The Spirit Level is one of the most significant books I’ve read in the five years that this blog has been running. It describes how societies are more equal do better on a whole list of quality-of-life indicators – there are positive correlations between equality and rates obesity, teenage pregnancy, prison population, literacy, and alcohol abuse.
Countries like Britain or the US score badly on equality, and have high rates of social ills such as these. Countries like Japan or Sweden have a much smaller gap between rich and poor, and appear to be healthier societies. Despite the evidence, inequality is tolerated and largely ignored in political circles in Britian, even though it has risen steeply in recent decades.
With thirty years of research behind it, the book re-opened the debate about equality with a whole set of new perspectives. It has been widely read and has no doubt been influential, but the message hasn’t filtered down far enough yet. It needs to be common knowledge that equality is a public good, that a more equal society would help to solve many of our social problems, and that there are lots of ways to pursue equality beyond simple redistribution.
To give the issue the extra push it needs, there are plans afoot for a film version. The Spirit Level documentary will be crowdfunded, and the project has just six weeks to raise the $50,000 needed. You can help out by buying a copy of the film now for $20, for delivery when the film is released. Or you can contribute more, up to a $1,000 for an associate producer credit.
If you’ve read The Spirit Level and you think its message deserves a wider audience, click on over and pledge your support.