The Productivity of “Face” : Status Systems And Innovation

[P]areto, in his study of society, and Haight in his study of emotions, and perhaps Axelrod as well in his study of human cooperation, do not attribute to Status Signaling the importance which it deserves. Haight is far too interested in the egalitarian assumption. Pareto, in his analysis of Sentiments, misses status signals almost entirely.

Humans attempt to acquire and maintain status at all costs. We are acquisitive — in stimulation, experience and knowledge, in security and relationships, in opportunity, in mates and in Status. Because status increases the opportunity for mates, opportunities, security and relationships, stimulation, experience and knowledge.


As acquisitive creatures, humans, like most animals with memories, sense ‘more’. More calories, more opportunities, more information: more anything. The human concept of Beauty is almost synonymous with “plenty bounded by symmetry”. Beauty is “more”. Symmetrical perhaps. But more none the less.

Status is the human accounting system. We many need a vast number of conceptual and physical tools to delve into the sciences, and we need to evolve complex institutions in order to cooperate in large numbers. But every human being regardless of his intelligence is master accountant of the currency of status signals and their measurement. Without that talent we could not survive in society. People may differ in their ability to act on abstract knowledge in real time. however, they differ very little in their ability to detect and measure status signals.

Status signals help us select mates. But, almost as importantly, without status signals we would not know whose behaviors to imitate. For learning creatures, status symbols are an necessary property of knowledge transfer within and across generations.

If the human animal has any innate mastery whatsoever, it is in sensitivity to status signals.


“If the rule you followed brought you to this, of what use was the rule?”
– Cormac McCarthy, “No Country For Old Men”.

Of course, the answer is, that the rule has one or more uses, and one or more unintended consequences. In the west, the unintended consequences have been rapid change, an unhappy proletariat and class warfare that has led to the abandonment of our society by it’s upper classes, who, if unrewarded with status for their success, can find no reason to engage or acknowledge anyone in society. Therefore they have adopted the strategy that the purpose of attaining wealth is to exit participation in society and it’s market. Having elites abandon society is extremely detrimental for the propagation of knowledge and values. Elites, especially families that persist wealth over generations, are the most important people for the population to learn from in any society.


Each culture uses slightly different techniques of social management. The novelty of the west is that the fraternal model, and jealousy of one’s status and influence, led to the solution to the problem of politics: competition between opposing forces. Politics was not solved in other societies. I suspect that the Asian and Mystical model of hierarchy is the self-limiting barrier that those societies erected when they became large and centralized. And conversely, that the advantage of the western political system which at different times consists of debates, competing manors, feudal alliances, and the competition with the church, and the need to keep the east at bay, allowed the civilization that was actually youngest, to compete more effectively at producing and USING technical innovation to compete with other civilizations.

The West: “Draw Them Up” (Minority, Fraternal, Technical)
Organizing Principle: As a minority we need advanced technology to compete. Advanced technology is expensive. We need to enfranchise the best men and their money in order to compete.
Minority: Westerners are a minority. They combat both eastern decadence and local barbarism.
Fraternal: Men join together to form a fraternity who elects a general, president, king, or leader.
Technical: It is an action-oriented, real world, and technocratic system of utilitarian thought.
Value: It’s predicate is to ‘leave the world better for having altered it for the purpose of man’

The East: “Keep Society Stable” (Majority, Paternal, Equilibrial)
Organizing Principle:
Value: It’s predicate is ‘stability and conflict avoidance’

The Middle : “Keep Them Down” (Majority, Maternal, Magical)
It’s predicate is ‘

In the middle east, Magian (mystical) society, what we currently call Islam, one of the precepts is that all men must be treated with dignity. They do not need to learn dignity. THey do not need to demonstrate achievement. They are simply due it. This is a social strategy for downward distribution of, and dtermination of the TERMS by which status is determined and transferred.


For any society to create prosperity, the human tendency toward corruption (privatization) must be suppressed and re-channeled into some other behavior. THe division of labor, division of knowledge, and the flucity of knowlege and capital that allow nations to compete on the world stage against other natinos, cannot function without supresssion of corruption.

Property rights train societies in the habits and skills of anti-corruption. Property rights allow the brightest to make best use of resources for the purpose of increasing prodution, and decreasing prices. Property rights allow for the greatest fludity and adaptation. But the abuses of property rights which we call corrption, the abuse of oportunity costs which we also call corruption, and the abuse of foregone opportunity costs, which we faili to call corruption, and even certain social and moral principles which reallocate status without action, are a form of corruption.

A Romanian friend of mine tells a parable. In hell, there are demons guarding the pits. In each pit is a nation of people. They demons are standing around the jewish pit. A new demon walks over and says “why aren’t any of you guarding the Romanian pit?” To which the elder demon replies “If one jew gets out, he’ll help another, until very quickly they all escape the pit. If one Romanian tries to get out of the pit, all the others will drag him back down.”

Urban Black culture, and to some degree Hispanic culture, has an aspect of “keeping others in the pit”.

The purpose of islam is to keep everyone on earth in the pit.

That is the unintended consequence of Islam’s concept of dignity.

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