Order without Orders: The Evolution of Human Cooperation

Regarding Joseph Martino's "Could Hobbes Trounce Hayek?" (Feb.): The reason why people find it so difficult to conceive that the extended order of human cooperation (or the human cosmos) is not the result of anyone deliberately ordering it, but the outcome of a process of selective evolution, is that they mistakenly believe it to be guided by a selection of individuals. This implies a selection by individual intelligence.

This erroneous belief is, however, a result of their account of evolution being formed in imitation of the Darwinian biological evolution that indeed rests, at least chiefly if not wholly, on the selection of individuals. The much older theory of cultural evolution (of law, language, and morals) rests, however, on group selection. This means that men need never to have desired or understood what happened. It also means that all rationalist accounts of the evolution of law and morals, from Hobbes to utilitarianism, are wrong.

Men never knew why some practices enabled some groups to multiply so much more effectively than some others. Those rules did prevail which, without the people knowing or intending it, helped them best to proliferate. As David Hume knew: "The rules of morality are not the conclusions of our reason," and not only did the "three fundamental laws of nature…of the stability of possession, of its transferability by consent, and the performance of promises" succeed because they favored the "partition of employment," but in a like manner also "are languages gradually established by human convention without any promise."

F.A. Hayek
Freiburg, West Germany

Chronicles of Fact, Or Tales of Fiction?

Jack Wheeler writes very well—interesting, colorful, with feeling ("Fighting the Soviet Imperialists: The Khmer in Cambodia," Feb.). But he writes docudrama—historical fact blended with fiction. Unfortunately, it constitutes a false history, demonstrably false.

I do not want anything I say in critiquing Wheeler's work to be interpreted as being supportive of Vietnam, the Soviet Union, or, least of all, Pol Pot. However, if Wheeler wants to engage in criticism, it should not be based on arguments of convenience and selective use of fact. Please consider these points:

• Wheeler conveniently ignores the role of the United States in the destabilization of Cambodia. He also ignores the long histories of bitter conflict between Vietnam and both Cambodia and China. Rather than being as close as "lips and teeth," the alliance between Vietnam and China during the war was uneasy from the start and quickly fell apart once the United States was defeated. As did many scholars, anyone knowledgeable in the history of the region could have predicted hostilities between Vietnam and China and the Khmer Rouge once the common enemy, the United States, was removed.

• Wheeler neglects the role of the Chinese in the disintegration of Cambodia. He fails to point out that the Khmers became a viable force in Cambodia only after Sihanouk was overthrown. Sihanouk allied himself with the Khmer Rouge with reluctance and trepidation, because the Chinese refused to support him otherwise. Consequently, Wheeler and the KPNLF probably are dreaming (especially given their defeats in the recent Vietnamese offensive) in their feeble argument that the Chinese might abandon the Khmer Rouge if the KPNLF can be more successful against the Vietnamese.

• Wheeler's description of life in the refugee camp at Rithysen and his implied argument of how life would be under a KPNLF Cambodia smacks of simplistic wishful thinking. Numerous other idyllic descriptions of life among people struggling to rid themselves of tyrants, laced with implications that this is how life will look in the liberated country, have been followed by hard realities which bear little resemblance to such visions. I would be tempted to believe Wheeler here if the rest of his article were more believable. But I must be suspicious, for his description of this may be no more than the selective perception of a prejudiced mind insisting on black-and-white delineations.

Samuel Freeman
Edinburg, TX

Mr. Wheeler replies: Responding to a letter as hysterical and confused as Mr. Freeman's—REASON readers only see the edited version—is a distasteful task.

That the United States is somehow responsible for unleashing the horror the Khmer Rouge perpetrated upon the Cambodian people is a tired and disgraceful cliche. Further, "anyone knowledgeable in the history of the region" understands that while the North Vietnamese, or Tonkinese, have had ancient hostilities with China, it is the South Vietnamese, or Annamese, who have ancient hostilities with Cambodia. Cambodia is several hundred miles from North Vietnam, and there is no history of animosity between the two. Yet it is the North Vietnamese who have conquered Cambodia, as they have all of Indo-China. The reason is not ethnic hatred but that Marxism is inherently aggressive and imperialist, and Marxist North Vietnamese have been enabled to be so through massive military support of the Soviet Union.

The leadership of the KPNLF has a long history of trying to achieve democracy in Cambodia. I reported what I saw at Rithysen with my own eyes—if Mr. Freeman is suspicious, too bad. I tried to convey the subtleties of the KPNLF's predicament with China, which seem to be beyond his grasp.

Socialism with a Pragmatic Mask

I didn't realize that along with my subscription that I'd be getting reprints from The Nation. I am referring to M. Perez's article, "Socialism with a Pragmatic Face" (Mar.).

Such accomplishments! Spanish socialist politicians have abandoned, to some extent, revolutionary socialism for gradualist socialism and aspire after wily Willy Brandt. They know enough not to rile everyone by using "that word" (socialism). They admit when they have clearly been wrong! They admire John Kenneth Galbraith! You can watch porno and smoke hash afterwards! What a brave new world.

To be a bit more serious, it was disappointing to read someone in REASON who seemed to have such difficulty recognizing the difference between the short-term tactics and the long-range goals of a group of politicians. And only someone ignorant of the left-wing origins of both Italian and German fascism would express a sense of irony in finding that Spanish fascism owned or controlled business.

I suggest that we start a fund, a small fund really, to procure for Mr. Perez a copy of F.A. Hayek's The Road to Serfdom and a copy of Paul Johnson's Modern Times.

James Hutchins
Somerville, NJ

For the Record

Upon reading the final version of an article printed under my name ("Congress's Conservative Young Turks," April), it became necessary to ask, "Is it genuine, or another case of ideological opportunism by the magazine?" The article contains nine paragraphs inserted by REASON's editors which were never written by the "author," as well as a number of other substantive changes from the last draft I submitted to the magazine.…

For the record, this writer favors covert assistance to the Nicaraguan contras, preventive detention in limited circumstances, and US military participation in NATO. This libertarian conservative is pro-life and also puzzled by REASON's sensitivity to the business risks that are faced by marijuana entrepreneurs.

The Conservative Opportunity Society movement is not monolithic. Many of its members vote "right" most of the time. Its present growing pains and conflicts stem from political opportunism, which leaves most of its leadership long on no-risk promises in general terms and short on detailed choices that would alienate any identifiable constituencies.

Tom Miller
Washington, D.C.