Oct 6, 2011

Egalitarian or Leaderless?

A recent study from the Stanford University purports to show something that it may not, in fact, show. This study, which was actually a computer simulation, was an attempt to discover why the modern world is composed overwhelmingly by 'stratified' societies rather than by 'egalitarian' societies.
The inherent biases of the researchers are prominently on display ranging from the blunt statement that any social structure that is not 'egalitarian' is selfish and wrong to the further statement by the lead researcher that,

"Inequalities in socioeconomic status are increasing sharply around the world. Understanding the causes and consequences of inequality and how to reduce it is one of the central challenges of our time."

While the King and his government abhor poverty, is 'reducing inequalities in socioeconomic status' truly "one of the central challenges of our time"? In the face of global economic instability, breakdowns in diplomatic relations, the continuance of Communist and Islamic terrorism, the growth in political power of criminal cartels, the surge in piracy, anti-Catholic and anti-Christian violence, the attempts to undermine key elements of societal stability, and the impending demographic crunch I think there are many more pressing concerns to face first.
Getting back to the study, we find within the introduction that there is an unproven assumption that hunter-gatherer societies were inherently egalitarian with no social structure at all. Of course, anthropological research of historical and existing hunter-gatherer societies find that most do, indeed, have some level of social structure. Interestingly, hunter-gatherer societies were (and are) incredibly violent with between 15% and 50% of all deaths being caused by murder or tribal warfare. There is some speculation that the less social structure there is, the more violent such societies were and are. While the editors of the Wikipedia entry on hunter-gatherers try to soften this picture of constant violence by arguing that the battles were prompted by 'grudges' rather than by a 'desire for resources' this just indicates that emotion ruled the killers.
The study ran a number of simulations with a number of variables to compare their models of egalitarian and stratified societies and they admit they were surprised by the results. If you dig through the numbers you find that egalitarian societies were much more stable than stratified societies - assuming, however, that there were no changes in the harvest or food yield year-to-year, women had a very narrow range of fertility, the only changes in population were natural birth and natural death (i.e., no violence at all, nor any accidents), etc. In other words, in Utopia egalitarian societies are more stable than stratified ones. By a rather narrow margin.
Interestingly enough, the model showed that stratified societies handled emergencies and crises much better, were stable over a much wider range of environmental and social factors, and did much better in any conditions approaching those of reality. An interesting takeway was that stratified societies received solid benefits from storing food while egalitarian societies didn't.

In the end this was, once again, a computer model founded upon the assumptions and biases of the researchers. But even within those parameters it shows that there are reasons that social structures exist; to add stability and to reduce violence. There is another reason,as well - leadership. Leaders do, indeed, place the welfare of their people over their own. They maintain a vision and a plan that stretches beyond the current crisis to prepare society for the next emergency, too.
We must also remember that acknowledging the utility and even the justice of social classes does not mean that nobles are 'better' than others, or that the poor are poor because they 'deserve to be poor'; all men and women are equal in their basic rights and all are capable of Heaven. Indeed, a noblle has more duties and responsibilities and will answer to God for failing to meet them! The goal of all Edanians, especially the leaders of the Kingdom, is to build a nation where a living wage and self-sufficiency are the beginnings of society, where charity is the the rule, and where the widow and orphan are cared for, the hungry are fed, and the naked are clothed.
What we as Edanians can learn from this is that the leaders of society, the Nobles and the King, must always adhere to the Knightly Virtues - prudence, justice, temperance, courage, faith, hope, charity, diligence, patience, chastity, and humility.
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