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review 2019-04-15 21:19
The Spirit Level by Richard Wilkinson
The Spirit Level: Why Equality Is Better for Everyone - Kate E. Pickett,Richard G. Wilkinson

I’d picked up The Spirit Level at some point last year, but hadn’t actually got around it reading it. When I heard one of the authors was hosting a local event, as part of a festival of ideas and politics I decided now was the time to read it.


The Spirit Level attempts to relate income inequality to a whole host of other societal problems, such as violence and mental health. This was done by comparing the two with data sources from the World Bank, the World Health organisation, the United Nations etc. I would have preferred there to be a little more science, but what there was was convincing.


The authors find, not surprisingly, that where there are great disparities in wealth, there are heightened levels of social distrust.


Each chapter highlighted a different societal problem and compared it to income inequality. Where there were higher rates of inequality, the social problems increased consistently.


The contrast between the material success and social failure of many rich countries is an important signpost. It suggests that, if we are to gain further improvements in the real quality of life, we need to shift attention from material standards and economic growth to ways of improving the psychological and social wellbeing of whole societies


The talk by the author was interesting, if not mostly what I’d just read! He has a new book out, The Inner Level. I’ve yet to look into it, but I think I will now…

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text 2018-06-20 00:45
Reading progress update: I've read 106 out of 280 pages.
Lloyd George: Statesman or Scoundrel - Richard Wilkinson

Part of me really wants to like this book. Wilkinson isn't a terrible writer by any stretch, and he is quite good at deploying telling quotes, even if they are from previous biographers. But I can't like a book that manages to be so tendentious, especially when its arguments are so poorly grounded


A case in point is his section on Passchendaele. Wilkinson summarizes the challenge facing Loyd George nicely, describing how after the failure of the Nivelle Offensive Lloyd George's credibility was shot, depriving him of the ability to resist further the demands of Haig and the other generals to mount their next big offensive. The result was 300,000 casualties for no real gain.


And yet, after explaining both Lloyd George's efforts to rein in Haig and the odds that ultimately opposed to him, Wilkinson goes on to declare that it is Lloyd George who should be regarded as the butcher of Passchendaele for failing to stop the offensive. It's as though Wilkinson didn't bother to read his own account explaining why he was thwarted in his efforts to do so. Moreover, Wilkinson provides zero examples of what he might have done further. Was he supposed to dismiss a publicly popular general who had the support of the king?  Announce a unilateral surrender? Run through No Man's Land waving his hands in the air while begging for peace? Wilkinson provides no answers, just a label which he already demonstrates Lloyd George had done the least of all the possible candidates to deserve.

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text 2018-06-19 14:59
Reading progress update: I've read 20 out of 280 pages.
Lloyd George: Statesman or Scoundrel - Richard Wilkinson

Two chapters in, and I'm already finding myself at odds with Wilkinson's argument. In his early chapters he's referred to Lloyd George as both a "sex-pest" and a sexual predator, yet provides no evidence of this beyond references to his well-known philandering. Does philandering make someone a sexual predator? Perhaps in the most literal sense of someone who actively pursues sex partners, but the use of "sex-pest" suggests that Wilkinson intends a far more pejorative application than that. The problem with that, though, is that he doesn't cite any examples (let alone sources) that Lloyd George's sexual advances were unwanted by his partners; to the contrary, he follows his use of the label by describing Lloyd George as "irresistible to women." It amounts to guilt-by-conjecture, and it's pretty disappointing to see in a book that aims for scholarly credibility.

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review 2014-05-23 15:57
The Spirit level: Why Equality is Better for Everyone
The Spirit Level: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger - Richard G. Wilkinson,Kate E. Pickett

Less concrete when compare to "The Price of Inequality" but spread the same message in a different way.

Chats and chats and chats that compare why people living in less equality would make them less happy, less trusting. 


Just started on the first 4 chapters, already like it. 


Money mean less for a society when it already well fed. But then you are less happy when you are much poorer than your neighbors. 


Overall, it sucks for all people when society is too unequal. 


The data is kind of boring, but fact is fact. 


It is just not present in ways that get more interesting than looking at charts and statistics. 


But yes, being equal make people feel better about being alive.


And the rich does not suffer just because they feel less pride of themselves. 


The rest of the book is the same, it is not good or bad. For people who are not convince might not be too convince, as it is not "strong" enough tone. But fact is fact, and it is pretty well put together. 



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review 2014-01-14 11:53
It's not just a nice idea
The Spirit Level: Why Equality Is Better For Everyone - Richard G. Wilkinson,Kate E. Pickett

Compelling presentation of evidence that more equal societies have better health and social outcomes, such as trust, life expectancy, violence and child well-being. These benefits affect all income levels, not only the poorest, and are unrelated to GDP. The authors point out that increasing wealth has not benefited people beyond the level where basic needs are met, but that increasing equality brings significant benefits. They also link their case to the sustainability imperative.

I can't rate this highly enough! Arguing for egalitarian economics is an uphill struggle against people who support deregulated neo-liberal capitalism, because it has its own myths about all boats rising, aspiration, scroungers and so on. Here's the data to grab in those debates where your interlocutor says 'it's nice to be idealistic but...'

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