When Wealth Inequality Arose

By Mark Barna | October 20, 2017 12:30 pm
megalith

Anthropologist Teresea Fernandez-Crespo examined megaliths, or stone burial sites, in north-central Spain to learn more about how farmers lived in the Late Neolithic. (Teresea Fernandez-Crespo)

We’ve heard how great times used to be, and I don’t mean in 1950s America.

For eons, our hunter-gatherer ancestors shared their spoils with one another, didn’t own much and had very little social hierarchy. Sure, it wasn’t all kumbaya and high-fives. But the fact that individuals had so few personal possessions took the bitter dish of economic inequality off the table.

So how’d we get to a world today where 1 percent of the population controls so much of the wealth?

That’s a complicated question. But scientists are in agreement that the Neolithic transition — when, between 9500 and 3000 BC, farming became the dominant subsistence strategy — was the moment economic inequality first flashed its billfold. The sedentary life of farming led to complex societies that included division of labor and land ownership. Farmers owning fertile fields got rich, while farmers with rocky plots got by or found other work.

Neolithic burial sites offer evidence of  the growing divide between the rich and the poor. On the Balkan Peninsula, in a city called Varna, burials show that in the fifth millennium BC (about 1,000 years after the rise of agriculture in the region) “some of the earliest evidence of extreme inequality in wealth,” according to a paper published in May. One individual “was buried with more gold than is known from any site prior to that time,” the authors say.

Teresea Fernández-Crespo, a physical anthropologist, coauthored a paper, published in 2015 in the Journal of Archaeological Science, indicating that in seven megalithic graves in northern Spain, many of the burials between 3700 and 1500 BC were male adults. The stone monument structures, scientists say, are thought to convey status upon those interred. Burial there was “most likely restricted only to those with particular rights and privileges,” Crespo says.

Last month, Crespo published a paper in the journal PLOS One suggesting that many people interred in the megaliths from 3500 to 1900 BC owned valley land rather than mountain land. The study was within a region in north-central Spain called Rioja Alavesa that boasts plains, rolling hills and mountainous terrain. Crespo studied both megalith burials and cave burials.

By examining the stable isotopic ratios of carbon and nitrogen in bone collagen, scientists can sketch the diet of people. Those buried in megaliths and caves ate mostly wheat and barley and sheep and cattle. However, those interred in caves — the Walmart of resting places at the time — had much higher carbon ratios. This could relate to the altitude, precipitation and air temperature of mountain life.

The people might have been herders, but another possibility is that they raised row crops along mountain slopes, which generally offer less fertile land than that in the valleys. “It is possible that those interred in caves were of a lower social standing in some respect, with more restricted access to fertile valley plots best suited for agriculture,” Crespo says.

Valley plots might have been the Upper Manhattan of land ownership within a stretch of farmland in north-central Spain. And with ownership came wealth, and economic inequality.

Crespo plans further bone-chemistry tests on the sepulcher remains.

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  • http://www.mazepath.com/uncleal/qz4.htm Uncle Al

    how’d we get to a world today where 1 percent of the population controls so much of the wealth?” Strong backs (versus hydraulics) and trainable hands (versus robotics) are of little value in technological societies other than as game pieces. Unwanted flesh for infantry engagements has always been in cheap oversupply (1347 to 1665 AD being mildly excepted).

    Progressivism reveals the evils of society to be the consequences of capitalism, technology, and reason itself. Civilization is alienation from nature creating inequality among all men.

    • Joseph Lammers

      So, we should all go back to being hunter-gathers with an average life span of around 25?

      • OcamsCudgel

        And intense resource inequality for millions of years — ie the main spur toward evolution

    • Genesis 11:9

      Let me be sure I understand. Your premise is the “the evils of society” is a consequence of, among other usual suspects, “reason itself”? If that isn’t a nihilistic dead end I don’t know what could be a better candidate.

      • Antifaarecommies

        All one has to do to prove his point is watch and listen to the liberal commentators today. There is a little room for logic.

        • Genesis 11:9

          He has no “point”, I’m afraid. What he has is a psychiatric disorder.

      • http://www.mazepath.com/uncleal/qz4.htm Uncle Al

        Hillary Clinton

        • Genesis 11:9

          Please provide a detailed analysis of the connection between The Beast of Chappaqua and “reason”. For all I can see, you don’t have any real grasp of the concept of reason at all.

          • OWilson

            She went from “Dead Broke” to a Global Family Empire worth $3,000,000,000.00 (WP) while Secretary of State, for no apparent “reason” except she was in an influential government position to demand (read request) donations to her personal “charity”. :)

            She could have been President, along with her Impeached, fined and disbarred ex-President husband too, for no apparent “reason”, too!

            Unless you believe that a gender, shared by half the population is a qualification?

          • Genesis 11:9

            You misapprehend my question. I didn’t ask that you simply use the word “reason” in a sentence also containing a reference to The Beast of Chappaqua. I asked whether you could somehow connect the concept of “reason”, i.e., that which makes man the highest form of life on our planet, with that of Hillary Clinton. It was meant to be a humorous challenge, not a literal one.

          • OWilson

            I used your post to take a shot at Hillary!

            But she eminently deserves it in my humble opinion.

            For 30 years, I have watched her and her so-called husband ruin numerous lives, some violently, and get filthy rich in the process.

            I can’t think of anything useful she has ever done outside her slogans about working hard for the Middle Class.

            II’s on topic though, and actually brings it full circle, that the biggest proponents of wealth equality, are filthy rich themselves :)

            Ironically, it’s only Trump who won’t take a wage for the privilege of serving the people, as leader of the nation :)

          • http://www.mazepath.com/uncleal/qz4.htm Uncle Al

            The Clintons added Vince Fostercare to American politics. Prior assassinations were of character and wealth.

  • OWilson

    That was about the same time that a lazy person could first survive without starving to death!

    • OcamsCudgel

      And hence our evolution began being slowed

      • OWilson

        An uptick for your absolutely hilarious avatar.

  • overtheages

    “The first man who, having enclosed a piece of ground, bethought himself of saying, “This Is Mine,” and found people simple enough to believe him, was the real founder of civil society. From how many crimes, wars, and murders, from how many horrors and misfortunes might not any one have saved mankind, by pulling up the stakes, or filling up the ditch, and crying to his fellows: Beware of listening to this imposter; you are undone if you once forget that the fruits of the earth belong to us all, and the earth itself to nobody.” ~ Jean-Jacques Rousseau

    • Joseph Lammers

      Rousseau’s philosophy hasn’t worked too well in practice (see Cambodia for an example).

      • Marshall Gill

        He doesn’t live that way himself so the post was simply social signaling.

  • Genesis 11:9

    “For eons, our hunter-gatherer ancestors shared their spoils with one another, didn’t own much and had very little social hierarchy.” Seriously? And precisely what evidence is there that proves this bit of sociological delusion? May I suggest that the belief that mankind was “perfect” at some point “eons” ago, leads to the ineluctable conclusion that at some point nearer our own time mankind became the evil monster we know today. Gee, sweetie, what happened? Frankly, anyone with as childish a mind as this ought not to be allowed to publish. Certainly should not be permitted to vote.

  • Ewin Barnett

    The phrase “income inequality” is a invention of socialist ideologues rooted in Marxism and post-modernism. That it is the basis for an article on science just shows how much of this ideology has corroded our thinking.

    A signature of this socialistic ideology is that there is always a “growing divide between the rich and the poor.” Sure enough. it was found in Neolithic burial sites too!

    Any activity by a population of humans will quickly show a Pareto distribution of outcomes. This is the old “80/20” or “90/10” rule. Always, a few percent of humans will produce significantly more, and better. But the wealth gradient presented here is far more than someone owning 10 more sheep than someone else.

    People who lived in hunter-gathering and agrarian societies had just about zero ability to leverage technology or innovation. Up until free societies the main way for a person to gain significantly (many sigma) higher wealth was by predation, either as a “king” or as a raider.or pirate who colluded with local kings. It is not as if some herdsman could write a great pop song that sells millions of copies, or devise a new operating system.

    But “income disparity” in the modern context is always a complaint that is a means to an end, which is to destroy the free market and to justify imposing socialistic government redistribution. But it was free people exchanging goods in a free market that was the modern invention that allowed humanity to rise out of horrible grinding poverty.

    • zbecktx

      Agree/disagree. The authors would posit, and I think we’d all tend to agree, that it was division of labor, and specialization of labor (due to the transition to agrarian societies), that led to increased efficiencies, and therefore leverage, in the form of person-sized economies of scale. Thereafter, the scale of economies has increased exponentially, especially with the development of various technologies, and that economic growth has certainly improved overall human outcomes on a lot of measures (health, longevity, etc).

      But I disagree that the complaint about wealth disparity or inequality is a complaint that is intended to destroy the free market and justify imposing socialistic government redistribution. I think it’s just an observation. Now, it has been demonstrated, via serious study, that greater degrees of wealth inequality correlate with poorer outcomes across many domains of quality of life (health, longevity, etc) for all participants in a society, including those at the top. In other words, more inequality in a society means those at the top enjoy less benefit than those at the top of more equal societies.

      I agree that we’ll generally see the Pareto Principle at work no matter what groups we look at. And I’d say it doesn’t always seem “fair” for those who are most efficient, creative and productive to subsidize the least efficient, creative and productive. But, regardless of the reason for those at the top being at the top (whether its personal productivity and virtue or unearned privilege that afforded greater access to capital and opportunity), the demonstrated truth is that at least some amount of “socialistic” redistribution of wealth seems to benefit those top producers, regardless of our preference for markets.

      Of course, socialistic redistribution does not abnegate free markets; the two would seem to be rather complementary, with “socialist” schemes providing the baselines for community infrastructure (both physical and human, as in health and education), and free market capitalism providing the economic engine produced by incentives. Some (but certainly not all) of the profits produced by free markets can be captured via taxation and reinvested into the aforementioned infrastructure.

      • J Smith

        Except outcomes not only for elites, but for everyone are often better in societies with the most “inequality.” These are the societies most likely to innovate and have highest levels of quality of life. Redistribution is demonstrated to harm all kinds of outcomes.

        • https://www.thevenusproject.com/en/about/resource-based-economy TZM_TVP_RBE

          How do you explain nations such as Sweden and the UK which are near the top with the US in income inequality yet also having some of the highest taxes and free healthcare?

          • River

            No, the EU has more income inequality than the US, not less

          • Van Snyder

            His is “hiding in your tax bill” free? People in UK are becoming afraid to go to hospitals precisely because of their dysfunctional “free” health care system. The best hospital in England couldn’t be bothered to use an MRI to diagnose my late friend’s rupturing brain aneurism, which presented obvious symptoms.

        • Van Snyder

          Animal societies exist in which income inequality has obviously been present for millions of years. Take bees for example….

      • LibSlayer

        “Now, it has been demonstrated, via serious study, that greater degrees
        of wealth inequality correlate with poorer outcomes across many domains
        of quality of life”

        What such study?

        • J Smith

          The studies he refer to are snapshots, not studies over time. So for example the claim is Scandinavian countries which have less income inequality are ahead in certain health outcomes — ignoring that they were also ahead when they had plenty of inequality.

          • LibSlayer

            If he is talking about health care outcomes, it has nothing to do with income inequality or the different healthcare systems, that is due to Americans having the most unhealthy lifestyles in the industrial world, with obesity approaching 40%.

          • J Smith

            Indeed

          • https://www.thevenusproject.com/en/about/resource-based-economy TZM_TVP_RBE

            Are you certain of that? According to many studies, it has been found that obesity is tied to poverty in wealthy countries which would indicate that the wealthy are less likely to be obese as they have access to the healthiest foods and time for exercise while the poor are left with eating what amounts to garbage with no time for exercise. You could also point to education as a factor and lack of education will invariably lead to less opportunity for gaining wealth.

          • River

            Obesity rated are growing Europe more than any other region. Is that because their systems are such failures at promoting equality?

          • LibSlayer

            We aren’t discussing poverty, we are talking wealth and income inequality. There is a difference.

            There is a huge difference in wealth and income between me and those who earn millions and have 10’s of millions, I am middle class and overweight.

            It is American lifestyle choices that are the cause of the high expenditure of healthcare in the US.

          • Van Snyder

            Education. Right. What passes for education today is embarrassing. Who wrecked the schools? It wasn’t concerned parents who invented rubber rooms to house terrible teachers while paying them not to teach (or molest their students).

    • Ralph Ellis

      Marx and other writers from all political spectrums, point to the creation of income inequality as one of the key points for creating a more complex society. No Marxist ever argued that we should have stayed in a hunter gatherer phase. Instead this is just part of how society starts to develop and be able to put resources into more than just basic survival. This is an entirely distinct position from the political one where Marxists argue that divisions in industrial society have become too extreme to be acceptable.

      • Ewin Barnett

        The very fact that a single mother on welfare, camping out in an Edinburgh coffee house could write a novel that blossomed into a billion dollar media franchise proves what? If that is not a case of “income inequality”, I cannot think of a better one.

        Who was oppressed in the writing of this novel? Does J.K.Rowling owe the waitress or the coffee house a percent of her movie royalties because of her success?

        Yet her success proves exactly the opposite of what today’s post-modern Marxist-wannabes are attempting to prove. That very inexpensive modern tools give any hard working and creative person such amazing and historic opportunities to create new wealth is something brand new in human history. But Marx would have us believe that this is somehow evil, when in fact it is quite the opposites.

        If not Rowling, then what about Bill Gates having a sufficient operating system at the right time when IBM was in dire need of one? Or how about Larry Ellison sweating away as he wrote the first version of the Oracle database engine?

        If I hire a programmer for a salary, do I owe him extra back pay if I happen to sell the business later and make a lot of money? If so, then if I lose money instead does that programmer owe me the wages that I paid him?

        If J.K. Rowling is not a useful example of “income inequality”, then what exactly does that term mean? If Beyonce’s wealth or Oprah’s wealth is not “income inequality”, then where are the concerns about how much either pays the people who run the cameras and lights? No, I never hear anyone complain about those wages. So, who exactly is an example so we can critically study the subject?

        The only modern-day examples are people who colluded with government, the very mechanism by which Marx sought power over others. It is thus ironic to hear Marxists complain about “income inequality” in today’s connected society.

        • Ralph Ellis

          How silly of us to think that there is any inequality in the world when one person can write a book and make money. Have to love your grass of statistics.

          • Ewin Barnett

            Of course there are people in this world who are underpaid and who are overpaid. There are people who are taken advantage of. Three are CEOs who make more than anyone thinks is fair, except not counting those who agree to write the check.

            But Marx and his sycophants today propose to substitute their idea of justice for that of free people in a free market. Worse, their only tool by which they can impose justice is via compulsion and coercion of armed government agents. The fact that the last time this was tried on a mass scale cost about 100 million lives does not matter. Their answer is always that they would do better, that they only have our best interest at heart and besides Lenin, Mao and Pol Pot were not true Marxists.

          • OWilson

            The problem with Socialists/Marxists, they throw out the merit system of economic control.

            If your neighbor is a loyal member of the Party, he can dictate what HE thinks your income should be. He could be an incompetent fool, but no mind, he is LOYAL to the Party. If you demur he has the power to call in the police for a midnight knock on the door!

            And, of course, there is always a DEAR LEADER, but how does he get his job?

            Usually by coup, revolution or assasination.of all rivals. :)

            No thanks!, back to the drawing board! :)

          • SamSam

            With regard to “the merit system of economic control,” Fascism was the socialist system that tried to return to a merit system, recognizing that an “industrialist” that organized the creation of a company is best suited to manage that business, as long as the will of the government and “people” are adhered to.(see “Schindler’s List”) The Krupp family of industrialists fell into this trap, resulting in the creation of Hitler’s war machine.

            Socialism is a spectral array of ideas. The most extreme and naive being Marxism, followed by a knot of Leninism, Stalinism and Maoism. Realize that Fascism is primarily the next organizational steps away from Marxism. The next step is the less militaristic, but bureaucratically strangling form prevalent in the European Union, which is were Obama and Progressives want to take us. Be aware!

          • OWilson

            On the clock face of political theory, six o’clock is neutral territory where moderates meet.

            Move the hand in both directions to midnight.

            That’s where totalitarians meet.

            Mao, Stalin, Franco, Hiltler, Castro, Saddam, Pol Pot, and assorted Kim Ils

            It is only supporters of one or the other that will deny that they are all the same! :)

          • SamSam

            Yes, that is why I referred to them as a “knot.”

          • River

            why erect a strawman?

        • Tim Donahoe

          So, just to be clear, just simply stating the fact that with the creation of surplus, wealth inequality was also created in human society is somehow some Marxist plot to subvert people’s perceptions?

          Take off the tin hat

          • Ewin Barnett

            The phrase “income inequality” is only used in a socialistic context. When farmer A is able to grow more wheat on a acre of land than farmer B, a person who is oriented at social justice or “inequality” seeks to explain the difference in terms of a Marxist or post-modern framework. The language such people use is always one that hints at finding ways to make sure that farmer A never grows more again, or that farmer A somehow oppressed farmer B. Or that farmer A owes farmer B the difference.

            If A and B have never met and are located a hundred miles apart, it is the fault of society or something else. It is never random chance or the lack of skills or diligence on the part of farmer B. Or that farmer A got lucky with rain that farmer B did not get.

            For Marx, and later for post-modernists, any difference between A and B became a means to differentiate A from B and to justify changing society. That is the teleology (the distant goal) of the complaint of “inequality”. A person without that ideological agenda would merely make note of the difference in yield and seek the rational understanding of all the various factors that might explain it.

            When a person evaluates all outcomes in terms of “inequality”, they are living in a post-modern worldview.

    • knutrition

      Edwin, I would like to turn your argument on it’s head. Denial of the out of control wealth inequality is an invention of libertarian ideologues fed propaganda by the wealthy who have a system to perpetuate their position and run the oligarchy in this country. Many of the very wealthy with higher ethics have said just that; the system is rigged in their favor.
      The socialists boogyman argument is always brought up to denigrate movements for better social equality. Most proposals for more economic equality are just small steps that in no way will topple the oligarchy or even hurt the 1%. Let’s just level the playing field a little. Let’s work towards a better environment, working conditions, earnings and happiness of all our citizens.
      You need a wake up call. Read Jane Meyers “Dark Money” for a start.

      • River

        Most dark money in politics is actually “progressive”

        And externally attempted income equality actually has, time and time again caused less equality

    • Cezar State

      I agree with your point, but that doesn’t mean that the invention of agriculture was entirely a positive thing. For instance, while creating conditions for the emergence of sedentary populations and technological innovation, it also allowed for the creation of unnecessary and resource draining jobs (which involved next to no work and, therefore, created no value, like landowner, king or money lender), promoted conflict over land rights (in which perished way too many people) and made human civilization way less resilient (as a single summer with no rain could bring about a year long famine and, possibly, the collapse of an entire civilization, for instance the Bronze Age civilizations).

      Of course, the benefits greatly outweigh the disadvantages and it’s no turning back now. However, I strongly believe that, given enough time, humanity may have found a better way forward. Evolution is the best social scientist.

      BTW Without the invention of agriculture, there would also be no socialism. No people for the government to prey upon in order to redistribute their wealth in exchange for legitimacy and keeping their unnecessary jobs. So, there’s a fun fact.

      • River

        Landowners, and financial people tend to add the most to an economy. so certainly does political leadership
        Adn the bronze age collapse was a a regional, not worldwide event, and driven by a dozen factors, not a “summer of drought.” for one iron made weapons profoundly cheaper to make and made it possible to field vast forces armed and armoured of non elites.

        The main problem with agriculture and sedentary society is that it has stopped what had been ever accelerating human evolution. modern societies wit the intelligent elites rule over a very large number of specialized by less generally intelligent base populations.

        • Cezar State

          Agree with your main point, but:

          1.Be it that financial people add the most to an economy, although I highly doubt that. They also decrease overall happiness. They’re presence feels uncanny. You’re thinking of society as an economic entity, foegetting the human element. Same mistake Marx did. People can subside on less, while still being capable of innovation. People are capable of administrating themselves, with no need for hired leaders nor bankers. Loans can be made, with no interest involved, from one man to another. Small communities can decide for themselves, through direct democracy, on any conceivable issue. Politicians and bankers are just administrators with unnaturally large remunerations. People can see that. It takes a toll on them. It feels unfair, the game seems rigged. So people are less willing to play it, less willing to inovate for social recognition. This ties into your main point.

          2. My point is that societies with high levels of work specialization also have a great ammount of interdependency between those specialized functions. One small mistake or the wrath of nature can have giant implications down the line. The connections that make a civilisation thrive, are also its weak spot. Ofcourse there wasn’t just one factor that contributed to the Bronze Age Colapse, but think of what would have taken to bring down thousands of small kingdoms scattered in their place.

          • Van Snyder

            Did you ever get hired to a well-paying job by a poor person?

          • OWilson

            Obama, Hillary and Bernie did! :)

          • SamSam

            No… they were hired by the Government, having gone through a test by the population that was mostly about popularity and presentation,

          • OWilson

            Or a cheap promise of more “free” stuff? :)

          • Cezar State

            No, but I sure did get hired to a well-paying job by a rich person who fairly earned his money. :)

            I believe in the free market, but I think that value of a commodity should be based on the work that went into it, not by scarcity, and that this should be enforced by popular culture rather than governments. That’s how you avoid monopolies and unfair wages. I believe that those concepts are compatible. Correct me if I’m wrong.

          • Van Snyder

            The labor theory of value is incomplete. Read “Economic Harmonies” by Frederic Bastiat.

          • Cezar State

            Thanks.

          • River

            Financial generally people increase overall happiness. they and free markets create greater access to an economy’s benefits.

            As far as bronze age collapse, lots of civilizations did fine — look at Egypt

    • General Tso

      You criticize the author for ideological bias, and then substitute your own market fundamentalism. 😛

      • Ewin Barnett

        It all depends on the meaning of words. Ideology is a framework of beliefs that are decided on a basis other than that of facts and logic. Knowing that 2 + 2 = 4 is not ideological bias. If it is “fundamentalism” then I proudly plead guilty. But what does that word mean, exactly? After all Pol Pot created the killing fields because he was determined to impose fundamental Marxism on the Cambodian people.

        Pejoratives aside, it is easily proved that the only arrangement of exchange where the parties mutually increase their wealth is that of free exchange. All other forms degrade wealth it in one way or other. Unless a society, on balance, practices free exchange, it will slowly consume the finite wealth it has. Otherwise the only source of wealth is to plunder someone else.

        When the meaning of words is malleable and plastic, there is no reality upon which to honestly engage and debate. Indeed, honesty is banished in such a worldview.

        When an author states that events from pre-history “offer evidence of the growing divide between the rich and the poor”, what is the basis for such a statement? It only can come from contemporary post-modern (socialistic) ideology projected backwards in time upon otherwise silent burial artifacts. Factually it is utter nonsense to make such a claim. That such a statement made it past the editors shows their bias as well, or their sloppiness. They publish it to their great shame. But such people have no shame.

        • General Tso

          That’s your opinion. Which is your right to express. But the red-baiting seems completely unnecessary.

          • Ewin Barnett

            I am not trying to “bait” or troll anyone. However, too many people in academia today just assume that there is only the Progressive Way and have never been challenged with the hard facts of life, nor of economics.

            The very ideological basis for this article is rooted not in sound science, but in socialistic post-modern victim ideology. This is ideology projected upon ancient peoples about whom little else is known. Science is a careful discipline where trendy ideologies have zero place especially to evaluate neolithic burial sites!

          • General Tso

            No offense, but economics is not a ‘science’ like physics or biology. We all have biases. Even economists like you! Postmodernism is not a set of beliefs but a skepticism of any grand narrative; especially of the kind of Economics you are espousing. You are no more objective than the so-called “socialistic post-modern victim ideology” you are criticizing.

          • OWilson

            In other words a scam, a political Ponzi scheme, that can never produce the wealth it needs to pay for its consumption, without turning to the free market.

            Russia, China were economic basket cases before the allowed capitalism. They are not stupid!

            Obama, Bernie and Hillary wanted to take the country in the opposite direction, doubled unpayable debts kicked down the road to generations unborn be damned, as long as they could retain power and, of course, get filthy rich themselves in the process!

          • Alexander Barnett

            Russia? You must be joking. Russia is now a murderous regime run by gangsters and killers.

          • OWilson

            Hillary gave 20% of the U.S. Strategic Uranium supply to THOSE people? :)

            She got a $145,000,000.00 “donation” for that!

            Slick Willy, her hubby, gets a cool $500,000.00 walking around money from the Russians around the same time?

            Go back to bed!

        • OWilson

          In the big picture wealth inequality is after all, a relative term.

          Kicked around by cynical rich political opportunists, like the aforementioned Bernie Sanders, to obtain votes from the bottom dwellers!

          In the U.S. Welfare recipients can be grossly obese, afford to drive a car, have place to live, all the once “luxury” appliances, big TV and enough spare cash to indulge in gambling, drugs or other pastimes!

          Even working hard all your life in some European countries could never quite match that!

          I know, I lived and worked in one of those countries!

          So lighten up, all you Socialists! :)

          • General Tso

            …the top 10 percent of the income distribution now owns 77 percent of America’s wealth while those in the bottom 10 percent are “net debtors,” owning -0.5 percent of the nation’s wealth.

          • OWilson

            And Hillary went from “Dead Broke” to amassing a Global Family Empire worth $3,000,000,000.00 (WP) as Secretary of State!

            She and her boss left us with 3 Wars, 2 dire nuclear threats, a new Cold War with Russia, and a doubled National Debt.

            Google, Yahoo, Dow, Time Warner (CNN) Monsanto, Ford, Sony and the others at least provide something useful to their consumers.

            So, what’s to be done about this inequality? :)

            (Voices from the back of the room, “Lock her up!”)

          • General Tso

            I preferred Bernie; (But Secretary Clinton was better than what you got.)

          • Van Snyder

            Would shortly have been President Kane after the criminals got locked up.

          • General Tso

            Instead of Putin’s poodle? That would have been welcome

          • Van Snyder

            At least we can agree that she really is a dog, and a stupid one too.

          • OWilson

            Who?

          • OWilson

            You can have her! :)

          • Van Snyder

            And your point is…?

          • General Tso

            The topic is wealth inequality. Pay attention if you want to play

          • OWilson

            The top 20% pay 90% of all taxes.

            What’s yer point? :)

          • General Tso

            You are just a troll

          • temporary guest

            Amen. Socialist want to bad mouth capitalism withe false, created phrase “trickle down economics” .. but in a capitalistic environment, people are able to climb the supposed pyramid if they have the dream, the drive and the fortitude whereas the dirty little secret of socialist economies is that they also have their elite, all the way up the pyramid to the top, but the proverbial “glass ceiling” covers every one who is not among the political elite. Socialism can only be government coerced. Capitalism operates freely. Big, huge difference between those two “pyramids”.

        • temporary guest

          Put a less intellectual way, the difference between socialism and free market capitalism is that socialism can only be maintained for how ever long it is maintained by government coercion while free market capitalism works much easier and better, on the other hand, because it is kind of like sex ,,, it just happens naturally if you leave people alone

          • Ewin Barnett

            In this case, my complaint that the author’s choice of words (starting with the headline itself) and the way in which he chooses to interpret Neolithic burial artifacts. It is clearly an ideological rather than a scientific basis.

            That ideology is post-moderism, which is fraudulent and dangerously specious. It frames all human interaction in terms of oppressor and oppressed. In this ideology, when person A has stuff and person B does not, then A must have oppressed B. There is never any other reason. It is never the fault of B, if B is in an “oppressed class”. So of course disparities in wealth are always increasing.

            The roots of post-modernism are in Marxism, an ideology that has the blood of 100 million humans on its hands. Marxism is a form of socialism, which is the belief that humanity will be able to transcend its current social, economic and spiritual imitations when we each are forced to live at the expense of each other. Socialism is at its core a deity-free religion.

    • temporary guest

      Edwin, posted here, but intended for the writer of this article to see:

      “But the fact that individuals had so few personal possessions took the bitter dish of economic inequality off the table.”

      You trying to tell me that in the blessed days of cave dwelling a mans’ wife was never jealous of the Jones in the cave next door? Sorry, I’m not buying it.

      I agree 100% with Ewin Barnetts’ comment. Is there a Karl Marx clone writing for Discover Magazine now?

  • OWilson

    Wealth inequality arose when the first farmer asked for help to dig the barren ground, plant his seeds, and harvest his crop, and he got no volunteers! :)

    • Antifaarecommies

      You mean, like conservative values win out over commie liberal hog wash?

      • http://www.mazepath.com/uncleal/qz4.htm Uncle Al

        Socialism is the convenience of theft. Capitalism is the burden of productivity. In all of recorded human history, there is only one – ONE! – socialist nation that has succeeded: the next one.

        • Greg Hejl

          That’s not true. every single first world country, except America, is a successful socialist society. The only thing that sets America apart from them is the obscene military budget that is used to raid the wealth of other countries.

          • J Smith

            Nonsense. Every single first world country is in fact capitalist. you are confusing socialism (state owned industry) with social programs. Get an education

          • Greg Hejl

            communism is state owned industry, fascism is corporate owned government.
            Socialism is state run programs to take care of the common needs of society. Education and Healthcare are at the top of that list at the moment
            Socialism includes our infrastructure, police, fire, laws and government

          • J Smith

            You are completely wrong. Socialism tis state owned industry, ie means of production are owned by the government. Police, fire and infrastructure being built or run by government is not socialism at all. Get a dictionary

        • https://www.thevenusproject.com/en/about/resource-based-economy TZM_TVP_RBE

          There has never truly been a Socialist nation, just as there has never truly been a Capitalist one. All nations are on the same bar, sliding to and fro between Capitalism and Socialism, the US is a perfect example of this, just look at its history. We are approaching the next big Socialist movement in the US, which happened during the Great Depression, all indicators point to this.

          In the end, Socialism is always there to bailout Capitalism when it fails.

          • River

            Nations don’t slide between socialism and capitalism, they are polar opposites. Socialism the government owns all the businesses. Moreover support for socialism ha never been lower in the US, and socialism is in retreat worldwide on 50 year trends

      • OWilson

        Human nature, rather than ideals, rule the world. Always have!

        If you have ideals but refuse to fight to the death to defend them, they will soon be overtaken, by other, more militant idealists.

        In my long life watching capitalism, socialism and communism (both my grandfathers) I have never seen classic conservative values falsified.

        Only vilified, by the historically and hysterically failed Left, and their followers.

        There is simply no “free lunch” in science or nature

        Wealth, like food, must be created, before it can be shared!

    • Greg Hejl

      Thats a really old story.
      Here’s a new one.
      You are not paid what your labor is worth.
      How do we know this?
      There are billionaires.
      If you were getting paid what you were worth there would be no billionaires

      • OcamsCudgel

        And if we were all equal there would be no Mozart’s. You contend if we just got rid of Mozarts we would all be motzarts, whereas the fact is we simply would have no great music.

      • OWilson

        Worth is a relative commodity.

        Only a free market can determine worth, not government bureaucrats like Bernie Sanders, setting artificial wages for everybody else!

        In the real world, Bernie would not pay his lawn cutter, the same as he would pay his campaign manager.

        In the real world Bernie himself made over a $1,000,000.00 in income last year. as a failed candidate, yet! :)

        • Greg Hejl

          In our current age, there is no such thing as a free market. every means of manufacture has been bought up. every market is regulated to protect the fortunes of billionaires. There are no more frontiers to be conquered by an individual. (although Elon is taking a giant stab at it)

          • J Smith

            Relax. we get it. You are a ‘C” student and simply jealous of “A” students.

          • OWilson

            Some folks believe we only have 10 years to save the planet, too, from these billionaire polluters.

            Imagine, The End of the Planet, and the End of Business Opportunity, all in one’s own lifetime.

            Now ain’t THAT special!

  • Marshall Gill

    “how’d we get to a world today where 1 percent of the population controls so much of the wealth?”

    Human innovation. Since “wealth” is something that human beings create, not just distribute, there has been astronomical amounts of that wealth being created.

    The “1%” is also used as a trick, rather than an attempt at enlightenment. An honest representation would be 70,000,000 people! Oh NOES, 70,000,000 control so much wealth?!!

    Oil in the ground is a perfect example of this. Before the first men began to use oil productively, it was actually a negative thing because you couldn’t grow crops where it bubbled to the surface. The innovation of distillation and drilling made this pollution fantastically valuable. Not surprisingly, the first men to capitalize on the then new technology became very wealthy. They created wealth where none had existed before. This did not hurt the “poor”.

    • OWilson

      In Arabia, not so long ago oil was considered nothing but a pollutant which fouled oases and made people and camels sick!

      Enter Western Big Oil entrepreneurs, and it now fuels their fabulously wealthy lifestyle, and helps develop the Third World.

      They gave up their camels and tents for palaces and the best cars and planes that money can buy!

    • Greg Hejl

      If we were getting paid what our labor is worth there would be no billionaires.
      A Billionaires only purpose in life is to transfer wealth to themselves.

      • OcamsCudgel

        Total nonsense. Some people are more intelligent and perseverent in applying it.

        By the poor logic you are using the reason why we are ot all Mozarts is because of the existence of a few Mozarts, and therefore if we only got rid of them, or handicapped them to the median, we would all be motzarts.

        Humans have evolved from earlier less intelligent hominids precisely because genetic outliers in intelligence created situations where they created and held more resources. This has been going on for millions of years.

        • Greg Hejl

          I’m not talking about Mozarts here.
          First generation billionaires are some pretty decent people. They know what they have was contributed to by many.
          2nd and continuing generations of billionaires are the real issue.
          These people have had everything handed to them on a silver platter – they don’t get rich because they are a Mozart, or even prove they have some modicum of intelligence.
          Here’s the picture I see
          Dynastic families throughout the world give their money to their bratty kids who aren’t smart enough to create sources of income. They have to manipulate existing markets and resource pools to continue their families transfer of wealth business. This continues on generation after generation as the families continue to drain value from the markets.
          understand that a portion of everything you buy get’s paid to a billionaire without them having to lift a finger to earn it.

          • River

            You do did not address the point the other commentator made.
            And since we know billionaires are in fact rarely dynastic, and the great majority are not the children of billionaires your rant is even more puzzling.
            On top of that billionaires generally drive economies, drive innovation, and provide employment.

          • Greg Hejl

            Innovators drive economies, billionaires suck it dry.
            Innovators drive demand, billionaires demand more rents.
            Angel investors feed innovators, billionaires buy out the threats to protect their kingdoms.
            Nikkola Tesla died a pauper from the manipulations of billionaires
            Betsy Devos is manipulating the education landscape to transfer more wealth to her family. she can do this because she can afford the army of lobbyists, think tanks and non-profits to carry out her plan.
            The Kochs demand they hand-pick professors in return for their donations. They fund ALEC which biolerplates legislation to further their social agendas, amongst the many other social plays they practice.
            None of us regular people have these kinds of resources to manipulate markets and societies to be able to play on any sort of level playing field to have a say in how our society operates.
            Corporations, owned by billionaires, have consolidated so much, only five or six companies control each of the vertical markets. you can quickly lookup the few companies that control the energy and food production markets.
            America was not founded on billionaires and corporations, it was founded to get out from underneath that kind of control.

          • OWilson

            What the envious and their pandering socialist politicians fail to understand is the contradiction that “Big Business”, and it’s billionaires are just the very same “small business” and “middle class”, they tell us they profess to love.

            The only difference between the two is that the one they love, happened, through hard work, creativity, and supplying real people’s real needs, and became successful.

            The obvious economic fact that eludes them, is that if 1% are driving the economy, and creating jobs out of all proportion to the other 99%, you would want more in that bracket, not less.

            Common sense dictates you should want more of them “big Business” to produce taxable goods and services, not less!

            In other words, you should not kill the goose that lays the golden eggs, nor abuse the cow that provides your milk.

            On the contrary, an occasional thank you would be more appropriate. :)

          • Greg Hejl

            Yes, I gave a nod to our billionaire innovator class.

            absolutely agree with your goose and cow sayings – both of those sayings are “Take care of your workers, because thats where your wealth comes from.

            Growth in business is absolutely required, but we all know where too big to fail leads us. If a company is too big to fail, it is too big to exist.

            Small business backed by a strong government can feed the world. USA is good example. The US Govt is why we are so good at growing corn and soybeans

          • OWilson

            People point to the failure of Big Corporations as a failure of the free market, when the opposite is true.

            When an inefficient, or crooked company cannot provide goods and services that the market sets by competition, they should be left to fail, so that they can be replaced, often with the same employees, that are efficient. and provides the opportunity for small business to grow and succeed, in their place!

            The opposite occurs in government, where there’s no control or real world measure of efficiency and accountability, to the ultimate consumer, the taxpayer.

            And, of course when they bail out such a company it enshrines the inefficiency and unviability, and keeps out competition who would normally replace the failing enterprise.

          • Van Snyder

            Jaguar / Land Rover got much bigger after it failed and the pieces got picked up by Tata.

          • OWilson

            The 4 world’s biggest solar energy companies recently went bankrupt and some $25,000,000,000.00 taxpayer subsidies with them!

          • Van Snyder

            What is it about the Koch’s, the 12th-largest contributors to political campaigns? Nobody who natters about the Kochs seems to care about the eleven more prolific givers, all of whom donate to socialist causes.

          • River

            Your post makes no sense. It is the millionaires and billionaires who fund innovation getting to market.

            And there isn’t a thing Tesla ‘invented” that would not have come to market.

            As far as Devos, wresting education from the teachers unions who have destroyed it is a good thing.

          • Greg Hejl

            Please stop being a shill for a billionaire. they care nothing for your well being

          • Van Snyder

            Incompetent 2nd-generation billionaires fritter away their wealth and don’t pass it to 3rd generation billionaires.

          • Greg Hejl

            still making excuses for billionaires?
            Walton’s, Koch’s, Devos’.
            I wish they would just fritter away their wealth.

          • Van Snyder

            What’s with the fixation on the Koch brothers? According to OpenSecrets, they’re the 53rd-largest contributors to political campaigns. Richard and Betsy DeVos were #65. Waltons weren’t on the top 100 list. Why aren’t you nattering about Tom Steyer, who gave 22.45 times more to Democrats than the Koch brothers gave to Republicans?

            Have you ever been hired to a full-time job by a poor person? Walmart has 2.1 million employees. If Walmart were forced to pay higher wages, they’d switch to automated checkout machines, and lay off hundreds of thousands of employees. Socialists never think through their schemes beyond the first reflexive random thought.

      • Marshall Gill

        LOL. And a nine hundred millionaire? A one millionaire? Envy is an ugly thing, Greg.

  • jxxx mxxx

    Your opening sentence inadvertently admits wealth inequality has always been with us or at least for “eons”!

    “For eons, our hunter-gatherer ancestors shared their spoils “? Spoils would result from killing off the neighboring clan meaning the raiders got a lot and the dead clan got zero – a lot vs zero – the very def of wealth inequality. How did u control for or quantify that?

    • OcamsCudgel

      The author of this article simply has no background on the subject.

      Social inequality is all throughout nature, the rule in all social animals, and its result is called “evolution.”

  • topcat_99

    If today we equally divided all the weath among all the people, by next week there would be people who are penniless and people who have 10 times as much as they started with . By a decade we would be back where we are now in terms of wealth distribution, but at a lower overall level since those with poor decision making skills would have made those poor decisions with more resources.

    • OWilson

      My grandfather was a devout communist, but he always used to say that if your took all the food in the world and divided it up we would all be starving.

      Also, if all the worlds money was shared out, within a year, the rich would have the money again and the poor would still be poor.

      He had no empirical evidence for this, but it did make us think about it!

  • OcamsCudgel

    The author of this article simply has no background on the subject.
    Social inequality is all throughout nature, the rule in all social animals, and its result is called “evolution.” Inewquality is not a problmatic thing at all but how the more intelligent or better suited with whatever genetic and cultural talents prevail over those whom evolution shoudl discard.

    Does it occur to the author that from a scientific perspective this social inequality is a good thing? Or that without it we would still be 50 IQ hominids? More intelligent H. erectus samples would have created inequalities in access to nutrition, better mates, hunter gather range areas, and those samples within H. erectus would have been the ones who evolved into H.Sapiens.

    Look at this: For eons, our hunter-gatherer ancestors shared their spoils with one another, didn’t own much and had very little social hierarchy.

    Actually studies of recent hunter gatherers as well as bone analysis looking at food/nutrition access in areas that were all hunter gatherers shows intense social hierarchy.

    In terms of gold at Varna this was an area of Europe with more ground accessible gold nearby, just to the north. This is exactly a place and time where early metalworking kit people coming out of Anatolia would have elite colonizers coming out and going less than 100 miles up the coast of Black sea area with their metalworking tech “kit” (knowledge).

  • randy

    This author apparently has never read Jared Diamond, who gives at least a starting point for a theory about the rise of chiefdoms and states, which are the source of the inequality apparently documented by the obscure, single case Spanish finds mentioned in the article. I must agree that this author is ignorant.

    • J Smith

      Inequality has been around much longer than chiefdoms or states. In fact it exists all over the animal world.

  • LibSlayer

    Once one understands what wealth is, one understands that wealth inequality does not cause anyone harm and ignoring it benefits society.

    • OWilson

      Take away wealth inequality and what possible motivation would there be to get out of bed on a cold winter’s to go to a menial job?

      Answer, nothing!

      That’s how the chronic shortages of food, goods and services, are standard in communist countries.

      And what little is avaialble has to be used to bribe the military to keep the Dictator in power, help him assassinate all his possible rivals for power, and keep him safe from the his own people, who would literally tear him apart if they could get away with it. :)

  • Van Snyder

    “Wealth inequality” existed long before humans existed.

  • OWilson

    Thinking people know that socialism is a con.

    It gives the filthy rich a “beard” and a free pass to live like emperors in their obscene Castles, Palaces and Mansion, and individually use more of the worlds resources than most small countries.

    Soros, Gates, Clintons Sanders and Co. will never be the target of wealth inequality marches. They get a free pass!

  • JR

    On what basis can you say ‘our hunter-gatherer ancestors…didn’t own much and had very little social hierarchy’ ? Most social animals have hierarchy, and, whether as individuals or groups, compete for and protect their territories,food sources and mating rights. The Neolithic transition clearly changed the form of that behaviour for the human animal ; but not the underlying drive.

    • OWilson

      It’s these modern and unscientific pronouncement that grate against all I know, have read, and learned about science!

      Keeps me cynical and posting regularly on these blogs!

      “We know that……….” is often the opening to nothing more than the writer’s opinion, a consensus view from their particular peers, wishful thinking, or even intentionally misleading information! :)

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