Me against my brothers; my brothers and me against my cousins; my cousins, my brothers, and me against strangers.“— Jonathan Haidt
Humans have always sought to reduce uncertainty. This innate drive to reduce risk motivated the earliest formations of clans, tribes, and other groups. Group mechanisms ensured a less volatile source of life’s necessities than that which atomized individuals and families could provide. The group provided greater physical security and helped their less fortunate members in times of crises.
People today continue their quest to achieve security and reduce uncertainty. We still engage in activities and rely on groups to help reduce the variability of income required to obtain life’s necessities and to protect acquired wealth. The group may be our employer, the government, or an insurance firm, but the concept is the same. Wealth itself has communal origins: many historians consider the first cultural manifestation of wealth to be the production of grains by incipient agrarian societies in amounts exceeding requirements of current consumption and the emergence of the stockpile.
In some ways, however, we are more vulnerable than our ancestors. The physical and economic security formerly provided by the tribe or extended family diminishes with industrialization. Our income-dependent, wealth-acquiring lifestyles render us and our families more vulnerable to societal and environmental changes over which we have little control. Contemporary individuals are in need of more formalized means to mitigate the adverse consequences of unemployment, loss of health, old age, death, lawsuits, and loss of wealth.”
— Charlie Munger
— Bill Bonner
Whether it was on a prehistoric African Savannah or in modern America, the instinct is the same.
But who’s “us”? And who’s “them”?
It’s hard to say… and probably not worth trying.
The instinct that worked so well in the private space of a small tribe is a catastrophe in the large, public space. It cuts off trade. It leads to wars, persecutions, and genocides.”