Just been to see Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett, authors of the Spirit Level, speak at St George’s in Bristol. They introduced it by saying that they were there to tell us what we all knew already – and they did exactly that, but it’s nice to be affirmed in your deeply held assumptions and blind prejudices, isn’t it?
Its such a simple thesis – that inequality in a society negatively affects the health of that society, whether you look at mortality, percentage of the population in jail, trust or even innovation. And equality has a positive affect on all the same data sets.
They were careful to stay away from the politics and policy of it all – the humility of restricting themselves to a summary of their statistical findings, when this is a book that has been passed from person to person with a ‘must read’ caveat, was touching. And the irony of hearing about this incredible study, at the very moment that New “intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich” Labour leaves office and David Cameron, the face of a new ‘social’ conserfvatism, becomes PM.
Its amazing what years of being told that inequality is good for us has done to us all. The poor need low wages to make ’em work; The rich need a pay rise, or they’ll all disappear back to the Canary Islands. The idea that humans are fundamentally selfish, and that’s what makes everything work, has been taught to every economist, banker, financier, lawyer and politician for hundreds of years, and nothing else gets a look in. Self-fulfilling prophesy is hard to argue with – but what does business look like when you start assuming that people are essentially fair, trust worthy and caring?