There's an interesting little number that comes out of the TUC's number crunching on the tax and income redistribution system. One that leads to a very interesting question: how much income redistribution is enough? What is an acceptable level of equality in other words?
The effect of taxes and benefits is to reduce an original income disparity of 29.6 to 1 to a final income ratio of 6.3.
This is using deciles and it is the median income of each decile so it's not capturing the effects at the very top, the 1%, very well. Leaving that aside though, what do we think is an acceptable level of inequality that the society should have?
I start from some fairly basic points: I doubt very much that any of us here think there shouldn't be a safety net of some sort. Maybe not the one we have (and I'd agree with that) but the idea that somehow society collectively provides for those who cannot for themselves would gain 100% support, no? Once that principle is conceded then there is going to be some redistribution of incomes. The question I'm interested in is, well, when have we redistributed enough?
The TUC's figures show, to personalise the income deciles, that someone who studied medicine for 7 years (yes, fully qualified doctors will all be in that top decile) plus a first degree are enjoying 7 times the income of someone who has never worked and is reliant upon benefits (could be anywhere in the first three deciles dependent upon family size and circumstances).
Is that enough redistribution? Not enough? And why either way?
My personal answer would be that's too much. Certainly I'd say that an airtight case can be made against further redistribution: we're done here, problem's over. But I'd be interested to hear your views. How much equality is enough?