…. for example, 2600 years ago


According to Plutarch, in the Athens of 594 BC ‘the disparity of fortune between the rich and the poor had reached its height, so that the city seemed to be in a dangerous condition, and no other means for freeing it from disturbances seemed possible but despotic power.

The poor, finding their status worsened with each year- the government in the hands of their masters, and the corrupt courts deciding every issue against them- began to talk of violent revolt. The rich, angry at the challenge to their property, prepared to defend themselves by force.

Good sense prevailed; moderate elements secured the election of Solon, a businessman of aristocratic lineage, to the supreme archonship.

Solon devalued the currency, thereby easing the burden of all debtors (although he himself was a creditor); he reduced all personal debts, and ended imprisonment for debt; he cancelled arrears for taxes and mortgage interest, he established a graduated income tax that made the rich pay at a rate twelve times that required of the poor; he reorganized the courts on a more popular basis; he arranged that the sons of those who had died in war for Athens should be brought up and educated at the government’s expense.

The rich protested that his measures were outright confiscation; the radicals complained that he had not redivided the land; but within a generation almost all agreed that his reforms had saved Athens from revolution.

-“The Lessons of History”, Will and Ariel Durant, 1968