The New Economics Foundation has released some good work on equality recently, including this briefing on ten reasons to care about inequality (pdf). This is important stuff, as despite the growing evidence that inequality is a factor in almost any social ill you care to mention, there is no political will to reduce it. We have government targets on hospital waiting times, lowering obesity rates, improving social mobility, reducing waste, increasing literary and a “relentless focus on growth”, among a thousand other things, but no targets for equality. It’s a blind spot.
So here are ten reasons to care about it. Nef publishes under a Creative Commons license, (as I do) so here they are in full. If you want the details and explanations, read the whole briefing here.
- Your pocket. As social beings we constantly compare ourselves to others, especially those who are better off. In an effort to keep up with what the rich have we exhaust and exceed our household resources and get into debt.
- Your talent (and your pocket again). The wealthy have more collateral to invest in their education and ideas. As there are only so many places at top universities, this locks in their success, and leaves less room at the top for everyone else.
- The economy (and your pocket for the third time). Inequality is bad for the economy. It impacts on tax-take, entrepreneurialism, and it was one of the main reasons for the financial crash.
- Your children. Inequality impedes social mobility because those with advantage can buy their children advantage.
- Your streets. Inequality erodes the connections within and between communities. Rich and poor live in different neighbourhoods and go to different schools. This creates distance between them that generates distrust, social conflict and crime.
- Your health. Inequality drives status anxiety, which contributes to ill-health.
- Your happiness. Inequality sharpens the focus on individual materialism, eroding other aspects of a good life crucial for well-being, such as relationships and community cohesion.
- Your planet. Inequality drives consumption at a rate the planet cannot sustain.
- Your government. Money equals power. Political lobbying instigated by the rich helps prevent redistribution and contributes to the democratic deficit.
- Your sense of justice. High levels of inequality, especially when they are transferred to future generations, are inherently unjust. This injustice damages the reputation of the UK and erodes civic pride and identity.