Posts Tagged 'Daniel Dorling'

Are the first cuts the deepest?

What has happened as far as the tally of injustice goes since the election results came out? For a start the election made one of the graphs in Injustice: Why social inequality persists look slightly out of date. As predicted the Conservative segregation index rose even higher than before. If you have a copy of the book turn to page 175 and put an extra dot in the margin, where 2010 would be, at a height of 16.4%. What happened was that on May 6th 2010 the greatest swings towards the Conservatives occurred in the seats where they were most popular to begin with. This is a symptom of a still dividing country, but it is also a quite inefficient way to increase your support. Thus the Tories did not manage to secure an overall majority. They increased their vote most in the seats they already held. In some of the poorer parts of Britain, and especially in Scotland, the votes for Labour actually increased. The Liberals were squeezed out and lost seats in the middle of this polarisation. They ended up sharing power as no one could rule without them.

Today we saw the beginnings of what this increased political polarisation means, the very first cuts were announced. Among them George Osborne declared the demise ever slowly slightly redistributive Child Trust Fund, cutting payments of £320 million in 2010 and £520 million a year from 2011-2012. In the fund’s place he announced new funding of an almost charitable nature: An extra £20 million each year from 2011 being spent on addition respite care, 8000 one week long breaks for severely disabled children.

What you should expect is much more of this. Cutting something which is actually redistributive and replacing it with something that costs only a tenth as much and is useful but tokenistic – aimed at the most ‘deserving’ of cases. Thus some 4000 council houses will be built; a paltry number, but just enough to salve a few consciences. It would be very better to reduce the wealth of the richest so many gave up their spare homes which others could then use. Similarly, there would have been no need for a Child Trust Fund in the first place had income differential not widened under New Labour.

Other cost cutting is also indicative of what kind of the world the Conservative-Liberal coalition would like to see emerge. David Laws, the Liberal Chief Secretary to the treasury, suggested that the £45 million annual first class travel by public servants should be curtailed. This is good, but far better not to be running train carriages designed for different social classes into the twenty-first century in the first place. It is far simpler just to begin to abandon first class tickets for anyone, and the kind of thing a country that has just become a great deal poorer might have to begin to think of doing (to use track space more efficiently). Would David Cameron’s dream of a big society still have first and second class travel, with just public sector workers, students, families and lower private sector management and anyone else not quite like him in ‘economy’? I worry that is their dream. Too many still want a more unequal world.

Daniel Dorling, author of Injustice: Why social inequality persists

Win a copy of Injustice by Daniel Dorling!

Congratulations to Titus Alexander, an active supporter of the Equality Trust and One Society campaign, who has won a copy of Injustice by Daniel Dorling.

Would you like to win a copy of Daniel Dorling’s Injustice: Why social inequality persists? Simply post a relevant comment to either the ‘The rise and rise of social inequality’ or the ‘Is social inequality addictive’ entry and we will enter you into a prize draw to win copy of the book, we only have one to give away so join the debate now! Closing date 30th April 2010. If you have any questions please email tpp-marketing@bristol.ac.uk.

The rise and rise of social inequality

What would be your list of the most damaging current social evils in Britain today and how would you explain their survival? A very large number of writers have tried to answer this question over the decades since an answer was first offered by William Beveridge in 1942. In recent years the general public have also been asked more frequently what they think too. A great many evils are listed from all these machinations and consultations.

I thought these lists might be a good place to start when writing the book Injustice, which tries to explain why inequalities persists and are allowed to rise, even having reached, in some cases, their highest recorded levels for almost eighty years (income, health, wealth and voting inequalities). What I found was that almost all the entries in almost all the lists could be put into five broad boxes. These five separated out the five original social evils as identified in the Beveridge report. However, by comparing how the lists changed over time it was possible to see how the natures of each social evil had also changed. What began to emerge, for me at least, was a picture of how each old social evil had transformed into something often very different but equally as damaging when it came to maintaining inequality and hence injustice.

All of the new social evils are arguments for maintaining and increasing inequality or modern arguments for injustice. They are, I claim, what keep us addicted to inequality in the most unequal of countries. Some people used to say that smoking was good for the constitution. It helped you develop a “productive cough”, cleared out the lungs. There are still people today who say that inequality is good, it rewards merit, encourages competition and fosters growth and consumption – these are in effect the “productive coughs” of 21st century society. And, just as there were lobbyists paid to argue for tobacco long after most people came to agree it was harmful, so too there are lobbyists today, who are paid by those who can see a short term gain in bolstering inequality, arguing for injustice and call it ‘freedom’.

Had you told someone in 1942 that there would come a day when smoking was banned in all public buildings they might well not have believed you. If you are told today that within your lifetime you could see social inequalities greatly reduced and the health and well-being of the population greatly increase as a result, will you believe it? Will our grandchildren ever understand why some people equate inequality with freedom?

Daniel Dorling, author of Injustice: Why social inequality persists
Other blogs featuring Injustice include: The Enlightened Economist and Out of Range.

Would you like to win a copy of Daniel Dorling’s Injustice: Why social inequality persists? Simply post a relevant comment to either the ‘The rise and rise of social inequality’ or the ‘Is social inequality addictive’ entry and we will enter you into a prize draw to win copy of the book, we only have one to give away so join the debate now! Closing date 30th April 2010.

Is social inequality addictive?

We now know that inequality is bad for us. At the national level, the effect of living in an equitable country as compared to an unequal rich country is as great, in terms of the increase in overall life expectancy that comes with greater equality, as if everyone had given up smoking cigarettes. However, just because we know something is bad for us does not mean that we stop doing it.

Many people did not stop smoking even after the evidence that smoking kills became crystal clear. Is there something about inequality that is similarly addictive? People in more equitable countries do not choose to take up greater inequality, why would they? But people, especially people in power in the most unequal of countries in the rich world lead by the United States and United Kingdom, don’t appear to see their great levels of inequality as particularly problematic, despite the evidence.

The evidence that inequality is bad for us may be becoming ever more convincing but have some of us been weaned on seeing inequalities as good, as evidence of successful competition, as the unavoidable result of a survival of the fittest? Are the mental habits that perpetuate inequality much harder to kick in some places and times than others? Does living in a nation that has become adjusted to high levels of unfairness make inequalities appear more acceptable; inequalities which would not be accepted now elsewhere?

Why don’t the four most unequal countries of the rich world (the United States, United Kingdom, Portugal and Singapore) express any sustained wish to have their levels of social inequality reduce, say to the average levels enjoyed by the rest of the world’s richest twenty five countries – all of which are much more equitable than these four? In the rest of the rich world people live longer, consume and pollute less, appear happier when surveyed, experience less crime, trust each other more, stay together more often in families, live longer and healthier lives, invent more things, recycle more, eat less meat, have more stable economies, take fewer drugs, drink less and so on. Even the trains run on time more often!

People in the most unequal of affluent countries are not especially stupid, although we do worse at school on average than do children of the other 21 rich nations. Why don’t we notice? Why don’t we accept that greater equality brought about by curtailing the excesses at the top would help us all? A good place to start trying to answer this question, and where I started in writing: ‘Injustice: Why social inequality persists‘, is with the answers people living in these most unequal countries themselves give when they are asked what is most wrong.

Daniel Dorling, author of Injustice: Why social inequality persists

Would you like to win a copy of Daniel Dorling’s Injustice: Why social inequality persists? Simply post a relevant comment to either the ‘The rise and rise of social inequality’ or the ‘Is social inequality addictive’ entry and we will enter you into a prize draw to win copy of the book, we only have one to give away so join the debate now! Closing date 30th April 2010.


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