Equality When is a proposal that I launched in 2007 after reading Richard Wilkinson’s 2005 book, The Impact of Inequality (a precursor to the more famous The Spirit Level).

Wilkinson was one of the first people to reveal just how inequality damages people. It’s form of physical violence in fact (and is only ever achieved through physical violence, of course, or the threat of violence). What is also glaringly obvious is that, while less-unequal societies are clearly better for people than more-unequal ones, all inequality is harmful. It has is no ‘safe level’.

So it struck me that we should just phase it out, as we’ve already done with other pathogens like asbestos, leaded petrol, etc. Who could possibly object? According to Wilkinson and many others, even the rich don’t thrive as well in more-unequal societies as they do in less-uequal ones. I thought six years should give the excessively-wealthy enough time to sort out their affairs and join the rest of us. Rich people can achieve much more adventurous things than that, in much less time than that, so it seemed a reasonable proposition, and still does.

I launched the idea at a public meeting in Oxford in November 2007, at which Richard Wilkinson and Danny Dorling were the principal speakers. Everyone seemed to agree with the Equality When? idea (although a neighbour of mine who came to the meeting was worried it might get ‘too political’).

I feel slightly ashamed not to have pushed harder for global equality by 2013 but we do what we can; and ideas catch on in little ways, then bigger, till, as William Morris wrote in his 1884 pamphlet How We Live and How We Might Live:

that claim for equality of condition will be made constantly and with growing loudness till it must be listened to, and then at last it will only be a step over the border, and the civilized world will be socialized; and, looking back on what has been, we shall be astonished to think of how long we submitted to live as we live now.

Bob Hughes January 2014