18-Oct-17

An insight into how The Four Horsemen: revolution, war, pandemics and state collapse, engineered the fall of wealth across history, writes Ian McLennan

Ian McLennan, partner at Triple Point LLP and economic historian reviews Walter Scheidel's book "The Great Leveler" for Spear's 

Scheidel concludes that, with revolution, total war, pandemics and state collapse being remote prospects today, the scene is set for further rises in inequality.

Rising inequality within countries has been a hot topic of late as wealth has become more unevenly spread not only in the G7 but in emerging market giants such as China and Russia, which may partly explain the rise of Trump, Corbyn and even Brexit. Of course, inequality is far from a new phenomenon and its history is recounted in some depth in Walter Scheidel’s new book in which he focuses particularly on the factors that have caused sharp reduction in historic inequality. He concludes that wealth is only significantly reduced when one of four cataclysmic events occur: the collapse of states, pandemics, large scale revolutions and mass-mobilisation warfare. The author labels these catalysts of dramatic wealth levelling, rather apocalyptically: The Four Horsemen.

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