Monday, November 20, 2017

David F. Ruccio — The arc of (pre)history bends towards greater inequality

As it turns out, Nature (unfortunately behind a paywall) has just published a study in which the authors attempt to estimate the degree of wealth inequality in ancient societies for which we do not have written records.* What they did is collect data from 63 archaeological sites or groups of sites, used the distribution of house sizes as a proxy for wealth, and assigned Gini coefficients to each society.
What they are able to show is that wealth disparities generally increased with the domestication of plants and animals and with increased sociopolitical scale. The basic idea is that wealth disparities cannot accumulate within lineages until mechanisms for the transmission of wealth across generations become common, as is much more likely within sedentary societies. Thus, less wealth is typically transmitted across generations in hunter-gatherer and horticultural societies than in agricultural or pastoral societies....
The story of primitive accumulation, enclosure of the commons, rise of class structure and privileged classes, and extraction of economic rent. This post is about putting some numbers on the story that Marx told.

Occasional Links & Commentary
The arc of (pre)history bends towards greater inequality
David F. Ruccio | Professor of Economics University of Notre Dame Notre Dame

See also by David Ruccio

Getting some perspective on inequality. The numbers.

Real-World Economics Review Blog
Monopoly men*

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