A recent historical analysis asks a profound question – What really reduces inequality?
By William Nixon, sophomore high-school student, United States.
Inequality is a subject that has increasingly become a center-stage issue in the modern world, what with the rise of populist leaders like Donald Trump, Nigel Farage, and possibly Marine Le Pen, who all promise that globalism only works for the elite, that they will “drain the swamp”, or leave the European Union. These insurgents promise a magnificent return to a time when governments worked for the people, and not simply for the rich, and a time when jobs were plentiful, and nation states had purpose. But what, really, can cause the economic revolutions they preach? What has worked in the past, and what can work in the future?
There are a surprisingly few number of methods for truly lowering inequality. A new book, “The Great Leveller: Violence and the History of Inequality from the Stone Age to the Twenty-First Century”, has detailed what makes the rich poor again, and there is no pretty way. There are great plagues, which cause social upheaval, (for example, The Black Death), and thus reorganize the cost of labor and work in favor of the surviving poor. The complete collapse of old and corrupt states and dynasties also destroy inequality. Total revolution, such as the Communist revolutions in China and Russia, also do the trick. And there are great mobilizations, in which an entire population must commit oneself to a single goal (World War 2 is a great example).
These four are the most reliable causes of change, but upon inspection, seem rather steep prices to pay for the redistribution of wealth. The Great Depression is described as a relative moment of relief, which sounds strange, until it is compared to other events of great inequality destroyers. So what should insurgents do?
Political reforms seem only to slow the rise of inequality in history, much less turn it the other way. Perhaps the idea of a total revolution appeals to some naive rebels, who have forgotten the cost of such an endeavor. There is no known solution for stopping inequality from growing forever. But there is something these anti-establishment Nationalists can do, which would actually save lives, instead of destroy them.
Global Warming is a threat unlike any other the human race has faced before. With the rise of CO2 comes a rise in the oceans, a rise in extreme weather, and a rise of a whole host of other issues which threaten to kill or displace millions of people- here is an issue, in which the people of the world can unite. In a mass mobilization against climate change, people would fight for a common cause, as one, not only to lower inequality, but to survive as a race.
Unfortunately, not one of the populist leaders mentioned above can definitively say that they believe in global warming, despite the near universal scientific consensus. But I believe that as more and more voices cry out for change, the populists will have no choice but to acknowledge it. Perhaps they will be allies and not foes, in the need to mitigate climate change. Perhaps they will see the power in such a problem, to help their constituents. What can be said definitively is that with or without their help, the fight against Global Warming will continue.