Friday, June 14, 2013

The High Price of Inequality

The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do BetterThe Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better by Richard G. Wilkinson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An overall very interesting book that examines the negative impacts and/ or correlation of inequality on a variety social issues. While it seems to harp on the same theme -- inequality is bad for us, even the wealthy -- there are some times where I found myself thinking "correlation does not imply causation."

But the authors' case is very strong.

There seems little doubt that inequality, though, is driven by government policy. And thus reflects the hidden attitudes of those in power -- since the policies a nation's elite have followed across several decades and their effects are, rhetoric aside, the net effect of the power structures that run a country.

So what we are looking at is attitudes wrought in policies. Which impact people's lives, and come out as unequal distribution of income, with the rich getting richer, and the poor getting nothing.

The down side to this is that the United States is a negative outlier in nearly ever conceivable dimension when viewed against our peers. The rich get richer. Money flows into "cost-plus" military or engineers contracts given to influential contractors. And the profits flow to the wealthy shareholders, while those same companies move manufacturing jobs over seas.

There are several stats that still shock me. For instance Cuba -- the small island nation that is much poorer than the US -- has a lower infant mortality rate and slightly higher death rate than the wealthiest nation in the world. And the research that shows that, after a certain level, pursuit wealth does not really bring satisfaction illustrates an ages-old spiritual insight.

No doubt it will take more than that. But the overall analysis is sound.

There are some Right-Wing attacks of this book floating around. Because word is getting out, and the findings do seem to support Progressive opinions and debunk Conservative notions. And the authors have posted an interesting article that rebuts the arguments being made by the Right against the insights the authors make in this book because they are, frankly, statistically incorrect. But, more importantly, the author of this rebuttal question the author's overly clean "to make society better, all we need to do is make income more equal."

Which smacks of intellectual honesty -- rare in any time. But refreshing in political discourse.

Highly recommended. The only reason it did not get 5-stars from me is that these findings could have been summarized in about half the pages. And that the majority of it can be had for free on their website The Equality Trust. (

How big an outlier is the USA in equality? Look at this infographic.
How big an outlier is the USA in equality? Look at this infographic.
(Source: Equality Trust -- equaitytrust,
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