1,900 Year Old Wisdom: “An Imbalance Between Rich and Poor Is the Oldest and Most Fatal Ailment of all Republics”

 

I noted in February that John Kenneth Galbraith and Marriner Eccles explained 50 years ago that inequality causes crashes, and that many modern economists agree.

I just found a slighter older statement saying the same thing.

Specifically, the well-known Greek historian Plutarch – who died in 120 A.D. – said:

An imbalance between rich and poor is the oldest and most fatal ailment of all republics.

Given that the level of inequality in America today is one of the greatest in history, it is not surprising that the republic is ailing so badly. See this, this and this.

As I noted in 2008:

This is not a question of big government versus small government, or republican versus democrat. It is not even a question of Keynes versus Friedman (two influential, competing economic thinkers).

It is a question of focusing any government funding which is made to the majority of poker players – instead of the titans of finance – so that the game can continue. If the hundreds of billions or trillions spent on bailouts had instead been given to ease the burden of consumers, we would have already recovered from the financial crisis.

 

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  • Kevin Alexander

    After having been knocked out of a game of Monopoly® I was standing by watching the last players finish the game. Sometimes these games go on for quite some time.
    I thought it would be interesting to change the rules so that you got more than $200 for passing Go, you got enough to make sure you could get to Go again. They asked me where the money would come from. Tax the other players.
    “But then the game would go on forever!”
    Exactly.

  • Calamity Jean

    What’s most striking to me is that Plutarch regarded this as “old news” when he wrote it down nearly two millenia ago. By now this should be conventional wisdom on a par with “The sun rises in the east.”

    • WashingtonsBlog

      Citation, please?

      • Abner Holsinger

        An imbalance between rich and poor is the oldest and most fatal ailment of all republics.

        –Plutarch – 120 A.D.

  • Tatiana Covington

    Fact: people are not equal. Fact: inequality is built into our very genes. Therefore, fact: all attempts to change it must fail.

    • hai li

      inequality here means a CEO’s salary can’t be thousands of times higher than an average worker. Got it. SOB

  • Plutarch

    I suggest any quotes be traced back to their original document before posting them. I can’t find any citation revealing the source in Plutarch’s writings.

  • Plutarch

    I suggest any quotes be traced back to their original document before posting them. I can’t find any citation revealing the source in Plutarch’s writings.

 

 

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