Sam Bowles (Santa Fe Institute)
Abstract. I need help in refining these ideas based on Mattia Fochesato and my new data set. Predictions of future inequality in living standards include both substantial declines and increases, exemplified by the prominent works of Kuznets and Piketty respectively. New data from the past nine thousand years for economies with vastly different technologies and institutions show that material wealth, a critical determinant of inequality in living standards, has been very unequally distributed over the past nine millennia, with no overall time trend. Modern democratic and capitalist economies exhibit somewhat greater wealth inequality than most past societies, excepting slave economies. A few outlier economies with notably less inequality are distinct in that material wealth is a relatively unimportant factor of production. Should substantial material wealth inequalities persist, we conjecture that trends in future inequality in living standards will depend critically on two things: the importance of material wealth as a factor of production and the extent to which tax, transfer and other policies substantially delink private wealth and disposable income, as has occurred in many modern economies.