Who hates inequality?

Chimpanzees are highly sensitive
to inequity, and typically refuse to continue in interactions in which
they get less than a social partner. However, chimpanzees from stable social groups
do not respond negatively in situations in which their partners
received better rewards, whereas chimpanzees from less-established
groups show rejection rates as high as 60 percent.

Here is the full story, interesting throughout; the hat tip is to Mark Thoma.


Primitive communism enabled humans to lift themselves from the laws of the jungle. Once cultures started to interact, those jungle laws reemerged leading to a mentality of survival of the most violent. There was hope that laissez-faire economics would pacify cultural interaction and lead to widespread, equitable distribution of wealth and progress. That has also failed with World Wars and depressions. Ironically, or predictably, a reemergence of socialism was needed to hold society together following those shocks.

Maybe we should reexamine what made human society possible in the first place and perfect its modern form?

How does this square with this article?

(BTW, I think many economists view of 'rational' is mistaken, unless they privately mean 'irrational'=='I don't know or can't measure/predict their reasoning')

So, chimpanzee sensitivity to inequality has a strong and inverse correlation to that chimp's relation to the other chimpanzee.

This makes perfect sense. Chimp's can't afford to destabilize the community, as it provides said chimp his/her sustenance/security. In regards to chimpanzees NOT from other communities, who really cares? Different chimpanzee groups more likely than not end up killing each other anyways.

I do not know why we should consider people or chimpanzees "irrational" for such behavior.

Sounds like a *working* socialist state (e.g., Denmark, NL) versus Italy or other corrupt place (developing world)


Look at my comments about the Blount (1995) paper that puts humans in the same role as the chimps in the study cited in the previous blog comment. The chimps are playing a different game than the game from which the human data is obtained. The last comment on that previous thread (the Michael Webster one, Oct 18, 2007 4:52:50 PM) mentions what Binmore states about different structures of the game.

Do humans care about inequality outside of their immediate society? This is an honest question, because I've seen no evidence that they do, but admittedly I don't research this stuff. Humans tend to organize themselves into groups of roughly equal social status, and I've never seen many examples of people caring about inequality outside of their peers (i.e., I've never seen anyone visibly unhappy because CEOs they've never met are rich).

I regularly hang out with people who's net worth is probably 1,000 times less than my own. They don't seem to mind, but I wonder, am I a walking negative inequality externality? Or is all this stuff overblown?

Re: the socialism comments, I'd argue that small, tightly-knit groups already have a medium of exchange, and so do not need money and prices as signals. When people know each other well, the "economic calculation problem" isn't so much of a problem at all. Its precisely when knowledge and culture are diverse (and hence, groups are not tightly-knit) that markets become necissary for exchange. This is how things seem to work in most people's personal lives, which resemble voluntary forms of communism to me.

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