Zoologists study this concept called the Evolutionary Stable Strategy (ESS). It turns out that, through evolution, an animal population will adopt a survival strategy that will always be immune from encroachment from another strategy. For instance, if we classified fighting strategies in polar bears as either a hawk or a dove, then we could calculate how many polar bears will attack without provocation (hawk) and how many will not attack unless attacked (dove). If at any time random variations cause this ratio to be disturbed, competition among resources will return the ratio to the “stable” strategy. It’s a question of optimality and mathematicians can calculate “ESS ratios” without even observing an animal population.
Looking through the ESS prism, we can explain a lot about politics in this country. Every organism has two innate goals: to survive and to reproduce their genes. Birds do this by finding worms and making nests, politicians achieve this by getting re-elected. A fundamental difference between birds and politicians is that politicians can shape the environment they operate in (what I’ll call “the political playing field”), while birds cannot and are beholden to the whims of nature. In this way, politicians can assure a stable playing field at our detriment. Let’s see why evolutionists are so upset at the state of American politics, “intelligent design” controversy aside.
For starters, the political playing field is rigged for two dominant parties crowding out potential competitors. This doesn’t stem from the fact we are only able to think in “Red or Blue” terms, though many don’t bother thinking beyond them. Rather, the roots lie in the plurality system of our electoral college. We don’t do runoffs in the US, so the greatest voter-getter wins. Without this condition candidates like Ralph Nader or even Winnie the Pooh might have a shot at winning, because a vote for them wouldn’t be “wasted.” If they were to lose we could then vote for our “safety” candidate in a run-off.
Shocks to our environment will also contribute to this polarization.
Terrorist attacks, economic recessions or political scandals polarize the playing field. Third, voices that advocate alternate innovative and unexplored solutions are crowded out in the noise. Irrationality dominates. As the latest Nobel-prize winner in economics reminded us, more people die per year in their bathtubs than from terror attacks.
Yet, no mainstream politician will argue we face a more important threat. This irrationality and lack of independent thought brings out the best of these modern-day paradoxes.
In the last election a whopping 98 percent of congressmen were re-elected.
That figure should give you pause and is a testament to the extent American politicians have achieved their ESS. For a country that has a natural distrust of politicians and bureaucracy we should realize its implications. Not too long in the future our country’s problems will require solutions that can be justified without resorting to the shallow moral platitudes we’ve become accustomed to.