Scheidel, Walter. The Great Leveler: Violence and the History of Inequality from the Stome Age to the Twenty-First Century. 2017.
It seems as if thinkers on Inequality are committed to writing lousy books. First Piketty, then Scheidel. Scheidel at least has honest statistics and real historical examples, used with nuance and counter examples.
Scheidel’s Great Leveler identifies four forces that have reduced inequalities by reducing the fortunes of those in the 1%. They have the most to lose when mass mobilization war, revolution, state collapse and plague come calling.
The interesting questions he, as an historian, cannot address are whether there are forces currently developing which might serve as analogues. For instance, will Populist policies eventually gain sufficient power to raise tax rates on the highest incomes and impose wealth taxes on estates – a revolution without violence and destruction?
This is a book for academics, complete with 40 pages of bibliography, that, unrestrained, bounces from ancient Athens to the Incas to modern eastern Europe and back again. Masochists will enjoy. A positive review can be found here.