Inequality Kills!

I have no doubt that we\’ll see Polly insisting that this latest report shows that we must redistribute incomes even more:

Middle-class professionals such as doctors and accountants are outliving builders and cleaners by as much as eight years, according to official figures.

People from all social classes are living longer, data from the Office for National Statistics showed yesterday, but variations in the age at which people are dying indicate Government measures to reduce the gap between rich and poor have failed.

See! See! The rich live longer!

The thing is, the researchers don\’t seem all that sure that it is income. Rather,. social status and the freedoms that provides:

But the nature of people\’s jobs also has an effect. If you have autonomy and control over what you do, you tend to be in better health.

Now if greater equalisation of incomes were to lead to greater autonomy, then perhaps (perhaps!) greater redistributive taxation would in fact help. But we can also make the opposite argument: more things provided by the State, more capturing of income, more one size fits all services,  would reduce autonomy…thus, reducing life spans. OK, that argument is a bit of a stretch but at the extreme it\’s valid.

But if it is, as is said, autonomy and control which leads to the longer life spans, then redistributive taxation isn\’t going to change that and thus the justification disappears.

7 thoughts on “Inequality Kills!”

  1. I certainly think a big State and the mediocrity (at best) it creates reduces autonomy IMO.

    Even something like Council Tax reduces it.

    The more expensive it is just to exist, the harder to find a decent school, a pleasant neighbourhood, the more risk-averse people get, the more they will bunker down in their existing job and sit it out…stressed.

  2. Surely the biggest cause of the death of autonomy in this country, though, is the rise of mega-business. One cannot feel autonomous working in Tesco or a BT callcentre. We’ve turned from being “a nation of shopkeepers” into a nation of employees, and while I don’t deny the benefits that have accrued through the rise of supermarkets and so on, I think that the accompanying loss of autonomy is at least a shame and at worst a hole in society that needs filling somehow.

  3. Frankly, the conclusion of autonomy promoting welfare seems absurd. It is the specialisation, and by extension inter-dependence, of people that has so expanded wealth and consequently human welfare.

  4. To understand where we are, we need to know how we got here, so don’t blame me for this:

    In today’s news: “Humanity may split into two sub-species in 100,000 years’ time as predicted by HG Wells, an expert has said. Evolutionary theorist Oliver Curry of the London School of Economics expects a genetic upper class and a dim-witted underclass to emerge.”

    HG Wells was one of the founders of the Fabian Society:

    And he was also a staunch proponent of eugenics:

    “After being exposed to Darwinism in school, HG Wells converted from devout Christian to devout Darwinist and spent the rest of his life proselytizing for Darwin and eugenics. Wells advocated a level of eugenics that was even more extreme than Hitler’s. The weak should be killed by the strong, having ‘no pity and less benevolence’.”

    Dilligent/obsessive news followers may recall that the Fabian Society in 1998 published Tony Blair’s pamphlet on: The Third Way – New Politics for the New Century
    ISBN-10: 0716305887

    The provenance of the Third Way goes back to Mussolini. Martin Clark, an academic historian at Edinburgh University, on: Modern Italy 1871-1995 (Longman 2nd ed. (1996)), p.250, has an illuminating section on the policies of Mussolini’s fascist government : “They seemed to offer ‘a third way’, between capitalism and Bolshevism, which looked attractive in the Depression. …”

  5. I can’t help but wonder if the same drive and intelligence that helps one to earn a high income doesn’t also manifest itself in good health decisions.

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