Paul L. Caron

Friday, May 24, 2024

Alfani Presents Economic Inequality in Preindustrial Times Today At The Oxford-Virginia Legal Dialogs

Guido Alfani (Bocconi University; Google Scholar) presents Economic Inequality in Preindustrial Times: Europe and Beyond, 59 J. Econ. Lit. 3 (2021), today as part of the Oxford-Virginia Legal Dialogs hosted by Tsilly Dagan and Ruth Mason: 

Guido alfaniRecent literature has reconstructed estimates of wealth and income inequality for a range of preindustrial, mostly European, societies covering medieval and early modern times, occasionally reaching back to antiquity and even prehistory. These estimates have radically improved our knowledge of distributive dynamics in the past. It now seems clear that in the period circa 1300–1800, inequality of both income and wealth grew almost monotonically almost everywhere in Europe, with the exception of the century-long phase of inequality decline triggered by the Black Death of 1347–52. Regarding the causes of inequality growth, recent literature ruled out economic growth as the main one. Other possible factors include population growth (also as mediated by inheritance systems) and especially regressive fiscal institutions (also as connected to the unequal distribution of political power). The recently proposed theoretical framework of the inequality possibility frontier (IPF) lends a better understanding of the implications of the reconstructed trends. This article concludes by showing how connecting preindustrial trends to modern ones changes our perception of long-term inequality altogether.

Commentator: Ted Seto (Loyola-L.A.; Google Scholar)

About Oxford-Virginia Legal Dialogues
In an environment of increasing academic specialization, Oxford-Virginia Legal Dialogs seeks to build bridges across academic disciplines by introducing a new kind of workshop. For each session, a tax scholar will select a non-tax, but law-related, work that is prominent in its own field and explain how the work is relevant to the study of taxation. The author of the work will then respond before we open the session to questions and discussion by workshop attendees.

All sessions will take place on Zoom, and the work to be discussed will be distributed on seminar webpage or by email to registrants.

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