There’s a nice comment in Daniel Ben-Ami’s blog about a shift in Egalitarian aspirations:
‘It used to be a demand for more – for realising the human potential – whereas it is now typically a demand for less.’
It reminds me of an anecdote by Jeremy Seabrook in one of his books about how the Mayor of Blackpool used to drive around in a Rolls Royce to show what all working class people should be getting.
The Economist also takes a shot at the idea of increased equality lowering the prospects for economic growth:
‘what if the price of greater equality is lower growth? The received wisdom—admittedly looking a little threadbare right now—is that rich rewards are necessary to stimulate the innovation on which growth depends. No loss, say the authors: “We have got close to the end of what economic growth can do for us.” But that is a claim that needs to be supported, rather than simply made in a few sentences. If our ancestors had declared themselves thus satisfied, we would be without many things that we value—and that they would have valued too, could they have imagined them. Should we be ready to dismiss joys we have never known?’
However, there seems to be some sleight of hand here. The most equal developed nations – Scandinavia and Japan – have also had plenty of economic growth. It seems there’s no real reason why both growth and equality shouldn’t be possible and these countries seem to demonstrate that. So I’m unconvinced by Spirit Level that a display of data on inequality inexorably leads to a critique of economic growth, but am equally unconvinced by the opposite view that policy shouldn’t promote equality in case it stymies economic growth.
Perhaps an alternative view would be to start from economic growth statistics and seek to understand what makes countries with similar levels of economic growth either more or less equal.