Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Brain Rewards Itself For Aggressive Behavior

The brain has a set of self-reward pathways that rewards itself for things it should do. Sex is one of those things, as is food. Now, it seems, aggression can be added to that list. This does not bode well for those who think we can just educate people not to be aggressive. It seems that to try to do so would be like trying to teach people not to want to have sex. Nor does this bode well for the anti-war crowd (not that I'm pro-war, mind you). This does suggest several things, however.

If the brain rewards itself for aggressive behavior, we need to not try to eliminate aggression (since that isn't an option), but rather channel it. Sports is a good way of doing this. Debate clubs can be another way. This could be a healthy way of channeling aggression and turning it into something productive. The same could be said to be true of participation in the market economy, where competition could be diverting aggression into productive areas. Perhaps the free market economy not only helps us turn greed into a social good (as Smith and Voltaire points out), but also turns aggression into the same social goods. We should thus beware of those ideologies that claim to eliminate aggression among people, as what they will really do is divert aggression into other outlets. If we don't understand this, those outlets can become even more destructive.

We are beginning to see how deeply, fundamentally wrong Leftist ideology is -- thanks in no small part to research in biology, evolution, and evolutionary psychology. If you combine an attempt to stifle aggression with the elimination of free markets and competition, what are you going to get? Aggression focused into less productive areas of life and people who will be more prone to accepting aggressive ideologies.
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