April 02, 2017
One does not have to be a genius to see there is a lot of injustice
on our planet. Rich people are getting richer and poor people often
have very few possibilities to improve their lives.
A historian has put forward a radical theory suggesting that only
apocalyptic destruction can eliminate the gap between rich and poor.
It’s a pessimistic view, but some scientists believe this is the
only way to "save" the world.
In his book,
The Great Leveler - Violence and the History
of Inequality from the Stone Age to the Twenty-First Century,
Stanford historian Walter Scheidel argues that mass violence
and catastrophes can seriously decrease economic inequality,
According to Scheidel historical records show that societies are
"leveled" only by enormously destructive events: mass-mobilization
warfare, radical revolutions, state failures and deadly pandemics.
"Are mass violence
and catastrophes the only forces that can seriously decrease
To judge by thousands
of years of history, the answer is yes. Tracing the global
history of inequality from the Stone Age to today, Walter
Scheidel shows that inequality never dies peacefully.
when carnage and disaster strike and increases when peace and
The Great Leveler is
the first book to chart the crucial role of violent shocks in
reducing inequality over the full sweep of human history around
Ever since humans began to farm, herd livestock, and pass on
their assets to future generations, economic inequality has been
a defining feature of civilization.
Over thousands of
years, only violent events have significantly lessened
The 'Four Horsemen'
... have repeatedly
destroyed the fortunes of the rich.
and examines these processes, from the crises of the earliest
civilizations to the cataclysmic world wars and communist
revolutions of the twentieth century.
Today, the violence
that reduced inequality in the past seems to have diminished,
and that is a good thing. But it casts serious doubt on the
prospects for a more equal future.
An essential contribution to the debate about inequality, The
Great Leveler provides important new insights about why
inequality is so persistent - and why it is unlikely to decline
As historical examples proving the case, Scheidel mentions,
When societies are under
stress they tend to reform themselves in ways that temporarily
reduce inequities in opportunity and income.
Without a dramatic and destructive event, the
gap between rich and poor will
increase, the historian said.
"In the coming
decades, the dramatic aging of rich countries and
the pressures of immigration on social solidarity will make it
ever harder to ensure a fairly equitable distribution of net
And on top of
everything else, ongoing technological change might boost
inequality in unpredictable ways, from more sophisticated
automation that hollows out labor markets to genetic and
cybernetic enhancements of the privileged human body," Scheidel
Scheidel points out that
a war is not enough to improve future living
conditions for those who are poor now.
According to him only
a nuclear war can re-shape the world as it is now.
thermonuclear war," he asserts, "might fundamentally reset the
existing distribution of resources," Scheidel said.
So it seems that the
choice is inequality or apocalypse, unless there is a
third option Scheidel and other scientists have