go to them for social welfare purposes, and they can become greater net contributors to helping the 20% at the very bottom (whether through paying taxes or charity).
At national levels, this has enabled for example the dramatic reduction in aid that needs to go to a country like China or South Korea, as they've climbed out of poverty and into greater prosperity. That aid can now go to the other remaining poor nations, and those countries like China & South Korea can become considerable net contributors to global aid. The whole process dramatically accelerates in a virtuous cycle. The exact same concept applies within a country as well, when it comes to lifting people out of poverty such that less aid needs to go to them and that those people can become net contributors.
What does that have to do with social ownership of the means of production??
I enjoy chess, which thrived during the soviet era. Consequently, I've found myself listening to and on occasion chatting with countless individuals who lived through these times. Even given the great privilege players were granted of the times (yeah, everybody is equal in #ism - some just more so than others), it is absolutely phenomenal to hear how abysmal it all was. These stories invariably come up, particularly given the complete ignorance of many on the topic today.
One anecdote that stuck with me was Peter Svidler  recalling how much of a shift in culture there was when Donald Duck made its way to Russia. How the people, even grown men, became deeply fond of it - not as a character, but as a symbol of the opening of culture and the freedom of the people. It's a world that's even difficult to imagine, but I think that through an abundance of tales one can begin to at least somewhat grasp the society that their communism created, and more generally that communism seems to inherently create - as one might note the parallels between the Bolshevik Revolution, China's Great Leap Forward, and the numerous smaller tales that all seem to effect the same catastrophic result.
 - http://johndclare.net/Russ12_Jokes.htm
 - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Svidler
This meant that those who were successful hunter gatherers didn't start believing they were superior or more deserving than their fellow tribesmen:
> just as the humility shown by good hunters and others with something to brag about was ascribed to “embarrassment.”
The article goes on to say how this behaviour has discouraged members of this group taking on higher management and political roles, which mean this community are under-represented on a national level, and also still very poor.
I found it a thought-provoking article. I seem to remember a time when the rich I met were somewhat embarrassed about their money, whereas I feel like at the moment people seem to be showing off their wealth a lot more. But maybe that is more to do with my social circles, or the facebook effect, or a different time in my life.
Personally, I find envy to be a very toxic emotion, which sways me and others to make life-choices that don't necessarily increase our happiness. I find I'm starting to avoid people who seem to care too much about their own and other's financial (and other) types of achievement.
Maybe I should take a leaf from the Ju/Hoansi and start insulting people's bragging rights. 'My! That is a shit bathroom you've got! And to think you spent that much...'