Who benefits from American Tribal Warfare?

Self-serving politicians, unions, and race hustlers benefit from stirring up racial tensions, according to Glenn Reynolds writing in USA Today:

This is a tragedy, but not a surprise. Tribalism is the default state of humanity: The tendency to defend our own tribe even when we think it’s wrong, and to attack other tribes even when they’re right, just because they’re other. Societies that give in to the temptations of tribalism — which are always present — wind up spending a lot of their energy on internal strife, and are prone to disintegrate into spectacular factionalism and infighting, often to the point of self-destruction.

Reynolds’ column is quite good, and short.  It is recommended that you read the whole thing.

Before the modern state came into existence humans lived in small bands of hunter gatherers. In that kind of social organization one’s loyalties were mainly to his own kin, and then to his tribe. These tribes were small, probably not more than about 35 individuals. Other tribes were often seen as dangerous enemies competing for scare resources.  [Although tribes tended to exchange women of child bearing age, which led to a rich diversity in the gene pool] Tribal warfare was a large and important part of that existence.  Perhaps in the primitive parts of our brains there is still a gene for tribalism, making it “the default state of humanity,” as Reynolds says.

America’s founding fathers were aware of this when they wrote the U.S. Constitution. In Federalist Nos. 9, 10 and 51 James Madison wrote about factions and warned that they would prove harmful to the security and prosperity of the Republic. Federalist No. 10 addresses the question of how to guard against factions, or groups of citizens, with interests contrary to the rights of others or the interests of the whole community.

Much more on the history and lingering tendency of human tribalism can be found in two interesting books I’m reading right now: Nicholas Wade, A Troublesome Inheritance: Genes, Race, and Human History; and Francis Fukuyama, The Origins of Political Order: From Prehuman Times to the French Revolution.

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