Capuchin monkeys punish those who have more

There is a new paper by Kristin L. Leimgruber, Alexandra G. Rosati, and Laurie R. Santos, here is the abstract:

Punishment of non-cooperators is important for the maintenance of large-scale cooperation in humans, but relatively little is known about the relationship between punishment and cooperation across phylogeny. The current study examined second-party punishment behavior in a nonhuman primate species known for its cooperative tendencies—the brown capuchin monkey (Cebus apella). We found that capuchins consistently punished a conspecific partner who gained possession of a food resource, regardless of whether the unequal distribution of this resource was intentional on the part of the partner. A non-social comparison confirmed that punishment behavior was not due to frustration, nor did punishment stem from increased emotional arousal. Instead, punishment behavior in capuchins appears to be decidedly social in nature, as monkeys only pursued punitive actions when such actions directly decreased the welfare of a recently endowed conspecific. This pattern of results is consistent with two features central to human cooperation: spite and inequity aversion, suggesting that the evolutionary origins of some human-like punitive tendencies may extend even deeper than previously thought.

For the pointer I thank the excellent Kevin Lewis.


The difference between capuchin monkeys and humans of course being that one smart human can kill millions of other humans and all the capuchin monkeys.

You mean Stalin, Mao, and all the other commies who killed hundreds of millions, precisely due to "spite and inequity aversion"?

The system doesn't matter - what matters is that in any system, hegemons on a power law distribution rule.

given that fact, we compare systemic outputs - meaning we never care about the feels, we just care which hegemons (and how they are determined) get to run things.

What would a system that "cares about the feels" look like in practice?

Actually the system does matter. It matters a lot. All the evidence we have says the system matters.

Cornelius Vanderbilt owned a lot. He didn't kill anyone. There has never been a bloodless Communist system.

Some systems just attract psychopaths.

Let me explain the logic.

Unavoidable fact of life: hegemons rule. This falls along a power distribution. 1 may not beat 7B, but the top 100,000 can kill another 100 apiece. This is why Zombie movies are popular. If it helps, consider the hegemony as the top half who spend 5+ years of their lives in top 20% of earners. So "the system doesn't matter" until you first admit human reality falls along Pareto distribution beats Tyler's monkey example. Meaning what a bunch of worthless beta SJW without a pot to piss in think about the equitable distribution matters as much as a couple of Zombies in a Zombie movie.

But once you say YES, Tyler's monkeys don't mean jack... bc in in any system, hegemons make the rules. And keep the normative hegemony in place via force.... THEN we can judge systems against each other.

But there's no "system where society runs like capuchin monkeys" beats flavors of hegemony, bc we humans only allow flavors of hegemony to occur.

Which flavor is best?


Nathan, that's precisely how the Third World works. Someone points at a problem but no-one faces consequences because everyone has some skeletons in the closet.

I would like to share your optimism on progress, but if you want to find a present Stalin + Lysenko situation, look at some countries in Africa. They chose famine over capitalistic farming.

"They chose famine over capitalistic farming."

a) This is another case of socialism for the rich and capitalism for the poor. American farmers get HUGE subsidies. This has forever been the stalling point in trying to get Africa to open up more to free trade. American negotiators seem politically unable to get rid of those subsidies. The African farmer however? Lives in an exceedingly capitalist system.

b) Many countries have opened up vast tracts of land to foreign capitalist investors, often driving people off the land who had lived there for generations or longer to facilitate the sale. (Now, that's not very capitalist is it? Don't we have property rights of some sort, even if the formal deed/title is missing?)

c) Actually, what African farmers need is MORE intervention, not less. They need interventions such as building roads that will help them to get products to market. Interventions such as better mobile access which will help them to get access to better quality information about prices in different markets. Interventions which promote improved seeds and access to fertilizers (I don't necessarily imply subsidies here, rather, information systems and training, although I'm very open to the idea that some subsidies may be desirable both at micro, regional and macro levels).

The problem in African farming is not too much socialism. The problem is too much capitalism for African farmers and too much socialism for those they compete with on the international market.

Lysenko's problem was that he had a fundamental misunderstanding about a certain aspect of genetics. He was wrong, but historically speaking, it is not correct to call him stupid, rather, just one more piece in the puzzle which helped us to trash most epigenetic theories. (However, more recently there is evidence that certain epigenetic effects do indeed exist, although not at the level of DNA code itself, but rather in relation to methylation of certain areas of DNA strands which can be passed from mother to child for generations, enabling to pass on such traits as famine resistance to children born in hard times.)

Nathan: before ranting about subsidies in the US (a thing people in Africa has zero influence) take a look at what the FAO says: price controls, monopoly in fertilizers, export/import tariffs

Why build a road if there are trade tariffs and barriers? Even after US subsidies, tomatoes from Mexico are cheaper compared to tomatoes from Florida. The agreement between the US and Mexico is that Mexican tomatoes have a minimum price to avoid crushing Florida producers even if there's not a single proof of actual dumping. Look at Europe, French farmers have nice subsidies but when the border is not closed according to their desires, they burn the trucks with wine, peaches and other goods coming from Spain.

Yes subsidies matter, but they are not the larger distortion to agricultural trade.

What an incredible whitewashing of Communism!

Famine caused directly by government action is not "active". But Muslims killing Muslims in Iraq is the US's fault and King George is as bad as Mao.

The most incredible statement is that a sociopath like Mao would have stopped the famines if he had only knew.

For thousands of years, the oppressed have deluded themselves that "If only the Czar/King./Emperor/Party Chairman knew", things would be better. Unfortunately, they always know.

For future reference, Nathan W., can you please confirm that you are indeed saying that A) Ukrainians who died in the 1930s forced collectivization deserved it because they didn't want to follow the program; B) Mao did not know about the tens of millions of deaths during the Great Leap Forward; C) George IV is morally equivalent to Stalin and Mao; D) the United States military actively killed more than one million Iraqis during the 2003 invasion; and E) the 20th century Communist regimes are really only responsible for perhaps 10 million excess deaths?

I agree that it is really important to get people on record about these things.

You have a pretty messed of version of history in your head. Maybe 100k Iraqi deaths, very a small percentage of those direct at American hands.

Now I'm really curious how one smart human would go about killing all the capuchin monkeys. I don't think species extinction result from intentional central planning.

Perhaps a slick campaign about the joys of capuchin meat and capuchin fur? Throw in some rumours that capuchin monkeys like to rape pre-pubescent Nordic virgins (it would help if you could pressure a capuchin monkey or two to actually try) and perhaps you'd have a sufficient market soon for other people to pay you to wipe them out.

If history is an indicator, A seems like it would be pretty effective, B. would only lead to the shaming of pre-pubescent Nordic virgins.

Mao tried to kill China's sparrows. And men almost eliminated the smallpox virus., we are just keeping it to use as a weapon. Yay, Mankind. Yes, we can!

I.e.: commies are no better than monkeys.

Why does it pain you so much to know that communistic tendencies are rather more natural than market ones?

I mean, it is undeniable that market systems can be highly advantageous at the societal level, especially when their excesses and failures are largely corrected for. But what ever in human history would lead you to believe that capitalism comes to us naturally?

Low life expectancy and brutal wars against other tribes of the same species are also "natural", and yes they pain me.

This is the challenge of the capitalist approach, analytically it is the better approach (no-one who has studied the development of complex societies can doubt this), emotionally though some people try to fight against it because they perceive it lacks "fairness". To be very simplistic, we have two working decision making processes in our brains, an analytical one and an emotional one. The monkeys do not really have much of the first; we do and we should strive to use it instead of the emotional one where we can.

The Noble Savage theory has been essentially disproven, but that does not constitute evidence that the opposite situation applies. What percentage of humanity do you think is actively conscripted into military in any given year (going back even 20,000 years, say), and which percentage do you think was EVER involved in warfare? 1%? Even when entire empires are completely aligned against each other in all out war, it's not usually more than a few percent of the population actively conscripted into the war.

Most people were hunters and gatherers, and later on farmers, not warriors. Among other things, population density was not high enough through most of pre-history for it to be likely.

Wrong-o, guy. There is very little distinction between hunters and warriors in pre-agricultural societies. Adult males generally fill both roles at the same time.

Yes, I perfectly well understand that hunters and warriors are the same people in such a society. But just because perhaps 90% of males are theoretically available to be warriors does not mean that they all spend their lives in war.

Some people seem to assume that pre-historic societies were GENERALLY at war. While there is definitely not good data for either side, my feeling of the matter based on knowledge of self and what people are generally like in the world suggests to me that we were rather more peacefully inclined than warlike, but always prepared to die for a good cause (which in those days would be anything that threatened the tribe, and little else).

While I do not doubt that such habits came along in some times and places, I do not believe that it was ever particularly widespread for any long period of time to be going to war on a regular basis, killing the men, and stealing the women.

Consider the exceptions you might bring up. And then consider that they are exceptions, hence proving the rule.

What percentage of humanity do you think is actively conscripted into military in any given year (going back even 20,000 years, say)

I'm not sure what the percentage of a hunter gatherer tribe was male and older than, say, 15, but that's the percentage you're looking at.

Careless - What's your saying, considering the statement I was responding to, is that just because they could theoretically repurpose their hunting tools to use in war that THEREFORE they were always basically in a warlike state. I agree that they could rapidly prepare for violent conflict, but this does not imply that they were necessarily involved in war with any particularly high frequency.

In a state of war, or war preparedness, there is regular explicit training, exercises, and logistical preparations for war. I do not believe that this accurately describes what was normal in pre-history.

The SEC is a fairness organization embedded in the heart of Capitalism.

That would be consistent with the idea that no one is actually immune.

The SEC is an organization whose aim is the reduction of information asymmetry between managers and shareholders, with the intent of protecting shareholder property.

This hardly seems aimed at "fairness", unless by fair you mean protecting property rights.

Reducing information asymmetry makes things more fair.

Kahnemann's 'Thinking Fast and Slow' in a nutshell.

Forming thoughts impulsively is easier than using logic. The former served us well when a twitch in the grass sent us fleeing from a leopard. Today, not so much.

Worryingly, schools today seem to be drifting away from teaching logic and objectivity and are instead embracing passion and values.

It's a return to primitivism even though it's dressed up as doing the right thing.

They're both natural within different contexts.
Communism is more natural in small groups of closely related individuals. Capitalism is more natural in larger groups and between networks of smaller groups.
Historically, even tribal societies traded in a "capitalist" way with other more distant tribes. The Silk Road wasn't built by a communist central committee, it was a product of long-distance trade carrying products from east to west via many exchanges. Even the Native Americans were no strangers to the concept of trade.

Also, it's worth noting that even primitive small groups societies weren't purely "equal distribution" communist. There was a system for dividing up the spoils of any hunt to reward the bravest and strongest warriors. A man who brought home a deer would might share it, but he'd keep the best cuts of meat for himself. Lack of money or private property is not equivalent to equal distribution of resources.


Thanks for pointing out what should have been obvious.

I was going down the "certain communist tendencies are natural" path, erroneously conflating it with "communism is the only natural path" and working out theories of how difficult it can be for societies to heed their rational brains and overcome the pitfalls of this lizard - or rather, monkey brain - instinct, when you reminded me of that other (b/w tribes) instinct. :)

(I also stupidly forgot about how difficult it is to enforce communism in the real world, even with guns and walls. The world's a system, with all sorts of forces in play at the same time. Give absolute primacy to one instinct, and excluded instincts fight back.)

Two other things bigger-picture readers might want to consider (and then incorporate or discard to the degree they please) are the naturalistic fallacy and savanna principle.

I'd modify your comment to say that capitalism and trade makes more sense for farmers and sharing/communal distribution of resources makes more sense for hunter gatherers. The large labor inputs needed for subsistence farming means agriculturalists can't just give away food to neighbors and distant relations. Also, as agricultural communities approach Malthusian limits, it becomes necessary to develop more sophisticated and formal systems for determining what land belongs to whom in order to minimize conflicts within groups. Hunter gatherers, not so much. Their territorial conflicts were largely between groups.

"Also, it’s worth noting that even primitive small groups societies weren’t purely “equal distribution” communist."

They weren't even attempting to be "fair". Most clans, tribes, groups, were chieftain or leader based. The idea that these were distributionist communist might be an appealing fantasy but it's a fantasy nonetheless.

And how much wealth do you think the chieftain would amass in those times? Some trinkets, perhaps some extra help around the house, the better cuts of meat... kind of like dad might insist on.

And if he took it all too far, and INSISTED on it, as opposed to people being accepting of it due to him taking a strong weight of responsibility on his shoulders and people freely giving of such benefits as thanks, I don't imagine he would have lasted long in the chief's position.

Obviously, this changed once agricultural surplus was large enough to support an advanced political system which involved varying degrees of extortion and/or taxes in exchange for protection and services.

"Why does it pain you so much to know that communistic tendencies are rather more natural than market ones?"

Capitalism is based on reason, communism is just emotion. So communism is probably more "natural".

Nathan, as I keep telling're very dim.

Where did you get from my post that it "pains me" that communist tendencies are natural? I am fully aware and acceptant of the fact that envy is much more natural than markets.

But that's the point of my comment: these "progressives" who pretend to be so evolved and developed, are really simply harking back to the basest of human emotions. So lets call them what they are: primitive monkeys.

Yes, you are reliably very insulting when you disagree with people. With such traits, I'd be surprised if you ever manage to keep a job for more than a few weeks or months.

It need not be about envy to any particularly large degree, so much as a sense of a social obligation that the more fortunate have social responsibility.

Of course, you prefer to frame the opposite side of the argument in the worst way possible. Which makes it rather difficult to take you very seriously at all.

Is the conspecific partner consistently punished by the capuchins Ray Lopez? ;)

He has an unequal share of nubile Phillopino women.

Women that he purchases in the traditional capitalistic manner.

Why would you use the word purchase? Clearly there's some kind of exchange going on, but it doesn't have to have the connotation of prostitution which you wish to impute.

When a younger woman marries an older man with a bit of (relative) wealth -- probably something that's happened since time immemorial -- is it a purchase? No. It's an exchange or trade.

Since Ray likes to troll us we like to troll him back. That said, he's told us all that he had zero luck with women in the First World, so he went to the Third World where one can more openly and effectively advertise the desire to 'hire' a young consort. In the US he didn't have enough to buy a young wife, in the Philipines he does.

Also, a purchase IS an exchange or trade. They are pretty much synonyms.

msg has, IIRC, flat out called them prostitutes before, suggesting that they are not girlfriends

That's what they are, Careless. More like mistresses really, certainly exclusive to Ray.

And again, I'm busting Ray's balls with this stuff because god knows he likes to bust ours.

And, world-wide, is the number of Capuchins growing or diminishing?

Considering that there is likely to be massive habitat loss like for just about anything non-human, the headline statistic would be misleading. If I get you right, you're wondering if this trait is evolutionarily beneficial.

Capuchin monkeys suffer from the "fixed-pie" problem. Total wealth actually is limited for them, and they have no practical way to increase it. Unlike humans.

You're so predictable. Forest cover is actually rebounding globally at about 1% a year. Large predators are repopulating huge swathes of America and the same goes for rewilding in Europe.

Yes, poor countries are still destroying habitat - Indonesia is becoming a palm oil plantation. But this 'humans are evil' schtick is really mindless.

Let me know when wild populations of monkeys in America or Europe rise above 0.

Where did I say "humans are evil"? Should I refrain from discussing any facts about how habitat loss is bad for many species, just so you can feel good about yourself?

Ok, that's cheating a bit.

Funny, that in precisely the same post, I'm attacked by one right winger for saying humans are evil, and by a different right winger for discussing traits which lead us to have strong sharing instincts.

If someone here is being mindless, I'm pretty sure it's not me.

What the paper asserted is different from what I saw in this video where the monkey showed aggression against the organizer of the inequality but did not showed any aggression against the receiver of greater rewards like banging on the wall seperating them.

There's an assumption in these comments that capitalism and cooperation (among different groups) are antagonistic. While it may be true that communalism (allegiance based on ethnic or similar origins) and cooperation are antagonistic, it was capitalism that helped bridge the divide (by focusing on mutual benefits of cooperation rather than ethnic and similar differences). I say capitalism helped because it takes something more than mutual benefits for different groups to cooperate. The something more could be something negative like a shared enemy, but it could be something positive like a shared value or shared religion. The latter, shared religion (Christianity), is Robert Wright's thesis for the rapid growth of trade between different ethnic groups. Of course, ethnic differences are often the catalyst for violence and war, promoted by aspiring despots and other psychotics. As for the capuchin monkeys, I believe what this study shows is that communalism rewards cooperation, and punishes competition, within the community, the greater the degree of communalism the greater the propensity to reward or punish. Thus, countries that are predominantly a single ethnic group emphasize cooperation (or conformity) whereas countries with a variety of ethnic groups emphasize competition (or originality), with nonconfomity within the ethnic group punished for the behavior. In a country like America with a wide variety of ethnic and similar groups, competition is emphasized rather than cooperation. Americans are not capuchin monkeys. That can be a good thing (nonconformity producing new and better) or a bad thing (little or no cooperation). For the most part the history of America is one that showcases the benefits of competition, but with the occasional dust up that results when ethnic and similar differences are highlighted during difficult times.

Yes, capitalism is based on a particular kind of cooperation - reciprocal exchange. It's a vast network of highly cooperative reciprocal arrangements.
The objectors seem to think that the only cooperation that counts is non-reciprocal. Which is not really the literal definition of "cooperation". "Cooperation" is not equal to "altruism".

"There’s an assumption in these comments that capitalism and cooperation (among different groups) are antagonistic"

Not at all.

And, here I am. Silly old me, I once believed that the "Planet of the Apes" movies were simply movies.

They should be moved to the "Documentary" section on Netflix.

This is another illustration of one the most fundamental laws of economics. Any research into any aspect of human or animal behaviour will support whatever the reader already believed.

It is kind of amazing.

This is economics research? That's a stretch. They're psychologists.

Just goes to show you that punishment for inequality is an evolutionary superior and stable behavior.

The monkeys survived as a group, and are the better for it.

Is that the message you were intending to deliver.

It's evolutionarily superior for species that are not able to produce resources more than what nature statically provides, and which thus suffer from a "fixed pie" of wealth.

I am sure that everyone who expresses horror at monkey fairness on this page will turn around and rely on it for the rest of the day.

Ever use a four-way stop?

Cowboy, This could be an evolutionary stable practice to promote cooperation in group activities, such as seeking out food sources or punishing theft within the colony. There is a lot of research on cooperative behavior among animals, and internal sanctions that promote collective welfare, such as behavior which calls upon members of the colony to defend against a common predator.

Lest you think that a group reduction of power to an elite is limited to capuchin monkeys, please remember that the early Greeks moved from an aristocracy to democracy partially because group efforts (and sacrifice) for common defense caused the erosion of aristocratic rule towards democracy as the soldiers were rewarded with power ala democracy (at the expense of the aristocrat) in order reward collective behavior and defense.

It's a method for managing scarcity of resources. It works for monkeys, which suffer the constraint of being unable to diminish scarcity. It would be a devastating method for organizing human social behavior.

Monkeys do not have estates that they can pass on to their children, much less a rule of law to do so. So, in terms of meritocracy, monkeys have it over us in terms of reward for effort or abilities, given they have no estates to pass on to benefit their progeny.

Aristotle noted that effect and correctly argued that it was a bad idea to give a group of ignorant people a major share in political rule simply because they provided the grunts. But this finding confirms that [B]ernie [S]anders politicians are always going to be popular among the spiteful demos. an evolutionary superior and stable behavior. Most animals rape as a form of reproduction. Many, kill the offspring of others.

What is a natural tendency of primitive not necessarily the desirable characteristic of modern human societies.

This is why commies/lefties/progs etc. are always simply harking back to the most primitive animalistic instincts of our species

In the vast vast majority of species, the female has the ability to refuse if she doesn't want it. The male goes through much display of their fitness, and then the female(s) mate preferentially with the presumed most fit male.

You say that "most animals rape as a form of reproduction". Can you name more than a few? And, in each of those cases, is that the common mechanism of mating or rather more the exception to the rule?

As an illustration of of how "evolutionarily superior and stable" rape is, why don't you go try to rape your neighbours daughter and let us know a) are you still alive by the time of insemination, and b) if you're still alive after the rape, how long you expect to live after the fact? (Or, how many years you are fully segregated as a result of this behaviour).

Rape is the exception, not the norm.

Think back to pre-history for a minute. We're basically all camped out under the stars. How do you propose that you rape one of the women in the tribe without getting killed? If not tonight, then perhaps tomorrow, next week, or not long after.

You may as well be saying "I'm a rapist at heart, and I think that's a good thing".

Women want to sleep with heroes (even the fairly mundane sort), not rapists. And their family sees things similarly. And normally so does the rest of the community.

I'm pretty anti-socialist, but in terms of punishment, you want to deter, and this should take into account a person's means. There is a reason courts charge bail commensurate with a person's wealth (among other factors).

Assuming someone has violated an important social rule, you want to make that person feel some pain. Flat fines don't work here.

The shallow reading that simian fairness only affects some humans or some societies seems pretty hard to defend. If it is in a broad swath of related social species, it is most likely in all of us.

And that broad interpretation is pretty easy to defend. Every society has fairness rules, and most societies have a "safety net" with redistribution from healthy (or lucky) individuals to sick (or unlucky).

Our monkey brains built Wall Street, yes. But they built the Department of Health and Human Services as well.

Thank God humans have moved beyond such primitive animal impulses.

Social impulses >> Animal impulses. The reason we don't usually drag females off to caves. Take a moment to think about the range of social censur that benefits you and keeps you safe

I don't think punishing rapists counts as a social impulse. Rape is an impulse, punishment of rapists started off as punishment for theft of the woman's value as a virgin - even consensual sex was punished if the father didn't provide permission.

Modern legal punishment for rape is very much a product of many years of intellectual and legal evolution on the subject of individual rights. It's not something humans arrived at naturally.

Thanks for the non sequitor.

Sure, the MR definition of non sequitur is always "facts I don't want."

"The universality of marriage in human societies around the world suggests a deep evolutionary history of institutionalized pair-bonding that stems back at least to early modern humans."

Your idea of late, legal, invention is BS.

Marriage predates economics, and economics are only applied post hoc.

The evolutionary origin of institutionalized pair-bonding has nothing to do with the modern legal punishment of rapists.

The original concept of rape is "unsanctioned sex", not "non-consensual sex", at least not non-consensual from the woman's perspective. That's why we have anachronistic concepts like "statutory rape", which really means "fucking someones daughter without permission". Most marriages throughout history have been arranged marriages where the woman has little choice.

The modern concept of rape has nothing to do with institutionalized marriage. It's purely about individual bodily autonomy, a development which depended on the (recent) evolution of the concept of individual rights. That's why "rape" can apply to non-consensual sex inside a marriage, a concept that would have been nonsensical 500 years ago.

In other words, our "social impulses" to institutionalize pair-bonding, such as they exist, are no protection against rape-as-non-consensual-sex. They only offer protection from rape-as-unsanctioned-sex. You're conflating the two concepts.

Are you lost?

Dragging to a cave was reference to the cave man cartoons. Marriage as an ancient practice definitely answers that assumption of "animal impulses" in the past.

So your asserting the superiority of paying two cows for an unwilling bride over dragging the bride off to the cave without proper payment?

Why should I care? Both of them are "rape" by modern standards.

You are definitely lost. The quoted line talks about pair-bonding as the universal, not variations such as dowrey or bride price.

Hazel - "That’s why “rape” can apply to non-consensual sex inside a marriage, a concept that would have been nonsensical 500 years ago."

Even 50 years ago, I think.

Anon - I don't think the evidence of human preferences for long-term pair bonding are so clear cut. What I was taught in biology class is that humans have a degree of polygamous preferences, but that monogamy is socially entrenched and the reasons that this can be desirable at the societal level (e.g., fathers put more resources into children when paternity is known, less social problems associated with jealousy) have at least some legitimacy.

The social impulses we are talking about are animal impulses. That is the entire point of the post. Even Capuchin monkeys have a sense of fairness. That is why we need to have a long hard look at these self-evident beliefs about equality. They are essentially driven by emotions and a morality that evolved ion a different environment.


A lot of social systems evolved moral systems within their culture, precisely for the fact that they help to promote those animal impulses which are socially beneficial and to deter those which are not. I'm not sure that it's correct to say "social impulses" = "animal impulses" when certain institutions explicitly exist to modify them to a significant degree.

I think this is a natural response and human society tries to teach us to not react in this basic animal instinctive way. Many people are able to break from this and become capitalist and those who don't become liberals/socialists/communists.

White hegemonic patriarchal neo-colonial neo-liberal oppressive racist, sexist homophobic, transphobic...society...teaches us not to react this way.

Retarded Sociology Student

Definitely a desirable trait to not give two shits about other people. Such societies will definitely come together in times of crisis and overcome their shared challenges as atomized individuals who see it as "weak" to help each other.

Every man for himself! We will be stronger that way!

(Seriously. Is there not some middle ground here? I'm pretty sure that most reasonable people are somewhere in the middle of the spectrum. Also, I think it's worth nothing that the American usage of the word "liberal", especially as used by the right wing, is essentially opposite to what it used to mean. How did that happen?)

Science tells us people who advocate for socialism and communism are less evolved humans, or not using the reason side of their brain, possibly due to birth defect or accidental brain injury, perhaps long-term drug and alcohol abuse, or being dropped on their head as a baby.

And this page tells us that reactionaries are not smart enough to argue that innate fairness is what empowers markets, that innate compassion is adequately served by religions and private charity.

A "tithe" is another fairness construct.

What empowers market is "voluntary transactions". One interesting aspect of voluntary transactions is that they only work when participants disagree on the value of what is being exchanged. If they agreed, they wouldn't go through with the transaction. (More rigorously: they disagree on the relative marginal value.) This makes trade fundamentally different from gifting, for example. But our morality evolved in the context of equality matching ("you scratch my back, I scratch yours", exchange of presents, taking turns, etc.), so trade and associated concepts such as supply and demand, consumer surplus, etc., are counter-intuitive.

In other words, the reasons we feel the way we (in aggregate) feel about inequality are to be found in instincts and moral intuitions, but the underlying morality evolved in an environment that is not the environment in which we find ourselves today. Fortunately we also have cognitive abilities that allow us to get past these feelings. On the other hand, most arguments seem to be rationalizations stemming from an initial moral intuitions (yours included, especially yours in fact).


Consider Jonathan Haidt's examples of what he calls "moral dumbfounding". There is no rational reason to be disgusted by the idea of a brother and sister having sex together (assuming consent, they are adults, she is not fertile, etc.). And yet we pretty much all feel this disgust reaction. It is a consequence of evolution through natural selection.

There is also no rational reason to be upset about inequality. What we observe is that the rich are getting richer faster than the poor, but the poor are still getting better off with time. And yet we interpret the observation as "the poor are getting poorer" (true in relative terms), or "the middle class is shrinking", etc., all things that would trigger an intuitive unfairness reaction.

Using the cognitive part of our brains, i.e. the rational part, we could get past these animal limitations.

This is all the libertarian fantasy that man is spontaneously generated in the wilderness and then creates society as a calculated act.

No, humans were born into cohesive and supportive societies since before they were human. There are very many positive impulses associated with this.

Indeed balanced people and societies understand this. You have to go out on the two fringes to lose balance, and find people who think we have nothing but social or nothing but individual motivations.

I guess if I ask why balance is so hard, I have my answer. I am talking to people without it

"This is all the libertarian fantasy that man is spontaneously generated in the wilderness and then creates society as a calculated act."


Nobody in this sub-thread seems to believe that. On the contrary, man evolved as a social animal. What people have been saying is that we now live in an environment that includes a number of things that are counter-intuitive. And therefore we should be aware that our moral intuitions don't always lead to the best outcomes. Morality remains a great set of rules, or heuristics, to figure out what the best social behavior is in many situations, and even could be the default stance, or the starting point for any decision, but there are also plenty of cases (current inequality being one) where it gives the wrong answer.

You are falling victim of the naturalistic fallacy.

I grant you that we should take the irrationality of people into account. For example, people playing the "dictator games" often prefer to lose money if it means the other player loses even more. But that doesn't mean we can't discuss rationally what the best economic policies are and then try to change people's minds. We have already done this with plenty of things. Consider the attitude of people in the past regarding usury. Or, outside of economics, their attitude towards certain sexual practices, e.g. homosexuality.

We are in the "Science tells us people who advocate for socialism and communism are less evolved humans" sub-thread.

I offered as alternative an integrated view of integrated individual group and social nature.

Apparently you are still disagreeing.

It sounded more like you were trying to insult reactionaries and libertarians.

Other than that you seemed to say that we should always follow our animal impulses.

And yeah communism is essentially based on a moral intuition that turns out not to lead to a good outcome. I wouldn't have used 8's phrasing, but I think it relevant to note that.

I am saying communists and outer libertarians make mirror image mistakes. Not talking mild libertarians, more the "privatise all roads and schools" fringe.

I wouldn't be surprised if privatizing all schools led to better education overall, even though our moral intuition tells us that schooling should be public. There is an objective, rational answer to this question. Our moral intuition may or may not lead to the right answer. A rational discussion would, but we (humans) are very much constrained by our morality. We start with the easy (intuitive) answer and work backward to the rationalization.

You're not immune to that. You always present yourself (in this incarnation and others) as rational, unbiased, balanced. But then you use the same emotional tactics, the same rationalizations, the same flawed arguments you decry. You talk about reactionaries not being smart and about the fantasies of libertarians. In this discussion you even implicitly promoted instinctive behaviors while claiming it is rational to do so.

What have I actually got? The system that made America great.

What have you got? A fantasy that has never been. Now, the irony of calling reality an illusion is standard fringe fare, but ..

Well I guess there is no way to cut through that. A reattachment to reality process is a voluntary procedure.

Yet another non sequitur.

The system that made America great is called "Capitalism". It is more economic freedom that made America better than other nations.

But whatever, I'm done for today.

Lie and leave if you want, but I think it is clear that the US, and all the market democracies coalesced around a division of responsibility a long time ago. The creation of wealth is very important, and markets are given primacy in achieving it. The market doesn't provide everyone a bed and a meal though, and so social services are created to achieve that ancient goal.

I say ancient because the aged and infirm ate and slept under a roof in most ancient cultures. Some, like the Eskimo, were pretty harsh, but they were operating on a thin margin.

"There is also no rational reason to be upset about inequality."

It depends on the causes for the inequality. If the cause is that the rich are stacking the deck in their favour, then it is perfectly rational to want to unstack the deck.

Nice strawman. You're equating "fairness" with "envy and spite", and somehow assuming that we're talking about "fairness" simply because you are.

And no...a "tithe" is not about fairness. Not even a little tiny bit.

Can you see into a Capuchin brain to see something as subtle as "envy?"

Or from the outside do we just see sharing inforced by social anger at cheaters?

A tithe is another social sharing, enforced at my congregation more with guilt than anger, but there it is.

As though saying "science tells us..." THEREFORE makes whatever you say next true.

Are you trolling or do you actually believe what you say? "Less evolved humans"? Are you a Nazi or something?

Is there some reason for your inability to think clearly? Have you been under a lot of pressure from external influences? There is, indeed, a choice. You can choose to think for yourself. Not saying that you should necessarily be pro-socialist or anything, but certainly, you could choose to abstain from retarded attacks out of preference for rational discourse.

Why don't you show us just how "evolved" your thinking is? Think for yourself.

Wouldn't a study like this be almost the exact sort that one might expect to be irreplicable per the scandal?

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