Lin’s recipe for success (see E&E VII) might seem obvious in retrospect, but it is hard to categorize as liberal, conservative, or libertarian as these terms are used in current American political life.
On one hand, the need for local autonomy (ingredient 6) gives Lin’s recipe a conservative and libertarian feel. Big government shouldn’t meddle in the affairs of local groups. Regulations formulated by the experts in Washington are part of the problem.
On the other hand, it is groups, not individuals, that must have autonomy. Regulation is paramount within the group. Ingredients 1-6 are all about establishing and enforcing norms agreed upon by consensus. The idea that individuals should be free to do whatever they damn well please is a recipe for disaster. The small group is the primary adaptive unit in Lin’s framework.
Ingredients 7 and 8 require government involvement in a more positive sense. In any particular common use situation, the ingredients may not automatically exist and therefore must be created. Regulation of groundwater use required gathering information about the groundwater that could only be provided by government agencies. Litigation was sometimes required to resolve conflicts, especially at the beginning when group boundaries (ingredient 1) and rules of conduct (ingredient 2) were being formed. Groups must interact with other groups in a large-scale multi-cellular society, requiring regulations at each level comparable to the regulation of individuals within each cell. In short, there is a role for large-scale social organization as long as it facilitates rather than interfering with the ingredients at a smaller scale.
This blend of conservative and liberal principles can potentially provide a middle ground for productive political discourse. Regardless of how they are labeled, the eight ingredients provide a pragmatic “how to” guide for accomplishing shared objectives in all walks of life. In addition, they emerge seamlessly from our basic scientific understanding of human genetic and cultural evolution and from fundamental evolutionary principles such as the distinction between proximate and ultimate causation, as I will elaborate in the next two installments.