Tag Archives: society

The Equality Trust

The Equality Trust was established by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett, authors of the book ‘The Spirit Level’ which presents their research into the influence of inequality in developed countries.

The Trust aims to disseminate this information through a programme of public and political education designed to achieve:

  • a widespread understanding of the harm caused by income inequality
  • public support for policy measures to reduce income inequality
  • the political commitment to implementing such policy measures

The Trust is non-partisan and calls on all political parties to prioritise this issue.

Why More Equality?

The authors thirty years research shows that in rich countries, a smaller gap between rich and poor means a happier, healthier, and more successful population. They produced an index of health and social problems, amalgamating comparable data collected by agencies within 21 developed countries in Europe, the USA and Canada, Japan, Australia and New Zealand. The index combined scores for 10 factors:

Life Expectancy                  Maths and literacy

Infant mortality                 Homicides

Obesity                             Imprisonment

Mental illness & Addiction   Trust

Teenage pregnancy            Social mobility

More equal countries performed well for each of these indicators. With the combined results plotted against income equality, countries with higher levels of equality performed better than countries with lower levels of equality. The most equal countries were Japan in first place followed by the Scandinavian countries, Finland, Norway, Sweden, and Denmark.    The countries with the highest scores for the above factors were Japan, again in first place, Sweden, Norway, Netherlands [9th for equality] and Switzerland [13th for equality] Finland and Denmark had slipped to 6th and 9th place respectively.

At the other end of the table, the least equal country was the USA followed by Portugal, the UK, Australia, and New Zealand. For the combined index, the USA was again on the bottom followed by Portugal, the UK, Greece, and New Zealand. Considering each of these 10 factors separately and plotting each against equality, the USA, the most powerful and therefore presumed by some to be the most successful country in the world, was consistently on the bottom, with Japan at the top. The UK closely followed the USA.

The Authors have shown that more economic growth in developed countries will NOT lead to a happier, healthier, or more successful population. In fact, there is no relation between income per head and social well-being across rich countries. People doing similar jobs in Japan and Scandinavia, generally earn less that they would in the USA, but they have a higher sense of well-being.

With greater equality in the UK, the authors conclude that we would be better off as a population. For example, the evidence suggests that if we halved inequality here:

– Murder rates would halve
– Mental illness would reduce by two thirds
– Obesity would halve
– Imprisonment would reduce by 80%
– Teen births would reduce by 80%
– Levels of trust would increase by 85%

Not just poor people do better. The evidence suggests people all the way up would benefit, although it’s true that the poorest would gain the most.

These findings hold true, whether you look across developed nations, or across the 50 states of the USA.

For more information, resources and up to date news, visit the Trust website:

http://www.equalitytrust.org.uk/

Or, read ‘The Spirit Level’ by Richard Wilkinson & Kate Pickett, published by Penguin Books.

It should be noted the policies of the ConDem coalition would lead to an increase in inequality, with the cuts hitting the least well of and the big business sector resuming bonus business as usual. Performance of the UK in the above 10 indicators, can be expected to decline. 

Vote Strategically, Vote Green

Voting for the Green Party is a powerful statement and the best way to make your vote really count this election. Although the other parties talk about change, only the Green Party offers true change by providing a real alternative to the stale, ‘grey’ politics that have got us into such a mess. Sometimes it feels like we are living in a one-party state because there is so little difference between the three main parties, but the Green Party offers a breath of fresh air. This election we are hoping to send our first Green MPs to Westminster, who could make a real difference in a hung Parliament, especially if they can count on the support of hundreds of thousands of national voters. The Green Party offers constructive policies to combat climate change, and transition to a sustainable economy. We also offer a unique vision and analysis.

The big political story over the last 30 years is the domination of so-called ‘free market’ economics. Some commentators even foolishly talk about the “end of history” because there seem to be no competing views. The media carry the free market agenda, encouraging debate over nuances within this dominant ideology, represented by the three mainstream parties, and excluding those who have big things to say, such as the Green Party.

The pillars of free market economics include privatisation, deregulation, and attacks on unions and the “nanny state”, all of which can be traced back to Mrs Thatcher, who pioneered this ideology of selfishness, even claiming that “there is no such thing as society”. Tony Blair and Gordon Brown happily picked up the Thatcherite baton and ran with it, continuing to privatise public services such as hospitals and the London Tube, while trying to hide behind complicated schemes like PFI and PPP. Instead of imposing effective regulation on big business, Labour has given carte blanche to corporations to regulate themselves, resulting in the near bankruptcy of the UK due to the banking and financial crisis. Attacking unions is part of the problem, because there is a clear link between the weakened bargaining position of workers, resulting in low wages, and the massive expansion of consumer credit required to maintain people’s standards of living – a bubble still in serious danger of exploding.

More than half a century has passed since World War Two and the end of Empire, yet Britain has still not found a positive role in the world. We are a poodle to American foreign policy, obediently following their military adventures (irrespective of how ill-conceived or immoral these may be), constantly needing reassuring pats on the back from Uncle Sam in response to our pleading “Tell us we still have a special relationship”.

There are two competing visions of wealth and value in the world, and the British establishment is besotted with the wrong one. The first vision sees the natural world as beautiful and valuable in itself, to be studied and cherished. It seeks to promote and enhance those aspects of human culture which emphasise harmonious relationships with nature and with other humans. The second view assigns no intrinsic value to nature, believing it valuable only for its instrumental use to humans, violently extracting minerals and industrially cultivating a few crops as ‘mono-cultures’, thereby inflicting massive, unsustainable damage on the environment. This second view also fails to recognise the intrinsic value of human beings themselves, only valuing us to the extent we serve money and power.

This is the real reason we have a “broken society”. Under current conditions we are alienated from nature and from each other – in other words we do not value our relatedness. Our lack of relatedness manifests in the extreme inequalities which now blight our society, destroying our collective well-being, increasing our fears, and making us ill.

Even if we don’t believe that nature has intrinsic value, we can surely see that the massive destruction being inflicted on the oceans, soil, forests and atmosphere will inevitably cripple the environment’s usefulness. For example, most of our medicines originate from the plant and animal kingdoms, but how are we going to extract and synthesise new medicines if we extinguish huge numbers of species? Impoverishing and stripping variety from nature is extremely short-sighted, as each species and ecosystem embodies millions of years of evolution and experience which can never be repeated. Eventually this environmental destruction will lead to the demise of humanity itself.

Apparently people are sceptical about the scientific evidence for climate change, but whether we agree that climate change is man-made or not, does anyone seriously think it is a good idea for a few human generations to extract from the earth’s crust the entire carbon deposits from millions of years of compressed rainforests and inject them into the atmosphere as smoke? We know how sensitive modern systems are to any disruption (e.g. volcanic ash), so put your hand up if you think this massive chemical pollution of the atmosphere is a sensible idea. Yet it seems that we will stoop to anything to keep pumping oil, whether this means invading other countries on false pretexts or pandering to some of the world’s most repressive regimes.

Your vote on May 6th can make a difference. Do any of the main parties have a coherent analysis or vision which will really improve our world and our society? Do they have the committment or policies to address these challenges? Please vote with both your head and heart. Vote strategically, vote Green.