A thermodynamic explanation of politics

This is something I wrote in late 2011. It is even more necessary today.  Every “side” in politics fears political change because  politics is a winner take all sport. That gets us at each other’s throats. A better understanding of  the roots of politics might help. And note – the city/country division in politics is a very old one.  Depraved city dwellers is an old story. As is country bumpkins. Or these days “deplorables”.


I found a really interesting article on how thermodynamics affects political persuasion. Conservatives and Liberals.

The Theory of Island Biogeography is a theory of species population distribution. There are major evolutionary implications in the ability of a species to distribute itself across space and time, not to mention the curious thermodynamics associated with this distribution. That is, species that can modulate their thermodynamic properties in response to environmental changes dramatically increase their probability of survival. In humans, there is no better example of thermodynamic modulation than conservatism and liberalism.

One of the more prominent biogeographic variations between conservatives and liberals is population density. The conservative-liberal asymmetries in population density are easily seen in the voting patterns of urban, suburban, and rural environments. As a general rule, the greater the population density, the more liberal the population. In the 2004 US Presidential Election, the Democratic candidate, John Kerry, won every city with a population over 500,000. This same pattern was repeated in 2008 with Barack Obama.

The mystical and long-standing relationship between liberalism and urbanism is common across all cultures, and raises several interesting questions: is this a self-selection process, whereby the conservatives flee to the suburbs leaving the big cities to the liberals; or, does urban life liberalize people? There is certainly much evidence for the self-selection effect, but we also believe that high-density living tends to liberalize people, although the evidence is less clear.

I had an interesting discussion with the author. I said that it was interesting that reproduction is lower in cities than in lower density areas. He said that was true of animal studies and seemed to be true for humans but it was not well researched in humans.

Here is an interesting bit:

In their groundbreaking study of island biogeography, M&W noted some interesting trends that apply directly to the study of political-religious disposition. First, a species that is able to establish populations on more than one island in an archipelago greatly reduces the risk of extinction. At first blush, this seems to be irrelevant to the study of conservatives and liberals. However, it is founded upon two behaviors that improve species viability: the ability to increase habitat range; and the ability to create genetic diversity. In other words, increase the habitat and genetic ranges, and increase the survival probability of a species, not to mention the acceleration in the rate of evolutionary change. From our information gathered so far, we believe that conservatives increase habitat range to a greater extent than liberals, and liberals increase genetic diversity to a greater extent than conservatives. Interestingly, conservatives and liberals, at opposite ends of the political spectrum, seem to be at the center of the survivability of the human species.

There is much more and it is one of the most interesting things I have read in a long time. Need I say that you ought to read it too?

What is my conclusion relative to politics? Both political parties are right about the proper way to live. In their ecological niches. If we wanted to help people prosper where ever they live we would have to change the geographical distribution of borders. But that might require a change to a City State model. Tough when things are already intermixed. How to square that circle? A libertarian model of politics would  work. That is to say the government imposes the very minimum of social rules so that people can best live according to their particular geographical niche.

A book that covers the idea that political and technical change is geography specific from a somewhat different perspective is Geography and Revolution.


Written by Guest Submission


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