This news item from Stanford University reminds your Curmudgeon why he’s never been interested in the social sciences: Suffering of the poor may have helped societies with class structures spread across the globe, say Stanford researchers. A few excerpts will give you the general idea. The bold font was added by us:
Why do most cultures have a class structure – rich, poor and sometimes middle – instead of being egalitarian, with resources shared equally by everyone?
We’ll take a guess. Hey, Stanford guys: Maybe it’s because living in a commune is just flat-out stupid, because it doesn’t encourage individual accomplishment. We once wrote about the communal society established by the Mayflower Pilgrims in 1620: Of Plymouth Plantation: “Every Man for His Own Particular”. Well, what do we know? Let’s read on:
According to Stanford University researchers, it is the very inequities of the class structure that appear to have been behind the spread of those societies and the displacement of more egalitarian cultures during the early era of human civilization.
What? The “inequities of the class structure” caused the spread of those societies? They have research to show that? We continue:
The researchers used a computer simulation to compare demographic stability and rates of migration for both egalitarian and unequal societies. They found that class structure provided unequal access to resources, thereby contributing a destabilizing effect on the population, and driving migration and the expansion of stratified societies.
Feldman [Marcus Feldman, an evolutionary biologist at Stanford] and his colleagues determined that when resources were consistently scarce, egalitarian societies – which shared the deprivation equally throughout the population – remained more stable than stratified societies. In stratified societies, the destabilizing effect of unequal sharing of scarce resources gave those societies more incentive to migrate in search of added resources.
Did their computer model factor in the individual’s incentive in a “stratified society” to do some work, knowing that the fruits of his labor would be his — and wouldn’t belong to everyone else? The article doesn’t say, but we can guess. Here’s more:
Many possible causes for the development of socioeconomic inequality have been proposed by scientists, such as a need for hierarchical control over crop irrigation systems, or the compounding of small differences in individual wealth over time through inheritance.
Yes! Steve Jobs is richer than you because he controls the irrigation system! Moving along:
“This is not just an academic exercise,” Rogers said. “Inequalities in socioeconomic status are increasing sharply around the world. Understanding the causes and consequences of inequality and how to reduce it is one of the central challenges of our time.“
It might help if at least one of those researchers had taken Economics 101 at some point in his educational career. Okay, we won’t rant. Maybe these guys are smarter than we think they are. They could looking for cabinet level jobs in the second Obama administration.
See also: Another Brief Taste of Social Science.
Copyright © 2011. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.