CRF Blog

The lessons of violence and inequality through the ages

by David De La Torre

In The lessons of violence and inequality through the ages, The Economist reviews The Great Leveller: Violence and the History of Inequality from the Stone Age to the Twenty-First Century by Walter Scheidel.

Only four things, Mr Scheidel argues, cause large-scale levelling. Epidemics and pandemics can do it, as the Black Death did when it changed the relative values of land and labour in late medieval Europe. So can the complete collapse of whole states and economic systems, as at the end of the Tang dynasty in China and the disintegration of the western Roman Empire. When everyone is pauperised, the rich lose most. Total revolution, of the Russian or Chinese sort, fits the bill. So does the 20th-century sibling of such revolutions: the war of mass-mobilisation.

And that is about it. [more]