Posts Tagged ‘the spirit level’

Six problems income equality would help solve (Update: Did I get completely suckered by The Spirit Level?)

October 19, 2010

Update [10/19/10]: Read the following post with a big grain of salt. A commenter has pointed out some serious sounding criticisms of the book from much of the post is excerpted.

I’ve threatened a couple of times to blog about income inequality as a way of addressing climate change. Robert Frank’s most recent column in the New York Times gives me an excuse to begin laying out the argument, which I’ve cribbed from a handy little book called The Spirit Level: How Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger.

Frank gives us the context:

During the three decades after World War II, for example, incomes in the United States rose rapidly and at about the same rate — almost 3 percent a year — for people at all income levels. America had an economically vibrant middle class. Roads and bridges were well maintained, and impressive new infrastructure was being built. People were optimistic.

By contrast, during the last three decades the economy has grown much more slowly, and our infrastructure has fallen into grave disrepair. Most troubling, all significant income growth has been concentrated at the top of the scale. The share of total income going to the top 1 percent of earners, which stood at 8.9 percent in 1976, rose to 23.5 percent by 2007, but during the same period, the average inflation-adjusted hourly wage declined by more than 7 percent.

He also spells out the first problem that income equality would help solve:

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Humility, equality and luck

August 22, 2010

I’m reading The Spirit Level: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger. One of the passages that piqued my interest compares attitudes toward success and failure in Japan and the US.

According to data presented in the book, Japan is the most economically equal of the rich market democracies, with its richest 20 percent making just under four times the income of its poorest 20 percent. The US is the most unequal market democracy after Singapore. Its richest 20 percent makes more than eight times the income of its poorest 20 percent. (Both ratios sound too low, but I’ll take the authors at their word.) Read the rest of this entry »