Today Bloomberg.com published my opinion piece in which I analyze the connection between economic inequality and political instability. It starts:
Complex human societies, including our own, are fragile. They are held together by an invisible web of mutual trust and social cooperation. This web can fray easily, resulting in a wave of political instability, internal conflict and, sometimes, outright social collapse.
Analysis of past societies shows that these destabilizing historical trends develop slowly, last many decades, and are slow to subside. The Roman Empire, Imperial China and medieval and early-modern England and France suffered such cycles, to cite a few examples. In the U.S., the last long period of instability began in the 1850s and lasted through the Gilded Age and the “violent 1910s.”
We now see the same forces in the contemporary U.S. Of about 30 detailed indicators I developed for tracing these historical cycles (reflecting popular well-being, inequality, social cooperation and its inverse, polarization and conflict), almost all have been moving in the wrong direction in the last three decades.
As usual, when writing for popular outlets, one must sacrifice detail for readability. For those readers who are interested in exploring these issues in more detail I collected together the relevant blogs, under three headings. The first is on the relationship between inequality, elite overproduction, and cooperation (or, rather, failure of cooperation). The second series of blogs asks why inequality started growing during the late 1970s. And the third argues that the recent wave of shooting rampages is actually a surface indicator of deep structural-demographic pressures that have been growing in the last 30-40 years.
As always, comments are welcome. But don’t blame me for the title that Bloomberg.com slapped on my commentary! As all writers know, we have no control over the titles…