Inequality – ethics or economics?Posted: March 7, 2010 | |
Distributional issues are at the heart of urban and regional policy. Most planners, for example, have clear and firm views (at least in their own minds) on the equity implications of their activities.
I recently read The Spirit Level: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett (2009). It basically argues that more equal societies are happier and healthier than unequal ones. This is an impressive and much-lauded work that is also an easy read.
However in the Australian Financial Review last week, Andrew Leigh of ANU summarised a number of other studies that use a more robust methodology (Equality is a Just Cause?). These studies suggest the link between inequality and economic, social and health outcomes is much weaker than Wilkinson and Pickett contend.
Andrew suggests that the strongest case against inequality therefore isn’t about economic or health outcomes but rather about justice, morality and ethics. “Politicians who want less inequality will be on firmer ground if they discard the instrumental arguments and start talking ethics”, he says.