Inequality Was One of the Main Reasons for the Fall of the Roman Empire … and Inequality in America Is MUCH WORSE than In Ancient Rome

American Inequality Twice As Bad As In Ancient Rome

A study by two historians finds that inequality in America is worse than in ancient Rome:

The Roman Empire, a society built on conquest and slave labor, had a more equitable income distribution [than America today].


To determine the size of the Roman economy and the distribution of income, historians Walter Schiedel and Steven Friesen pored over papyri ledgers, previous scholarly estimates, imperial edicts, and Biblical passages. Their target was the state of the economy when the empire was at its population zenith, around 150 C.E. Schiedel and Friesen estimate that the top 1 percent of Roman society controlled 16 percent of the wealth, less than half of what America’s top 1 percent control.

The study – published in the Journal of Roman Studies in 2009 – is receiving widespread attention this week.

Inequality in America has only gotten worse since 2009.  

Inequality Contributed to the Fall of Rome

I’ve previously noted that extreme inequality causes depressions as well as violence and unrest.

No wonder the CIA keeps track:

Since too much inequality can foment revolt and instability, the CIA regularly updates statistics on income distribution for countries around the world, including the U.S.

Indeed, the widening gap between rich and poor and the disappearance of a middle class is widely accepted as one of the prime explanations for the fall of the Roman Empire.

Note:  Contrary to what mainstream Republican leaders may say, most conservatives realize the danger of runaway inequality and do not accept rampant levels of disparity between rich and poor.

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