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Inequality Model

As on this page the fauceir model of inequality is described, inequality is a treated as a fauceir that evolved 10,000-60,000 years ago. Inequality evolved because societies that exhibited inequality were more successful than others.

Although, the author claims the opposite, his book provides abundant evidence that societies that remained hunter-gatherer societies expose strong social control to avoid inequality[1]. These data does not prove, of course, that these societies remained primordial because they punish every so minute attempt of inequality and individualism, but it is strong supporting evidence though. Further evidence stems from societies that adapted egalitarianism as the Eastern European socialist countries did. But interpreting modern data is tricky as in modern history the societies with the most inequality were autocratic and fell behind in social evolution. Thus there is more to inequality than just the distribution of income and property. The following model will explain the ostensible contradictions between inequality and progress.


Normal slope of the inequality pyramid

The model assumes a society with a given degree of inequality as shown in the picture above. By that model inequality is described by the height and steepness of the slope. People try to climb up the slope in a perpetual competition with those at a higher position. In such a system you can achieve a higher position only if someone else is displaced downwards. The perpetual competition is what drives social progress.

The tensions caused by inequality can be understood as voltage in electricity. It is unpleasant. It is even dangerous. But without electricity no gadget would work. The same is true with inequality, without it division of labor, the prerequisite of our modern societies, would be unthinkable.

Not surprisingly as both are mere fauceir, there is an other analogy between electricity and inequality. Voltage alone is not what makes your gadget work, it further needs the electric current to flow through the engine. The inequality equivalent is the turn over between the different levels of inequality. Some authors call this social mobility[2]. In the model picture above this is symbolized by the black arrows.

The picture illustrates the ideal situation of a prosperous society that unfortunately existed only for a short period of time, mostly for a few years after a successful social revolution. Usually people try to release the tension caused by inequality.

Reduced social mobility

Inequality pyramid becomes steeper

As humans act as mere sub-fauceirs of their societies they rarely understand the essence of inequality. Most political decisions are made to decrease social mobility. Throughout human history, two main political movements can be distinguished.

  1. The leftists strive to diminish the slope. Their ideal society is the hunter-gatherer society where all people are equal and all individualism instantly punished.
  2. The right wing, on the contrary, want to maintain the slope and even get it steeper.

Both sides have rational arguments in favor. While the leftists argue that a steep causes social tensions, the other side claims that a flat slope deprives people of incentives to further social progress. The compromise between these two sides is illustrated in the following picture. The slope becomes more concave.

Steepes form of inequality

This concavity results in low social mobility among the rich and hight turnover among those with lover income. This provides a temporary release of tensions among those at the leftmost part of the slope, but in the long run such a distribution of inequality would paralyze society.

The society will consume an increasing amount of resources to maintain this state of inequality.
Finally, this would result in social unrest and possibly in a revolution that restarts the cycle.

Steepest inequality causes social unrest


Not inequality in itself is derogatory, but it gets so if inequality develops into a state that reduces the incentives to climb up the ladder of inequality.

Admittedly, though inequality was the driving force for innovation in the past human history, it has not necessarily to play the same role in the future. Other incentives may evolve.

Tags: Anthropology Behavior Economy Evolution Society System Theory

Categories: Economics Sociology


(c) Mato Nagel, Weißwasser 2004-2013, Disclaimer