…and the top 20% of the country earn 15 times more than the bottom 20%, before tax and benefits, and about four times after that readjustment.
The complaint being that that’s not enough tax and redistribution.
And ain’t this great?
There were also critics – dismissed by Wilkinson and Pickett as “ideological” – who questioned either the validity of their statistics or the conclusions they drew from them. What struck me, reading the book, was that if the homicide rate was a major sign of inequality then it was noticeable that since 1980, the year that inequality really started to grow in the US after 50 years of flatlining, murders also began to fall. There is now a lower murder rate in America than there was in 1950. What accounted for that apparent anomaly?
“It means there must be other things involved,” says Wilkinson confidently. “But we can say that if those same changes, whatever they are, had happened without the increase in inequality, homicides would have fallen even more.”
That’s religion. We didn’t sacrifice the virgin, the Moon was still disgorged by the Eclipse Dragon, but God decided to do it that way to test your faith.
In any case, he maintains that it’s the general consistency of the data showing the relationship between inequality and mental health, rather than the anomalies, that is most notable.
Snigger. Facts that disprove my theory are just anomalies of no import. That’s not science, is it?
Yet leaving aside whether it’s desirable, there is no such thing as complete equality, and attempts to bring it about have inevitably led to the worst kinds of repression. Still, that’s not an argument for unconstrained inequality. Where, though, to start on narrowing the distance between rich and poor? If they could impose one piece of legislation tomorrow what would it be?
“I would want companies to have to put some of their profits each year into an employee-controlled trust which would then have voting rights on the board,” says Wilkinson.
“I’d go for a Finland-style educational system, completely comprehensive,” says Pickett.
Sigh. Before tax and benefits inequality is higher in Finland than it is in the UK. Comprehensive schooling doesn’t do it therefore.