I’ve been saying for a long time that your conception of human nature is fundamental to your political views and what policies you promote. And incentive systems dictate what people will do. In this entry, Ian Walsh writes much more succinctly than I ever could on both these subjects.
The bigger problem is the push towards tying all human behaviour into one rule. “We just want to spread our genes.” “Everyone looks out for number one first.” “Everyone is selfish and greedy.” “Humans are inherently sinful due to the fall.” “Everyone seeks to increase their power.”
No. Humans have multiple drives, and how much of what drive is expressed in each of us is different and changes based on the context. Put people in a world where people are cruel to them, and they will become cruel. Put them in a world where people are kind, and most of them will become kind.
None of us is just one thing; each of us changes and changes quickly, from day to day, year to year, sometimes even minute to minute. We are capable of expressing cruelty sufficient to make demons weep and kindness that would awe an angel. Which we will do and when, depends so much on who we believe we are, how we are treated, and what we are told our nature is.
If we want the better angels of our nature to soar, we have to admit that they exist. If we insist that we are all devils, all selfish bastards, we will build our societies based on that expectation, and we will make our prophecies come true.