A blog by Luke Akehurst about politics, elections, and the Labour Party - With subtitles for the Hard of Left. Just for the record: all the views expressed here are entirely personal and do not necessarily represent the positions of any organisations I am a member of.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Arguments for equality

The London Sustainable Development Commission has published a fascinating report: "The impact of income inequalities on sustainable development in London".

It's online here.

The Commission had planned a big launch for the report but its conclusions don't fit the politics of the current Mayor of London so it has just been quietly put on a website.

Some key snippets that the research reveals:

  • The creation of a more cohesive and less unequal society will not only make it easier to reduce carbon emissions but will also tend to improve health and wellbeing
  • People Are More Likely To Trust Each Other In More Equal Societies
  • Child Wellbeing is Better in More Equal Societies
  • Illicit Drug Use is Less Common in More Equal Societies
  • The Teenage Birth Rate is Lower in More Equal Societies
  • Mental Illness is Less Common in More Equal Societies
  • Obesity Rates Are Lower in More Equal Societies
  • Fewer People Are Imprisoned in More Equal Societies
  • Health and social problems are worse in more unequal societies
  • Health and social problems in London are closely related to deprivation
  • More equal countries recycle a higher proportion of waste materials
  • More Equal Countries Produce Less CO2 per $100 of Income
  • Death rates of working age men and women are lower in more equal cities
"In the past, demands for a more equal society have usually been seen as demands that the better off should sacrifice the advantages they enjoy in order to provide for the poor. However, we now know that this is not the situation. What the evidence shows is that greater equality improves health and the quality of life for the vast majority of the population, not just those on lower incomes"

"The strong implication of the evidence we have seen is that reducing income differences would reduce the prevalence of a wide range of social problems. We have no precise basis on which to estimate the likely scale of the benefits. Although London is a large city, it is not a whole country, and may not behave like one. But if the international relationships provide any guide to how London might benefit from greater equality then these can be used to make a very rough guide to the scale of the possible benefits:

"As well as helping to reduce consumerism,strengthening community life and enabling societies to respond more cohesively to crises, evidence shows that greater equality also leads people to treat environmental issues more seriously. Because community life is stronger and people trust each other more in more equal societies, they also seem to be more public spirited and more willing to work together towards shared objectives. The conflict between self and society is perhaps less stark and people are more likely to do things they feel are for the public benefit. Support for environmental policies is a sensitive indicator of the balance between feeling that life is about the pursuit of selfinterests in opposition to the wider society, and the pursuit of common interests."

"The high rates of many social problems in London, and Britain more widely, are directly attributable to the scale of inequality and would be reduced if inequality was decreased. If inequality was reduced simply to the average of other rich developed market societies it would dramatically reduce the burden of a wide range of health and social problems including violence, mental illness, teenage births, drug abuse, mistrust and obesity. At the same time we would enjoy a more cohesive society with stronger community life. If inequality was reduced further, to levels as low as those enjoyed by Japan, Sweden, Norway and Finland, our society would be transformed. And it would be transformed not just for the poor, but for the vast majority of the population."


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not sure about this.
From the report
"There is, then, no difficulty in understanding
why we - as individuals competing in a consumer
society - continue to attach great importance
to increasing our own income, even though it
makes no difference to average wellbeing when
everyone in a rich society gets richer together"

This misses the point. I do not work hard to own a home, buy a car, provide my kids with food and clothes etc because I wish to compete with somebody. I do these things because it's the right thing to do to look after my family.It's not a about competition or average well being.

1:48 pm, March 26, 2010

Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's a shame you haven't done anything about it then. Remember the recent report that showed inequality between the bottom and top 25% had widened over the last thirteen years.

3:07 pm, March 26, 2010

Anonymous Dirty Euro said...

We do need more equality.
I think labour should put forward a more christian socialist message. Jesus spoke for equality.

11:12 pm, March 26, 2010

Blogger mrcentreleft said...

Socialism is all about raising the general standard of living for everyone, and not about everybody being poor as some seem to think!

We need to be proving though Luke that Labour is the best option to achive this, which of course I believe it is. But we need to be following a more progressive agenda as for once the general populous (i.e. the electorate) are to the left of the government, a Labour Govt at that.

What we need is a centre-left agenda!!!

11:41 pm, March 27, 2010

Blogger Merseymike said...

Very much in line with Richard Wilkinson's research - I saw him speak at the recent launch of COMPASS in Liverpool

1:47 am, March 29, 2010


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