I recently attended a talk by Richard Wilkinson, co-author (with Kate Pickett) of The Spirit Level, my copy of which I caught up with earlier this year. In case you’re not aware, this work accessibly presents the data which reveals that it is not relative average income levels between, but the extent of income inequality within societies which determines the extent of their dysfunctionality.
Since the book was published (2009), the busting of capitalism’s flush brings no alleviation to this sorry state of affairs. Cuts and job losses disproportionately affect those at the lower end of the income scale, whilst the pigs responsible still reap perversely massive bonus payouts. Ever wondered why that envisaged ‘trickle down’ effect only works when it is shit doing the travelling?
The backlash is underway in the form of peaceful ‘Occupy’ protests in various countries. And it is good to see. But as ever, there is the inevitable right wing attempt to undermine and discredit the research. Not unlike those – often political – movements that expend time and cash muddying clear scientific waters around climate change or evolution, right wing free market ideologues pour scorn on the findings of Wilkinson & Pickett, stoking the controversy, and positing their own counter-data in books such as The Spirit Level Delusion (what’s that a play on?).
Anyway, don’t take my word for it. However, I was interested to discover (late as ever) an EDM tabled earlier this year, by Caroline Lucas, leader of the Green Party and its sole MP (and an apparent EDM enthusiast, having to date signed 655 of the bloody things). I won’t go on here about one or two of the other EDMs to which Lucas has added her name, or about her or anybody else’s EDM-promiscuity, although it is good to see her appending her moniker here – and, back on topic, to EDM 1775 ‘Income Inequality’, which states:
‘That this House notes the findings of the Equality Trust that societies with smaller income differences between rich and poor have fewer health and social problems, such as teenage births, violence, mental illness and drug abuse; further notes that such societies have higher levels of trust between citizens and more social mobility; and therefore encourages the Government to promote policies that reduce income inequality.’
Well, as inconsequential as these EDMs apparently are, I got into letter writing mode and span one off to my own EDM-averse MP, to urge her to consider that her signature on this one would be worthwhile.
I received an effortful reply listing the initiatives this government is taking to tackle unfairness. Well, there are a few things she didn’t mention, which contradict those she did. But, somewhat abruptly, and in apparent contradiction of her insistence at this government’s candor (which I wasn’t calling her out on, although I did point out one particular observation I find disturbing), she informed emphatically that she will not be signing EDM 1775.
Now if, dear reader, I’ve somehow managed to retain your interest to this point, have a look, if you haven’t already, at the hitherto 109 signatories to EDM 1775. As I conceded previously, the varying attention given EDMs renders absence of signatures an insufficient conclusory basis. But is there anything that strikes you as, err… under-represented? Or would that be a presupposition?