Self Help

Brief History of Equality, A - Thomas Piketty

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Matheus Puppe

· 50 min read

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Here is a summary of the key points from A Brief History of Equality:

  • Since the late 18th century, there has been a long-term historical movement toward greater equality in status, property ownership, income, gender, and race within societies. However, large inequalities persist on all these dimensions.

  • Revolts, revolutions, social struggles, and crises have played a central role in advancing equality, along with new legal and institutional structures.

  • Recent decades have seen major advances in economic and social history research, providing a more global perspective. This includes seeing the development of Western industrial capitalism in the context of international trade, resource exploitation, and colonialism.

  • The tendency toward equality is real but limited. Asserting it is a call to continue the struggle, learn from history, and transcend national and disciplinary boundaries. The goal is a more democratic, egalitarian future.

  • This book offers an optimistic, progressive history of equality to further collective learning about equitable institutions and counter amnesia, nationalism, and compartmentalization.

Here is a summary of the key points regarding research on the historical distribution of wealth among social classes:

  • Research on incomes, prices, inheritance, etc. gained momentum in the 20th century, pioneered by scholars like Ernest Labrousse, Marc Bloch, and Simon Kuznets.

  • This research was associated with the Annales school and helped establish economic and social history as a field.

  • Studies focused on wages, incomes, inheritance data to understand the distribution of wealth in society over time.

  • Major studies include Labrousse on prices/incomes in 18th century France, Kuznets on income share of upper groups in the US, and Alice Hanson Jones on colonial America.

  • Since the 2000s, there has been a new wave of research leveraging advanced technical means, allowing analysis of larger data sets.

  • Key researchers in this latest phase include Piketty, Atkinson, Saez, Zucman and others.

  • This research builds on earlier work and aims to advance understanding of income and wealth inequality throughout history.

  • Inequality is a social, historical, and political construction that depends on power relationships and worldviews, leading to highly variable levels of inequality across societies and time periods.

  • Since the late 18th century, there has been a long-term movement toward greater equality, driven by conflicts and revolts against injustice that transform power dynamics and institutions. Revolutions, wars, riots, and economic crises often serve as turning points where new, more equitable rules and institutions emerge.

  • Struggles and power dynamics alone are not enough - equitable institutions and policies need to be constructed as well. Learning about what has worked historically to create more just societies informs efforts to build better institutions today.

  • The movement toward equality still has a long way to go, as evidenced by ongoing mobilizations against racial, gender, climatic and other inequalities. The future will likely see more conflict and crises that can catalyze change.

  • There has been real human progress in areas like education and healthcare over the past two centuries. Life expectancy and literacy rates have risen substantially.

  • However, progress is uneven and ongoing struggles are necessary. Power relations matter but focusing only on struggles risks ignoring the complexity of designing equitable institutions.

  • The Soviet communist experiment shows the pitfalls of both ignoring power relations and sanctifying them - oppression resulted despite claims of pursuing emancipation.

  • A balanced view is needed - recognizing the importance of struggles but also taking seriously the deliberation and ideas involved in creating just institutions. The goal should be studying and learning from history to clarify the nature of an equitable society.

  • Progress is fragile, uncertain and must be constantly fought for. But the battle for greater equality can be won through a combination of struggles, ideas, learning and compromise.

Here is a summary of the key points regarding world population and average income from 1700 to 2020:

  • World population grew from 600 million in 1700 to over 7 billion in 2020, a more than 10-fold increase corresponding to an average annual growth rate of 0.8%.

  • Average income per person, expressed in 2020 euros, rose from less than 100 euros per month in the 18th century to about 1,000 euros per month in 2020, also a more than 10-fold increase.

  • This income growth was very modest until the late 19th century and accelerated in the 20th century.

  • The growth in population reflects improvements in agriculture, food supply, and health that allowed more children to survive, but perpetual exponential population growth is unsustainable. Population growth is projected to stabilize around 11 billion by 2100.

  • The rise in average income is a positive development related to better food supply and life expectancy, but averages hide enormous disparities between rich and poor countries. The choice and interpretation of economic indicators is highly political.

  • While average incomes have increased substantially since the 18th century, the precise magnitude is not very meaningful over such a long time period. A multidimensional approach using concrete indicators for access to education, health, food, etc. is more informative.

  • It is important to use national income rather than GDP as a macroeconomic indicator, as national income accounts for depreciation of capital and net income flows. This provides a more accurate picture.

  • Monetary valuation of environmental externalities like carbon emissions has limits. We need specific environmental indicators like temperature limits and biodiversity metrics.

  • Carbon emissions show high inequality - the top 1% emit far more than the bottom 50%. This unequal distribution matters for policy and compensation.

  • Overall, assessing progress requires a pluralistic approach with economic, social, and environmental indicators, including measuring inequality. Sustainable development is not possible without considering inequality.

Here are the key points about the evolution of property concentration in France since the late 18th century:

  • After a slight decrease during the Revolution, property concentration (including real estate, business assets, financial assets, net of debt) increased in the 19th century until World War I.

  • It then declined sharply following the world wars, until the 1980s.

  • The share held by the top 1% richest fell from 55% in 1910 to 24% in 2020.

  • However, this did not greatly benefit the bottom 50% poorest, whose share rose from 2% in 1910 to only 6% in 2020.

In summary, there has been a long-run trend of decreasing property concentration in France since the late 18th century, but it has been a limited and unequal deconcentration, with most of the gains going to groups in the middle rather than the bottom of the distribution. The share held by the top 1% remains high, while that of the bottom 50% is still very low.

  • The richest 1% in France held around 45% of total private property in 1810, rising to 55% in 1910. This shows wealth was highly concentrated.

  • In Paris on the eve of WWI, the top 1% held over 65% of wealth, showing extreme concentration.

  • Over the 20th century, there was a strong deconcentration of wealth in France. The top 1% share fell from 55% in 1914 to under 20% in the early 1980s, before slowly rising again. In 2020 it was around 25%.

  • So there has been a long-term trend towards more equality in wealth ownership, but inequality remains very high. The top 1% still own around 5 times more than the bottom 50% combined.

  • Property and the rights associated with it have been redefined since the late 18th century French Revolution. Formal legal rights are now more equal, for instance between husbands and wives.

  • Workers and tenants also gained more rights over the 19th and 20th centuries compared to the past, though their rights remain limited.

  • The march towards equality has involved rebalancing property law to favor non-owners. This contributed to greater prosperity as well as more equality.

  • There are four main categories of property: means of production, housing, the state, and the rest of the world.

  • Ownership of the means of production (e.g. factories, equipment) allows for extraction of profit and accumulation of capital. Ownership of housing also involves power relations between landlord and renter.

  • On average, housing represents about half of private property value and means of production the other half.

  • Wealth composition differs across the distribution - the poorest have little property, the middle class is centered on housing, the wealthy have more diversified assets including business/financial, and the richest concentrate on financial assets and means of production ownership.

  • Social class depends not just on property ownership but also income, education, occupation etc. Financial assets represent both means of production and state ownership through bonds/securities.

  • There are huge disparities in amounts and composition of wealth across groups - the poorest 50% have little savings, while the top 1% own 25 times the average fortune.

  • The concentration of wealth remains extremely high. In 2020, the richest 10% in France owned over 55% of total wealth, while the poorest 50% owned barely 5%.

  • However, there has been a slow deconcentration of wealth over the past century, primarily benefiting the “patrimonial middle classes” - the 40% between the poorest 50% and richest 10%.

  • At the start of the 20th century, this middle 40% held only about 13% of total wealth, close to the share of the poorest 50%. By the 1980s this had tripled to almost 40%, though it has declined slightly since then.

  • So while inequality remains very high, a patrimonial middle class has emerged over the past century. Before, there was no real middle class in terms of wealth ownership. Now the middle 40% collectively own a significant share, almost twice that of the top 1%.

  • This represents a major social, economic and political transformation, though the concentration at the very top persists. The march toward equality should not be overestimated, but the rise of a property-owning middle class is significant.

Here is a summary of some key points about the links between the Industrial Revolution, colonialism, and inequality:

  • Europe’s industrial and economic dominance in the 18th-19th centuries was closely tied to colonialism and the exploitation of resources and labor in Africa, Asia, and the Americas.

  • The transatlantic slave trade and plantation slavery in the Americas provided vast profits that fueled industrial investment in Europe. Slave labor produced commodities like sugar, cotton, and tobacco for export.

  • Colonialism enabled European powers to extract raw materials, labor, and agricultural products from colonies largely for the benefit of the colonizing country. This allowed more resources for industrialization in Europe.

  • Colonial rule led to underdevelopment in many colonized regions, while facilitating Western economic growth. Infrastructure built in colonies serviced extractive colonial industries rather than broader development.

  • The Industrial Revolution was powered by fossil fuels, especially coal, and involved unsustainable use of resources. This enabled rapid growth but had damaging environmental impacts.

  • Inequality between Europe/North America and the rest of the world grew dramatically. Colonized peoples were frequently abused, repressed, and denied rights. The legacy of underdevelopment and inequality persists today.

So in summary, colonial exploitation of land, labor and resources was intricately linked to processes of industrialization and the emergence of severe global inequalities between the West and colonized countries. Reckoning with this history is vital for understanding current dynamics of inequality.

  • Ken Pomeranz’s work on the “great divergence” between Europe and Asia in the late 18th century emphasized that without establishing a system of global supply and labor mobilization, Western industrial development would have faced major ecological constraints.

  • The Industrial Revolution in the UK was fueled by large-scale extraction of raw materials (cotton, wood) and energy sources from the rest of the world under a colonialist framework.

  • Around 1750-1800, the most advanced regions of China/Japan were comparable to Western Europe in socioeconomic development and proto-industrialization.

  • Two key factors led to divergence starting late 18th century:

  1. Europe’s deforestation crisis was overcome by exploiting resources from colonies, enabled by military domination of trade routes.

  2. Europe’s fiscal and military capacity, strengthened by inter-state competition, allowed profitable international division of labor and supply.

  • Europe had largely exhausted its own natural resources by late 18th century, but importing wood, cotton, sugar etc. from colonies was equivalent to 10+ million more hectares of farmland.

  • Europe’s successful institutions disagreed with Adam Smith’s recommendations - markets more unified in China, feudal institutions persisted longer in Europe, taxes much lower in China.

  • Continual inter-state competition in Europe drove development of decisive fiscal, financial and military dominance from late 18th century onward.

  • Recent research has confirmed the central role of military and colonial domination, as well as resulting technological and financial innovations, in the “great divergence” between Europe and Asia that began around 1750-1800.

  • Sven Beckert showed the crucial importance of slave labor in cotton production as the British and Europeans seized control of the global textile industry between 1750-1860. Cotton from slave plantations, especially in the US South, fueled Europe’s industrialization.

  • Prasannan Parthasarathi emphasized the key role of anti-Indian protectionist policies in the rise of the British textile industry. Indian textiles were very popular in Europe in the 17th-18th centuries. British protectionism blocked Indian textiles to allow their own industry to develop.

  • Kenneth Pomeranz argued coercion and unequal exchange were central to Europe’s developmental break from Asia, especially access to land and labor from the Americas.

  • Europe’s political fragmentation and resulting military rivalries drove innovations that allowed it to gain advantage over unified China and the world between 1750-1900.

  • European merchants encouraged protectionism against Indian textiles to develop their own textile industry and profit from the slave trade. The British imposed high tariffs and bans on Indian textiles in the 17th-18th centuries after acquiring a comparative advantage.

  • Protectionism played a central role in Europe’s rise to power and in the economic development of Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and China. Countries impose protectionist measures to develop priority industries, then promote free trade after establishing dominance.

  • Early European trading companies like the British and Dutch East India Companies used private armies to subjugate populations. The Opium Wars demonstrate the immoderate use of military force by Europeans to impose unequal treaties on China and force opium trade.

  • Europe’s internal public debt financed wars in the 17th-18th centuries. Financial experiments like John Law’s Mississippi Company ended in failures, but also contributed to securitization and financial innovation.

Here are the key points from the summarized passage:

  • Colonialism and military domination allowed Western countries to organize the world economy to their benefit and relegate the rest of the world to a peripheral position. This strategy is not unique to Europe - Japan and now China have done the same.

  • Europe’s claim to originality is being the first to extend this strategy globally over several centuries, enabled by uncontested military domination and lack of organized opposition.

  • The development of early capitalism in Europe cannot be explained by colonialism alone. Other factors like interstate competition, territorial structures, proto-capitalist social relations in the countryside, and the Catholic Church’s property laws may have played a role.

  • More research is needed to firmly establish if Europe diverged from Asia earlier than the mid-18th century due to capitalism. The most convincing thesis currently is that socioeconomic structures remained similar until then.

  • Religious, ideological and anthropological factors like rivalry with Islam and connections between the Far West and Far East also influenced European expansionism.

  • The development of Western capitalism relied on the international division of labor and unrestrained exploitation enabled by power relationships between states. State formation involves more than just fiscal and military capacity.

Here is a summary of the key points about the end of slavery and financial compensation for slaveholders:

  • In the late 18th and 19th centuries, slavery was widespread in the Atlantic world, with hundreds of thousands of slaves in the British, French, and American colonies.

  • The French colony of Saint-Domingue (later Haiti) was the most prosperous and profitable colony due to its production of sugar, coffee, and cotton. By the 1780s it had around 700,000 slaves, representing over 90% of the population.

  • The British and French West Indies had similarly high proportions of slaves, reaching 80-90% of the population in the late 18th/early 19th centuries. This was the highest concentration of slavery ever documented.

  • As the slave population grew rapidly, the risk of rebellion also grew, despite repressive measures. This was especially true in Saint-Domingue/Haiti.

  • Slave uprisings did occur, eventually leading to the end of slavery. However, financial compensation was paid to slaveholders, not to the freed slaves themselves, perpetuating injustice.

  • The history of how slavery ended, with compensation to oppressors rather than the oppressed, raises important moral questions about reparations that are still relevant today.

  • In 1825, France forced Haiti to agree to pay 150 million gold francs to compensate slaveholders for the loss of their “property” when slavery was abolished. This was over 300% of Haiti’s national income at the time.

  • Haiti paid this debt, with interest, from 1825 to 1950, amounting to around 5% of its national income per year. This severely undermined Haiti’s development.

  • The author argues France should reimburse Haiti for this unjust debt, proposing 30 billion euros, about 1% of France’s current public debt. This could represent a new start for Haiti.

  • France claims this history is too distant to warrant reparations. But compensation continues today for 20th century injustices. Rejecting Haiti’s claim risks creating conflict between groups.

  • When Britain and France abolished slavery in 1833 and 1848 they also paid compensation to slaveholders for their “lost property.” This history illustrates the need to reconcile groups based on universal principles of justice.

  • After successful slave rebellions in the early 19th century, slaveholders became more open to abolition in exchange for compensation. The British government paid substantial compensation to slave owners when abolishing slavery in 1833.

  • Similar compensation was paid to French slaveholders when slavery was abolished in 1848. The mainstream view at the time was that slaveowners’ property rights had to be respected.

  • There was no compensation for slaves themselves. Some early proposals by Condorcet and Paine to compensate and give land to former slaves were ignored.

  • Schoelcher’s emancipation in France was accompanied by laws punishing vagrancy that kept ex-slaves under planter control.

  • There are continuing calls, resisted by France, for financial reparations to Haiti and land reform to help descendants of slaves in overseas French territories.

  • Slavery played a central role in the development of the United States, which resembled a slaveholding republic at its founding. Many early presidents, including Washington and Jefferson, owned slaves.

  • The slave system expanded rapidly between 1800-1860, but the North/Midwest developed a different economic model based on free labor and tried to limit the expansion of slavery.

  • Lincoln was open to negotiating a gradual, compensated end to slavery, but Southerners preferred secession to preserve their way of life. This led to the Civil War.

  • Though slaves were promised “40 acres and a mule” during the war, this compensation was never provided after the Confederacy surrendered. The promise became a symbol of Northern deceit.

  • The question of reparations for slavery remains debated today. Some initial payments have been made at local levels, and a federal law compensated Japanese-Americans detained in WWII, fueling calls for broader reparations.

  • More broadly, slaveholding and colonial societies were among the most unequal in history. Saint-Domingue on the eve of the French Revolution was the most extreme case. Colonial societies like Algeria in 1930 and South Africa in 1950 also showed extreme inequality between European colonists and native populations.

  • In post-slavery colonial societies, inequality took different forms through discriminatory legal, social, fiscal, and educational systems.

  • Research has shown how colonial powers like France granted rights based on ethno-racial categories until the mid-20th century, even though slavery had been abolished.

  • In the Dutch East Indies, the colonial statute of 1854 strictly separated “natives” and “oriental foreigners”, establishing identities and antagonisms.

  • In South Africa, the Black population was confined to just 7% of the territory with the 1913 Native Land Act. Apartheid from 1948-1990 further entrenched inequality.

  • After slavery, systems like indentured labor from India brought workers to places like Réunion under coercive long-term contracts that could be extended through debt.

  • Forced labor was widespread in the French colonies from 1912-1946 under the guise of unpaid corvées required as supplementary taxes. This paved the way for abuse.

  • The Congo-Ocean Railway construction from 1921-1934 caused a scandal due to terrible loss of life and coercive “recruitment” of workers. International pressure grew, including from the new ILO founded in 1919.

  • France imposed a system of forced, unpaid labor (“services”) on colonized populations in its African colonies until 1946. This was condemned by the International Labor Organization (ILO) as a form of slave labor, but France rejected the criticism.

  • The French colonial education system was deeply unequal, spending the vast majority of resources on schools for Europeans while denying education to most native children. For example, in 1925 in Morocco, 79% of education spending went to schools for the 4% European population.

  • This extreme educational inequality persisted even after decolonization began. In Algeria in 1955, 82% of education spending still went to European schools.

  • The French metropole also had a highly unequal education system in the early 1900s, but nowhere near the scale of the colonies. The top 10% of French students got 8x the resources of the bottom 50% in 1910.

  • The French “colonial republic” imposed systematic racial discrimination, politically and economically, on colonized peoples until decolonization in the 1960s, belying its supposedly egalitarian republican values. Overcoming this legacy requires acknowledging its importance.

  • The French Revolution in 1789 is often seen as establishing legal equality, but in reality equality was still limited mostly to white property-owning men. Privileges based on race, gender, and class persisted.

  • The nobility lost their legal privileges in 1789, but retained a privileged social position as property owners. Nobles made up 40-45% of the wealthiest in Paris between 1830-1840, not much less than before the Revolution.

  • The prominence of the nobility only declined substantially between 1880-1910 as bourgeois wealth grew. After the Revolution, nobles benefited from favorable policies during the monarchies from 1815-1848.

  • The redistributions during the Revolution were limited. Church properties were auctioned off rather than redistributed, benefitting those who could buy them.

  • The battle for greater equality based on race, gender, and class continued over centuries, with major strides made in the 1960s. But many inequalities persist today based on wealth and inherited privilege. The Revolution was a seminal event, but establishing equality was a long, unfinished process.

  • In the decades leading up to the French Revolution, the clergy and nobility justified their privileges by claiming to serve the Third Estate and society through spiritual guidance, charitable works, order and protection.

  • The newer “capitalist” ideology held that private property owners should solely enrich themselves under state protection, without contributing to the general welfare.

  • The French Revolution abolished nobility privileges but strengthened property owner rights. For the property-less, this was ambiguous progress.

  • Pockets of serfdom still existed in France before the Revolution. Corvées (unpaid labor obligations) were debated - should they be abolished without compensation as aristocratic privileges, or simply renamed as rent payments? The latter conservative view largely prevailed.

  • In the 18th and 19th centuries, property rights were strengthened through measures like the British Enclosure Acts and the Black Act. Harsh labor discipline continued with laws like the Master and Servant Act.

  • The French Revolution helped continue the long transition away from forced and semi-forced labor in Europe, a process furthered in the 19th and 20th centuries through new laws on issues like child labor, unions, and social security.

  • The campaign for universal suffrage in the 19th and early 20th centuries was a major social and political struggle, along with battles for labor laws and workers’ rights.

  • In France, only 1% of adult males could vote in 1815 under Louis XVIII. Universal male suffrage was briefly achieved after the 1848 revolution, then permanently from 1871. Women got the vote in 1944.

  • In the UK, the expansion of the franchise was more gradual - from 5% of adult males in 1820 to 14% in 1832, 30% in 1867, 60% in 1884. Universal male suffrage came in 1918, female in 1928.

  • Sweden had an extremely inegalitarian voting system from 1865-1911, where the number of votes depended on taxes paid and property/income owned. The top 1% of male voters had up to 100 votes each.

  • This changed dramatically when the Social Democrats came to power in the 1920s after workers’ campaigns, leading to a more egalitarian society.

  • From 1932 to 2006, Sweden went from having extreme inequality in property ownership to instituting policies that promoted more egalitarian access to services like healthcare and education.

  • This shows that inequality is not fixed or inherent to a culture, but rather depends on the institutions and rules a society creates, which are contingent on power relations, mobilizations, and social struggles.

  • In contemporary democracies, electoral and political equality are undermined by the outsized influence of private money in campaigns and media. Laws intended to limit this have proven insufficient.

  • The critique of “bourgeois democracy” has sometimes served as an excuse for authoritarian leaders to do away with elections and pluralism. But refusing to hold elections is never justified.

  • Truly democratizing politics requires concrete proposals for egalitarian campaign finance and media regulation. Constitutional protections tend to favor the status quo and establishing ambitious redistribution is legally constrained.

  • Overall, the history of Sweden illustrates the fluidity of inequality over time and the endless capacity for privileging certain groups’ interests through institutional design. Contemporary capitalist democracies continue to struggle with achieving meaningful equality via their political systems.

  • Censitary voting, where voting rights are proportional to property ownership, persists in economic institutions like corporations. Shareholders have voting rights proportional to the number of shares they own.

  • This is not a natural system, but rather a specific institutional arrangement established gradually under particular circumstances. Other systems are conceivable, like giving voting rights to employees who invest their lives and skills in the company.

  • More balanced systems have been tried since the mid-20th century, like Germany’s “co-determination” where employees get 1/3 or 1/2 of board seats. Similar rules exist in Austria, Sweden, Denmark, and Norway.

  • These modifications of capitalist rules are significant, though stockholders still have ultimate decision-making power in case of a tie. Employees get voting rights as “investors in labor” independent of capital ownership.

  • The persistence of plutocratic voting in the economic sphere contrasts strikingly with its abolition in the political sphere. This illustrates the separateness of the economic and political spheres under capitalism.

  • The system of Germanic and Nordic “comanagement” gives employees representation on company boards, but with limited voting rights compared to shareholders.

  • More radical forms of “participatory socialism” could be envisioned, such as giving employees 50% of voting rights in all companies, and limiting the voting rights of any single shareholder.

  • For example, a single shareholder’s voting rights could decrease from 90% in a small company to 10% in a large company with over 90 employees.

  • Such participatory socialism would require strong popular support and likely constitutional revisions in most countries.

  • It would need to be accompanied by reforms to taxation and property circulation to enable a true sharing of economic power.

  • The diversity of possible economic systems is very great, but transforming an existing system requires crisis moments and profound change.

Here are the key points about the rise of the welfare state between 1914 and 1980:

  • Tax revenue as a share of national income tripled in the US and quadrupled in Europe. By the 1980s-1990s, tax receipts were 40-50% of national income in major European countries.

  • Higher tax revenue allowed greater public spending on education, healthcare, pensions, unemployment insurance, infrastructure, etc. This helped reduce inequality and encourage economic growth.

  • In Europe, the rise was driven by a massive increase in social welfare spending on education, healthcare, pensions, and transfers. This transformed the role of the state beyond just maintaining order.

  • Before 1914, around 8-10% of national income went to state expenditures like the army, police, courts. Social spending was minimal.

  • Between 1914-1950, social welfare spending rose dramatically, reaching 30% of national income by 1950. This reflected the growing power of socialist and labor movements.

  • World War 1, the Great Depression, and World War 2 between 1914-1945 transformed power relations between labor and capital, accelerating the welfare state’s rise.

  • By 1980, social spending reached 40-50% of national income in Europe. The welfare state played a decisive role in reducing inequality during the “Great Redistribution.”

Here are the key points summarizing the percent of national income out of a total of and the expansion of the welfare state between 1914 and 1980:

  • Social welfare expenditures grew from less than 10% of national income in the early 20th century to over 30% by the 1950s in Europe. This included expenditures on education, health, pensions, unemployment benefits, etc.

  • In the late 19th century, schooling was highly elitist with only a small minority receiving more than primary education. Spending on education was 0.5-1% of national income.

  • By the 1980s-1990s, spending on education reached 6% of national income in Western countries, allowing near universal secondary education access and expanded higher education. The US led in secondary enrollment rates in the 1950s.

  • The growth of the welfare state between 1914-1980 was led by social welfare spending and benefited the lower and middle classes. This represented an anthropological revolution as the state escaped exclusive upper class control via democratic reforms.

  • Until the early 20th century, most tax systems were regressive, with the poor paying a higher share of their income than the rich.

  • In the late 18th century, some proposed progressive income and inheritance taxes, but these were not implemented on a large scale.

  • Around 1900-1920, progressive income and inheritance taxes were rapidly established in the US, UK, Germany, France, Japan, and elsewhere.

  • Top marginal income tax rates rose from low single digits in 1900 to 70-90% by mid-century. Top inheritance tax rates showed similar increases.

  • This rise of progressive taxation is linked to the shocks of World War I, pressure from the Bolshevik regime, and long-term protest movements.

  • The high point of progressivity was from the 1930s to around 1980. Rates have declined since then but remain well above early 20th century levels.

  • The rapid spread of progressive taxation in the early 20th century was a major factor enabling reduced inequality in that period.

Here is a summary of that passage:

The passage discusses the real economic effects of fiscal progressivity in the early 20th century. It notes that high top marginal tax rates of 70-80% affected only a small minority, usually the richest 1% or 0.1%, but because income and wealth were so concentrated at the time, taxing these small groups still had a major impact. Though the rates only applied to a few, those few owned a very large share of total wealth - over half in France and nearly two-thirds in the UK. Taxing them heavily contributed significantly to the “Great Redistribution” and deconcentration of wealth between 1914-1950.

In the US, taking all taxes into account, the system was highly progressive from 1914-1980, with effective tax rates for the top 0.01% reaching 60-70% or more than triple the average rate. This reduced inequality substantially. It also altered the social contract by increasing acceptance of taxation, as regular taxpayers knew the rich were paying far higher rates. Since 1980 this has reversed - real progressivity has disappeared or become regressivity, with the wealthy sometimes paying lower rates than the middle class. This threatens the legitimacy of taxation and social solidarity.

  • Progressive taxation from 1914-1980 helped reduce inequality before taxes (predistribution) as well as after taxes (redistribution). High marginal tax rates on incomes and inheritances discouraged the accumulation of large fortunes and reduced incentives for exorbitant executive compensation.

  • There is no evidence that progressive taxation discouraged innovation or growth. On the contrary, growth was higher in the 1950-1990 period when top marginal tax rates were over 70% compared to after 1990 when top rates fell to around 35%.

  • From 1914 to 1950, there was a collapse in the total value of private assets, from about 6-8 years of national income down to 2-3 years, due to destruction from the wars as well as policies like progressive taxes.

  • The liquidation of foreign and colonial assets after the wars, along with writing off public debts, allowed for increased public investment in education, health, and infrastructure.

  • Overall, the “great redistribution” from 1914-1980 through progressive taxes, reduced private wealth concentration, and increased public investment helped develop the welfare state and stimulated economic and social progress.

  • Between 1914 and the 1950s, the enormous foreign assets held by European colonial powers, especially France and the UK, were largely destroyed or transformed into public debt. This represented a quarter to a third of the decline in private wealth in France and Germany, and almost two-thirds in the UK.

  • These foreign assets, accumulated through often brutal colonial extraction, were unsustainable and fed rivalries between European powers. The world wars accelerated their collapse through expropriations and nationalizations following revolutionary and independence movements.

  • To finance the wars, foreign asset holders lent money to their governments, which transformed private assets into public debt that could not be repaid. The massive war reparations imposed on Germany by France in 1919 were also unsustainable.

  • Ultimately, the wars allowed for a redistribution away from foreign asset holders toward newly independent nations and taxpayers. The magnitude of these international wealth flows was unprecedented and has never been matched since.

  • So while the destruction in absolute terms was enormous, it represented a redistribution of power more than loss of real resources. The wars freed colonized peoples and reduced the power of foreign property owners.

Here are a few key points summarizing the section:

  • The march toward equality in the 20th century was limited - hyperconcentration of property persisted. In Europe in 1913, the richest 10% owned 89% of total private property compared to just 1% for the poorest 50%.

  • By 2020, a patrimonial middle class had emerged in Europe - the 40% between the poorest 50% and richest 10% owned around 40% of property, especially real estate. However, inequality remains very high.

  • In Europe in 2020, the poorest 50% still owned just 5% of total property, while the richest 10% owned 55% - meaning the average wealth of the former is 50 times smaller than the latter.

  • Inequality is even more extreme in the US - in 2020 the richest 10% owned 72% while the poorest 50% owned just 2%.

  • So while some progress was made in reducing inequality through the 20th century, hyperconcentration of property has persisted, especially benefiting the top 10%. Significant work remains to achieve a more equitable distribution.

  • The welfare state and progressive taxation made significant progress toward equality during the 20th century, but have weakened since the 1980s. Revitalizing them seems the natural path forward.

  • To do so, we must better understand their limitations and the factors weakening them since 1980. Social and political struggles drove institutional change 1914-1980; without similarly strong movements, further progress is unlikely.

  • The Reagan-Thatcher revolution succeeded not just due to elite support, but also weaknesses in the egalitarian coalition to articulate an appealing alternative vision centered on the welfare state and progressive taxation.

  • These institutions represent a systemic transformation of capitalism toward a decentralized, self-managing form of democratic socialism - but this narrative has not been sufficiently developed.

  • Historically, socialist/communist movements focused on state ownership and planning, which failed. In contrast, the welfare state and progressive taxation seemed like “soft” socialism unable to challenge capitalism’s deep logic.

  • But their transformative potential depends on the degree of fiscal progressivity. Highly progressive taxation can effectively socialize capital ownership and control.

  • This narrative of the welfare state and progressive taxation as the core of a new decentralized, egalitarian socialism needs to be compellingly articulated to drive further progress.

  • Progressive taxation allows for a more equitable distribution of wealth and income, but there are limits to what it has accomplished historically in reducing inequality.

  • Tax rates of 90% or more on the highest incomes are feasible and have occurred in the past. This helps compress the wage scale.

  • Progressive taxes support the welfare state and the socialization of sectors like healthcare and education. Expanding this requires renewed commitment to progressive taxation.

  • Basic income schemes have limitations in fully combating inequality. Guaranteed employment policies could complement them.

  • Property and wealth concentration has proven very persistent over time. Major inheritance redistribution, through inheritance taxes and universal minimum inheritances, could help change this.

  • Decentralized, participatory organizations in sectors like healthcare, education, and culture are important for an expanded socialized economy.

  • The main proposal is an “inheritance for all” - a capital endowment of around 100,000-200,000 euros given to every person at age 25, funded by a progressive tax on wealth and inheritances.

  • The objective is to increase the negotiating power and freedom of those who currently inherit little or nothing. Combined with policies like basic income and guaranteed employment, it would significantly improve equality of opportunity.

  • The proposed tax system includes a progressive annual tax on net wealth as well as an inheritance tax, with rates ranging from 0.1-1% on below average wealth up to 60-90% on the largest fortunes and inheritances.

  • This redistribution of property would be accompanied by highly progressive income taxes and welfare policies to prevent unlimited accumulation and move toward decommercialization of fundamental goods and services.

  • The inheritance for all is just one component of a broader participatory socialist system, which would also include voting rights for workers on corporate boards.

  • The parameters proposed are illustrative - more ambitious redistribution would be desirable and is possible. But this system goes much further toward economic equality than past policies.

  • The welfare state and progressive taxation can lay the foundations for a new form of democratic socialism based on the circulation of power and property.

  • This differs from authoritarian state socialism of the 20th century Soviet bloc. It builds on social, fiscal, and legal transformations in Western Europe.

  • It allows limited private ownership of small businesses and housing, but with restrictions like employee stock ownership and limits on perpetuation of wealth.

  • To prevent the wealthy from undoing these systems, deeper democracy is needed with egalitarian campaign finance, media access, etc. Constitutional revisions could help entrench these principles.

  • Additional proposals like salarial socialism without private property could also be considered. The goal is an open and evolving discussion about forms of economic democracy.

  • The vision outlined has weaknesses, but aims to balance concerns about authoritarianism and impermanence of egalitarian policies. The details require ongoing debate and refinement.

  • Since the 1980s, there has been a challenge to the welfare state and progressive taxation, based on talk as well as concrete rules and treaties seeking to make this change irreversible.

  • The core of the new rules is the free circulation of capital, without compensation through regulation or common taxation. This gives economic actors the right to enrich themselves using a country’s infrastructure, then easily move their assets elsewhere without taxation.

  • This amounts to a new form of censitary power, as states feel unable to tax the main beneficiaries of globalization (the wealthy and corporations) and must keep turning to lower and middle class taxpayers. This breeds resentment.

  • Research has traced the long preparatory work by banking lobbies, employers, wealth managers etc. in co-producing these laws and implementing them advantageously.

  • The strategy reflects a shareholder approach to regain managerial control and enable profitable reconfigurations. The idea of using treaties to depoliticize the economy and prevent redistribution echoes 1940s Hayekian/ordoliberal theses.

  • European governments paradoxically played a central role in the late 1980s in liberalizing capital flows, hoping to accelerate European integration and lower public borrowing costs. This was enshrined in EU treaties then adopted more globally.

  • The generalized financialization has multiplied the power of shareholders and creditors over companies and states. Progressive forces failed to propose an alternative globalization.

Here is a summary of the key points regarding educational equality:

  • Access to elementary and secondary education has expanded over the 20th century, representing progress in many countries.

  • However, deep inequalities persist in access to the most advantageous courses of study and schools, especially in higher education.

  • In the US, parental income strongly predicts a child’s chances of attending university - only 30% for the poorest 10% but over 90% for the richest 10%.

  • The richest attend highly specialized, well-funded private universities with opaque admissions favoring “legacy” students.

  • Poorest attend underfunded public universities and community colleges with more limited courses.

  • High tuition fees put top universities out of reach for less well-off students.

  • Overall, profound inequalities remain in educational opportunities and outcomes based on parental socioeconomic status despite proclaimed principles of equality of opportunity.

  • There is massive educational hypocrisy in many countries, including the US and France, that claim to provide equal opportunity but in reality allocate far more resources to privileged students.

  • In the US, wealthy parents can pay extra to get their less qualified children admitted to top universities. In France, grandes écoles spend 3x as much per student as ordinary universities, yet draw disproportionately from privileged backgrounds.

  • To address this, full transparency is needed on expenditures and admissions by social background. Governments must publish this data annually.

  • Centralized admissions systems can help by allowing criteria like grades, preferences, and social background to be weighed democratically. Some affirmative action based on social criteria may be justified.

  • Algorithms must be applied transparently and evaluated democratically to avoid distrust. The goal should be to find the best compromise between merit and equity.

Here is a summary of the key points on gender equality:

  • Women have historically faced massive, systematic discrimination across societies. Patriarchal norms were codified into law in the 18th-19th centuries.

  • Women’s suffrage was a long struggle, achieved only in the 20th century in many countries. France granted women the right to vote in 1944.

  • Despite formal legal equality in the 20th century, cultural norms continued to promote gender inequality. Women performed the majority of household labor but only received 20% of incomes in France in 1970.

  • Progress towards gender equality in leadership and incomes remains very slow. At current rates, parity in top French incomes will not be achieved until 2107.

  • Quotas and affirmative action are still needed to accelerate progress and challenge persisting patriarchal attitudes. Educational access is not enough.

  • Beyond gender, persisting prejudices towards ethnic/religious minorities and LGBTQ persons also require continued vigilance and action for real equality.

  • Gender parity and quotas for women have become more widely accepted in recent decades, but quotas based on social, ethno-racial, or religious discrimination remain controversial.

  • The first priority should be opposing discrimination itself by identifying and ending discriminatory practices through legal action.

  • Social or racial quotas involve risks: they can lead to questions about whether beneficiaries have “earned” the opportunity, and they may rigidify plural, mixed, and mutable identities.

  • In some countries where prejudices are deeply ingrained, like with gender biases, quotas may be the only way to open up the situation. But there is no single answer - each case requires careful examination.

  • India has gone furthest with quotas, first for Dalits and indigenous groups, and later for Other Backward Classes (OBCs). This has helped change mentalities, but risks of social fragmentation and competition between groups remain.

  • Overall, the exit from social patriarchy requires broader transformation of the connections between production, social reproduction, family, and personal life. Resolving gender inequality by encouraging women to pursue the same lifestyles as men is not the solution.

  • India has had a system of quotas for university admissions and public employment for disadvantaged castes (scheduled castes and tribes) since 1950, later expanded to other backward classes in the 1980s. This benefits 60-70% of the population.

  • This policy has helped reduce extreme caste prejudices and increase political representation and access to higher education for these groups, though large income inequalities remain.

  • Quotas have limits - they benefit only a minority within disadvantaged groups. More far-reaching policies like wealth redistribution and universal education/healthcare are also needed to tackle inequality.

  • The Indian system has evolved, e.g. adding income criteria to quota eligibility. It may gradually shift from caste-based to income/wealth-based affirmative action.

  • Some propose similar quota systems in Western democracies to increase representation of disadvantaged classes in elected bodies. This could later transition to criteria beyond race/class as equality improves.

  • But no Western country has quotas as extensive as India’s. Care is needed to avoid rigidifying racial/social categories. A balanced approach combining targeted affirmative action with universal policies may be optimal.

  • Affirmative action policies based on universal social criteria like income, wealth, or geographic area are preferable to ethno-racial categories, as they avoid rigidifying identities and can more easily build political support.

  • However, social criteria alone cannot fully address discrimination with ethno-racial foundations. Measures explicitly targeting such discrimination are needed, but introducing U.S.-style ethno-racial categories in Europe is of uncertain benefit given their origins in supporting discrimination.

  • The U.K. is the only European country using U.S.-style ethno-racial categories to fight discrimination, but no evidence shows this has reduced discrimination compared to other European nations.

  • In countries like France and Germany, ethno-racial differences are more gradual around the Mediterranean basin. Forcing such fluid identities into fixed categories makes many uncomfortable.

  • There is no single right model for addressing discrimination. Countries should focus on finding solutions rather than criticizing others’ models without genuine concern for efficacy.

  • Overall, a multifaceted approach is needed, combining universal social criteria, targeted anti-discrimination measures that avoid rigid racial categories, increased mixing and contact between groups, and a search for policy innovations. Progress requires openness to learning from diverse experiences.

Here is a summary of the key points about exiting neocolonialism:

  • The battle for equality must continue by extending the welfare state, progressive taxation, anti-discrimination efforts, etc. But it also requires structural transformation of the global economic system.

  • The current system is built on privileges inherited from colonialism. Former colonial powers still largely control global institutions like the UN Security Council, IMF, World Bank, etc.

  • Developing countries remain economically dependent on exporting raw materials, while developed countries control patents, technology, and access to markets. This neocolonial system impedes development.

  • Solutions involve reforming global governance to give more voice to developing countries, transferring technology and knowledge, fair trade policies, debt cancellation, etc. The goal should be mutual prosperity, not charity.

  • Similarly, immigration policy should aim for integration and circular migration, not just closed borders. Development is the long-term solution to large migration flows.

  • Overall, exiting neocolonialism requires rethinking economic, political and ethical assumptions. The goal should be a multi-polar world based on cooperation and mutual development.

The summary accurately captures the key points from the passage:

  • Colonialism led to great inequality between countries that still persists today, though it has lessened somewhat since 1980.

  • The postwar welfare state in the global North was nationalist and did little to promote development in the global South.

  • Leaders in newly independent countries tried to form federations to gain negotiating power, but these largely failed.

  • Attempts to create more equitable global institutions like the ITO were blocked by rich countries wanting to maintain control.

  • The 1980s saw a shift to neoliberal policies in the South via the Washington Consensus that maintained global inequalities.

  • Overall, the current world economy resembles a form of neocolonialism that benefits the wealthiest without providing means for poorer nations to develop autonomously. Moving beyond this requires transforming welfare states and revising the rules governing globalization.

Here is a summary of the key points from Slobodian’s book Globalists:

  • The British Labour Party opposed projects for the International Trade Organization (ITO) in the post-WWII era, judging them to be contrary to British imperial interests. The Labour party’s opposition was violently stigmatized by the Conservative party.

  • The French Socialists were in power during the 1956 Suez crisis, as part of a governing coalition with centrist parties against the Communists. Despite being socialist, the French government supported the British-led military intervention against Egypt.

  • More broadly, the book argues that the post-1945 economic order was shaped by American visionaries who wanted to create a global free trade system. This system undermined national sovereignty and promoted the interests of Western capital over development goals.

  • The possibilities for Western nations to veto proposals that threaten their interests was shown again during the COVID-19 crisis. Wealthy countries blocked a demand by developing countries to temporarily suspend intellectual property rules on vaccines.

In summary, the book argues that the modern economic order promotes neocolonial relations, with Western policy imposing free market rules on poor countries often against their interests and without regard for development needs.

  • The economic relationship between rich and poor countries is currently characterized by neocolonial logic, where rich countries provide modest aid but extract much larger profits and capital flows from poor countries.

  • This distorts the true economic balance and perpetuates poor countries’ dependence. Aid is given on rich countries’ terms, often weakening state capacity in poor countries.

  • To move beyond this, every country should have an equal right to develop. Poor countries should receive a share of taxes on global billionaires and multinationals, which could replace aid flows. This would provide resources for poor countries to invest in healthcare, education, infrastructure without conditions.

  • Aid could continue from rich countries, but in addition to these unconditional tax transfers that recognize poor countries’ rights. Tracking abuses of funds must apply equally to leaders of rich and poor countries.

  • The overall goal is to move beyond neocolonial logic and grant poor countries the resources and rights for autonomous development as equals. Relationship should be based on global economic interdependence and redistribution, not aid dependency.

  • The current model of international assistance assumes each country is responsible for its own wealth, when in reality global economic development has depended on the exploitation of resources and labor from poor countries.

  • All wealth is collective in origin. Private property should serve the common interest through balanced institutions and rights.

  • Free trade without controls has increased inequality within countries and accelerated climate change.

  • The solution is to replace commercial and financial treaties with ones promoting sustainable and equitable codevelopment, with binding targets for things like corporate tax rates, wealth distribution, emissions, etc.

  • This requires building a transnational democratic dimension, with institutions like a Transnational Assembly in charge of global public goods and fiscal justice.

  • The transition will take time but is necessary, as current globalization is at an impasse. New treaties should subordinate trade to social and environmental objectives rather than the reverse.

In summary, the current neocolonial model needs to shift toward a more federal-social global system, with transnational democratic structures aimed at promoting equality, sustainability and justice.

Here is a summary of the key points regarding transnational assemblies and federal-social projects:

  • Transnational assemblies can provide democratic oversight and representation for projects like trade agreements and economic unions that span multiple countries. They can consist of deputies from national parliaments or directly elected transnational representatives.

  • Transnational assemblies face challenges like national vetoes and lack of fiscal powers, but could be granted more authority through new treaties. The goal is to move beyond just national institutions.

  • Federal-social projects aim to combine federalism and explicit social objectives, beyond just capital mobility. This could involve new forms of fiscal and budgetary federalism with greater redistribution.

  • Issues like taxing the wealthy require better financial transparency through registries of asset ownership. Countries can act unilaterally here while pushing for regional coordination.

  • On a larger scale, Euro-African assemblies could provide a forum to address common issues like development, migration, and corporate accountability. Support from youth movements shows the demand.

  • The overall vision is a democratic federalism with social aims, learning from past failures of federal projects but tackling problems now requiring transnational cooperation and oversight.

  • Environmental catastrophes like climate change may accelerate historical change and promote transformations like the development of the welfare state, progressive taxation, participatory socialism, educational equality, and an exit from neocolonialism.

  • Concrete damage from climate change could break down conservative attitudes and challenge the current economic system. Predictions suggest the planet is heading for at least a 3°C temperature rise which would have dramatic but uncertain consequences. Other impending crises like biodiversity collapse could also spur change.

  • The crises may come too late to avoid conflict over resources or rapid reconstructions. Or increased climate disasters may raise awareness and legitimize transforming the economic system, as the 1930s crisis did.

  • Hostile reactions may emerge toward countries and social groups whose lifestyles contributed most to the disasters, like the richest classes in the US and other parts of the global North. Despite having only 15% of population, the global North produced nearly 80% of accumulated carbon emissions.

  • Competition between ideological powers like China’s authoritarian statist model and the West’s hypercapitalism may shape responses. Democratic socialism is the true alternative - participatory, federalist, ecological, multicultural. It continues the long-term movement toward equality since the late 1700s.

  • To ensure decentralized contributions, new forms of universalist sovereignty are needed. Strong mobilization and power relationships will likely accompany any major transformations.

  • China’s share of public property declined sharply from 70% in 1978 to around 30% in the mid-2000s, where it has remained stable since. This represents a mixed economy structure, with the state maintaining significant control.

  • Residential real estate has been almost entirely privatized, fueling rising prices, while the state holds 55-60% of companies’ capital, giving it control over the productive system.

  • The Chinese Communist Party has over 90 million members, around 10% of the adult population. The regime touts “socialism with Chinese characteristics” where the party avant-garde guides development.

  • China is strengthening its digital dictatorship, with pervasive surveillance and social credit systems. This allows efficient authoritarian government but risks breeding distrust and stifling innovation.

  • Rivalry between China’s statist model and liberal democracies could accelerate political change globally. China’s strengths but also its repression and environmental impacts will shape its development as a superpower.

  • The Chinese socialist regime has strengths like state control of assets, ability to make long-term plans, and freedom from colonial legacies, but also weaknesses like lack of democracy, rising inequality, demographic challenges, and repressiveness.

  • Western countries have pursued hypercapitalist policies leading to high debt, privatization of assets, and inability to address inequality. This leaves them vulnerable, even if Chinese authoritarianism is unappealing.

  • Neoliberal policies since the 1980s have failed to deliver on promises of growth and are giving way to nationalistic backlashes.

  • A democratic, ecological, and multicultural socialism could provide an alternative to both Chinese statist socialism and Western hypercapitalism/neonationalism. This would require mobilization around alternative policies on taxation, public investment, postcolonial justice, and reducing domestic inequality.

Here is a summary of the key points about money creation:

  • Since 2008, central banks have greatly expanded their balance sheets and ability to create money, showing economic institutions are malleable.

  • The main limit on money creation is inflation. As long as inflation remains low, money creation can fund useful policies like full employment, green investments, etc.

  • If inflation rises over the long-term, monetary creation has hit its limits and taxation should be relied on instead.

  • In a crisis, central banks can act quickly as lenders of last resort to avoid economic collapse. This role is now widely accepted.

  • However, money creation alone cannot reduce inequality or solve social issues. It must be part of a broader institutional framework including progressive taxation, welfare state policies, democratic oversight, etc.

  • Money is a useful tool but not a magic solution - it must be kept in its proper place within a balanced set of egalitarian institutions.

  • The monetary policies enacted in 2008 and 2020 continue to operate within a relatively conservative framework.

  • The monetary weapon has frequently been used to save banks and bankers, but there is more hesitation applying it to save the planet, reduce inequality, or relieve public authorities of debt from crises and bailouts.

  • Current monetary policy poses challenges. Zero or negative interest rates hurt small savers, while allowing those who can borrow cheaply and invest well to obtain excellent returns. Monetary creation and asset purchases have boosted stock/real estate prices and further enriched the wealthy.

  • Zero interest rates are a privilege for rich countries, as investors accept low returns on their safe assets but demand high rates from southern countries. Rich countries should consider international financial cooperation to allow all countries to finance themselves at low rates during crises.

  • Emergence of new monetary tools makes returning to orthodoxy hard to justify, but these tools need democratic supervision. Consensus is growing on central banks’ duty to pursue equitable and sustainable development, requiring vast democratic deliberations on assessments of different policies’ effects.

  • Decisions like debt cancellation require battles before central banks become truly democratic tools for equality.

  • Universal sovereignism is needed, setting social/environmental justice criteria applicable to all countries. must distinguish from nationalist sovereignism. Requires adhering to principles like first proposing cooperative models to partners, keeping unilateralism incentivizing and reversible, constantly seeking credible international coalitions for socialist democratic federalism.

  • Active citizens are essential, through social mobilizations, movements, and organizations. Everyone can help comprehend and shape economic changes. Reappropriating this knowledge is key for the battle for equality.

Here is a summary of the key points about the index:

  • It covers topics such as inequality, climate change, democracy, socialism, taxation, discrimination, colonialism, and more.

  • It references many countries, including France, the US, UK, China, Brazil, and others across Europe, Africa, Asia and the Americas.

  • It covers thinkers like Piketty, Marx, Polanyi, Braudel, Weber and others.

  • It references historical periods from the 18th century through the present day.

  • It covers concepts like progressive taxation, welfare state, social democracy, power relations, public debt, trade policy, education, and healthcare.

  • It highlights data sources and quantitative information on inequality, carbon emissions, public ownership, and other topics.

  • It points to key tables and figures throughout the book.

In summary, the index provides a detailed guide to the wide-ranging concepts, places, times, data, and scholars referenced throughout the book’s analysis of inequality, climate, democracy and related themes.

Here is a summary of the key points about Europe’s history related to property ownership, colonialism, revolutions, welfare state policies, and movement toward equality:

  • Europe experienced the Enclosure Acts and Industrial Revolution which led to changes in property ownership and labor relations, contributing to inequality.

  • European countries engaged in colonialism starting in the 15th century, exploiting resources and people in Africa, Asia, and the Americas. This increased Europe’s wealth and power globally.

  • Revolts like the French Revolution shifted power dynamics. New laws and rights were established like ending feudalism and serfdom.

  • In the 20th century, European countries developed extensive welfare state policies, with progressive taxation funding public services to reduce inequality.

  • However, inequalities have persisted related to income, education, health, discrimination and representation. Grassroots movements continue to advocate for greater equality.

  • Overall, Europe’s history has involved significant evolution of property rights, economic systems, colonial abuses, revolutionary changes, and gradual policy reforms towards egalitarian ideals, though much progress remains to be made. Examining this complex history provides important lessons.

Here is a summary of the key points about the gilets jaunes (yellow vests) revolt in France:

  • The yellow vests movement began in France in late 2018 as a protest against fuel tax increases and the high cost of living. Protesters donned fluorescent yellow safety vests that all French motorists are required to have in their vehicles.

  • The movement quickly grew into a broader protest against the policies of President Emmanuel Macron and wealth inequality in France. The yellow vests said Macron’s policies favored the rich and hurt the working and middle classes.

  • Major protests and riots took place in Paris and other French cities throughout late 2018 and 2019. The protests often turned violent, with clashes between protesters and police.

  • In response, Macron suspended the fuel tax and announced other measures aimed at improving living standards for pensioners and low-income workers. However, the protests continued.

  • The yellow vests demanded further economic reforms to increase wages, pensions and social welfare benefits. They wanted more progressive taxation and policies to reduce wealth inequality in France.

  • The movement highlighted public frustration with inequality, the cost of living, and a sense that the political system was not responding to ordinary people’s economic concerns. It embodied a populist backlash against Macron’s agenda.

  • While protests eventually declined in size, the yellow vests movement had a significant impact on French politics and society. It forced Macron to adjust his reform program and increased pressure for economic justice measures.

  • Media: Growth and transformations in media discussed, including new forms and technologies. Role in political, social, and economic change noted.

  • Life expectancy: Historical trends and growth in life expectancy described, with data. Used as a socioeconomic indicator.

  • Meidner funds: Discussed as part of participatory socialism reforms in Sweden. Aimed to socialize ownership over time.

  • Lincoln: Mentioned regarding compensated emancipation proposal.

  • Literacy rate: Historical growth and trends outlined, used as a socioeconomic indicator.

  • Lippman: Cited regarding analysis of media and public opinion.

  • Middle classes: Defined and analyzed in terms of income, property ownership. Role in society examined.

  • Minimum inheritance: Proposed reform to restrict large inheritances, finance redistribution. Details provided.

  • #MeToo: Discussed as a social movement challenging gender discrimination.

  • Opium wars: Colonial wars involving Britain and China over opium trade.

  • Property: Central concept examined from various angles - evolution of ownership, role in social classes and power structures, proposals for reforming.

  • Public debt: Trends and history analyzed, including impacts of colonialism, wars, economic crises. Proposals to reduce debt.

  • Revolutions: Covered as forces transforming property relations, taxation, institutions. Specific examples noted.

  • Taxes: Analyzed as source of public revenue, indicator of inequality, tool for redistribution. Evolution of tax systems traced.

  • The French Revolution brought major changes to suffrage, forcing laborers into status and privilege changes from 95-98. For Abbé Siéyès, this involved suffrage changes of 100, 103-108, 109, 113-120, 134.

  • There were also major changes related to industrial revolutions, including changes to suffrage, status of forced labor and privilege from 95-98.

  • Other key points: textiles, slavery and cotton; abolition of slavery in the late 18th and 19th centuries; heritage of slavery from 48-67; income inequality and slavery from 82-85; postslavery colonialism from 82-92, 95; property ownership, social classes and suffrage changes 100, 103-108, 109, 113-120, 134.

Here is a summary of the key points from the excerpt:

  • The book discusses the history of inequality and efforts to achieve greater equality, such as through progressive taxation, socialism, ending discrimination, and decolonization.

  • It covers major historical events like World War I and II, which helped spur taxes on the wealthy and the rise of the welfare state.

  • Slavery and colonialism are examined as root causes of modern inequality between countries. The legacy of slavery and arguments around reparations are discussed.

  • The growth of progressive taxation in the 20th century is analyzed as a tool to reduce inequality. The role of democracy and socialism in promoting equality is discussed.

  • Ending discrimination based on gender, race, ethnicity etc. is highlighted as essential for real equality.

  • The book advocates exiting neocolonialism and moving toward democratic, ecological, and multicultural socialism to achieve greater equality.

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About Matheus Puppe