Here’s a good, succinct analysis of the general dynamics of the threat to the (already-eroded, never totally egalitarian) European model of welfare, from the British Medical Journal:

The assault on universalism: how to destroy the welfare state
Martin McKee and David Stuckler watch aghast as American examples are followed to destroy the European model of the welfare state.

http://www.bmj.com/content/343/bmj.d7973

They say:

a crucial and longstanding difference [between the US and Europe] was the role of race in society. In America, the rich could never fall to the bottom of the ladder, because that position was already taken. African Americans faced persistent and widespread discrimination. […]. Europeans knew they could go to bed rich and wake up poor, but a rich (and, by extension, white) American could be confident that they would never wake up black.

(It might be added that in European countries, the rich have to spend money, continuously, to establish and maintain a “racial difference” between themselves and the poor, which comes free, as it were, in the USA.) Read the rest of this entry »

The landmark study referred to in this article (from Huffington Post, July 2010) absolutely corroborates Danny Dorling’s description in “Injustice: why social inequality persists” of how inequality makes it harder and harder for people to recognise others as human beings (“like themselves”, as we tend to say). BH.

The More CEOs Make, The Worse They Treat Workers, Says A New Study
 
Huffington Post   |  Nathaniel Cahners Hindman

CEO pay has been blasted for increasing risk to the economy, being out of proportion to ordinary wages and being unrelated to actual company performance. And, according to a new study, a high salary may actually make your company’s CEO meaner. (Hat tip to Harvard Business Review)

In the study’s white paper, “When Executives Rake in Millions: Meanness in Organizations,” professors from Harvard, Rice and the University of Utah argue that rising income inequality between executives and ordinary workers results in “power asymmetries in the workplace such that top executives come to view lower level workers as dispensable objects not worthy of human dignity.”
Read the rest of this entry »

I took these two photographs outside the Ecole Maternelle (nursery school) in the Rue Mercadet – a backstreet in the now very African district of Chateau Rouge, on the north-east side of Paris. Many of the families using this school are refugees, asylum seekers, or simply “sans papiers” (undocumented) – so living in constant fear of seizure and deportation under increasingly savage anti-foreigner laws.

Read the rest of this entry »

To avert climate change, we must outlaw inequality and open the borders.

(A shorter article based on this appeared in New Internationalist, June 2010)

by Bob Hughes

The modern global economy doesn’t just run on fossil fuels; above all, it runs on inequality: the principle that some people are worth more than others, while yet others are worthless. And an ever-growing mountain of evidence indicts inequality as the real driving force behind all the harms, and more, that have finally led to climate change. A world without inequality is not just desirable, it is necessary, and urgently. And it can be achieved. Outlaw inequality, and the emissions will fall away, as the pressure of the market’s hidden foot begins to ease off the accelerator.

Read the rest of this entry »

The small but growing Equality lobby has so far not made any breakthroughs, in publicising the link between inequality and the overconsumption that is causing climate change. Let’s hope this changes in 2010. I feel little progress will be made, without the kind of popular, moral pressure an equality-based approach could unleash.

Long working hours are a major feature of unequal societies. This article, from Monthly Review, argues that if the US had adopted EU working hours, it could have reduced its carbon emissions by 2 percent by 2002, from 1990 levels – and given US workers 7 additional weeks of time off per year:

David Rosnick and Mark Weisbrot, “Are Shorter Work Hours Good for the Environment? A Comparison of U.S. and European Energy Consumption“. They say:

If Americans chose to take advantage of their high level of productivity by shortening the workweek or taking longer vacations rather than producing more, there would follow a number of benefits. Specifically, if the U.S. followed the EU-15 in terms of work hours, then: * Employed workers would find themselves with seven additional weeks of time off. * The United States would consume some 20 percent less energy. * If a 20 percent energy savings had been directly translated into lower carbon emissions, then the U.S. would have emitted 3 percent less carbon dioxide in 2002 than it did in 1990.

Also on this theme, try Hervé Kempf’s “How the Rich are Destroying the Earth” (Green Books, 2008). For hard data on the link between inequality and long working hours see Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett’s “The Spirit Level: why more equal societies almost always do better.”

With best wishes for Christmas and 2010.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation has just published a new report on “Young people and territoriality in British cities”, by Keith Kintrea, Jon Bannister, Jon Pickering, Maggie Reid and Naofumi Suzuki. It illustrates acutely well the point made by Richard Wilkinson in “The Impact of Inequality” about the intensifying competition for respect under rising inequality.

It also, incidentally but very clearly, shows up the real nature of the alleged overcrowdedness of our ‘tiny overcrowded island’: poorer people really are being confined – not by ‘floods’ of immigrants as Sir Andrew Green (of Migration Watch) would have them believe, but by the likes of Sir Andrew Green himself (whose England is a very commodious and extensive affair) and his friend Nicholas Soames (co-founder, with Frank Field, of Migration Watch’s new, parliamentary front-organisation, Balanced Migration). Limitations of UK land registry make it difficult to work out just how big Soames’s England is but if it’s anything like his friend the Duke of Westminster’s, it would need a much bigger planet than the one we have, were all true-born English folk to be granted a similar acreage.

Meanwhile, for one young man who contributed to the study, England consists of a bleak area just 200 metres square in Peterborough – as you can read in Rowenna Davis’s article about the new report in yesterday’s Guardian:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2008/oct/14/children-socialexclusion

The full report is here:

http://www.jrf.org.uk/bookshop/details.asp?pubID=978

It complements last year’s report “Poverty, wealth and place in Britain, 1968 to 2005” by Daniel Dorling, Jan Rigby, Ben Wheeler, Dimitris Ballas, Bethan Thomas, Eldin Fahmy, David Gordon and Ruth Lupton:

http://www.jrf.org.uk/bookshop/details.asp?pubID=905

What I’d really like, would be a set of maps showing the relative sizes of people’s Englands, based on income, wealth, age, race, gender and disability, and showing how they have ALL shrunk as inequality has risen. As Danny Dorling said last year (re the above report) “In a more unequal society, everyone is less free to choose where they live”.

HARD ON THE HEELS OF THE SEIZURE last year of 45% of Cambodia by foreign property speculators (see “Country for sale“, Guardian Weekend, 26/4/2008:) comes news that 2/3rds of this island in the British Virgin Islands could be gobbled up by the super-rich, who need somewhere to park their yachts and play golf:

http://www.thepetitionsite.com/takeaction/119884382?z00m=15374441

The on-line petition (above) seeks to halt the development on the limited grounds that it will destroy the habitats of 26 animal species. I think that should be 27. More of the story here.

Meanwhile, our own tiny, overcrowded island is steadily getting even tinier and overcrowdeder, as floods of these same billionaires buy up and fence off rural acreages and gate their communities in their insatiable quest for privacy (e.g. see Ian Jack’s article on Britain’s sudden rise in land prices, in the Guardian in February).

QUESTION: how tiny would this tiny island of ours be, if the part of it occupied by the richest 1% were removed? The Isle of Dogs perhaps? (It is hard to work this out because over half of Britain isn’t registered – and at least some of this has been owned by the same “happy few” since approx 1066).

FOR PERSPECTIVE:

American writer P J O’Rourke, points out that if the whole of the worlds’ population moved to one place it would cover former Yugoslavia at the same density as Manhattan and he says “Manhattan is a pretty good place to live.”

– from Educational charity WORLDwrite’s Ceri Dingle, describing the new, pro-immigration film “The More the Merrier“.