Violence and disease save us?
Since the 2008 financial crisis we have all been preoccupied with how economies grow and why they collapse. One source of our concern has increasingly been inequality. Huge disparities in material wealth which existed half a century ago totally pale in comparison with enormous differences in our time. Such colossal inequality is claimed to lead to less innovation, less entrepreneurship, more rent-seeking behavior and corruption. All countries try to bring down inequality. Both politicians and pundits frequently express their opinions on how to do that.
Walter Scheidel in his recent book “The Great Leveler” has bad news for us. From a historical perspective inequality has always been growing to the detriment of societies. The sole periods of relative leveling of material wealth and economic clout have necessarily been periods of all-encompassing wars, radical revolutions and natural disasters (e.g. plagues). His argument boils down to a somber and maddening assertion that in order to get a more equal and just society a lot of suffering should be endured.
Let us hope that history is not an iron-clad science and that inferences we draw from studying it are not inexorable laws of nature. If you may propose a peaceful way of shifting towards a greater equality please write to us to share it (firstname.lastname@example.org).