It is a very curious thing that pre-industrial societies were, by and large, about as unequal in terms of relative income as we are today. It does suggest that something like Vilfredo Pareto's Iron Law is operating, although how it could operate is beyond me. And it does suggest that Piketty was correct in his fear that the post-WWII trentes glorieuses age of social democracy was a fragile anomaly. This, however, fits less well with Piketty's current argument that our current second gilded age was generated by the descent of the center-right into neofascism and the descent of the center-left into cultural liberalism as it took its eye off the important ball that is the distribution of wealth and hence of social power. It is also worthy noting that pre-industrial inequality was much more vicious than modern inequality: push pre-industrial inequality up by an additional fifth or more, and large numbers of people start dying from malnutrition: Branko Milanovic, Peter H. Lindert and Jeffrey G. Williamson: Pre-Industrial Inequality "Is inequality largely the result of the Industrial Revolution? Or, were pre-industrial incomes as unequal as they are today? This article infers inequality across individuals within each of the 28 pre-industrial societies, for which data were available, using what are known as social tables. It applies two new concepts: the inequality possibility frontier and the inequality extraction ratio. They compare the observed income inequality to the maximum feasible inequality that, at a given level of income, might have been 'extracted' by those in power. The results give new insights into the connection between inequality and economic development in the very long run...

Pre industrial inequalities

#noted #economichistory #2019-09-20