Prospect readers have their sayby Prospect / July 19, 2012 / Leave a comment
Published in August 2012 issue of Prospect Magazine
The path to growth
Both Paul Krugman and your panelists (“How to get growth” July) assume that fiscal stimulus is the only way to achieve growth. Yet, for the UK at least, a package of alternative measures would be more effective but lower risk. The government could tap the vast resources of sovereign wealth funds by offering them an attractive deal to invest in the country’s infrastructure: actual ownership, by means of 40-50 year leases, of the projects. This should be an acceptable concession; it would be a temporary mortgage on as yet non-existent structures. Second, an incentive should be provided for corporations to deploy their record level of cash by imposing a 10 per cent tax on it. Third, underwrite 20 per cent of the value of new loans to small businesses. The danger to the country’s already vulnerable AAA credit rating would be minimised. Fourth, if Scotland votes for independence in 2014 the English government should charge it for two services which it is currently assumed would be provided for free: guaranteeing Scotland’s national debt, and its defence.
David Crook, CEO Tail Wind Advisory & Management Ltd.
Edward Wilson responds
Richard Dawkins’s review of The Social Conquest of Earth (“The Descent of Edward Wilson,” May) makes little connection to the part he criticises. The central issue in my book, which he urges others not to read, is the replacement of inclusive fitness theory (kin selection theory: the evolution of characteristics which favour the survival of close relatives) by multilevel selection theory (that is, individual and group selection combined), with a new and major role assigned to group selection in the origin of advanced social behavior. The original formulation was made by Martin Nowak, Corina Tarnita, and myself in 2010 (in Nature 466: 1057–1062).
We demonstrated that while inclusive fitness theory sometimes works, its mathematical basis is unsound, and inclusive fitness itself is an unattainable phantom measure. Multilevel selection in contrast is mathematically sound, analytically clear, and works well for real cases—including human social behaviour. The science in our argument has, after 18 months, never been refuted or even seriously challenged—and certainly not by the archaic version of inclusive fitness from the 1970s recited by Professor Dawkins. While many have protested (incidentally, not including Steven Pinker and Robert Trivers, as Professor Dawkins claims), many others of equal competence are in favour of the replacement proposed. In any case, making such lists is futile. If science depended on rhetoric and polls, we would still be burning objects with phlogiston and navigating with geocentric maps.