One of the biggest economic questions of our time; why do attempts to establish sustainable economic growth in Africa fail dismally while other countries have succeeded?

This is one of the biggest economic questions, if not the greatest, of our time. At the start of the 1950′s many African countries had higher GDP’s per person than most of Latin America or Asia, had more natural resources, less internal unrest and had been occupied for much shorter periods by colonists (Ethiopia for [...] [...]

Why do hunter gatherer groups make such ‘bad’ slaves?

Although difficult to prove, it seems that both the North-American Indians, the Aborigines and the bush men of South Africa (all hunter-gatherers) made extraordinary bad slaves, even though some agricultural groups living in the same regions did manage to adapt to the slave system. Often this meant these hunter gatherer groups were virtually wiped out [...] [...]

Why do men in low-level male dominated industries (e.g. mechanics) display pornography but men in high-level male dominated industries (e.g. management) keep it hidden?

In transport companies, farm floors, building sites and other male dominated low-level professions there is a great amount of displayed female nudity on walls and vehicles.Yet in management offices and generally at the top of hierarchical organisations, which are at least equally male dominated, I’ve never seen pornography openly displayed. Some may have had some [...] [...]

What are the long term consequences of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction?

We are now and then told by arms experts that it is increasingly easy to build devastating weapons. What are the long-term consequences for our survival and economic activity if it is indeed the case that small groups could wreak immense havoc on anyone else (let’s say, when 20 determined men could cause millions of [...] [...]

Why do so few people trust their thinking, instead following “their gut”?

Many philosophers, poets and thinkers have remarked that people trust what they feel rather than what they think. The great Afghan poet Rumi warned his fellow courtiers about this and Machiavelli simply that most people judge by appearances, which is due to mental weakness. Assuming that it’s true that the vast majority of people follow [...] [...]

Who do social scientists actually write for?

In the game known as journal publishing social scientists (economists, sociologists, psychologists, anthropologists, etc.) report on the research they and their colleagues have been engaged in. In pieces judged to be good by peers who do roughly similar research, they tell us their insights into how and why humans behave in a certain way in [...] [...]

Why is there mass support for policy emphasis on national economic growth amongst intellectuals, politicians, bureaucrats and social scientists?

This ‘growth fetish’ seems to be the main stumbling block in effective climate change treaties and effective cooperation on scarce natural resources (ocean fish; pollution). Nearly all countries pay continual lip-service to the idea that humanity as a whole should unite to overcome these problems by limiting its growth (a nice example are the ‘millennium [...] [...]

Why do Western societies feel guilty about past tragedies they aren’t personally responsible for?

In many Western countries, feelings of guilt can be observed when it concerns slavery, the holocaust, colonialism, and other tragedies. Guilt is usually appropriated by whites. The logic behind this is often strange to follow. Take for instance the guilt of Western European whites who live in countries heavily involved in the slave trade. That [...] [...]

Why is it so difficult to overcome the political power of small interest groups?

In many countries, significant inefficiencies are caused by the vested interests of small groups. The best-known example is the agricultural lobby in Europe and the US, who represent no more than 5% of the population, yet via their combined market distorting efforts deprive large slices of the rest of the world’s population from a fair [...] [...]

Why does idealism seem mostly concentrated amongst the middle class?

Again though hard empirical evidence for this “observation” is scant, as far as I can make out it is taken as the truth in most of political science. Most revolutionary leaders were middle class. Why them? An argument can be based on the assumption that individuals need to feel superior to others. The upper class [...] [...]