Mean Bosses & Inequality

The following video shows one of the many dangers of wealth disparity.

I’ve posted about wealth disparity in the past and I was recently reading the book The Spirit Level by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett (here is the official website: The Equality Trust). Here is a video by the authors:

The data shows the correlation between wealth disparity and a wide variety of health and social problems. Some have argued against this apparent correlation being causally related (or, to the extent there is a causal relation, that the results are necessarily negative… arguing, for example, that wealth disparity is inevitable for economic growth), but the research mentioned in the first video further strengthens this correlation (and the negative conditions that result) by putting it in context of the psychology of human behavior. As Cenk Uygur points out, we all have this predisposition to misuse power (whether we meritoriously gained that power or were merely given it), but this predisposition is just a potential that we can guard against.

As a liberal, I’d argue that if you remove the temptation by decreasing the wealth disparity, then you don’t have to worry about people struggling to resist the corrupting influence of too much power. Anyways, as the data shows, societies with high wealth disparities are bad even for the wealthy in that they too suffer greater problems than the wealthy in societies with low wealth disparities. So, it does no one any good… no matter what conservatives may claim about some hypothetical meritocracy.

Even if they were correct that the economy grows quicker with greater inequality, that is hardly a moral argument for inequality (What good is growth merely for the sake of growth?). As the US data shows, even though the economy is growing, this only directly benefits the upper class. This growing economy isn’t increasing the living wage or employment rates of the lower classes.

If you’re wondering about criticisms of the data and correlations from The Spirit Level, here are some relevant links:

http://www.leftfootforward.org/2010/07/debunking-the-rights-attacks-on-the-spirit-level/

http://www.thersa.org/__data/assets/pdf_file/0008/328517/Kate-Pickett-and-Richard-Wilkinson-Responses-to-All-Critics.pdf

http://www.equalitytrust.org.uk/saunders-response

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/jul/09/spirit-level-policy-exchange

The next video is a debate the authors of The Spirit Level had with one of their critics:

Here are some further videos:

Problems of Income Inequality

It’s interesting that states with low income equality do better. In poor states (where there is greater gap between rich and poor), the poor vote Democrat and the rich vote Republican. In wealthy states (ie. where everyone has a higher income), both the rich and poor vote Democrat.

The way we live now
http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2009/mar/13/the-spirit-level
Lynsey Hanley

“The authors point out that the life-diminishing results of valuing growth above equality in rich societies can be seen all around us. Inequality causes shorter, unhealthier and unhappier lives; it increases the rate of teenage pregnancy, violence, obesity, imprisonment and addiction; it destroys relationships between individuals born in the same society but into different classes; and its function as a driver of consumption depletes the planet’s resources.”