Walter Scheidel: From Stone Age To Now, Only Violence Ends Economic Inequality

A man walks at the main entrance of the congress center where the World Economic Forum took place in Davos, Switzerland, Monday Jan. 18, 2016. The world’s political and business elite are being urged to do more than pay lip service to growing inequalities around the world.
A man walks at the main entrance of the congress center where the World Economic Forum took place in Davos, Switzerland, Monday Jan. 18, 2016. The world's political and business elite are being urged to do more than pay lip service to growing inequalities around the world. AP Photo/Michel Euler
A man walks at the main entrance of the congress center where the World Economic Forum took place in Davos, Switzerland, Monday Jan. 18, 2016. The world’s political and business elite are being urged to do more than pay lip service to growing inequalities around the world.
A man walks at the main entrance of the congress center where the World Economic Forum took place in Davos, Switzerland, Monday Jan. 18, 2016. The world's political and business elite are being urged to do more than pay lip service to growing inequalities around the world. AP Photo/Michel Euler

Walter Scheidel: From Stone Age To Now, Only Violence Ends Economic Inequality

In his famed book Capital in the Twenty-First Century, French economist Thomas Piketty drew the conclusion that the mass destruction of capital after each World War precipitated a decrease in inequality. Stanford professor Walter Scheidel’s book, The Great Leveler: Violence and the History of Inequality from the Stone Age to the Twenty-First Century, looks for other events in human history that led to greater equality. His evidence suggests that only violent moments in history have flattened inequality. Lethal pandemics, transformative revolution, mass warfare, and state failure are what he calls the “four horsemen of leveling.” Political economist Jeffrey Winters, director of Northwestern University’s Equality Development and Globalization Studies program, is author of the book Oligarchy. He joins Scheidel for a discussion on whether there’s any way to flatten inequality without violence.