Friday, 21 August 2009


I've just read The spirit level: why more equal societies almost always do better by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett. It is a brilliant book, though I'd like to have had more information on some of their graphs. The conclusion is that great inequality such as exists in America and Britain makes most aspects of life worse for everyone and not just for the poorest.

I conclude that Obama's effort to reform health-care in America is misplaced; the prime objective should be to reduce the levels of inequality, after which the cost of health care would be much reduced. He is risking defeat on a reform that will make only a marginal difference. The same applies to the British NHS, which has become a National Sickness Service, struggling to pay for a lot of treatments that ought never to have become necessary.

Looking back I wonder where Britain took a wrong turning. Back in the 1950s and 60s we seemed to be becoming a less unequal society; many people from poor backgrounds were rising in society and there was a lot more trust. Perhaps the greatest mistake of the Attlee government in the 1940s was to leave ownership of the newspapers in the hands of millionaires; they should have facilitated trustee ownership. Also, that was the moment to take away the charitable status of public schools, which have never been for the public in general.

Mrs Thatcher knew who she owed her success to, and one of her main projects was to make newspaper ownership more profitable and to allow combined ownership of different media. The result has been a general dumbing down of the sources of information and the victory of the hollow celebrity culture. Can the internet help to find solutions? Take a look at the website of the book:

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