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The Dynamics of Inequality in the Human Story: A Brief Sketch

Jon Wisman ()

No 2017-10, Working Papers from American University, Department of Economics

Abstract: Teaching contemporary inequality can be significantly enriched by being nested in its dynamics over the course of human history. This essay is intended to provide those teaching inequality with a brief sketch of: a) the original human condition of a high degree of equality that endured for 97 to 98 percent of our species' existence as foragers and early agriculturalists; b) the origin of extreme inequality that accompanied the rise of states and civilization about 5,500 years ago as weapons technology enabled a few to subjugate the producers; and c) why, despite political democracy, extreme inequality persists.

Keywords: Aboriginal equality; rise of state; comparative advantage in violence; democracy; ideology. (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: A20 D30 D63 N00 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2017
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-his and nep-pke
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https://doi.org/10.17606/n7tk-0y80 First version, 2017 (application/pdf)

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