The aim of the blog is to challenge dominant narratives by:
- Arguing that inequalities in income, wealth and power damage all of us and our environment.
- Making the case for free speech on all issues, especially economic inequality and political correctness.
Economic inequality – why it’s a problem
Economic inequality causes a raft of social and health problems by creating hierarchies that undermine social unity and chip away at people’s wellbeing. Fearing accusations of jealousy or bitterness, many of us feign indifference to material inequities, but research shows that inequality gets under our skins and triggers unhealthy emotions. People on the lower rungs of the social ladder are vulnerable to feelings of stress, anxiety and depression while those at the top exhibit relatively high levels of narcissism and mania.
These effects have far reaching consequences for societies, negatively impacting on people’s behaviour and physical and mental health. Numerous studies present compelling evidence that extremely unequal developed countries, like the UK and US, have higher rates of violence, obesity, teenage pregnancies and mental illness and lower levels of trust, community life, wellbeing and social mobility than more equal nations like Japan and Sweden.
Economic inequality – why it exists
Wealth and income inequalities are often portrayed as the inevitable and unavoidable consequence of free-market forces rewarding people according to their differing levels of talent and capacities for hard work. In fact, economic inequality results from political decisions taken to further the interests of powerful elites. Inequality fell in western countries between the 1930s and the 1970s before rising again after 1980 thanks to the rolling out of the neoliberal ideology espoused by Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher. These historical changes were the result of political decisions and not of any change in people’s work ethic or level of talent. Furthermore, differing levels of income and wealth are the cause and not the consequence of variations in talent and ability. There is no such thing as a meritocracy. It is a dangerous myth.
Inequality and the environment
Economic inequality makes it difficult to tackle the climate emergency because in highly unequal countries both companies and individuals are competitive and disconnected from the needs of others and their surroundings, making them unlikely to prioritise the common good, such as the protection of the natural environment, above the pursuit of self-interest.
As Kate Picket and Richard Wilkinson state in their book The Inner Level, the fact that no strategy proportionate to the environmental crisis has so far found broad support shows that levels of inequality are too high – and therefore self-interest too strong – to enable populations and politicians to focus effectively on the transition to sustainability.
Inequality is linked to the issue of voicelessness among ordinary people because in countries where power is unevenly distributed the public discourse will be dominated by a narrow clique of powerful people or groups. For example, in Britain, one of the world’s most unequal developed nations, our mainstream media outlets are controlled by a handful of large companies and our representative democracy affords ordinary people little direct say in national discussions or decisions.
In this environment, our politicians and media have seized control of public communication, enabling them, for example, to promulgate the neoliberal tenet that economic inequality is natural, inevitable and appropriate. Those who challenge this idea are vilified and ridiculed in the press. Similarly, mainstream narratives relating to cherished (by some) institutions such as the Royal Family and the military or to sensitive topics such as capitalism, migration or multiculturalism are often overbearing and difficult to challenge, with many insisting divergent views should be ‘no platformed.’
What’s a True Leveller?
The True Levellers were English egalitarians who agitated for equality of wealth, equality between the sexes and the abolition of the monarchy and property rights in the mid-17th century. They were more radical than the Levellers, who pressed for improved constitutional and political rights but not equality. The True Levellers also anticipated today’s environmental and green movements in seeing the earth as a precious ‘common storehouse for all’.
The Levellers and True Levellers were excellent pamphleteers and strong advocates of free speech. This blog is standing on the shoulders of these 17th Century giants.