As we all know inequality is the curse of our times. It causes death, destruction, unhappiness and will lead to mobs with flaming brands and tossed pitchforks. Thus a reduction in inequality is something which will make our society better:
Britain’s richest billionaires have seen their personal wealth shrink by more than £6bn after their fortunes were hit by a perfect storm of market turmoil.
The Duke of Westminster Hugh Grosvenor, Virgin boss Sir Richard Branson, City fund giant Bruno Schroder and Britain’s wealthiest man Jim Ratcliffe have all taken hits running into the hundreds of millions of dollars this year, Bloomberg data has revealed.
The 16-strong British contingent in Bloomberg’s Richest 500 list have collectively seen an estimated £6.2bn wiped from their wealth as the UK property market and stocks around the world tumble.
According to that latest and greatest theory of everything - that inequality is that Very Devil Itself - we should now be seeing an increase in the lifespans of the poorer among us, a drop in the murder rate, the incidence of depression drop through the floor and….
Well, no, obviously not, we jest.
Except, except. The theory really is that inequality is the vital defining force in society, The Spirit Level and such telling us that all the ills to which the population are prone become worse the greater the economic inequality. The above is about wealth inequality, which is the thing Oxfam moans about every year. The Spirit Level was about income inequality, a related but different thing.
Yet here’s the thing. The recession lowered income inequality as recessions always do. The incomes of the richer are leveraged toward profits, profits are hugely more volatile over the business cycle than any other form of income. The Gini Index for the UK has fallen over the past decade or two. Thus everything should be getting better by all those varied measures that inequality is responsible for.
Yes, we too have noted the manner in which all those improvements are being reported. Which does lead to an interesting conclusion. If rising inequality does cause all these things, yet lowering inequality doesn’t diminish their number nor volume, then we’ve not got a scientific theory of anything, do we? Further, given that none of the proponents of the inequality theory are themselves celebrating how much better things have become as it decreases they don’t believe it either.
In which case why should we?