We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
The old folk wisdom that group closeness comes from opposition to others is not borne out by recent data. Nor is the old developmental story that we all start out as egoistic Hobbesians, who slowly learn to care for others. Affective neuroscience research on early-childhood bonding suggests that, as mammals, we probably start out as emotionally glued microcommunities (family and tribe) before we become autonomous ego-driven creatures. Favoritism, not egoism, is probably the primal value system.
In short, favoritism or bias toward your group is not intrinsically racist, sexist, or closed-minded. Privileging your tribe does not render you negative or bigoted toward those outside your tribe. And to top it off, we're now beginning to understand the flexible nature of our ingroup favoritism—it doesn't have to be carved along bloodlines, or race lines, or ethnic lines. Psychological experiments reveal a whole range of criteria for ingroup bias. For example, test subjects have been shown to award higher payoffs to arbitrary ingroups, like people who just happen to share the same birthday as the test subject. And ingroup bias can be demonstrably strong when subjects share allegiance to the same sports teams, and so on.
If our high-minded notions of retributive justice have roots in the lower emotions of revenge, then why should we be surprised if fairness has roots in envy? I have no illusions and feel entirely comfortable with the idea that fairness has origins in baser emotions like envy. But most egalitarians will find this repugnant, and damaging to their saintly and selfless version of fairness.
A good, provocative essay about human nature and our need for tribal affinities.