Monday, April 27, 2009

Inequality - in shocking pictures

John Christensen attended the LEAP conference in London over the weekend, and describes the immense quality of the speakers and presentations. One that he found especially interesting was the presentation by Richard Wilkinson - author of the new book The Spirit Level (blogged here) about which The Economist, which isn't known for worrying about inequality, said:

"the evidence, here painstakingly marshalled, is hard to dispute."

Now we would like to draw your attention to the data. And this is the starkest demonstration we have ever seen on the perils of inequality. We'd made up the attached document as a composite from their website, and added a few shortened comments. The correlations the graphs show, and the repeated correlation in graph after graph, should make any statistician gasp.

Take a look.

For more data and discussion on each, look here, and if you want to get really detailed and read the book containing all their research, go out and get this.

In the meantime, here are a few quotes, pulled from the website illustrating the research:
  • "We are at a turning point in human history. For centuries the best way of improving the quality of life has been to raise material living standards. But we have now come to the end of what economic growth can do for developed countries. Measures of well-being or of happiness no longer rise with economic growth."
  • "It looks as if the American Dream is far more likely to remain a dream for Americans than it is for people living in Scandinavian countries."
  • "For rich countries to get even richer makes little or no difference to the prevalence of health and social problems."
  • "Societies with smaller income differences between rich and poor are more cohesive: community life is stronger, levels of trust are higher and there is less violence. The vast majority of the population seem to benefit from greater equality."
  • "There are two fundamentally different paths to greater equality. One depends on redistributing income from rich to poor through taxes and benefits, while the other involves having smaller differences in incomes at source - before taxes and benefits - so there is less need for redistribution. Although the two methods could be contrasted as the big government and the small government methods of achieving greater equality, the two approaches can of course be combined."
But it is, as we've noted, the hard data that speaks loudest. Just look at those graphs again.

Oh, and we should mention that at the presentation, Professor Wilkinson explicitly noted and praised the role of TJN in opening up entirely new areas for debate and analysis.


Blogger Physiocrat said...

It's all to do with the distribution of land ownership. The Swedish King Karl XI took the land off the nobility in the 1680s in a process known as the Reductions. Consequently there is no great powerful vested interest in maintaining privileges.

In Britain, by contrast, death duties notwithstanding, the great aristocratic estates of Grosvenor, Cadogan, de Walden, Portman and Bedford, together with the Crown Estate and the City of London, have survived 300 years and still control the lion’s share of Central London.

2:51 am  
Blogger SieBer00 said...

I agree with you Henry. "At source" is before income, it is the conditions for life - light, air, water and earth. Most have the first two, but millions have no pure water to drink and hundreds of millions have no earth to grow food or make things. The importante of the equal division of land is the reason why higly some ancient highly developed societies regularly redistributed land - such as in the jubilee year.

2:28 am  

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