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Peace Economics for Animals

The animal kingdom is often thought of in terms of law of the jungle or dog eat dog, as an inherently vicious place.  Nothing could be further from the truth in my personal experience.  Amazing acts of self-sacrifice for the good of the whole are everywhere.  Cooperation seems much more important than competition, just as research on humans suggests.


Starting with humans, my best parable of peace economics is the rowing boats story.  Imagine the Cold War as an economic race among societies of nine person boats. The Japanese boat has eight rowers and one holding a sword.  The European boat has five rowers and four holding swords.  The American boat has two rowers and seven holding swords.  So guess who will win the economic race?  Those with the most rowers will quickly pass those with the most swords.  Another human example is the major wars.  These are usually between the number one economy and the number two economy, a battle to determine the peck order of societies not unlike many examples in animal herds.  Who will be the top dog?  Sometimes while the top two are fighting it out, a third emerges from the overlooked multitude.  With Britain and France fighting for supremacy, Germany emerged with the lowest military spending and the best school system in the late nineteenth century.  Germany entered both world wars with the strongest economy in Europe, losing to an even less militarized society from overseas, America.  America had built up its economic strength with low military spending isolated from strong rivals by two oceans.  Early Britain and early Japan also had off-continent protection from land armies in their respective emergences.


Feeding the squirrels teaches one instant peace economics lesson.  When they all pursue eating separate piles of sunflower seeds, all prosper.  But sometimes a squirrel tries to hog the seeds for itself.  The squirrel chases away another squirrel peacefully eating.  Then while they are busy chasing away another squirrel, along comes a third squirrel that gets the food.  That’s a case of violence only holding the perpetrator and victim back.

Blue Jays

My strategy with peanuts in the shell is to first set out sunflower seeds to occupy and distract the squirrels.  Then the blue jays can get the peanuts.  The first blue jay to see the pile of peanuts will call out to the community the event to let other blue jays know about the find, a marvelous example of community cooperation.  Sometimes a blue jay will try to fend off others, but this is rare.  Instead, they usually wait their turn, only swooping down to pick a peanut up after the other has flown away.  Blue jays usually take their peanuts up to a tree branch and break into it and eat it right away.  Sometimes they take too much time picking the right peanut, and along comes a squirrel to scare them away.  Sometimes a squirrel tries to hog the peanuts and eat one after another.  Then the blue jays will buzz that squirrel until it leaves.  But usually squirrels behave themselves and take one peanut at a time and hide it somewhere on the property.  This may be a communal endeavor, since the same squirrel may happen upon another squirrel’s hidings, so many benefit from the common endeavor.


Turkeys like to congregate, they are very communal.  They sleep in trees.  When they fly up in the evening or down in the morning, this may be the only flying they usually do.  They cluster together until all are down, before someone leads the way to an eating spot for the day.  They often break down into small groups, seven is a good number.  Groups of four usually have a sentinel set aside to watch the big picture for the group while the other three busily eat.  This sentinel behavior can happen in trees.  Many cluster on one tree, up to six per tree roughly, then a few are outliers to help watch over the big group.  Like squirrels and blue jays, sometimes one will chase another around in circles, but this is usually rare and isolated.  Jane Goodall has witnessed war in chimpanzees, so the concept of enemies can clearly exist in the same species.

Raccoons and Possum and Bunnies

The raccoons are more intelligent, so they have more complicated relationships. While the cardinals are the most family oriented, with the male often feeding the female, the raccoons have mothers with no father in sight. Old friends and relations may bump noses in delight to see one another.  When a crowd of bullies shows up to stop the eating of one of our favorites, we can chase them away with a broom and they figure it out immediately, learning to leave the family friend alone in the future.  Once a possum and a raccoon hung around together for several nights, showing up to eat together.  Bunnies are usually fearless, even if a raccoon or possum snarls at them.  After a while they just ignore the bunnies.  Bunnies keep their distance from humans with much less skittishness than squirrels. Squirrels know we are benefactors, yet they run away instinctively, but return quickly if they trust us.  One bunny lay on its back on the pavement in the summertime looking dead, but got up in disgust when we disturbed it.  You can get quite close to bunnies before they run, especially if you are not threatening.  Bunnies are fearless in the snow, whereas others will lay low for a while before attempting to travel.


Fighting leads to lost resources and opportunities both in human and animal societies.  Cooperation is much more beneficial for both humans and animals, as I learned through many pleasurable hours of observation of the wildlife around me.

Here is my best short list of human domestic effects of military spending:

Hint: to read this paper for free, you must click on the tiny word “read” in the middle of the bottom of the screen after you go to the above link on

Professor Robert Reuschlein, Dr. Peace,

Real Economy Institute, Madison,Wisconsin




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