Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Spirit Level: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger

TAGS: Spirit Level, Need Greater Equality, Status Oriented Societies, USA Tops in Maladies, Pickett, Wilkinson, Chicago School of Economics, Zero Sum Game, Maddow, Olbermann, Potter for CIGNA, room for Optimism

The Scandinavian countries and Japan provide either high taxes and a smaller difference a pay between the top and bottom to provide greater equality respectively.

Status oriented societies such as the USA lead to higher consumerism and greed where those with more money contribute very little compared to their income according to a Wall Street Journal study. Even the ability to go to the best schools are already stacked against those with less economic means coincident with poor schools to have any social economic mobility which has decreased enormously since Reagan.

As study after study has shown, real happiness increases at the bottom level where essential income needs including time with the family and friends, and some entertainment, greater income and time at work as shown in study after study has been an imaginary road towards happiness.

Britishers Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson video provided extensive data from all over the world showing that the larger the inequality in a society, the greater problems exist with the USA almost exclusively at the top in inequality and all the ills of society we all agree. Crime, imprisonment, worse health for the whole society including those at the top, and a host of other factors in our lives.

The Chicago School Economics starting with Reagan/Bush in the 1980s and sharply increasing during the G. W. Bush years has led us to a society with lots of wealth at the top one percent, but lots of dissatisfaction below such as a lack of trust. Real growth in the economy has been slow but profits have mushroomed by extracting money from the bottom 99 percent of Americans by sending jobs overseas which forced salaries down in all parts of society except at the top. The GDP indicator for growth measures all spending whether it helps Americans or not.

The Zero Sum Game popularized by MIT professors has been used to transfer wealth from the middleclass Americans to the top one percent of Americans. Even during the good economy in the second half of the 1990s, almost all the excess spending was done by the top 20 percent increasing as income increased. The bottom 80% spent the same just to survive.
Wikipedia: In game theory and economic theory, zero-sum describes a situation in which a participant's gain or loss is exactly balanced by the losses or gains of the other participant(s). If the total gains of the participants are added up, and the total losses are subtracted, they will sum to zero. Zero-sum can be thought of more generally as constant sum where the benefits and losses to all players sum to the same value of money (or utility). Cutting a cake is zero- or constant-sum, because taking a larger piece reduces the amount of cake available for others. In contrast, non-zero-sum describes a situation in which the interacting parties' aggregate gains and losses is either less than or more than zero. Zero-sum games are also called strictly competitive.

Even the current corporate Healthcare model of increasing profits trumps sickness, death, and bankruptcy of their former members cannot survive according to the former top propagandist for Wendell Potter for a major Heath Insurance Company. These companies have been increasing prices so rapidly that small businesses and individuals had to drop healthcare costs with a jump in rates of insurance as high as 39 percent in California and New Hampshire by Well Point. Others have joined the rush for profits too. Keith Olbermann

But there is room for optimism. When tax rates were high at the top, corporations provided ten percent of the schools budget, equality in society except for Women and Minorities, was at its high, and many ills in our current top take all society were absent. Communities were strong and marriages lasted longer.

Jim Kawakami, Feb 17, 2010,

The Evidence

Great inequality is the scourge of modern societies. We provide the evidence on each of eleven different health and social problems: physical health, mental health, drug abuse, education, imprisonment, obesity, social mobility, trust and community life, violence, teenage births, and child well-being. For all eleven of these health and social problems, outcomes are very substantially worse in more unequal societies.

We have checked the relationships wherever possible in two independent test beds: internationally among the rich countries, and then again among the 50 states of the USA. In almost every case we find the same tendency for outcomes to be much worse in more unequal societies in both settings.

We also present evidence on four other important issues. One is how achieving greater equality within the rich countries may contribute to tackling the inequalities between rich and poor countries. Another is a discussion of both the compatibility and relative merits of greater equality and economic growth as sources of improvements in the quality of life among rich countries. There is a page discussing how greater equality may contribute to policies designed to tackle global warming, and lastly, a page (The Remedies) pointing out that there are many different ways of increasing equality in our societies.

The data we use comes from the most respected international sources including The World Bank, World Health Organisation, United Nations, UNICEF, and US Census Bureau. Much of this work has already been published in peer reviewed academic journals, and some of the relationships have been tested many times by different research groups using data for different societies.

Details of the data and statistical techniques we use are available on the Statistical Sources and Methods page.

A full description and explanation of this research is now available as a book: Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett, The Spirit Level (Penguin). Buy the book from Amazon.

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