Thursday, 13 October 2011

The Need For Equality

This post could well be titled Greenbelt 2011 Part 2 as it is about a talk I went to at Greenbelt and the book I have just read as a result.  It was a talk I attended by accident but one that I found most worthwhile.  The accident was that I read the surname of the speaker and assumed that it was the same person I had heard the day before - but being stupid can have its advantages.

I want to start with a quotation that is in book from someone who had read an earlier edition and at the end I will tell you who it is!

"that among the richest countries, it's the more equal ones that do worse according to almost every quality of life indicator ... per capita GDP is much less significant for a country's life expectancy, crime levels, literacy and health than the size of the gap between the richest and the poorest in the population ... We all know, in our hearts, that as long as there is deep poverty living systematically side by side with great riches, we all remain the poorer for it."

The book is The Spirit Level, subtitle Why Equality is Better for Everyone, and it was written by Richard Wilkinson, who I heard speak, and Kate Pickett.  This, I have to admit, is my kind of book, a book full of graphs and the inferences that can be drawn from them; I didn't do Applied Statistics all those years ago because I didn't like it!  The main theme of the book is that once a country or state reaches a certain level of affluence it doesn't social problems such as teen pregnancy, drug addiction, crime, violence, bad health etc are not related to the level of affluence but to the distribution of the affluence within that country or state.

Reading the book 2 things kept going through my mind.  The first was how obvious the conclusions were when you saw the data and the second was that Christians shouldn't behave in the ways described for the most unequal countries.  I say shouldn't because two of the most unequal countries are the UK and USA, both of which claim, to some extent, to be Christian countries.

Have you worked out who was been quoted in the book? It was David Cameron.


Lena said...

Wow, this sounds like a great book. Thanks for sharing, I will definitely read it. Also, I love the quote and that it's from David Cameron!

Still Breathing said...

Lena, That David Cameron said that did, I admit, surprise me; I was surprised because I don't see much evidence of this in the policies of the government he heads. One of the other interesting points in the book was that the more equal societies tend to be the lower tax societies. At first that sounds counterintuitive but as the more equal societies have lower crime, lower addiction, better health etc they have to spend less on healthcare, policing, prisons etc.


jonbirch said...

very, very interesting stuff.
cameron should listen to his own words and work on putting them in to practice... hmmm, i wonder if that'll happen.

Still Breathing said...

Jon, Don't hold your breath.