The Great Leveler: Violence and the History of Inequality from the Stone Age to the Twenty-First Century, by Walter Scheidel

I can tell a straightforward, partisan story about inequality in the United States:

  1. The colonial United States was a remarkably egalitarian place ⁠⁠— for white people, at least.  But as the United States industrialized, from the Civil War through the Gilded Age and all the way until the Great Depression, the government made few efforts to redistribute wealth, and inequality grew and grew.
  2. Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal policies reduced inequality dramatically and established a bipartisan consensus in favor of egalitarian redistribution that lasted for decades.  Democrats controlled the White House and Congress for most of these years, and even the two Republican presidents elected during this time — Eisenhower and Nixon — basically accepted the New Deal consensus.  During this time, inequality remained low and even declined slightly.
  3. But backlash against the Civil Rights Act ultimately shattered public confidence in Big Government, eventually leading to the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980.  After this point inequality began to rise again, such that today we once again see levels of inequality we haven’t seen since the Gilded Age.

This is a common story — for example, it’s pretty much exactly the one Paul Krugman tells in The Conscience of a Liberal.


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Not Peer Reviewed in Review, 2019

By my count, I wrote six public posts of substantive length in 2019:

I also wrote two additional posts that I haven’t publicly published:

  • Personal experience and a literature review on the use of naltrexone to treat alcohol abuse.  I decided not to publish the post last year because I want to have a lengthier period of personal experience to draw upon.
  • A review of The Great Leveler: Violence and the History of Inequality from the Stone Age to the Twenty-First Century, by Walter Scheidel.  This is private simply because I’m still finishing it, and I hope to publicize it by the end of the month.

Some thoughts about my year in blogging:

  • I would like to roughly double the number of long-form posts I publish next year, such that I write one a month.
  • I’m satisfied with the range of topics and formats of posts I’m writing.  Reviews, data analysis, and argumentative essays all seem like areas where I have the skills and interests to write productively.
  • I think I can be more proactive about promoting my posts.  By far the biggest spike in my traffic was when I posted a link on r/slatestarcodex.  I was initially cautious about doing that sort of thing; it felt like it might be a violation of Reddit’s norms, but it seems that people don’t mind some judiciously applied self-promotion when the effort level is high and the topic is relevant.
  • I’ve scaled back the food photos.  I like the way they fit visually between the long-form posts, but I don’t know whether they contribute to other peoples’ experience of the blog.  For whatever reason, they do seem to get a lot of other WordPress users following my blog, but I’m not so sure those users enjoy my long-form content.