Dissecting Jordan Peterson Regarding Dominance Hierarchies and the Monopoly of Credit

By Oliver Heydorn

[This guest commentary examines some of the underlying beliefs of University of Toronto psychology professor, clinical psychologist and popular cultural critic Dr. Jordan B. Peterson, who has made quite a name for himself, especially as of late, speaking out against various forms of political correctness, including gender-bending. Here, Oliver Heydorn, the Canadian author of “Social Credit Economics,” among other books, fairly and objectively critiques Peterson and points out some of his shortcomings].

One of  Jordan Peterson’s central ideas is the notion that human beings, like lobsters, are naturally disposed to arrange themselves socially in ‘dominance hierarchies’. The fundamental claim is that, based on ‘competence’, human beings, and men in particular, compete with each other to determine who will get the greatest rewards, material and otherwise, that a society has to offer, including the ‘right’ to mate and reproduce.[1]

Peterson appears to be keen to emphasize the naturalness and indeed the biological and evolutionary rootedness of this behavior because he thinks that it can serve as an unanswerable argument against the Cultural Marxists who despise the very idea of hierarchy and who would wish to see their idol of [absolute] “equality” ruling everywhere.

While, in its simplest or [non-nuanced] form, Peterson’s position on the “dominance hierarchy” may be quite applicable to social stratifications in the typical Western High School environment, in which athletic ability combined with occasional good looks tend to put the Jocks on top, I don’t believe that it maps on to the real world in any complete or consistent sense.

In saying that, let me make it clear that I am in no way siding with the Postmodernists or the Cultural Marxists in their desire to level all hierarchies. It is an essential part of Social Credit and the Christian religion (the latter even regards it as a kind of ‘sacred order’) that hierarchy is an inherent feature of human reality as Peterson asserts (though not perhaps for the reasons he gives) and that a rightly ordered hierarchy is necessary for the flourishing of the human individual and of his society.

My disagreement with Peterson is twofold: I disagree with certain aspects of his formal concept of ‘dominance hierarchies’ as they apply to human beings and I also disagree with the apparent assumption that the stratification of the socio-economic and political hierarchies in the Western world are necessarily determined exclusively or even primarily by what we might term as ‘objectively meritorious qualities.’

With regard to the first matter of dispute: conceptualizing human relations in terms of what goes on in the animal kingdom always involves the risk of falling into false analogies because human beings are fundamentally different in kind from animals.

Peterson says that the dominance hierarchy is the result of genetic programming that has a long history in the evolutionary development of life on [earth]. It is innate and biologically rooted and determines our behaviour, hence his frequent comparison of human beings with lobsters.[2] But, unlike lobsters, human beings are persons with rationality and free will. We have the capacity to move under our own initiative in response to a rational assessment of reality and are therefore not blind slaves to biological programming, no matter how ancient.

Again, this is not to say, as some Post-Modernists may believe, that hierarchy in human beings is or can only ever be a “social construct.” I think Peterson is right when he insists that hierarchy is innate to the human condition, but what I want to suggest is that because humans are rational and free creatures, the nature and purpose of that hierarchy could and should differ from what we see in the lives of senseless brutes. To the extent that human dominance hierarchies do not rise above and transcend what we see in mere animals, to that extent human beings fail to actualize their potential and their calling as individuals made, according to Christian revelation, in God’s image.

More specifically, it is the Social Credit and Christian view that hierarchy can be shown to be necessary for the proper function of associations of all kinds, starting with the family, and it is therefore a rational requirement of association that can be grasped by men’s minds. As Douglas put it, when it comes to deciding ‘how’ to do something or questions of administration, hierarchy should be selected as the desired method because it is the best, i.e., the most effective and efficient way, of getting things done, of carrying out a policy.

But there is a second qualification that should mark human hierarchies in comparison with those of irrational animals. It is part of the Social Credit vision of “how things work best” that hierarchy always exists for the sake of a democratic policy, for the sake of realizing the common good. It does not exist for the sake of a self-serving despotism or domination. In keeping with the teachings of Christianity, the power, privilege, and wealth which accrue to those who sit at the top of a social hierarchy are accorded to them for one purpose and one purpose only: that they may better serve the common objective of the associations that they lead and direct. True aristocracy in any domain of human endeavour is for the sake of generous and disinterested service:

“But Jesus called them aside and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their superiors exercise authority over them. It shall not be this way among you. Instead, whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave.” (Matthew 20:25-27)

With regard to the second matter of dispute: Not everyone who is “on top” is there because of merit (think usury, nepotism, class privilege, and even free-masonic and similar connections, i.e., ‘whom you know, not what you know’), and … not everyone who is there because of ‘merit’ would be there if certain anti-social qualities like ruthlessness and manipulative capacity were not so richly rewarded (regarded as meritorious) by the existing system. In other words, not everyone who is powerful or rich has earned it (because they are allegedly smart and hardworking), and not everyone who actually has earned it has earned it by making genuine contributions to the common good. Plenty of people have earned what they have, in whole or in part, by engaging in anti-social behavior.

If it were not so, if the existing dominance hierarchies were not so thoroughly corrupt and at variance with objective reality in both content and purpose, how else could you explain the rise of a non-entity like Justin Trudeau to the very top of the Canadian political dominance hierarchy? Power, wealth, and privilege – including two Filipina nannies – are his … but what did he ever do to merit it? There is a rumour that he once worked as a substitute drama teacher, but I digress.

A large part of the explanation for the lack of meritocracy, or for the wrong type of meritocracy being in place, where the current dominance hierarchies are concerned, has to do with the nature and operation of the financial system. Unfortunately, as far as I can see, the corroding and artificially centralizing power of contemporary finance is not at all on Peterson’s radar. Peterson, like many an orthodox economist, acts as if finance were neutral. But finance is anything but neutral. It is a fundamentally dishonest and exploitative system that more or less automatically skews the distribution of socio-economic benefits in favour of its owners and in favour of those who serve the interests, the policy, of the ownership.

It is on the playing field laid out by the Monopoly of Credit (which is not, therefore, a level or fair playing field) that the competition for places in the socio-economic and political hierarchies of the West must be played out. Again, this is a competition not for positions to serve the common good in an optimal fashion (because the system is not laid out with that goal in mind) but to serve the moneyed interests, beginning with those of finance and working your way on down the money hierarchy of society:

“[W]e are governed in the aristocratic tradition by a hypocritical and selfish oligarchy with one idea, and one fundamental idea only; the ascendancy of money, and the essential monopoly of it.”[3]


The effect of the Monopoly of Credit is easiest to see in the case of usury, i.e., billions of dollars in unearned profit acquired by exploitative banking practices. While usury is not the central focus of Social Credit or its reform agenda, Douglas made it abundantly clear that as the financial system currently operates it is usurious. The gap between prices and incomes which it unjustly creates, and which is due mainly to the presence of real capital in production, is filled only by contracting more debt-money from the banks and on terms that are suitable to them.

For this reason, Douglas described bank profits as excessive and exorbitant and even referred to the banks as robbers and the taxation that is levied to meet interest demands on public debt as “theft.”[4]

It has been estimated by the German economist Helmut Creutz that the bottom 90% of the economic pyramid pay more in interest than they receive in interest, with only the top 10% experiencing a net gain.

Since the banking system is run as a dishonest and dysfunctional monopoly which costlessly creates the bulk of the money supply out of nothing in the form of intangible bank credits for private gain, one cannot claim that those who benefit the most from that arrangement have ‘earned’ it by making some contribution of equivalent value to the common good.

Access to money of this type automatically means better health and education [among] many other opportunities for the upper 10% and it thereby provides them a huge advantage when it comes to further entrenching and increasing their position in society’s socio-economic dominance hierarchy:

“Now, the bearing of economic power on education hardly requires emphasis. In England, the Public School tradition and in the United States to a less, but appreciable extent, the College system, with all their admirable features, are nevertheless an open and unashamed claim to special privilege based on purchasing power and on nothing else; and with a sufficient number of exceptions, their product is pre-eminently efficient in its own interest, as distinct from that of the community. It is one of the most hopeful and cheering features of the present day that this defect is increasingly deplored by all the best elements comprised within the system; and the danger of reaction in the future is to that extent reduced.”[5]

But the problem goes far deeper than that, as every Social Crediter knows. Besides the unjust centralization of wealth, power, and privilege in the hands of a financial elite who have usurped society’s cultural heritage, the price-income gap puts undue stress on the bottom 90% of the socio-economic pyramid when it comes to financial survival.

Such artificial stress, in the forms of a chronic lack of income or cost-liquidating purchasing power, constant inflation, and the practical necessity of debt and wage slavery, is the direct cause for much cut-throat competition, hired-powered salesmanship, manipulative or deceptive advertising, and economic waste and sabotage of all kinds, including built-in obsolescence and the production of many things that would not be produced if the price system were inherently balanced or self-liquidating.

The system thus ensures that those who are most willing to part with moral principles regarding how they do things and what they do will be the most rewarded (or even rewarded at all). In a word, the entire population is forced to prostitute itself to one extent or another in favour of the moneyed interests in order to survive:

“The ever-rising cost of living has brought home to large numbers of the salaried classes problems which had previously affected only the wage-earner. It is realised that ‘labour-saving’ machinery has only enabled the worker to do more work; and that the ever-increasing complexity of production, paralleled by the rising price of the necessaries of life, is a sieve through which out and for ever out go all ideas, scruples and principles which would hamper the individual in the scramble for an increasingly precarious existence.[6]

Thus we see that dishonest and dysfunctional finance creates a particular type of environment – at variance with what the environment would be if the financial system were honest and fully functional – that automatically selects, in Darwinian fashion, those who are ‘fittest’ or most apt to ‘succeed’ with respect to that unnatural and unhealthy environment.

In a commercial civilization, in which money and money values rule, those who tend to rise to the top of the socio-economic pyramid are not necessarily, therefore, the noblest or the best in any classically aristocratic sense of the term. Indeed, more often than not, they are in possession of quite narrow abilities, or worse, are also morally bankrupt. As Douglas once put it:

“There is no doubt whatever that a mangled and misapplied Darwinism has been one of the most potent factors in the social development of the past sixty years; from the date of the publication of The Origin of Species the theory of the ‘survival of the fittest’ has always been put forward as an omnibus answer to any individual hardship; and although such books as Mr. Benjamin Kidd’s Science of Power have pretty well exposed the reasons why the individual, efficient in his own interest and consequently well-fitted to survive, may and will possess characteristics which completely unfit him for positions of power in the community, we may begin our inquiry by noticing that one of the most serious causes of the prevalent dissatisfaction and disquietude is the obvious survival, success and rise to positions of great power, of individuals to whom the term ‘fittest’ could only be applied in the very narrowest sense. And in admitting the justice of the criticism, it is not of course necessary to question the soundness of Darwin’s theory. Such an admission is simply evidence that the particular environment in which the ‘fittest’ are admittedly surviving and succeeding is unsatisfactory; that in consequence those best fitted for it are not representative of the ideal existent in the mind of the critic, and that environment cannot be left to the unaided law of Darwinian evolution, in view of its effect on other than material issues.”[7]

Make suitable changes in the financial mechanism and rules of society and you will find that what is regarded or deemed as ‘competent’ will change and that the composition of the ‘dominance hierarchy’ will also change. That is, the dominance hierarchy in place does not coincide isomorphically with the hierarchy which would be in place if we lived under an honest and fully functional financial system.[8]

The introduction of a Social Credit financial system would minimize if not eliminate artificial financial inequalities [among] people and would thereby allow the real inequalities that mark individuals, and the differential contributions that they can make to the common good, to organically emerge in a non-threatening manner as the exclusive determinants of society’s socio-economic ‘dominance hierarchy’:

“Let no one suppose from this that I am suggesting a state of affairs in which all men and women will be equal. Men and women never were equal, are not equal at the present time, and, in my opinion, never will be equal, but their inequalities rest on a far more fundamental basis than that of differences in a bank pass-book, and the abolition of such artificial inequalities will not only bring into the light of day the real difference in individuals, but will secure by common consent their general acceptance.”[9]

I say non-threatening because, while the existing socio-economic ‘dominance hierarchy’ is largely grounded on competition for scarce resources, Social Credit is built on the fundamental fact that economic scarcity belongs to the past. The physical reality of our production capacity is, thanks to wonders of modern technology, one of abundance. In a Social Credit world, dominance hierarchies would lose a great deal of their social (as opposed to purely functional) importance once the ‘plenty of privilege for everyone’ that is physically available can be released by a realistic financial system:

“The curious self-defeating perversity which fails to see that there is plenty of privilege for everyone, because of the infinite diversity both of people and of opportunity (and that the problem is to let more people get at it not to take if from those who have it), is the perfect tool for the World Planner.”[10]

To criticize the existing socio-economic ‘dominance hierarchy’ both in terms of its formal structure and its material composition is not, therefore, essentially ‘Marxist’ or motivated by feelings of envy. To criticize it from the Social Credit perspective, as I have done, is simply to acknowledge its artificial, disordered, and unjust character. For this reason, principled opposition to the existing socio-economic ‘dominance hierarchy’ does not fall into the trap of the ‘Capitalist vs. Marxist’ dialectic.

Indeed, as ironic as it may be, it seems that it is Peterson who, by justifying the inequalities of the Liberal society as the inescapable result of a biologically grounded meritocracy, has actually fallen into that dialectical trap, only he is reinforcing the myths of the Liberal or Capitalist wing of the “left-right” dialectic . . . all to the benefit of the hidden hand of High Finance.

As one of my Facebook contacts recently put it: “Peterson’s theory pretty much amounts to a polar opposite of the oppression narrative: ‘Anyone who is powerful or rich has earned it’ as opposed to the Social Justice Warriors who say ‘Anyone with privilege did not earn it.’ … It’s the inverse stupidity: ‘[the] man with a whip to your back must have earned it. [The] Man with a gun to your head is just more moral and more competent.” The reality, of course, is not polarized in the direction of either extreme: some (but not all) of the people who are rich or powerful have earned it by making genuine contributions to the common good.

Now, I am not suggesting that Peterson is consciously playing the one side in the dialectic (I think he is too sincere for that), or that all of the people who agree with him are consciously playing that game. I have an alternative explanation: obsession with dominance hierarchies and their alleged ‘rightness’ or objective validity is the distinctive trait of the choleric personality.[11]

Belief in the objectivity or fundamental fairness of any existing ‘dominance hierarchy’ reassures the choleric that he is still in control, has some meaningful say in his destiny, and has a chance of grabbing power and influence for himself. It’s a comfortable narrative that cholerics can retell to themselves. The choleric’s overriding psychological need to believe that, in the final analysis, he and his actions matter would trump any facts or evidence to the contrary. Reality has no bearing on his judgement. But, then again, perhaps that is not quite right and the truth is more insidious:

“One of the gravest features of the situation is that the type of mind which is inherently unfitted to appreciate and function successfully under the environment which would be created by modern science if it were unhampered by finance, is, under the present financial system, put in possession of executive authority, and in consequence in a position to block any attempt to modify the situation.”[12]


————— NOTES

[1] According to Peterson, females use the dominance hierarchy as a ‘distributed computational device’ to determine the worth of the males and then to choose the highest ones they can find to mate with. This, to my mind, has a very ‘deterministic’ ring to it and makes the dating scene sound like it could only ever be akin to a marketplace … but where is there any room for free will or true love in that set up? To make matters worse, the fact that, in a liberal social order, it falls to the women to select their spouses suggests that, at one level at any rate, the whole of the dominance hierarchy drama is being played out for female benefit and that liberal society is basically a matriarchy.

[2] Peterson’s basic idea seems to be that dominance hierarchies evolved as a survival mechanism: ‘top dogs’ are selected and are allowed to breed so as to ensure the well-being of the race. I won’t deal here with the problems, both scientific and philosophical, attending to evolutionary theory, or with the even more problematic attempt of some to try to explain everything in terms of evolution as if it were the central conceptual paradigm of the universe.

[3] C.H. Douglas, Security: Institutional and Personal (Liverpool: K.R.P. Publications Ltd., 1945), 8.

[4] See my blog post entitled “Social Credit, Usury, and Catholicism” for the various relevant citations:  http://www.socred.org/index.php/blogs/view/usury-social-credit-and-catholicism.

[5] C.H. Douglas, Economic Democracy, 5th ed. (Sudbury, England: Bloomfield Books, 1974), 141.

[6] C.H. Douglas, Economic Democracy, 5th ed. (Sudbury, England: Bloomfield Books, 1974), 36-37 [emphasis mine].

[7] C.H. Douglas, Economic Democracy, 5th ed. (Sudbury, England: Bloomfield Books, 1974), 31-32.

[8] In a Social Credit society, artists of all kinds, for example, would enjoy greater status than they do now.

[9] C.H. Douglas, Major C.H. Douglas Speaks (Sydney: Douglas Social Credit Association, 1933), 38.

[10] https://alor.org/Library/Douglas%20CH%20-%20Whose%20Service%20is%20Perfect%20Freedom.pdf, 25. The next few lines that immediately follow this quote reveal the extremely self-serving character of any dominance hierarchy based on the power of an artificial monetary scarcity: “I am a masochist” (on £500,000 per annum). ‘I don’t think it is good for a people to be prosperous’ (but I live quite comfortably, thank you. So, while assuring myself of the power and the glory, I will take care that the rest of the community gets what is good for it).

[11] Cf. https://www.fisheaters.com/quizc.html

[12] C.H. Douglas, Warning Democracy, 3rd ed. (London: Stanley Nott, 1935), 103. And the passage continues: “There is nowadays no such thing as an independent ‘statesman.’ No politician can hope to attain high office except by permission of Finance; and the corruption and jobbery in high places, although only a symptom of a defective system, are almost becoming a disease fatal in itself. I cannot claim to be an authority on Biblical lore, but I remember that prophecy deals with the doing away with ‘the abomination which maketh desolate.’ I have very little doubt that that is a brief description of modern finance.”


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