Inequality, a concept so simple, even a monkey can understand it.
Teddy Roosevelt was once quoted as stating “Comparison is the thief of joy”. As poignant his statement is at first glance there is actual science to back this. Dr. Sarah Brosnan of Georgia State University conducted a, now relatively famous, study with chimpanzees.(Long form here) The study has since been replicated with capuchin monkeys and has gotten a fair amount of attention within the web.
What is clear beyond all doubt is that, primates have an innate disposition to be upset with un equal pay for equal. It is comedic to see the monkey’s reaction in the video but there is also something deeper to be gleamed from his behavior.
Note that the first capuchin investigates his rock before handing it back to the scientist. This process seems to imply that the first capuchin is confirming that what they are doing is the same as the other monkey. The response is noticeable frustration from the first capuchin and the commentator notes that this is symbolic of the wall street protest.
But what if this is experiment shows us the natural result in disparity for all disenfranchised individuals, from women’s equal pay, to the oppression of the impoverished in the middle east. If our natural response to unequal treatment is frustration, then there is a clear sign of link between physical imbalance and an inability to find psychological homeostasis.
Recently Henry Kissinger was quoted as saying “There will never be peace where there is an imbalance of power.” And whatever your feelings of about Mr. Kissinger might be it is another example of a politician making a statement about imbalance that is now backed by science.
If this holds true, we might ask if there is measurable correlation between power and wealth disproportionality and violence and crime. For this we turn to the work of Bruce Weinberg, former Professor at Ohio State University, who’s 2002 study (full study) shows a correlation. “Wage declines are responsible for more than half of the long term increase in both property and violent crime,” according to Weinberg.
If we do truly hope to fight crime, or terrorism, in pursuit of peace, should we first begin to fight inequality in all its forms?
Ohio State University