Take your pick

James C. Scott

  • The Great Leveller: Violence and the History of Inequality from the Stone Age to the 21st Century by Walter Scheidel
    Princeton, 504 pp, £27.95, February, ISBN 978 0 691 16502 8

It is by now common knowledge that income inequality has grown by leaps and bounds as a result of the neoliberal policies of the past half-century. The United States is a case in point – eight hyper-rich Americans today own as much as the entire bottom half of the nation’s households – but it is not an anomaly. Such massive inequalities are a global phenomenon. In 2015, Walter Scheidel writes in The Great Leveller: Violence and the History of Inequality from the Stone Age to the 21st Century, ‘the richest 62 persons on the planet owned as much private net wealth as the poorer half of humanity, more than 3.5 billion people.’ The disparity is stupefying; it would be hardly less stupefying if Scheidel were off by a factor of, say, two or three, and 124 or 186 individuals had as much wealth as the poorest half of the world’s population.

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