TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Freakonomics: Income Inequality, Monkey-Style

Freakonomics:  Income Inequality in Action, Monkey-Style:

Legendary primatologist Frans de Waal presents a video in which two capuchin monkeys are given unequal pay for equal work. One of them gets paid in cucumbers, the other in grapes. Can you guess which one is happier?

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Amusing, but this experiment only showed the reactions of monkeys to be similar to those of Wall Street protesters, as he concluded -- but there were no experiment variables other than different pay. Both monkeys did exactly the same work. They contributed no innovations, took no risks, had marginal skills resulting in pay based upon supply and demand, and were not affected by luck or timing.

If someone is upset about equal pay for equal work (also, assumed to be generic women from his chart), then those slighted should prove it and file suit. The truth is that people get paid relative to their worth and results -- not simply how much labor they invest. Show me real real situations *with all the pertinent facts* where people are paid unequally. That's a little hard to find, isn't it?

If this had any similarity to protesters, it might be its use of monkees with lower mental capacity who don't appreciate what others have to do to make more money rather than simply protest for equal results and handouts.

Also, to make the study more realistic, the rearchers should have made the tasks more difficult with ridiculous barriers, like government, and paid ten pieces of fruit to the monkees, then reach in and take out four of them, and handout those four pieces to monkees who did nothing but whine.

Posted by: Woody | Oct 13, 2012 7:51:57 AM

But, do not throw your check back at your dean, regardless of how underpaid you think you are.

Posted by: Bill Turnier | Oct 13, 2012 8:39:15 AM

I'd like to see how monkey A reacts if it sees monkey B getting the same pay for less work. Or monkey B getting twice as much work followed by getting twice as much pay.

Posted by: Cloudchaser Sakonige | Oct 13, 2012 7:06:19 PM

I'm amazed that Woody could break himself away from Sean Hannity youtube clips long enough to post here. Cloudchaser by contrast made an intelligent post from roughly the same perspective.

Posted by: Lenny | Oct 15, 2012 7:50:22 PM