There’s this new idea called the Black Queen Hypothesis I’ve been reading about. It says,

[The Black Queen Hypothesis] predicts that the loss of a costly, leaky function is selectively favored at the individual level and will proceed until the production of public goods is just sufficient to support the equilibrium community; at that point, the benefit of any further loss would be offset by the cost. Evolution in accordance with the BQH thus generates “beneficiaries” of reduced genomic content that are dependent on leaky “helpers,” and it may explain the observed nonuniversality of prototrophy, stress resistance, and other cellular functions in the microbial world.

That was dense, but it makes more sense if you recognize the name. In Hearts, the goal is to avoid having the queen of spades in your hand. Unlike Old Maid, you won’t necessarily lose if you do, but it makes it much harder.

So there’s a condition that has to be met but hard to fulfill. The example here is breaking down peroxide in seawater. It has to happen, just like someone has to have the black queen, but it’s “costly” – it makes the species that does it less able to compete. It’s also “leaky” – as long as the peroxide levels stay down, everyone benefits.

In the beginning, every species will have the break-down-peroxide trait. But once the community is established, losing the trait will improve your ability to compete. Remember, the trait has to be “costly”. So one by one species will lose the trait.

Okay, enough background. Am I the only person who thought this model fits politics really well? I’ve seen libertarians, tea-partiers, and anarchists arguing that functions of the government can be better filled by the private market/NGOs/charities.

Functions like an effective transit system. So this one is definitely costly (US DOT asked for $129b this year). It’s also leaky – once the roads are in place, anyone can use them. Other things like schools, the justice system, and the patent office fit this model too.

So why doesn’t it make sense to let only one entity take on the job? Also bear in mind, this whole thing is only a hypothesis – there’s no proof that it actually happened this way. It’s just a model I think makes sense.