Economic Equality and Victory in War

Working Paper 2006-51


This paper tests a simple hypothesis: that given the occurrence of war between two countries, the country that is more egalitarian at the moment of military decision is likely to emerge the victor. First, we examine cases where comparative economic inequality can be measured directly, using the nearly comprehensive global data-sets of the University of Texas Inequality Project for the years 1963-1999. Second, we examine cases where reasonable inferences about comparative economic inequality may be drawn by analogy to UTIP measurements or from other political and economic evidence, including both bi-national wars and larger wars where there existed clear pair-wise fronts. Third, we discuss selected cases where inferences may be drawn from literary or historical sources. We find, all in all, that the evidence for an egalitarian victory proposition is remarkably strong.

Authors: James K. Galbraith, Corwin Priest, George Purcell.