Tuesday, June 19, 2012


Updated July 24, 2015

The human nature question is, I believe, absolutely pivotal to the study of politics and economics. Very often, I hear my students say that competitiveness and aggression combined with profit making, are driven by biological urges. But biological studies are positing another scenario.

There is an 'altruistic gene' according to biologists:

"...researchers discovered that people with either of two of the variations of the COMT gene (called the Val/Val and Val/Met variations) donated twice as much money to the charity as people with the other variation (called Met/Met), regardless of their gender. In fact, more than 20 percent of the people with the altruistic variations donated all of their money.

In the general population, the number of people with the altruistic variations of the COMT gene varies by ethnicity, says study author Christian Montag, a psychologist at the University of Bonn. Among Caucasians, the ethnicity of all the participants in this particular study, roughly 75 percent carry one of the two altruistic variations: 25 percent carry the val/val, 50 percent carry the val/met, and 25 percent carry the met/met variant.

While researchers have had evidence for years that altruistic behavior is at least partly influenced by genetics, that evidence has come mainly from studies of twins reporting how altruistic they are, which have found that people with identical genetic material show similar patterns of altruism. This is the first study to link altruism to a specific gene.

Psychologist Sebastian Markett, a study co-author also at the University of Bonn, says the results show how a single genetic mutation can have a large effect on our behavior. But he believes science still has much to learn about the genetics of altruism.

'There must be more genes which influence altruistic behavior whose association has not been discovered yet,” he says. “Our future objective will be to identify all of those genes and how they interact with each other to eventually put a pretty complicated puzzle together—with the goal to understand who we are and why we are how we are.'"

But...the richer you get, the more selfish you are! See this

"Lower-class” individuals—i.e., folks without much money or education—demonstrate more compassion and empathy than their wealthy counterparts, according to a series of psychological studies".

Read more: http://moneyland.time.com/2011/08/12/study-the-rich-really-are-more-selfish/#ixzz1yFoStV91

A new book, WEALTH SECRETS OF THE 1 % by economist Sam Wilkin, posits the very wealthy are more likely to skirt the law by using certain mechanisms that. "involve 'some sort of scheme for defeating the forces of market competition'. Many involve legal manoeuvrings or the exercising of political influence.I haven't read the book so I can't say what methodology Wilkin used to arrive at this conclusion.

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