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2012年11月8日星期四

理查德·威尔金森:经济不平等如何危害社会

理查德·威尔金森:经济不平等如何危害社会 http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/zh-cn/richard_wilkinson.html

直觉告诉我们收入差距巨大的社会通常是有问题的。理查德·威尔金森用硬数据制作了一系列关于经济失衡的图表,并列举了当贫富差距过大时,我们社会 出现的问题,包括:健康、寿命、甚至基本价值观(比如互信)。

TED网站上这个演讲的中文字幕版本录像下载不完整,要下载的话,请下载英文字幕版本。

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Sally Mabelle 0Reply
Sep 23 2012: Thank you for this seminal research! I just gave a talk this morning highlighting and featuring your findings at the Unitarian Meeting House of Auckland, New Zealand...to read this see www.sallymabelle.com/articles/contributingtotheshift and to listen to part One of this talk,
see www.sallymabelle.com/articles/thegreatshift...let's keep shouting out this information until the TRUTH becomes self-evident and governments, corporations, and ordinary people demand democracy and more equality.
Kai Hang Tan 0Reply
Sep 16 2012: I wonder if anyone would like to discuss a few caveats with me...
1) Why was Gross National Product used as a measure rather than Gross Domestic Product (both Per Capita)? Shouldn't income inequality be measured within the physical society?
2) Singapore... Which has been questioned before. I do agree that it has extreme income inequality, but I'm not sure if you can really prove that inequality must cause such drastic negative effects of society as Wilkinson proposes. For instance, Bloomberg recently ranked Singapore first on its list of "Healthiest Countries": http://www.bloomberg.com/slideshow/2012-08-13/world-s-healthiest-countries.html
3) As I question above, does income inequality *cause* these symptoms? Perhaps it is correlated with certain problems, but is a common symptom that is caused by an underlying root problem. In that sense, I would not mind suggesting that income inequality and these harmful issues come together. However, I feel that the argument that "economic inequality harms societies" is too far-fetched for me.
Steve Andison +1Reply
Sep 18 2012: Kai Hang -
I wondered the same thing about GNP vs GDP ... not sure about that indicator. I believe he was saying (and admitted in his comments) that correlations do not necessarily indicate causality. He was suggesting that both tend to exist at the same time and more studies should be done to try to extrapolate some of the true causes or synergism that works to generate some symptoms. He is pointing out correlations ... but not saying that he knows why the correlations exist or how to address causality. But I believe I see true damage to societies due to income and access inequality. It is harmful on many levels including health, stress, anger and a sense of security. There is no doubt in my mind that both the people at the bottom and at the top are worse off due to the widening gap. And yes, it is pretty hard to dismiss the correlations with USA sticking out there. I just wish we knew how to bring a sense of community back to our nation, while not trying to eliminate the upper class wealthy, yet the middle class can bear no more, and those at the bottom should not be left out to die. There is a middle ground. The suspended Diamond model: The middle class is the largest and most productive making the widest portion of the diamond, the top tapers to a point for the most elite (but there will be fewer at the very top as it widens to the middle class. The impoverished and disadvantaged will hopefully decrease in number by through training and hiring programs, along with the natural attrition that will take place as us Baby Boomers pass on. The key to being a true humanitarian and compassionate society will be seen as the widest middle point tapers down to a point that is suspended just above the practical poverty line. It is a heart-warming fantasy.
lisa chen +1Reply
Sep 21 2012: If a society's top priority is to maximize the wellbeing of all the people living within its national borders, then the wellfare of immigrants and their descendants without citizenship within national borders has a greater effect on the overall social wellbeing within those borders than that of citizens living and working in different societies abroad. Thus using GNP instead of GDP makes sense as it includes those without citizenship within the national borders to the measure and excludes citizens abroad.
This might paint a slightly worse picture as people without citizenship of the examined nation are often excluded from its social security systems but as Mr. Wilkinson states it is an average measure that is too general and not very helpful when it comes to explaining inequality amongst more developed societies.
Frank Teunissen 0Reply
Oct 24 2012: GNP vs GDP: Isn't GNP equal to Gross National Income according to classical economic theory? That would explain it in my view, because income is the crucial item here.
Melvin Vd Veen 0Reply
Oct 28 2012: Bravo! you got it all figured out. That's what they call abbreviations, Sir. It doesn't simply equal anything, it IS Gross National Product.
katherine griffin 0Reply
Sep 12 2012: This is one of my all-time favorite TEDTalks. I think of it often in the political rhetoric of this election-year.

If our political leaders were required to watch TEDTalks, our politics and policies would be MUCH more data-driven. I mean analyses by Scientists, not by think-tanks with other agendas. Wilkinson's analysis is disciplined, cogent, and compelling. Except for this detail: Singapore fell off (most of) the scatterplots, after ranking worst inequality in the world. Why isn't it analyzed with the rest, or at least its omission explained?

I'm especially impressed by his Social Mobility scatterplot [at 8:18], in which Japan and Sweden are case studies [at 10:20]: Sweden mitigates huge inequalities through tax and social policies; Japan has smaller inequalities requiring less redistribution. His recommendations for inequality adjustments before and after taxes [at 16:00] are then logical and clear.

In election-year politics, where discourse is reduced to un-fact-checked slogans, the "Class Warfare" and "War on Women" slogans are unhelpful and polarizing.

If the GOP leadership were to watch this Talk, they might be pushing less zealously for continued tax breaks for the very wealthy. And if the Democrat Party leadership were familiar with this Talk, they would be crafting their message better.

Hans Rosling's "Best Stats" Talk dramatically and irrefutably links women's contraceptive control to economic prosperity. Yet this election year, we're arguing whether contraceptives should be included in a national healthcare plan!

Every election year, the candidates are offered – and decline – the opportunity to have Science-based debates, where citizens could hear candidates' ideas on Energy, Environmental, Tax and Social Policy, etc.

http://www.sciencefriday.com/segment/07/27/2012/why-science-is-a-non-issue-in-the-election-again.html

FWIW, I'm a Registered Independent, because I vote for candidates more loyal to Science than to Party.
Robert Gregory 0Reply
Aug 30 2012: mans got a seriously creased shirt! cant get past it
John clark 0Reply
Aug 20 2012: Wait but CNN tells me that we're(USA) the healthiest in the world, WHAT???
I would love to be frozen 500yrs so that I can sit in a class in the future and learn about the American Empire. Would definitely be an interesting topic.

Ray Anon 10+ 0Reply
Aug 6 2012: A comment to the statistics at 1:10 - take note that they only include societies that already have a life expectancy between 76 and 82 years. And at some point it does not really matter how rich you are because unless we invent a super-expensive treatment that pushes death decades or centuries away, there is only little time you can buy with money. In fact, the most important factor is not even the medical technology, but the hygiene standards. The gain you get simply by switching to clean water is much bigger than trillions of dollars invested in medicine. I am not saying we should stop those investments, just that one should keep them in the right perspective.

It also means that certain approaches will work much better than others. One health problem that massively correlates with income is obesity. The solution to that is of course not to decrease income, but rather set incentives for a healthy lifestyle. How would the stats look like if the USA had a lower obesity rate than Japan? A smart long-term diet is a massively underestimated factor related to life expectancy. And the presented stats are highly misleading here because it is not the inequality that *causes* obesity. Instead, a high income is needed to live a lifestyle of high food consumption and little energy usage. So while becoming obese is really bad, the *opportunity* to become obese is wonderful, because it presupposes wealth.

Considering inequality as an influence among many is perfectly justified, especially since human happiness seems to strongly rely on your well-being relative to the that of others - as opposed to absolute criteria. Even the official term of poverty is usually used in a relative meaning instead of an absolute threshold regarding your basic needs for clothes, food, medical care and shelter.

But reducing income disparity it is not the magical wand to wave, especially if the society in question is not driven by envy, but rather by admiration for successful and wealthy people.
Jeffrey Opperhauser 0Reply
Aug 8 2012: I like everything you said here.
Just with the US I dont see it as admiring the right successful people. The majority of people I know do not watch or read anything really informative. They dont admire good people they admire the rich, the dramatic, the celebrities. People who aren't really any substance. It's empty.

Second those same majority of people run on fear of social standing and stuff making them totally averse to change and anything that could threaten their social or economical well being. Most people run on two things fear and greed. It's rather self destructive as he is pointing out to us.
Ipso Facto 0Reply
Jul 11 2012: Tragically, this understanding escapes most education "reformers". Thus, we are led away from core issues into the thickets of reform based on "better metrics" which, if one listens closely to both the talk & the data, reinforces a lack of well-being.

When we realize the core issue is not a lack of data, but rather a commitment to income disparity- then we may move from our race to the bottom.
Sam Writer 10+ +7Reply
May 23 2012: I love this talk. I couldnt agree more. It has the data to prove what I felt all along while studying medicine. While I realize the amazing breakthroughs that medicine has made in the past decades, I soon realized that most of our medicine is symptomatic treatment. The root cause of our illnesses (especially chronic diseases which form 70% or more of our healthcare burden) lies in psychosocioeconomic factors. Sometimes I feel stupid watching all those battles regarding healthcare reform and what not! The solutions lie much closer than we realize.
mo saskia +1Reply
May 23 2012: I am not convinced by the science in this at all. Richards premise is that a graph of gross national income per head (ppp) vs. life expectancy does not show a linear relationship (or indeed any) when considering a sample of countries, whereas income inequality vs. his health index does. First of all why use life expectancy and then health index and not either for both graphs.

But more importantly I don't think ppp is a good measure of income and may very well explain why ppp vs. life expectancy does not show any relationship and also why it does correlate with equality.I believe ppp is a meaningful measure only when the income distribution is very low. this example explains why:

Imagine country 'A' with a population of 10. each person earning 1$ a year except one person who earns 100$. hence the mean or average income (i.e. ppp) is 109$ / 10 people = 10.9$ per person. Country B also has a population of 10 but has no income inequality at all. everyone earns 1$ and therefore the average (or ppp) is also 1$. So in both countries the majority of people earn exactly the same but the ppp is more than 10 times higher in country A. According to the income vs. life expectancy graph shown in the talk this would suggest that country A and B have roughly equal average life expectancies. Country B is much poorer (according the ppp measure) but has almost the same life expectancy as country A. The reason for this is NOT because the incomes are distributed more evenly in B, it's because the majority of people in both counties have roughly comparable incomes. It's just that ppp is not a good measure of how much income the majority of people receive.

Jake Searcy 0Reply
Jun 17 2012: I don't think this argument is quite correct. If health in the developed world was correlated to wealth then the 1 guy with a $100 income in country A would be a lot healthier. In that case the average health in country A would be better, and the ppp would correlate with health. The data doesn't show this.

I would guess that once you have enough money to live comfortably it becomes less important to your health, and the other graphs Richard showed like trust, crime, etc. are the big factors that determine your quality of life.
mo saskia 0Reply
Jul 31 2012: Correct if you only look at my example countries A and B, but you can't just look at a pair to show correlation.if you had another country, C, with 10 people all of which earned 0.5 dollars except one who earns 100 you'd still get a ppp that is substantially higher (10.45) but you wouldn't expect a higher average life expectancy than in B. indeed there are many countries (if not the majority) on Richards graph where life expectancy vs ppp does correlate. It's the large number of outliers that makes this graph look random.
Infact if you take the USA and Portugal (where I'd assume USA is roughly like country A and Portugal is like country B) you can see that the USA does have higher income as measured by ppp AND a higher life expectancy. So the data does show this in parts.
Ipso Facto 0Reply
Jul 11 2012: Mo,

Thoughtful, but it appears that you missed the central point. The study in question admits that there is a floor, a necessary floor for well-being. But the central thesis is that once this threshhold has been reached interpersonal equality provides a highly correlated, if not causal, understanding. This is replete in the literature cf. Ladd, Kahnemann. To cite ppp misses the point entirely. It matters little the price of the Big Mac to cite a popularized version of the argument. What matters is whether the Big Mac is the only available option for one's fellow citizen.

The appeal to ppp appears to be a red-herring.
mo saskia 0Reply
Jul 31 2012: I don't think i missed the point of his argument, what i am saying is that his scienece doesn't back it up! he can make a point but it also needs to be substantiated with correct and well done science. what I see here is shakey attempt to show correlation, but definitely no causality.
The fact he is using ppp to measure income in this context doesn't inspire any confidence in his science. if he used mode as a measure instead of mean (I.e.ppp) the same data could very well show the complete opposite of what he was trying to prove. So ppp is not a red herring at all.
Comment deleted
Ken Newman +6Reply
May 21 2012: Might have something to do with the fact actual poor people don't move, let alone to either of those places. Those with enough money to move there will choose the place that gives them the most advantage, i.e. the most unequal. So if rich people are "rushing" to Singapore, that's evidence that Singapore is more unequal.

Megan Gilland +3Reply
Jun 14 2012: Hi, Edwin Jose Palathinkal. Mr. Wilkinson stated early in the video that this correlation is true of developed nations; he never claimed that it applied to Ethiopia. I think that for your argument to have merit you'll need to show why you think Ethiopia qualifies as a developed nation.

Jake Searcy +1Reply
Jun 18 2012: I think Megan is right. It is clear that if you can't afford food, clean water, and shelter more income will make you healthier. Once you have the basics well covered though, it is probably mental health and lower stress that makes a bigger difference.
steve upson 0Reply
May 19 2012: When I look at the 2004 data, it shows that the poorest Americans (those in the lowest 25%) each own less than $5,000 in wealth while the richest Americans (those in the top 25%) each own more than $250,000.

How is it possible that the graph at 2:30 showing the income disparity between rich and poor is less than tenfold for the top and bottom quintile in the USA?

It's really weird because I only watched the vid because it was touted as a non-partisan piece. I watched it in order to get a better handle on how TED views this partisanship question, since I saw nothing partisan at all in the recent controversial talk. I've heard it said that truth has a liberal bias. I guess deceit also has a partisan bias.

I know you're expressing great concern about the economic inequality. Maybe you should start showing your concern by expressing it's existence in a more honest and less misleading fashion.

http://www.census.gov/hhes/www/wealth/2004/wlth04-4.html

Phil Gallagher +2Reply
May 20 2012: I haven't checked your sources, so you may well be correct. I'm just posting this to draw attention to the fact that you quote "wealth ownership", while the talk is about "income". These are two different measures, and it would be interesting to look at the inequality range of ownership, but that's not what this talk is doing.
Ken Newman +2Reply
May 21 2012: Steve Upson, you'll want to scroll down on that linked chart to the section with "MONTHLY HOUSEHOLD INCOME" which is then broken down into 5 "quintile" lines. If you are going to call someone a liar ("deceit also has a partisan bias"), then learn to comprehend better.
Joseph Sadlon 0Reply
May 19 2012: regarding stressful tasks, i'm not and i don't think anyone should be at all surprised that the "social evaluative threats" (see 13:57) would be associated with the highest stress response.

i can't cite the studies off the top of me head, but i thought it was well known that everyone's biggest fear, aside from death, is being embarrassed. right? that would be tied to being shunned from the group, when we used to be nomads/tribesmen.

EXAMPLE: if you'll remember being in middle or high school when your emotional neuro-receptors were at their most raging early stages, what were the fears that used to cripple students in those teenage years? giving a speech in front of class, getting asked to the prom, going to the prom, coping with a new haircut or change in clothes-style (admittedly high class problems), being brought in front of the principals/authorities, hanging out with the cool kids, etc. these were all the most nerve-wracking/stressful events, and that's still in the back of our minds.

that's my seemingly obvious micro analysis of only a portion of this talk.

as far as the higher disparities faring less well than the lower, it's clear TO ME (huge leap in logic without all the facts) that the higher earning societies are unconnected/unconcerned with the lower earning classes and therefore the lower societies are allowed to wallow with the lower quality of life without the higher societies willing to help out.

has the phrase "pay their fair share" made the news much lately? do you think they will ever stop their ways? no. it's well known, if occasionally unspoken, that america is on the road to collapse. what can any of us do besides hang on and try to survive?

in the meantime, learn to swim
Sheila stone 0Reply
Jun 9 2012: I wouldn't say that embarrassment is the next thing after death for most poor people. For me when I was poor, and for all the poor people I know & serve in the US as a nurse, no one has time or energy to think about embarrassment. It's mostly pain, hunger, physical discomfort (like too hot and too cold), lack of mobility (too sick to get around, or loss of a limb or something), getting robbed or hurt or shot. Maslow is pretty right in his old hierarchy. Also, worry about the children not turning out okay.
Shawn Smith 0Reply
May 18 2012: Even ignoring the relationship to income inequality, the US shows up frighteningly badly on so many of the scales shown - mental illness, violence per capita, child well-being, prison population.
mo saskia 0Reply
Jul 31 2012: But that is probably because there are so many poor people rather than the fact super rich also live in the same place (ie income inequality)
Alejandro Rogers +1Reply
May 5 2012: Mr. Wilkinson should note that the many of the most equal countries Greece, Portugal, Spain, Iceland, Ireland, etc...all experienced and are experiencing extremely corrosive social phenomenons. In fact after the crisis in 2008, all the government of these countries fell and many have been subject to social unrest. So apparently equality does not buy social peace.

Equality is not an issue, what is important is opportunity and growth.
Liaofan Lin +8Reply
May 7 2012: In my point of view, your example supports Mr. Wilkinson's points, not your argument. Greece, Portugal, Spain, Iceland, Ireland, and so forth fall on the part of income inequability in Mr. Wilkinson's slides.
Luke Thomas +11Reply
May 10 2012: Opportunity and growth are empty and loaded terms. They mean nothing but a refusal to think about the future in terms of sustainability.

Anyway, the social unrest in Greece is due to austerity measures...which is a direct threat to equality. I rest my case.
Tara Li 0Reply
Apr 13 2012: Correlation equals causation? We *REALLY* need to see how these two are connected. And could we see this relation extended to non-1st World countries?
Jeff Trechter +1Reply
Jun 4 2012: He directly acknowledges BOTH of these points, and to some extent addresses them. He admits that this correlation is only the case in first world nations, that is to say nations where there is enough wealth to reach that level where everyone could live comfortably and with basic necessities (health care, food, shelter, clean water etc.) and he points out that in some of the areas causation is pretty well established, though he doesn't go into detail, this is a TED talk, which for the most part must be seen as trailers, or at the very best sparknotes versions of their full work, which is usually published in various journals, sometimes even books. If you want the causation I'd suggest you look for his work, because explaining that would almost certainly take longer than the time he's given.
Here's a quick and dirty and probably oversimplified look at causation.

If the society is rich enough to provide basic services to all it's citizens, and provide them consistently and with a high level of quality, then having low income inequality means most, maybe all people will get those services, meaning that social ills like crime, infant mortality, addiction, and mental illness which most affect people who live in or near poverty will be rather uncommon.
However if, as in the United States there's high inequality, even though the wealth of the country COULD support all it's people, it does not in fact do so, meaning that all those social ills are more common. Furthermore as larger and larger segments of the population fall into poverty, they become underutilized human resources, instead of staying in school and becoming brilliant doctors, they drop out of school and become interred drug addicts, which means all of society suffers, both at the loss of their possible benefits, and because we pay both for their crimes, and for their punishment. Thus all of society is hurt when a segment is left behind by economic progress. Causation enough?
Jeff Trechter 0Reply
Jun 4 2012: Did you watch the last few minutes of the talk? He literally talks about ALL of your questions, including specific examples of causation.
Kabulo Markentte 0Reply
Mar 25 2012: I've met some very like questions in film "The Hunger Games" (http://blxur.com/the-hunger-games-featuring-jennifer-lawrence-sets-record), and in film they give very simple and correct answers. But in my opinion everybody must have part in this job, and no one can not seriously look at such kind of things !!!

Robert Winner 50+ +2Reply
Mar 25 2012: I paused at the charts to see the countries involved and noticed that the countries I think the biggest gaps occur in are not charted. I did not see India, Mexico, and other like countries where there are only two classes rich and poor. The countries charted had a large middle class. If the wealth redistribution was to be truly looked at lets take Mexico. How about India. Would the charts hold true in these extreme poor versus rich environments?
Luke Thomas +1Reply
Apr 15 2012: Yes clearly! Unfortunately the data isn't available; as was stated in the presentation. The statistical trends are powered enough to make that extrapolation. Not to mention the anecdotal evidence.
Lewis Kopman +6Reply
May 15 2012: Not necessarily, India still contain populations which are in truly abject poverty and can not meet their basic needs. For poverty at that level, almost everyone agrees that absolute wealth actually does contribute to happiness and wellbeing. What Wilkinson is doing is expanding the Easterlin Paradox, which only applies to rich countries. The reason that Wilkinson is only applying his work to rich countries with large middle classes is because these are the only countries were almost everyone is rich 'enough' for absolute wealth to not effect their ability to meet their own basic needs .
Michael Shi +2Reply
May 18 2012: He's focusing on developed or first world countries, he says in developed countries income inequality is an issue. My opinion is that income inequality is good when you're developing, it's efficient albeit brutal. But once you get there it becomes less ideal, there emerge issues that need to be addressed.
Edward Bolton +2Reply
Mar 23 2012: Even if there is a redistribution of wealth... lets say to reset balance in theoretical terms. After the initial re-balancing wealth would redistribute based on personal choice, intelligence, compulsiveness, stupidity, gambling, death, criminal activity, deceit, corruption, etc. This redistribution will once again take a direction of inequality. This inequality will be more extreme in the U.S. than in other countries because of the extreme or greater than 3 standard deviations difference between the U.S. and the next largest GDP nation, i.e. China and Japan (less than 5 trillion versus greater than 15 trillion in the U.S.). Thus the unintended consequences of such a vast economy is not suitable for correlationary research. The issues surrounding the U.S. are unique and cannot be compared to other countries since there is very little similarity between the U.S. and any other country outside of the fact that human life exists. However most correlationary studies will place the U.S. as extreme, which is a direct result of the extreme difference in power (financial and military) the U.S. has compared to any other country. It is almost like comparing apples and oranges and thus the stats get skewed. What the research does confirm... is that money creates a multiplier effect on social issues. Management becomes vastly more complicated when too much money is in the system.
Luke Thomas +6Reply
Apr 15 2012: Yes, you are starting to get on the right track....Money is the problem! It is a primitive monopoly game that motivates biased alliances. Monetary growth is self-destructing and jobs are touted only to produce consumers, not progress. Planned and intrinsic obsolescence is needed to sustain this cyclical game. The earth is a finite planet but, renewable technology has surpassed social programming. Mark Twain: "The lack of money is the root of all evil." Directly or indirectly, the issues of crime, poverty and war come from this obtuse assumption of scarcity. Renewable access abundance with a focus on social concern is the future. Today's progress comes from the collaborative work in the past. None of us could thrive without the masses! We are dependent on each other and our history. Property, both physical and intellectual is both absurd and debilitating. Open-sourced education is now flourishing with the acceleration of AI and automation. Technological unemployment is to be celebrated for ridding us of all repetitive work requiring acquisition incentive. Voluntary contributions of innovation are only motivated by autonomy, mastery, and purpose. An "economy" is supposed to manage and preserve not waste and destroy! I'm NOT talking about communism, which is based on social stratification. It is time to apply the scientific method for social concern. All our problems are technical and we must address them as such; where eclectic hypothesis testing can allow for environmental adaptation. With the internet, everyone can save all preferences online. Nanotechnology and 3D printing will enable efficiency and customization. Advanced algorithmic filters will provide feasibility data for potential progress. This is the future unless our superstitious ethnocentric influences linger! For more information: http://money.msn.com/business-news/article.aspx?date=20120413&feed=PR&id=14986055#scpshrtu
John Bollenbacher +6Reply
May 7 2012: @Edward,
"The issues surrounding the U.S. are unique and cannot be compared to other countries since there is very little similarity between the U.S. and any other country outside of the fact that human life exists."

This is simply false. If your model is broad enough, and the terms of the trend universal enough, nothing is outside the system. Whether or not Wilkinson's model is sufficiently universal I won't claim to know (though I personally suspect it is), but please don't make blanket statements like 'the US cannot be compared to other countries.' Statements like that are not productive.

Steve K. Sporøy 30+ 0Reply
TED TRANSLATORASSOCIATETED LIVE MEMBER
Mar 21 2012: More info on Willlkins book the "spirit level" and more: http://www.thefreethinker.org/2012/01/equality-is-good-for-everyone.html

Jan C Hills +1Reply
Mar 21 2012: I'd love to see the numbers on India, China, and the Middle East....

Michael Harris +2Reply
Mar 19 2012: This is a great talk. The arguments and the data speak for themselves. The true issues in the U.S. are not about racial issues or any other issue of the like. Rather, it is about the manipulation of the system by the wealthy that is creating this social tension. Grand scheme of things, only a few businesses produce food, only a few produce energy, only a few control the entire economy, and the results of it are staggering throughout our entire society, hence the Occupy Movement. We must seriously address this issue if our nation is to prosper.

marco valente 10+ +2Reply
TED TRANSLATORASSOCIATE
Mar 14 2012: It seems to me easy to agree on the fact that to bring about more equality is a good thing. It's not easily done though. One of the fundamental means is to have a salary system and a redistribution system that promote greater equality (I live in Sweden and it works well). For the latter, to get a good redistribution system that is accepted by all a key component is trust that those who do take part of your money and redistribute it must be competent and trustworthy, so that the redistribution is perceived as i) done for a good purpose; ii) done with a sense of fairness; and iii) handled by policy makers who are under the public opinion's scrutiny and have the trust and legitimacy from the voters.
As a European myself (born and raised in Italy, and moved to Sweden a few years ago for work), I would never see redistribution as "theft" by any means, therefore my view may be far away from those of a north American audience. At the same time the issue of legitimacy is crucial, doesn't matter which continent we are from. If I trust that the policy makers are accountable and make a good use of the money they take from my salary I would be happy to give it away for the greater good on a more equal and well functioning society. But again is of key importance that I trust them to do so, hence in countries where corruption is higher (Italy vs Sweden) it will take a lot of change in the political system to gain the trust of the voters. Many of my views are based on recent works of Swedish social scientist Bo Rothstein, if you wish to read more.
James Osborne 30+ 0Reply
May 24 2012: Marco, Excellent point. The level of personal distrust in America is the highest in my opinion since the cold war in the 1950's. Distrust of the government is at an all-time high. A move to equality (redistribution) would not work unless there was a shift in the attitude and education of the middle class and a reorganization of government. The Occupy movement has started the process-if the tea party joined- the movement would be underway. The key psychological question is: why do the conservatives in the middle class continue to fear a change that may benefit them? Why do they vote against their own best interests?
Vicki High 0Reply
Mar 11 2012: I'm studying social work. In our first tut we were asked to discuss in small groups how important we thought equality was. In my group, when I posed the hypothetical situation of two people who were earning $25 each but could negotiate so that one got $50 and the other $100, the overwhelming preference was for $25 each...apparently they preferred to earn less overall rather than have someone earn more than they did...???
James Starmer 0Reply
Mar 18 2012: The value of money is relative to how much other people have, it's not directly linked to a gold standard anymore. I think allot of people don't understand the economist's view of what money is.
Chris L 0Reply
Mar 8 2012: D+
Weak empirical data
Many assumptions made
Grandiose claims
clifford Carr +6Reply
Mar 10 2012: would you like to back up any of those statements? It seems to be a pretty strong argument to me
James Osborne 30+ +1Reply
May 24 2012: @chrisL: F

inarticulate analysis;
no supporting data
frivilous criticism

Janar Eit 0Reply
Feb 26 2012: US at the top of mental ilness graph is another problem of it's own. Some say that it is considered to be a normal "industry" in US.
Michael Merrill 0Reply
Feb 24 2012: The question of redistribution is an important one, and one to raise voices and tempers on either side of the fence, as one can observe from the current political "discourse" (if one can name it that) in the USA and in some of the comments below.

While Mr. Wilkinson has done a convincing job presenting the empirical evidence for his argument, he has had to cut short when it comes to discussing possible consequences. To get a rational cut above some of those emotional polemics below and elsewhere, I´d like to suggest here, for a lively and even-keeled discussion of the subject, the thought-provoking lectures of Prof. Michael Sandel at Harvard. (Especially lectures 3-5 in this case.):

http://academicearth.org/courses/justice-whats-the-right-thing-to-do

Also recommendable is Sandel´s very readable companion book, "Justice."
Ryan Stephens +2Reply
Feb 23 2012: I don't understand, it is compelling in the correlation light, but he shrugs off causality. This should be done with a regression model, and see the results..

I'm sure there is heavy correlation in the index of socioeconomic variables he charted.

This seems to be a static analysis, looking at one point in time. I would imagine this could also yield bias results.
Matthew Gunnyon +3Reply
Feb 22 2012: I can appreciate anyone who wants to tell the world the inefficiencies and negative consequences of an unequal society, it seems mostly self-evident to me. One thing I'd like to add is the link between unequal societies and the limiting and diminishing of democracy. Aristotle was well aware of this, even classical liberal thinkers such as Jefferson and Adam Smith, the poster boy for capitalism, took the view you cannot have any meaningful democracy in a greatly, unequal society.
Sherry Troutman 0Reply
Feb 18 2012: Really? This guy makes my blood boil. Mental illness is not a social issue it is a health issue. Some of the issues he's commenting on can be looked at from a health perspective,when mental illness is caused by the misfirings of the brain chemicals it makes it a health issue because the brain is the entire reason the body functions. If they looked at it as a health issue--more people would get treatment who couldn't afford to--and there would in turn be less crimes.This guy is a nutcase! He makes me look good!
Matthew Gunnyon +1Reply
Feb 22 2012: Yes, mental illness is a health issue, but I do believe environment plays a role. Living in a harsher, less compassionate society can and does lead to mental health problems. Our brains change throughout the years, which can be determined by our environment. That is how mental illness falls under the title of 'social issue'. Personally I think the reason why mental health isn't properly addressed and dealt with is due to ignorance and apathy. Putting it in perspective, it is only a recent development of actually recognizing mental illness, if you go back just 50 years and said you were depressed they would have thought you were barking mad or under Satan's influence.
Navin Kumar 0Reply
Feb 8 2012: Hello. Does anyone know the R-squares for the graphs he uses?
Roberto Noensie +2Reply
Feb 8 2012: how did this smart man ignore the humongous elephant in the room. what do Japan and the Scandinavian countries have in common? RACE HOMOGENEITY.

Look, i'm not justifying the horrifying income inequality in the UK and the US. However, it's simple to see why extremely homogenous countries have more trust, comfortability with social welfare and equality.
Luke Thomas +2Reply
Feb 11 2012: Go to FAQ at equalitytrust DOT ORG; here is part of the response to your question:

insofar as ethnic divisions are related to inequality and may contribute to the effects of inequality, it is not of course skin colour itself – or for that matter religious or linguistic differences in themselves – which affect health. Instead, they become important when they serve as markers of social status attracting stigmatisation, prejudice and discrimination. This means that rather than ethnic divisions involving quite separate processes from those through which inequality has its effects, they involve very much the same processes. Whether the markers of social status differences are attributes of class alone or whether they include issues of language, religion or ethnicity, the underlying processes are basically the same.
Eric Ireland 0Reply
May 31 2012: I don't think the Scandinavian countries are racially homogenous, except for maybe Finland and Iceland. In Sweden, Denmark and Norway there are many people (~15%-20%) of non-European ethnic background.
Jhuniuo Chunio +1Reply
Feb 4 2012: Why is Singapore not included in the other charts since it has the highest economic inequality?
Could it be because it would be troublesome to explain the reason why Singapore is an exception to his thesis?

Michael Gerety 10+ +2Reply
Feb 6 2012: This is a statistical argument. What in the world changes by noting that one country does not fit on the regression line? His argument is tight.
Jhuniuo Chunio +2Reply
Feb 7 2012: Well because Singapore has been ranked amongst the highest in the world for education, absence of violence, absence of drug abuse; the social problems which Wilkinson said would happen when the gini coefficient is too high. Do your research on Singapore and you'll see. If possible, ask non-singaporeans (to get an unbiased view) who have lived or visited there.

Jang hoon Kim +2Reply
TED TRANSLATOR
Jan 31 2012: what makes us feel more uncomfortable from economic inequatlity is that leaders of society can't feel the hardness of bottom-part of society. They can't have same feelings with them unless they suffer financial diifficulty....
Ben Zittere 0Reply
Jan 30 2012: Oh and what about causality?

yeah... ummm... strass is bad for your heart... that answers that!

Are there any indications that being poorer than someone in the same state or nation causes poorer health?

I would assume that the rich try to get the best health care, I know I would if I were rich. That should give them a higher life expectancy.
Takuro Ozawa 0Reply
Dec 30 2011: great inspring presentation.
this is not the main topic though, you know Japan's long expectancy includes 40% of elders who only lay on the bed "NETAKIRI (only laying)" ; over 65 ? That is a controversial topic in terms of QOL. I am Japanese and thought we should share the real each others.
Rebecca Trow +2Reply
Dec 24 2011: I think the association of taxes and theft made by some is quite interesting. The logic seems to be that the rich people in a society work harder than the poor people in a society; that poor people are poor due to their own laziness. Not many of this view seem to take into account that people are not given equal opportunities to succeed in life because of social inequalities caused by economic inequalities. To those people, I ask how can one compare the poor or the rich against each other as equals when they've never been on the same playing field?

Xavier Smith 0Reply
Dec 22 2011: Nothing pisses me off more than a poor man with a rich mans taste!
Benjamin Fischer 0Reply
Dec 15 2011: Do these statistics change significantly when using GDP as opposed to GNP?
Kym Fa +1Reply
Dec 19 2011: Why do you think GDP would be more relevant or show different results for this analysis than does GNP? GDP is just domestic production of goods/services and excludes (according to national income accounting rules) net foreign income. This net foreign income I think would be relevant in evaluating income differences.

Furthermore, if you check GDP & GNP levels for lists of countries, they are not significantly different from one another (max. 10% difference).

Ultimately, only replication of the testing against GDP figures can generate true and conclusive positive evidence for/against the hypothesis and question you ask. However, in my experience of modelling and statistical testing and having had a quick look at GDP figures, I doubt this would make a difference in the validation or conclusions Prof. Wilkinson obtains.

Would be curious and interested in hearing if you have a more elaborate rationale as to why you might think GDP figures could change the results in a significant manner.

Cheerio.
Bryce Lawrence +1Reply
Dec 13 2011: David Mckee, we could do away with both guns and inequality if instead of people being forced to redistribute their wealth, they actually wanted to! Obligatory charity is hardly charity, and social redistribution is hardly stealing!
gavin heathcote +1Reply
Dec 11 2011: I don't understand why so many of the wealthy and not so wealthy ( quite average in most of society) have to constantly defend the notion of paying tax by the better off as wrong. A fine balance of equality and production efficiency has to be struck for society to be successful for sure, but the wealthy mainly conservatives and their supporters always defend their position of more tax is bad by suggesting these good intended rich folk are creating jobs by their extraordinary reinvestment skills. They seem to try and suggest the poor or ordinary person would just squander this money redistributed to them. But wouldn't they be reinvesting by buying food, heat, shelter and such like producing jobs and investment where society really needs it. If they were fortunate to have any left over the excess would go in a bank, who in turn would reinvest the money. I really don't think the world would end if the most productive paid a fair share back to society that has allowed them to become so prosperous, as they really have been helped one way or another whether they like to admit it or not.
Byron Gordon 0Reply
Dec 9 2011: Government is made up of people. Make an enemy out of government and you make an enemy out of people.

Bob Samuel 50+ 0Reply
TED TRANSLATORASSOCIATE
Dec 7 2011: http://news.yahoo.com/feds-couple-claimed-welfare-lived-1-2m-home-175925304.html
many people take money from government without deserving, i would say there are generations live on federal welfare. i know some people are dieing to have simple job in welfare system, they get call for an interview every 6 months since 2008 to get the same talk which is " we will call you to update your application". i am wondering why all of this studies if you don't apply or reform what is wrong. "For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?" any one believe?
William McKeown 0Reply
Dec 5 2011: This is a fascinating and well thought out critique of the corrosive nature of wealth inequality, however it would be tremendously helpful to have data on how correcting wealth inequalities in countries effects the level of social inequalities in a case-control style setting.
gavin heathcote +1Reply
Dec 4 2011: I'm probably not as clever as many people on here but it seems very easy to over complicate the issue, to me id like to see whether a statistical argument such as Richard Wilkinson's could be created in favor of more inequality and if not why not.
David Bartizal 0Reply
Dec 11 2011: First, you would need to have data that you believe proves the point that more inequality is favored. Then a statistical analysis could be performed and an from their an argument made.
Curt Marion 0Reply
Jan 2 2012: Gavin -- That's a good question! Assuming that Wilkinson gathered and summarized his data in an unbiased manner, and all indications are that he did, the best you could expect is that there might be some things for which income inequality yields more favorable results than income equality.

As Wilkinson pointed out, his correlational data do not provide evidence of causality. However, he referred to many studies, undoubtedly conducted with a more sophisticated methodology, that have provided evidence of causality. Given the breadth of variables studied and the number of studies that have explored the effects of income inequality, there appears to be a fundamental causal relationship between income inequality and individual and social dysfunction. So it appears that you'd be able to find only a relatively small number of variables, if any, for which greater inequality results in more favorable outcomes.
Jon Brooke 20+ +2Reply
Jan 6 2012: Gavin, I suspect not. The assumption behind your question seems to be that Richard Wilkinson has come up with a theory and then gone out to find data that supports it. But in the talk he gives some specific reassurances that he hasn't done that. I'm sure that if he had found anomalies in the data then he would have pointed them out, because no doubt other experts in the field would be quick to do it for him. There are a lot of vested interests in keeping the status quo re' income inequality.

John Bulmer +1Reply
Jan 22 2012: And in reading his books, which provide much more detail than a 20 minute talk, there is more information presented and they do seem to cross many lines to essentially show that increasing the income inequality does have negative impacts.
gavin heathcote +1
Jan 22 2012: Thanks for all your replies it is appreciated.
Ralph Cox 0Reply
Dec 4 2011: How will the new data from Japan impact this?

The Japanese pension scandal show that Japanese life expectancy is not as high as previously thought.

The (freakonomics) murder scandal show the Japanese murder rate is higher than previously thought.

Maybe Japanese income inequality is not as close as previously thought?

What are the global consequences if countries socio-economic data is not as clear and robust as it is assumed to be?

Bob Samuel 50+ 0Reply
TED TRANSLATORASSOCIATE
Dec 4 2011: i don't understand much about economic systems but from my experiences in TN and NV I believe the states was and still in need to more than this global crisis. one of the reasons which is still exist is immegration and open the states border for Mexicans without legal papers who took many jobs from american and legal people who came and started from begining and learnt English. i prayed many time to God to apply his justice as a reaction to what happened to me. without this global crisis no one form the states nor from any other rich country would make these studies to get these results. american society need to have balance between capitalism or any other economy system and some moral values and the real meaning of justice.
Goedjn Minnow 0Reply
Dec 2 2011: It seems to me that he's demonstrated that most of the problems of a messed up society correlate strongly with all the other problems of a messed up society. It's not obvious why we should believe that income
disparity is what causes a messed up society rather than the reverse, though. If income inequality is a better predictor of the pool of social problems they have numbers for, than any of the other problems, he ought to have said so. And if it's not, his thesis kind of goes away. All he's shown us is that societies with problems tend to have a lot of them.
Jimmy Quigley 0Reply
Dec 2 2011: Interesting, but the graphs start at an inequality index of three. If extrapolated to two, or as near 1 as possible, would the trend hold? Perhaps not but if it did the increase in human health and happiness would be great. Differences in power and social status would have to be reduced to, if only to make this possible. There is I think a correlation between inegalities of these three, and similar effects on the mind and body. Given the possble benefits it's a hypothesis worth testing. What country would do the necessary experiment? I'd move there
eylem a 0Reply
Dec 2 2011: Dear Maria E.

I have some questions for you.

Where will that good "mentality" come to the poor minds? Do you advice one to educate the "unequal" societies? Can YOU educate them?

Your opinion need to be refined and we need more powerful arguments to believe you in that "in more unequal societies people don't believe that life can be better than it is and it results in unwillingness to change smth." There are three thesis here: 1. Some societies are "more unequal" -that is, unequality is actually a quantity that we can prefer "less" one than others; 2. People dont believe etc. etc.; 3. This wrong believe causes unwillingness to change.
How do you know these "facts"? Why people believe "this" but not "that"? Is it an incident, or fate?

Again, for example, one can easily say that inequality itself IS the cause of "unwillingness". What is the rationale for your argumentation?

In fact, unequality is not a "quality" or quantity that people or countries have, but a kind of patterned human relationship. Without changing this "real" relationship itself, you cannot make people think or behave in altered ways, getting out of this patterned relationship. In most cases, even there is no possibility to live out of ongoing unequal relationships

Your opinion includes the danger of "blaming the victim." We need to change the unequal conditions, not the minds of people to make them believe that they themselves are responsible for unequality.
James Smith 0Reply
Dec 1 2011: 100% PURE socialist idiocy and incompetence that results from two failures:
1. Inability to understand the principle of cause and effect, and therefore attributing the wrong cause to each effect.
2. An a priori goal to blame capitalism and free enterprise for the failures of individuals, parents, societies, cultures, politicians, and governments.
The TRUTH about income inequality is here: http://wp.me/p1Zvog-4
James Osborne 30+ 0Reply
May 24 2012: funny-but when comparing your writing and the article you cite to the lecturer's speech and the accompanying data, one gets the strong impression that yours is the less persuasive argument.
Maria E 0Reply
Nov 28 2011: Inequality itself isn't the reason why some societies go worse than others, I think it's mostly the mentality problem – in more unequal societies people don't believe that life can be better than it is and it results in unwillingness to change smth. No matter if it is a European or an Anglo Saxon model, situation is better where people see perspectives in life.
To my mind, the problem of inequality will be solved when people start to understand that their behavior affects everyone and when they, for ex, break the law and benefit from it, they "saw off the branch they are sitting at" and harm the society where their children and grandchildren will live.
Basang Basangov +1Reply
Nov 28 2011: The information given by R Wilkinson is very actual nowadays. As we can see Catch Wall Street actions where people with posters: "we're 99%" , require changes from the government. So, we became witnesses of fundamental processes of Capitalism change as we know it.
And we can consider that we should adopt some features of socialism from history for our better future.
Bob Kelso +1Reply
Nov 28 2011: For many social phenomena the results are confusing and it does happen that they are either too complex or hard to measure to develop meaningful solutions. That is both logical, possible and reasonably common. Inflation and interest rates come to mind. However in the case of equality, the trends are very clear - when this one thing drops, 30 other quality-of-life measures turn into mud. That is not the point to start shrugging our shoulders. That is when we look for causes and act on them.

Veronika Losová 20+ +1Reply
TED TRANSLATOR
Nov 26 2011: I just wish more (Czech) politicians and voters watched this talk before decreasing taxes for rich and taking money from poor on basis of "everyone has to create their own luck" Unfortunately, in our society, it is very easy to make those comparatively richer (or middle class) to envy the "social benefits" given to the comparatively poor. As a result, the political parties aiming to widen the gap have the power and the situation becomes worse.
Gil Santos 0Reply
Nov 23 2011: Very interesting graphs and stats. Singapore is a big surprise to me as I had no clue it had so much inequality. Portugal is also a bit of a surprise though not as much as the Asian Tiger.
Marcel van Lohuizen 0Reply
Nov 24 2011: Yes, Singapore, one of the most capitalist places in the world, has high inequality and scores badly on imprisonment (as noted in the talk). However, he conveniently left out that Singapore scores extremely well on pretty much everything else. See my comment below.
Having inequality does not mean that the poorer people of society are not taken care of, as one could argue is the case in the US.
Also, whether poor people are taken care of has little to do with capitalism. He wittingly argues that Americans should go to Denmark to live the American dream. To some extent he is right. According to the Heritage foundation (US based), Denmark is more economically free (read capitalist) than the US [http://www.heritage.org/index/].
That this surprises people is based, in turn, on the misconception that corporatism equals capitalism. The US is almost just as much a welfare state as many of the European countries. It is just welfare for corporations (exaggerating a bit for effect). This does not make it more capitalist. Capitalism is about free markets. The US has an out of control health care system (for example) because of corruption and cronyism, not because it is capitalist. (Again, both Denmark and Singapore score quite a bit better than the US on pretty much all corruption indexes.)

pat gilbert 50+ 0Reply
Nov 24 2011: Thank you Marcel. Exactly, it is nice to see not everyone on this forum is insane.

Not only do the taxpayers pay for corporate welfare but also the consumers do as a corporation does not pay taxes their consumers do. Which is the highest corporate tax in the world. Which as you stated is very much the case with healthcare.

How do we get the rest of the people to quit regurgitating the sound bytes dejour and actually look and get it?
Marcel van Lohuizen 0
Dec 3 2011: This is very hard to do. The only thing is to keep pointing out the facts in a respectful and constructive manner. There are many falsisms in both the talk and the comments that are easy to disprove. One just has to hope that people can keep an open mind and look at the data.

Joanne Donovan 30+ +1Reply
Dec 4 2011: Marcel, the talk did not discuss capitalism per se, it demonstrated a correlation between inequality and undesirable social effects. If you wish to be 'constructive' perhaps you can stay on the point?
James Smith 0Reply
Nov 22 2011: Excellent talk, highly informative, showing solid research, including a critical evaluation of his own work. Very important.

Paulo Cesar Ramirez Silva 0Reply
Nov 22 2011: My conclusion: The US have some of the best, but also some of the worst.
Moses Burgess +1Reply
Nov 21 2011: Some very interesting views and points made. I would say our structure for out of the box thinking is still based or trapped in the current system we are in. For example, I hear money and sharing prosperity. The reason why the solution seems to elude us, (at least to me) is because that concept is outdate. Money and it's uses are outdated and I would argue the problem is we are still using ancient ideas that worked fairly well in ancient times due to their actually limitations are by no means necessary to govern the 21 century.

Anyone who thinks this growing global population can be supported by this notion "work for a living" with jobs, many of which are already obsolete is failing to see the big picture. I agree with the ideas of trying to get equality as best we can but what do people really expect? To get better pay at walmart and live a good life? To think this system can be fixed/regulated to work? Harriet Tubman said "I freed a thousand slaves I could have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves."

Someone said we should have a system based on the scientific method and I completely agree with that. No more opinions or hope (laughable so) that millions of uninformed people will vote a few times every couple of years and the outcome will somehow work for the best.
Rusty Kent +1Reply
Nov 19 2011: Although I find the talk interesting. Does this data really tell us that a country like the United States should change economic policy to force equality or would they be better off if they stopped immigration. Most of those graphs that were presented showed countries with low immigration rates as being the better countries in terms of his theory and the countries with higher immigration rates as the countries that were unsuccessful with his theory. It just stands to reason if you allow more poor people into your country you are going to do worse with his theory.

Also I am not sure I buy into the mental illness graph. I think you would find that some of those countries with a higher mental illness rate might have doctors that are better at determining mental illness. Therefore they would report a higher score. For instance Japan has a very high suicide rate, but on his graph Japan scores very low for having mental illness.
Vernard Mercader +2Reply
Nov 14 2011: Mr. Wilkinson should do a presentation on Capitol Hill for the Congress.
Paul Norris 0Reply
Nov 14 2011: Has anyone else noticed that the charts do not consistently include the same group of countries? In some cases, he includes all of the countries in his initial income inequality listing, but in others he includes far fewer. Also, it looks like he's using only 40-something US states.

All of this may be fine (accidental??), but it makes me concerned that he may be cherry-picking countries in order to enhance his correlations. If, for example, one removes 4 or 5 (or more!) countries that don't fit where you want them, it's certainly possible to change a random-looking scatter plot into one that reflects a high degree of correlation.

Since the points he's making are intriguing, it's disappointing that it's not possible to know whether he's presenting the data honestly.
Alyssa Auvinen +4Reply
Nov 14 2011: I suggest reading his book, The Impact of Inequality. It basically has all of this information with more detailed examples. If I remember correctly it has more information as to why he chose the countries he did-- some he couldn't get certain data on.
Michael Cholewa 0Reply
Nov 15 2011: I was wondering the same thing, but when he explained why he used what he used, I feel like he covered it pretty well.
Stacey Maxwell 0Reply
Nov 17 2011: Paul, this data is all easily available for you to analyze for yourself. There is also an issue of size at play here with the US having states with populations the size of European countries. How is it that more equal societies, with populations no larger than mid-size US states, have economies far larger? Check out Aneki.com

Economies are also subjected to the natural laws like those of physics. Can you build any structure from the top down? If the base of any structure is smaller than the top levels the structure is doomed to collapse. Prior to the collapse you will hear the cries of the building materials that have been placed under stress. When the structure collapses, do you blame the I-beams, the floor boards, the foundation? No, you look to the architects who built the structure.

When you see inequality you hear the cries of those who have the weight of the structure disproportionately placed upon them. When you have a structure that has been built from the bottom up with a solid foundation, it will be sustaining. It will weather the winds of time and the challenges of changing climates. The Coliseum is testament to this. The Roman Empire was built initially from the bottom up, when that dynamic changed and inequality became the name of the game the structure failed, yet the Coliseum remains.
Marcel van Lohuizen 0Reply
Nov 23 2011: Yes, I noticed! This could be accidental, but there are some crucial ones that are left out: Singapore and Hong Kong. For all I can tell, Singapore performs badly on one of the counts: people in prison. He puts that in his graphs. On all other fronts, it performs stellar and I think it would have a top rank. Quick search on Google for Singapore: math literacy (among very best in the world), child mortality (ranked 1 (as in best)), life expectancy (higher than many of the Western European countries), homicide (lowest 5 in the world), teen pregnancy (among lowest in the world), its health system was ranked 6 in the world by the WHO. Etc. But hey, Singapore is conveniently left of everywhere else on the graphs.

Hong Kong is very similar. Together they are the number 1 and 2 in economic freedom [Heritage foundation]. I think it is important that if you make a claim, you focus on data points that are most likely to contradict you. Instead, he left them out. Weak! Sure, it was data driven. Well, I can come up with criteria such that data for countries I don't want in are not available. To make a strong case, he should have adjusted his criteria so that these data points were included. Can someone that has/read his book explain why he left these two out?

BTW, I found his arguments for causality extremely weak. Social issues like poverty can lead to stress. Sure, I agree. Provide some level of minimum living standards (as Singapore does) to fix this. But what does this have to do inequality? Personally I think that a society will have few troubles if there is a minimum standard of living with good health care where people don't have to worry about the cost of food or education. This is independent of inequality. Everything he said on causality is consistent with this. So are the two extra datapoints. Who is right? Who knows. I surely can't be derived from the data and arguments Wilkinson provided. But the conclusions to draw would be radically different!!
Susan Cornett 0Reply
Nov 13 2011: What about this?

The most important commodity we have is humans. Not stuff.

When we can see that we are all interconnected we have a much greater chance of allowing others to be who they are and to realize that we have a vested interest in their well being. It is that point of balance between the striving individual and social interdependence we all have in which we can grow as people and grow as a society as well.. When social interactions do not uphold those two concepts there are disastrous consequences for all concerned.
jean jean +1Reply
Nov 13 2011: Despite this gentleman's obvious sincerity, his conclusions derive more from his redistributive bias than from the data presented. Of course all things being equal, a more equal society is better than an inequal one. But is income inequality a cause or a symptom of social dysfunction?
The key issue here is that of causality. Are the poor worse off because the rich are richer, or because they are in a bad material situation? For instance, inequality is correlated with dropout rates? Well, dropouts will certainly earn substantially less than the rest of the population, generating more inequality, so which causes the other?
Instead, we are short changed at the end by a vague and authoritative "it is well know that..." and the loosely related argument that social evaluation is a stress generator.
In the end, this will only convince people who in the first place wanted to be convinced that inequality is the source of all evil (hello OWS). Too bad. Could have been compelling.

Joanne Donovan 30+ +1Reply
Nov 13 2011: I think the talk was demonstrating correlations. Its up to you to decide what causes it. You seem to think cause is down to individual merit whereas I on the other hand, think that social systems set up opportunity for some, and deplete opportunity for others.

Debra Smith 200+ +3Reply
Nov 11 2011: Reading through some of these comments is demoralizing. Here a respected researcher tells us a good deal about why societies are disfunctional and people attack the messenger without even investigating the data.
This guy is an expert in social epidemiology. Here is the Wikipedia link to verify his qualifications

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_G._Wilkinson

What I am reading below is a clear example of cognitive dissonance among some commenters. The information is so opposed to the world view that justifies these inequities that they need to attack the speaker. Cognitive dissonance mishandled is a sure way to take the wrong path. The right way to deal with it is to do research to disprove him if you can. You have to REALLY WANT TO KNOW the truth or you just become part of the system that keeps what is wrong empowered.

Anuraag Reddy 0Reply
Nov 11 2011: Who is this Guy?

Are there as many Weapons with civilians in Canada? then how can he compare homicide rates with the US?

Do the same people manage Maternity Hospitals in UK and Sweden? then how can he compare child mortality between the two?

Why is there no data from socialist or developing countries? Don't they have data or does their data not suit his argument.

Disappointing!
John Bollenbacher 0Reply
May 7 2012: You're not seeing the forest for all the trees, bud.

Its a broad pattern. The wonderful thing about patterns is that if they are general enough, and based on universal terms, specifics don't matter.

All of the specifics are just characteristics of the trend, and contributions to the generalization. Do outliers exist? Yes, they do in all data sets. But the trend is solid.

Additionally, there is no data from outside the 1st world countries because record keeping is inconsistent in the developing world and unavailable in the communist nations.
Richard Wil45 0Reply
Nov 11 2011: Great Post......

tshirts bedrukken
Vic Moss +5Reply
Nov 10 2011: I have spent much of my life working on the issues of which Mr. Wilkinson speaks. This very day I have seen dozens of people, who despite their best efforts, has been evicted from their homes or lost their heat and lights. At our shelter I see children who have lost that most precious commodity that life has to offer - hope. Most of the people I encounter each day are the working poor, people who we depend upon to sell us our wares, serve us at restaurants, clean our rooms at motels, and care for our children at day care. Their jobs however, often the only ones they can find, pay far less than a living wage. Indeed a single parent must work 79 hours a week to afford the fair market rent of $750 a month for a two bedroom apartment in our not atypical community. This is the backdrop with which I watched Wilkinson's remarkable presentation. Here is a man of compassion speaking a truth that it seems many of us simply do not want to hear. Our dialogue should be on how we can assure our children a fair start in life, from prenatal care and on through a safe and secure childhood . This is not about taking people's money away, it is about opportunity and the overall health of our nation. Instead of trying to twist and contort Wilkinson's charts to our own ends, lets admit what they really show -- that in many indices that reflect a society's health we stand alone, not in front but far behind. The evidence is irrefutable. Our efforts to win the respect and the hearts and minds of others throughout the world are greatly diminished if we do not do better. We can take pride in our country's remarkable accomplishments, and still be honest and critical of it's shortcomings. Love of country sometimes means a willingness to change it.

Joanne Donovan 30+ +1Reply
Nov 10 2011: You might take heart Vic, as I have to see the many comments from change-seekers along these threads throughout the related conversations.
Andrew Lanier +1Reply
Nov 9 2011: Have we really not explored a key variable in the data?

KEY POINT: How homogeneous are the countries in this study?

The less homogeneous societies like the UK/US generally fare worse. Sweden, Japan & Denmark, who have highly homogeneous societies fare very well.

Is it a question of inequality between rich vs. poor or homogeneous societies vs. unblended societies?

Homogeneous societies tend to place cultural value on "a rising tide raises all boats" whereas an unblended society always relies on a working class to provide the economic benefit to the upper echelons of society. Of course, this model does not apply outside of a democratic model (i.e. China), but I think within democratic society homogeneity matters the most.
John Bollenbacher 0Reply
May 7 2012: A big point, indeed.

Perhaps an even broader trend might be to correlate general homogeneity of the society (including ethnic, cultural, and economic factors) with all of these negative characteristics.

However, this is at present unfeasible, because sufficient data does not exist for this sort of analysis.

Instead, Wilkinson worked the the data that is readily available: economic data.

He's pointed out a trend, and his analysis is solid. He's right.
Gary Shurtz 0Reply
Nov 9 2011: The late Tony Judt uses much of this data in his work "ill Fares the Land" which was quite interesting and I recommend reading.
william ium 0Reply
Nov 7 2011: The lady protests too much, methinks.

Jah Sun +2Reply
Nov 6 2011: A lot of people seem to be missing the point of this talk.

What Mr. Wilkinson is saying, is that stratification and polarization of society in economic terms is inevitably a bad thing. Inequality brings us down, no matter how high our GDP gets.

Statistics can be misleading, but there is simply no denying that something is wrong when over 1/4th of your population is mentally ill. (however you define it)

The "percentage of the population in prison" statistics are equally egregious.

Kinda makes you wanna move to Japan or Scandinavia.
David G 0Reply
Nov 6 2011: Does this fellow know how to do multivariate analysis?Amazing how much you can talk about statistics without a single control variable.

Marty Wondergem 10+ 0Reply
Nov 5 2011: Pat - My apologies. None of my comments were directed at you in any way. I'm not sure if the thread made it look that way or not. Not all FoxNews watchers are loud-mouth-nationalists, but some of them are. I was throwing that out as a stereotype for comparison, not projecting it on anyone in this discussion.

Peace.

York Earwaker 0Reply
Nov 5 2011: Simple enough?

York Earwaker 0Reply
Nov 5 2011: Ruthless Milton Friedman.

York Earwaker 0Reply
Nov 5 2011: Brutal Milton Friedman

York Earwaker 0Reply
Nov 5 2011: Vicious Milton Friedman.

York Earwaker 0Reply
Nov 5 2011: Destructive Milton Friedman.

York Earwaker 0Reply
Nov 5 2011: Malign Milton Friedman.

York Earwaker 0Reply
Nov 5 2011: Malevolent Milton Friedman.

York Earwaker 0Reply
Nov 5 2011: Obscene Milton Friedman.

York Earwaker 0Reply
Nov 5 2011: Foul Milton Friedman.

York Earwaker 0Reply
Nov 5 2011: Depraved Milton Friedman.

York Earwaker 0Reply
Nov 5 2011: Immoral Milton Friedman.

York Earwaker 0Reply
Nov 5 2011: Criminal Milton Friedman.

York Earwaker 0Reply
Nov 5 2011: Evil Milton Friedman.

York Earwaker 0Reply
Nov 5 2011: I've just seen the film by Michael Winterbottom, co-directed by Mat Whitecross, based on Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctrine. I'm appalled. Milton Friedman and the Chicago Boys will surely go down in history as some of the most evil men ever to have lived. I wonder which circle of hell he now resides in? That reserved for the traitor no doubt as he is a traitor to humanity.

If the reactionary group visiting this comment board are all supporters of Milton Friedman it is no wonder they are all such right wing zealots. As Naomi Klein said at the end of Winterbottom's film, we are on to them. We have to go out there and make change happen. As FDR said to his supporters, make me change things.

This film and Naomi Klein's book should be immediately viewed by anyone with an ounce of human sentiment. If these monsters are allowed to continue we shall surely have entered the worst of all Orwellian nightmares.

I hope TED invite her to speak again soonest.

pat gilbert 50+ 0Reply
Nov 5 2011: Yorky

Can you give me ONE example of Mr. Milton Friedman's ruthless, brutal,vicious, destructive, maligning, obscene, foul, depraved, immoral, criminal, evil behavior?

York Earwaker 0Reply
Nov 5 2011: Chicago Boys 'The Brick' 500 page CIA sponsored manual for torture and social destabilisation as part of the West's proxy war on Communism, The War on Terror, ... .

Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Peru, Uruguay, Costa Rica, Panama, UK, US, Afghanistan, Iraq, Greece, …

Augusto Pinochet, Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, George W Bush, Tony Blair, Donald Rumsfeld, …

The IMF and World Bank are now little more than the front line storm troopers delivering the Friedman doctrine of fiscal and monetary shock and awe.

Creating gross inequity, in all measures of social gradients, vast differentials between the rich and everyone else, resulting in egregious economic, political and social harm and manifest social disharmony and social dysfunction.

And, oh yes, policy leading to environmental collapse.

pat gilbert 50+ 0
Nov 5 2011: Could you be a little more specific?

Generalities and ambiguity don't lend themselves to intelligent conversation.

pat gilbert 50+ 0
Nov 5 2011: Those are not specific?

Without spending too much time on this.

Friedman wanted to abolish the Federal Reserve. I don't have time to look but by extension would feel the same way about the IMF and the World bank. From what I understand since the U.S. went off of Bretton Wood there is no function for either yet they still exist, now that my be a good place to investigate, follow the money trail...

His total involvement in Chile was 7 days of seminars in Chile, after which he no contact with Pinochet or anyone else from Chile.

In link to Jacqueline Novogratz, she practices Milton Friedman's policies? I find it interesting that she went down there with preconceived notions that the people flatly rejected. She then had the fortitude to then LOOK at what worked and change her thinking, well looky here it is the same thing that Friedman espouses.

Linking him to the other countries is absurd.

Joanne Donovan 30+ +1
Nov 5 2011: 'Generalities and ambiguity don't lend themselves to intelligent conversation.' neither does dogmatism.

Joanne Donovan 30+ +1
Nov 6 2011: Pat, you can't expect your arguments to win respect if you dismiss evidence so easily. The doco is really interesting, the book too. Watch it. Then we can talk. If you disagree after you have watched it I would be much more ready to listen to your ideas. When you dismiss well informed discussion and expect to carry on regardless, that is received as disrespect. If you want to understand how Friedman impacted on Cuba, you will have to investigate it as others have.

pat gilbert 50+ 0
Nov 7 2011: Joanne

The pot calling the kettle black.

York Earwaker 0Reply
Nov 5 2011: If you don't watch the film you won't find out.

Joanne Donovan 30+ 0
Nov 5 2011: York I recommend you do not dignify such questions with a reply. He can find out the answer himself by reading Naomi's book or watching the doco. I put 'The Shock Doctrine' on his reading list, along with a few other items, Retirement Heist, Evelyn Schultz, 'A Short History of Progress', Ronald Wright. He 'skimmed wiki' and dismissed it. So there you have it. Fox news is apparently a much better arbiter of information for him.

It is a great book because it exposes an important point that is hardly being discussed yet; the work right groups have done since the seventies to suppress healthy social organisation both within the U.S. and outside it, purely for financial gain.

Joanne Donovan 30+ 0Reply
Nov 5 2011: 'Can you give me ONE example of Mr. Milton Friedman's ruthless, brutal,vicious, destructive, maligning, obscene, foul, depraved, immoral, criminal, evil behavior?' CUBA!!! Read the book.

pat gilbert 50+ 0
Nov 5 2011: How do you associate Cuba with Friedman?

Can you give me any specific points about the Shock Doctrine that demonstrate the depraved conduct of Milton Friedman?

Would you recommend Naomi Klein over Michael Moore?

I did read the Wiki but see no reason to go further than that, can you give me a specific reason to watch the documentary?

York Earwaker 0Reply
Nov 5 2011: These might help.

Living without conflict
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xg0tOj6GRGY&feature=related

Freedom
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w0cjoOIWi9U&feature=related

Be A Light to Yourself
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ALQHlFI992Y&feature=related

Why don't you change?
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WEIfMqM5wnM&feature=related

Unity of Human Beings
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QD062mU9Uhs&feature=related

Society
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YOxLtObGimo&feature=related

Words of Wisdom
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7iefTCH92nI&feature=related

pat gilbert 50+ 0
Nov 6 2011: Living without conflict, Don't see the connection, non sequitar.

Freedom, Freedom to do what, there has to be a purpose, no purpose = no life

Be a light to yourself, not sure what light means, but if it is clarity this is something that the individual creates for himself, it is certainly not done for him, and he objects when it is, unless he is as Mr. Krishnamurti says is dull.

Why don't you change?, because you have not changed your decisions, your preconceived notions, the way a person changes his mind is through communication, if he is not willing to communicate he will not change unless he has to. Not sure what this has to do with Friedman?

Unity of Human Beings, Yup we are all in the same boat, the free market creates a better boat. Something Friedman understood thoroughly and acted responsibly on this subject, he took responsibility for mankind.

Society, "we are responsible for that society" Exactly, at the end of the day the problem with the society is the electorate the individuals. They want the society to take of them. As with the Greek people rioting because the government can't take of them in the manner they become accustom. Isn't it better to have a society that lives within it's means?

Words of wisdom, "the enemy is not the other it is you", Yup I have seen the enemy and he is us.

I don't disagree with any of this as they are true words. I also don't see what this has to do with Friedman or that anything Friedman did conflicts with these words.

Friedman espoused the free market. The key to achieving all of these truths is communication, it is not self abnegation. Nothing get people to communicate better than the free market. When you buy something from a store you are communicating by purchasing the product. At that moment you are saying I like your product and I'm willing to pay your price, the vendor is saying I like your money and I'm willing to give you my product for that price. This is the very substance of communication.
Michael Connolly +2Reply
Nov 6 2011: Milton Friedman's early and enthusiastic support of the brutal Pinochet dictatorship in Chile.

pat gilbert 50+ 0
Nov 7 2011: There are 2 sides to that story.

Joanne Donovan 30+ +3Reply
Nov 5 2011: And I think people of our time will be laughed at in the future because we entertained the idea of a 'self regulating' free market managed to perfection by some kind of omniscent 'natural law'. Ronald Wright, in his book 'A Short History of Progress' discusses how deserts are made. His opinion is that most, if not all deserts on the earth today have been made by humans and he shows how this is still happening around the world today. I think we could put up a sign in each desert that reads 'This Desert was proudly brought to you by Free Market Enterprise'. Thanks.
Alan Schier +1Reply
Nov 5 2011: **If you dislike off-topic posts, please stop reading this one.**

I have come to love this thread as a study of rhetorical styles. There's a number of them. Here are observations on two.

There are the sophisticated writers whose rhetoric tends to favor ideas of their own and others--often in the form of quotes. These are usually then linked into larger constructs. The tone of the writing is usually academic.

(For the present purpose, "sophisticated" means, for example, the use of dependent and adverbial clauses, irony, the passive voice, logical chains of two or more steps, semi-colons, and just plain longer words and sentences. As a quick check, you can search the semi-colons.)

Those who employ simpler rhetoric tend to favor examples and other verifiable elements as the foundation of their arguments. They require less explanation, and this results in shorter posts.

My experience is that simple arguments are often right. This may be because a simple but *wrong* argument is often easy to spot and never makes it out of one's cranium.

In contrast, the sophisticated arguments are more difficult to judge. Sometimes they prove to be elaborate intellectual constructs built on rotten foundations. But you may never know since they often require an inordinate effort to spot the well-hidden rot.

I value simplicity, so I favor the simple arguments. For others, maybe the opposite is true(?).

Here are some quotes:
"Our lives are frittered away by details. Simplify, simplify, simplify."
--Thoreau

"Simplify."
--A. Schier (my [im]modest improvement on Thoreau)

"A smart man can conceive of a complex idea. A smarter man can simplify it."
--Made that up entirely myself.

"Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication."
--Made that one up, too.

pat gilbert 50+ 0Reply
Nov 5 2011: Ok Alan let me try that, oh looky there?
Alan Schier 0Reply
Nov 5 2011: Sarcasm? or just fun? I can't hear your tone of voice so I'm not sure I get what you mean.

But otherwise, your posts are among the easier to follow that reference verifiable info.

pat gilbert 50+ 0
Nov 5 2011: That is an astute observation, it amuses me.

I actually learn a lot from him in that I have to say; what are the facts on this?
John Bollenbacher 0Reply
May 7 2012: Enjoyed this post; I also make a study of rhetorical methodologies.
(Get the sophistication? hahaha)

in all seriousness, though, good job.
Frank Teunissen 0Reply
May 18 2012: Alan Schier I believe Einstein said that one should always try to reduce a problem to the simplest terms possible. But, he added, no simpler.

I disagree with your, rule of thumb, shall we say, that simpler statements are often true and more complex ones often are not. Twisting the truth is often easier in a simple statement than in a complex one.. In fact the technique of framing a discussion is mostly carried out by means of one single, simple phrase. The wife beating question comes to mind. Anyhow, arguments are often complex, because reality is. If it weren't we wouldn't need all those long textbooks.
4 6 0Reply
Nov 4 2011: The solution: Resource-based economy.

York Earwaker +1Reply
Nov 5 2011: Fantastic Post!

Finally a solution based on the principles of the scientific method. Moving mind sets, the zeitgeist, to confront the systemic crises that face our global village.

A Resource-Based Economy TEDx video by Peter Joseph: social, economic, political and environmental transformation of global crisis
http://ow.ly/7k5O9

The Venus Project: beyond politics poverty and war. Long term sustainable steady state dynamic equilibrium to affect change for solutions to global crisis
http://ow.ly/7k5Dw

The Zeitgeist Movement tackling the global crisis. Their strapline: "We must become the change we want to see in the world " Gandhi
http://ow.ly/7k5XY

The links to the Zeitgeist Movement or the Venus Project are offered as a start in the dialogue, I'm not suggesting they are the answer. But something has got to change.

York Earwaker 0Reply
Nov 5 2011: Artificial divisions between left and right are the problem. The people united over globe is the answer.

I'm not sure Aaron, of The Storm Clouds are Gathering, has the answers either but at least he's asking some questions. http://ow.ly/7k9DH

We need the debate to come up with some solutions. To ignore the looming disasters is to be at best deluded, at worst to do nothing is criminally negligent.

York Earwaker 0Reply
Nov 6 2011: What world do we want to make for ourselves in the 21st century? More of the same is just patently not going to work.

The Tellus Institute provides the following three visions for the future.

* Conventional World – we make no change. Outcome continued struggles with social, political, economic, environmental, tensions, likely leading to collapse.

* Barbarization – fortress worlds, the rich behind walled communities everyone else outside. Outcome constant conflict and enshrined inequality.

* Great Transition – worlds citizens rise up and demand change. Over time a sustainable, inclusive civilization, humanity prospers in a world of limits and planetary interdependence.

The Tellus Institute, future world visions.
http://ow.ly/7klum
Remy Pascal +2Reply
Nov 4 2011: I'll be quite interested to get data about the history of each country. Basically, the inequalities change trough history in each country, and I'd like to see how it correlate with the social indicators used in this talk

York Earwaker 0Reply
Nov 4 2011: Good point.

That would indeed be very informative. Hans Rosling and his stats tool would be a great way to visualise it too.

York Earwaker 0Reply
Nov 4 2011: We face a myriad of systemic global crises, affecting both natural systems and human systems, any one of which could destroy our civilization. These crises have catastrophic consequences for our society and quite possibly our species. Tackling only some of these issues will not be an option we must overcome them all.

Fortunately there are a growing number organisations challenging orthodox thinking and providing a framework for globally responsible new economics, social equity and a sustainable environment. Two of the thought leaders are the New Economics Foundation (NEF) and the New Economics Institute (NEI) who work in close partnership with each other and similar progressive organisations.

The NEF is UK based think-and-do-tank with a local and international focus.
http://ow.ly/7iFk2

The NEI, formerly the E. F. Schumacher Society, is US based with a similar focus to the NEF.
http://ow.ly/7iG5Q

Jared Diamond in his talk 'on why societies collapse' describes the many historical precedents of past societies failures to modify their approach even though indicators to impending disaster were clear for everyone to see.
http://ow.ly/7iGZw

We need transformative action to tackle the crises that face the global village. Progressives attempts at slow incremental change from within the current systems have not been effective. Root and branch transformation to current economic, political and social barriers to change are imperative. We need transformative action to transition to a new model for global well-being. The local is the global.

The Great Transition Initiative: a global network of academics and activists.
http://ow.ly/7iHA3

The Great Transition Movement: applying new ideas with communities around the world.
http://ow.ly/7iIct

Christina Minamizawa 0Reply
Nov 4 2011: I would love to see the comparison of these stats to developing countries especially the emerging economies.

Anyone have these ?
Ugis Zeltins 0Reply
Nov 4 2011: Can't help thinking that "social anxiety" is simply a fancy new name for an old vice called "envy".

York Earwaker 0Reply
Nov 3 2011: A stab, in the dark, at the reactionary's political philosophies:

* Friedrich Nietzsche and his social ideas; relating to Ubermensch
* Herbert Spencer and his economic ideas; in what became known as Social Darwinism
* Plato and his political ideas; republicanism ruled by philosopher 'kings'

The Platonic republicanism would explain the anti democratic sentiment.

I wonder if the NIA are monitoring these posts. The reactionary crowd my find themselves being monitored for treasonable activity and suffering extraordinary rendition to prevent terrorist activity.

York Earwaker 0Reply
Nov 3 2011: The liberals with their agenda of social justice and environmentalists must unite with other progressive organisations to forge a sustainable future.

New Economic Institute – tackling global systemic crises with new economic models.
http://ow.ly/7hP8Y

York Earwaker 0Reply
Nov 3 2011: Bringing the debate back to the substantive issue namely; more equal societies do better in positive measures of all social gradients.

Please find here a report from the New Economic Foundation on the causes of inequality. While it does look to this topic from a UK standpoint the systemic issues discussed describe cycles of wealth, education the labour market and globalization which are applicable to most nations.

Why the Rich Are Getting Richer: The determinants of economic inequality
http://ow.ly/7hJfl

York Earwaker +1Reply
Nov 3 2011: There is an interesting paradox in the contributions of Pat, Bruce, Fleml, and co. Their extreme nebulous reactionary rhetoric has galvanised a groundswell of support from that vast majority of respondents to the views expressed in the talk by Richard Wilkinson.

Furthermore those in favour of a progressive global view have provided some well thought through argument and debate. In providing a foil the reactionaries have managed to bring forth progressive content and ideas which for my part has been very instructive. I am now more firmly decided that the argument for equality is the just and moral course than I have ever been.

Also teaching Pat and co US political history 101 has given me renewed hope that the great nation that is the USA might soon find again its true moral centre and help lead the world into a more egalitarian future.

So while finding myself yesterday depressed and despondent at the reactionaries seeming intransigence, blinkered denial and flight from reality. Today I am filled with hope that the vast majority are pursuing thought and action to engage with the new zeitgeist for a positive collaborative global future.

And it is a credit to TED that we have a globally accessible platform that provides a globally accessible forum where we can debate how best to build that common global future.

So well done Pat, Bruce, Fleml, and all; you are doing more for the cause of a progressive sustainable collaborative liberated egalitarian fraternal global future than perhaps you comprehend.

pat gilbert 50+ 0Reply
Nov 3 2011: Well Yorky

I'm glad to see you are stating your viewpoint that is a step up from cutting and pasting.

Reagan said "The trouble with our liberal friends is not that they're ignorant its just that they know so much that isn't so".

I would say that the jury is out on what the zeitgeist should be. One thing is for sure if your ideologies come to fruition history has show that it is not going fun for anyone.
Comment deleted

York Earwaker 0Reply
Nov 3 2011: Love this post.

The links are important. Organizations which understand the zeitgeist is changing and are making positive efforts to seek solutions to the systemic issues we face globally. It is adapt or die. This has given me some hope. Thank you.

As a consequence I have found the following links.

Tellus Institute
http://www.tellus.org/

New Economics Foundation
http://www.neweconomics.org/

Please see also this great talk by Nic Marks
http://www.ted.com/talks/nic_marks_the_happy_planet_index.html
Jim Capatelli +2Reply
Nov 3 2011: And just to cap it off...a few more words from that well-known Marxist, Adam Smith:

"The subjects of every state ought to contribute towards the support of the government, as nearly as possible, in proportion to their respective abilities; that is, in proportion to the revenue which they respectively enjoy under the protection of the state. The expence of government to the individuals of a great nation is like the expence of management to the joint tenants of a great estate, who are all obliged to contribute in proportion to their respective interests in the estate. In the observation or neglect of this maxim consists what is called the equality or inequality of taxation."
Adam Smith - Scottish Political Economist (1723-1790)

Now, hurry up and rationalize away...or dig up some O'Reilly or Stossel quote "disproving" that these people ever said any of this. Quick! You don't wanna miss your "Rush Crush" later this morning, do you boys?

pat gilbert 50+ 0Reply
Nov 3 2011: I did learn something:

"Taxation in proportion to revenue isn't progressive taxation, it's proportional taxation—in modern terminology, a flat tax. The quote not only isn't evidence for the claim, it's evidence against it—important evidence, since it is the first of the maxims of taxation with which Smith introduces his discussion of possible taxes.

Not only is Smith not endorsing a progressive income tax, he isn't endorsing any sort of income tax. Reading further into the passage, he successively rejects taxes on income from capital, taxes on wages, and taxes on the income of professionals. The only income he approves of taxing is the income of government officials. What he is arguing for is a system of taxation whose effect is proportional to income, not a tax on income."

http://daviddfriedman.blogspot.com/2011/03/misrepresenting-adam-smith.html
Jim Capatelli +2Reply
Nov 3 2011: Oh, and just in case you think I'm leaving out people who "really" understand Free-Market Economics...try this one on for size:

"The disposition to admire, and almost to worship, the rich and the powerful, and to despise, or, at least, to neglect persons of poor and mean condition is the great and most universal cause of the corruption of our moral sentiments."
Adam Smith - Scottish Political Economist (1723-1790)
Jim Capatelli +2Reply
Nov 3 2011: Here's another one for our "C Students", Bruce and Pat:

"I believe in a graduated income tax on big fortunes, and in another tax which is far more easily collected and far more effective - a graduated inheritance tax on big fortunes, properly safeguarded against evasion and increasing rapidly in amount with the size of the estate".
Theodore Roosevelt (Republican President)

pat gilbert 50+ 0Reply
Nov 3 2011: Yup Teddy was the beginning of Socialism in the U.S.
Jim Capatelli +2Reply
Nov 3 2011: This is for our little friends...Bruce and Pat. Hope you learn something here, boys...

"Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration."
Abraham Lincoln (Republican President)

pat gilbert 50+ 0Reply
Nov 3 2011: Without the creator of the jobs labor would not have anything to do. The creator of the jobs and labor are symbiotic. Anyone who has a business will be the first to admit that they owe their sucess to their employees. What happens is that a 3rd party with it's own self interest creates conflict so they can profit as with many lawyers.

Considering the times I would say that is a statement on the equality that the American Republic brought about abolishing slavery.

Cathy Cawood 0Reply
Nov 3 2011: This talk was very interesting. I'm living in Japan, which consistently appears at the better end of the scale. Don't know much about Sweden or Denmark, but I would hestitate to hold up Japan as an ideal society. I love Japan, I'm fascinated by it, but I don't think it's a happy place. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suicide_in_Japan
even if they have comparative equality of income. I still think equality of income is a desirable goal, but I don't think it will solve all our problems.
matt voll 0Reply
Nov 3 2011: Mr. Wilkinson makes a fantastic point in that I'm sure social disparity is evened out amongst all those other countries; however there is one enormous fact missing; how many of the Nordic countries as well as Japan take in immigrants? Both of those nationalities have EXTREMELY uniform cultures that subscribe to a specific code of conduct. The United States have cultures from around the globe who may or may not subscribe to the same philosophies. While I agree economic disparities have an unfortunate impact on society, his research is terribly flawed. As a constant viewer of TED videos, I feel like this in particular gives an extremely one sided perspective!

Joanne Donovan 30+ 0Reply
Nov 3 2011: Thanks York, and thanks to you too Fleml. I would like to respond Fleml, to your remark 'Evolution occurs because only the fittest survive'.

In Darwinian evolution there is no 'will' therefore the outcome is a random event, a result of a highly complex context. (see Dawkins 'The Blind Watchmaker') In contrast, capitalism, due to the human will component, strives toward increasingly monopolistic structures in order to exploit. Natural evolution is an albeit complex, though nevertheless, random set of events. Capitalistim, on the other hand, is planned and structured.

Many thinkers, Jared Diamond, Ronald Wright, for example, discuss the idea that extreme monopolistic structures often appear prior to social collapse as has been evidenced by so many cultures which have preceded us across our planet. My point is that unless we wish to share the same fate, we must evolve into a society that is centred on cooperation with each other and the vital natural balances which make organic life here even possible.

In order to hope for this, many of us must make a paradigm shift, and give up getting drunk on illusory 'wealth' and materialism. I think many people today are beginning that process and this is perhaps why we are even having this discussion. My only hope is it is not too late.

York Earwaker 0Reply
Nov 3 2011: Very well said.

It is very likely that this civilization, and possibly the naked ape, will not see out the end of this century.

Please see here a single comment thread on the four scenarios which seem probable as the outcome to our short sighted and selfish actions.
http://ow.ly/7hfCG
Byron Gordon +1Reply
Nov 2 2011: James, you have a romantic picture of how capitalism works. You should get down in the trenches and see how capitalism is working for those who are fed up with the inequality it produces.

http://www.mercurynews.com/top-stories/ci_19246904

pat gilbert 50+ 0Reply
Nov 2 2011: Byron

The protesters have the wrong target. I understand they are upset about the economy. But big corporations are not the cause of the problem it is government. This video indicates the source of the problem.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LdTyUvY66Mw
Jim Capatelli +1Reply
Nov 3 2011: Oh, Pat. We understand.

We really do. You see, when people are scared, they don't make much sense. They spew nonsense and cling to outmoded, obtuse, laughably juvenile ideas.

And right now, people with your backward, confused, moronic views are petrified, as they watch Americans waking up and wising up to what is really happening and who is really responsible.

Pat, wake up...the coffee has been brewing for a while now. And it's not 1980 any more. The hoary, nonsensical idea that "the government" can be blamed for everything isn't cutting it any more. It just won't wash anymore.

Government works fine when it isn't being run by people who hate it and want to destroy it. We don't believe you anymore. The reason we're in trouble today is because we made the mistake of believing you in the past.

pat gilbert 50+ 0
Nov 4 2011: The U.S. has to come up with 15 trillion dollars just to be broke.

The U.S. has 100 trillion dollars in unfunded liabilities.

What color is the sky in your world?
John Courtneidge +1Reply
Nov 2 2011: Since there are only five economic mechanisms that create and sustain income inequality, the solution to helping create (greater) income equality is straightforward.

The May 2011 Reader from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives explains more - a copy can be had from them. The key step may well be to set up 'Citizen's Assemblies', on an annual, randomocracy basis, so that people in a particular national jurisdiction can indicate to their legislators the maximum/minimum income ratio that they see as just and desirable. It would then be up to the legislators to respond - and for the electors to judge those responses.
Alan Schier 0Reply
Nov 2 2011: Wilkinson's case for equality certainly appeals to a noble impulse. His interpretation of his facts, however, is unconscionably narrow.

The groups that score worst in his measures of social outcomes are also the ones with the greatest cultural diversity. That means his data also supports this hypothesis: "Cultural and racial homogeneity tends to produce income equality and good social outcomes."

While this is certainly a dangerous thought, that doesn't mean it's wrong. It's an issue of intellectual honesty. And if the hypothesis is right, redistributing income within culturally diverse groups will not improve the social outcomes.

pat gilbert 50+ 0Reply
Nov 2 2011: Sounds like maybe we need eugenics to solve that nasty equality problem? (8^(l)
Alan Schier 0Reply
Nov 2 2011: It could also mean that people are happier when they congregate in homogeneous groups. That could explain the racial and cultural self-segregation in housing that occurs in otherwise diverse societies.
Joseph Forsyth 0Reply
Nov 2 2011: Incorrect analysis Alan. I would say your understanding of statistics is "unconscionably narrow". Without knowing the cultural and racial correlations within these income groups, there is no way your hypothesis can be reached. For instance, adding to the data that the same social outcomes are also distributed unequally dependent upon income inequality WITHIN racial/ethnic groups would remove this as a confounder. So here, I've cited you such a study:
http://www.bmj.com/content/314/7096/1724.abstract

In short, a rich black man in America will have much healthier children than a poor white man. This is almost at the level of common sense and completely uncontroversial.

In fact, for anyone with a small understanding of history (particularly colonialism) what you're referring to is a completely predictable observation. And how about Singapore?

And your last statement is absolutely nonsensical. Have a few cups of coffee and reconsider this.
Alan Schier 0Reply
Nov 2 2011: The study you cite is irrelevant to the point above. It simply confirms that family income level, not community income inequality, predicts mortality. It has no connection to ethnic or racial diversity and the broader social outcomes.

And you ask about Singapore, Joseph. It is arguably more diverse than the US. It has four official languages, 40% of the population is foreign born, Buddhists are about 1/3 of the population, and five other religious groups make up the rest in roughly equal numbers.

And it sounds like you accept the idea that the correlation between income inequality and poor social outcomes is a causal relationship(?). If so, I suggest it is impossible for you to know that is true. And if it is *not* causal, and you redistribute the income anyway, the social outcomes will not improve.
Kevin Liu 0Reply
Nov 2 2011: Hi Joseph. While I'm not disposed to comment on your other points prior to proper research, I can speak about Singapore as I grew up here. To start with, Alan's points are all correct, at least as of my knowledge and experience.

We are a young country, having only been (not completely willingly) independent since 1965. We've always been struggling with balancing racial and religious tensions even up till this day, and while the results aren't perfect, I'm pretty sure we're doing better than many other cities/states around the world.
Alan Schier 0
Nov 2 2011: Kevin: I can't think of a place where the tremendous racial and religious tensions have been managed any better than in Singapore. In my mind, Lee Kwan Yew showed a courageous genius in handling the practical realities that he faced. He wasn't perfect, but I know of no better example.

Fleml Swemson 0Reply
Nov 2 2011: The common trait shared by all advocates of economic equality, is that they believe that they're the best ones qualified to decide on who gets what. The advocates of economic equality all believe that the rich get rich by exploiting the poor. That's because they don't understand the nature of the creation of wealth.

Perhaps we'd be better off if rather than trying to measure the happiness of the masses, we tried to measure the total contribution to civilization of the people who earn the most. When we do, we see that the contributions of the richest are far higher than their earnings suggest.

It's easy to be altruistic with money earned by others. Honor not the pompous altruist who buys his virtue by doling out wealth to others while cursing the evil men who produced it. Honor instead the one who created the wealth in the first place.

"The urge to save humanity is almost always only a false face for the urge to rule it."
H.L. Mencken
Joseph Forsyth +1Reply
Nov 2 2011: I think you're missing a huge point (which is common in today's so called "Libertarian" thinking)- wealth attainment is largely ARBITRARY. Wilkinson affirmed this in one of his slides on income mobility.

If you believe what you say, then wouldn't it make more sense that the most talented people have the ability to contribute to humanity rather than people who are largely wealthy due to the occupation of their fathers? Wouldn't that make for greater "total contribution to civilization"? Your conclusions are right but your premise is off here. Your thinking is muddled by an assumption that the wealthy are wealthy for more reasons you have yet to support.

pat gilbert 50+ 0Reply
Nov 2 2011: 1. According to a study of Federal Reserve data conducted by NYU professor Edward Wolff, for the nation's richest 1%, inherited wealth accounted for only 9% of their net worth in 2001, down from 23% in 1989. (The 2001 number was the latest available.)

2. According to a study by Prince & Associates, less than 10% of today's multi-millionaires cited "inheritance" as their source of wealth.

3. A study by Spectrem Group found that among today's millionaires, inherited wealth accounted for just 2% of their total sources of wealth.

Each of these stats measures slightly different things, yet they all come to the same basic conclusion: Inheritance is not the main driver of today's wealth. The reason we've had a doubling in the number of millionaires and billionaires over the past decade (even adjusted for inflation) is that more of the non-wealthy have become wealthy.

http://blogs.wsj.com/wealth/2008/01/14/the-decline-of-inherited-money/tab/article/

Fleml Swemson 0Reply
Nov 3 2011: Joseph says that:

"wealth attainment is largely ARBITRARY. Wilkinson affirmed this in one of his slides on income mobility. "

All that tells us is that Joseph isn't wealthy.

And since Wilkinson is a Marxist, his "visual aids" don't impress me.

It doesn't matter Joseph whether the rich guy you simultaneously envy and loathe, earned his wealth or inherited it. If he didn't make it on his own then his father or grandfather did, and since it was his, he was entitled to leave it to his kids.

If you were successful, wouldn't you at least in part have become wealthy out of a desire to provide a better life for your kids and your grandchildren?

Of course you would. Yet you espouse a political philosophy that justifies your right to TAKE it away from the kids and grandchildren of others who DID earn it.

There's several descriptive words for people who can't make it on their own, and think the world owes them a better lifestyle... Calling them losers is the most accurate... Calling them democrats is more politically correct.
Jurre Machielsen +2
Nov 3 2011: I think you are both missing the point. The only thing I have seen from Richard Wilkinson is this talk, but I didn't see a man trying to divide the money of the richest. I saw a man making a statement about inequality.

That statement doesn't suggest we will have to redivide. Although he talks about countries who do, he only makes a point of the social impact of it.

In my opinion he is just making clear that the whole society profits by a more equal society.

And:
Joseph said:
Your thinking is muddled by an assumption that the wealthy are wealthy for more reasons you have yet to support.

There are a lot of rich people who didn't contribute as much to society as a lot of poor people.
At the moment I have no solution, but it is not that everybody who is rich deserves to be rich and that everybody who is poor deserves to be poor.
I hope you (Flemi Swemson) see that there is no solution at the moment but that your statement also doesn't make sense to all of us.
Martin Bergstrom 0
Nov 3 2011: @Fleml Swemson

"It doesn't matter Joseph whether the rich guy you simultaneously envy and loathe, earned his wealth or inherited it."

"The urge to save humanity is almost always only a false face for the urge to rule it."
H.L. Mencken

"All that tells us is that Joseph isn't wealthy."

I've seen this kind of conclusions before, from people with ideas similar to yours.
The thing is not all people are like you seem to think.

Not all people care about power or has the need to rule just because they have an idea of what makes a good balanced society. (after this TED talk I think we can say it's more than an idea)

Not all people envy so called "wealthy" people.

The quotations above shows of narrowmindness and conclusions that everyone is more or less the same at heart. That's not true, not everyone reasons like you. ;)
Robert Hagen +2Reply
Nov 3 2011: Your first paragraph of your original answer bears no relation at all to what is said in the video. Nowhere does he claim to want to be in control of who gets what. And the rich DO exploit the poor, all the way from the micro level (minimum wage) to the macro level (trade between countries).

And if you could read between the lines, the video does present data on happiness, so the rest of your assumptions falls on your very narrow minded, pompous and failed premises.
Nairb Way +2Reply
Nov 3 2011: It's ironic that you say we should "honor those who create wealth", yet you're really implying that we honor those who accumulate wealth. There's a fundamental difference between creating wealth and accumulating it and the difference is educational more than cultural.

For example, if an oil tycoon in Nigeria is revered as a great man by impoverished villagers then those villagers are essentially only giving such praise out of their own ignorance. For that very same reason, a barista at Starbucks or a clerk at McDonalds or Walmart is highly unlikely to praise their corporate founders without a good dose of brainwashing.

The kind of thinking that you want from the general public is a return to a feudalist mentality. You want people to praise the nobility. I sure hope you are very rich yourself, otherwise, you're a complete moron. You'd be like a slave telling the other slaves to revere the master. Perhaps you were dropped on the head as a child? If that's the case, I will forgive you.

pat gilbert 50+ 0Reply
Nov 3 2011: Can you give me a few examples of that in the U.S.?

Joanne Donovan 30+ 0Reply
Nov 3 2011: Good point Nairb. Now that you have raised that, I am seeing parallels between the King who claims his rule is sanctified or even granted by 'god' and elements who claim that monopolistic capitalist structures evolve because of a 'natural' law. These are both similar kinds of brainwashing, as you describe it and I had not seen it from that perspective until you mentioned it.
Nick Rosas +4Reply
Nov 2 2011: Though I am vehemently generally vehemently opposed to the concept of wealth redistribution, I find studies and discussions like this important, and find it important to listen to. Unfortunately comments like the following reveal, and in my opinion discredit much of what those who yearn for equal distribution of wealth aspire.

"The reason why violence becomes more common in more unequal societies is because people are more sensitive to being looked down on."

This is an unfortunate and very childish comment. While I do appreciate this man's work, perhaps he should also ask the question of how people can help themselves. Sure, this might mean more public spending on education and certain social services in certain instances. But the notion of taking from individual A and giving to Mr. B so Mr. B doesn't take what is "owed" him is comical. I don't believe giving the poorer among us more wealth is ethical, or that it will build a better society.

Again this comment is very revealing, and I wish more people would pay more attention to such assertions when discussing wealth income.

Joanne Donovan 30+ +7Reply
Nov 2 2011: Nick, look at the other TED talk by the great Jared Diamond. 'Why Societies Collapse', to understand the importance of this issue. It is no longer about petty greed, the 'he is taking a dollar off me that I EARNED' mentality but is about a much bigger more important issue of sustainability. Read 'The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight' by Thom Hartmann and 'A Short History of Progress' by Ronald Wright. There are many writers and thinkers out their who are as Cassandra was to the Trojans. Warning us but finding that few are listening. Exponential growth, unrestrained capitalist greed, these things are not solutions, currently they are problems that we need to fix. In front of this problem, the North European models are merely a step in the right direction not a silver bullet and we need to really look at economies from the perspective of finely tuned, careful management. In the context of this, you will excuse me if I find your comment a little childish too.
Nick Rosas 0Reply
Nov 8 2011: I'm not sure what's childish about not rejecting the notion that the have-nots should engage in destructive behavior because they've been dealt a rough hand. Though certainly interesting, this talk wasn't really anything I hadn't heard before. I didn't say this guy wasn't onto anything, but I am highly skeptical when people make these sorts of comments.

There is no doubt that these are complex issues. I enjoy this and related topics in part because of their complexity. However, I don't think it takes a great deal of knowledge or intellect to recognize reckless comments like the one I referenced. I don't think reading a slew of books is requisite for making judgements on a single comment. However, I just might look into the titles you mentioned - as they do sound interesting.

Joanne Donovan 30+ +2
Nov 8 2011: Thank you Nick, I look forward hearing what you have to say about these issues. I think we should not focus on a few 'have-nots engaging in destructive behavior' but look at the system as a whole and decide if we think it is fair and sustainable. I am concerned because I see that the world, both economically and environmentally, is on a very dangerous trajectory. I am concerned with the difficulties ordinary people face in today's world because the odds are stacked more and more against them. To me, access to society's health services is a basic human right, along with food, air, clean water and secure shelter.
Andrew Angrist +1
Dec 4 2011: The viewpoints that see the 'have-nots engaging in destructive behavior' are flawed in a way. Consider the nature of a human being, and whether they're going to act properly at all times regardless as to their current situation. If they're starving, expect them to do whatever is necessarily to feed themselves. Humans are animals, and if basic needs aren't met with the tools they're given, they will revert to behaviors that allow them to survive, first and foremost. It even extends to urban youth moving away from school and into gangs. They see that school got their older role models nowhere, but that once they joined a gang, they're doing relatively better. At that point, their choice is clear.
Vincent Brandon 0
Mar 22 2012: It's a common fallacy to believe lower income individuals engage in illicit activity at a higher rate than rich do - most, think, base this on conviction rate which does not necessarily reflect real criminal tendencies. Rich and especially children of the rich are more likely to engage in unethical behavior. It'd all be fine if parents cut their kids off and invested all their savings on their death, but they don't.

Check out the study here: http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2012/02/21/1118373109.abstract
Kevin Liu +11Reply
Nov 2 2011: I think there's a problem with what you're saying; regardless of the causal relation between violence and inequality, the correlation still stands.

While I would agree with you that redistributing wealth is not a solution, balancing the playing field is. I would tend to find that in unequal nations, the wealthy seem to build high barriers of entry to protect their positions, and understandably so; more competition for the same opportunities would only mean a smaller piece of the pie for themselves.

While your view assumes limitless resources and therefore opportunities, where the poor man's plight is his own fault as the rich man has worked hard for what he owns, it is not applicable to a real world view where we're fighting every day for limited resources, and the rich man is predisposed to spend a large part of his effort in defending his place in the world from the thieving hands of the poor.

Perhaps a proper solution would be to find ways to illegalize the setting up of these barriers; yet this is a pipe dream as the very people who have the power to pass these laws have very strong personal reasons not to do so.

York Earwaker +2Reply
Nov 3 2011: Redistribution need not be the state as Robin Hood middleman taxing the rich and giving to the poor. The tax receipts could instead be invested to build a better future for all.

Tailor policy to encourage investing in; human capital, research and development, and infrastructure. Where the development of human capital is managed through education, including university, provided free at the point of delivery. Where the maintenance of human capital is managed through healthcare provided free at the point delivery.
diputs hsub +4Reply
Nov 9 2011: In reply to Mr. Rosas' assertion:
I totally agree with you that "wealth redistribution" is NOT FAIR!

BUT ONLY IF EVERYONE STARTS AT A LEVEL PLAYING FIELD!

If you as, say a small business owner, have to pay certain % of your income as tax while the HUGE corporations pay NONE - I do not see why the rest of us cannot/should not demand that they pay back into the system for building more schools, hospitals, roads, labs, ... all the things that will benefit them, too, in the end, but also benefit the society (York's argument above).

So your argument is just! BUT "JUST" if based on a theoretically 100% fair society !

I hope you can see that our system is NOT fair to start with.

If you can accept the assertion that our system is NOT FAIR and stacked totally for the super rich's benefit - then how can it be wrong to demand that they pay more into building the infrastructures for the whole society - which will also benefit them:
- better schools ==> better work force for them ==> more productivity
- better fire / police departments ==> protect their properties
- better roads/bridges ==> transport their goods to the market
- ...

The corporations and the super rich do not exist in vacuum - they do not make money because they work hard ! IF YOU THINK THE SUPER RICH GET RICH ONLY BECAUSE THEY WORK HARD - THEN I HAVE A BRIDGE I CAN SELL YOU! The super rich get super rich because they are smart enough to stack the deck, manipulate the system! GM's CEOs do not make money for GM ==> it is the workers who make the cars that sell - the hard earned product. The CEOs manipulate the system to get huge bonuses/salaries/benefits etc. They DO NOT PRODUCE the product!

DO THE POORS HAVE LOBBYISTS in DC?

All you have to read is the trend for CEOS' pays VS. average workers' pay over the last 50 years.

If you cannot see the injustice built-in in our system - then i give up my argument.
Nick Rosas 0Reply
Nov 16 2011: Well, i certainly don't believe the rich get necessarily get there because they work hard, nor did I imply it. I don't think it should matter to anyone else how they got there, as long as it is legal, and ethical (which is of course depends upon your interpretation).

Is the system fair - no. Tax loopholes for corporations and much of lobbying are serious problems. However, I couldn't care less how much a CEO makes. If a corporation really feels compelled for some odd reason to pay him or her as much as it does, well go ahead I guess. This consistent obsession with CEO pay baffles me.

Furthermore, I must say that your reference to GM wasn't particularly well chosen. GM was making abysmal cars for probably well over 20 years. Meanwhile, auto workers' unions secure them ridiculously generous pay for low-skill jobs, ultimately resulting in an fiscal implosion which led to the auto giant's bailout.

There is a distinction here: a corporation that CONSENTS to pay a CEO a ridiculous amount of money, and one that is strong-armed into paying lower-skill employees far above the market rate, all while producing terrible products. And CEO's don't produce the product? Well, perhaps not directly, but they are of course hired as shot-callers - positions of incredible responsibility and of a very specific skill set. I'm not a huge fan of corporate culture, but I think the ire directed at CEO pay is erroneous.

I don't intend to sound spiteful, and I do think we agree on some of the corruption, but we certainly do differ on what individuals are entitled to.

Chris Malcolm +3Reply
Nov 9 2011: I think the comment directly above this one is a little drastic in saying the super rich are only those who can manipulate the system, there are enough exceptions from hard-working people that have fostered great ideas and products to debunk that. Whether they stay honest is another question. But it's precisely these generalizations that inspire the honest, hard-working wealthy citizens to disregard this whole discussion as lazy people more or less complaining.

That said, obviously there are a lot of cases where the underprivileged remain trapped and isolated from participating in society because they have few chances for upward mobility due to lack of education spending, and money circulating around in the complex and nearly incomprehensible system of laws, regulations, finance, etc.

It's an innate human trait to compare ourselves and envy those with more than us, billionaires even envy multi-billionaires, but without the perception that one can actually connect their efforts to success and compete in the game rather than be sent to the sidelines, crime and forceful means of satisfying the gap in lifestyles in society may seem more attractive.

So to respond to the original comment, to me it seems not to be a problem of being looked down upon, but the feeling of powerlessness.
Sean Comiskey +1Reply
Nov 9 2011: If the feeling of powerlessness and mistrust are important issues, I think the problem of being looked down upon shouldn't be trivialized either.

I believe, like Dr John Sentamu said, that "it is hard to imagine a more powerful way of telling someone that they are of little value than to pay them one-third of 1% of your salary". In answer to Mr Rosas who proposes "more public spending on education and certain social services in certain instances" rather than wealth distribution to solve this problem : don't you think gaps like the one exposed above should be prevented rather than simply played down ?

Then, if the concept of wealth distribution seems unfair, what about introducing a top pay ?
Nick Rosas 0Reply
Nov 16 2011: Individuals have the ability to work where they please. I have no qualms with trivializing feelings of mistrust and powerlessness as it pertains to people who "haven't made it". If someone wants better, he or she should go seize it. There is of course no guarantee of success, however, one's success and happiness one's own responsibility. If you haven't made it, well, that's life. Mistrust because someone has done better than you? Seriously? If one feels powerless, I suggest he or she deal with it. Life of course isn't fair, nor should we attempt to legislate fairness in this context.

One employs one's self at his or her own volition. If you're working for "one-third of one percent" of your employer's salary, you certainly chose to be there. Is it an employer's obligation to pay the employee a certain percent of the employer's salary? Are they personally charged with making their employees feel good about themselves? Again, if one feels resentment for this disparity, I suggest he or she deals with it - perhaps take your efforts elsewhere, pursue education, learn specific skills, start his/her own business, etc. What business is it of mine what someone else makes?

Again, I originally referenced a specific comment. Yes I do think this sort of resentment, and even envy is something people should deal with personally and maturely, and not a reason to lash out as the speaker hinted. These are highly complex issues, and would not attempt to simplify them. However, I believe this particular concept is as simple and clean cut as it gets.

I certainly didn't expect my comments to be met with overwhelming agreement here on TED. It appears however, that myself and the rest of you are are indeed coming from opposite sides of the universe on this issue. I of course respect your opinions, but would be incredibly shocked if I was ever convinced that people are due a wage equal to a certain proportion of one of his fellow men.
Karen Geer +1Reply
Nov 10 2011: Nick we've been redistributing wealth to the wealthy for the past 30 years with the tax code. This level of inequity hobbles an economy.
Lucia Nass +3Reply
Nov 11 2011: Nick and others. It's not about giving money from the rich to the poor. It's about finding ways that stop societies from having so much inequality because it harms them. Unless you think it is fine to have violence, hunger, people that go without shelter etc in your country?

It is also not about finding the one model that works to avoid inequalities getting so great that they harm society. Its about understanding that more equality is better for all. Then you can work towards it in whatever way makes sense for you as an individual, and for your wider society.
Tim Walker 0Reply
Nov 12 2011: "he should also ask the question of how people can help themselves."

He addressed social mobility in the slides and found that in the countries with a larger gap between the income, social mobility was worse. We continue to knock down those who try to rise up out of their situation. "Separate but Equal" is alive and well in America and in many other countries. We have reverted back to schools that are just as unequal as before "Brown vs. Board of Education" and we sit idly by and watch "Separate but Equal" happen. Until we fix it from the ground up the rich will continue to be richer and the poor poorer.
Stacey Maxwell +2Reply
Nov 17 2011: I find it interesting that when one uses the terms "redistribution of the wealth" it is generally in relation to the HAVES being asked to share their piece of the economic pie. By the same token, the outrage against those who have taken disproportionately from those of lesser means is lacking.

This all really isn't very complex at all. Today's economic pie is finite in size. Today's reality is that we find the world's economy in turmoil as a result of a HUGE redistribution of wealth that has been systematically structured to pull the pieces (of existing wealth) away from those who over the course of the last 50 years, have been able to participate a bit more fully in the economy. Much of this through a complex form of a Ponzi scheme.

During this period of time, many were duped into believing that they had a more vital role in the process. They had been duped into believing they can play in the investment arena with the big kids. They have seen that which they have worked so hard for pull out from under them.

There will always be those who do better than others whether through ingenuity, inheritance, trickery, or thievery. Why is it that those who obtain wealth through white collar crime or borderline crime or as a result of their money being able to buy legislation that legitimizes their actions, are viewed in a more favorable light than your garden variety thief? Simple, human nature. The desire to identify with those who are perceived to be successful members of a society, based upon the values of that particular society.

IN the US and UK values of the highest order are those that provide for monetary success. Pretty much, anything goes as long as you don't get caught. Societies such as Japan or other more equal societies, place greater importance on the values of honesty, integrity, community, humanity, and the understanding that no society can be any better than the least of it's members. History shows this is formula for collapse.
Ralph Cox 0Reply
Dec 4 2011: Stacey

Given the recent Japanese scandals on longevity and murder rate data i'm not sure this is a fair comparison.
gavin heathcote 0Reply
Dec 4 2011: I'm probably not as clever as many people on here but it seems very easy to over complicate the issue, to me id like to see whether a statistical argument such as Richard Wilkinson's could be created in favor of more inequality and if not why not.

Logan Powell +2Reply
Nov 2 2011: I really liked the data analysis and followed up by going to the speakers website to download the data, which anyone can. I really appreciate the fact that nothing that was available was left out and that these patterns emerged across so many, vastly different, cultures. There is definitely a significant level of correlation.

So, now what?

Joanne Donovan 30+ 0Reply
Nov 2 2011: vote left Logan, advocate left policies. Lobby politicians to work collaboratively to hamper and moderate the greed machine. Become less addicted to concepts of wealth and trying to have more and more. Be content with what we have and not what we want.
Thomas Schmall 20+ +1Reply
Nov 2 2011: Oh my... the US is at the very bad end of every statistic there. How long will that go well? With all the guns and nukes stored in the US, a collapse would spell disaster for the whole world.
Emily Grodinsky 0Reply
Nov 1 2011: I enjoyed the talk, but was a little curious as to how the data on mental health prevalence in the different societies was collected. In Japan, for instance, mental health is not often talked about let alone recorded. In the USA, however, I feel that mental illness is much more talked about and thus the recorded prevalence of mental illness is bound to be higher. Was this controlled for in the study?
Peter Dixon +2Reply
Oct 31 2011: Pat you have argued pretty consistently over this forum. Flooding the comments board doesnt mean you have a stronger argument. What is actually extremely nauseating is your unwillingness to actually state what your political philosophy is ? As I suggested before your emphasis on stats and in the inability to compare etc is irrelevant becasue you have failed to make clear that you are actually saying is that you dont give a toss about poor people. Instead some kind of perverse Individual rights ... freedom mixture which fails to acknowledge reality . Well I am not one to give you ethical or even ethical arguments because I would doubt you would understand them let along attempt to do so . Instead i thought i would put it in terms you can understand. You may have heard of a gentleman called Karl Marx. Karl Marx suggesed that when the gap between the wealthiest and the poorest got wide enough you would have social revolution. It honestly doesnt matter what you think because if this occurs , it wont be calm and convincing argument that you will be dealing with but rampant , unrivalled violence. Your arguments have nothing to do with fairness or justice or democracy but "facts" and fiscal efficiency . Well now even the facts will be against you and it wont matter how many times you post the beer analogy.

pat gilbert 50+ +1Reply
Nov 1 2011: It is a hard to listen to the perfunctory trite comments. I'm so conservative that you cannot hear me. I do understand what you are saying and have read most of the progressive links posted, maybe that says something?

The United States and the PIGS (acronym) are on a precipice, if the spending does not come to an end they will implode. At which point all of the finer points you people want to regurgitate endlessly will be moot. If you don't get this by now there is no explanation possible.

Joanne Donovan 30+ 0Reply
Nov 2 2011: Well I have engaged with Pat quite a bit, as has pretty much everyone. I think it is interesting how someone who confesses himself to know very little of the world outside the U.S, and who holds to his conservative values with a kind or religious fervour, has held so much attention. In this discussion he has singlehandedly polarised an extreme in the debate.

This is not unusual though. We see the same thing in islam and christianity. Although there are many moderates with a myriad of views who subscribe to both religions, it is too often the intolerant extremists who gets to set the bar for the liberal majority. It is precisely this phenomenom that has led the U.S to fall into the hands of a conservative minority steadily and irrevocably ever since the 1970's. Once, the U.S.A was a fairly liberal, fairly egalitarian, secular country. Now look at it! Every second sentence has god in it, even expressing the idea of a more equal society is tantamount to treason for many people. This is what happens if fundamentalist or extreme conservative thought gets a foothold. By its very nature, extremist, exclusive and tacitly violent, the right always becomes polarised within any movement. The same thing is happening in my country. At least the U.S. has a constitution. This has been a difficulty for the right in America. They have been forced to develop an entire judiciary to get around it.
Jean-Baptiste de Montety 0Reply
Oct 31 2011: I'm skeptical about proving something with data only. I believe that nearly everything and its opposite can be proven with data. We say in France: comparison is not reason.

pat gilbert 50+ 0Reply
Oct 31 2011: Ineptocracy


Finally, a way to describe Progressives.

Ineptocracy (in-ep-toc'-ra-cy): A system of government where the

least capable to lead are elected by the least capable of producing,

and where the members of society least likely to sustain themselves

or succeed, are rewarded with goods and services paid for by the

confiscated wealth of a diminishing number of producers.
Scott Sipprelle 0Reply
Oct 31 2011: Mr. Wilkinson's "paradox" reminds me of the Mark Twain saying, "...lies, damn lies, and statistics." Mr. Wilkinson twists and contorts his first graph of life expectancy versus income to claim that there is no correlation, using a 5% life expectancy range on the Y axis and a 100% income range on the X axis. And then he includes only a small subset of the world's countries in the chart, genererally the richest ones. Now, try this adjustment: set an equivalent range of 100% on the Y axis (starting at 40 years and ending at 80 years) and include on the graph the world's poorest countries with the shortest life expectancy (places like Burundi and Haiti for example). These poor countries would be clustered in the lower left quadrant and the rest of the world would progress in a correlated fashion up and to the right. Voila: the chart shows very high correlation between income and life expectancy!
John Cebrowski 0Reply
Oct 31 2011: Mr. Wilkinson; you make no reference to the dramatic difference in the USA's dramatic heterogenous ethnic / racial makeup, and the homogeneous ethnic / racial makeup of the other countries on your charts. A critical point. You also make no reference to the fact that the US has changed dramatically from a "mixing bowl" to a "salad bowl"...and that impact on our culture. You also make no reference to the static or changing values of your selected countries. The values in the US have changed dramatically in the past 30 / 40 years. These are all very important points. In essence, you are mixing an "apple", the US, with the "oranges", all the other countries. Please give this some thought. Thank you!

Joanne Donovan 30+ 0Reply
Oct 31 2011: John, the discussion was not about the U.S but about equality. The world does not revolve around the u.s.a.
Adam Drori 0Reply
Oct 31 2011: One factor they did not control for: ethnic homoegenity.

Mr. Wilkinson compares Sweden and Japan to the UK and the US. He finds no similarities between Sweden and Japan other than income equality. However, they (and the rest of the far Northern European countries) have high ethnic homogeneity.

This distinction also bears contrast against countries with greater income inequality like the UK and the US...
Thandi Farley 0Reply
Oct 31 2011: Yes...you cannot talk about class without race in america....racism is probably one of the main components of economic inequality. That and the ideology of individualism (when rly no man is an island)
BJ Coleman +1Reply
Oct 31 2011: This is exactly the analysis that I am most interested in.

How much do you want to bet that the "best" countries in this analysis have:

-- Low rates of unskilled labor immigration
-- High rates of a national or common language
-- High concentrations of a single ethnicity

I can't imagine (without seeing the data) that Sweden and Japan have a high % of their population that immigrates into the country without labor or language skills. I've got to believe that a vast, vast majority of the population in Japan is Japanese. A smaller subset is East Asian. There will be practically nobody from the underdeveloped countries of the world. The difference between a technology resource immigrating from S Korea to Japan vs an unskilled worker from Guatemala sneaking across the border into the US is dramatic.

The lower class in the United States is largely a product of failed immigration policies that welcomes all (illegal or legal) without much regard for need in the labor force or a desire to assimilate with US customs and traditions. Not speaking English, not able to earn a living beyond minimal wages due to a lack of education, etc all drag down the numbers substantially.

So is the issue really about wealth distribution OR is it about immigration policies? How different would the US look if illegal immigration was stopped, legal immigration was based on education and needs in the workplace, and everyone spoke English as a common language? Rerun those numbers and let's take another look at the graphs.

pat gilbert 50+ 0
Oct 31 2011: EXACTLY!

Joanne Donovan 30+ 0
Oct 31 2011: Ahhh BJ, the dirty foreigner. The handy punching bag for all our social ills. When are you going to give up passing around that old chestnut?
Christoffer Hirsimaa +1
Oct 31 2011: Please stop blaming the immigrants!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Immigration#Sweden

Around 14,3% of the population in sweden today are foreign born!

and then look a bit down at the US.

"The highest percentage of foreign born people in the United States was found in this period, with the peak in 1890 at 14.7%."

Which is the absolute highest and over 100 years ago! If you find me the real number it could barely be higher than sweden

You are focusing on the completely wrong things
BJ Coleman 0Reply
Oct 31 2011: While current immigration is a major issue the other elephant in the room is race/ethnicity.

Just looking at the states that do "best" according to the measurements provided we see states like UT, NH, IA, WI, ND, VT, WY. States that do poorly: MS, AL, LA, NY, TX, FL, CA.

Stats from the Kaiser Foundation on race by state (% is White population):
UT: 84%, NH: 93%, IA: 88%, WI: 84%, ND: 87%, VT: 95%, WY: 88%.

Compare that to the states on the lower end:
MS: 59%, AL: 68%, LA: 62%, NY: 60%, TX: 43%, FL: 61%, CA: 42%.

Now compare the states at the bottom of the list with the % that is black (national average is 12%):

MS: 37%, AL: 26%, LA: 31%, NY: 15%, TX: 11%, FL: 15%, CA: 6%.

What is clear is that the "best" states are predominantly white while the "worst" states are either significantly black and/or have well above norm illegal immigration. The "best" states have far less income disparity because they have fewer people on the bottom of the scale.

Again, this debate isn't about what to do with all those rich people. It's much more important to debate how to reduce the number of people at the bottom. Will those in the bottom experience a change of fortune if they move from New York or New Hampshire or will those individuals struggle regardless of where they reside? My personal opinion is the latter.

I want to be very clear - there is nothing inherently special about being White, Black or Latino. However, there are elements of each culture that specifically help/hinder the respective groups ability to be successful.

Joanne Donovan 30+ 0
Oct 31 2011: The only 'elephant in the room' here as far as I can see is your bigotry. Actually if I can even be bothered.....your stats support the argument for equality more than anything else and you clearly demonstrate the point of the TED talk with your own data. The difference is, you blame the victim instead of the system, how is that clever?
Adam Chrigström 0Reply
Oct 31 2011: Personally I believe the ethnic homoegenity argument is pretty weak. Lots of countries are racially homgenous. To name a few: Haiti, Ukrain, Poland, Ireland, Belarus, Iran, Irak, Colombia etc. Also Finland is very racially homogenous while Sweden and Denmark is really not (Sweden has about 14% foreign born residents, mostly Arab).

The equality argument is the only one I find that really has som explanational value. However, it may well be that equality is harder to achieve in more diverse societies like the US. Real question is, what's the chicken and what's the egg?

Joanne Donovan 30+ 0Reply
Oct 31 2011: ....Australia, Germany, France, New Zealand.......Britain....the list goes on.

Paul Maree 0Reply
Oct 31 2011: Unbelievable. What an indisputable argument, statistics rock.

douglas macrae smith 0Reply
Oct 31 2011: Looks like Singapore was too weird - it could only be used once on the inequality/suffering graphs
Peter Dixon +1Reply
Oct 31 2011: James Davis. The impoverished state of the United States fo America is well documented. You are the wealthiest country in the world with the largest gap between the wealthiest and the poorest. Individual Income is not the only determinant upon national wealth you are right . However you seem to brand any form of government intervention as socialism which to my mind lacks depth of understanding. How can you have a functioning democracy when people dont have the time or the money to spend time on political knowledge or political activity ? Do you think its a coincidence that presidential campaigns raise money from wealthy corporations who are already in a position to give the money that the presidental candidate needs to run their campaign? Money is Power , and in that regard wealth can and has given a disproportionate amount of power to a small sector of society. How do you create wealth without having wealth to start off with ? If the poor dont have money to invest - how exactly do they create wealth ? I think the common argument would be that they attempt to attract investors . But the obvious problem with that is that those who already have wealth to invest determine the creativity of those who lack the "means of production". The wealthy are an intermediary to the success of the poor . If those who already have wealth determine the weatlh of the worst off -How do u not come to the conclusion that some form of redistribution is necessary ? Capitalism has failed again and again to produce the society it said it would create. Similarly , most industries in the US have evolved as a result of some form of state intervention. Capitalism is in fact a social construction. The U.S adopts heavy tarrifs on farming produce. The US car industry has been bailed out on numerous occassions. Nuclear power was a result of state investment. The internet was initially started in the US military.

York Earwaker 0Reply
Oct 31 2011: Very well put. The concentration of wealth and power in the hands of a few eventually leads to corruption both temporal and spiritual.

Lord Acton,in a letter to Mandell Creighton (5 April 1887), published in Historical Essays and Studies (1907)

Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority: still more when you superadd the tendency or the certainty of corruption by authority.

http://ow.ly/7eHW0

James Davis 0Reply
Oct 31 2011: When watching this presentation, I kept thinking that when comparing the United States to other countries by income alone versus countries like Sweden seems wrong and would leave you coming up with the wrong assumptions. The United States is not like most countries, it does not have a large homogenous population. You would not only have to break out the statistics based on race, ethnicity, culture, what part of the country people are from, and how well they are ingrained into the main culture.

People who are minorities who come to America and do not integrate into the United States culture, do poorer on all measurements than those who more ingrain themselves into US society and ideals.

If one comes over to the United States and don't learn the language, don't value hard work, don't value education, don't respect the law and mock those who try to better themselves are doing themselves and their offspring a disservice and will lock themselves into poverty.

We do not need more socialism or income distribution, we need opportunities of self-improvement. We need more entrepreneurship. We need a government who encourages these things. We need a society less concerned with outward flash and banal pursuits, but one interested in growing things, growing businesses, seeing great things develop. When we do these things, income disparity will go away.

Poverty is a symptom we can solve.

pat gilbert 50+ 0Reply
Oct 31 2011: Good comment

The only exception I will take is that income disparity is not a bad thing and will always exist with a free country. As in this video the guest points out that a Steve Jobs or a Bill Gates create opportunities and a raised standard of living to a ratio of 10 or 20 to 1 of their income. Who cares what the relationship of income is as long as the low man gains a better standard of living. The per capita GDP in China has gone from 500 per year to 7,000 per year in the last 10 years.

The U.S. is perhaps the most culturally diverse country in the world with a population that dwarfs all but 2 countries in the world yet people still want to come here. Are the people stupid? Me thinks not.

http://video.pbs.org/video/2160792049
jose ruiz 0Reply
Oct 31 2011: i disagree with the idea exposed in the link . Bill Gates and Steve Jobs are/were succesfull business men not thanks to inequality but mostly despite inequality.
Creation, innovation, honesty, sincerity..etc..all of these values are linked with human nature and had appeared in human history much earlier than money. Anyway, their contribution to society has been very poor compared with the economic contribution..sorry for my english ¡¡

Joanne Donovan 30+ +1Reply
Oct 31 2011: I have missed you guys, especially you Pat. Returning to your comment re dog-eat-dog capitalism is some kind of 'natural law'. Archeologists generally agree that the human chimp came to dominate the planet partly because we learned to cooperate with and care for the other members of our troop, as do most other primates. Yes, a big fatty brain and an opposing thumb helped, but as a singular entity we had no hope amongst the muscle and teeth that evolved alongside us. For us the NATURAL LAW has been cooperation since we before we climbed out of the trees and left Africa. Since we began harvesting the ancient sunlight, also known as OIL, very recently, it has thrown this NATURAL order out of balance to an extreme. The most intrinsically uncooperative forms of civilisation we live in today, aka capitalism, look like they might implode and crumble as a result. To understand this idea more fully and in pursuit of your becoming a more enlightened human being, I would like to add 'The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight' by Dr. Thom Hartmann to your suggested reading. I am certain if you read this and 'The Shock Doctrine by Naomi Kline, (and no skimming Wiki Pat, it wont cut it. You actually need to READ THE BOOK sometimes in order to gain the knowledge) you might actually teeter out of your far-right comfort zone for long enough to join us in the real world.
Byron Gordon +3Reply
Oct 31 2011: I'm sorry, James. I don't agree with you at all. Capitalism, at its best, creates concentrations of wealth. It does not enrich the masses. And the greater challenge U.S. society faces today, is the development of software. It is software that is replacing the professions of long ago and enriching the creator of the software rather than the user of it. The fact is, software is not nearly creating enough employment to bring down by sufficient margins, the high unemployment now experienced in the United States. There are millions of American citizens who speak English, do value hard work, and do value education (if they can afford it) and they are unemployed and under-employed. The fact is, capitalism has in no way made it easier for any citizen or resident to obtain an education that will enable them to find full-time employment. Instead, it has created DEBT and by a large margin, more and more students are taking on too much debt and are dropping out of school or college. We need stronger government regulation, not less.

Yes, we do need more entrepreneurs but we will never have enough to bring down employment to the levels that will get this country out of its economic doldrums. When the free market fails (as it often does) it is up to government to equalize and stimulate both employment and industry. If it weren't for government, the United States would be in the midst of the most severe economic depression since the Great Depression of the 1930's and no amount of entrepreneurs would get us out of it.

Economic inequality harms all societies. Capitalism divides people and we know which class is winning the "war"

James Davis 0Reply
Oct 31 2011: Change happens. Those who don't embrace change will be rolled over by it, that truth was brought to light in Alvin Toffler's Future Shock.

Software and Hardware improvements have greatly improved our productivity. With out those improvements, we would not be able to compete. These improvements need someone to build, package, market, and sell them. These jobs the improvements have made are real, meaningful, and pay well.

In the early part of last century, a computer was a person sitting in a desk doing part of a calculation and handing the piece of paper to the next person. This process was done over and over until the whole sheet is done and is checked for errors. All these jobs went away with improvements with calculators and computers. Change always does away with inefficient. But, I think this process makes things better than trying to maintain the status quo.

The strength of the US economy is the middle class. The middle class life has been under attack by inefficient and unnecessary government regulations, a focus on short-term profits than long term sustainability, environmental groups trying to kill off industries. If you need examples of this talk to anyone who tried to build a simple shed in your back yard or expand their garage in California or an Oil company trying to get an exploratory well built in Alaska. The process is full of unnecessary cost and hoops to jump through prevents jobs to being created and prolongs the bad economy.

So how do we fix this? We need a government who is a partner and not a hindrance, we need to utilize the US's resources and develop them into long term products, and need to improve our educational system and verify the graduates can think, write and have a strong desire for self-sufficiency and sane economic policy based on a government who doesn't spend more than it takes in.
Jonny Axelsson 0Reply
TED TRANSLATOR
Oct 31 2011: Sweden is different from the USA, but as the talk said Sweden is also different from Japan, and the same can be said of many other pairs. All countries are rich and most countries are western though.

Sweden has a high immigration rate, 14.3% of the inhabitants in Sweden were foreign-born, compared with 12.4% in the US. At least by this measure Sweden is not more homogeneous than the US.

It is possible to make statistics on social ills and your parametres as well (size of country, number of foreign born, or similar). That too could be useful, and that too would have to be analysed for correlation and causation.

pat gilbert 50+ 0Reply
Oct 31 2011: Everyone in the U.S. is an immigrant except the American Indians, your stat don't add up?
Francis Buysse 0Reply
Oct 31 2011: James, what drives consumerism and hence our western economies? Exactly the banal pursuits and outward flash you do not seem to be fond of.

Joanne Donovan 30+ +1Reply
Oct 31 2011: James, with this statment; 'we need opportunities of self-improvement. We need more entrepreneurship. We need a government who encourages these things. We need a society less concerned with outward flash and banal pursuits, but one interested in growing things, growing businesses, seeing great things develop. When we do these things, income disparity will go away.

Poverty is a symptom we can solve.'

your comment reflects a basic socialist principle. Socialsim is about generating access to the ways wealth is created, not standing on a corner handing out dollar bills. We do this through education infrastructure and by taxing people equally so we have the funds to do these things. We are talking about levelliing the playing field, nothing more.

Tiffany Naylor 0Reply
Oct 30 2011: Do you think this year's 99percent movements push towards global unity?

http://www.ted.com/conversations/6764/do_you_think_this_year_s_99per.html
jose luis alvarez +1Reply
Oct 30 2011: I don´t disagree with Wilkinson's main points. But I don´t like the way he presents data. Why does he plot the regression line only when he finds a correlation supporting his theory?
Cara Galka +4Reply
Oct 30 2011: He says right in the speech that he's not talking about perfect equality (communism). He's talking about taking countries like the US and reducing the income gap between rich and poor. He also says that in the countries with smaller income gaps the upper incomes are about 3.5 to 4 times larger than the lower incomes where the US the numbers are more than twice that.

So he's not advocating that a doctor or lawyer should make the same as a garbage man. He's saying a doctor or lawyer, or stockbroker or CEO might make $100,000 whereas a garbage man might make $25,000 per year.

York Earwaker +1Reply
Oct 30 2011: Well said. A very good summary of his position in regard to perfect equality which, as you rightly point out, Mr Wilkinson says is not the end game. Nor is it practical, necessary or sufficient to attain perfect equality to reduce the effects of social gradients on social dysfunction. Furthermore it is the psychosocial effects of inequality that are important to address. This is manifest as fear of social evaluative judgements brought about through inequality of status.
Saurabh Rao 0Reply
Oct 30 2011: Capitalism is basic human nature, and without capitalism most of the technology or products we currently have would not have been possible.. however that doesn't mean unbridled capitalism is good. Ofcourse making everyone equal by making everyone poor is a bad idea, but there *are* a few countries that have shown it is possible to incentivise surpluses and innovation with a slightly more balanced approach to capitalism than, say, the US. Sweden and Japan have spawned so many entrepreneurial ventures that I think people who argue for extreme wealth gaps as a necessary factor to incentivise entrepreneurial activity are driven by an agenda rather than logic.

Richard Wilkinson's done a good job of demonstrating the correlation between inequality and unhappiness, but where do we go from here? Could you make the US a better place by wealth redistribution, or by restructuring incomes so that pre-tax inequalities reduce as well? Or is it a cultural thing - Is it that cultures where you are not pressured every single day to outshine everyone around you, result in more equal societies despite having the same capitalist economic order as, say, the US? If so, trying to reduce inequality using a top down approach would end in failure. And this cultural aspect isn't merely be in the economic sphere.

Lastly, can I just point out that while inequality increases unhappiness, if you include all countries in the world, you'll find that on almost all these measures, the richer countries fare better than the poorer countries. If you also add factors like availability of rights as a factor in happiness (which I presume this study ignores because it is focused on the developed world where these rights are taken for granted), the correlation between average welfare and happiness would be very strong indeed. For all those people who want to take us back to the stone age by their knee jerk hatred of big corporations and banks: please bear this in mind.

Chad McClellan +2Reply
Oct 30 2011: Again, another grouping of correlations that would only but subtly different if the contrast was 'cultural diversity'... not necessarily racial, but I doubt those numbers would deviate all that far either.
We continually ignore the concept that diversity, entitlement, and a lack of integration of immigrant populations and less cultural cohesion plays a vastly significant role in creating disparity, violence, and by my estimation, the 'melting pot' is what also aids the rise of mental disabilities.
Norway and Japan... what do they share beyond their strengths according to Mr. Wilkinson? Cultural cohesion and a borderline separatist mentality and HUGE concentrations of single cultures.
The longer we, as a people, refuse to suck it up and realize this reality, the longer we will continue to drag one another down.
Jean-Baptiste de Montety 0Reply
Oct 30 2011: This is so true! You spoke my mind. Immigration is killing the developed world; I saw enough to have no doubt about that. It's about time society realize that about this. And I'm not speaking here about Chinese immigration, I'm speaking about the one every one knows. As the Christ said: They have eyes to see but do not see.
Ignas Eringis 0Reply
Oct 30 2011: I do agree that japan has big concentration of culture with around 99% of population being Japanese. Norway,on the contrary, has a lot of immigrants. I have been there and I have seen a difference in cultures.

Chad McClellan 0Reply
Oct 30 2011: Whilst that is true, look at the religious make up of the country... Less than 5% are anything not Judeo-Christian. The influx has been recent, and as a result the issues are only beginning to arise. There was even a study that ALL reported instances of rape that were solved were committed by immigrants, not to mention the right-wing rampage resulting from this influx.
Watch them slip, and watch the more isolated nordic nations remain in solidarity.

pat gilbert 50+ 0
Oct 31 2011: Good point Chad

I think the key is assimilation. In other words as you stated the culture is the key, if gets inundated with a diverse culture there is no time for assimilation. Yup you have to protect the borders to this end. But at the same time you have to incorporate and introduce the immigrant into the culture. Not in the manner of the Borg :-) rather communication with a 2 way street.

Emil Stolarsky 500+ 0Reply
TEDX ORGANIZER
Oct 30 2011: Makes sense, but if we lower the inequality to zero, wouldn't we have communism which we know doesn't work? Or is it a parabola, where at a certain point, too little inequality becomes bad?

Bill Barbic 0Reply
Oct 30 2011: The big picture is ok, but the little one can be fun....

Nice guy, but he should have ironed the fold lines in that new shirt he just took out of the package before his speech.

Joanne Donovan 30+ 0Reply
Oct 31 2011: oooohhhh yes, I notice that now. Thanks for distracting me from global inequality and environmental armageddon for a nanosecond. Really. I mean it.
Larry Holmgren +1Reply
Oct 30 2011: The speaker's graph is static. It shows aggregated data. Countries are more complex than what can be represented as a point on a two-dimensional graph.

The U.S. Treasury released a report on income mobility in the decade from 1996-2005.

http://www.metafilter.com/66515/Treasury-Income-Mobility-Substantial-Pew-But-Not-Enough
Read the many comments.

And the original report as a 22-page pdf file:
Income Mobility in the U.S. from 1996 to 2005
Report of the DEPARTMENT OF THE TREASURY
November 13, 2007. Typographical revisions - March 2008.

"The key findings of this study include:

There was considerable income mobility of individuals in the U.S. economy during the 1996 through 2005 period as over half of taxpayers moved to a different income quintile over this period.

Roughly half of taxpayers who began in the bottom income quintile in 1996 moved up to a higher income group by 2005.

Among those with the very highest incomes in 1996 – the top 1/100 of 1 percent – only 25 percent remained in this group in 2005. Moreover, the median real income of these taxpayers declined over this period.

The degree of mobility among income groups is unchanged from the prior decade (1987 through 1996)."

"Economic growth resulted in rising incomes for most taxpayers over the period from 1996 to 2005. Median incomes of all taxpayers increased by 24 percent after adjusting for inflation. The real incomes of two-thirds of all taxpayers increased over this period. In addition, the median incomes of those initially in the lower income groups increased more than the median incomes of those initially in the higher income groups."
http://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/tax-policy/Documents/incomemobilitystudy03-08revise.pdf
Athena Melville +1Reply
Oct 29 2011: Thank you for this talk.. I am posting to the Education Now! Facebook page and my own fb wall... Thank you! So relevant with Occupy Movements happening everywhere around the world.

York Earwaker 0Reply
Oct 30 2011: A point well made. The series of financial crises have, and continue to cause, significant misery in the USA, UK and Europe. There is a real risk of not only economic contagion but also political and possibly irrevocable deeper social contagion to the entire world.

We are staring into the abyss at the moment teetering on the edge of catastrophe. If we are unable to sort out the various crises and placate the vested interests anything can happen. Your worst nightmares might be realised.

The Occupy Movements realise we are at the brink while the bankers, economists and politicians continue to play Russian roulette with our collective global futures in their ivory towers.

Alexander Lloyd 100+ 0Reply
TED ATTENDEE
Oct 29 2011: Another interesting video about this. "Does U.S. Economic Inequality Have a Good Side?"
http://video.pbs.org/video/2160792049

pat gilbert 50+ 0Reply
Oct 29 2011: Your aces dude, that is a great video. What say you Yorky?
atalanta starnight 0Reply
Oct 29 2011: Who are these "Elites"? Who?

People with educations?
Scientists?
Who are these people?

To me...Elite means people with more money than I. More money than I can dream of. So who are they Pat? You? You seem to have what you need? You are defending the people who have everything they need. It must be you Pat.
atalanta starnight +3Reply
Oct 29 2011: Pat, so you are saying the standard of living for the "poor" is better so therefore it is OK to use them? You still haven't answered my question... WHY IS IT BAD TO HELP THE PEOPLE WHO ARE LESS ADVANTAGED? WHY IS IT BAD TO HAVE A SMALLER DISPARITY BETWEEN THE INCOME RANGES?

These statistics are SAD! If you knew what it felt like to be on your last dime...you should be crying for these people because they are a moment away from losing the little that they have.

The health care system in this country sucks! When you have to beg your insurance company for an MRI you are already being mistreated, discarded by the "COMMERCE" system you claim is suffering from government regulation. These corporations just want STUFF, just like you.

All those people you show in your statistics are a simple paycheck away from being in the street. The housing costs are so high that many can never dream of owning a home. And by the way if you outright own your home you are one of the lucky ones...the rest have their name on a home that is owned by these rogue banks.

When Thomas Jefferson helped write the Declaration of Independance...he saw an opportunity to create a government that can help the people. That can be run by the people so they can achieve greater things instead of just looking for food everyday. How are you helping make this happen if all you care about is your STUFF?

How are you making this happen if you vote people into office who are pretending to work for the people but really are all about keeping their stuff, acquiring more stuff and conning the "poor" into thinking they have stuff?

Pat, How much $$$ do you need to feel secure? How much money do you need to be able to say "I got what I need and the rest I can give to help the people who don't have what they need."

What is that number Pat? Do you have it?

If you do why do you need more?

Why do you think it's OK to be comforted by the statistics you are trying to make be be comforted with?

pat gilbert 50+ 0Reply
Oct 29 2011: Atatlanta

I have answered your question over and over.

You have to wait months to get an MRI in Canada of course by that time you may be dead but at least it is free. And that is what happens with free healthcare it get rationed. So which is more inhumane?

I strongly support the Constitution and Declaration of Independence. as they do help people, it is the deviation from the Constitution that has caused the problems.

It is bad to have people in a bad condition. In reality they are not in a bad condition as I indicated before.

The rest of it is conjecture that I don't know how I can respond in any rational way.

I recommend you watch this video:

http://video.pbs.org/video/2160792049
Comment deleted

pat gilbert 50+ 0
Oct 30 2011: Ok but you had better hurry up before the government beats you to it. The truth is I struggle just like you I have watched the government chase a lot of my customers out of state, admittedly the market place has changed but another factor is that the government has setup circumstances that discourage investment in start up companies. One of my competitors lost his house last week. So yes I do know what you are talking about.

York Earwaker +1Reply
Oct 29 2011: In response to the opening statement in this thread well said. The materials economy and the creation of ever more stuff is indeed one of the major issues we face as a society and between societies in the globe. The manner in which the current economic systems of the world exploit our environment with the aid of technology is indeed very concerning.

Specifically the introduction of entropy, thermodynamic entropy in the case of climate change and information entropy as for example the unrestricted use of genetic engineering of Frankenstein foods and animals in what passes as agriculture these days.

The stuff we have or don't is one of the major factors in how we measure disparity between each other. The differential in stuff and the conspicuous consumption it engenders is a negative sum game the outcome of which has negative consequences for society as a whole.

It is interesting too that those taking an anti position in regard to this talk are not able to debate the substantive issue, as you rightly point out, namely that of the negative consequences of inequality in society. They seem always intent on shifting the focus to some other topic anything but discuss inequality itself.

pat gilbert 50+ 0Reply
Oct 30 2011: Ok Yorky I have argued your points adnauseum. Argue the point of this video or will you just fade away when real arguments are presented?

http://video.pbs.org/video/2160792049

York Earwaker 0
Oct 30 2011: Interesting that the substantive issue is again not discussed instead another video is proffered. This thread relates to the discussion of Richard Wilkinson's talk not other content.

Richard gave us the following summary message: "We now have a handle on psychosocial wellbeing (of negative the impacts of inequality) on whole societies. Take home message; improve everyone's real quality of life, rich and poor, by reducing the differences of income between us."

As those taking an anti position seem to be struggling to talk to the issue here is a corollary to Richard Wilkinson's take home message: "How is increasing the income differential positive to society if as Richard has so clearly shown there are significant negative outcomes?"
Saurabh Rao 0
Oct 30 2011: I disagree with Epstein (from the PBS video). Firstly, innovation is also driven by factors other than the desire to accumulate wealth. Secondly, the desire to accumulate wealth is strong enough that being 200 times richer than the average man will probably mean just as much as being 2000 times richer.

If however you factor in the role of expectations, Epstein could have a point. If you think you have the right to be 2000 times richer but are limited to being 200 times richer, you will end up being discouraged from wealth creation. I suspect that discouragement will not be enough to result in you not pursuing wealth creating activities, but if one accepts the direction to take (i.e. reducing inequality), surely the speed of achieving the goal can be adjusted such that such expectations are moderated over time. Epstein's arguments thus seem to be geared towards proving an existing position, rather than an explanation of why he believes hsi position is correct.

pat gilbert 50+ 0Reply
Oct 30 2011: York

The video is not proffered it is an argument against the inane, perfunctory, catastrophic, outcome of egalitarian idiocy.

The reality is that egalitarian policies make investment capital go elsewhere. The whole video points out exactly how increasing the income differential is positive. Watch again but this time watch it for comprehension.

The only struggle I have is with your regurgitation of ideologue kool aid.

Once again if these countries fail everyone's standard of living tanks to the most basely level.

York Earwaker 0
Oct 30 2011: The current system is completely broken. Capital is not moving anywhere in the system and has not been since the financial collapse of 2008. This is because all the banks are overleveraged. They do not trust each other enough to lend to each other. That is why notwithstanding the massive amounts of quantitative easing, haircuts to write down debt outstanding from sovereigns, banks and individuals, there is no liquidity in the market.

Every bank knows that every other bank is bust. Capital aint moving anywhere. In fact there is no capital to move there is only debt. This for the most part because of the subprime mortgages sold in the US and other housing asset price bubbles in Europe. The housing backed asset price bubble was caused by loose monetary policy primarily at the Fed but also at the ECB. The low interest rates arising from this policy did not reflect the true underlying fundamentals. On the back of the asset price bloat there was the creation of a financial product Ponzi scheme most famously in credit default swaps.

This was compounded by light touch regulatory policy brought about by a belief in the Kool-Aid prepared by economists the likes of Robert Lucas on rational free markets and the Efficient Market Hypothesis (EMH).

There is no more capital to move. It was passed to home owners who couldn't repay their debt because as the market crashed they moved into negative equity. In some cases there original loan was more than the current market value of their property. Many have lost their jobs and can no longer afford to pay off their debt and file for bankruptcy.

The capital has evaporated along with the system the pushed debt onto Joe Six Pack.

pat gilbert 50+ 0Reply
Oct 30 2011: York

Not true.

Glass Steagall was of no consequence. The derivatives were not regulated by G.S. The consequence of the derivatives was very over blown by the media as the investors cover their bets. When the final accounting was done on Lehman Brothers only about 20 million was involved. In fact quite the opposite if G.S. had not been repealed B of A would not been able to acquire Merrill Lynch or JPMorgan Chase could not have acquired Bear Stearns.

The Kool Aid came in the form of the CRA, Freddy and Fannie, and the Fed. Not Robert Lucas, Friedman, or Laffer. It may have been helped along the way by the likes of Krugman or Reich?

It is true the banks need to write down the value of their real estate assets. They don't want to do this because they may not have the reserves to stay in business if they do this but they are being propped up by Obama so they won't have to do that anyway. The problem is that real estate is not going to sell until it comes down to the price someone is willing to pay.

As stated in the video the overriding problem is that the current socialist policies enacted by Obama and progressive congress have forced investors to say deal me out of this hand and either wait it or go offshore. The bottom line is that ALL jobs are created by start up companies, the life blood of start up companies is money, no money no start up.

York Earwaker 0
Oct 30 2011: The anits seem incapable of sticking to the substantive issue namely social dysfunction correlated to inequity intra societies. Where the inequity referred in Richard Wilkinson's talk is the intra societal income differential gap.

This has been compounded by the liberal market approach of the last thirty years and both the Anglo Saxon model and to some extent also the Continental European model. The cause of the current systemic (economic, political and social) crises are to be found in both models for different reasons. However the credit crunch of 2008, culminated in the collapse of Lehman's, was the tipping point from which all subsequent crises have sprung and was principally caused the Anglo Saxon model.

The Anglo Saxon model of capitalism has led to an overall decline in the moral and ethical wellbeing of all societies globally. This model is founded on the idea of inexorable upward economic growth fuelled by conspicuous consumption without recourse to the finite nature of the resources available to it. This model has led to ever increasing income gaps between rich and poor intra society as well as inter society. The income differential has not been this high since the last depression in the 1930's.

The Anglo Saxon capitalist models, and other capitalist models, now rely heavily on conspicuous consumption. The acquisition of stuff; houses, cars, holidays, white goods, electronic goods, etc. The disparity of the income gap causes individual and collective social stress as those caught up in this hamster wheel of consumption compete against each other for status measures in the amount of, and perceived quality, of stuff. The resulting stress of perceived or real inequality leads to behaviour which results in negative values for social gradients when correlated against income.

An insightful view into the system dynamics of this cycle and of the negative social unintended consequences is shown in Tim Jackson's Economic Reality Check http://ow.ly/7dekD
Saurabh Rao 0
Oct 30 2011: York, income differentials are rising at the same time that rights differentials are falling. Surely capitalism has some good consequences as well? Or do you deny the link between capitalism and human rights? Have you forgotten that every socialist/ communist regime the world has seen has been associated with rights abuses?

Sure, there are plenty of rights abuses in countries like the US, and the rich get away with a lot, but can you imagine a Cuban senior government official having to resign in shame after having been outed for abusing his position to escape a traffic violation? How about people thrown in prison for opposing the state? Could you organise a Occupy protest in Soviet Russia in favour of capitalism?

Just because the Anglo Saxon capitalist model has some flaws doesn't mean all capitalist models are flawed, or that it is totally flawed

York Earwaker 0
Oct 30 2011: Democracy is by far the best political theory we have yet devised to govern ourselves. Capitalism has to date been closely associated with democracy. However they are different things; democracy is a political theory, capitalism an economic theory. They are not inexorably linked. Furthermore there are many different models (flavours) of both democracy and capitalism.

The point is that Anglo Saxon capitalism in its rational market theory form has some very definite anti democratic tendencies. Note for example a rating agency (S&P) recent downgrading of a sovereign nation (the mighty USA) from AAA to AA+ . An unelected organisation with no democratic mandate making interventions in the market at a very sensitive time having unprecedented power to affect civic policy economically, politically and socially. A negative affect too with consequences that could be very destructive.

This is a governance issue of the imbalances in the relationship between the civic (political, economic, legal and social) and the private (businesses, markets, banks, individuals). There is a democratic deficit in the markets undue influence on the civic particularly in times of great stress. A deficit with outcomes that are likely to increase inequality, not reduce it, and promote negative social gradients while consequently increasing social dysfunction.

pat gilbert 50+ 0Reply
Oct 30 2011: York

The reason democracy does not work is to quote Benjamin Franklin:

"Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote."

"When the people find that they can vote themselves money, that will herald the end of the republic."

"They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither safety nor liberty."

York Earwaker 0
Oct 30 2011: The guarantor of liberty is democracy without democracy there is only tyranny. To imagine a world without democracy ruled solely at the whim and by the tyranny of markets is truly a terrifying laze fare dystopia. The markets as psychotic enterprise red in tooth and claw stained with the blood of its children devouring them for the sake of its own survival. Liberty is to found in the social order and rule of law in the bosom of democracy not the social dysfunction and chaos and greed and moral hazard of the markets.
paula moffatt 0
Nov 1 2011: Pat re:"Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote."

"When the people find that they can vote themselves money, that will herald the end of the republic."

isn't that what has happened with corporations in the usa (and to varying degree here up north)ie--they can 'buy' politicians with money (lobbyists) and then get money in the form of policy that suits

Is it the people or the $$$large corporations that currently have 'liberty'?
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York Earwaker 0Reply
Oct 31 2011: Further to the discussion on STUFF.

Paraphrasing Richard Wilkinson. Status insecurity drives conspicuous consumption through fear of socially evaluative judgement. Threats to self esteem or social status where others can negatively judge performance have a significant effect on the raise of cortisol a major maker of stress.

Stress as documented in many studies as a debilitating health issue. Stress affects not only physical health, for example in the cardiovascular system, it also affects mental health. Mental health issues can have knock on effects with substance, drug and alcohol, abuse as a coping mechanism. Where there is great inequality an increasing number individuals are likely to feel stress. Individual stress is then transformed into collective social stress.

Stress causes, not only blood pressure but also, emotional pressure which eventually boils over if the stress is not relieved in other ways. Similarly social stress, when intense enough, also tends to boil over. In both cases, of individual stress and of social stress, the negative emotional pressure is vented often as frustration and anger. It can also manifest as depression and apathy and hopelessness if it seems there is no relief from stress inducer. In psychology this is know as 'learned helplessness' a habituated conditioned response of stress induced mental illness resulting in severe depression. It is not accident that the downturn of the 1930's was called the Great Depression.

The intra societal disparities in income distribution have not been as great as they currently are since the Great Depression. A significant contributing factor to the current systemic political, economic and social crises can be found in the materials economy and it's dysfunctional social effects. The materials economy is driven by conspicuous consumption based on fear of negative social evaluation leading to spiritual collapse.

Annie Leonard on the materials economy 'The Story of Stuff' http://ow.ly/7exid
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Alexander Lloyd 100+ +1Reply
TED ATTENDEE
Oct 29 2011: It's sad when someone is willing to deceive the TED community with false data. Unfortunately, Richard Wilkinson's talk is a clear case of selective use of data and out right data mining.

http://www.bmj.com/content/324/7328/1.full.pdf
http://www.ipa.org.au/library/publication/1282197028_document_novak.pdf

pat gilbert 50+ 0Reply
Oct 29 2011: Thanks Alexander those are a good read. What say you Yorky?
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pat gilbert 50+ 0Reply
Oct 29 2011: Are you saying you have NO greed? Seriously everyone takes care of number one first short of Angels but I doubt you are an Angel. What keeps this greed in check is the free market where the individual has to answer to another individual and they have to come to an agreement in order to have commerce. It just plain works.
atalanta starnight +2Reply
Oct 29 2011: You did not answer any of my questions. Answer the questions. Work the problem. Regardless of your opinions of Richard Wilkenson's incomplete data the data does show the corresponding dysfunctions in the USA just within the 50 states.

Answer the question: Why is it bad to encourage policies that will reduce the horrors of the impoverished? Commerce is failing them and you have not explained to my why it is bad to help them.

You have not explained why you need so much at the expense of the many? WHY?

You have not explained why Mercedes and BMWs come from Germany, wonderful environmental architecture and furniture from Scandinavia and why these countries look at us as if we are crazy letting our poor suffer so much to insure you have your stuff...why?

pat gilbert 50+ 0
Oct 29 2011: Atalanta

Because more often than not the policies have unintended consequences that don't fix the problems they are advertised to fix. They are permanent and expensive. For example the energy department was created to reduce America's dependence on foreign oil today it cost the U.S. 27 billion dollars a year and has not reduced our dependence one iota.

When people talk about the poor they don't realize that they are talking about a category not flesh and blood people. Flesh and blood people move in and out of categories both rich and poor. The genuinely poor are a very small percentage the population. Over half of the poor move out of the lowest quintile a quote from this report by the treasury department "About half (58 percent by one measure and 45 percent by another measure) of those in the bottom income quintile in 1996 moved to a higher income group by 2005."

These quotes are from Thomas Sowell

"Official data cited by Rector show that 80 percent of "poor" households have air-conditioning today, which less than half the population of America had in 1970.

* Nearly three-quarters of households in poverty own a motor vehicle

* Nearly one-third own more than one motor vehicle.

* Virtually everyone living in "poverty," as defined by the government, has color television, and most have cable TV or satellite TV.

* More than three-quarters have either a VCR or a DVD player, and nearly nine-tenths have a microwave oven.

* As for being "ill-housed," the average poor American has more living space than the general population - not just the poor population - of London, Paris and other cities in Europe.

Various attempts have been made over the years to depict Americans in poverty as "ill-fed" but the "hunger in America" campaigns that have enjoyed such political and media popularity have usually used some pretty creative methods and definitions."


Bottom line is we take care of the indigent the politicians have you believe otherwise to gain votes.

York Earwaker +1
Oct 30 2011: The antis don't answer the question they can't. I being to suspect they don't properly understand it.

Richard Wilkinson was clear in his talk that the social problems were intra societal not inter societal. Many of the antis continue to use comparison between societies (inter societal) making comparisons say between USA and Europe. Richard's point was that this was not so important. What was important was the differentials within the society (intra societal).

Comparing inter societal, as many antis do, is therefore a canard. It does not talk to the substantive issues raised by Mr Wilkinson. Namely that social stress is found within societies where there is greater income inequality. Social stress which is the sum of individual stress brought about by the size of the gap in comparative intra social status. This has negative unintended consequences in the social gradients he has correlated against the income differential.
atalanta starnight +1Reply
Oct 29 2011: I want to know! I want Pat Gilbert to explain to me. I want all u people who disagree with this presentation ....EXPLAIN to ME...

WHY is it bad to have a less disparity in income?

Why? If it solves all these social problems that the USA is the leader in...why is it bad?

No one is saying an individual can't make as much money as they want...they just need to pay their fair share...what's wrong with that? Tell me why this is bad?

The housing bubble happened because of the suspension of Glass-Stegal at the request of the "free market" banks...not because of socialism. Look for the root cause...answer the questions.

pat gilbert 50+ 0Reply
Oct 29 2011: One of the 6 killer apps is the ownership of private property. Socialism effectively deletes that killer app. Like it or not capital goes where it is treated best, If you increase taxes the capital goes where it is treated better. Then the country goes into a decline as with the U.S. currently. When the U.S. fails which is entirely likely the rest of the world is going to go down with it to a greater or lesser extent. At that point Al Queda or China is going to do as they wish and the attention will be mostly on survival not on what is "fair".
atalanta starnight +2Reply
Oct 29 2011: So what you are saying this is about STUFF? How much stuff you have? How much stuff you keep?

Are you trying to say that people in Sweden, Norway, Finland, Germany, don't have STUFF? That they don't get to own as much STUFF as they want? That the government takes away their STUFF? Is that what you are trying to say?

That if the USA adopts more policies that allow the impoverished to acquire stuff in the same way as those countries that you'll lose all your STUFF? Is that what you're trying to say?

Are you saying you are just trying to protect your stuff by denying people basic health care, food, shelter? How much stuff do you need to feel secure? How much does your family need to have a nice house? fix your cars? send your kids to college? Eat good food? Go on vacation? Pay your medical bills? $100k, $500k, $1M?
atalanta starnight 0Reply
Oct 29 2011: Oh and the US failing is already happening. The exact same model that toppled the housing market has been applied by the same people in Taiwan, China, and in Europe and those country's peoples are starting to suffer the exact same consequences as we have.

The world is going down because of the continuous fear of not having enough stuff by the people who have stuff.

pat gilbert 50+ +1
Oct 29 2011: It is not about "stuff".

It is about motivation, purpose, work ethic, the consumer, private property, competition, innovation, it is about raising the standard of living in all respects by engendering the individual so that he may do these things that come naturally to him.

This works in many countries even in communist China to the degree they allow the free market, what doesn't work is the elites controlling peoples lives. As someone said it is intuitive.

The failings in the U.S., like the housing bubble have come from socialistic policies not from the free market. If you think otherwise you just haven't done your homework.

Joanne Donovan 30+ 0
Oct 31 2011: Be outraged Alalanta. Be disgusted with the attitude of a morally bankrupt stooge of capitalist imperialism. You are right, it is every bit as disgusting and wrong as you suggest it is, to lay out humanity and the planet on the altar of profit for the few. The fact that some people seemed to have disengaged their moral compass, or the 'moral hazard' as right wing economists describe it, is a shame on them. Fight back, it is all we can do.

York Earwaker 0Reply
Oct 30 2011: You are quite right to point out that those taking an anti position don't discuss the substantive issues presented to us in the talk by Richard Wilkinson. The fact is they have no counter argument which is why the constantly seek to move the discussion off in another direction.

I understand your frustration but they are stuck in a self-reinforcing closed loop philosophy. Forgive them for they do not know what they do. They have drunk the Kool-Aid proffered by the likes of Robert Lucas on rational free markets and the Efficient Market Hypothesis (EMH).

They are stuck in looking glass world which supports a financial system that offers no individual personal responsibility, encourages indiscipline that promotes moral hazard, and policy that denies consequences. A looking glass world that increases social inequity in all sorts of measures of the social gradients to which Richard Wilkinson referred in his talk.

Brennan Schweitzer +2Reply
Oct 29 2011: York Earwanker's comments are prima facie evidence of an overeducated nonproductive segment of society wishing to impose their theoretical (read: fantastic) views on those of us who live in the real world. While there's something to be said for thinking outside the box, it's positive only in specific circumstances and applications. Attempts to think outside the box on grand social scales tend to result in North Korea.

Since York decided to go ad hominem by labeling Tea Party supporters as "hacks," (whatever that means) I feel no compunction against calling his analysis puerile and shallow. He may rail against what he calls the Efficient Market Hypothesis, but he tells a tale full of sound and fury.

Try as new agers will, there is nothing new in this world. Pity those like York who do not understand that rule of law and personal property rights are the foundation of a moral and just society.

pat gilbert 50+ 0Reply
Oct 29 2011: Gees Brennan

Now I'm afraid your going to get Yorky even more upset.

York Earwaker 0Reply
Oct 29 2011: History is liberally littered with the social disharmony which is the unintended consequence of income, or other, inequality.

York Earwaker +2Reply
Oct 29 2011: The selfish meme: incentives of yearly bonus pools drive high risk behaviour to maximise short term individual benefit in financial markets. Short term benefits for the few at the expense of long term benefits for us all.

Rational expectations? Bankers, economists, politicians are still drinking the Robert Lucas Kool-Aid in a financial James Town massacre. The rational mind ceases to be the servant become master and we collectively failed to intuit the emperor has no cloths. Any amount of knowledge fed into Efficient Market Hypothesis (EMH) models can't predict for selfish human behaviour; Nick Leeson, Bernard Madoff, Richard Fuld, etal.

Quant risk models by central banks or markets are an illusion of scientific method and can't predict irrational behaviour. Economic theory is always incomplete behind the curve and can't map systemic complexity and unintended consequences of change. Behavioural economics is the reality not rational market equilibrium, economics is not a natural science but a social science.

Richard Wilkinson intuits, based on a lifetime's research and reasoning, that behaviour which leads to inequality in society is harmful to everyone in society. It may be more harmful for the have not's but it also harmful to the haves. In extreme cases, note the Arab Spring as the most recent example, it can become very painful for those at the top of the social heap. Note also the recent riots in England.

A tipping point is reached and the inequity in a given society spills over into chaos. The social contract disintegrates and morality and ethics collapse. This can happen in small or large social groups. Child hits a parent or sibling. Richard Fuld gets punched in the face at the office gym in the midst of the Lehman's meltdown. Muammar Gaddafi was horribly murdered at the hands of revolutionaries.

These and other countless examples are the end point of inequity in society. Whether that inequity be; economic, political, social, or other.

pat gilbert 50+ 0Reply
Oct 29 2011: York

The protests are against the governments. England is about as socialist as you can get, if what you are saying is so workable why are they protesting?

One of the fundamental lessons of power, which socialism misses, is that you have to give the common folk a game to play if they don't have a game to play then the game will become to get you.

I must say I feel intimidated by you, I was so proud that I had learned to walk on my hind legs and all, and then you come along say this, I'm so confused.

York Earwaker +1Reply
Oct 29 2011: UK has not had a socialist government since the election of Margaret Thatcher in 1979 saw the creation of Thatcherism closely allied with Reganomics. The Labour Party (rebranded New Labour) was elected under Tony Blair in 1997 was not a socialist but was centrist right leaning government, the Third Way policy of Democratic Centrism allied with Bill Clinton. Since then another conservative government led by David Cameron elected in 2010, so no socialism in the UK for over 30 years.

The riots were not against the government they were against an elitist establishment. The markets and the bankers have been the major targets but so also have the media (newspapers and tv), politicians, and the police. They had all been caught in flagrante delicto in various corrupt or ethically unsound practices. The rot truly set in with Tony Blair and the WMD scandal and has continued up to this day with one or other of establishment pillars being found with its proverbial pants around its ankle's.

The riots had been in the making for decades ever since the liberalisation of the markets on both sides of the pond and the abolition of the Glass–Steagall Act during the 80's and 90's. The new zeitgeist was of self-centred materialism and ego centric personal rights at the expense personal responsibility. The rise of the what's in it for me mentality? The race to bottom of self-fulfilment over service to others.

We had the 'I'm alright Jack' mentality of freely educated well housed Baby Boomers saddle Gen Y with education debt and priced out of owning a house. Poor education and lack of opportunity created alienation, loss of hope, and a perception of no entitlement to stakeholder status.

Then the continuing financial collapse since 2008. Fear and greed in the financial markets were eventually matched by fear and greed in the highstreet.

Gross inequality leads to chaos. There is nothing to fear but fear itself but fear those with nothing to lose for they have lost all fear.

pat gilbert 50+ 0
Oct 29 2011: From my perspective England is socialistic.

Riots are always caused by perceived injustice. Mobs are about emotion not logic. My understanding is that the average protester in England is protesting that his dole has been reduced.

Glass Steagall was of no consequence. The derivatives were not regulated by G.S. The consequence of the derivatives was very over blown by the media as the investors cover their bets. When the final accounting was done on Lehman Brothers only about 20 million was involved. In fact quite the opposite if G.S. had not been repealed B of A would not been able to acquire Merrill Lynch or JPMorgan Chase could not have acquired Bear Stearns.

Again a basic law of power is that you have to give the common folk a game to play or the game becomes to get you. Which from what I see is the case in the middle east, U.S., and England unless they are placated with the dole. In these cases it is the government they should be, and are in the case of the middle east, protesting.

As the great philosopher Homer Simpson says government is the cause and solution to all of life's problems. NOT!

Regan and Margaret Thatcher raised the well being of more people than any current form of government has by reducing the influence of government and letting the people do what comes naturally to them.

York Earwaker +2Reply
Oct 29 2011: Bringing the debate back to the substantive issue namely inequality within societies and the negative outcomes in social gradients; trust, mental health, addiction, social mobility, imprisonment, education, etc. (please note précis of talk in other threads)

It is relative purchasing parity within societies and disposable income that is part of the inequity. However inequity is also, as Mr Wilkinson makes clear, to be found in inherited wealth and the benefits of inherited social status. This is of particular importance in societies where there is the largest differential in income between the top twenty percent and the rest. Therefore social mobility is restricted to those who have the historical capital and social networks to further children's futures at the expense of those who are not blessed with wealthy or socially well connected parents.

There have been a number of studies in the US which showed admittance constraints to ivy league colleges; for those who are not wealthy, or where they were not legacy students (the college not an alma mater of their parents). There is also evidence to show that ethnic diversity is biased toward rich foreigners and not second generation (or greater) American people of color already resident in the US.
http://ow.ly/7d2uS
http://ow.ly/7d2Eq

Incarceration, imprisonment, another of the social gradients is greater in more unequal societies.

"On January 1, 2008 more than 1 in 100 adults in the United States was in prison or jail." http://ow.ly/7d2Xp

"The percentage of the population in prison is significantly lower than in most other countries. Out of 100,000 inhabitants, 79 lived in prison facilities in 2001, which is a bit higher than other Scandinavian countries." http://ow.ly/7d3dh

History is liberally littered with the social disharmony which is the unintended consequence of income, or other, inequality.

pat gilbert 50+ 0
Oct 29 2011: York

A very small percentage of the rich inherited their wealth a quote from a WSJ article.

"According to a study of Federal Reserve data conducted by NYU professor Edward Wolff, for the nation's richest 1%, inherited wealth accounted for only 9% of their net worth in 2001, down from 23% in 1989. (The 2001 number was the latest available.)"

http://blogs.wsj.com/wealth/2008/01/14/the-decline-of-inherited-money/

Another mistake regarding the poor is to call a category like the lowest quintile real people it is not real people move in and out of categories and they do in the U.S. "Roughly half of taxpayers who began in the bottom income quintile in 1996 moved up to a higher income group by 2005."

http://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/tax-policy/Documents/incomemobilitystudy03-08revise.pdf

This would cast doubt on the legacy student assertion either way I don't have the time to research that point. I will say that empirically rich kids do poorly as often as not because they have don't have to do much for themselves. One of the reason Warren Buffet did not give his money to his kids.

High incarceration is mostly caused overly punitive laws relating to drugs that no doubt would be much lower if the laws were similar to the Netherlands. Additionally laws pushed by the public employee unions like the 3 strike law keep these overpaid individuals gainfully employed. Point is this has more to do with government policies than equality.

I will agree to disagree on everything you have said. I think you are pushing an academic statist agenda that is patently onerous to the citizens of any country that causes less well being and prosperity.

Can I ask what you do for a living?

York Earwaker 0Reply
Oct 30 2011: Again the substantive issue is ignored. How about direct answer by the antis to the content of Richard Wilkinson's talk.

Why the fear of closing the income differential if there as such clear benefits? There are many ways in which narrowing the gap could be achieved not all have to do with indirect transfer of funds with the government as middle man.

The relevance of the request for the nature of my work in relation to the issue is difficult to see. But it is offered anyway; Enterprise Architect providing Information and Communication Technology (ICT) strategy analysis and development and systems (dynamics) thinking.

York Earwaker 0Reply
Oct 30 2011: There is a paradox in the use of power the more one has to use it the less one has. It is a finite resource used unwisely it evaporates rather quickly. In addition the more one uses power for each successive use of power greater effort must be expended in order to seem effective. This is particularly true of hard power. But it also applies to soft power too.

If one has to use a lot of power to maintain ones position it is likely that the position unsustainable in the long run. The greater the gap in inequality the more need to exert power to maintain the inequality.

Please see the general social dysfunction in Syria and the Leviathans need to exert hard power at the moment as a case in point.
paula moffatt +1Reply
Oct 31 2011: but you have to keep people in the game. health care and education do that.

York Earwaker 0
Oct 31 2011: Well said. Access to health care and education are both very important social gradients. They not only benefit individuals but the societies they live in too.

Education is core to societal well being and in driving the human enterprise forward. It builds the human capital which is so essential for social and economic and scientific and political (and many other indicators of and contributors to) prosperity. It also has the unintended consequence of improving the health, both mental and physical, of those who are privileged enough to benefit from it.

There is a direct correlation between high levels of educational achievement in a society in the development of its human capital and the societies health wealth and overall prosperity.

York Earwaker 0Reply
Oct 31 2011: Bringing the debate back to the substantive issue.

A Fathers income and social mobility are important factors of inequity. The inherited financial capital and social capital built by antecedents disproportionally benefit their decedents, often for many generations, at the expense of those who have not had these advantages.

Probably the most infamous and well known example of the legacy student issue is that of a former president of the USA. The alma mater of George Herbert Walker Bush (GHWB) senior, George Walker Bush (GWB) junior's father, was Yale University; GWB junior was a legacy student at Yale University. Would GWB junior have managed to get to Yale, let alone become US President, had his father not been a Yale graduate and a multimillionaire oilman and a former head of the CIA and a former President of the USA? We can never truly know if GWB junior would have made it without his father's privilege, wealth and connections. But there are many in the US and the wider world who question if GWB junior could have risen to the lofty heights he did unaided by his father's patronage.

Would the children of the superrich who have high media profiles be so famous if their antecedents had not generated enormous wealth and the privilege that wealth buys? Media profiles which allow them to launch careers as reality tv personalities and the like. Probably the most well known example of the legacy entitlement generating unearned fame is Paris Hilton.

Continued below.

York Earwaker 0Reply
Oct 31 2011: Paraphrasing Mr Wilkinson: Social mobility is a measure of mobility based on income. Do rich fathers have rich sons? At the more unequal end of the spectrum a father's income is much more important, at the equal end not so much.

The huge inequity in the privilege brought by inherited wealth and inherited social status is without exception socially corrosive. The inequity of inherited privilege is just as socially corrosive now as it ever was in excluding those not within the protective circles of; the aristocracies of Europe, the dynasties of China, emperors of Rome, the royal families of the Middle East, tars commissars oligarchs in Russia, or tin pot dictators like Saddam Husain and Muammar Gaddafi.

That intra societal inequity, as history continuously and painfully reminds us, inevitably ends in social dysfunction and chaos. As differentials of income and of power increase they produce ever greater negative social consequences resulting from increasing measures of antisocial gradients. The lesson from history is that societies with great inequity invariably end badly.

pat gilbert 50+ 0
Oct 31 2011: 1. According to a study of Federal Reserve data conducted by NYU professor Edward Wolff, for the nation's richest 1%, inherited wealth accounted for only 9% of their net worth in 2001, down from 23% in 1989. (The 2001 number was the latest available.)

2. According to a study by Prince & Associates, less than 10% of today's multi-millionaires cited "inheritance" as their source of wealth.

3. A study by Spectrem Group found that among today's millionaires, inherited wealth accounted for just 2% of their total sources of wealth.

Each of these stats measures slightly different things, yet they all come to the same basic conclusion: Inheritance is not the main driver of today's wealth. The reason we've had a doubling in the number of millionaires and billionaires over the past decade (even adjusted for inflation) is that more of the non-wealthy have become wealthy.

So it's not just that the same old rich folks are getting richer. The more-important shift is that the rich are getting more numerous.

York Earwaker 0Reply
Nov 1 2011: Born on Third Base: The Sources of Wealth of the 1997 Forbes 400
"Half of those on the Forbes 400 list started their economic careers by inheriting businesses or substantial wealth. Of these, most inherited sufficient wealth to put them immediately into Forbes' heaven. Only three out of ten on the Forbes list can be regarded as self-starters whose parents did not have great wealth or own a business with more than a few employees."
http://ow.ly/7eTcL

US wealth distribution: 10% of US citizens own 70.9% of all US assets
http://ow.ly/7eSLA

US Income Gap Is Widening Significantly, Data Shows
http://ow.ly/7eSQ9

The Super Rich Are Out of Sight
"To grasp the true extent of wealth and income inequality in the United States, we should stop treating the "top quintile" — the upper-middle class — as the "richest" cohort in the country. But to do that, we need to look beyond the Census Bureau's cooked statistics. We need to catch sight of that tiny, stratospheric apex that owns most of the world."
http://ow.ly/7eTAr

Social class in the United States
"Life expectancy ranges from 84.9 years for Asian Americans who had an average per capita income of $21,566, to 71.1 years for Urban African Americans with an average per capita income of a $14,800."
http://ow.ly/7eT4U

Too Young, Too Rich? The problem of inherited wealth, seen through the camera of an heir.
http://ow.ly/7eSSU

pat gilbert 50+ 0
Nov 1 2011: Yorky

I don't have time to read through all of you links right now. It looks like most of them are based off of a report by Piketty and Saez.

They reported that the top 1% of taxpayers accounted for 16.1% of REPORTED tax return income in 2004.

This got widely converted by the economically illiterate media to 16% of all PERSONAL income.

Except that the top 1% actually only got 10.6% of all PERSONAL income in '04.

The huge discrepancy is due to the fact that the REPORTED tax return income figures Piketty and Saez include no transfer payments (welfare of all varieties and stripes) and they then went on to exclude Social Security payments.

PERSONAL income is actually about 35% larger than REPORTED tax return income.

16.1% was really 10.6% of PERSONAL INCOME.

The remaining appearance of disparity was caused by tax rate changes.
The top personal rate dropped to 28% in '88 from 50% in '86. Lots of C-corp returns became S-corp returns. People aren't stupid, they take advantage of lower rates and reported more personal income at the new, lower rate. 28% beats the 35% corporate rate. The trend started in '83.
In 1981, only about 8% of the income of the top 1% came from business. By '04, it was over 28%.

Can you say S-corp or LLC or partnership? Can you say flow-though to your personal return?

That's called tax-shifting. 5 hunks of important tax legislation in '86, '90, '93, '96 and '03 were responsible. Flow-through filings rose about 10% per year since '86. Not to mention other tax-motivated compensation structures that resulted in more personal income being reported.
The problem for the "growing income inequality" crowd is that income shifting from C-corp tax returns to individual returns didn't make anyone any richer.
The income was always there, it was just being reported differently.
If you knock the shifted business income out, the top 1%'s share of PERSONAL income is a little over 7%.
SAME AS IT WAS IN THE '80s.

Your being duped by the media

pat gilbert 50+ 0
Nov 1 2011: The problem with the Wikipedia article is that they are looking at statistical categories. This does not reflect real flesh and blood people who move from one category to the next. The household income statistic is a canard in that there has been a large increase of divorces in the past 30yr when ever a house hold goes through a divorce the house hold income gets cut in half, a household is not real flesh and blood people.

York Earwaker 0Reply
Oct 29 2011: Many of the Tea Party hacks and Efficient Market Hypothesis (EMH) apologists commenting on this talk are trapped in a closed loop philosophy. They are to be pitied as they can't think outside of the box of the hall of mirrors of their rational thinking. The 'logic' of closed loop philosophies is impossible to escape from unless one is open to the creativity of intuition.

It is only through the intuition of inspired guess based on a foundation of learning and deep thinking that we are able to move forward the collective enterprise of the naked ape. Otherwise we are doomed to live in paradigms which have ceased to add value and have outlived their usefulness. This is the basis of the scientific method. Richard Wilkinson has done just that.

Iain McGilchrist in his talk 'The Divided Brain' explores the mechanics of the brain in this effort:
http://www.ted.com/talks/iain_mcgilchrist_the_divided_brain.html

It helps explain why individuals get so caught up in preaching to the converted recycling a message familiar to them. Unable seemingly to be prized from the thinking and emotional responses of the well worn ruts of neural paths ways. Tea Party hacks and (EMH) apologists are prone to this closed loop left brain thinking.

As Iain McGilchrist mentions in his talk, Albert Einstein noted 'The intuitive mind (right brain) is a sacred gift. The rational mind (left brain) is a faithful servant.'

When the left brain ceases to be the servant and becomes the master we are unable to see outside of the constraints of our thinking and be relieved of from our prejudices by the intuition of the right brain.

Laurens Rademakers 50+ +2Reply
Oct 29 2011: Just a quick note: let's not forget that the Northern European egalitarian social model is not patented. You can copy it for free. It's open source!

York Earwaker 0Reply
Oct 29 2011: Well said. There are clearly flaws in both economic systems; the Anglo Saxon model and Continental (European) capitalism model. It is my contention though that both are quite unsustainable.

Francis Fukuyama heralded the 'end of history' in his book of the same name in 1992 after the fall of communism in Eastern Europe. This was preceded by the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 which was the tipping point in capitalisms proxy war with the USSR's communist command economy model.

Strangely Francis may have been right this win did indeed herald the 'end of history' but not because capitalism won but because it's defeat of the USSR put paid to any restraints it had been under to prove it was morally and ethically superior to the command economy model. Because there was no longer an 'enemy' that had to be shown to be inferior capitalism was let off the leash with the consequent global financial, political and social Armageddon the US and Europe have lead the world to.

Notwithstanding the precipice we now teeter over as a short term risk to global security and prosperity the failure of capitalism is to be found in the longer term outcomes that will transpire this century. Global resource constraints, destruction of the biosphere, global climate change, acidification of the oceans, etc.

To be fair the blame for this is not capitalism per se but its current incarnation of market driven short termism and the inequity it has brought both within societies and between them. But this short termism is a part of the genetic inheritance of the naked ape. Whatever economic model we choose to follow we must start to vigorously regulate the use of technology. Technologies unrestricted use for short term financial gain fostered in the current capitalist model will likely be our downfall as a species and this experiment on the tree of life.

The untrammelled exploitation of technology may see the obliteration of all inequality as there will no longer be people left feel sidelined.
Milos Djuric 0Reply
Oct 29 2011: Great data. Though I wonder how Hans Rosling would present that ;)

York Earwaker 0Reply
Oct 30 2011: Good point. He takes the data from the UN same as the World Bank has.

Hans Rosling's stats tool may have been helpful. But he had an awful lot of data to get through in his talk not sure the Hans's stats tools would have worked out in the timeframe. But nevertheless I would like to see the data represented in that format. I would be great if this could be made available over the web so that we could spend some time looking at the data in our own time.
Shaun Huang 0Reply
Oct 29 2011: I'm disgusted. I highly question the intention to include Singapore, a country smaller than the state of Rhode Island, when they leave out Korea, Taiwan, or China. All are at least as "developed" as Singapore. Singapore is a fine country but thy represent less than 1% of the entire Asian population, hardly representative of the continent, much less the world.

I can't help but believe that the reason they excluded these other countries in Asia but included little o' Singapore is to manipulate the graphs.
James Junker 0Reply
Oct 29 2011: It must be convenient to disregard a few countries from the first chart at 2:36 on the second chart at 3:07. And I know It's not because the points are off the graph. Ah, can we say missing data points for a self-serving purpose?
Peter Dixon +6Reply
Oct 29 2011: Lets get a few things straight. No one can prove causality , only correlation thats the whole point that he was trying to make. Even the laws of physics cannot prove causality. Causality would proclaim that we have true knowledge of something which is impossible. What also needs to be said in this thread is that it is a fact that nearly all people who study politics and nearly all politics acadmics would not justify the current state of affairs. Not even Robert Nozick would agree with the inequalities which Richard Wilkinson has pointed out here. The ethical preconceptions made by conservatives on this thread suggest to me that your opinions essentially come down to a radical assertion of individualism which would suggest that in a state of nature you would allow someone to starve to death because of the liberties which you have an inalienable right to. Your arguments would also suggest that the exercise of common rights which your democracy guarantees should be subordinated to market competition. These conservative commentators dont seem to understand the political theory they are espousing and seem to willingly hide behind ideas of fiscal efficiency rather than a justifiable debate about the treatment of people.

pat gilbert 50+ +2Reply
Oct 29 2011: Peter

There are many holes in the logic of the talk that it would be generous to call it junk science this has been discussed adnauseum. The U.S. has 300 million people the only country in the talk that is even half as big is Japan which is homogenous so the comparison is apples to oranges. Not to mention that he doesn't mention many countries (no data, understood) that would make the U.S. look like a model society.

A democracy is not a workable form of government as the masses will vote themselves more free stuff. Conservatives by statistic are 30% more charitable than progressives. So your assertion doesn't fly on that subject. The basic idea is that the individual should be free to pursue his purpose, life, liberty, and happiness. The main objection is that this should come from the individual and he should not be told how to live by someone else or enslaved by someone (through taxation or regulation), you might say it was the foundation of U.S..

Anyway it is all a moot point if the country fails which is very likely with Portugal, Italy, Greece, Spain and the United States. I can guarantee you those graphs for these countries will auger into ground if their economies implode.

Imo your assertions are not well grounded.

York Earwaker 0Reply
Oct 30 2011: Well said democracy is very important! Without it we are lost. It is no accident that the more democratic the society the less inequality.

pat gilbert 50+ 0Reply
Oct 30 2011: And the more likely it will fail as with Portugal, Italy, Greece, and Spain.

The U.S. is not a democracy although these days that is arguable.

York Earwaker 0Reply
Oct 28 2011: Important talk. The correlation between inequality and social dysfunction is clearly shown. Reading some of the comments it seemed appropriate to provide précis as contributors seemed to have misunderstood his message. Paraphrasing Professor Wilkinson …

We now have a handle on psychosocial wellbeing, of negative impacts of inequality, on whole societies. Take home message; improve everyone's real quality of life, rich and poor, by reducing the differences of income between us.

Inequality is divisive and socially corrosive. Social status and income differentials have negative unintended consequences on social gradients; trust, mental health, addiction, social mobility, imprisonment, education, etc .

Income means something very important within our societies but not between them. The explanation of the paradox is that within society we are looking at relative income social position social status where we are in relation to each other and the size of the gaps between us. What happens when we alter the difference make the bigger or smaller and what does that do to societies?

The average wellbeing of rich societies is not dependent any longer national income and economic growth this very important in poorer countries but not in rich developed world. The difference between us and where we are in relation to each other matter very much.

The first tests were on rich countries and then same tests again on the 50 states of USA as a control. There was a clear correlation treating USA as sample set as there was using rich countries in the world.

Continued below
Robert Balopole 0Reply
Oct 28 2011: Speaker could only scratch the surface in 15 minutes. A few thoughts: 1. One should not assume that people are happier just because they live longer or have less crime. People may prefer a more dynamic, if unequal, society. 2. I suspect climate and ethnic homogeneity correlate to a healthy society just as closely as does income inequality, so that would put the causality in question. 3. The speaker does not define income. He mentions Sweden has large income inequality before tax, so he is apparently talking about after-tax income, but he never reveals what taxes are included or excluded. For instance in Europe they have a big value added tax. Also, Rich/Poor is a measure of wealth, not income, but the speaker makes no distinction. I would like to see a longer, more rigorous presentation.

York Earwaker 0Reply
Oct 28 2011: Continued above

Important talk. The correlation between inequality and social dysfunction is clearly shown. Reading some of the comments it seemed appropriate to provide précis as contributors seemed to have misunderstood his message. Paraphrasing Professor Wilkinson …

What is the human cost of the negative effects, more common at the bottom end of society, of social gradients subdivided under headings of; health, social relations, human capital? Countries which do worst seem to be the more unequal; UK USA and Singapore. Countries that do well seem to be more equal ones like; Nordic countries and Japan. General social dysfunction is related to inequality not just some things that go wrong but most things. It matters little how the equality is achieved as long as it is achieved somehow.

No man is an island. Rich seem to do better in more equal societies. Inequality has negative psychosocial effects on society at large; status competition, drives of consumerism, status insecurity, fear social evaluative judgements. Stress levels increase when social evaluative judgements are made and a significant raise of stress hormone cortisol where people are negatively judged on performance in a social context.

There is a clear link in other studies of chronic stress from social sources affecting immune system and cardiovascular system. Violence becomes more common in more unequal societies as people are more sensitive being looked down on.

He does not pick and choose data. If the data exists from a data source it goes into the analysis. The data source decides whether it is reliable data so as not to introduce bias.
Terry McGuinness 0Reply
Oct 28 2011: Recommended Reading: blog.mises.org/18826/the-obession-with-equality/

pat gilbert 50+ 0Reply
Oct 28 2011: Exactly
atalanta starnight +1Reply
Oct 29 2011: Wait! I want Pat to explain to me...why it is bad to have a less disparity in income? Why? If it solves all these social problems that the USA is the leader in...why is it bad? No one is saying an individual can't make as much money as they want...they just need to pay their fair share...what's wrong with that? Tell me why this is bad?

pat gilbert 50+ 0
Oct 29 2011: One of the 6 killer apps is the ownership of private property. Socialism effectively deletes that killer app. Like it or not capital goes where it is treated best, If you increase taxes the capital goes where it is treated better. Then the country goes into a decline as with the U.S. currently. When the U.S. fails which is entirely likely the rest of the world is going to go down with it to a greater or lesser extent. At that point Al Queda or China is going to do as they wish and the attention will be mostly on survival not on what is "fair".
Alan Schier 0Reply
Oct 28 2011: How about this hypothesis:
"Racial and ethnic diversity in a region cause *both* disparity in incomes and poor social outcomes." It looks like Wilkinson's data would support this.

If so, then redistributing income would have no effect on social outcomes.
rt broz 30+ 0Reply
Oct 28 2011: What the "rich" had 100 years ago, the middle class has today. What the "rich' had more than 200 years ago is a life the "poor" in the U.S. have today. No, I'm not referring to the destitute and homeless. I'm saying that a poor family (the poverty level for 2011 was set at $22,350) today, with a heated shelter, access to a healthy diet, sanitation, education and basic healthcare is better off than a rich family pre-industrial revolution.

Julian Blanco 30+ 0Reply
Oct 28 2011: Hi rt!

That is a very good comment! Thanks you!

My guess is that there is a psychological factor playing in the comparison and the status perceptions.
I will give this a thought.

Do you agree with the hypothesis of this talk?
Why?

Regards!

JB
M Dee 0Reply
Oct 28 2011: Why stop there? Look at how ungrateful the poor are today when compared to 2,000 years ago! Why, most people back then were much worse off than the poor are today! So screw those whiny people below the poverty line! Who cares that their parents had it better and the current policies and directions of the government are lowering the quality of life for more and more people, at least they have bronze, unlike 50,000 years ago!

Julian Blanco 30+ 0Reply
Oct 28 2011: LOL M Dee...

I understand and share your point, but i believe the analicis of this question is intresting...

Regards!

JB
M Dee 0
Oct 28 2011: Julian:

Perhaps I was too flippant, but my problem with rt broz's point is that it excuses pillaging by making an appeal to the standard of living in a time that is no longer remotely close to the present. I don't get to beat my children just because 200 years ago it was acceptable to whip them. It is definitely true that most people in the US are better off than most people in the US were in 1790, but that doesn't excuse the deprivation of opportunity, the marginalization of classes, or the pillaging of the vulnerable.
John Doe 0Reply
Oct 28 2011: I know this will anger many here, but since we're all pretending to be pseudo intellectuals that can discuss things rationally, one thing Mr. Wilkinson is missing is the fact that the U.S. disparity is directly correlated to the percentage of African Americans living there.

It is not institutional racism that affects this. Europe is relatively homogeneous, but as African numbers increase this same issue will arise there. Some cultures need more work. Asians do not get preferences to U.S colleges because they perform too well and over represent themselves as a percentage of population etc.

Julian Blanco 30+ +1Reply
Oct 28 2011: This discussion feels exactly as annoying as the god related topics, some people "know" they are just right, and some people lose their time trying to get reason into their heads.

It's sad that this discussion ended up being about US domestic problems rather than a broader argument about cultural/economic models.

Regards!

JB

Joanne Donovan 30+ +1Reply
Nov 1 2011: I agree with you again Julian, but I do not think the two ideas, rightest economics and attitudes toward 'god' are unrelated. I feel that the discussion from the right side in this debate has had a fanatical, almost religous fervour at times from some contributors, and I guess one would have to look at studies done on the psychology of facism and right wing thinking to understand that fully. On a simple level, perhaps to believe 'god' is on your side is part and parcel of holding to an idea that deep down, offends everybody's moral compass. Even perhaps those who subscribe to them. I think the reasons people hold to right wing idealogies can usually be traced to deep inner personal fears, personal insecurities. Wilhelm Reich certainly thought we could never achieve a balanced free society until individuals addressed this.

York Earwaker +1Reply
Nov 1 2011: Well said! The hyperbolic rants of the Tea Party activists have been depressing but not unexpected. For now we see through a glass, darkly; the incoherent invective of the right wing zealots confusion which at times has bordered on the paranoid psychotic. They are lost in a hall of mirrors, of a closed loop philosophy, that reflects back on itself an ever increasing muddled and frenzied mosaic of the fractured logic of narcissistic nihilism.

York Earwaker 0Reply
Nov 3 2011: I'm somewhat saddened and dispirited now after a few days of debate.You are right Juian I do feel like I've wasted my time.

I believe you are correct Joanne there appears to be an inability to engage in honest and open debate by some. A fanatical adherence to faith in a philosophy which appears amorphous and ill defined. And the adherents to the polemic seem oblivious to structured argument in attempting to define it. They appear obsessive and blinkered and unreachable. It really does begin to appear like mental illness.

It is such a shame too as an opportunity to move understanding forward has been lost. I for one will not be engaging in further pointless attempts at reaching out to find common ground on which to affect change.

Joanne Donovan 30+ 0Reply
Nov 3 2011: I felt that too at times York, but I feel heartened to have discovered so many well informed left thinkers from around the world. I realise that as the left galvanises through these forums we can effect change after all. I think we are witnessing that world wide at the moment. We are approaching an election here in New Zealand, where I live and this discussion has helped me construct an effective stance amongst my group against capitalist interest groups in this country. I hope some of you take some heart from that. I also think that this discussion has been very informative and I am sure that even people who do not necessarily agree, have learnt a great deal. Over the next decades we will see important changes globally and if we are to survive them, connecting and sharing information will become vital. Thanks to all those who have engaged.

pat gilbert 50+ +3Reply
Oct 28 2011: Suppose that every day, ten men go out for beer and the bill for all ten comes to $100. If they paid their bill the way we pay our taxes, it would go something like this:
The first four men (the poorest) would pay nothing.
The fifth would pay $1.
The sixth would pay $3.
The seventh would pay $7.
The eighth would pay $12.
The ninth would pay $18.
The tenth man (the richest) would pay $59.

So, that's what they decided to do.

The ten men drank in the bar every day and seemed quite happy with the arrangement, until one day, the owner threw them a curve.

'Since you are all such good customers,' he said, 'I'm going to reduce the cost of your daily beer by $20.' Drinks for the ten now cost just $80.

The group still wanted to pay their bi ll the way we pay our taxes so the first four men were unaffected. They would still drink for free. But what about the other six men - the paying customers? How could they divide the $20 windfall so that everyone would get his 'fair share?'

They realized that $20 divided by six is $3.33. But if they subtracted that from everybody's share, then the fifth man and the sixth man would each end up being paid to drink his beer. So, the bar owner suggested that it would be fair to reduce each man's bill by roughly the same amount, and he proceeded to work out the amounts each should pay.

And so:

The fifth man, like the first four, now paid nothing (100% savings).
The sixth now paid $2 instead of $3 (33% savings).
The seventh now pay $5 instead of $7 (28% savings).
The eighth now paid $9 instead of $12 (25% savings).
The ninth now paid $14 instead of $18 (22% savings).
The tenth now paid $49 instead of $59 (16% savings).

Each of the six was better off than before. And the first four
continued to drink for free. But once outside the restaurant, the men began to compare their savings.

'I only got a dollar out of the $20 declared the sixth man. He pointed to the tenth man, 'but he got $10!'

Julian Blanco 30+ +5Reply
Oct 28 2011: Hi Pat!

There is this really cool mathematic tool I found, it's called "percentage", I think you can profit from it a lot.

Your absolute confident that you came out of nowhere and don't owe anything to anybody is almost enviable.

Emo Bear said it better with his post:

•    I'm gonna respond to this talk with a couple of quotes:

"It's called the American Dream, because you have to be asleep to believe it." —George Carlin

"There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own. Nobody. You built a factory out there — good for you. But I want to be clear. You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate. You were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn't have to worry that maurauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory... Now look. You built a factory and it turned into something terrific or a great idea — God Bless! Keep a Big Hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along." — Elizabeth Warren

Thanks Bear!

Regards!

JB

PS maybe you should buy a small island and live there alone, you could even score perfect in your favorite index.
PS2 I'm still trying to figure out if you mean what you say or are just trolling…

pat gilbert 50+ +1Reply
Oct 28 2011: Julian

I'm very conservative and I mean what I say. The problem with most progressive thinking is it is based on erroneous information. The reason for all conflict is that it is created by a 3rd party. Class warfare is such a conflict. The first thing you have to do to is look at who is the 3rd party. In this case it is people who stand to benefit from class warfare these are the politicians and some say people like George Soros, when you look at George's track record it is quite plausible that that is true. Why do people staunchly support Keynesian economics when it clearly does not work? Who stands to profit from government spending? The politicians. What the Wall street occupiers fail to see amongst other things is that the type of capitalism they really object to is crony capitalism which isn't capitalism at all it is just more government welfare for corporations.

Someone like Elizabeth Warren espouses her ideology with the tool of class warfare. She will go on and on the falling income of the middle class based on the household income statistic. This is a erroneous statistic in that house hold income has gone down because of the high incident of divorce in household in which the income is halved when there is a divorce. In the same time frame she is talking about the individual income has gone up by 50%. I will admit that when you look at the income of the average family empirically it appears that income has gone down none the less. To reconcile these two things the best explanation I have read is in this article:
http://civilsocietytrust.org/blog/2010/05/16/the-real-income-inequality-gap/

I think George Carlin's (very funny guy) statement is ironic in that he did live the American dream.

Julian Blanco 30+ +2
Oct 28 2011: Hi Pat:

Sorry for that I really didn't research the history of the quotes I copied, but in any case (without any knowledge about the author) the second quote sounds good to me.

Class war is a concept I don't particularly like, "inequality" it's not being bad to me… but I do believe that we need a base line.
I don't mean redistribution, focus should be on creation of wealth, "classes" should have mobility, and people should have access to health, education, food and housing.
A leading nation should be able to pay for, and many do.
On top of that I believe doing so (providing this baseline) even creates more wealth as you tap into the talent of more people thru education and reduce some of the health costs.

Regards!

JB

PS I don't know nor claim to understand the US situation, but you still have not proven that the hypothesis of this talk is wrong "inequality harms society".

Justin Harrington +1
Oct 29 2011: Pat you sound an awful lot like Fox News.

OK so here's my problem with your argument:
You say Progressive and Conservative. Politics and facts are not always bedfellows.

Second, you use vague terms like socialist, conservative, Nazism, whatever, it attempts to draw away from the actual issue by comparing a very abstract concept with data.

Tell you what, show me cold, hard numbers. Not figures you pull from your behind, like this 50% pull themselves out of the bottom 1% I'm reading below, that's obviously not backed by anything official.

Subjective percents don't count. Real data. If you can show me a chart that refutes his argument, I'll actually listen to what you have to say.
paula moffatt 0
Oct 29 2011: Pat re: "The reason for all conflict is that it is created by a 3rd party."

have you never seen two animals fight over a piece of food?

no third party necessary

Joanne Donovan 30+ +1
Oct 31 2011: Julian, I just love your posts, and you are so kind too.

Julian Blanco 30+ 0
Oct 31 2011: Thank you Joanne :)

I was going to stop commenting on this talk, but you've just given me a reason to keep at it.

Thanks again!

JB

pat gilbert 50+ +1Reply
Oct 28 2011: Julian

You have decided that there is in equality so anything I say is not really going to be heard by you. I can't talk about other countries much as I'm ignorant about them. In the U.S. and the U.K. the poor don't stay that way.50% of people fall out of the top 1% and more climb out of the poor category. Again the people with an agenda talk about the category of the poor as if it is always the same people but it isn't the vast majority climb out and different ones fall into this category. Anyone in their early 20's starts out in this category until they learn some skills and then they climb out.

Another factor that is used to create anger is that the statistics don't show government transfers (welfare) to the poor this is not counted as income. But if you look at the consumption of the poor it is very clear they make more money than the statistics show.

It is quite common for people to come to the U.S. and get healthcare (expensive surgery) and return to their home country. Hospitals cannot legally refuse to help someone without insurance despite the fact that they are not even a citizen.

What I support is the ideology and practical philosophy of helping the individual to help himself. This is much kinder than condemning him to a life time on the dole never having learned to produce and exchange and overcome challenges in other words never having lived a life.
M Dee +1
Oct 28 2011: Hospitals cannot refuse someone lifesaving medical attention, but they can refuse them anything else, and they do. I think that the system has a lot of problems, but I have a big problem, morally, with where your argument is leading on this issue.

As for your assertions that there is a sizable mobility between income levels, this is not substantiated statistically. Even anecdotal evidence for your claims is harder and harder to come by (and weighed against many contrary examples). You might have had enough opportunity to climb a few rungs on the income ladder, but with the compounding failures of social and educational support systems it is hard for most young people in the US to do the same. Furthermore, you claim that welfare should be counted as income: I agree that this is the case, but I don't think you will find that this supports your cause very well. Not only do the welfare programs have limited scope, but many of them discourage things that make social mobility possible. For example, families cannot qualify for food stamps if they have more than a certain level of savings (very low, where I live it would be about 2 months rent for me, no utilities). I understand that this makes sense, taxpayers don't want to pay for food for people who can ostensibly afford it. But what is the effect of this? It discourages savings, so that when the food stamp recipient needs to buy a car they will have to finance it rather than the much more fiscally sound policy of saving up for awhile and then purchasing a used car outright. It means that when a health problem comes up they have no reason to not go to the emergency room instead of a clinic.

All this to say that I agree that the examples you point out are symptoms of a serious problem, but I don't see your proposals for helping individuals help themselves. Welfare is a problem, I say get these corporations off the dole and attack corporate welfare first.

pat gilbert 50+ +2Reply
Oct 28 2011: M Dee

I agree on the corporate welfare, in fact if you cut out most of the subsidies the budget would be balanced, that's right this is a fact.

To the low income problem. The best answer to this is a job. A big part of the reason jobs go to China is that government regulations drive the cost of doing business in the U.S. through the roof. It is not just about cheaper labor. This is a two for one deal in that you no longer have to pay 6 figure incomes and ridiculously generous benefits to these public employees and you don't have more expensive overhead to contend with so the product becomes easier to produce here in the U.S. This is overly simplified but a lot less than you will no doubt think.

The more important factor is engendering a culture that in one focused on producing instead of one of entitlement. It is very expensive to train people if this problem is exacerbated from the get go by the preconceived notion that one is entitled and they should not have to work for a living it is almost impossible.

I know this may sound ideological but not as much as you might first think. I understand the frustration of the protesters. I just think their anger is misplaced, the real problem is government spending and the crony capitalists who eat more from the public trough than the welfare recipients.
M Dee +1
Oct 28 2011: I heartily concur that the answer is a return to a diverse job market (i.e., manufacturing and industrial job growth instead of hypersaturation of service jobs). I disagree that the sole reason for this is the costs of labor on the costs of doing business in the US, that the US worker has priced themselves out of the manufacturing labor market. I think there are a lot of forces at play here, one of which is the decline of quality in products (and therefore production) that has been endemic of a "disposable" culture. I don't know where this originated, but most factors in the market are supporting this (people want cheap consumer goods, corporations want cheap raw materials and labor as well as renewable customers: people who have to buy the product again because it wears out quickly). This is a serious problem, people no longer have much pride in their possessions' longevity or quality, just their novelty. Companies reinforce this with marketing and by continuing to produce garbage with cheap labor and materials.

As far as I'm concerned it is a negative feedback loop that requires multiple angles of attack - an emphasis on quality over quantity on the consumer's behalf, and a willingness on the production side to invest in producing quality products. Personally, I would pay more for something that will work better and last longer, but those products are often difficult to find. I assure you though, when I do have the option of spending less for garbage or shelling out for the good stuff, I dig deep and pay for the good stuff. I also save money and have contributed to my own retirement portfolio since I was 18, making me an outlier in US consumer culture.

pat gilbert 50+ 0Reply
Oct 28 2011: M Dee

I didn't say the only reason for off shoring jobs was the cost of doing business in the U.S.? When you look at unit cost of labor a lot of times it is cheaper to produce on shore with higher cost labor. What a lot people don't know is that the U.S. is largest manufacturing country in the world by far. We are not manufacturing the stuff that lines the shelves at Walmart it is the stuff that you don't see like Boeing aircraft, medical equipment, Caterpillar heavy equipment, even Ikea opened a plant in the U.S..

One of the problems with the unit cost of labor is the minimum wages laws because this causes the jobs to be shipped where there are not minimum wage laws. But this is where people get a start in the work place.

I would hold Toyota up as example of a company that does not produce crap and they produce it for a lower cost. Lexus was produced and sold at about 2/3 the cost of a Mercedes or Bmw. and it outperformed these automobiles in most categories.

I find that people have more pride in their possessions when they have more money. But in reality the new offerings come out so fast that you tend to think in these terms as the latest greatest will come around long before the current one is worn out that is mostly just the current market place but I certainly wouldn't say that about all products modern cars outlast ones of just 15 yr ago 2 or 3 to 1.

pat gilbert 50+ +1Reply
Oct 29 2011: Justin

I quote from the below link from the treasury department:

"Roughly half of taxpayers who began in the bottom income quintile in 1996 moved up to a higher income group by 2005."

"Among those with the very highest incomes in 1996 – the top 1/100 of 1 percent – only 25 percent remained in this group in 2005. Moreover, the median real income of these taxpayers declined over this period."

http://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/tax-policy/Documents/incomemobilitystudy03-08revise.pdf

Are you going to start listening? I really am just trying to learn you folks some stuff. The problem is you first have know that you don't know, is that a possibility?



http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/kathryn_schulz_on_being_wrong.html

pat gilbert 50+ 0Reply
Oct 29 2011: Paula

I should have stated that I was talking about people.
M Dee +2Reply
Oct 28 2011: Your example is a very popular one that I have seen a bunch of times from my conservative friends and family - here's the problem, it's a vast straw man fallacy. What exactly are to equating this analogy to? If it is a wage to tax comparison then you are certainly vastly oversimplifying the process and results in order to forward your point, and ignoring a wealth of contradictory data. Furthermore you predicate your point on certain reactions from the people involved that are not necessarily tied to any sort of realism or reality, they just happen to suit your transparent agenda. This is a complicated issue, and neither side has a silver bullet to address the frictions between liberty and opportunity, but the debate is not furthered by simplistic analogies that try to stereotype and pigeonhole rather than engage the facts.

pat gilbert 50+ 0Reply
Oct 28 2011: M Dee

Interesting that you accuse me of not engaging the facts when that is exactly what I have done. You on the other hand are throwing out nothing but conjecture. Throw out some specifics and as I have demonstrated ad nauseum I will respond with facts.
M Dee +1
Oct 28 2011: Facts are useless when they aren't relevant. You can use a mathematical exercise to demonstrate math, but when you start fictionalizing reactions to the the math you are not dealing in fact, you are pushing conjecture and personality into an example of percentage distribution.

I am throwing out criticism that your facts are not relevant, and thus are straw men, argumentatively. If you cite the law of gravity while talking about welfare, it does not confer the prestige of physics on your conclusion.

As far as your example goes, I remain confused as to what it is actually addressing. Are you arguing that the tax burden on the wealthy is too high? If so then there is the problem of the tax codes numerous loopholes for the wealthy that is nowhere addressed in your example. And the example does not acknowledge that it is the system itself that has enabled the wealthy players to retain and build wealth.

What your example does do is speciously fictionalize the response of the less wealthy into a petulant greediness in the face of their friend's robust generosity. Not factual.
Tim Jackson 0Reply
Oct 28 2011: Most of the people watching this video are looking at the FACTS and seeing that there is a lot of evidence strongly suggesting that income inequality is causing social problems...and now we're interested in discussing what policy decision we might make as a result of understanding these FACTS and how it affects us. Yes, taxation will probably be a part of that discussion.

You, however, seem interested only in presenting an illustration of the US tax burden taken in a void of relevant information (such as what part income levels should play in taxation and how a lack of opportunity might create unfair advantages for earning wealth) in an effort to pre-empt anyone from even suggesting that we might adjust taxes.

FACT - Countries with greater income inequality have higher crime and incarceration rates.
FACT - Countries with greater income inequality have less social mobility among their citizens.
FACT - Countries with greater income inequality have higher rates of physical illness.
FACT - Countries with greater income inequality have higher rates of mental illness.
FACT - Countries with greater income inequality have citizens who are more likely to report unhappiness, mistrust and general malaise.
OPINION - The US tax burden is unfair

Allow me to use an illustration to help you understand how silly you're acting: We're the Jets defense forming a game plan to attack the Patriots on Sunday and all you want to discuss is how unfair roughing the passer penalties are. Sure, that MIGHT be true, but right now we're looking at game film of Brady and quite frankly, your comments aren't adding much insight.

PRO TIP #1: Learn the difference between FACTS and OPINIONS.
PRO TIP #2: Facts don't exist in a void. Learn how to apply relevant context to facts to understand what the facts actually mean. In the talk, Mr. Wilkinson discusses "controlling for variables." Do you know what variables are and how to control for them?
PRO TIP #3: Google "effective tax rate."

pat gilbert 50+ 0Reply
Oct 28 2011: Tim

Thanks for pointing this out to me I don't know what came over acting so silly and all.

Because you say something is a fact is less than cogent for me.

Since you are a "Pro" would you care to be specific?

To quote the linked blog:

"I've never understood the academic obsession with achieving social and economic equality. Isn't society better off when half the population is well off and half is less poor than if absolutely everyone is poor? Isn't all the talk about inequality really just an urge to see the poor increase their living standards? And if that is true, shouldn't the whole idea of equality be thrown out in favor of a hope for everyone in society to benefit on the margin from economic growth?

Well, this video helps flesh out the passion for equality. The speaker goes to great lengths to prove that equality of any sort is better than inequality of any sort. Now, a quick viewing of this sets off a number of alarms. Most of his complaints could in fact be addressed by having the poor grow richer, demonstrating that it is not inequality as such that is the problem but rather the existence of poverty. Another factor that jumps out here to me is that his examples of equality all come from demographically homogeneous nations, so does his data really make a case for that model over a multicultural model?"
Pravin Dahal +1Reply
Oct 29 2011: What happened next? They got married and lived happily ever after?

Seriously, what is is supposed to resemble? What model are we talking about here? What does the $20 reduction represent in real life?

If this is a representation of taxation system, wouldn't $20 reduction be divided in the same way the payment was divided? Or is it the demonstration of what would happen to US economy if Sarah Palin (or any other Republican candidate for that matter) became the new president?
Shaun Huang +1Reply
Oct 29 2011: I think you hit it right on the money in terms of the ILLUSION of unfairness that lower income people perceives.

The truth of American economy is that... the whole world feel that American workers are under par, but the American workers think they're super star. No businessman would want to pay $10/hr wage and get spit on because that's too low when they can go pay someone else $2/hr who will love them for that much money and do the same quality of work. If someone has no competitive skill then... yes of course the only way they'll make it is by being lucky or having connections.

So what about American workers who are up to par in international standards? Let's look at the born-n-raise Americans who work as technologists in top tech companies. They don't need to have connection or a rich dad. They don't need to be a certain race or gender. They don't need to be "lucky." They just need to posses skill that is competitive internationally by staying in school and working hard. Go ask engineers in google or apple how the "bad times" have ht them.
Peter Dixon +1Reply
Oct 31 2011: Pat - what is absolutely retarded with this post is that you are assuming that simply on the basis of taxation you can equalise social outcomes. Do u not think that just because the poorest man gets a tax break that this does not put the poorest man on an equal standing with the wealthiest man ? Dont you think you are ignoring huge problems with social frameworks that might mean that the aforementioned scenario is a perverse misprepresentation of how society currently works? One of the key problems is the idea that each person has equal choices in the initial scenario which is a fundamentally flawed argument if you compare it to real world scenarios. In fact shame on you.

York Earwaker 0Reply
Oct 31 2011: Well said. He's trolling. Best to just ignore him and flag him as spam.

pat gilbert 50+ +2Reply
Oct 28 2011: 'Yeah, that's right,' exclaimed the fifth man. 'I only saved a dollar, too. It's unfair that he got ten times more than I!'

'That's true!!' shouted the seventh man. 'Why should he get $ 10 back when I got only two? The wealthy get all the breaks!'

'Wait a minute,' yelled the first four men in unison. 'We didn't get anything at all. The system exploits the poor!'

The nine men surrounded the tenth and beat him up. The next night the tenth man didn't show up for drinks, so the nine sat down and had beers without him. But when it came time to pay the bill, they discovered something important. They didn't have enough money between all of them for even half of the bill!

And that, ladies and gentlemen, journalists and college professors, is how our tax system works. The people who pay the highest taxes get the most benefit from a tax reduction. Tax them too much, attack them for being wealthy, and they just may not show up anymore. In fact, they might start drinking overseas where the atmosphere is somewhat friendlier.

For those who understand, no explanation is needed.
For those who do not understand, no explanation is possible.
paula moffatt 0Reply
Oct 28 2011: Hello Pat--touche! point for you.

However, there is still that tiny question about HOW THE BEER ITSELF WAS DIVIDED UP.

The 10th person should not drive the car after drinking 9 or so beer.the 1st to 9th person could all safely offer him a ride home, since they shared 1 beer.

(don't know the actual numbers here, so would be happy to be enlightened about this)

Joanne Donovan 30+ 0Reply
Oct 31 2011: "There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own. Nobody. You built a factory out there — good for you. But I want to be clear. You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate. You were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn't have to worry that maurauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory... Now look. You built a factory and it turned into something terrific or a great idea — God Bless! Keep a Big Hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along." — Elizabeth Warren

pat gilbert 50+ 0
Oct 31 2011: But my factory has been robbed, the cost of traveling the roads has doubled in the last couple of years, the police are more interested in harassing people with ridiculous expensive tickets and ridiculously punitive plea bargains in order to finance their overly generous paychecks and to be able to say what a good boy I'am. 80% of the taxes are already paid by the "rich".

I hate to be picky but you/E.W. are not considering the cost of these ridiculously over paid services/public employees. They are not same people you see portrayed on main stream TV, the ones where any businessman is portrayed as a derelict.

Ok I'm bored with your obtuse comments also.
Comment deleted

York Earwaker 0Reply
Oct 30 2011: Hear hear!

pat gilbert 50+ 0Reply
Oct 30 2011: Less facts and more fiction?

Thanks for the reference to Emiliano Salinas wow what a great guy!
Jonny Axelsson 0Reply
TED TRANSLATOR
Oct 31 2011: What about more of all of the above? As long as people have useful things to say, it is worth a listen.
Comment deleted

pat gilbert 50+ 0Reply
Oct 27 2011: It is amazing how hard it is...
Don Gray +1Reply
Oct 27 2011: What happened to singapore in the regression data? It had the highest inequality, but wasn't shown on any of the graphs.

Not suggesting any "cherry picking" just curious if it follows the trends or not and its conspicuous by its absence.

However @ 7:40 Singapore makes it's first appearance and it supports the correlation.
Pedro Machin 0Reply
Oct 27 2011: Very interesting talk. But as the speaker pointed out himself, we are dealing with the psycho-social result of income inequality. This is a relative phenomenon that stems from how we perceive our neighbors, not necessarily the income difference itself (I would imagine as we become more of a world community a similar correlation would be established within contries as well). It's not obvious to me therefore that we can't uncouple income from this perception of inferiority. Why not focus on reevaluating our values, on treating everyone with the same dignity regardless of social class. In short attenuating the social stress the speaker refers to and re-evaluating success in a more "feminine" Erasmian context rather than a more Machiavellian one where the ends, money, justifies any indignity. It does seems easier I admit to equalize income than deal with this root cause. I suspect however, that even putting aside all issues of the justice of redistributing in different extents, the ugly head of contempt will show up in some other unexpected context.

Laurens Rademakers 50+ +2Reply
Oct 27 2011: This talk is important for decision-makers in developing countries. These countries still have to choose a "model" for development (or at least a "direction"). It seems their better choice would be the Northern European social model (which seems to lead to superiority on all social, economic, educational, health... fronts), whereas liberal Anglosaxon capitalism seems to be the choice to avoid.

We should spread Professor Wilkinson's work to leaders in these developing nations. The correlations presented are just too strong and universal to ignore.

York Earwaker 0Reply
Oct 30 2011: A point very well made. The historical lessons of the development of our societies should be used to circumvent some the learning curve. The construction of financial sectors and economic models that don't bankrupt their nations would be a good place to start. There are many ways in which the current financial crises have shown the mistakes in creation of some of the fundamental pillars of our societies.

York Earwaker 0Reply
Oct 27 2011: Insightful talk. But talk lacked a killer punch that had probably more to do with presentation style rather than content. There is also a problem with statistics and correlation. Showing a relationship does not prove causality. But proving causality of unintended consequences of multiple interactions of systemic complexity of socio-political socio-economic politico-economic and other system dynamics will always be near impossible.

It is beyond the naked ape to model such complexity as the current financial crises have shown. Central banks, markets, rating agencies, regulators, economics academicians, all failed to create predictive models of just this sort system dynamics and problems arising from them. Therefore statistical correlation is as good a place as any to start to try and draw out some of the important variants. Statistical correlation isn't proof, it's not a smoking gun, but it does show significant interacting variants. And if the significance is strong enough it may well warrant greater study based on the measure of necessary and sufficient conditions toward a more concrete proof based on mathematical models.

However the scientific method is based on, as Richard Phillips Feynman put it, guess implies computational consequences (mathematical theory) is compared to experiment (implies real world outcome). Therefore the speaker is not attempting to provide incontrovertible proof but provide evidence to explain his gut instinct his best guess. This is the start of the scientific method a guess based on, in Mr Wilkinson's case decades of thinking deeply and academic and practical, experience about these issues. Moving toward computational consequences by starting to find statistically significant variants to include in a mathematical theory to provide a mathematical model he or others might build.

As to the educated guess? Cui bono? Who benefits? Follow the money, or power, that's always a good place to start. And that is exactly what Mr Wilkinson does.

Mathijs Koenraadt 10+ 0Reply
Oct 27 2011: I noticed that the more unequal countries, like Singapore and the USA, are highly multi-ethnic societies. Whereas the most equal countries, like Japan, Scandinavia and the Germanic nations, have highly homogenic populations.

What does that mean? My point being, anyone can use this data to perfectly suit their own beliefs, even those who believe multiculturalism is to blame for everything.
paula moffatt +1Reply
Oct 27 2011: Mathijis--fyi Canada is a very diverse nation.
I do think that climate has an effect tho on how quickly countries evolve to be sharing societies--ie people can easily die in the cold in one night; and we all need to have a plan for the winter. more immediate need for social safety net.
Russell Dawson 0Reply
Oct 27 2011: This talk started with an assumption that we all know intuitively; the bigger the perception of inequality, the bigger the problems.

I believe that the biggest problem that United States and possibly the world is facing is that a large minority of people are taking a step back economically. I'm sure disparity in income is an issue, but as long as everyone feels like they are moving forward or holding on then that issue is largely ignored.

Once people start to lose something, they look to see who is gaining and attack. It is natural and may or may not be a just response depending on circumstances. What seems to be clear is that the relationship between the rich, middle, and poor has shifted in perspective and some balance in terms of what is just or right must be found.

The conservative side wishes to see a re-commitment to the belief that hard work and smarts affords one a life to succeed in, and the progressive side wishes to see a re-valuing of persons over wealth so that people can have "rights" simply because they are already alive.

It is paradoxical because it takes great wealth to provide extra rights to everyone, and it takes a certain sense of achievement to drive the creation of that wealth. It takes great effort to reach your highest potential, but a certain sense of humanity and sharing it with others for it to be meaningful.

Where will we find this new balance? Go left? Go right? Go forward??

We shall live the answer.
Justin Meyer +2Reply
Oct 27 2011: Bruce Barrett, I was about to serve your ass to you on a plate, but now I see that it's already been sliced and distributed six different ways with ice cream and a glass of sherry, so I'll just top it off by saying you should look in the mirror long and deep, and admit to yourself that you are proof of the U.S.'s higher rates of mental illness.
Bruce Barrett 0Reply
Oct 27 2011: Justin, by all means "serve my ass to me on a plate". I am not sure what skill set that entails, but it is nice for you to have something to fall back on when you are unable to conjure up a suitable response.

From your previous post, you are unable to address the issue rationally, with your tripe about "humans". Should I change my post to, the US has a large population of humans, entering the country without proper authorization, and hence they seldom integrate fully into society and therefore lack access to proper healthcare?

I also was not aware that you are a black immigrant lesbian atheist. That would automatically qualify you to be President, hardly a setback for you.

As is demonstrated in many locations in this discussion the TED talk was not science, it was intuition and hypothesis. I incorrectly assumed that the TED discussion boards would be a place where people offer rebutals to errors they find, and then one could have a meaningful conversation on what items can be improved. I for one think that the US government should break up the large banks, regulate CDS's, and try to find solutions to the oversized influence of the banks on our politics. The largest donations from the financial community were to Frank, Dodd and Obama, the three most responsible for the abysmal Dodd Frank legislation that hasn't changed anything.

But you wouldn't know my position on that or income inequality, or healthcare, because you are more interested in serving my ass to me than providing alternative sources that contradict or even provide nuance to my arguments.

When you crawl out of your ideological shell, let me know and I will respond to any of your concerns with my arguments.
Anwar Osborne 0Reply
Oct 27 2011: I wonder how is it that people can support policies that do not support them as indviduals. If you are not a part of a corporation why do you support them as if one day they are going to place you in their privileged circle of wealth and power. silly rabbit tricks are for kids. The right wing corporate controlled media really convince people that this wealth from tax cuts for the rich will somehow make it to their doorstep. What a delusion!

Joanne Donovan 30+ 0Reply
Nov 1 2011: I was wondering when someone would highlight that! Some of these rightests are blue collar. I would be surprised if any contributors to this thread are a member of the holy .1 percent elite. Boy gone are the days when we banded together to fight for our own rights, so it seems. Now the trend is apparently to stick together to support the people are have us bent over the log.
Sheldon Ross +1Reply
Oct 27 2011: Curious, what he charts has no correlation with equitabilty, let alone presumed causation.

Give an example of an equitable society?
Any soceity that strives for equality necessarily gives some power over others to take from some and give to others. That is morally wrong. It is called theft.
How is theft morally correct and just? How is inequitable distribution of power/authority lead to an equitable society?

James Wehrwein 10+ 0Reply
Oct 27 2011: Bruce's post is not without a bit of merit, the statistical accuracies of indexes such as these has long been in question, there are so many social factors and variables that it can barely be considered truthful. Yes there are stark differences between the rich and poor in most countries, and yes USA could very possibly be the worst but to question the data is just inferring that the argument has holes in it that can hurt its case.
Micaela Browning +1Reply
Oct 27 2011: "Yes there are stark differences between the rich and poor in most countries, and yes USA could very possibly be the worst"

That is simply untrue, if you're referring to inequality and poverty, at least. The US is not even close to being "the worst" in terms of income inequality, nor is it the poorest by any measure (poverty gap, headcount ratio, whatever indicator you want to use...)

Joanne Donovan 30+ 0Reply
Nov 1 2011: Hi James, since when was statistics ever about truth? Statitians are generally the first to admit this. The talk highlights issues we all understand very clearly so it seems. Within that context Bruce's comments have no merit at all.
Keith Simons +2Reply
Oct 27 2011: Dear all, I find this talk significant, challenging and thought-provoking. Let's be honest, all statistics have their limitations and it is especially difficult to draw comparisons between different cultures and societies. Taken together though, I think, here there is a rather well-researched and reasonably objective body of evidence that draws into question the way we organise and regulate society today. In fact, throughout, I could not help but think these trends help to explain some of the underlying tension and frustration that resulted in riots in London?

York Earwaker 0Reply
Oct 30 2011: Well said. This talk goes a long way in providing and explanation of the recent riots in England.
Angelo Bertolli 0Reply
Oct 27 2011: Hmmm, I really wanted to believe this, and the first charts were convincing. But chart after chart I started to feel like the correlation wasn't that convincing. For example, after the list of country inequalities chart, Singapore is shown on the very extreme. But then on the rest of the charts Singapore isn't there anymore. Why include it there, but leave it off the other charts?

Then, on the trust chart at about 5:45+ the correlation seems really weak. If you take away the line, I'm not sure I'd think it was much different than the GDP comparison chart.

Julien Couvreur 0Reply
Oct 27 2011: The author's book, The Spirit Level, has been thoroughly analyzed and addressed already. See The Spirit Level Delusion (on Amazon) and also some information online at http://spiritleveldelusion.blogspot.com/

The TED talk didn't seem to present anything new as far as I could tell.

pat gilbert 50+ +1Reply
Oct 27 2011: Perhaps you who regard Sweden as an economic model should update your perception, it turns out that the free market is the reason for its current sucess which rectified problems caused by it's former socialistic model. To the moderator this is a you tube video and not pornographic, it is one of them clever double entendres.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tDAQWJbEl9U
John Walker +2Reply
Oct 27 2011: We are still running on over exploitation of natural resources. This overshoot masks the true position just as increasing exploitation of natural resources has accelerated since the beginning of the industrial revolution. It is not a steady state position.

Unfortunately to maintain where we have come to a further acceleration of resource exploitation is necessary or the whole thing collapses, as it must eventually. Resources no matter how they are viewed are finite.

The Ponzi financial structure underpinning the flimsy infrastructure supporting present world commerce and globalization has a used by date. Many barriers to the continued "development" have been well analyzed but not taken aboard by the school of economics driven by the present banks and their megawealth communities. Basing discussion or argument on such economics is unreal.

There ultimately is no benefit in over exploitation and over shoot no matter how it looks short term.

What we are doing "right" to keep the present shonky growth alive is itself damaging in the longer run and very damaging at present to society by channeling efforts and resources to maintain a path away from sustainable management.

The effect of this is to mortgage everything and include mortgaging the resources intended to pay the interest. No plans for actually paying the mortgage are contemplated nor can be.
Jacob Nielsen +2Reply
Oct 26 2011: People should read the scientific philosophical work called "Critical Realism", before starting to talk about causality. Some superficial statistics only shows empirical regularities, and it dosent show any causal mechanisms which created the empirical regularities which the statistics shows. So just because there is an empirical and statistical regularity which shows a tendency; "societies with economic inequality useally posess social and health problems relatively more than societies with less economic inequality", does not necessarily mean that economical inequality automaticly cause these problems. The next phase in real causal-science is then to get qualitative empirical data which can verify the hypothesis which Wilkonson postulate is a "causal mechanism" to these problems. When you do that you will find that reality is much more complex than superficial statistics.

Mathijs Koenraadt 10+ +2Reply
Oct 26 2011: Richard Wilkinson fails to explain one thing: WHY then, despite all apparent advantages, do unequal societies like the USA flourish, against all proven odds? I don't know why. I ask the question. It seems t here is some kind of extremely valuable "hidden benefit" in having an unequal society. I just can't think of what it is. Maybe other TEDsters can help out and pinpoint it.

pat gilbert 50+ +3Reply
Oct 27 2011: My opinion is that the video on the 6 killer apps covers it very well:

http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/niall_ferguson_the_6_killer_apps_of_prosperity.html
Evan Carroll +7Reply
Oct 27 2011: I'd like to ask you for a definition of your term 'flourish.' As a member of the working class in the United States I don't find my society 'flourishing' at all, quite the opposite. I've watched our standing in the world in everything from education and finance to the health and well being of our people slip downward over the past few decades to that little dot towards the negative end of the graphs there. Individual people and corporations seem to be doing fairly well but (and I do hate to parrot the Wall Street Occupiers) the majority of our people are very much not flourishing. Granted my position within the social structure defines my perspective of the country, but what I've seen and continue to see from that position isn't good.

pat gilbert 50+ +1Reply
Oct 27 2011: Evan

The Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that Real (inflation-adjusted) compensation per hour (including fringe benefits) has risen about 50% in the last 30 years and that consumption has increased about the same.

Which begs the question how can that be when you look at the income disparity that seems obvious? I came across this article that I think explains it very well.

http://civilsocietytrust.org/blog/2010/05/16/the-real-income-inequality-gap/
Evan Carroll +4
Oct 27 2011: I'm not speaking out of a political agenda, Pat. I'm speaking out of a genuine viewpoint I have established by a lifetime of observation and experience. The income disparity is not one I see based on numbers on a chart given by anyone, be they dirty hippie, college student, or distinguished member of the international academic community. It is grounded in the life I have lived and the lives of those I speak to on a daily basis. Why do we have children in lower classes shouldering massive debt just to break even with the amount of schooling that the higher classes take for granted? How can the poor be forced to choose between food or life-preserving medications while others can only complain that the line to get them in the store is too long. I can't look at the generation before me and behind me and see them starving and think that we as a nation are the top. I'm sorry, we're just not flourishing anymore.
Jeff Wilson +3
Oct 27 2011: Pat,
Yes 50% ON AVERAGE. Consumption has increased at the same time, largely fueled by the leveraging of home loans and elimination of household savings. But... if you look at that growth by income groups you'll see that
1) all of it went to the top 20%, the vast majority of that to the top 1% http://motherjones.com/politics/2011/02/income-inequality-in-america-chart-graph
2) the 30 years before that, 1950-1980, where the US had a FAR more progressive tax system the real growth was more than 80%. http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/11/07/reagan-reagan-reagan/
M Dee +1
Oct 28 2011: Conflating income with flourishing is specious. Is Paris Hilton a prime example of flourishing? The growth of income is also misleading, as in the same time period poverty has grown as well, presenting a problem for your assumed premise that the income increases have been moderately well distributed.

pat gilbert 50+ +3Reply
Oct 27 2011: Evan
I have been in business for 35 years in a trade based in Calif that has undergone monumental change, my viewpoint is real my answers are genuine with no agenda; of course they may appear to be otherwise but that would only be the case if you aren't listening. I have studied this subject quite a bit because my very survival depends on understanding this situation that is very much in all of our faces, I'm not speaking with conjecture. Your right we are not flourishing like we once did. The hard facts above all are contained in the video the 6 killer apps, the divergence is over!
That being said the situation is exacerbated by the growth of government that is not accountable to the realities of the market place. Here in Calif the public employees enjoy a 6 figure income with benefits that match their salary and many don't have to contribute to their retirement that is guaranteed for their life and the life of their spouse. The obvious problem is that money is taken directly out of the economy with very little exchange (something that someone would be willing to pay for) this makes it very onerous for a business to operate in Calif and many move taking jobs with them. To compound the problem the public employee unions spend a tremendous amount of money to get politicians and laws to go their way. Calif will go bankrupt not if but when. You might say Calif is the worse than most states and you would be right but the fact is most of the states are close to bankruptcy. I do not say this from a political point of view it is just economic.

Another factor is that capital goes where it is treated best with a global economy capital does not need to be invested in the United States and it is certainly not treated well in the U.S. with the highest corporate taxes in the world. The problem is that ALL new jobs are created by start up companies. This is why unemployment is so high. I challenge you to refute anything I have said with FACTS that say otherwise.
Evan Carroll +1
Oct 27 2011: You've shown with the video that the nation as a whole is being overtaken by our friends in the East. This really serves to prove that we're not only failing to flourish within ourselves but we are also now slipping globally. I'm honestly not sure where your point conflicts with mine.

pat gilbert 50+ 0Reply
Oct 27 2011: Evan we are on the same page. Other than to say the problem is financial and stems from the government spending which is directly extracted from the economy with very little exchange. Basically when your debt service becomes so onerous there is very little money left to flourish with and investment goes to treasury bonds or offshore. On a federal level we have to come up with 15 trillion just to be broke not to mention the 100 trillion of unfunded liabilities.

pat gilbert 50+ +1Reply
Oct 28 2011: Jeff

The household income thing is a canard, what they do is show household income inferring that reflects individual income, in reality what has happened is that households have had a huge increase in divorce, whenever there is a divorce the household income is divided in half. Mean while individual income has gone up about 50% in the same time period.

The graph showing change in share of income change reflect a difference in the tax code that lowered personal income tax rate so the upper 1% switched from paying corporate tax to paying personal tax. That in conjunction with your graphs don't show welfare as income showed a bigger discrepancy than it really was. Point is that the share of income has not changed since the 80's

Since you are not going to hear any of this I will not bother to talk about Krugman who is a shill for the class warfare red herring.
Micaela Browning +1Reply
Oct 27 2011: Comparatively, the US could hardly be considered an unequal society, if you're talking about the Lorenz curve and resultant Gini coefficient. Unequal societies are South Africa, Bolivia, Colombia, etc, and no one could say any of those nations has "flourished."
M Dee 0Reply
Oct 28 2011: Sure, if you expand the basis of comparison to developing and 3rd world countries, the first world countries are going to look better. The point is that among it's peers the US is not doing as well as it should be. If your kid is getting low test scores in High School, applying the same standards of testing to elementary school children will make your kid look better, but still won't change the fact that they aren't doing very well in HS.
paula moffatt 0Reply
Oct 27 2011: Re: "WHY then, despite all apparent advantages, do unequal societies like the USA flourish"?

cuz they take from other countries? eg oil iraq;force the sale of nationalized mines in other lands i am sure you know some of the history.not sure if the US is flourishing now, or just the $$$$elites.

Laurens Rademakers 50+ +2Reply
Oct 27 2011: Matthijs, what a strange question, when the talk offers the answer. Wilkinson shows that the only way in which a country like the US flourishes is in the amount of money an average citizen accumulates.
On *all* other criteria, the US doesn't flourish; on the contrary. If you call having a 10 times bigger crime rate, a 5 times worse health record, a 3 times lower social mobility, a 2 times lower educational level, a 3 times higher level of mental illness... than, say Sweden or Belgium... would you call that "flourishing"? Obviously you wouldn't.
Fredrik Pastuhov +2Reply
Oct 27 2011: I think you're missing the point completely. He's showing us, very clearly, that countries can prosper without being unequal. Why would you not prefer such a model?
Sam Sarma +1Reply
Oct 27 2011: @Mathijs Koenraadt, Amazing! Not to offend you but the kind of argument you made in the comment seems to me one big reason why a society will not get serious about even such obvious problems that can and must be fixed. It is this kind of magic thinking (hardcore ideology of trickle-down economics) and the consequent refusal to think about prosperity along with equality that prevents a vast majority of voters in the US from overcoming ideological positions in spite of clear and loud facts against their position. To say that the US is still the richest country no matter what is not an answer to all the consequences of internal inequality that Wilkinson shows--for one thing, the volume of wealth doesn't matter if all those indexes remain as scary as they are.
ruth stevenson +1Reply
Oct 27 2011: I suppose the answer to your question lies in how you define 'flourishing'. In my mind, the United States is not flourishing. Economically the US is in deep trouble and socially the US does not rank well on any of the social measurements displayed in this presentation. I think the US 'flourished' in innovation and economics for most of the 1900's but I think things have become worse partly because the income gap has increased dramatically in the last twenty or so years.
My particular view is that capitalism has flourished in the past - especially 'free market' economics-in America but taken to its extreme as it has been, it is no longer sustainable and does not benefit the majority of people.
Robert Ezell 0Reply
Oct 27 2011: Yes, there is a hidden benefit to having a society that doesn't value justice and liberty for all, but prefers injustice and greater liberty for a few at the expense of the justice and liberty of others. The disparities skew the averages and give a false sense of flourishing. So from the outside things may look quite pretty, but on the inside things are rotten.
Alex Zelikopvsky 0Reply
Oct 27 2011: The current crisis is not flourishing. The high number of criminals is not flourishing. The inequality brings people to street (OWS) - not flourishing. It was good before - not now. Sorry guys to hurt your patriotism - but more Americans think that the country goes in the wrong direction.
Alan Schier +1Reply
Oct 26 2011: The information certainly appeals to a noble impulse. Our better nature would like to believe he is right.

Suppose, though, that there is an underlying factor that causes both the poor social outcomes *and* the income disparity. You could minimize the income disparity without affecting the social outcome because the underlying factor is still at work.

I suggest some underlying factors:
--Racial and ethnic diversity. It looks like countries with high diversity have poor social outcomes.
--Wider disparity of abilities within a population. Just a guess.
Bryan Bentz 0Reply
Oct 26 2011: An interesting talk - I wonder what the underlying mechanisms are that might explain it. Cultural uniformity might be one - "more equal" countries might be more uniform in race, religion, etc., and that (relative) uniformity might explain both more equal incomes and fewer social stresses - I kept thinking of his frequent mentions of Scandanavian nations. America, as long as it is a country with steadily arriving immigrant communities that gradually assimilate, may always have both a large income disparity between the top and bottom 20%, but also along with that the kinds of stresses that cultural diversity brings. Norway or Denmark, on the other hand, may never face that sort of problem.

In other words, the income disparities and social pathologies may both result from a common cause, not discussed here. The speaker has pointed at the data, then at the end of the talk assumed a cause-and-effect relationship without a shred of evidence. If indeed both are symptoms of a deeper problem, the speaker's conclusions that we must pursue greater income equality are irrelevant. And of course there have been authoritarian societies with much more income equality and many more social pathologies - we're only looking at part of the data here.

It is certainly worth thinking about, but I think a deeper analysis is needed before his conclusions are warranted. That he would jump to them made me wonder if there was some agenda here.

Laurens Rademakers 50+ +17Reply
Oct 26 2011: What I take from this talk is that Anglosaxon capitalism leads to a nightmare of misery, whereas egalitarian Northern European socialism leads to prosperity.

Which causes what - inequality as a cause or an effect - is irrelevant. The correlations presented here are so strong and thematically universal, that we can conclude that certain "models" of organising societies work, and others don't.

York Earwaker +7Reply
Nov 1 2011: Well said. The Anglo Saxon capitalist model has clearly failed and is probably on its way out permanently. However that is not to say that the European Capitalism is working terribly well either. There are enormous structural imbalances in the European Capitalist model.

Both are driven by conspicuous consumption and both do not encourage saving but the accumulation of debt. Growth in both systems is now primarily driven by consumer spending. Housing backed asset price bubbles in both systems, for different reasons, gave the illusion of wealth as rising house prices were leveraged against to buy more stuff. Both systems are under the illusion that growth is the solution. Growth cannot be linear in a world of finite resources.

Both models have failed, for different reasons, we can't buy our way into prosperity. We must build our way into prosperity. The best way to ensure prosperity is to invest in human capital, research and development, and infrastructure. Tailor policy to invest in these three pillars of a prosperous and healthy society to bring the best benefit. Where benefit is a measure of; basic needs being met, happiness and contentment, and service to others. Not the accumulation of stuff and self-centred fulfilment of wants. Both systems are spiritually bankrupt. We need to think outside of the box.

Most spiritual disciplines teach service to others over the pursuit of self-interest for the attainment of happiness.

pat gilbert 50+ +3Reply
Nov 1 2011: What is happiness? I would say that it is overcoming barriers in the pursuit of one's calling his purpose his goals.

A culture that engenders the individual is the one that produces happiness. Isn't a nanny state that dictates how an individual should live his life for the greater good of the collective, at the expense of the individual, the antithesis of this? Yup it sure is. All that is good in the world has come from the individual and his intellect and effort and reason. There never was and never will be a collective intellect,effort, and least of all reason. Ever try to reason with a mob? Yet the collective, who is manipulated by those who have something to gain from the manipulation of the collective, is quick to blame and dictate to the individual from some sort of notion that it is superior.

Fleml Swemson +2
Nov 2 2011: Pat;

Don't give up. You've got it right, and the elite here simply can't see the forest for the trees. Marxism is alive and well here at TED!
Ben Sauer +8
Nov 2 2011: I'm going to guess that neither Pat nor Fleml grew up in particularly equal societies, do correct me if I'm wrong.

If you did, then you would be less likely to have the values that you hold now, i.e that personal freedom is vastly more important than collective good.

I would also point out that in many more equal societies, both positive and negative liberties are granted that are not granted elsewhere. The argument that collectivism is automatically 'less free' is entirely spurious.

York Earwaker +1
Nov 2 2011: With regard to happiness.

Please find elsewhere in this thread some indices and measures of equality, well-being and happiness that the 32nd President of the USA, Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR), considered so important he wanted to enshrine them in the Constitution as rights for all citizens of the USA. He presented these in a speech he made on January 11, 1944 in his State of the Union Address; a message to the Congress of the United States on the State of the Union.

FDR must surely be a contender for one of the positions of the top three most important Presidents of the USA throughout its entire history. FDR was probably the most important political figure of the twentieth century.

Joanne Donovan 30+ +2
Nov 3 2011: Pat, I resolved not to respond to you again, but you make it so difficult. That is surely the saddest definition of happiness I have ever heard and I do not believe for a moment that you mean it. Please though, do not consign the rest of us to a living hell where happiness is 'overcoming barriers in the pursuit of one's calling, his purpose, his goals'. To me it sounds more like a recipe for a triple bypass operation.
Andrew DeFaria 0
Nov 27 2011: @Ben: By definition, under collectivism I am not able to reap the fruits of my own labor because it belongs to the collective. I cannot have property rights, the basis for all real rights, because I cannot have property because it belongs to the collective. You cannot stand out if you are outstanding. IOW you are *not* free to stand out, *not* free to keep the fruits of your labor and *not* free to own things. You are most definitely less free.

@Joanne, perhaps you feel that way because you have not managed to find your calling or purpose (BTW that's a polite way for saying you're a *LOSER*). Indeed once you find your purpose, whatever that may be, one of two things can happen. You can achieve your purpose effortlessly. Whatever you do works, without much effort or thought. Most people would admit that this would be BOOOORRRRINNNG! Unchallenging and thus unsatisfying.

People who are successful (in business and/or pleasure - i.e. people who found their purpose) enjoy the tension and release of overcoming problems to achieve successes. This is much like the tension and release in good music.

pat gilbert 50+ 0Reply
Nov 2 2011: Thanks Fleml

Groucho was great, my favorite line was when a guest on you bet your life said boy that is a big cigar, Groucho responded: that is what I thought when the truck driver threw it out of the truck.

Clearly Yorky is never going to get it but he is a great shill, that hopefully someone who is undecided will listen to the conservatives point of view and the clear cut facts that we use instead of conjecture, the reality, and say hmm that makes sense?

Joanne Donovan 30+ +4Reply
Nov 2 2011: I agree with you York. Evolution is satisfaction in who we are, cooperation with each other and the planet. Our burning desire to have, have, have, is a fairly recent development in the long and fruitful human timeline.

I think we are about to crash, burn and mop up the pieces for all that greed and waste. I am not suggesting returning to chasing down wild beasts on the arctic tundra, only a re-evaluation of what is truly important. When people burn to acquire something they think is important such as a special kind of car, the acquisitive orgasm will always be only too brief, before it is replaced by another impossible desire.

The point is, we are all too addicted to an illusion of 'wealth' when in reality, no creature on the planet has ever had as much wealth, comfort and ease as many of us enjoy today, yet we are not satisfied at all. I think holistic sustainable economies, socialism if you want to use an ugly overused misunderstood term, is about a rebirth of the human community, a kind of rennaissance if you will. I think it is worth striving for and attainable, but the question is, do we have the maturity to achieve it?

Fleml Swemson +1
Nov 2 2011: What Ms Donovan describes:

"Evolution is satisfaction in who we are, cooperation with each other and the planet."

is pure nonsense. It's human nature to want to improve every single aspect of their lives, and that includes what they have. All of the great accomplishments of mankind derive from that desire.

Socialism doesn't create a rebirth of the human community, it makes it stagnate. Socialism, by all of its different names, has only failed every time its been tried. It will never work because it runs counter to human nature. Life isn't "fair", and people aren't equal, and that's the way it is.

Evolution occurs because only the fittest survive.

York Earwaker +3
Nov 3 2011: Joanne is correct. Context is everything.

The evolution of the naked ape must be done within the bounds of the environment with which it was designed to prosper in its widest context namely within the biosphere of spaceship earth. With the naked ape's enormous scientific and technological power and the destructive impact of technology on the biosphere it is questionable if we shall see out the century. The naked ape must collaborate globally this century to ensure its continued survival or risk extinction. Please see here a single comment thread on the four likely scenarios.
http://ow.ly/7hfCG

Fleml uses the term 'survival of the fittest' in a very narrow context of what came to be known as Social Darwinism. A context first developed by Herbert Spencer to describe his economic theory after reading Darwin's On the Origin of Species. Homo Sapien Sapien had evolved in the Holocene epoch the most stable climatic time of geological history. We have this century entered the Anthropocene geological era with an environment that is becoming increasingly unstable given the entropy generated by the naked ape. Should we introduce sufficient entropy, as it looks likely we may, the biosphere will be so compromised it will no longer provide an environment suitable for our survival.

Darwin meant the use of the term as a metaphor for better suited for survival in the immediate local environment. The human enterprise now encompasses the globe; the immediate local environment for that enterprise is the biosphere, if spaceship earth is not fit for purpose we cannot survive.

Please find here a single comment thread on why we must collaborate as Joanne suggests, http://ow.ly/7hgEp

York Earwaker +1
Nov 3 2011: Please find here a general discussion of Natural Selection and disambiguation of the term 'survival of the fittest' which is widely misquoted and misinterpreted.
http://ow.ly/7heQb

Within it you will find a view of the moral and ethical difficulties of the terms misuse.

"It has also been claimed that "the survival of the fittest" theory in biology was interpreted by late 19th century capitalists as "an ethical precept that sanctioned cut-throat economic competition" and led to "social Darwinism" which at times were used to justify laissez-faire economics, war and racism. … The term "social Darwinism" referring to capitalist ideologies was introduced as a term of abuse by Richard Hofstadter's Social Darwinism in American Thought published in 1944.[18][19] "
http://ow.ly/7heGU

pat gilbert 50+ 0
Nov 3 2011: Hitler got his ideas from eugenics to further his insane ideas which were related to Darwinism. Fascism is really another form of Communism. These ideas are misapplied to human beings as human beings have a spiritual element.

That comment about Darwinism and Laissez-Faire economics is purely opinion by the author of that article it is not logical.

Joanne Donovan 30+ +2Reply
Nov 3 2011: Thanks York, and thanks to you too Fleml. I would like to respond Fleml, to your remark 'Evolution occurs because only the fittest survive'.In Darwinian evolution there is no 'will' therefore the outcome is a random event, a result of a highly complex context. (see Dawkins 'The Blind Watchmaker') In contrast, capitalism, due to the human will component, strives toward increasingly monopolistic structures in order to exploit. Natural evolution is an albeit complex, though nevertheless, random set of events. Capitalism, on the other hand, is planned and structured.

Many thinkers, Jared Diamond, Ronald Wright, for example, discuss the idea that extreme monopolistic structures often appear prior to social collapse as has been evidenced by so many cultures which have preceded us across our planet. My point is that unless we wish to share the same fate, we must evolve into a society that is centred on cooperation with each other and the vital natural balances which make organic life here even possible. In order to hope for this, many of us must make a paradigm shift, and give up getting drunk on illusory 'wealth' and materialism. I think many people today are beginning that process and this is perhaps why we are even having this discussion. My only hope is it is not too late.

J. Carlos Aguado +2Reply
Nov 4 2011: Well said except that I suggest you to replace "spiritual" by "psychological", and "materialism" by "conspicuous and possession and consumption".

In fact we all want to be respected and receive a warmer treatment from other people, but this sick society tries to convince us that the way to get it is through impressing them by means of the THINGS we can accumulate.

What are the things that make anyone happy? Family, friends, creative and generous leisure.

What are the things we devote more time to? Working (getting money), shopping and watching TV that brainwashes us to buy more THINGS we do not need

York Earwaker 0
Nov 4 2011: I agree.

The word spiritual is an over loaded term. It has both temporal and metaphysical connotations. The two are not though mutually exclusive. In this context I had meant the use of the term in its temporal sense in relation to psychological well-being. Regarding its metaphysical sense that can only ever be a personal inner journey as it does, by definition, fall outside of the natural laws of the universe and is beyond the capacity of the naked ape to prove one way or another.

Although again I would stress that temporal and metaphysical connotations are not mutually exclusive. There is some evidence to suggest that in its metaphysical sense it allows for positive feedback loop with beneficial psychological outcomes. Please find here a single comment thread within which you should find my input that describes the intent of its use in this instance.
http://ow.ly/7j3Mr

Happiness and well-being as you suggest are to be found in a life well lived and the relationships that carry us through it. We need to feel we a lived a life worthy of living. A life worth living is one where we have done estimable things in which we can find self worth. Helping others has also been shown to have beneficial (psychological) outcomes. So altruism can have positive effects for the party giving assistance as well as the party in receipt of help.

Please find here a single comment thread on a life worth living Jacqueline Novogratz on patient capitalism.
http://ow.ly/7j18T

In her talk Jacqueline makes some important observations form her experience of a life of service to others.

* "Dignity is more important than wealth."

* "Markets alone are not going to solve the problems of poverty."

* How are we going to "create societies in which we want to belong."

pat gilbert 50+ +1
Nov 4 2011: York

The lessons I take from that video are that people want to be responsible for themselves with freedom of choice. This could be thought of as bottom up instead of top down.

Capital investment in whatever flavor is what creates jobs.

Charity alone is not what improves the situation.

What makes these people happier is overcoming obstacles to improve their standard of living. The key is communication of which this laudable lady is a catalyst. The market place by definition is the very essence of communication.

Marty Wondergem 10+ 0Reply
Nov 7 2011: "Where benefit is a measure of; basic needs being met, happiness and contentment, and service to others."

York - I really like this paragraph... but I wonder, how do we legislate these benefits? Isn't happiness defined differently by different people?

Lara Iriarte +1Reply
Nov 25 2011: Our growth is not linear. Our growth is at a % rate, and any growth at a % rate is exponential.

As you state, it is impossible to have perpetual growth within a finite space.

Even a low growth rate of 2% has a doubling time of only 35 years. This means that if the world is only half full today a baby born today would be living in a completely full world when it is 35 years old. We look around us and see plenty of space and think we can continue to grow at a % rate. Our entire economic system requires growth.

Our biggest failure is our failure to understand the exponential equation.

Joanne Donovan 30+ 0
Nov 27 2011: Thank you Lara, and by the time we do get it, what will be left?

York Earwaker +1Reply
Nov 1 2011: In the various threads of this discussion only two economic theories have been discussed capitalism and Socialism. The antis appear to equate not capitalism leaving as the only alternative Socialism. Furthermore Socialism has been poorly defined or been conflated with the political theory of Communism. Two capitalist economic theories have been discussed; the Anglo Saxon model, and the European Capitalist model.

Economic theories other than capitalism or Socialism have not been forthcoming. It may be we need to design a new economic theory to fit a new paradigm. Create a new 'ism' as part the journey of the evolution of economic theory. Using the scientific method to design the new theory building on what we have developed historically.

Working Links is an organisation that helps describe some of the qualities that could be considered worth emulating when thinking of new economic models for our society. Private sector drives, public sector ethos and voluntary sector ethics.
http://ow.ly/7fHKN

Economic theory does not live in isolation to its environment therefore changes in economics will impact social theory and political theory which will have consequences for legal practice. Any new economic theory will be emergent from the stock of current and historical seedbed of economics theories. A top down approach to a new economic theory would not work well. Rather it will emerge from whatever arrises from the current multiple systemic economic, political, social, and environmental crises.

Influencing the emergence of new economic, and other social, theories over the coming century we could do worse than consider implementing change that move us toward some of the positive correlations in Mr Wilkinson's talk. There is only one constant and that is change. It is unlikely that the social theories, in their current form, that have seen in this century will be the dominant ones at the start of the next. Francis Fukuyama was wrong to posit the end of history

pat gilbert 50+ +3Reply
Nov 1 2011: One of the fundamental misconceptions about the U.S. is that it is not a democracy, it is a Republic. A true republic by definition ensures the equal rights of the minority. This is to prevent the 2 wolves and one lamb voting on what to have for lunch scenario. This form of government has produced the most workable method of governing people in that it protects the rights of the individual and at the same time encourages the individual to follow his purpose. This is the natural order that is instinctive to people. In my opinion this is why people want to live here, they have voted with their feet. This does not come out of an ivory tower it comes from what works, it respects and welcomes them into a united culture formed from many different cultural back grounds. In my opinion this creates more equality than most countries while at the same time allowing an individual to strive.

York Earwaker 0
Nov 1 2011: It is true that the USA is not a Direct Democracy. However ...

There is a variety of republics which differ on how the head of state is chosen and how much power they have.

* Parliamentary republic — a republic, like India, Poland, with an elected head of state, but where the head of state and head of government are kept separate with the Head of government retaining most executive powers, or a head of state akin to a head of government, elected by a Parliament.
* Federal republic — a federal union of states or provinces with a republican form of government. Examples include Argentina, Austria, Brazil, Germany, India, Russia, the United States, and Switzerland.
* Islamic Republic — Countries like Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran are republics governed in accordance with Islamic law.
* Socialist republic — Countries like China and Vietnam are meant to be governed for and by the people, but with no direct elections. The term People's Republic is used to differentiate themselves from the earlier republic of their countries before the people's revolution, like Republic of China and Republic of Korea.
http://ow.ly/7fSQU

A distinct set of definitions for the word republic evolved in the United States. In common parlance a republic is a state that does not practice direct democracy but rather has a government indirectly controlled by the people. This is known as representative democracy. This understanding of the term was originally developed by James Madison, and notably employed in Federalist Paper No. 10. This meaning was widely adopted early in the history of the United States, including in Noah Webster's dictionary of 1828. It was a novel meaning to the term; representative democracy was not an idea mentioned by Machiavelli and did not exist in the classical republics.
http://ow.ly/7fTb4

Continued below

York Earwaker 0
Nov 1 2011: Indirect democracy is a broad term describing a means of governance by the people through elected representatives. The most common system found in today's democratic states is the representative democracy. The people elect government officials who then make decisions on their behalf. Essentially, a representative democracy is a form of indirect democracy in which representatives are democratically selected, and usually difficult to recall.
http://ow.ly/7fTqo

Representative democracy involves the selection of government officials by the people being represented. If the head of state is also democratically elected then it is called a democratic republic.[49] The most common mechanisms involve election of the candidate with a majority or a plurality of the votes.
http://ow.ly/7fTAC

York Earwaker 0
Nov 1 2011: Given the definitions (statements) above it follows that the logical deductive argument below is true.

The USA is a Federal Republic
And the USA is a Representative Democracy
And a Representative Democracy is a form of Indirect Democracy
And indirect Democracy is a form of Democracy
Ergo the USA is a Democracy

Furthermore by the addition of the following statements to the original logical deductive argument

And the USA has a Head of State
And the Head of State of the USA is Democratically elected
And a Democratic Republic has a Democratically elected Head of State

It also follows that

The USA is a Democratic Republic

Therefore the USA is both a Republic and a Democracy.

Democracy and Republicanism are not mutually exclusive. The USA is a case in point.

York Earwaker 0
Nov 1 2011: ...

'I know what you're thinking about,' said Tweedledum; 'but it isn't so, nohow.'

'Contrariwise,' continued Tweedledee, 'if it was so, it might be; and if it were so, it would be; but as it isn't, it ain't. That's logic.'

Through the Looking Glass, by Lewis Carroll
Andrew DeFaria 0
Nov 27 2011: @York: AT THE CLOSE OF THE CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION, a woman asked Benjamin Franklin what type of government the Constitution was bringing into existence. Franklin replied, "A republic, if you can keep it."

Note he did not say a Democracy nor a Representative Democracy nor a Democratic Republic - he said simply a "Republic". He was there - you weren't! Further refinements of the term happened later to try to more fully qualify and distinguish our form of government from all the copy cats that later developed. Whoever things the US id a democracy is somebody who does not understand the term or is desperately trying to justify the usage with weak linkages such as you're doing and do not understand history.

Oh, and the head of state in the US is not democratically elected - he's elected by an electoral college.

http://www.fff.org/freedom/1101b.asp

pat gilbert 50+ +2Reply
Nov 1 2011: It looks to me like you skipped over the part about separation of powers and the 3 branches of federal power in the case of the U.S. definition of a Republic. Yes it is a Democracy in the sense that there are elected representatives but more importantly a Republic in that the minority is represented and not harmed by the majority doing what is not right. As with slavery, women's rights, equal education, etc.

York Earwaker 0
Nov 2 2011: Having established that the USA is a Democracy it is now important to disambiguate between 'natural rights' and 'legal rights'. The 'natural rights' referred to are actually 'legal rights' as they have been enshrined in the US Constitution as the first ten amendments in the 'Bill of Rights'. Specifically disambiguate regarding the 'legal rights' of the citizens of the USA and the fact that it also happens to be a Republic.

Furthermore the claims of the protection of minorities by the Federal (Democratic) Republic of the USA by the 'legal rights' enshrined in the constitution are overstated. Minority protection was not a part of the original ten amendments to the constitution in the 'Bill of Rights' as they were not universal rights. Further amendments to the constitution and case law had to be made to extend these 'legal rights' to minorities.

* The abolition of slavery was only included in the 13th amendement adopted in 1865.

* The denial of suffrage based on race was only included in the 15th amendment adopted in 1870.

* Suffrage for women was only included in the 19th amendment adopted in 1920.

The rights of the citizens of the USA, minority or majority, are not conferred on them by dint of it being a Republic but because the rights are enshrined in law within the Constitution and the amendments to it.

Therefore the fact that the USA is a Republic is of no consequence with regard to its citizen's rights, whether that citizen be part of a minority or a majority of the body politic of the USA.

Notwithstanding the form of its government now or in the future; Aristocracy, Matriarchy, Monarchy, Theocracy, Socialist Republic, or Federal Democractic Republic (as it now is). The 'legal rights' of the citizens of the USA are still a work in progress. Rights enshrined in its Constitution not its form of government.

Continued below

York Earwaker 0
Nov 2 2011: Natural and legal rights are two types of rights theoretically distinct according to philosophers and political scientists. Natural rights, also called inalienable rights, are considered to be self-evident and universal. They are not contingent upon the laws, customs, or beliefs of any particular culture or government. Legal rights, such as constitutional rights, common law rights, and statutory rights, are bestowed under a particular political and legal system; they are relative to specific cultures and governments. Legal rights are enumerated in constitutions, in statutes (by a legislative body), in case law (especially in countries with a common law tradition), in treaties, and in administrative regulations.
http://ow.ly/7g4Il

The Bill of Rights is the collective name for the first ten amendments to the United States Constitution, which limit the power of the U.S. federal government. These limitations serve to protect the natural rights of liberty and property including freedoms of religion, speech, a free press, free assembly, and free association, as well as the right to keep and bear arms.
http://ow.ly/7g4w9

Originally, the Bill of Rights included legal protection for land-owning white men only,[3] excluding African Americans[4] and women.[5][6] It took additional Constitutional Amendments and numerous Supreme Court cases to extend the same rights to all U.S. citizens.
http://ow.ly/7g4w9

Free blacks were excluded from The Bill Of Rights because they were not citizens
http://ow.ly/7g5Ub

13th Abolishes slavery and involuntary servitude, except as punishment for a crime January 31, 1865 December 6, 1865
http://ow.ly/7g9dG

15th amendment prohibits the denial of suffrage based on race, color, or previous condition of servitude February 26, 1869 February 3, 1870
http://ow.ly/7g6gs

19th amendment establishes women's suffrage June 4, 1919 August 18, 1920
http://ow.ly/7g6sb

York Earwaker 0
Nov 2 2011: Suffrage is often conceived in terms of elections for representatives; however, suffrage applies equally to initiative and referendum. Suffrage describes not only the legal right to vote, but also the practical question of whether a question will be put to a vote. The utility of suffrage is reduced when important questions are decided unilaterally by elected or unelected representatives.
http://ow.ly/7g6TI

pat gilbert 50+ +2Reply
Nov 1 2011: You are pontificating about theories, but skipped over the main point of the U.S. definition of a Republic and equality. Not in the sense of having a nanny state take care of you but in the importance of allowing freedom for the minorities.

Incidentally where you have people paid to be sick or unemployed they become good at being sick or unemployed. This is the unsustainable model. It may work for a while in a small homogenous country but it sure doesn't work here or any where for the long hall.

As was pointed out in the video of the people who were in bottom quin tile of income only 17% of them were still there 10yr later, 18% were in the top quintile, and the rest were in the middle quintiles. That is equality of opportunity and happier people.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LdTyUvY66Mw

York Earwaker 0
Nov 2 2011: The population of the USA 307,006,550 - Jul 2009 Source: U.S. Census Bureau

10.2 million of the citizens of the USA suffer great inequality in a land of plenty.

10.2 million citizens are a sizable minority.

10.2 million men, women and children trapped in poverty for at minimum a decade.

10.2 million unequal citizens without adequate food, clothing, housing or security.

10.2 million citizens who, in the land of the free, are denied the right of the freedom from want.

Let's round it down the US population to 300 million for simplicity.

The bottom quintile is 60 million. (.20 x 300 = 60)

17% of the 60 million bottom quintile is 10.2 million (.17 x 60 = 10.2)

Therefore 10.2 million US citizens that are classified as poor and cannot escape the poverty trap for at least ten years.

As to the freedoms of that 10.2 million minority for equality and happiness and well-being Franklin D. Roosevelt, proposed an 'Economic Bill of Rights' .

York Earwaker 0
Nov 2 2011: Excerpt from President Roosevelt's January 11, 1944 message to the Congress of the United States on the State of the Union[1]:

"It is our duty now to begin to lay the plans and determine the strategy for the winning of a lasting peace and the establishment of an American standard of living higher than ever before known. We cannot be content, no matter how high that general standard of living may be, if some fraction of our people—whether it be one-third or one-fifth or one-tenth—is ill-fed, ill-clothed, ill-housed, and insecure.

As our nation has grown in size and stature, however—as our industrial economy expanded—these political rights proved inadequate to assure us equality in the pursuit of happiness.

We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. 'Necessitous men are not free men.'[2] People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made.

All of these rights spell security. And after this war is won we must be prepared to move forward, in the implementation of these rights, to new goals of human happiness and well-being.

America's own rightful place in the world depends in large part upon how fully these and similar rights have been carried into practice for all our citizens.

For unless there is security here at home there cannot be lasting peace in the world."
http://ow.ly/7glhD

York Earwaker 0
Nov 2 2011: The Second Bill of Rights was a list of rights proposed by Franklin D. Roosevelt, the then President of the United States, during his State of the Union Address on January 11, 1944. In his address Roosevelt suggested that the nation had come to recognize, and should now implement, a second "bill of rights". Roosevelt's argument was that the "political rights" guaranteed by the constitution and the Bill of Rights had "proved inadequate to assure us equality in the pursuit of happiness." Roosevelt's remedy was to declare an "economic bill of rights" which would guarantee:

•    Employment, with a living wage,
•    Freedom from unfair competition and monopolies,
•    Housing,
•    Medical care,
•    Education, and,
•    Social security

Roosevelt stated that having these rights would guarantee American security, and that America's place in the world depended upon how far these and similar rights had been carried into practice.
http://ow.ly/7gkXu

pat gilbert 50+ +1Reply
Nov 2 2011: Ok Yorky

I'm not big on ideologies so lets look at the results of FDR.

What should have been a short recession was turned into a 10yr depression a lost decade of people living in squalor. The causes were Hoover passing Smoot-Hawley which instantly shot unemployment from 7.8% to 25.1% you can read about it at your favorite cut and paste site.

The Fed shrank the money supply causing massive deflation and bank closures. You can also read about it at your favorite cut and paste site.

FDR continued the depression with one failed government plan after another. He also instituted social security which is a huge part of today's 100 trillion dollars of unfunded liabilities.

All of this was caused by people who "knew best", FDR pursuing equality. But when it comes to reality they are a liability to the people.

What doesn't get mentioned in your math about the poor is that much of their income is not counted because the govt reports don't show things like food stamps, free healthcare, housing vouchers, etc. Many of the poor are illegal immigrants. Not to mention the fact that their standard of living is vastly better than the middle of all of the 3rd world.

In the pursuit of equality the progressive presidents and congresses Wilson, FDR, LBJ, Carter, Obama have caused permanent irreparable damage with their policies and the financial burdens that go with them.

The basic mentality of a politician is to get reelected at all costs. All costs are beyond onerous.

What has consistently been PROVEN to work and to be self correcting is the free market following natural law. When it is blamed for these problems it has been the elite "knowing best" that were cause of the problem they say they are fixing.

I say that the ideologues should shut up get out of the way and have enough respect for people to give them the freedom to live their lives to strive, to fail, and to succeed. Most importantly not take away a real life and trade it for some perceived safety.

York Earwaker 0
Nov 2 2011: The progressive movement toward equality or the reactionary recidivism of inequity, Cui Bono?

Two wolfs one lamb.

The Neo Con Tea Party Minutemen, timber wolf beta pack, would gladly deliver Florence Thompson and her children, as sacrificial lambs, to appease the blood lust of the markets, artic wolf alpha pack. Who having had their fill would leave the corpses of Florence and her babes to the gapping maws of the carrion eaters circling the spectres of Pestilence, War, Famine and Death. Spectres stalking the heartland of a once great nation plunged into chaos and inequity wrought by the moral hazard of markets desirous only to slake their lust for power and sate their greed for wealth.

Florence Thompson and her children
http://ow.ly/7gHv9

York Earwaker 0
Nov 3 2011: Franklin D. Roosevelt's policies saved the nation and helped to dig the world out of economic chaos.

On October 29, 1929, Black Tuesday, the US stock market crashed. FDR was not elected until March 4, 1933. It was a full three and a half years well into the depression before FDR took over from Herbert Hoover and was able to enact his New Deal which saved the nation.

York Earwaker 0
Nov 3 2011: "Deficit spending had been recommended by some economists, most notably by John Maynard Keynes of Britain. The GNP was 34% higher in 1936 than in 1932 and 58% higher in 1940 on the eve of war. That is, the economy grew 58% from 1932 to 1940 in 8 years of peacetime, and then grew 56% from 1940 to 1945 in 5 years of wartime.

Unemployment fell dramatically in Roosevelt's first term, from 25% when he took office to 14.3% in 1937. However, it increased slightly to 19.0% in 1938 ('a depression within a depression') and fell to 17.2% in 1939, and then dropped again to 14.6% in 1940 until it reached 1.9% in 1945 due to World War II when increased manufacturing and conscription decreased the labor supply number.[92][93] Total employment during Roosevelt's term expanded by 18.31 million jobs, with an average annual increase in jobs during his administration of 5.3%.[94] [95]

During the war, the economy operated under such different conditions that comparison with peacetime is impossible. However, Roosevelt saw the New Deal policies as central to his legacy, and in his 1944 State of the Union Address, he advocated that Americans should think of basic economic rights as a Second Bill of Rights."
http://ow.ly/7hk7V
Jim Capatelli +1
Nov 3 2011: TRANSLATION OF PAT'S REMARKS: "BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH...CLICHE CLICHE CLICHE CLICHE CLICHE CLICHE...FOX "NEWS" TAUGHT ME TO SAY THIS...FOX "NEWS" TAUGHT ME TO SAY THIS...FOX "NEWS" TAUGHT ME TO SAY THIS...FOX "NEWS" TAUGHT ME TO SAY THIS...FOX "NEWS" TAUGHT ME TO SAY THIS...FOX "NEWS" TAUGHT ME TO SAY THIS...YADDA YADDA YADDA...I'M LIVING IN THE PAST...I'M LIVING IN THE PAST...I'M LIVING IN THE PAST...IF I SAY THIS LOUD ENOUGH WILL YOU BELIEVE ME?!?!? PLEASE!!! PLEASE!!! PLEASE!!!"

Give it up, Pat. It's over for you and your 19th century fairy tales, posing as political thinking.

Marty Wondergem 10+ 0
Nov 5 2011: Pat - not sure if you'll see my other comment since I can't respond to your messages, but none of my responses were directed at you. I haven't even been tracking with your threads. My apologies.

I was throwing out the extreme FoxNews stereotype independently, and didn't know you were being pegged with that by others. I'm definitely more conservative then most in the discussion, so we probably have more in common than most.

Peace.

pat gilbert 50+ 0Reply
Nov 2 2011: Yorky

That is a poignant picture, demonstrating the results of what socialist policies rendered by FDR can do.

York Earwaker 0
Nov 3 2011: It was on a Republican watch, during two terms of the enactment of misguided Republican Executive policies, that the Great Depression started in 1929. With the financial market in flames the firestorm continued to be fanned to ever greater destructive heights until the Republicans were ousted from office in 1933.

The Great Depression was created by the greed and moral hazard in the markets, specifically the US stock market, lead by Republican policy. Franklin D Roosevelt (FDR) was elected to deal with the consequences of what had by then become the first global economic crises. FDR, a Democrat, the 32nd President was elected in 1933 to cope with its aftermath after the failure of the Republican policies which caused the crises. The disastrous Republican policies of 30th and 31st Presidents respectively; Calvin Coolidge (1923-1929), Herbert Hoover (1929-1933).

"The Great Depression was a severe worldwide economic depression in the decade preceding World War II. The timing of the Great Depression varied across nations, but in most countries it started in about 1929 and lasted until the late 1930s or early 1940s.[1] It was the longest, most widespread, and deepest depression of the 20th century. In the 21st century, the Great Depression is commonly used as an example of how far the world's economy can decline.[2] The depression originated in the U.S., starting with the fall in stock prices that began around September 4, 1929 and became worldwide news with the stock market crash of October 29, 1929 (known as Black Tuesday). From there, it quickly spread to almost every country in the world."
http://ow.ly/7hheh

pat gilbert 50+ +1Reply
Nov 3 2011: Yorky

If you have read a little more in that Wiki report you would have also read what I stated before.

I do agree with the Keynesians about the over investment that is true however that is always true at the downturn of an economic cycle just as investment always causes the beginning of an upturn in an economic cycle. But that is nothing unusual.

What was unusual was Smoot Hawley, the federal reserve which was created to prevent what it did (which is always the case with a government agency) by lowering the money supply, FDR prolonged the depression with socialist/Keynesian policies.

Anytime you disagree with Milton Friedman about economics you are wrong, this is not my opinion it is a fact.

Hoover was disastrous, he was worst than a democrat. Notice I don't defend Republicans, I would say that Clinton was most conservative president(because of a conservative congress) we have had since Reagan.

Coolidge on the other hand was one of the best presidents the U.S. has ever had. He was the reason there was a roaring 20's. The economic downturn was simply the normal business cycle which was caused by over investment.

Notice it is investment that creates an upturn in the economy, NOTHING ELSE. We could be in for an extended down turn as there has been so much over investment in the housing market caused by government tinkering.

Additionally when you have onerous government policies such as Sarbanes Oxley(in the 10yr of its existence has yet to find one case of malfeasance, which it was created to do), Obama Care,Consumer Protection Act (authored by the same two idiots that caused the problem in the first place) capital says we are not going to invest.

These are the problems caused by the egalitarian agenda, people hugely suffer for them. Giving the government to egalitarians is like giving car keys and alcohol to teen age boys.

York Earwaker +1
Nov 3 2011: The commentator above is probably trolling or possibly unwell or just attention seeking. In any event this correspondent shall not be participating in further attempts at debate as there appears to be no engagement with reality.

There is no argument in the last statement by the commentator above only confused polemic. No evidence is presented simply random pieces of information thrown together and statements that contradict each other.

A small success for this correspondent; at least the commentator above has been left with the understanding that the USA is a Democracy. And hopefully an understanding of the efficacy of deductive logic.

pat gilbert 50+ 0Reply
Nov 5 2011: Marty

My mistake. Yup we are mostly on the same page

Marty Wondergem 10+ 0Reply
Nov 2 2011: I do believe there is some sort of collective fraud going on in the US amongst the ultra-wealthy. That said, the inference that the US is a failure is laughable.

The financial struggles within the European Union hardly testify that managed socialism works in every context.

No system is egalitarian, even in European managed socialism. The most we can do is try and manage the disparity. Clearly, managing this is easier in smaller countries, with smaller population growth rates, and a higher population density, and relatively little military responsibility.

Joanne Donovan 30+ +1Reply
Nov 2 2011: You contradict yourself Marty. Read 'Retirement Heist' by Ellen Shultz for an example of 'some sort of collective fraud'. When individuals or power groups have managed to sidestep the judicial system, the constitution and the hearts and minds of the people to the degree Ms Shultz describes, does this not constitute a failure? The problem goes beyond egalitarianism, although to me this is important enough, but is about long term sustainability. We have just lived through three years of irrefutable experience that these kinds of unregulated economies are not only unsustainable, they are terribly dangerous. Irresponsible derregulation has caused a massive economic collapse in the US which has affected millions of American citizens. In my book, a resounding failure.In the the TED talk I need to remind you the word 'more' is used. 'more' equal and 'less' equal society. Not absolutely unequal, or unequal. I also want to add that suggesting to people who live outside the U.S that it acts out of 'military responsibility' is often seen as extremely rude. Did you realise that?

Marty Wondergem 10+ 0
Nov 3 2011: You're confusing failure with being imperfect. Neither you or I are perfect, and yet we would take offense at anyone calling us a failure. Something can be both imperfect and not a failure, hence no contradiction.

We are living through a time of irrefutable experience that more highly regulated European economies are sometimes unsustainable and terribly dangerous. The US certainly has things to fix, but to say Europe has it right and America's system leads to misery is as condescending as any rhetoric from a loud-mouthed, stupid-American-nationalist on Fox News.

I would suggest that anti-Americanism is as rude to Americans as stupid-American-nationalism is to others.

pat gilbert 50+ 0
Nov 4 2011: Marty

"loud-mouthed, stupid-American-nationalist on Fox News"

That is your perception? I resemble that except for the loud mouth part, Look at the tea party demonstrators then look at the OWS demonstrators. Who are the loud mouths?

I get attacked with demeaning conjecture on this site, I respond with facts. Who is the loud mouth?
In order to look at what is, we have to get past the self righteousness, conjecture, before people actually start Looking.

What we have here is a failure to communicate...

Joanne Donovan 30+ 0Reply
Nov 3 2011: Hi Marty. The Oxford Online definition of the word failure; 'The neglect or omission of expected or required action'. In my OPINION this definition fits perfectly with present day American capitalism. I gave you an excellent example evidenced in a brilliant book written by an American. You on the other hand did not give a single example to back up your comment, 'irrefutable experience that more highly regulated European economies are sometimes unsustainable and terribly dangerous.' Please do not try to give Greece as an example. I have lived there for several years and it only looks highly regulated on paper.

If you read my posts you would see that my critical comments are not anti-American, on the contrary, they are pro American. I condemn the rise of the capitalist greed machine which has come to dominate the U.S. economy through government deregulation and since the 70's. To see a very good discussion on this please read The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism by Naomi Klein. There is a great documentary with the same title.

You like to think in absolutes, so it seems, and as you yourself say, everything we discuss has nuances with both positives and negatives. Yes Marty, that is a given. Lets establish that right now and carry on.

Now I reiterate once more, too much deregulation creates monopolistic structures which by their very nature, exploit people. This translates directly into human suffering, and has translated into suffering for MILLIONS of American people. As a humanitarian, and a compassionate individual I am VEHEMENTLY opposed to highly deregulated capitalistic structures. Clear now? Thank you.

Marty Wondergem 10+ 0
Nov 4 2011: Ireland, Portugal & Greece.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/nov/15/ireland-debt-crisis-portugal-europe

If you read my post, you can see I was responding to Laurens, who I believe was making a rude assessment of American capitalism. You accused me of being rude, to which I responded that I sensed Anti-Americanism. I apologize if it sounded like I was ascribing it to you.

I find it interesting that you think your OPINIONs aren't offensive, but my opinions are. Isn't that a bit jaded?I've read many of your other posts including posts that are extremely condescending to others.

"You like to think in absolutes, so it seems, and as you yourself say, everything we discuss has nuances" - Which is it, am I absolute or nuanced? I don't know if you realize it, but telling people you know how they think is extremely rude. Frankly, you don't appear to have any moral authority to police rude comments. Maybe we should stick to strong opinions and leave the grandstanding elsewhere.

Regulation can protect us, but it also inhibits freedom. We all sit on a continuum between "more free" and "more protected". Moving toward the "more free" side of the continuum (i.e. free-r markets) has pulled more people out of poverty in Asia than any other system in the history of the world.

I'm not advocating laissez-faire or economic anarchy, or chopping down rain forests for toothpicks. We need rules, and we need people to play fair. We need both worker and environmental protections.

We need smart people to figure out real root causes for outcomes such that we can make the world a better place. I don't believe the speaker is accurately seeing or describing the topic at hand.

Joanne Donovan 30+ 0Reply
Nov 4 2011: Few people throughout this discussion have resorted to name-calling and attack Marty. It demonstrates a weakness for reasoning when you do that. I asked you a question 'did you realise that...suggesting to people who live outside the U.S that it acts out of 'military responsibility' is ...seen as ... rude?' This is a question, not a value judgement. Understand now? I am only interested in discussing social systems, not syntax, not styles of discussion, nothing else. Have a nice day.

Marty Wondergem 10+ 0
Nov 5 2011: "Goodness Bruce, I am surprised you un-buried your head from the sand long enough to make your post."
"I think Alvaro, when you say 'emotive rhetoric' you really mean 'ideas beyond my understanding'"

There is only one person in this discussion who is both frequently condescending and belittling, and yet uncomfortable when being called out for it.

pat gilbert 50+ 0
Nov 5 2011: Yes, Marty you have hurt my feelings, that is exactly it.

My point is that rational thought is characterized as "loud mouth" which is not true if fact the opposite. The problem is that this shuts down any communication on the subject because of the created apparency that we don't have anything to say or are "evil".

You actuality to a great degree get it. But with many of the others they have dismissed what I have said without listening to it at all.
Michael Connolly +2Reply
Nov 6 2011: Umm. Perhaps you have not noticed that all the Eurozone countries are capitlaist mixed economies. Factories are not owned by the state.

Marty Wondergem 10+ 0
Nov 7 2011: Are you referring to me or Laurens? Socialism was Laurens' word. I was using it in reference to his original post.

I agree with you, Europe is mixed.

Laurens Rademakers 50+ +1Reply
Oct 26 2011: Now I understand why the Swedes actually *want* more taxes (as was the result of a recent poll). They know that it makes their society more wealthy, healthy and happy.

MARCO Cardoso 0Reply
Oct 26 2011: Thank you Richard Wilkinson!

Keep on sharing those important thoughts!

Matt Thyer 0Reply
Oct 26 2011: @Pat You keep rising to the bait. The problem as I see it is that you cannot back what is, at the least, a decidedly anti-social, possibly Libertarian ideology without cheery picking examples of failed states or states which you believe were successful. Your position, at least from the measure presented in the talk, is untenable. Stating your position as if were undebatable fact demonstrates the narrowness of the ideology, nothing more.

Moving on to the topic at hand, the study that RW mentions which looks for causes of an increase in the level of cortisol reminded me of some work done by Dan Ariely and I believe that this study might give some indication to patterns of bahavior exhibited within cross sections of societies. I wonder if there is a percieved threat to self esteem or social status within a sub-culture what the predictable social response might be?
Comment deleted
paula moffatt +1Reply
Oct 26 2011: The cost of poverty is hard to measure but it can go on and on.

I was lucky--I grew up in Trudeau era Canada. My father died at the age of 42--why? Well, I think it was partly because he was homeless and malnourished when he was 9 years old. He got rheumatic fever soon after that and though we'll never really know if the 2 are connected, I think that is was caused his heart attack.

So i grew up in poverty too. in the 70's. because of something that happened way back in 1939!!
But as i said, i was lucky--in Canada there was a strong social safety net. I did look south of the border sometimes and shudder to think of what it may have been like for our family if we had lived there.
Tye Jones 0Reply
Oct 26 2011: I agree with Chris Newman. Its about having a heart. Noone would want to see their fellow brother or sister suffer due to economic inequalities. His is America, the land of the free that God has blessed in a major way, hence the song "God Bless America", that is sung nationwide before all national game. Instead of giving to the poor and less fortunate, many people will let greed get the best of them which is why we face the problems we face today. As human beings, we have turned our backs on God, our heavenly father and creator of all things in the universe. There is more than a social problem, its within each and everyone of us who live by: get, get, get instead of give, give, give. Not all, but some, even a little. And my, my, my, what a better world this would be. Everything happening today is in the good book, or the B.I.B.L.E, or the Basic.Instructions.Before.Leaving.Earth. Its time for humanity to stand up, love one another, and learn to see with the eyes of our hearts when someone is in need. Don't miss it. It starts with you and I.

Dinoop Menon 0Reply
Oct 26 2011: I would request all the people who have commented below to watch the talk of Ian
http://www.ted.com/talks/iain_mcgilchrist_the_divided_brain.html

Because this is a fight between Einsteins "intuitive mind" with " Rational Mind".("intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant" ). although the speaker shows statistical data and correlation..he has got a more intuitive mind..and he approached his studies with his intutions..but unfortunate for him as Ian Mcgilchrist say this world is dominated by the left brain of rational minds("but we have created a society that honors the servant but has forgotten the gift")..and hence we can see more negative comments than positive comments here ... this world needs a balance not just economically :)
Sriram Bhamidipati 0Reply
Apr 28 2012: there need not be fight, if only a powerful right brain can enslave the left :-)
Paul Norris +1Reply
Oct 26 2011: @Eran Dror - I am STUNNED that one of the Uk's top epidemiologists can be dismissed out of hand based solely on what is obviously your pre-conceived opinion. It's not safe to let our indoctrinations and prejudices run unchecked and unexamined, it's in our own self interest to challenge these flaws in reasoning wherever we can.
By your argument, misfortune is more prevalent in richer countries.
If you had two brain cells to rub together I'd debate our alternative positions and convince you you're wrong. Unfortunately for you, in order for a person to take on board all the evidence, collate it, cogitate and re-organize their thinking there has to be some thinking going on in the first place.
brian mawdsley +1Reply
Oct 26 2011: Our developed societies are based on an important misnomer, that 'We make money' in our jobs and commerce. We don't, we 'take' money from others for what we do. We have highly developed mechanisms to define the amount we 'take'. Mostly this is not related to social contribution. In high rich/poor ratio countries the high variation of capacity to take focuses our attention on how we can best do it (take) rather than best contribute (give). This conflicts with our natural social and physiological instincts. It is the instinct to contribute that drives progress not avarice. Similarly healthy competition centres on making the best contribution whereas the competition to take leads to stress, divisiveness and poor health. Variation of reward related to contribution is acceptable but taking due to social position is not. That salaries and bonuses easily become stratospheric indicates that taking is never enough to satisfy the basic human instinct to contribute. Socialism and capitalism are both equally flawed by not taking this instinct into account.
Lars Lindgren +1Reply
Oct 26 2011: Great lecture with a lot of data behind it.
Being from Sweden and having lived in the US for a few years I can't help but agree with the overall conclusions.
That's not to say Scandinavia can't continue to improve.
Also, the US has some great positive values worth spreading throughout the world.
The note about the American dream was funny though.
Hard to argue against that data although it's natural that it's easier to climb socially if the differences are smaller.
Neil McCracken 0Reply
Oct 26 2011: Hi. I am interested in all the comments made so far on this hugely important topic and thank the presenter for giving me some valuable insights. I notice that UK and Norway are far apart on the comparative slides and am sad (I am British) that we seem to be so unequal. My thought though was a historical one. Both countries in my perspective were very 'equal' until north sea oil came along. Norway determinedly invested it's huge oil wealth over many years with a long term commitment to it's people, UK spent it's equally huge wealth with a commitment to winning it's next election with not a penny invested. Perhaps current inequality is partly a factor of what the country does/has done historically with the cash it gets.
Mark Meijer 100+ +3Reply
HOSTASSOCIATE
Oct 26 2011: And all this because we think one person's workday is worth so much more than another person's workday. It should be no surprise that lower-income people worry more about receiving devaluing judgements from society, because their income is explicit proof of precisely that.

I would suggest that all the "unskilled manual labor" people drop their work at the same time for one week. Let's see how "worthless" their time really is. Then let all the "highly skilled intellectual" people drop their work at the same time for one week. See who cares.
Fran Ken +1Reply
Oct 26 2011: Correlation does not imply causation. Sweden's "well being"(in this talk) can't only be explained by the massive taxation. This is done to without enough depth.

And it does matter how the gap between differences in society is decreased. With to much taxation the motivation of hard work and the value of education is lost. Why make more if you don't get to keep more? Therefor everyone's standard is made worse wanting to achieve too small gaps. I live in Sweden and I believe that everyone would be better of if taxes were lowered. Companies would stay in Sweden, people would work more giving the Swedish welfare more money to spend on those in need.
Keith Whittingham 20+ 0Reply
Oct 26 2011: Note to speaker: Your graphs are all the wrong way around - normally bad / less is on the left or bottom and good / more is at the top right. I had to look for the US on each slide to orient myself.
Tony Nothanks 0Reply
Oct 26 2011: Have a look at the mans shirt. If you see everything in less than 15 seconds you are CEO material.
Cory Campbell +1Reply
Oct 26 2011: As an Amercican, I can vouch that economic inequality effects me and others around me daily. It's doesn't necessarily inhibit us from doing what we want, but it surely makes it more difficult. It's been two years that I've been saving up for college, and this February I am finally going to get to go to school. I know that many students from my class that aren't as smart as I am(not trying to be arrogant, just honest) got to go to school the next year, because their parents could afford it.
You have to be either an unintelligent human being, ignorant, or a Republican to think that economic inequality doesn't have negative outcomes in society.

Matt Bohart 0Reply
Oct 26 2011: Amazing--.
James Rouse 0Reply
Oct 26 2011: He should, at least, iron a brand new shirt. You can see the folds across his chest!

Sapa Tours 0Reply
Oct 26 2011: Statistics say everything. I agree it is not biased at all. It is only numbers and the key point is how you interprete it. He showed data and analysis as wide as possible for those who might critisize. Thanks for informative talk.
Luis Velazquez 0Reply
Oct 26 2011: This is one of the best discussions I´ve seen on TED, please, don´t stop it, we´re all learning a lot here!
Bruce Barrett +10Reply
Oct 26 2011: Surely we would all agree that you would have to be willfully ignorant to believe much of this TED talk.

Many of the slides are shockingly inaccurate. It is well known and widely available that UN agencies always rank the US low based upon its perception of social equality and fairness.

The US is ranked low on income equality, yet the poverty rate in UN calculations for the US is over twenty times that of China.

The slide on mental illness is so absurd to barely merit response. The US is well known for classifying every energetiic child as ADHD and every mother who has the blues as Manic Depressive. The Japanese, conversely, for the greater population are highly conformist and monolithic in the social mores and attitudes.

The slide on US state inequality shows Miississippi at the high end of the X axis. The slide only demonstrates regional

The US is ranked low for child mortality, but is the leader for bringing to children to term and providing the most advanced neo-natal care.

Sweden, Finland, Norway, Singapore and Norway are always ranked high, but their entire countries are smaller than many US cities. Additionally, they have tremendous natural resources per capita and are highly homogenous.

The US has a very high population of illegal immigrants that dramatically skews every ranking. It is fanciful to complete direct comparisons between the US and Norway and any serious researcher without an overt agenda would show many qualifiers in any comparison.

The US is a very large country with high automobile usage and corresponding traffic fatalities that fundamentally skew life expectancy numbers. The US has the best medical care in the world for 80% of its citizens, but is ranked low because of the other 20%.

The speaker is entirely disingenuous both on his facts, his analysis, and his conclusions. He would have been better off saying for 17 minutes that he doesn't think life is fair, and we should have a commitee of statists deciding what is good for everyon

Joanne Donovan 30+ +14Reply
Oct 26 2011: Goodness Bruce, I am surprised you un-buried your head from the sand long enough to make your post. Even if you think you can question the imperical evidence presented in the TED discussion, and still cling to the illusion that the U.S is some sort of paradise on earth, surely common sense must win out? We all saw the dead bodies floating down the streets after Katrina in one of the richest countries in the world. Every year the numbers of people sleeping rough, or living rough are growing in the U.S. where life is supposed to be wonderful. Bodies under cardboard line the streets which are supposed to be paved with affluence. Your own commentators talk about how crime is out of hand in major cities, how corrupt the judicial and government systems are. Your comment rings a bell; It sounds a bit like Nero playing a flute while Rome burned. When are the American people going to take matters into their own hands and design a system that benefits them and protects them from the unrestrained, unethical excesses of the rampantly greedy?
Bal Simon +2Reply
Oct 26 2011: Without commenting on the Talk itself, surely Katrina should be considered an outlier with respect to the general state of America - even in the middle of this stubborn and deep recession. As for the rest of it, I'd like to see the data that filters out the effects of the current recession and demonstrates that increasing numbers of people are lliving on the streets, under freeways, in cardboard boxes as they do in Baja California. Also - I'm inferring from your comments that you are a liberal. (Apologies if I'm mistaken.) Isn't one of the main tenets of liberalism tolerance of others and avoidance of broad group generalizations? Yet the claim that "the rich" are "excessively greedy" seems a stereotype every bit as problematic as what you would consider unfair if I made comments about the "lazy poor." I've known rich and poor people, and people in between (which is most of us). Mostly I see just us chickens here.

Joanne Donovan 30+ +3
Oct 26 2011: Bal, I have not said 'the rich' are 'rampantly greedy'. I have talked about the unrestrained excesses of the rampantly greedy. Also, we are discussing social systems, not individuals and yes, I am liberal within the 'egalitarianist' definition of the term, thank you. I actually consider myself rich. I do not strive to be rampantly greedy and I know many other 'rich' people who are not rampantly greedy. Again, we are discussing social systems not individuals.
eric collins +4Reply
Oct 26 2011: Well, there used to be an idea that there was "Moral Hazard" and that would balance out the "rampantly greedy" you mention.

However, the "rampantly greedy" used enough of their gains over the last ten years to buy a very nice government that agreed to pass the moral hazard on to the general public.

So, we see failed idea, after failed idea. For the left, the solution to all problems is always to simply spend more. According to the Heritage foundation, " If total means-tested welfare spending were simply converted into cash benefits, the sum would be nearly four times the amount needed to raise the income of all poor families above the official poverty line." (link to the full report here: http://goo.gl/vN8QR )

So, as the original poster suggests, much of the data is skewed. The Nordic countries always look good on these types of reports for a number of reasons, and the US always looks bad. I very much agree with the speaker, if Americans want to be happy, maybe we should just move. But, since everyone seems to be trying to move here...maybe not so much.

Also, as I was looking at the charts, I started seeing other correlations in the data if I simply move where the lines are drawn. I paused it several times to look at the charts more closely. The "trend lines" on some of the charts seem a bit arbitrary.

That said, he draws some interesting conclusions, but I'm really left with more questions than answers.

Joanne Donovan 30+ +5
Oct 26 2011: Well Eric, I loved the first thing you said, 'Well, there used to be an idea that there was "Moral Hazard" and that would balance out the "rampantly greedy" you mention.However, the "rampantly greedy" used enough of their gains over the last ten years to buy a very nice government that agreed to pass the moral hazard on to the general public.' I think it illustrates perfectly how the free market delusion has suckered people in with silly ideas like 'the moral hazard'. I would giggle if it did not represent such a human tragedy. You also say that the left's solution is always to 'spend more'. They have suckered you again with that notion. The right interests groups in the U.S. have spent plenty securing their own interests, or do you think the war in Iraq was cheap? Just to name one example. We could probably rephrase the comment in this way " If total military spending were simply converted into cash benefits, the sum would be nearly four times the amount needed to raise the income of all poor families above the official poverty line." The question always comes down to, who benefits?
paula moffatt +1
Oct 26 2011: " Americans... everyone seems to be trying to move here...."

I wonder if this is still true?
Bruce Barrett +3Reply
Oct 27 2011: Joanne, I missed the part where you showed where I was wrong in analyzing the speaker's propaganda. Is that in a future post? Dead bodies from Katrina? You are offering an anecdotal story to prove worldwide inequality? That's embarrassing.

The increase in wealth disparity, is not because we have people starving on the streets, it is because we have some of the world's best innovators. Are you really mad that Zuckerberg is rich because of Facebook and Jobs was rich because of Apple? You do understand that guys like Filo, Yang, Zuckerberg, Gates, et. al. heavily skew the disparity rankings along with the rest of the innovators and job creators. Should we take them out and shoot them, or just all show up at their houses and ransack them. You do understand your positions are not about fairness, but are thinly veiled greed and fascism don't you?

It appears that you know nothing about the US. Where do you live and have you ever visited? The US is one of the few countries that believes in self reliance and responsibility. Our poverty line is above median household income of the vast majority of countries in the world. We have by far the highest per capita income of any large economy in the world. The US is the land of opportunity, and yes we still have by far the largest number of immigrants.

I have read through your posts, and you are irrational, silly and ill informed. Unless you can actually point to evidence to refute my positions, I will not respond to your posts.

pat gilbert 50+ +2
Oct 27 2011: Thank you Bruce, I was beginning to think I had wandered into an insane asylum. I guess I don't have enough education to understand academia, of which I'm very thankful, it must be a terrible burden?

Joanne Donovan 30+ +5
Oct 27 2011: You do not have a position Bruce, what you are doing is protecting what is for the rest of us, a kind of delusion. But I see that you are in good company, Pat, the guy that thinks Pinochet was a hero, agrees with you at least. Here is a small piece of information for you, this is a DISCUSSION where people give OPINIONS, understand? There are plenty of people up and down this thread who have related their experience of inequality very eloquantly and this is enough in a DISCUSSION where people give their OPINION. Actually, sorry but I find your stance foolish. You said it yourself in your own post: 'The US has the best medical care in the world for 80% of its citizens, but is ranked low because of the other 20%' That is one in five people Bruce! Even by your standards that cannot strike you as civilised. This from Reuters: 17th/9/2011- Nearly 45,000 people die in the United States each year -- one every 12 minutes -- in large part because they lack health insurance and can not get good care, Harvard Medical School researchers found in an analysis released on Thursday . It must be quite painful for you to visit the internet because this kind of thing is everywhere. I guess you must be adept by now at finding ways to dismiss even the most overwhelming evidence. When people are as intolerant and incapable of rational talk as you, I am just not that interested in listening to what they have to say.
Micaela Browning +1
Oct 27 2011: The US does NOT have the highest per capita income when you adjust for purchasing power parity (as you must, to draw any meaningful conclusions). In fact, there are no less than 8 countries on the GDP per capita (PPP, current international dollars) list published by the CIA factbook.
Alvaro Neto 10+ 0Reply
Nov 2 2011: That's a pretty bad reply to Bruce's comments. Like another poster said, Katrina is at the very best an outlier in the context of your post.

In any case, Bruce made no mention of the US being a paradise, as there is no such thing on this planet of ours. On top of that, to say that the US system is terrible simply because it has problems is an illogical argument. Katrina was bad, and there are homeless individuals. On the other hand, not having internet and a TV is considered poverty in the US. At best, the American economic system is subjectively, and not objectively worse than more centralised economies. It's a matter of preference.

And to compare current USA to a burning Rome just emphasises the emotional appeal of your argument. Let's not pretend it was supposed to be logical.
Kevin Liu +1
Nov 2 2011: I think that an emotive response is still a valid one. From a philosophical point of view, there's a constant argument as to whether purely factual discussions suspend our humanity, and whether that still makes sense considering we are not emotionless automatons.

I believe that negative sentiments towards the USA are valid pieces of information, but the difficulty in bringing this into a discussion is probably due to the fact that it's extremely tough, if not impossible, to quantify the breadth and depth of such sentiments.

Yet completely ignoring the elephant in the room may not be a good choice.
Micaela Browning +1Reply
Oct 26 2011: The minute you conflated poverty and inequality was the minute I stopped listening to this misinformed, US-centric rant.
Christy Sanford +8Reply
Oct 26 2011: No, Bruce, we do not all agree.

If you reject his choice of data sampled and the value of correlational studies, then the findings will not be acceptable to you period. Personally, as a woman, in the south, in a very poor community, many of his points ring true. I believe his comparisons are valid and the research results are overwhelming.

He was quite clear, Micaela, that he did not conflate poverty and inequality. He showed the gross national product had no correlation. And also demonstrated at one point specifically that at differing levels of income, the disparities still showed between the highs and lows for all metrics.

The fact that people are taking the talk politically is indicative of a type of privileged obliviousness. The U.S. is in crisis. I don't know that any "ism" is the answer, but certainly a more serious realization of the suffering 99% of the people are enduring is important.
Micaela Browning 0Reply
Oct 27 2011: "The US is ranked low on income equality, yet the poverty rate in UN calculations for the US is over twenty times that of China."

First of all, the US is not ranked "low" on income equality. The GINI coefficient is above .30, which would indicate moderate income INequality. Poverty, on the other hand, is a different matter. It doesn't matter whether the poverty rate is higher or lower than it is in China, because that says nothing about income inequality, which is the cumulative share of the income held by each income decile.
Bruce Barrett +1
Oct 27 2011: Micaela,

I agree.

With the exception of the Wall Street monstrosity, most wealth in the US is earned. The US is the land of opportunity where immigrants come to fulfill their potential without an overly aggressive statist regime dictating what you can become.

The good that comes out of this is tremendous technological advancements, from tech, to bio-tech, drug development, dna sequencing, etc. The entire world benefits from the US allowing to people to earn as much as they can. I fundamentally am surprised that so many people are hostile towards the creators of Google, Microsoft, Apple, etc. Do you really begrudge them their wealth when they have created hundreds of thousands of high paying jobs and aggressively pushed technological advancement. Do you really hate that we have created so many blockbuster drugs that have helped the world?

What is it in a person's nature that they believe they are entitled to the labor of another. The top 5% of taxpayers in the US pay for almost 60% of the federal income tax burden. How, conceivably is that bad for the other 95%?

Do you really believe someone graduating from Harvard should not be compensated more than someone who dropped out of high school?

Top correlations to high income are dual income, college degrees and working more than 50 hours per week. Should these people really earn the same as someone working part time at McDonalds?
Cory Campbell +5Reply
Oct 26 2011: As an American, your comment embarrasses me and offends me deeply.
Comment deleted
yang hu +9Reply
Oct 27 2011: Bruce,

If you're going to write a rightwing screed, the least you can do is get some basic facts right.

1) The population of Sweden is about 9.4 million, Norway 4.9 million. Singapore 5.1 million, Finland 5.4 million. you claim these countries "are smaller than many US cities" There is exactly *one* US city with a population greater than 5 million- NYC.

2) Apparently you got the talking point from Fox news about how US life expectancy is low not because of bad healthcare, but because all those people die in car accidents. Guess what? People actually look at that and that turned to be completely untrue:

http://blogs.wsj.com/health/2009/08/25/violence-traffic-accidents-and-us-life-expectancy/

Oh, and the "expert" who originally came up with this talking point? Turned out to be a lobbyist who was secretly on the HMO payroll. The epitome of intellectual integrity.

3) And of course it can't be a good rightwing screed unless you blame those dirty brown, illegal immigrants. Guess what? We actually have infant mortality data in the US by races. So even if you restrict infant mortality data to pristine American white babies, it turns out that they are more likely to die than babies in Norway:

http://datacenter.kidscount.org/data/acrossstates/Rankings.aspx?ind=21

You critique is entirely disingenuous on facts, analyses, and conclusions.
Bruce Barrett +2Reply
Oct 27 2011: Yang, I apologize if you think facts are a right wing screed.

Basic fact #1: When someone talks about New York the city, or Houston the city, they are generally refering to the MSA (look it up for your own edification). The USA has three cities larger than the entire country of Sweden and nine cities larger than Norway. It is asinine to fixate on your irrelevant observation and miss the point. Norway, Singapore and Sweden are tiny. Do you get it?

Norway receives something like 30% of its government income from oil. You remember that nasty, horrible stuff that we use for cars, industries, airplanes, etc.?

Basic Fact #2: Life expectancy in the US is lower because of obesity, traffic and gun fatalities, illegal immigrants that are not integrated into society and only use emergency rooms for their health care plan. If you really are hell bent on it, take a little time and look at the life expectancy of married white people in the US.

Basic Fact #3: Wow where to start since you need simple answers and small words for you to understand. The US brings the most babies to term of any country. We have a substantial amount of preemies that jack our rankings. We also count all live births as opposed to many countries that will not count live births does not live beyond a day.

I don't recall blaming any dirty, brown, illegal immigrants. America was founded on immigration and I am very supportive of tall walls, and wide gates. Maybe you need to look inside for a moment. Other than that, you are clearly incapable of having a conversation on the facts if you can't realize that ten or twenty million illegal aliens will have poor access to health care.

Load me up with some more of your brilliant fact checking.
paula moffatt 0
Oct 27 2011: Bruce:you are right about the guns at least...
yang hu +4
Oct 27 2011: Bruce,

In your original rant, you claim, in your own words, it is unfair to compare life expectancy numbers because of "traffic fatalities that fundamentally skew life expectancy numbers."

When I call you out on your lie, you proceeded to move your silly goalpost and claim that US life expectancy is also unfairly underestimated because of "gun fatailities"

Since you appear to be unable to undertake basic criticial thinking and even more basic third grade math, I'll do them for you.

Life Expectancy in Iceland in 81.8. In the US is 78.3. According to you, if you don't count the people who die in auto accidents, gun deaths, and filter out all those dirty brown illegal immigrants, the "true" life expcatancy will magically shoot up to 81.8.

Let's do a simple math problem shall we? There are about 300M Americans. About 50,000 people die every year from auto fatalities and homicide. Now let's suppose that all Americans, in the absense of getting killed, live to a ripe old age of 81.8.

And let's tilt the number even more in your favor. Suppose that all those hapless Americans who die an unnatural death die at age 0, so that they seriously pull down the life expectancy number. And let's round up the number even more and say 5 million Americans die in total when you add up all the deaths.

The net downward drag to the supposed pristine US life expectancy? 1.3 year. In other words, even with all these unrealistic assumptions tilted in your bogus argument's favor, the US life expectancy shoots all the way up to 79.6, still far short of Iceland's 81.8. and this doesn't even account for the fact that icelanders also die in auto accidents and homicides.

So your bogus assertion that these factors fundamentally alters life expectancy numbers relative to other countries fails even on the most basic third grade math level.

Oh, and before you scapegoat brown people, white life expectancy is 78.4.

So, what other rightwing propaganda lies do you have for us?
Yun Han Yap 0Reply
Oct 27 2011: Pls check your facts, Singapore does not have resources per capita and is definitely not homogenous. I know it because i am Singaporean.
Bruce Barrett 0Reply
Oct 27 2011: Yun, I addressed it elsewhere in the comments, that I combined two thoughts. Singapore is small, agressively capitalistic and provides a number of very important services to the Far East markets.
Kevin Liu +2
Nov 2 2011: Hey Bruce, don't think you've actually researched your information very well. As you might realize, I, as does Yun Han, live in Singapore. The error in your claims about the country makes me cast doubt on the validity of your other evidence. It's very hard to take your supporting claims seriously when there is one such glaring error.

Also, the picture you've painted doesn't really agree well with experiences I've had with people I've met from over the world . Conversely, the claims in the video tend to agree more with my personal experience, thus I would tend to disagree with you; yet I'm willing to hear a new perspective if the claims are properly researched and justified.

By the way, you have not addressed the two points raised by Yun Han. Small, agressively capitalistic, and providing a number of very important services to the Far East markets does not equate to your claim that Singapore has high natural resources per capita (do you realize how small the island is? What natural resources could we possibly have?). And Singapore is definitely NOT homogenous. Trust me. No, trust me AND Yun Han.
Alvaro Neto 10+ 0Reply
Nov 2 2011: Shame most replies to Bruce seem completely filled with emotive rhetoric.

Joanne Donovan 30+ +1Reply
Nov 3 2011: I think Alvaro, when you say 'emotive rhetoric' you really mean 'ideas beyond my understanding'
ronda olinsky-paul 0Reply
Nov 3 2011: I just want to chime in about your interpretation of infant mortality rates, Bruce. The US certainly does not "bring the most babies to term of any country." The rate of premature births in the US is significant. And those preemies who don't survive--the ones who "jack our ranking"? The loss of these babies count. As for the ones who do survive, preterm birth is a major determinant of neonatal morbidity and has long-term adverse consequences for health. These children have higher rates of cerebral palsy, sensory deficits, learning disabilities and respiratory illnesses compared with children born at term.

Kristi Zuhlke 0Reply
Oct 26 2011: Very interesting especially as we approach the US presidential election. I wonder what a presidential election would look like if they put it as a forum like Tedx. I would love to see someone pull these numbers up and talk about taxes.
Jeremy Peters 0Reply
Oct 26 2011: The connections he makes are ludicris. It is assuming that the income gap is the cause and not the symptom of another larger looming problem. Next he ois nly consistently using 1 non'western country and he uses Israel and Singapore sometimes. Genetics and culture can play a part In addition almost all countries are 1st world countries. The gap is much larger in 3rd world countries and does it hold consistent.

Joanne Donovan 30+ +4Reply
Oct 25 2011: @ Pat; your remark 'The only Shangri-La that exists is the one that the individual creates for himself any notions otherwise are nothing more than the enslavement of the individual to the collective.' demonstrates exactly the attitude of someone who was brought up in a dog-eat-dog world.

The fact that other people describe successful working examples of more equal societies and can point to an experience of community that is rich and fullfilling cannot seem to make an impression on you. I think your attitude clearly demonstrates the level of fear and distrust many people have who live in unequal societies today.

No one can argue that economic equality/sustainablilty is going to be simple, or that it can be achieved without real effort and will. Yet it is achievable and is no longer a matter of mere ideaology.

I speak from my experience of living in the South Pacific where many of us believe when we work for our community and the land we live on, we DO work for our own self interest.

The false 'me, me, me' paradigm has always been, since the dawn of human history, a recipe for extinction. I have lived in many other countries too, and the places where the distribution of resources is managed well, people are happier, the streets are cleaner and safer. Given the choice between Copenhagen, Berlin, New Delhi, or New York I know which two cities I would prefer to live in.

pat gilbert 50+ 0Reply
Oct 26 2011: Warm greetings to you as well Joanne,

There are a lot of empirical and academic viewpoints posted on this thread. My only contention is that if it is true it works. I'm sure that in the south pacific you have a great culture. I'm not sure that can translate to a country with a larger population. What works on a larger scale is when the individual is allowed to pursue his goals, by exchanging with their fellow citizens there is built in accountability and built in innovation for those who create a better standard of living by creating better products. This requires competition, science, rule of law especially regarding property rights, customers, and a work ethic.

When these things are absent you have stagnation as with the communist countries or heavily unionized/socialized countries there is less motivation, less accountability, less innovation, more corruption, and fewer customers. In other words this does not work.

The US is bankrupt and becoming more and more like the UK more and more socialized and more and more broken. I will say in partial defense of this, being the worlds policeman is very expensive a burden that most of the other countries do not share.

I'm not opining, I'm just saying Look. What this video is really talking about is a genuine prerequisite to looking:

http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/kathryn_schulz_on_being_wrong.html

Joanne Donovan 30+ +6Reply
Oct 26 2011: @Pat, many greetings to you too. You are in a class war and you are losing by the looks of things.

'What works on a larger scale is when the individual is allowed to pursue his goals'. No. Completely false. I did not speak only about small economies like my own, in fact I mentioned Germany, France and Denmark, among the most accountable, innovative, least corrupt governments in the world . Your 'freemarket' delusionism filtered that part out.

Of course the wealthy have always struggled to get more, that is nothing new, but in the U.S in the 70's we see the perfection of a smoothly running greed machine supported by the CIA, which during the forty years since has managed to get a stranglehold over all areas of American thought and life and has even infiltrated your finest universities. It is a great shame to me, that the U.S.A, once founded on egalitarianism, has sunk to such an insane level of social depravity, where the rich scatter their leavings for the huddled poor.

The healthcare system is not 'the best in the world'. In fact, it is a human shame. It is a blight on humanity that in a country with so many resources, the people cannot design and implement a healthcare system that provides equal access for all, which is instead, privately owned and profit driven.

The people of the U.S do not have democracy or anything like it, given the kind of money it takes to win even a low level election. What is in place is something nearer to an Oligarchy, surprisingly similar to the kind of system the U.S.S.R is currently under.

Finally I am openly offended by your remark 'it is expensive to be the world's policeman'. That is disgusting. I can list more than a dozen democratically elected leaders from Salvador Allende in Chile to Moramed Mossadegh in Iran who the U.S. have deposed in the last eighty years, the crimes against the people of Haiti and Cuba and endless other examples. I hope ordinary American people win their struggle against the greed machine.

pat gilbert 50+ +1
Oct 26 2011: Joanne

That is a lot of conjecture. The U.S. is not a democracy it is a republic. The U.S. was founded on equal rights not egalitarianism. The class warfare is over stated in order to gain votes by politicians. Class disparity it is due to the government largess for the public employee unions. The problems with healthcare are due to government intervention, not allowing interstate competition, a payer plan that does not make the payer responsible for costs, huge corruption in medicare, and last but not least where ever money is made available by the government the prices go up as with medicare and also the higher level education system. As far as the oligarchy thing goes I would say maybe true but your argument is less than cogent. No doubt they have committed transgressions that I'm not privy to, on the other hand the U.S. did fight the Nazis, Japan's tyranny, al qaeda, etc.
Bruce Barrett +1
Oct 26 2011: Joanne, it weakens your argument, when you bring out the tin foil hat suppositions. Do you really believe the CIA has a strangle hold over all areas of American thought and life? If you really do, it disqualifies you as someone worthy of particpating in the discussion.
Matthew Gunnyon +5Reply
Feb 22 2012: Sorry Pat, but Joanne is right. Free market ideology is just that - ideology. It isn't real, it doesn't exist in the real world and never will. Rich people and conservative politicians use 'free market' rhetoric to justify less and less social and environmental responsibility whilst receiving protection and privilege from the state. One of the reasons why the free market will never happen is not only because it can't actually function as a reliable, workable system, but also and mainly because the rich will not want to play by the rules of free market economics. Do you actually believe the reason why health care is privatized in the US is due to a genuine belief in market superiority? I hope not, the truth is investors make a hell of a lot of money out of it and do not want profits to be compromised by the introduction of a public health system so they lobby the state to not "socialise" (a conveniently, bad word) medicine. I suggest you travel to Europe or Australia and see how average, US citizens are getting screwed over.

Joanne Donovan 30+ +1
Mar 28 2012: Finally some one who gets it and speaks my language. Thank you Matthew Gunnyon, thank you.
Bruce Barrett +2Reply
Oct 26 2011: Surely we would all agree that you would have to be willfully ignorant to believe much of this TED talk.

Many of the slides are shockingly inaccurate. It is well known and widely available that UN agencies always rank the US low based upon its perception of social equality and fairness.

The US is ranked low on income equality, yet the poverty rate in UN calculations for the US is over twenty times that of China.

The slide on mental illness is so absurd to barely merit response. The US is well known for classifying every energetiic child as ADHD and every mother who has the blues as Manic Depressive. The Japanese, conversely, for the greater population are highly conformist and monolithic in the social mores and attitudes.

The slide on US state inequality shows Miississippi at the high end of the X axis. The slide only demonstrates regional

The US is ranked low for child mortality, but is the leader for bringing to children to term and providing the most advanced neo-natal care.

Sweden, Finland, Norway, Singapore and Norway are always ranked high, but their entire countries are smaller than many US cities. Additionally, they have tremendous natural resources per capita and are highly homogenous.

The US has a very high population of illegal immigrants that dramatically skews every ranking. It is fanciful to complete direct comparisons between the US and Norway and any serious researcher without an overt agenda would show many qualifiers in any comparison.

The US is a very large country with high automobile usage and corresponding traffic fatalities that fundamentally skew life expectancy numbers. The US has the best medical care in the world for 80% of its citizens, but is ranked low because of the other 20%.

The speaker is entirely disingenuous both on his facts, his analysis, and his conclusions. He would have been better off saying for 17 minutes that he doesn't think life is fair, and we should have a commitee of statists deciding what is good for everyon

Joanne Donovan 30+ +4Reply
Oct 26 2011: Not 'a tin foil hat' Bruce, but I like the term. Perhaps you did not read, or did not understand what I wrote. I said "a smoothly running greed machine ... has managed to get a stranglehold over all areas of American thought and life' . I also said that at times this greed machine has been supported by the CIA and other elements too, from advocacy groups to lobbyists. I think you know what I am talking about. If you want examples there are many to choose from; 1953: IranCIA overthrows the democratically elected Mohammed Mossadegh in a military coup, after he threatened to nationalize British oil. America's oil peaked in the 70's and global events since then, including actions by the CIA in the Middle East, Latin America and even on American soil have represented quite clearly the struggle of a few powerful oligarchs to maintain a strong grip on economic ascendancy. Of course its dirty and covert, would we accept it otherwise?
Matthew Gunnyon +3
Feb 22 2012: Funny enough this sort of information is pretty open to the public too, it isn't exactly hidden and yet a lot of people don't know because of course as you would know mainstream media - corporate-owned - filters these types of things out.

Hannes Rohtsalu +1
Apr 3 2012: I enjoyed reading and agree with your comments Joanna - thanks for taking the time to write them out
Comment deleted
Bruce Barrett 0
Oct 27 2011: Howard,

I put together two thoughts with Singapore and the Scandinavian countries. Singapore is exceptionally free market and has made itself very successful for being a business hub in Asia similar to Hong Kong.

Scandanavians have tremendous natural resource other than agriculture. Look it up. Most obvious is the per capita revenue from oil that Norway earns.

The author is using UN statistics to suggest the US has high rates of poverty, which is patently absurd when compared to other countries in the world. France would have a much higher poverty rate than the US if it was assigned the same poverty line by the UN.

I am not sure what you mean about illegal immigrants. Your labor, in construction, agriculture or services is clearly counted in GDP and they are also counted in the census. If you add their population numbers, but they add little to GDP it would lower per capita GDP and demonstrate higher income diversity.

Please check your statistics class as to the impact of traffic fatalities. Please also look at longevity numbers for homogenous US populations. Our life spans are shorter than some other countries because of traffic deaths, gun violence, illegal immigration and obesity. None of those are related to income disparity.

Your last statement is just silly.
Juho Nieminen 20+ +3Reply
Mar 28 2012: "The US has a very high population of illegal immigrants that dramatically skews every ranking."

This is just the kind of explanation that helps rich politicians in USA to escape their responsibilities to make better laws. They just blame the poor for being poor. No change can ever be achieved with this kind of arguments.

Brooke Clarke 0Reply
Oct 25 2011: I'm currently reading Conservatives Without Conscience by John W. Dean in which he gives a lot of credit to Robert Altemeyer who wrote the book The Authoritarians (which is only available free on line at his University of Manitoba web site: http://home.cc.umanitoba.ca/~altemey/ ).

Just by looking at many of the graphs I have a very strong feeling that a better correlation will result if the Authoritarian scale is used instead of income inequality. I expect the Scandinavian countries are going to score in the low 30s and the U.S. in the high 150s.

Another way to say this is that I think income inequality is a direct result of of an authoritarian follower population.
Alex Zelikopvsky 0Reply
Oct 25 2011: Contrary to what people thought about (former) socialist countries, USSR was a country of extreme inequality. We are here not to talk propaganda - right? I lived for 30 years there and social inequality was strikingly high. And before collapse it was at the highest point. Social mobility, originally pretty high in 1920' and 30's went down later and in 80's there were no perspectives for young people. I think that revolution in USSR and Arab spring were mostly caused by increase in the inequality there. Similarly, OWS movement is another example of how inequality makes people to protest.
Lily Z 0Reply
Oct 25 2011: Looks like suspicious data to me.
paula moffatt +2Reply
Oct 26 2011: Lily: unless you add some clarification your comment sounds like a free market faithful to me....
BEG 65 0Reply
Oct 25 2011: Any idea when this will be captioned? I'd love to follow this one (can't hear: need English captions).
Frances Curtis +1Reply
Oct 25 2011: This is what Occupy Wall Street is about! Trying to wake up America from sleeping and drinking the kool-aid!

MIni Sarla 0Reply
Oct 25 2011: Would have liked the data from India and China. Obviously, these two countries seem to be off the radar screens!
Danny M +1Reply
Oct 26 2011: because in terms of GDP per capita they are still classed as developing countries. he explains this at the start. he was examining developed countries because in developing countries increasing GDP does still have a positive impact on health...whereas in developed countries it doesnt
paula moffatt 0Reply
Oct 26 2011: Danny: Thanks for clarifying this!
iain stuart +1Reply
Oct 25 2011: As seems to be almost universally the case, people choose to believe what they choose to believe and facts, arguments, statistics, opinions, or any non-confirming information is simply ignored or discounted. I don't hold out much hope for this situation to be remedied.

One of the fundamental premises of capitalism is the notion of continuous growth. It seems that recognition that the earth is a finite ecosystem is just beginning to dawn on most people. How can one grow continuously in a finite space? As they say; "Do the math." Neither socialism nor capitalism are the answer; hybrids such as the "system" used in China are just as hopeless. Wilkinson suggests that the process used to achieve equitable distribution is independent of the outcome. That is a very hopeful statement inasmuch as it opens the door to creative and flexible approaches to achieving a more balanced, homeostatic distribution of real wealth. I'm afraid that belief in the "goodness" of greed is misplaced.

Imagine you were in a life raft with 99 other people. How would you feel about a tiny minority taking the majority of the supplies?
Pierre Tremblay 0Reply
Oct 25 2011: If we consider food as supply, we have have achieved continuous growth since 200 years. Because 98% of the population was working on farming, now they are 2% in developed countries and exporting.

What did happened? Innovation. We have improved our way of working and we have used better of other source of energy. Less persons required to produce more doesn't mean less work.
People have replaced their work in food production by other kind of work.

As in nature, competition is the best motivation to innovation. Sometimes cooperation is the best way to compete with another group, or even another country.
A country with the best conditions will outperform some other countries. We can be grateful for diversity and competition because we are able to discriminate the best sets of rules.

Countries with great education and health care outperform others. WWII have shown that woman work serve better a country, then it continued with equality of right. It his an happy fact that human workforce goes along with human development, but it is also coherent.

Like a company that cut expense on research for a short economic performance, countries can do the same with education and health. One day or another they will loose direction and go nowhere. Even the richest country can be overcome this way.

As a turning point in human history we have to include environment in the good set of rules.
Brian Ess 0Reply
Oct 25 2011: Is it true that there is a correlation in the US between McDonald's outlet scatter pattern, obesity and low income?
Would some kind soul please educate me...
Esteban Colla 0Reply
Oct 25 2011: I have just downloaded "The Spirit Level" data. There are only twenty three countries, all developed, 10% of the countries in the world, less than 10% of world population. I think it is difficult to theorize with such a small and non-random sample.
Brian Ess 0Reply
Oct 25 2011: 1.Statistics only require a maximum of 5% to be a viable sample.
2.Most statistical data does not even achieve that population sample and they are accepted as viable by statisticians (I'm not a statistcian).
3.The speaker asserted that this is a report of developed counteries.

I suggest that the speaker has enough data to theorise.
Pierre Tremblay +3Reply
Oct 25 2011: It's not the first time that we hear about social problems in the united states.
It's not the first time that we hear about inequality in the united states.

There is something that I felt before, but I was unable to prove it. It is the first time we see clearly this trend on a graph.

The American dream, the path to success, the responsibility of their own success. They speak a lot of it, more than any other place. It was true for sure, is it still today?
In someway it lead poor people to hate their failure and hate themselves, even if nobody gave them a chance.

In every charts Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland are always ahead in the charts. They are rich countries, they are also the happiest countries in the world. They are more successful than usa. But they are small countries, maybe easier to reform than big ones.

USA have lived a long time on budget deficit, commercial deficit, personal debt, is it right to link their apparent success only on their individualism?

USA have the largest uniform market. Largest middle class market. Same culture, same religion, same laws. With these advantages, they should have the best performances.

Some countries have felt in excess of socialism and we have seen the results. Some countries are balancing socialism and individualism and we see the results.

In my opinion usa is the country pushing the most on individualism and we begin to see the results...

Their education system performance is ranked in 33 position in the world. Their health care system is the most expensive. Public transports... patenting... lots of trends are going down.
Terry McGuinness +1Reply
Oct 25 2011: People always have this mental image of the United States as being this free market, low-tax, libertarian paradise. For better or worse, this is not the case. The United States has central planning, a graduated income tax, public education, and a Federal Government forever growing in size and scope. It has drifted quite far from its once individualist mindset. According to the Heritage Index, in fact, Denmark actually has more of a Free Market than the United States. Another reason why the United States is slipping in the ranks in many of the charts you mentioned is the high taxes that are being squandered to fight useless wars (domestic and abroad), something that has always been antithetical to the American ideal. Individualism is dead in the United States.

You're correct in that our education system is quite terrible, but why is that? We have a public education system so I wouldn't link it to individualism. Furthermore, the country spends more money on education than countries like France, Ireland, UK, Canada, etc. Our healthcare system is the most expensive, but it is also considered the best, though low-cost and free health-care options remain. Furthermore, many leading economists attribute the high costs to over-regulation and government enforced special privileges and monopolies within this sector. Public Transportation is a mess in the United States though again, this can be attributed to collectivism and the Federal Government who dismantled the railroad system in order to build the Interstate Highway System under Eisenhower. Patenting also is a red herring, most libertarians would argue that intellectual property is not actual property and should never exist in a free-market individualist world.

The problem with the United States is corporatism which purposely creates economic inequality, not individualism. The USA would have been at the top of any of these charts (education, health, etc) if you compared it to when it used to be free and individualistic
Pierre Tremblay 0Reply
Oct 26 2011: It is true that health system is the best in the world, but only if you can afford it...
It is also true that the education system is the best in the world, only if you can afford it...

But on average, on those two topics, USA is not #1, anymore.

There is a huge difference in the quality of services related to the social status. There is a lot of inequality and inequality is the result of individualism. People care and vote according for their own benefit, they want to share the minimum.

I think there is an economic aristocracy growing in the USA. The kind of school you go is determined by your parents salary. Same thing for the university, the neighborhood, the health treatment, the alimentation, the mindset of your community, exposition to violence and so on.

I guess in my mindset a merit society can exist only if every child can have access to the same chances, the same start, the best start.

I don't think the size of the government is so much a problem. If you pay health insurance and you have a good service or you pay your taxes and you get a good health service.
In my opinion the government is in the best position to improve the conditions of the largest number. The difference rely on the efficiency of the government to spend money.

In USA I would never have had the education I had in Canada. Expensive enough to let me appreciate it, cheap enough to let me afford it on my own. Good enough to let me compete among the best. I'm willing to pay my share of taxes to give this chance to others. It is less expensive to give them that chance than to improve my security.

In others topics Canada is doing lot worse with our taxes, especially in my province (Quebec).

I wonder how they control their government in Scandinavians countries to always appear on top.

There is also a reason why Steve Jobs appeared in California and nowhere else in the world.
Each countries have best and worst aspects but the best is to learn from each others the recipe to success.

pat gilbert 50+ 0Reply
Oct 26 2011: Terry

Most of what you said is on the mark. I would point out that there is big distinction between corporations and corporations who receive corporate welfare, that is crony capitalists. If all of the subsidies to corporations were put back into the general fund the budget would be balanced. You are targeting the wrong group as all crony capitalism is done through the government.

Secondly the Constitution is being bypassed though regulations which has brought the US to a cross roads in other words it has to shrink the regulatory agencies and go back to the constitution or plunge head long into collapse.
paula moffatt +2Reply
Oct 26 2011: "Our healthcare system is the most expensive, but it is also considered the best, " ?who considers it the best? I have never heard that before. You spend more, that is true. And the wealthy have access to leading edge stuff--but unfortunately it can be hard to tell what you need as a patient when there is a big $$$ incentive to treat$$$$--

My favourite book on that subject is Healing America (by an American diplomat who has lived in England France Germany Canada Japan and US)
Dawne Bringeland 0Reply
Oct 25 2011: What about the idea of the 'c'aring capitalist? We all want to contribute to society, reach our potential and live well. I think we need to rethink our core philosophy to move towards a more egalitarian model that promots both individual and collective opportunities. This becomes a systems issue starting right at the core of government and fiscal policy; how we manage systems like social systems, taxation etc. The reality is we will always have a segment of the community that needs supporting - would we as caring capitalists leave them on the street? The health and wealth of a community depends ON the health and wealth OF the community - the question then becomes, how do we create health and wealth?

There is always a cost and it seems to me that the more inequality there is, the higher the cost to both the individual and society in general. How do we move there? What are the first steps? What is sustainability in this context?

I am a small 'c' capitalist, with a social bent.
Matias Cocina 0Reply
Oct 25 2011: A translation of this onto Spanish would be extremely helpful. Any clues on how to get it/help translating?

Emo Bear 30+ +6Reply
Oct 25 2011: 
 
I'm gonna respond to this talk with a couple of quotes:

"It's called the American Dream, because you have to be asleep to believe it." —George Carlin

"There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own. Nobody. You built a factory out there — good for you. But I want to be clear. You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate. You were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn't have to worry that maurauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory... Now look. You built a factory and it turned into something terrific or a great idea — God Bless! Keep a Big Hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along." — Elizabeth Warren
 

Valery Latyshev +1Reply
TED TRANSLATOR
Oct 25 2011: Haha..... Somehow Singapore is omitted from "inconvenient" charts, and included in others... How come?
paula moffatt 0Reply
Oct 25 2011: that is a good point and i hope we will see a response from the speaker on this. I think i saw the us missing from one of these too.
Ben Jarvis 50+ +1Reply
Oct 26 2011: not just singapore but not all countries were on all graphs. my guess is data unaviable or incomplete. i've run across the problem plenty of times myself, and it's annoying to have to leave a hole, and answer the inevitable "why have you left out ___?" because the answeris the same every time - "i haven't left it out there was nothing to put in!"
paula moffatt 0Reply
Oct 26 2011: HI Ben--you may well be right. It would be good for speaker to confirm this though. Also, I think that it would be helpful to put a note on the graphs (eg US. info not available at this time)
Aaron Beals +2
Oct 26 2011: The speaker did address this issue, just in a very roundabout way. He addressed concerns of bias at the end by stating that they include a statistic if any country records it. Implied in this statement is the fact that not all countries record all statistics.

Agreed, though -- making this clearer would have been helpful.

Valery Latyshev 0Reply
TED TRANSLATOR
Oct 26 2011: Singapore is in the very first graph in the LAST place, and he even emphasizes it.

And then its left out of every graph except from prison one.

So its not left out, its being used where it is convenient for the speaker.
paula moffatt +1
Oct 26 2011: no it is still possible that he was missing that piece of the information about Singapore
Ben Jarvis 50+ +1
Oct 27 2011: you honestly can't fathom any other possible explaination as to why data would be missing other than he did it on purpose?
Yun Han Yap +2Reply
Oct 27 2011: Singapore is omitted not because he did it on purpose, but rather the data is simply unobtainable. the Singapore gov't does not do stat on such issues. If he has it, it exists. It is definitely not convenient for him to leave it, based on my personal experience, it can help him in his argument. So yeah, he did not omit it on purpose.
Pedro Da Silva 0Reply
Oct 25 2011: Such an interesting topic. Can only relate to personal experience, I've always felt relatively happy in life, but do feel a self imposed stretch as I try to do more and more.
Every new role becomes more complex, every new purchase more expensive, everything I do seems to drive me further up this slope of anxiety.
In particular a point in time where I moved into a fairly wealthy area and made some acquaintances that made me feel inferior and completely out of sync with their lifestyles. Maybe this is as simple as it is, different economics breeds a cultural difference similar to distance barriers.
Very sad that close neighbours can be psychologically poles apart.

Julian Blanco 30+ +3Reply
Oct 25 2011: Hi All:

Regarding the comments to this talk,
I don't know if this particular topic struck a chord, but it looks like the quality of the discussion/comments at TED is going down very fast… sad.
Uneducated comments and assertions with no substantiating data, morals that posse as facts…
Intelligent commenters focusing on exposing nonsense instead of adding to new insight…
Somehow I wish the thumbs down button back… maybe it is just my taste and I should not share my frustration…

Regards!

JB

PS admin, feel free to remove this comment as it is not related to the talk…
Lisa Wilson 0Reply
Oct 25 2011: This is nothing new to anyone who works in the social sciences, especially health. There are truckloads of studies which demonstrate the causal chain between inequity and social dysfunction.

Investment in health injury prevention and health promotion is not only more effective than cure, it's cheaper.
For those who want more data you can start with the World Health organisation search inequity.

"Health is a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity." WHO
Andrew Lundsgaard 0Reply
Oct 25 2011: It is well known that in bureaucracies, that each level of pay outlives the next lower level. Why? Smarter, or more organized, or whatever attribute that they have that allows them to be successful also allows them to remain healthier than those just below.

The Nordic countries are always trotted out as the success story for socialized everything. But Nordic countries (and Japan) have one thing that most other countries do not, a nearly homogenous society.

If one were to break down the data from the USA into ethnic groups, you might see widely varying numbers on the graphs. One simple cultural attribute can, and I think does, skew the data in the USA. Fear of doctors. A very simple concept that can by itself drop the life expectency of a whole nation, coming from a group of people that may have a culture of mistrust of the medical profession. Or there could be a lack of enthusiasm for education, substituting an enthusiasm of hard work. That would skew the data of the whole country by one subset valuing labor over education. Which would correlate with levels of income.

Plenty of States in the USA are bigger that the countries used for comparative data, yet are not broken out as being statistically significant. I'd bet that the upper midwest, being predominitely northern european in ancestory and cultural, would break out similarly to the Nordic and Germanic countries.

Just for fun, I'd like to see the chart add one more piece of data to the mix. The percentage of domestic labor utilized in each of these countries. That would be an easy way of correlating 'acting wealthy' v. 'actual wealth'.
Lisa Wilson 0Reply
Oct 25 2011: //It is well known that in bureaucracies, that each level of pay outlives the next lower level. Why?//

We know why, socio economic status.

//If one were to break down the data from the USA into ethnic groups, you might see widely varying numbers on the graphs.//

Yes, why do you think that is?

//One simple cultural attribute can, and I think does, skew the data in the USA.//
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Health_equity.

//The percentage of domestic labor utilized in each of these countries. That would be an easy way of correlating 'acting wealthy' v. 'actual wealth'.//

?
Kalle Samuelsson 0Reply
TED TRANSLATOR
Oct 25 2011: Have you ever been to the Nordic countries? A quick comparison between US statistics for 2002 (http://usgovinfo.about.com/cs/censusstatistic/a/foreignborn.htm) and Sweden's statistics for 2005 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_Sweden#Sweden_census_2005) shows that Sweden had a higher percentage of foreign born citizens. I grant you, it's not the most ideal comparison, and USA have a longer history of ethnic diversity, but it shows enough not to attribute the Nordic countries' scoring to a homogenous society.

I don't like how most people who disagree with the speaker makes assumptions that more often than not turn out to be untrue, whereas Mr Wilkinson just looks at the data.
JESSE Zesbaugh 0Reply
Oct 25 2011: Typical western logic, income disparity is the cause of western sickness. Maybe, just maybe it's a symptom!

The data also says that, so throwing money at the problem will not solve the issue, will it?

But western logic again tells us to treat the symptoms, not the disease.

The disease is our terrible lifestyles. People are not sick because they are stressed, where is his data on that to say that! People are sick because they can't stop shoving hamburgers and sugar in their faces.

The income disparity is a by product of a sick society.

If you go to japan and redistribute the wealth like ours, so its not "fair" I bet it would bounce right back, since they are healthy there. Well, they were till the plant blew up, But you should get the point.

If you alter the income distribution in a healthy country, it will even out.

If you alter the income distribution to even in a sick country, it will go back to UNequal.

Get it? Is that hypothesis so crazy?
Jeff Wacker 20+ 0Reply
Oct 25 2011: This talk offers a lot of interesting evidence of correlation, but I dislike how much causality is swept under the rug in this talk. For instance, when he talks about children dropping out of high school, there's a very clear reason why that should contribute directly to income inequality! Same goes for categories like human capital investment and teen pregnancy rates, among others. And many of the other categories can be explained by pointing out that culturally homogenous countries tend to have lower income inequality. I would have been much more interested to hear a larger portion of the talk devoted to understanding why we shouldn't believe that the arrow of causality points TOWARD inequality and not from it.
JESSE Zesbaugh 0Reply
Oct 25 2011: Totally agree, income disparity is the symptom not the cause.
Lisa Wilson 0Reply
Oct 25 2011: //For instance, when he talks about children dropping out of high school, there's a very clear reason why that should contribute directly to income inequality! //

But who is dropping out of high school and why?
Nuevo Man 0Reply
Oct 25 2011: Funny, the US FEDERAL GOVERNMENT is most corrupt corporation in the world! It has spend my, my children's and my grandchildren's LIFETIME EARNINGS (every US Citizens for 3 generations in the future!) trying to pay off the PRIVATE BANK A.K.A. the federal reserve. The US dollar is now phony. THIS is the most corrupt economic system that is in use today. Capitalism is NOT at fault here, it is the government collusion and fornication with the corporate system that has ruined the USA and the world economy.
The soul of a sound economic system was ruined by progressives, socialists and communists 100 years ago in the US by introducing the Fed Reserve (government gave its constitutional authority to issue currency to a PRIVATE CORPORATION working outside of the law) and the income (direct) tax on labor that is traded for currency (it is NOT profit and therefore not income and therefore not taxable under current 2011 US Law and never has been. Your labor-trade currency has been stolen by the IRS under force (guns and unlawful incarceration) only.)
The US debt has stolen from the American people 3 generations of labor-trade currency and that is why the middle class is disappearing and regressing to serfdom.
Jon Britton +2Reply
Oct 25 2011: How is related to the talk, exactly?
Patrick Keener 0Reply
Oct 25 2011: He brings up quite a few interesting ideas, but I'd like to be able to actually see the data. He has a list of 10-15 social problems yet presents it on one graph. Did he average scores together? That method can make an enormous difference in placement. I would also like to point out that on most of the graphs, the best correlation I saw would be called "loose," but again we're looking at data blended together.

Finally, I would like to know what he thinks we should do to rectify the problem. What's the point of knowing a problem exists if we aren't doing anything to fix it?

Uriah Maynard 20+ 0Reply
Oct 25 2011: He presents a slide at the end of the presentation with specific suggestions. Regardless, he's a sociologist, not a politician.

Want to do something to rectify the problem? Go down to the Occupy protests, and you'll hear quite an earful on the subject.
Jon Britton 0Reply
Oct 25 2011: Pick up "The Spirit Level". It's a great book and is essentially the expanded version of this talk.
paula moffatt 0Reply
Oct 25 2011: "I would like to know what he thinks we should do to rectify the problem."
quote: 'democracy is born in conversation' (John Dewey)
maybe the point of this talk is to help with starting up conversation.....

Sinyeet De'e'elo 0Reply
Oct 25 2011: What is his proof that economic inequality is the cause of all of the problems he references? Anyone with a college education knows that statistics can be used to prove any point, and the amount of colorful graphs he uses in his presentation does not convince me of anything. I'd be quicker to believe that american television, not economic inequality, is the cause of many of society's ills here in the United States.
Lisa Wilson 0Reply
Oct 25 2011: //What is his proof that economic inequality is the cause of all of the problems he references? //

What evidence would you like?

//I'd be quicker to believe that american television, not economic inequality, is the cause of many of society's ills here in the United States.//

Because only Americans see American television?

Sinyeet De'e'elo 0Reply
Oct 26 2011: Less than 5 minutes ago: Lisa - I was thinking any evidence would be great. And I'm not really sure where you're going with the only Americans watch American tv comment. I was offering that as just one of many alternative causes to the results Richard is trying to explain. Please clarify.
Jon Britton 0Reply
Oct 25 2011: "Anyone with a college education knows that statistics can be used to prove any point"

That is not true.

Sinyeet De'e'elo 0Reply
Oct 26 2011: Jon - please look into how statistics can be manipulated by cherry picking data and you'll see what I'm talking about.

Ari Teman 0Reply
Oct 25 2011: This is weak (non-existent?) science. You cannot compare Japan or Norway to a 50-state republic or commonwealth such as the USA. Most of the countries on the "good" end of his spectrum have far more homogeneous societies than those on the "bad" end. So he might just as well be pointing the finger at cultural diversity than diversity of incomes. Attacking differences is attacking diversity.

That's a dangerous slope because, as one example, in 1490's Spain, 1930's Germany (and 2011's OccupyWallStreet) folks that follow his line of thinking ("victimhood") eventually begin crying that the Jews have more money... and it doesn't end well for anyone.

The absurdity of his hypothesis is that he repeatedly emphasizes that all of these countries are considered developed and wealthy. So he's not bothered by the fact that there are poor people, he's bothered by the fact that there are rich people. He's not upset that poverty is universal -- he's upset that some people are able to become very successful!

Sadder is he's hurting the people he aims to help. Taking food off of a rich person's plate doesn't teach a poor person to plant their own food. It certainly doesn't build the poor person's self esteem or self-sufficiency. What weak science-driven liberalism like this talk does is teach "learned helplessness". It gets folks stuck on an imaginary problem rather than focusing on any positive solution.

To deal with anxiety and depression as he discusses, we're best focusing on reinventing education to fit the way kids grow, learn, and interact. We'll change the mental landscape of the world by giving kids skills to communicate, deal with their pears, work with their emotions, and continue learning and adapting throughout life.
Random Chance 20+ 0Reply
Oct 25 2011: This video won't play so I have to try another day. I'll just make some comments on what I've read.
Where do poor people "plant their food?" They generally have nothing and that includes land. If they do, it is land that isn't worth a damn because it has no value, let's say for growing things.? Putting food on their table helps them eat and gives them more of a chance, since poverty, starvation, and ill-health hang out together. Why don't you try some extreme poverty someday yourself? Try it for awhile, oh, say 15-20 years, then grow a computer on your land and let us at TED.com know what you found out.

"he's upset that some people are able to become very successful! " which could also mean he could be upset that so many aren't because money "creates inequality" to begin with and then the economy itself is in-equal. Thus, the problems that arise can never be and will never be solved because no one really wants to eliminate the cause. Doing that always works.

"What weak science-driven liberalism like this talk does is teach "learned helplessness". It gets folks stuck on an imaginary problem rather than focusing on any positive solution."

You're working on imaginary solutions. You don't discuss ridding the world of the causes. Don't fool yourself into thinking you are, and "those liberal ideas" are only imaginary.

Most cannot imagine a new, that doesn't look just like the old. If it does, then it isn't the new, it is the same'ole old, that doesn't work by the way.

Voting doesn't work. It will no longer work. Expecting, desiring and even needing leaders to be compassionate, understanding and caring, is not going to happen. Those days and numerous promises and opportunities to do so have long since passed. They won't return. Those people are headed in a different direction. Can't you see where they are going? Some people get off the electric energy grid. Get off their power grid. Money is the key. Don't need it. They didn't build it. Who did? We did. It's ours.

Uriah Maynard 20+ +4Reply
Oct 25 2011: Way to whine that he doesn't support your antiquated notions of how the world works... You're just presenting one strawman after another. First you want to blame diversity for these problems instead of income equality, then you want to say that attacking income inequality is attacking diversity, somehow, and then you try to link that by some preposterous and unlikely leap to supporting the holocaust. THEN you have the sheer gall to use the word absurd in reference to HIS hypothesis. And that's not even getting into the projections you're applying to his work throughout the remainder of your fact-free ideological nonsense. If you had half a clue as to the subject upon which you are so ready to claim expertise, you would not dare to make so half-witted and poorly thought out a reply. Your comment is a textbook example of logical fallacies, rife with appeals to emotion, and taking absolutely every opportunity to leap to repeating often-heard ideological arguments that cannot stand up against any degree of reasoned inquiry, much less carry any measure of credibility as an assault on the analysis of data presented here.

Sir, you embarrass yourself here. Please stop pressing your hyperbolic propaganda upon those of us who have some care for the tenets of critical thought. Because what is abundantly clear is that you are ENTIRELY unqualified to hold position on the subject of what constitutes good science.
Jon Britton 0Reply
Oct 25 2011: "Sadder is he's hurting the people he aims to help. Taking food off of a rich person's plate doesn't teach a poor person to plant their own food."

No, but taking a bit of money from a rich person salary CAN pay for a poor person to go to school.

Take your straw man and leave, it's starting to smell.
Vahid Masrour 0Reply
Oct 25 2011: Makes perfect sense to me and goes well to illustrate the bahá'í principle of elimination of extremes of wealth and poverty as discussed in http://info.bahai.org/article-1-3-2-15.html
Jim Osborne +1Reply
Oct 25 2011: This is the best presentation I have seen on TED. It showed me how far America has to go to regain much of what we have lost in terms of equality and humanity.

Thank you Richard for a stimulating adventure into solving human problems.
Trip Barthel 0Reply
Oct 25 2011: I worry that America is sick and getting sicker. The ills of America are based on greed, mistrust and dishonesty. These ills have become so widespread that it is tearing at the very fabric of our country. Until we are willing to look beyond our own selfish concerns and start to care for one another we won't come close to solving this or any crisis.

The bankers have to care about their customers. Bankers made loans to people who could not afford those loans. When the housing market collapsed we bailed out those same bankers. We could have chosen to bailout the homeowners and the bankers would have had to, hat in hand, ask the homeowners for their money. But we trusted that the banks would use the money they were given in a way that would benefit their customers. They haven't. Banks took a risk on making questionable loans. Insurance companies backed the risk. Home buyers took little risk in purchasing with little or no down. The American public is paying for all of it.

The politicians have to care about their constituents. The Dems and Reps are 2 sides of the same coin. Both are being paid off by the same contributors. Both are being lobbied by the same lobbyists. Both are being informed by the same staff. Howard Schultz at Starbucks is right. Why are we supporting such a dysfunctional system? We elect people to work together to solve the nations problems, not to bicker and accuse each other. The more they bicker, the more we support "our" side and the problems get put on the back burner. Both parties employ the same tactics and accuse the other. People need to take the country back from these professional power brokers.

The wealthy have to care about their employees. The rich get richer at the expense of everyone else. If it keeps going this way, the rich will be safely locked in their own luxury prison, unable to visit the outside world. In the past we assumed that when the rich got richer, they would employ more folks at their companies
Larry Holmgren +2Reply
Oct 25 2011: Economics is not a zero-sum game.
Eran Dror +9Reply
Oct 25 2011: I am STUNNED that this passes for science. Look at those numbers and ask yourself what's more reasonable: to assume that financial inequality is somehow the cause of all these disconnected ills, or simply that most types of human/social failure (illness, crime, drugs) carry with them a financial component?

In other words - are you dying of cancer because you're poorer than others in your society, or are you poorer than others because you have to pay for cancer treatment?
Luis Velazquez +3Reply
Oct 25 2011: Are you saying that there are countries that are full of people with cancer, low education, madness, and all that factors COMBINED, and that´s the cause of their condition?
We could argue this if this study was about VIH and Wealth, but... all this combination doesn´t make any sense for you? Obviously it´s a kind of dialoguic relation, the same that we could see when we associate illness and longevity, but we don´t say that all the ill people is old, we know that all the really old people is ill. We know not all poor educated people are poor, but almost all the poor people can achieve only a lower average education.
Eran Dror +3Reply
Oct 25 2011: I'm saying that all misfortune carries a financial cost, which leads to more inequality. That does NOT mean that inequality is the cause of all misfortune.

If you want to make the world a better place - how about trying to tackle the real causes of illness, crime, lack of social trust. Inequality is at best a symptom of these more fundamental conditions.

To claim otherwise is to reverse cause and effect.
Yuval Kogman +15
Oct 25 2011: He is not claiming that this is the cause, he's saying there's a correlation.

Update: to clarify, he qualifies with "I think", etc, he makes no strong claim to causality but does say he believes it. Sorry if I sounded confusing.

Remember, this is a theory, theories cannot be proved, only disproved.

Correlation does not imply causality but for lack of a better theory, correlation still makes more sense than "random".

Different financial models exist, they can be measured with the same tools, and there is something strikingly uniform about it.

It could be that inequality is a symtom and not a cause, but claiming that it is not the cause without providing a better idea for "[tackling] the real causes of illness, crime, lack of social trust" is not a very constructive proposition.

And all that aside, many people would also argue that inequality is a problem worth fixing (though this is debatable), so I am hard pressed to find a reason why *not* to work on reducing inequality, especially if there is a chance it affects all of these problems too (as opposed to a guarantee).

Pedro ADLER Jorge +3
Oct 25 2011: try to leave in Sweden and in Hong Kong and then you'll feel very well what he's talking about.

still, Yuval makes a very important point, it's a correlation, not a causality, so one should be open for other possibilities instead of taking everything blindly.

but from having lived in the extreme countries, Portugal, Sweden and Hong Kong (mega inequality) I'd support his theory.
paula moffatt +6
Oct 25 2011: RE: Eran Dror: "all misfortune carries a financial cost, which leads to more inequality"

--all the more reason to have a social safety net ie a society that provides accessable health care and education to all persons. a society that does not 'kick people when they are down'
John Smith +5Reply
Oct 25 2011: This data is from England and Wales... you don't pay for cancer treatments there. So, no, that argument doesn't really work.
Eran Dror +2Reply
Oct 25 2011: John - you're missing the point. Misfortune ALWAYS has a financial cost. If you don't have to pay for cancer treatment, you're still missing work and spending money on other comforts that you wouldn't otherwise need.

If you correlate inequality with the abundance of misfortune, you still have not determined cause and effect. It's much more likely than misfortune causes inequality than that inequality causes misfortune.
Danny M +5
Oct 25 2011: Eran you're accusing him of making up a area of medicine that has been well known and thoroughly researched for decades. this has more relevance if youre british, but read the summary of the Marmot review http://www.marmotreview.org/

this was commissioned by the UK health secretary to look at reducing health inequalities. the overwhelming focus of this report (based on a huge amount of peer reviewed literature) is on the need to tackle the social determinants of health such as income inequality, as this would have a greater impact on health, than trying to improve the health system itself.

or just google search "social determinants of health" if you want to be lazy!

As for the rest of his arguments, just read the book. anyone questioning its scientific credentials either doesn't know what the term means, or hasn't read the book
Nick Oh +1
Oct 26 2011: What you are saying about misfortunes leading to further inequality may very well be true, but I believe ultimately that it is a moot point. It would at the very least be laughable to debate that misfortunes have a greater influence on inequality than vice versa.
James Young 0
Oct 26 2011: Eran Dror, Danny, et al

General point. After skimming the Marmot review it seems to emphasize certain structural inequalities that will give rise to health inequalities. For example education. More educated individuals live longer, so it promotes more early education. This makes since on very simplistic level in that more educated individuals will have higher incomes and afford better health care, though there are a number other links as to why education might result in better health. Different access to education results in different health outcomes. Structural inequality gives rise to health inequalities. However, I didn't see the review focus much on the idea that inequality in itself causes harm much like Wilkinson does.

No one will deny that income or structural inequality if left uncheck will causes health outcome differentials. However, that is not to say that the inequality per se is the main driver in health gradients, that would still be absolute levels of income. If you look at the academic literature, I have provided elsewhere on this page, the link between absolute income of individuals and health outcomes is shown to be more important even in the developed world.
Mark Meijer 100+ +4
HOSTASSOCIATE
Oct 26 2011: James Young, the effective value of your income is always determined by what your income is relative to other people's income. If, hypothetically, everyone in the world would have the same "absolute income", then it wouldn't matter what the nominal amount is. Because it is only a representation for what you can buy with it. All that money will still be chasing the same amount of supply in the world. So there is no such thing as absolute income. The only thing that makes a difference, is differences in income. In other words, inequality.
James Young 0
Oct 26 2011: Mark, that is why economist talk about real income, or real GDP, which is in measures of physical goods. Thats what I naturally refer to when I say income or GDP. Real income is determined by a persons productivity, and the amount of hours they spend working. It is a representation of the physical output of what they produce. If a person's real income increases they can buy more goods and services even if the relative gap between his or her income and a rich person's real income has increased. In other words supply of goods and services is not constant.
Alex Zelikopvsky +1
Oct 27 2011: Eran, your mistake is that he is not talking on the expenses of illnesses resulting in poorer countries, but in the inequality! - that is different from from AVERAGE richness. Note that recessions actually make inequalities less - the extreme inequality (top 1% has almost 25% of income) in US happened only twice just before great depression (1929) and in 2007. Recessions actually supposed to mix people. Also social mobility (lack of perspectives) also causes recessions and revolutions - that is completely unrelated to diseases etc.
Christa Hollis +3
Oct 27 2011: When we look at this relationship saying that inequity doesn't cause social problems is willfully blind. It is contrary to the basic ideals of science to completely negate an idea without rigorous research and proof. There is a psychosocial construct surrounding inequities in wealth that should not be ignored, and must be acknowledged as a potential contributing root cause of many ills of society. We could not reasonably say "all" ills of society, but we ignore that relationship at our own peril.
Eran Dror +1Reply
Oct 25 2011: Danny: To clarify: I'm not claiming that there are no health effects to inequality. There might be both positive and negative effects to inequality.

But specifically this talk has made 0 case for any effects. It merely correlated levels of various social problems to levels of financial inequality, which is fully explained by the fact that these problems *cause* financial inequality. The mechanism for that causal relationship is clear, obvious, and ubiquitous. Whereas the connection between inequality and misfortune is stretched at best.
paula moffatt 0
Oct 26 2011: ?how would you study the question?
Danny M +3
Oct 26 2011: Eran, you're right ill health does exacerbate poverty (and can in some cases cause it), but if this was the only direction in which the relationship worked, it would require everyone starting off on a level playing field with the unhealthy slipping to the bottom, and the healthy rising to the top, in order to explain what we see in our societies. which is a little far fetched to say the least.

Again, the (very strong) causal relationship between inequality and ill health has been long accepted. for God's sake the WHO is holding an international conference on how to tackle inequality in order to improve health as we speak! http://www.who.int/social_determinants/en/

He does skim over some points in his talk as he has to fit it all into 15mins, which maybe is why you're not convinced. If you're interested, just read the book!
Danny M 0
Oct 26 2011: http://www.who.int/sdhconference/en/
Alex Zelikopvsky 0
Oct 27 2011: The inequality can be controlled by government policy - there are a lot of examples. The health and social mobility, crime is much more difficult to control.
Regardless of the causation, the policy can affect one but not another.
Benjamin Leslie 0
Oct 28 2011: Eran Dror,

To me, your suggested reversal of causality falls down on one point. If we assume your hypothesis to be true (inequality is caused by health issues etc.) then how do you explain the massive differences in inequality between different nations? What makes the Norwegians, Danes and Japanese so less prone to financial penalty from falling ill? Or, if that's not the case at all, why do they seem to have so much better health?

I'd also suggest you take a look at this paper, which shows that forward causation (greater income => better health) is better represented by the data than reverse causation (better health => greater income) thanks to the narrowing of inequality with age: www.pceo.org/pubs/JHCPU.pdf
Kalle Samuelsson +6Reply
TED TRANSLATOR
Oct 25 2011: "In other words - are you dying of cancer because you're poorer than others in your society, or are you poorer than others because you have to pay for cancer treatment?"

Doesn't matter which one it is though, does it? In both cases, economic redistribution is for the better.

The most important point of this talk is not that inequality causes all of these problem (although I believe it does to varying extents), but that countries where there's less inequality, there's less problems. People try to find all kinds of ridiculous models to support the theory that inequality is not bad, and that you can't prove a causality. Well, either way, just look at the data.
Wendy Taylor 0Reply
Oct 25 2011: You die of cancer because there are scientific reasons. Those reasons are only discovered if you invest in discovering why. That it is to do with wealth, otherwise you will die of other diseases and younger too. Well who cares really?
ryan caldwell +1Reply
Oct 26 2011: Your argument doesn't really hold water considering either way you look at it,
inequality is harmful.
But using what you pose as reasonable logic supporting dissent....
Actually Yes,
Being poor DOES cause many of these ills.
Yes, People die of cancer because they are poorer.
Poor people lack access to the kinds of education, knowledge, and lifestyles that prevent many of these ills.

ie.
-Good nutrition costs more than easily-available, cheap, mass-produced, and empty caloric food products. A daily diet of these will surely cause cancer. Not only do financial limitations make it more difficult, the very lack of this knowledge in poor communities can stem from no access, parenting, anti-intellectualism, etc...

Being poor and living in the culture that surrounds it IS a cause of many social ills.
Mark Meijer 100+ 0Reply
HOSTASSOCIATE
Oct 26 2011: Dude, the data is about personal income, your argument is about personal spending. Get real.
David Odell 0Reply
Oct 26 2011: Argument doesn't hold for countries with free healthcare, does it?
Luiz Felipe Costamilan 0Reply
Oct 26 2011: Actually replying to the other post above.

First of all, how rude. Please try to maintain the same level of civility in your discourse that you would if we were talking in person.

I did not mention that happiness had anything to do with it - and I clearly understand the subjective nature of happiness and the difficulty to measure it. The subject was brought up only as a reply to a claim above that stated that inequality was correlated with unhappiness.

Where the line of what is and isn't a poor country is drawn is purely discretionary. Is Slovakia a poor country? Hungary? The Czech Republic? Are the US$1000 that separate Slovakia's GDP per capita from Portugal's really significant enough to exclude it? Would it not have been better to include poor countries and then control for income?

I'm not asking him to include every single bit of data in a 17 minute talk (though I would like to see a more in-depth study). I'm just saying that the fact that 20 or so countries line up neatly in his model doesn't prove anything of statistical significance.

I'm not saying that equality is unimportant, only that I'm unconvinced by the arguments put forth in the presentation. Hopefully you will, by now, expect this level of idiocy from me, and not be surprised by it.
Nikolai Hack 0Reply
Oct 26 2011: 1. yes, there are studies showing that you are more likely to die of cancer if you are in the lower percentiles of the income distribution

2. you are completely forgetting to ask WHY people get ill, become a victim of a crime, fall for drug use, etc. -> the data supports the believe that all these misfortunes are much more likely to happen to you because you ARE poor, not that only afterwards you end up even poorer.

3. you mix up personal spending and personal income, which in the effect this measure has on what you are trying to say, makes much of your analogy useless. especially as the argument wouldn't hold concerning countries where you do not pay for certain dimensions of cures to the mentioned misfortunes (e.g. free health care, free education).

4. think about your assumption when looking at the graph of school drop outs. if what you are saying was true, that would mean that kids in california and texas are not dropping out for reasons related to income inequality, but that they are generally just more stupid than other american teenagers and therefore their states show higher income inequality ratings...
Keef Williams +1Reply
Oct 25 2011: This to me is the fundamental problem with the basic concept of capitalism in its present state. Greed. If capitalism is taken to its final outcome then one person will control/own everything eventually, as capitalism is based upon taking more just to survive, resulting in another person losing more. A good comparison would be to that of a virus. It can only survive by destroying a healthy body.

For instance the company boss installs technology that results in x amount of workers losing their jobs. This creates even more inequality. The workers did nothing 'wrong' except one person decided that they needed to create more profit/sell their products cheaper to fend of competition from elsewhere, or the shareholders wanted a bigger return on their investment. Now if taxation/control of high end bonuses/ better social welfare counter acted these type of effects then the less well off wouldn't have to 'suffer' so much.

The Occupy demonstrations ( Wall Street/London/Madrid/Dublin/etc ) are trying to bring attention to this inequality, a fairer society FOR ALL.


'When I feed the poor, they call me a saint, but when I ask why the poor are hungry, they call me a communist.'
Dom Helder Camara
Pierre Tremblay 0Reply
Oct 25 2011: I use to walk in my big city anywhere and anytime in the night without trouble, I know I can't do the same in the us. It is true that each time I cross the border with the us I feel less secure. Less secure about the crime rate and also about excessive repression in the land of the free.

Yes I find that left wing people often speak badly without proof... (but this guy does). I would prefer to improve our public education system, improve economic education rather than blame them. Better they are educated, better they will vote, better our society will be as a result.

To let the merit do its work, we should reduce random bad luck. In a perfect country there is some aspects in witch equality for me is a must: education, health, environment and justice.

Also a minimum earning is required. Minimum to prevent anybody from the necessity of committing crime to survive. I know there is people in the us that are doing porn and prostitution to pay for their education or just to give a better neighborhood to their child. What is more immoral: their action or the economic situation that reduce them to this situation?

I knew an engineer who had to work two jobs to pay for the medication of his sick child. He was exhausted at work and less productive. But everybody around cared about him. Everyone gave money to his foundation. I know they care for each other, I don't understand why they can't do it at the state level like other countries. Sickness is a random risk shared by everyone.

It is true that an American should go to Denmark to live the American dream.

On the other hand I agree with those who want more liberty and less government intervention. I think that we should come to this world as much equal as possible but as we grow up, merit should differentiate us.

Same taxation rate for everyone. Minimize the intervention of the state and so on. If you want more than the minimum then learn more, work more, earn more. But at least everyone will get this opportunity.
Daniel Castañeda +1Reply
Oct 25 2011: The talk was really interesting. I have only one concern so far. When he shows all the data trying to show the correlation between welth disparity and some social problems, he included the scandinavian countries (Norway, Denmark, Sweden). These countries worked as good examples since they have low income inequality and they do not have high rates on many social issues. But when it came to show the relation between mental illness and welth disparity, he did not show those countries on the graph. Of course, on these matter this countries would not work as a good example, they have high suicide and mental illness rates. Do you guys think he took them off the graph for they might disprove his point or something?
Larry Holmgren +1Reply
Oct 25 2011: The incidence of mental illness in the countries in the far north should be studied as a function of vitamin D levels in the blood. And remedied as well as one can with supplemental vitamin D, in tablet form.

Likewise, other factors he includes in a country's quality of health can be separately explained with factors other than income inequality. Obesity? Homicide? Prisoners?

The x-axis of the graph is also disputable. Put Libya on the income inequality vs health graph. Col. Gaddaffi with $65 billion in wealth would skew Libya's data point far to the right of the United States. Likewise, with the oil-rich states in the Middle East.
The United States at the extreme right begs the question of what to do to "correct" this disparity. This is wedge issue politics. Compare absolute wealth and you may find the USA at the extreme also. Why? Because of productive use of resources, land, labor, and capital. Does the speaker wish to level this out also?
Jon Britton 0Reply
Oct 25 2011: To include something in the graph, you must have comparable data. I guess that they didn't have any comparable data...

Mark Alphonso 0Reply
Oct 25 2011: I think it would be interesting to see if there is a correlation between GDP vs income inequality. Perhaps productivity is affected by income differences as well.
Victor-Vartan Pambuccian +3Reply
Oct 25 2011: I usually just enjoy watching TED talks, but I feel that I must comment about this one.

I sense that more and more people are embracing and promoting socialism. The main reason may be the economic crisis. People are criticizing capitalism and going towards socialism (some confuse it with democracy).

I see nothing wrong with people earning as much as they deserve. I see nothing wrong in people paying for the education and healthcare that they can afford. That is not to say leave the poor without any healthcare or education, but I think that the state should provide just the basic stuff. Want better services? Pay more. Earn more. Own more. Be greedy. Be competitive.

I believe that competition, greed, laziness and curiosity are important factors that drive progress. If we weren't lazy we would still run after our food instead of farming. If we weren't greedy and we would't have competition we would have no reason to want to earn more money by improving products. And also there would be no point in making better products if the society would not be based on consumerism. Last but not least, it's curiosity (a lot of times combined with luck) that helps us discover great things.

I agree that it's great to live in a society where most of the people's incomes are above a certain threshold, so they can live decent lives. But let the people naturally evolve freely. I believe that a good state is one that has the lowest interference with it's people's business. At the opposite side are forms of dictatorship, artificial societies, like communism, which I got to know myself in the first 7 years of my life.

I'm afraid that as more and more people from developed countries live their lives in ivory towers and as more and more people lose contact with reality and start fantasizing, we are in danger of repeating historical mistakes...

PS. It's not uncommon to see a Ferrari or Maserati near an old Renault in my country. I drive a Chevy and I see nothing wrong in wanting a Lexus.
Ben Jarvis 50+ +5Reply
Oct 25 2011: there's nothing wrong with having a chevy and wanting a lexus, the problem only arises if you earn the money for the lexus by depriving others of it.

capitalism should work. like you said if we improve our products we make more sales, but what's happening these days is rather than building a better mousetrap, companies are making profit by gouging, usually of employees by firing some and making the others work harder, paying them as little as possible including no bonus at all, and cutting benefits. workers aren't being paid what they deserve.

competition can drive progress, but these days it doesn't.
Jon Britton +5Reply
Oct 25 2011: This is the same myth that had put us in the mess, can't you see that? There is no trickle-down effect.
paula moffatt +2Reply
Oct 25 2011: so who pays the environmental costs of all this greed?
Victor-Vartan Pambuccian 0Reply
Oct 25 2011: Greedy does not mean irresponsible and foolish. I'm not talking about the kind of greed that leads to oil spills and other disasters. I'm talking about the kind of greed that makes a company sell e-books online to the whole world instead of paper books to a city. It's easier, cheaper, you can get _a lot_ more customers, you can make _a lot_ more money and - why not - it's also environmental friendly. So greed can be great, it's just how you look at it...
paula moffatt +1
Oct 25 2011: yes, that example involves MORE thru EFFICIENCY and that is great. but for the person who buys and maintains a huge home or 12 and a sports car or 2 or other stuff or travel, the person who wants apples from other side of world instead of other side of town.without prices reflecting the true costs, we all engage in crazy inefficiencies.
who pays for that pollution? who pays for what could be seen as overuse of oil and other resource, as more poolution than nescessary, is it fine to buy whatever and let the future generations fix (pay) the damage?
Ben Jarvis 50+ 0
Oct 26 2011: victor i think what you are talking about is not greed. greed is taking more than your fair share, it has nothing to do with improving something.
Sebastian Winterflood +2
Oct 26 2011: What you're talking about here is called ambition, not greed. Ambition can cause lot's of problems, including but not limited to greed. It also gives rise to tremendous progress. But we owe it to those ambitious people to let them know when their behaviour is have serious negative impacts on members of their community or society, if for no other reason than to give them the choice to act morally or not. As you say, and I agree, "I see nothing wrong with people earning as much as they deserve." I would also add that I see nothing wrong with people being burdened with as much cost as they deserve, both moral and financial.

Joanne Donovan 30+ 0
Oct 26 2011: I think you should question your motive in wanting a Lexus, Victor. I bet the chevy has its own kind of class. Evolution is satisfaction in who we are, cooperation with each other and the planet. Our burning desire to have, have, have, is a fairly recent development in the long and fruitful human timeline. I think we are about to crash, burn and mop up the pieces for all that greed and waste. I am not suggesting returning to chasing down wild beasts on the arctic tundra, only a re-evaluation of what is truly important. I bet if you did acquire that Lexus your acquisitive orgasm would be only too brief, before it is replaced by another impossible desire. Why not look the hungry beast of want in the eye, and stare it down until it disappears? This might be going in a direction you are uncomfortable with but the point is, we are all too addicted to an illusion of 'wealth' when in reality, no creature on the planet has ever had as much wealth, comfort and ease as many of us enjoy today, yet we are not satisfied at all. Imagine for a moment the most meaningful moment you ever had in your life. I bet it had nothing whatsoever to do with a material possession. I think holistic sustainable economies, socialism if you want to use an ugly overused misunderstood term, is about a rebirth of the human community, a kind of rennaissance if you will. I think it is worth striving for and attainable, but the question is, do we have the maturity to achieve it?

Cleve Wong 0Reply
Oct 26 2011: I like your take on things and you probably have a good work ethic. but the word "GREED" does not mean a general desire for success. It means EXCESSIVE DESIRE to possess and own. Of course how you measure "excessive" can be arguable, but I do think if you have money to buy a ferrari/lexus, you should at least be appreciative of what society has given you and be thoughtful about how you can give back to the less fortunate.
"I see nothing wrong with people earning as much as they deserve." you seem to be oversimplifying the meaning of what one "deserves". many people are born into dysfunctional families or at disadvantage in one way or another (inequality, too poor for education) they too deserve the chance to compete. But they cannot. Many people work hard full time but receive less than minimum wage. Aside from individual ambition, we must not ignore the larger structural GREED that exists in many levels in the form of exploitation of workers (eg. low salary for some intense factory work) After all, when we define a person solely by the amount of money he can make, that means GREED exists.
I believe one can subsribe to social darwinism and at the same time be thoughtful and generous to the less fortunate ones.
Al Burns +2Reply
Oct 24 2011: How much of the social problems (and income inequality as a social problem - not necessarily the cause though) are due to differences in societies homogeneousness? I read a lot about the correlation between how homogeneous a society is and income inequality (in democracies). Less homogeneous societies tend to prefer less social support structures (welfare, healthcare, etc.) and there is less community support in general and higher crime rates. The root cause of all of this could therefore be not income inequality in itself, but heterogeneous societies, like the US or UK on one end vs. Japan and Sweden (which though both are different are both homogeneous societies). I that case, higher taxes or limiting bonuses would fix nothing as they would not address the root cause. Would be interesting to check this out.
Ben Jarvis 50+ +2Reply
Oct 25 2011: i disagree. i live in one of the most homogenous societies in the world, japan, and everybody gets government-subsidized healthcare and welfare.

the determining factor is income inquality. here when the global financial crisis came, company directors didn't get any bonuses, and when companies do well all workers get bonuses (usually the equivalent of a few thousand dollars). every spring unions (almost every industry is fully unionized) campaign for raises and they are always given except in very extreme cases.

that might sound like some to be a terrible burden on companies - with all those salaries to pay, surely it dents the bottom line? - but think about it, what do people do with the money they're paid? they go out and spend it! with a country full of well-paid consumers, the economy is robust and company profits are high - all that money they pay to their workers comes right back to them in the form of sales.

Uriah Maynard 20+ +1Reply
Oct 25 2011: What about SIngapore? Even more income inequality than the US, and they suffer many of the same problems, yet they are no more diverse than Japan. It's not the diversity.
Alex Martin 0Reply
Oct 25 2011: Actually, Singapore is pretty diverse. Both in terms of ethnicity and religion.

As of 2010, 5.1 million people live in Singapore, of whom 3.2 million (64%) are Singapore citizens while the rest (36%) are permanent residents or foreign workers. 2.9 million people (57%) were born in Singapore while the rest are foreign-born

About 40 percent of the population are foreigners, the sixth-highest percentage in the world.

Source : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Singapore#Demographics
Luiz Felipe Costamilan 0Reply
Oct 25 2011: Yeah, Singapore is vastly more diverse than Japan. Even if it wasn't, what would one data point prove?
Pete McCain +1Reply
Oct 24 2011: Has anyone asked the question about the diversity of those societies with low wealth disparity. I think it is easier for a homogeneous society to share wealth and opportunity. Diverse societies tend to clump apart. Just my guess.

Uriah Maynard 20+ 0Reply
Oct 25 2011: Singapore is no more diverse than Japan, but it has very high wealth disparity. It's not diversity that causes it.
Alex Martin 0Reply
Oct 25 2011: See my reply above. You are not correct, Singapore is diverse.

"About 40 percent of the population are foreigners, the sixth-highest percentage in the world."

Source : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Singapore#Demographics

As opposed to Japan where 98.5% of the population is of the same ethnical background.

I am not saying diversity is the only cause, but it sure can be an important factor.
Brian Ess 0Reply
Oct 25 2011: Alex, Singapore is not relevantly diverse.

Singapore demographics are notoriously obscure. Example: that 40% foreign population refered to by Singapore Demographics, Wikipedia are made up of a vast majority of transient foreigners and for those who are less than transient, they have not been three long enough to establish "father's income" as refered to by the speaker.

While said foreigners are included in diversity figures, they cannot be included in the correlations being drawn by this speaker.
Alex Martin 0
Oct 25 2011: Hi Brian,

Singapore is diverse since its inception as an independent state. Read their history. Even diverse enough to start a few race riots in '64 and '69.

I would say that is pretty relevant as I have not heard of race riots in homogenous populations.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1964_race_riots_in_Singapore
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1969_race_riots_of_Singapore

pat gilbert 50+ +2Reply
Oct 24 2011: It seems to me the study is irrelevant in the sense that Mr. Richardson does not talk about countries that have failed. Argentina had the 2nd largest GDP 100 years ago, today they are a failed economy, before they imploded I'm sure they would have scored quite high on Mr. Richardson graph, today not so much. FYI they failed because of unaffordable social programs. Japan has been in an economic slump for 2 decades for much the same reasons. How about USSR or the soon to be imploded Greece (which scores quite high on Mr. Richardson graphs) or the PIGS, an acronym for Portugal, Italy, Greece, Spain, what will they score after they implode? I guess you can continue to have a better life as long as there is credit left on the credit card but it is painful when the card maxes out. The only Shangri-La that exists is the one that the individual creates for himself any notions otherwise are nothing more than the enslavement of the individual to the collective. You can choose to say this is a hard way to look at life but it is a real one. Review this video for the other end of spectrum, which is the real perspective: http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/niall_ferguson_the_6_killer_apps_of_prosperity.html

Uriah Maynard 20+ +5Reply
Oct 25 2011: A 'real' one, huh... Why didn't you address monetary policy in regard to the economic problems of Argentina, Japan and the PIIGS? Could it be that you're not equipped to make that argument, so that you gloss over it to promote your ideological propaganda? Because actual economists sure don't seem to be making the argument you want to make about 'unaffordable social programs'...

pat gilbert 50+ +3Reply
Oct 25 2011: Uriah

The monetary policy is what I'm talking about? Do you see the connection between living beyond your means and monetary policy? Actual economists very much make this argument, Thomas Sowell, Walter E Williams, Arthur Laffer,Adam Smith, Alexis de Tocqueville; these guys are different from Keynesian economists like Paul Krugman or Robert Reich who live by the 1.5 multiplier, of which one statesman asked have you ever seen the 1.5 multiplier in the wild? because it does not exist, and is merely a propaganda tool, for socialists. Argentina had bad monetary policy in order to cope with it's unaffordable social programs, they used inflation to pay their bills, Japan basically tried government intervention in banking, Greece has simply spent more on welfare than they could afford.
Steven L. Jones 30+ +12
Oct 25 2011: Your argument seems to be who will pay for it and when the bills come in that the country will fail because social welfare doesn't work. Is Capitalism that bad a economic model that it must scrape every penny off the floor to survive an begrudge anyone getting a nickle of support? I think it's sad that we believe that we can't take care of people. That the world is tough luck charlie and it's your fault that you can't make it. On the other hand money has little to do with how happy someone is. A Buddhist in cave can be happy. Given that one has enough to eat and roof over their head the rest of it is in the head. What I noticed throughout this talk is that the USA is at or near the bottom. My country Canada is in the middle. I wonder if USA will become a failed capitalist state. I can't help thinking what a message the corruption of the banking system has sent it's youth. Then again maybe there will be a quite revolution.
Jon Britton +5Reply
Oct 25 2011: The study is limited to existing market economies because that's where the data is. You might as well ask why they didn't include ancient Rome.

Julian Blanco 30+ +5Reply
Oct 25 2011: Dear Pat:

Two comments here

First, you are cherry picking, there are other countries with different degrees of welfare state/ equality that have being successful for many years and don't seem to have collapsed because of the cost, how do you explain that? (France, Scandinavians, Canada, etc) also Japan is not doing that bad if you make a WW comparison…
Second, things are much more complicated, as an Argentinean, I can tell you that commodity prices have a large impact on the economy, as well as corruption levels, dictatorships, etc. In any case acknowledging that Argentina is not one of the mayor economic powers these days, there is still free university and free health (we can argue about quality or access, but it's still free).

My point is that you can't (or at least you have not so far) establish a direct correlation between equality/welfare and systemic economic problems.

Regards!

JB

PS in some sense I like your idea of man being an island, but it's just not true, violence being the first major obstacle

pat gilbert 50+ +2Reply
Oct 25 2011: Julian

So there are varying degrees of living beyond your means? France is not in good shape. Canada is reducing their government spending and actually getting their financial house in better order. I don't know why the Scandinavian countries do as well as they do, they are a bit of a mystery to me, I think it might have to do with their culture and that they are relatively small countries.

Regarding the free education and healthcare they are not free they are paid for with taxes. Second when ever something is free the demand goes way up, the only solution to this problem is to ration the services and this quickly becomes an oxymoron.

Argentina had the 2nd largest GDP in the world 100 years ago, in order to do this Argentina was doing a lot of things right. Today they are ranked at 138 on the Heritage scale of economic freedom this is correlation.

http://www.heritage.org/index/ranking

A few more examples: West Germany verses East Germany, Korea verses North Korea, China verses Hong Kong. These examples show correlation.

I recommend you review this video as it is apt to this subject:

http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/niall_ferguson_the_6_killer_apps_of_prosperity.html


Reply to Julian's last response

I guess TED doesn't want too many comments on this so this will be my last response as neither of is going to enlighten the other.

This is real simple stuff. Yes living beyond your means can apply broadly.

The definition of economics that I like best is: "the study of the use of scarce resources, which have alternative uses."

Almost all commodities become scarce when they are free, especially healthcare and education.

The economic models that work are timeless, so they are as valid now as 1000
years ago.

The free market raises everyone's standard of living this is done by innovation. E.G.
Most people now have a cell phone, air conditioning, a computer, the internet, can fly fly anywhere, etc. 40 years this was not the case.

Julian Blanco 30+ 0
Oct 25 2011: Hi Pat!

Some comments on your answer:

Living beyond your means is not an statement you can apply broadly to all welfare states in every moment.

I is "normal" that a country expands its expenses when it has the means and then reduces them facing economic uncertainty/problems.

Agree, nothing is free in the end, let's change the "free" for universal access if you like.

There is not an infinite demand for education or health's it's related to the population size and needs (as we talk about Argentina, you will go to a private hospital if you can afford it instead of a public one). Also I don't see national "universal access" universities having to close because of extra demand (there are of course other filters but that is another discussion)

Argentina was #2? Was it because of political choices or was it due to high demand or Argentinean exports, etc? I don't know the answer, but I do think that a political model/view that was successful 100 years ago is not necessarily the right one today.

Economic freedom index? That does not have a direct correlation with the level of welfare state, it has to do with the direct influence of the state in the economy (restrictions on capital movement, etc).
To exemplify this: Argentina is 138, but Brazil is 113, Russia 143, India 124 and China 135 (BRIC countries, large and fairly successful economies). Also Canada is #4, Scandinavians are top 30, so I don't find a correlation between this index and a welfare estate or a successful economy in terms of growth.

On your last point, I'm not arguing that totalitarian socialist/communist governments are good (I dislike authoritarian regimens of any sort), we are talking (or at least I'm talking) about democratic welfare states and equality.

Regards!

JB

PS I'm not trying to propose Argentina as a model for the world or a country that has the right policies in place, some I like many I don't.
PS2 I did see the talk you mention but didn't totally agree with it
Pierre Tremblay +2
Oct 25 2011: For your information Canada financial house has been cleaned by Liberals (center) in the 90's. Now the conservative (right wing) are going back to the budget deficit era, reducing taxes and increasing expenses. Military expenses on foreign equipment is not doing so much for jobs compared to other kind of investments or simply tax reductions...

I totally agree with you that culture is essential to prosperity. Have you notice that among the richest countries in the world there is a lot of protestants... Northern countries have to plan their crops and budget to survive their winters... Scandinavians have also the highest rank on Transparency International. I still search to explain the success of the Scandinavians but it is only some facts that I've noticed.

I totally agree with you about the example of West Germany verses East Germany, Korea verses North Korea, China verses Hong Kong. This is totalitarian communism versus capitalism.

But there is also some other examples, Hans Rosling (from sweden) is making a lot of correlation to explain how to develop poor countries. Now developing countries are developing fast, much faster than "us". There is enough of them to build strong correlations.
The more they do on education and heath the faster they grow.
Willing to work
quality of work (education)
quantity of work (life expectancy -> health)

But it seam in our world that quality of work overpass the willing to work, the Germans are working the least in europe (33h per week) but has the strongest economy, they also invest the most in research.

This is the real question: What is the best way to improve education and health in the population of a country?

I have a bad warning.
On these two point, USA was first in the 50's but it is now ranked 33 in the world for education and life expectancy is going down.

What is the capacity of the usa to improve its condition?
iain stuart +1
Oct 25 2011: Pat, the Canadian economy was returning surpluses year after year under the "socialist" Liberal party. One of the first things the neo-conservatives did was to cut the GST(Goods & Services Tax) rate. This wiped out the surplus and when the economic crisis of 2008 hit, all of a sudden, Canada was in a deficit position, especially with the additional stimulus spending of the past couple of years.
Alex Zelikopvsky +2
Oct 25 2011: sorry pat - kill me if America is in a good shape
You are making propaganda statements instead of a serious talk-
(a) America is in crisis
(b) America does not know how to get out of it
(c) America is not a good (if not a bad) example to other countries to make people happier or live longer - but a good place for competition
(d) Communist countries were not a good example of equality - the claim of equality does not make people equal - it was just the same propaganda
but with another sign
Lisa Wilson +1Reply
Oct 25 2011: Australia didn't even have an official recession during the GFC. We took a hit for sure. But before the GFC we had no Government debt. But we have a very generous social welfare safety net and guaranteed workers rights. Our economy is one of the strongest in the world and one of the highest human development indexes. We still have a lot of room for improvement, but social justice make good economic sense.
paula moffatt +1Reply
Oct 25 2011: I think that you are right in that social programs need to be supported by proportional income taxes, rather than by money printing or deficit--SHARING IS THE ANSWER. no matter how lucky you are in business or in life, no matter how smart or no matter how hard you can work, you still have to share your toys. you can't take it all for yourself.

pat gilbert 50+ 0Reply
Oct 25 2011: 50% of Americans don't pay any income tax at all, the rest is paid by the "Lucky", how much sharing is fair? If the government keeps taking away the money that these individuals worked very hard for (despite the fallacy that they don't), at some point these individuals will say why bother, why work hard, why take the risk of business. What you endorse discourages or destroys all of the 6 killer apps in this video.

http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/niall_ferguson_the_6_killer_apps_of_prosperity.html
paula moffatt +1
Oct 25 2011: "how much sharing is fair?"--that is a moving target, i think and needs to be related to the needs of the society.
sometimes it isn't a bad thing for large income earners to just STOP and spend some time with their family, etc.
so much production in this world is about making stuff that too soon goes to landfill or waistfill while polluting and depleting resources. so much planned obsolescence, so much energy trying to get people to buy more stuff. all this to have 'employment' making the above, instead of doing the work that needs to be done and sharing.
I agree that capitolism can be a bit of a motivator, and can make some otherwise tedious work fun. but the system has to be good enuf to keep people in the game (good access to health/education) and to keep the conversation open...
Lisa Wilson +1
Oct 25 2011: No one is saying business owners don't work hard, but do they work 500 times harder than a mother working 40 hour hours a week in the paid work force and the same again doing unpaid work?

Even if they do work 500 times harder, do they work 70 billion times harder?
paula moffatt +3
Oct 25 2011: http://dougsaunders.net/2011/10/tax-avoidance-offshore-financial-crisis/
(excerpt from above:As the US Congress revealed this week, there are 94,000 people with earnings over $1-million a year who pay lower tax rates than their secretaries.)
At a moment when ordinary people are being asked to bear heavier burdens and lose vital government services in order to pay for the rescue of the economy, it is unconscionable that large sums go untaxed--doug saunders--my fav columnist in the globe and mail (definitely NOT fox 'news' !)

Joanne Donovan 30+ 0
Oct 26 2011: Hi again Pat, no rich guy ever gives up his day job. I think that comment is a bit childish. Do what instead? Sweep roads? In countries with a firm social support structure do you notice a deficit in people putting up their hands to run industry and develop technologies just because they actually have to pay a bit of tax? That comment is something I have heard before and is given out to support the 'freemarket' delusion.
paula moffatt 0
Oct 26 2011: Hi Pat--I can't get those quotation marks around the word Lucky (ie "Lucky") out of my mind--are you implying that persons who do very well in a capitalist system are not actually lucky? here are some lucky things that can happen: being born with all limbs and senses; having a smoothrunning brain; having a roof; heat; good food and parents; going to school; not getting a significant illness; having some positive influences during after school times; not getting beatten up at home or bullied at school; um not being in that 40 car pileup that happens one hour after you pass a stretch of highway the list goes forevercertainly it is not the only reason for success but it is huge--and one of many reasons to have a sharing society
Nicholas Franklin +1Reply
Oct 25 2011: Please don't use the expression "PIGS" it's offensive and above all reflects lazy thinking. Is your "I" "Italy", "Iceland" or "Ireland"? Apart from anything else the USA is under any technical definition bankrupt. Spain's debt looks laughable when compared to Britain's. I assume these - the USA and the UK - are examples of successful unequal economies for you. If not, which are?

pat gilbert 50+ +1Reply
Oct 25 2011: The US is bankrupt as is the UK. For examples of what is working I would look at Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia, Chile.

My point is that these countries that have more economic freedom,
than they had before, have a better life for their citizens meaning more prosperity, more innovation, better education, more happiness.
paula moffatt +1
Oct 26 2011: a question for Pat: you say "countries that have more economic freedom, than they had before, have a better life "

Are you saying that this is a linear (not sure of my terms) relationship where 100% ecomonic freedom= the best life?
Antoine Jarrige +1
Oct 26 2011: Hong Kong is now a specific area of China, benefiting from its special status as a hub for international trade and banking. The same is true for Singapore.

Australia has 20 million people, more uranium than the United States, and is enjoying a bonanza due to China's high demand for commodities. Chile is still emerging from years of dictatorship and economic stagnation, and it is not known for its high quality of life...

Once again, as said Paula, this no linear relationship : totally unbridled economic freedom doesn't mean perfect happiness.

Julian Blanco 30+ 0
Oct 27 2011: Dear Pat:

I lived in Chile several years (I think it's great country and have good friends there), if you read the news you will see they have their fair share of unhappiness and problems, how come if they are one of the top countries in your favorite index?

The economic freedom is just an index…
it's not the only one, nor the best one…
it helps you analyze some things…
it definitely does NOT measure "prosperity, more innovation, better education, more happiness"
And it does not intend to. It measures capital movement, import taxation levels, etc.

Regards!

JB

Joanne Donovan 30+ +1Reply
Oct 26 2011: Hi Pat, I think this has to be my last comment and I had better get back to work! You obviously pride yourself on your intelligence and education, yet your comment 'No doubt they have committed transgressions that I'm not privy to, on the other hand the U.S. did fight the Nazis, Japan's tyranny, al qaeda, etc.' is one of the most ignorant things I have ever heard anyone say! A flick of the wrist through Wikipedia and you will learn enough about U.S. history to shake your religious-style belief in the so-called free market mythology. Look, for example, at Milton Friedman himself and what went on in Cuba. Really you cannot quibble about teminology such as 'equal rights' and egalitarianism etc if you don't even understand the basics of your own history from a global rather than an isolationist perspective. I am not digging at you here, I speak from the perspective that the American people are currently living under a capitalist greed machine they have little control over, which they don't deserve. How much more will they have to take before they see it for what it is? The sacrosanct idea of 'the land of the free' might have to take a knock or two, but you will survive and be better, happier people for it. Truly free and secure instead of living in a world based on patriotic delusions.

pat gilbert 50+ +1Reply
Oct 26 2011: Can you direct me to the Friedman Cuba thing? The only similar reference I can think of is Friedman's influence on Chile which is the reason they are doing so well these days, Pinochet was smart enough to seek his council and it has paid dividends for the Chilean people. As far as the rest of the accusations you will need to be specific, I can't respond to conjecture. I can't really say I pride myself on much of anything other than maybe my skill as a tradesman (blue collar). Other than that I will agree to disagree and leave this at what works is the free market as demonstrated with East Germany verses West Germany, North Korea verses South Korea, Hong Kong verses China.

Final response to Joanne

Upon a cursory look I don't see anything specifically about Cuba and Friedman. I did see a summary of her book on Wikipedia. Regarding Pinochet the fact is that Chile is doing much better as a result of Friedman's policy implementation. I asked a 50 something year old Chilean citizen one time about his view of Pinochet, his response was the violence was a two street and that Pinochet was a good man. Again how do I judge that?, by the results of his efforts, the results are very good and Chile has made the most change towards prosperity of any country in Latin America. If they want to punch me in the nose they will have to get in line. This video is of Milton Friedman's views compared to Naomi Klein's views. What Mr. Friedman is espousing is natural law but I doubt you can see that:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g2kTy7glZ9s&feature=mfu_in_order&list=UL

Joanne Donovan 30+ +1
Oct 26 2011: Hi Pat, I have a lot of respect for a blue collar worker, and I come from similar stock myself. I can't help but think then that you are most definately arguing for the wrong side. I think the ordinary working man or person has suffered more than anyone in the implementation of right wing politics in the U.S. To see a very good discussion about Friedman and Cuba, read The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism by Naomi Klein. There is a great documentary with the same title. The book argues that the free market policies of Milton Friedman have risen to prominence in some countries because they were pushed through while the citizens were reacting to disasters or upheavals. I think that American's have been fed a line of bs for too long, it prevents many people from actively demanding change. And I ask you Pat, who benefits from that, you and your family? No. Someone else who already has far too much money.

Joanne Donovan 30+ 0
Oct 26 2011: Ouch...I just have to add one more thing, if the U.S had a system similar to West Germany we would not be having this conversation. The germans have unions, they have a good social system, wonderful schools and a government protected health insurance/pension scheme. People feel safe and secure, because they are safe and secure. If Berlin had a coastline like my country has, I would live in that city because it is sensational there.The german system has not come about through a bunch of hippies sitting around a campfire singing 'kumbya' it has come about through hard fights from a well informed, politically astute general public (especially the blue collar workers) who do not take bs from anyone. I think the American people would do well to follow their example. I hope they will stand up, and take back their country.Pinochet Pat, was a war criminal on par with Hitler. Thankfully his reign of terror is over. That a few people got rich, does not represent the wealth of the chilean people. If you went to chile and made a similar comment to this one 'Pinochet was smart enough to seek his council and it has paid dividends for the Chilean people.' I would say someone would pop you one on your nose.
paula moffatt +1
Oct 26 2011: there are some dead people who didn't do so well in Chile, thanks to the Friedman-Pinochet fiasto in Chile. Did the US ever formally apologize to the Chilean people for that one?

Joanne Donovan 30+ 0
Oct 26 2011: You are NOT talking about natural law Pat, and I doubt you will ever see that. Hitler thought he was talking about natural law too. I guess if you advocate a destructive, inhumane policy you need to feel 'god' is on your side otherwise living with yourself might get difficult. The comments people have made about the bloodshed Pinochet was responsible for does not seem to make any impact on you, you still persist in describing him as 'good'. Why? do you count yourself as a cruel person? someone who lacks empathy for others? Many others along this thread have given you real examples of many societies, which are more equal and working well and yet you still persist in calling them 'unnatural'. Why? Do you consider yourself a person who is unable to learn new ideas? If you persist in remaining ignorant then you deserve to be exploited. If you have no empathy for others, and do not consider yourself part of the greater human community, then you deserve to stay on your pschological island.
devin martin +2Reply
Oct 26 2011: In my opinion, Argentina actually serves as a beautiful example of why too much inequality leads to poor incomes. The reasons are clear if you look at the period when the US and Argentina started to diverge. Pat, you seem to be comparing recent decades, but the divergence started over a century ago.

A century ago, the US and Argentina were similar countries who had one huge natural advantage...vast amounts of fertile, undeveloped land. How this resource was used is very instructive. Argentina took a total free-market approach, auctioning off the land to the highest bidder (mostly European aristocrats). The US took an approach that might be fairly called socialist. Most of the land was given away freely to any member of the public willing to move to the land and build a home on it. In Argentina, the wealthy landowners had little motivation to add to their already vast wealth, and the land was largely used for marginally productive ranches and vacation manors. In the US, the common people who started with very little would see tremendous improvements to their lives by making use of this government "handout", and indeed that is what they overwhelmingly did. (More details available in the book "False Economy" by Alan Beatty...it's only one chapter on Argentina and the US.)

Such "handouts" continued in the US in the form of New Deal programs, massive GI Bill subsidies for education and homeownership, and countless other programs that continue to this day. Argentina was very late to the game in terms of such redistributive policies...to blame such policies for Argentina's economic state today compared to the US is like blaming a sprinter for being slow when he didn't start the race until everybody else was halfway to the finish line.

pat gilbert 50+ 0Reply
Oct 26 2011: I'm comparing Argentina 100yr ago to Argentina today.

It appears that land ownership in Argentina 100yr ago was not attainable by the average person, this is true and probably detracted from the country's prosperity as much as it added to the U.S. prosperity.

There are other factors that create prosperity and detract from prosperity. The new deal programs did not end the great depression in the United States, in reality government intervention is what prolonged the depression. The current malaise in the U.S. economy was absolutely caused by government intervention to create home ownership.Higher education and it's high cost is another bubble caused by government intervention.

The decline in Argentina's economy was coincident with Peron's socialist policies, this is the problem with a democracy as opposed to a republic.
Antoine Jarrige +2
Oct 26 2011: With your example of land ownership, you are precisely arguing in favour of the fact that smoother equality adds to the success of any country. And though it had no measurable cost, the Homestead Act is indeed a policy implemented by the government that redistributes wealth.

Furthermore, the talker is not arguing that State should redistribute massively wealt ; he precisely explains that it makes no tangible difference whether it comes from pre-tax equality or from redistribution.

The cost of higher education in the US is twice as big as in France or Germany (and I'm speaking as the cost for thesociety as a whole). I do not see any bubble there.

And Peron was not as much a socialist as he was a militarist dictator (your point opposing democracy and republic just makes no sense; you are using the american clivage between Democrats and Republicans). I also see you are always turning to Argentina as an exemple, though the Argentinian guy proves you wrong every time.

Anyway, are you a member of a Tea-Party, or any bunch of ideologically intoxicated people?

Elizabeth LeBlanc 10+ +1Reply
Oct 24 2011: I am glad he ended this talk on a hopeful note. I can already tell I'm gonna need to watch that a few times. Right now, this talk reminded me of one by Sam Harris on science and morality. The moment that hit me like a freight train is at 2:58, the two mothers holding their children.

http://www.ted.com/talks/sam_harris_science_can_show_what_s_right.html

What we have here is science answering a moral question and it is telling us that the greater the differences in our resources, the worse off we all are. And it IS Econ 101 which just makes it even worse. It's not even difficult to solve – entire other countries do it daily.
"Progressive liberals seem incapable of stating the obvious truth: that we who are well off should be willing to share more of what we have with poor people not for the poor people's sake, but for our own; i.e., we should share what we have in order to become less narrow and frightened and lonely and self-centered people." - David Foster Wallace
If moral self-interest isn't enough, the speaker points out some pretty cogent material aspects of self-interest as well…
Lisa Wilson +1Reply
Oct 25 2011: //"Progressive liberals seem incapable of stating the obvious truth: that we who are well off should be willing to share more of what we have with poor people not for the poor people's sake, but for our own; i.e., we should share what we have in order to become less narrow and frightened and lonely and self-centered people." - David Foster Wallace//

"They" say it all the time, the countries who are doing well are all democracies, they vote for higher taxes for this reason, they can see the benefits to themselves and ultimately results in lower taxes as well as improved social determinants because social dysfunction is a lot cheaper to prevent than it is to treat. .I live in Australia and we look to countries who are doing better than us addressing specific social problems to see what they are doing differently and the studies. We look at what the protective factors are and what the risk factors are.. So, we build on the protective factors and work on reducing the risk factors. We examine the outcomes and examine the variables. We repeat that which works, we don't repeat what doesn't. It's social science. Altruism is in our self interest.. Denmark, Norway and Sweden consistently provide a good initiatives and the US, well, if you can't serve as a good example, you may as well serve as a horrible warning.
paula moffatt 0Reply
Oct 25 2011: and in Australia, you have a truer voice thru voting as you aren't stuck with a primitive 'first past the post' system like we have in Canada.
Tomas Sabaliauskas 0Reply
Oct 24 2011: This is simple to predict by simple decision making psychology... when you want some thing unreachable (big gap) means more of those who take extreme risk as acceptable or even neglect it...

João Coucelo 10+ 0Reply
Oct 24 2011: Good evening. This talk is amazing.

A social analyzes to get to an overall message of equality.
That the most equal individuals feel in a society the better is the outcome.

To fight our Human basic characteristics is a challenge. It was while living in caves and it still is after thousands of years of creating rules and concepts to rule societies, mostly because Humans always walked away from equality.

The basics say that biologically we are wired to fight for better conditions, to build the safest and strongest environment around us and close ones, to control resources and to fight who/what threatens all these.

All based on a Human basic feeling of FEAR.

This fact leads Humans towards inequality. Even those agreeing with equality won't mind to be equal but with a space to have slightly more than the some other. Just in case.

To think that we own something is delusional. We own our bodies and only for a relative short period of time. While here use it to learn how to practice good, love, tolerance, non-violence, compassion.

Trying to overcome the needs and limitations of our Human bodies and letting our souls to shine through is the challenge. To change our societies depends on each one of us.
Luiza Vicentini 0Reply
Oct 24 2011: I'd really like to broadcast this video to more people, but the potential audience I would like to watch this talk are speakers of Brazilian Portuguese. I am looking forward for the subtitles to be available.
Ian Gruber +5Reply
Oct 24 2011: I am no statistician. I try to come to TED to learn more than to evaluate or push any personal agenda. I don't often comment as I've noticed it easily side-tracks the actual point of the talk, but for this talk I hope someone out there appreciates the effort to share on the topic, not just how 'valid' the topic is or the methods. This subject feels, to me, like common sense. Does it not seem to others that financial wealth only gets you so far, then after a while it can get in the way of other, more important things?The pursuit of wealth for status or self-identity does not seem to equate to personal, family or society's joy? Are not the donations of the wealthy a form of equalization? Doesn't common sense tell you that helping others (financially or otherwise) typically ends up helping ourselves in the end? Are we so polarized as wealthy nations that helping others is so difficult? Some of the greatest joy in my life is when I forget my issues and help others, with cash, with labor, with a smile, with whatever talents I have. The kind of stress I face from helping others is short-lived compared to the long-term joy I receive back.Doesn't it make common sense to be the best caretakers of the resources we have while we have them? I don't need to be 10 times wealther than someone else to feel productive or be a good stuart of my resources. I hope I am not alone in that thinking.I don't know for sure folks. Isn't there a greater lession here than just picking apart pieces of the presentation? I don't see a need to split hairs in order to fuel an arguement. Isn't there enough common sense in the presentation to have a discussion on what brings joy to life... and how it makes sense that money only gets you so far in that pursuit?
Aaron Stackpole 0Reply
Oct 24 2011: I don't see any data there for India, one of the worst examples of income disparity in the world.
Louise Patmore 0Reply
Oct 24 2011: I think the main thrust was about established marketised countries of western style developed rather than developing countries. I would imagine the stats coming out of India would be changing very rapidly as it develops and would be of deep interest to many

Robert Rapplean 20+ +1Reply
Oct 24 2011: India's Gini coefficient is only 36.8, not even as high as the United States (45.0). The people there may be poor, but the wealthy aren't anything like the wealthy in the US. What makes you think it has greater disparity?

Jussi Tynkynniemi +4Reply
Oct 24 2011: Inequality is a terrbile thing and it should be made history.

In the nordic countries we have made huge efforts to reduce the financial and gender inequality and I can tell you that it really is worth it. As it was show in the slides nordic countries do very well in almost every survey. We have high level of education, high productivity, low child mortality, very effective health care system and more than this we manage very well in global markets. Nokia and Ikea for example. Ofcourse there is a down side... I pay about 20% tax from my measly income and my dad pays aroud 40% tax. (In Denmark taxation is even higher.) What do we get for our tax money? We have free health care, free education (even universities), good social benefits (stundent pensions etc.), safe streets and parks and high productivity and much more.

One person was critising that redistribution of wealth is a theft... but is it not nation's highest priority to take good care of it's citizens? Even if it means to tax those who can afford it?

Not only the social benefits arise from financial equality but there is also financial stability in national scale. There is a reason why large mid-income class is vital for national financial stabitlity. Most of US financial problems arise from this. They have almost completely destroyd their mid-income class thus destroyed their internal money circulation. In comparison the nordic countries still have large mid-income class and have succesfully steered clear from financial crisis... so far.

There was funny thing when he was showing slide about mental illnesses and there is no Finland there... we are front runners in number of mental cases and alcoholics and would definitely screw his data :D

Greetings from Finland
James Young +1Reply
Oct 24 2011: I will start off by saying that I believe income inequality can have truly negative repercussions, but I find this talk to be a little misleading. I am a little dumbfounded that after showing no correlation between life expectancy and GDP per capita across country, but correlation between income and life expectancy, he didn't even mention the possibility of a composition effect. Of course societies like the Untied States aren't going to show as well in a cross country study on health outcomes when its GDP per capita is skewed up because of the mega rich, but their increase in life expectancy is going to have a little impact on the national average. Another way to say this is that it is not the inequality itself that causes the average bad outcomes, but just how the math works out. Latter he presents the correlations as suggestive of causal possibilities, yet this omission of discussion of the possibility of composition effect is glaring in comparison.

Policy implications for increasing average life expectancy differ based on whether the data is being driven by a composition effect or a truly causal connection between inequality and outcomes. If it is just a composition effect, then growth of everyone's income will be enough to increase life expectancy. If it is causal then redistribution of some type will be needed.

It's not even that I think he does this to hide anything. I just find it very surprising that he doesn't bring it up.

Uriah Maynard 20+ +1Reply
Oct 25 2011: I don't think it was misleading, I think it made a very strong argument that GDP is totally meaningless when it comes to the social benefits of prosperity unless that GDP is distributed fairly.
James Young +1Reply
Oct 26 2011: Right GDP per capita is meaningless in this case because it is an average. However, it does not follow from that that income inequality is a better predictor of health outcomes than individual income. See below for more info.
Lisa Wilson 0Reply
Oct 25 2011: Composition?
James Young 0Reply
Oct 26 2011: See below.
Kalle Samuelsson 0Reply
TED TRANSLATOR
Oct 25 2011: How can growth of everyone's income increase life expectancy when the first graph shows that there's no correlation between GDP and life expectancy?

Your argument fails if you look at the graph introduced at 11.25. It shows that even the richest in a society enjoy benefits from it being equal.
James Young +1Reply
Oct 26 2011: The problem is you lose information when you take an average i.e. GDP per capita. Outliers that cause the average GDP to increase does not mean that every person in that country has a higher income and can therefore afford better health care. One multibillionaire when everyone else makes 100 dollars is going to cause GDP per capita to be relatively higher. However, that multibillionaire's income isn't going to do much to raise his or her life expectancy compared to if they only made a million dollars. Therefore, average life expectancy in the country will still be relatively low. Obviously, this country has large inequalities

Now compare that to a country that has little inequality. Each person has a similar income higher than the poor in the first country and a higher life expectancy than the poor in the first country.

It is quite possible that the first country has a higher average income, but lower health outcomes than the second. (I could give you a numerical example if you want) In addition, the first one has more inequality. Therefore, we have a positive correlation between inequality and health outcomes (and actually a negative relationship between GDP per capita and health), but in no way is less inequality causing better health outcomes. Higher incomes cause better health outcomes. It is just by the composition of how many rich, poor, or middle income people are in the country that causes the relationship between inequality and health outcomes.

Continued below.
James Young +1Reply
Oct 26 2011: Once again I was surprised he did not rule out this possibility in his talk, so I went looking on the net and the academic literature. It turns out there are more problems with his data, which several people already have noted on the discussion. As Luiz Felipe Costamilan noted above there are conspicuous missing developed countries. Including some and excluding others will result in different results. Don't take my word for lets look at an article in the academic literature, which is supposed to conform to Wilkerson conclusion. Which summarizes other articles in the academic literature.

Quote
Studies on the health effects of income inequality have generated great interest. The evidence on this association between countries is mixed, 1–4 but income inequality and health have been linked within the United States,5–11 Britain,12 and Brazil.13
End Quote

From Lynch, Smith, Kaplan, House 2000
http://www.bmj.com/content/320/7243/1200.extract
There is no agreement (mixed results) in the academic literature that there is even a correlation between inequality and health incomes across countries. You can go look up the academic papers for yourselves, which lunch et al list. There is relatively stronger evidence for a connection between inequality and health incomes within countries. For example a connection between income inequality in a particular U.S. state and average health outcomes in a state. However, even if there is correlation , it does not imply that inequality caused bad health outcomes. You would still have to rule out a composition effect. You do this with a multi-level model.

Here is an article that reviews the literature that pretty bluntly states absolute incomes are more important than inequality.
http://www.annualreviews.org/doi/abs/10.1146/annurev.publhealth.21.1.543
Another
http://jhppl.dukejournals.org/content/26/3/487.abstract

Continuted below
James Young +1Reply
Oct 26 2011: Note that I say as important as income, because you still find some correlation between income inequality and health outcomes in these models. However, as I mentioned in the post above, this means it would be more fruitful to pursue income growth programs in general than direct redistribution. This is why his presentation is misleading. Health even in developed countries has more to do about income than income inequality. If you are still not convinced ask yourself the following question: do the relatively bad average health outcomes in the U.S. have MORE to do with the U.S. having high poverty compared to the rest of the developed world, http://thorainstitute.blogspot.com/2008/05/us-has-highest-child-poverty-rate-in.html, which causes many people to go without health care because they don't have the income to get it, or is it because poor people and rich are in some way harmed by stress or whatever that someone has a much higher income or lower income than them? It should be somewhat common sense that income matters more than inequality.

On an aside, even the state level data has a more likely explanation than a causal link between inequality and health outcomes. If one state is more progressive it will have most likely less inequality and more health benefits for the poor. Health outcomes are associated with less inequality, yet this is not because lower inequality itself, but because of public policy or structural reasons.
Christopher Freeman 0
Oct 26 2011: I think you're trying to isolate income inequality from a number of other issues when they're all interrelated and shouldn't be isolated. The presence of income inequality implies the presence of high poverty, lower and less effective social programs, etc.

For example: You suggest income has much more direct effect on health than income inequality but raising the income of the more poverty-stricken members of a society has the effect of reducing income inequality.

In terms of direct effect income inequality might not be the most important factor in any particular, isolated issue. But the talk isn't about isolated issues. It's about the success/wellbeing of societies as a whole. It seems like income inequality is a pretty good indicator on a large number of issues.
James Young 0Reply
Oct 26 2011: Let me directly address the figure @ 11:25. The simpler explanation to that picture is that all Swedes have access to better health care as well as more equal access to care than British citizens. The better health care does not have to be caused by the more equal access.
James Young 0Reply
Oct 26 2011: Christopher,

Wilkinson would like to claim that income inequality itself, e.g. because of decreases in stress, is the major factor in health outcomes in the developed world, even if he admits that his correlations don't show causation. The evidence is suggestive according to him. I on the other hand, do not agree that the correlations are even suggestive. He needs to do a lot more to show the majority of the correlations are not explain by a number factors mention above. I am an academic so things like this bother me, and I understand for most people its not that big of deal. However, I think there are some practical reasons why the distinction is important for at least the U.S. I will give you two policy proscriptions.

A.    I have come to the conclusion that a federal government health insurance voucher that is means tested for low income individuals is a good solution for the U.S. compared to a lot of the Health Insurance law that recently past. Would this increase health outcome in the U.S., yes it would, and decrease income inequality in the U.S, possibility. However, will better health outcomes occur because inequality itself decrease, not likely. Most the effect will come from them having better access to care.

B.    Alternatively we could focus on redistribution of income from the higher earners to lower earners that will also increase income equality and health outcomes in some way.


Why focus on B when it will be more politically divisive, less likely to pass, and income inequality itself is not even the dominant factor in itself concerning health outcomes?

pat gilbert 50+ +2
Oct 26 2011: James

I like your thinking on the disingenuous nature of the talk right up to where you state your A and B solutions.

Here in Calif there is access to healthcare for the poor and even illegal immigrants. I don't understand your solution A.

Is it possible that the healthcare problem was created by the unintended consequences of government regulations in the first place?

Is it possible that the whole notion of inequality is a canard not only to the healthcare problem but to the entire culture?
James Young +1Reply
Oct 26 2011: Pat,

The simple answer is that I do not believe that failed government policies implies that all possible government policies will fail, any more than I think any instance of a major market failure invalidates free markets in general. It is determined by the specific circumstances.

pat gilbert 50+ 0
Oct 27 2011: James

The difference between a market failure (in reality over-investment) and a government policy failure is that a market failure is temporary and self adjusting, a government policy failure is permanent of course until the country fails.

Can you give me an example where government policies did not fail?
Simon Guggenberger 10+ +2Reply
Oct 26 2011: Redistribution... Well, how exactly is it done?

One example: You tax the rich a bit higher, and invest that money in a singlepayer healthcare system, or in making college and university free so that not the richest but the best can study there.

if you only tax the rich higher, but then spend all the money on things that dont affect inequality, like bailing out banks or fighting wars, then you really didnt do much. The money you tax from the top needs to be injected at the bottom, and all the good and practical ways to do it, like infrastructure / education / healthcare / food stamps / welfare programs and so on, affect the well-being of society.

Of course this has political implications, its a case for socialism, democratic socialism, redistribution efforts aimed at reducing inequality. In all free democracies where you have more than two parties and a representative election system with proportional representation, you have socialist democratic parties that want to do just that, and conservative/libertarian parties that want lower taxes, more responsibility put on individuals, more freedom to make big money without being strangled by taxes. In the USA there just arent any socialist ideas around in politics. Obama wants to tax the rich just to fix the budget, mainly because in the USA there isnt much money to be found elsewhere. A socialist would propose taxing the rich to spend it on needs that all people have.
paula moffatt 0Reply
Oct 26 2011: Simon: well said!!
Angelo Bertolli +1Reply
Oct 27 2011: I'm glad I don't seem to be the only one who is skeptical about this talk. Some of the things he talks about seem to make sense... others do not. For example, I can believe that income inequality does probably affect how efficiently we handle health care. But then the explanation that it's because income inequality leads to some kind of worrying about what other people think of you... while at the same time putting Japan at the bottom end of the "problems" scale seems like they've got it wrong at least in some areas.

Kevin Stanek +1Reply
Oct 24 2011: Untenable assumptions left and right. He tries to control for confounding factors across countries/comparison (which is laudable) but even still, we should not wholeheartedly buy into his interpretation of the data. One piece that I'll criticize is "the American dream being in Denmark". If you have a society where individuals are randomly jumbled along the wealth distribution you will get low correlations between father and son income/status. Is that the American Dream? No. The American Dream is meritocracy; the idea that those who deserve get. Even in studies of adopted children or MZ twins reared in separate families, we see that individuals' income/status correlates more with their biological parents than their adoptive parents. Prof. Wilkinson seems to ignore that high correlations between father and son income/status could be due to genetic influences. If that were the case, then the USA's meritocracy would be functioning almost too well, increasingly sorting individuals according to their abilities (abilities here being things that society/the market is willing to pay for). I think this is highly plausible and I find it unfortunate that most viewers of this talk will not be exposed to this possibility. (Note: I'm sure environmental factors are of importance as well, but the data suggest that genetic influences also play a significant part that could provide conflicting evidence to his interpretation).
T- Bone +4Reply
Oct 24 2011: A far more plausible explanation for the correlations observed is that neither inequality causes unhealthy outcomes or vice versa. There is likely a third, 'lurking' factor. I suggest it's 'character' that causes both relative wealth and health.

People who have the self-discipline to delay gratification, to work hard, to exercise, to eat well, to save, and to put their family first will end up being both more wealthy and more healthy. Self-discipline isn't divided into separate self-discipline for personal finance and self-discipline for healthy behavior. It's all wrapped together. Good character doesn't prevent all disease, but it prevents things like obesity, diabetes, alcoholism, reckless driving, violence and drug use.

In fact, if a person devoid of good character is given access to wealth, it may only accelerate his or her demise. If someone is short-sighted, untrustworthy, selfish and lazy, and you give him access to money and a car, does anyone really believe he'll turn out healthier and live longer? Of course not. They would just be more likely to die young and hurt others along the way. National wealth amplifies the effects of character. Those with character with access to wealth do even better, and those without character with access to wealth end up doing even more harm to themselves and their communities.

If you compare the countries that are on one end of the income inequality spectrum with those on the other, there is an interesting pattern. Those with little income disparity are mono-cultural nations—Japan and continental Europe (mostly Scandinavia). Those countries with large disparities are true multicultural nations—the US, Singapore, UK, Australia, etc. Mono-cultural countries have populations who share the same values, religions, cultural norms, and ethics. They have a national character, for good or bad, which reduces variance in societal outcomes in terms of both health and wealth.
Andy Kwong +2Reply
Jan 13 2012: That's biased selection on your part. There are sucessful homogeneous nations that goes against your theory. Places like Hong Kong, or Mainland China have wide income disparity. In fact, in terms of developed economies, Hong Kong fares worst amongst all developed economies. A lot of it is due to the way the city-state is run. The functional constituencies still has representation in the legislature, producing a legislative chamber that is pro-business, with mch focus on social issues. These policies tend to support the accumulation of wealth and the explotation of the poor.

In fact, your argument is not new. If you take a look back at the 19th century and the debates surrounding welfare reform in Victorian Britian, these same arguments are used. The first few attempts at reform based on this view were absymal failures. Only when social inequality was tackled (in terms of discrimination, sufferage, education, and eventually health), was Britain able to finally able to improve on this measure. The general consensus is the lack of prospects encourages bad character and that is still the view held on this day.
Nathaniel Wildstone 0Reply
Jan 15 2012: Well, we would certainly like to believe that is true, that "character" is what determines wealth and happiness. I guess that's why Bernie Madoff, the people from Enron, Hedge fund investors and Wall Street tycoons, and so many others are wealthy--because they have good character, right?

Good character is its own reward, and the rewards are intrinsic. It has little correlation, if any, to external value gains. We tell ourselves that hard work and character are what determine wealth because we do not want to believe that social mobility is as low as it is in the U.S., and yet there it is. Also, other studies have shown that there is very little correlation between happines and wealth beyond taking care of little more than basic needs. Happiness is related to integrity and good character, though.

John Bulmer 0Reply
Jan 22 2012: To prove your theory, do the research. It will be difficult to prove. If you read the books on this, the background and the studies, character plays a small role.

Julian Blanco 30+ 0Reply
Oct 24 2011: My two cents here:

Assuming all the data (and the causality) are correct.

Does income alone create a more equal society or is it just symptom?
How much of a cultural phenomena? How much to do with values?
How much to do with infrastructure?
How much to do with education?

My guess is that the answer is far more complex than increasing wealth redistribution and or capping income.

Regards!

JB
David McKee +4Reply
Oct 24 2011: Redistribution is theft. When you take a dollar from a poor widow or from Bill Gates you are still stealing something that does not belong to you, and if you are the government doing it (the only way these redistribution schemes ever happen) then it is government theft.

Don't get me wrong, I have feelings for and want to help the poor widow, but not if you are pointing a gun at my head and forcing me to do so. Theft is theft, plain and simple and anyone doing it for any reason is wrong.

MVYMMV

-DTM
Mike Theel +25Reply
Oct 24 2011: You have a fundamentally wrong understanding about societies. Redistribution (where do you draw the line by the way?) would only be theft if every person had the same opportunities by birth. This is not the case.

Krisztián Pintér 200+ +2Reply
TED TRANSLATOR
Oct 24 2011: the definition of theft does not include social circumstances. if the poor shows up at gates' house himself, and steals something, you would approve that?

Andres Aullet 10+ +4
Dec 11 2011: hi Krisztian... old thread but as usual here i am stirring the pot a little bit....

the definition of theft is not black and white. if i sell something for 10 dollars knowing that it is worth only 5, in a sense i am stealing 5 dolars. If someone sells a new medicine and hides studies that show the magnitude of the side effects in order to protect their sales, then they are thiefs too

not everybody thinks that final definitions are given by opinions of judges of the supreme court

cheers
Antoine Antoine +2
Feb 25 2012: Theft includes breaking a law. Taxation is usually not against the law
Grant Sutton 0
Mar 4 2012: Theft that benefits all society is Prometheus gift isn't it. While most us work hard to gain for ourselves.

If the theft of a million dollars of your money helps keep the society valuing your prior donations and away from anarchy or even minor disruption the "theft" can be a net gain. You may not like that, most the time people do not like the fact that their work is being devalued, and their direct control and power is being taken away. Most of us have benefited from people that do not demand full market value of their help for us.

The market would suggest that the pay structure of teachers should be based on the earnings of their students. So if you want no redistribution of wealth we would have a structure where teachers own a share of their students income. This would leave the poor untaught even basic skills and make it very difficult for them to provide any benefit to society.

The theft from society is owning as much as some individuals own. While it motivates them to produce more, and better more desirable products it creates a situation that has lead to many wars, revolts, and stoppage of generalized progress.

We pay the government to rectify some of these inequalities, and if you want to stop I would happily support you doing so, just realize the only reason your money has value is the society you refuse to support backs it. And the only way you can have justice is through the backing of that same society.

Joel Webber +33Reply
Oct 24 2011: Am I to believe, from your unqualified assertion that "redistribution is theft", that you are against all forms fo taxation to pay for any kind of public service? The way you've stated it, that would appear to apply to public roads, the military, public water supply, police and fire services, emergency indigent care at hospitals, the coast guard, public education, border patrols, and so forth -- all of these are services that benefit everyone (roughly) equally, regardless of how much they pay.

Perhaps you're suggesting only that literally taking money from one person with more, and giving directly to one with less, is "theft". If so, I don't see how that's different from any other public service (e.g., the police force) that's distributed without regard to how much one pays in taxes.

But if we agree that any of the above examples are in the legitimate purview of collective action via government ("pointing a gun at [your] head", if you prefer), then we're only discussing the appropriate manner and extent of redistribution. Mr. Wilkerson is simply presenting data to support the assertion that lower inequality appears to lead to collective good on many metrics. There's legitimate debate to be had about the tradeoffs between redistributive policies and their impact on individual liberties. But your assertion seems intended to cut off all such debate, which I find unfortunate and not conducive to civil discourse.
Marco Al +5Reply
Oct 24 2011: IMO all natural resources are properly communally owned, claiming them and keeping profits derived from them is theft. The communal right to redistribution is derived from the privilege community grants to own natural resources (including land).

Even if we for a moment entertain the insanity of homesteading as a natural right, the majority of land was used and then claimed and not homestead while completely unused. (Rothbard saw this fundamental flaw in his theories, so he hedged and hemmed and just declared Indian's use of land as insufficient to constitute homesteading ... just because. Of course later on he declares similar use of the sea as sufficient claim parts of the sea ... as I said, insanity.) So all wealth is derived from theft according to this view point, kinda late to start protesting now.
William Brook +1Reply
Oct 25 2011: I very much agree with this but not I'm afraid from a strong economic background so please forgive any miss-understandings. The monopolization of any natural resources that belong to a community should not be held ransom by individuals. There is a value created by community which necessarily needs to be used for the community. This is most readily manifest in lands value in urban areas (as opposed to speculative land values that only hold back wealth production for the community) and in mineral resources. This community created wealth should be exploited for the community as they produced the wealth.The ability of the city (financial institutions) to invest is also derived from a credit line ultimately based in the communities land ownership and joint endeavour.There is an easily and understandably held view that things have gone too far and that land ownership or mineral ownership cannot be redistributed for the benefit of the community. If the natural resource that had been appropriated was individual labour through slavery we understand the mechanism for returning that resource to the individual. No one paid the slave owners back when slavery became illegal because the wealth they were deriving from that monopoly was not theirs. Similarly it could be argued that the community would greatly gain from a swap back to community owned land through taxation due to the increased efficiency of the use of its most valuable assets. The quick and the strong would still have opportunities to be rich but based effort and ingenuity towards community gain not community exploitation.
C English 20+ +26Reply
Oct 24 2011: No, redistribution is paying back what you owe society for the wealth you have generated on its back, and for the insurance of that wealth. Nobody makes their wealth in a vacuum. A poor person gains very little from being in an economic society. They are barely better off than if we all lived in an "everybody for themselves" anarchy. The wealthy owe their entire wealth to the existence of a smoothly running economy. Without it, they are no better off than the poor person. They owe a much higher percentage of their wealth to the economy than a poor person does.

Stable economies also require social insurance. If it was everybody for themselves, and you found yourself with a health problem, or an accident, or somebody stole all of your money or set fire to your house, you'd simply suffer and die. That's inefficient and creates risk-aversion. If every venture is life-or-death, you are better off to play it safe. Social insurance of collectively protecting people is far more efficient and growth oriented. You all start from a good, solid platform where you don't have to worry about daily survival (food, clothing, shelter, health). Then you can focus on growth activities rather than survival, and that excess wealth created benefits everyone. If you make a small mistake or get taken advantage of, you can fall back down without catastrophic damage to your life. This allows you to get back on the proverbial horse and become productive more than your cost once again. Making it too difficult to get back up is inefficient and costly to everyone.

So no, it is not theft. It is a debt owed.
Alex Martin +1Reply
Oct 25 2011: So if I bake some great cookies and you buy them that means I made money on your back ? And I hope we agree that principles remain principles regardless of scale.

What do you mean the existence of a smoothly running economy ? It surely isn't the case now in USA and Europe. Still the rich get richer. That would imply the wealthy people owe their increasing wealth to the not so smoothly running economy as well ?

While every group has its exception, couldn't it be that the majority of these rich folks do something right ? Maybe they provide a valuable service to lots of other people and this is their reward ? You live in a building, use a computer, probably own a phone and plenty of other gadgets. Where do you think they come from ? Who made them and why ?

Joanne Donovan 30+ 0
Dec 13 2011: ...'And I hope we agree that principles remain principles regardless of scale.' But I guess you expect to pay the power company who supplied the electricity to run the oven yes? Or is the power company 'stealing' from you?
Nuu Pants +3
Jan 16 2012: 'So if I bake some great cookies and you buy them that means I made money on your back?'

If your cookies are in demand across the country and you ship them do your vendors on the interstate highway system, or you use the court system, or communications or any one of a thousand different services provided by society then, yes.

If you pay your employees far less than the value they provide to you and don't provide benefits or humane treatment, then yes.

If you dump your waste products into the environment without treatment or without helping to augment the systems designed to deal with them, then yes.

I could go on indefinitely; such a facile argument hurts your case and your credibility.
Louise Patmore +6Reply
Oct 24 2011: trickle down theory has failed miserably, in the beginning of rising economic status of nations there was a lifting of all boats on the rising tide, however, there came a point when this stopped happening and the effect began reversing, . If it were the case it was still working then inequality wouldn't be rising so astronomically. If tax is theft using a road is imbezzlememt. Japan and Sweden have time and time again shown that what works is societal collaboration and equality, understanding the needs of all, not just a few. We all start from different positions and have different life challenges. the idea of a more philanthropic society developing has no more come to fruition than the colononisation of the solar system and is about as achievable. Instead people have to be encouraged to participate in society and share some of its good fortune to circulate it back into the economy and help better the lives of other which is more likely to "trickle up" and permeate a happier sense of well-being in nations that seem to have become stripped of happiness [gluttony is not being happy] including my own (UK). This talk has come after years of study on the sunject that has always reached the same conclusion. Why do Abkhasians, one of the poorest nations in the world experience one of the longest lifetime records in the world? Because people are respected all the way into old age, because it is one of teh most equal nations right through its demography. some might argue excessive profits is legalised violence-free mugging.
Sarah Caldwell +3Reply
Oct 24 2011: He spends about 2 minutes describing how inequality might be decreased. You are certainly free to have an opinion about that.

You are not, however, allowed to have your own facts. The fact is that everyone suffers for income inequality--the rich and the poor. Children are more likely to die; the old die sooner; we are all, regardless of age, more likely to be mentally ill.

Uriah Maynard 20+ 0Reply
Oct 25 2011: What do you think a dollar is? Because I don't think that word means what you think it means.
Lisa Wilson 0Reply
Oct 25 2011: //Redistribution is theft.//

What is it called when the people vote to have their taxes increased to help the disadvantaged because they know it is in their best interest as well because it reduces crime, saves money on police, courts, jails, hospitals and productivity?
Nicholas Franklin +3Reply
Oct 25 2011: Yes, rich people should keep all their money and spend it on having gated communities, body guards, etc. They are MUCH happier living in fear of the rest of us!

Joanne Donovan 30+ +4Reply
Dec 11 2011: Some of the people along this thread have a real problem with the concept of theft. If a bank decides to compund the interest you pay back to them at a rate that puts you in financial slavery for most of your days, it is not theft. If a insurance company makes false promises to win your premium that they know they will never honour, it is not theft. BUT if a society charges you tax for which you could also think of as a kind of rent for the use of roads infrastructure and all the other things society has had to pay for, suddenly it is theft? Who has trained you to think like this and for what reason. Have any of you, Eric and Kristzian among others, stop to think about that?
Alan Ofoedu +2Reply
Jan 17 2012: How can redistrbution be theft? No one makes money in a vacuum!
Any business is dependent on the people and infrastructure of the market. You must contribute to the up keep of the market place if you are making money there. Its the same principal in any market place. Soccer teams pay the league and give to the communities because without the fans the and the infrastructure, there is no soccer.

Why is this so hard to understand for rich people? You do not exist without all the other people allowing you to, so how can you not contribute?
stephanie iwan +2Reply
Jan 20 2012: Redistribution is theft. This seems a little black and white. Is redistribution of wealth theft if most within a society agree upon it? I don't consider it theft. I gladly pay taxes.I realize there is a lot of holes in this argument. For example, government decides ultimately how much we pay, where money is redistributed, ect. Civilians have only some sway in these matters. However, I do believe that, at least in Canada and in most other social democracies in the world, most people believe taxes have value and make our lives better at some level. Of course, they could always be handled better by government. Taxes however are necessary for a civilized society in which all people can retain some level of equality. Not to say everyone must be equal. However, I want to live in a country where all citizens have access to the basics at the very least. For me this is not only the right thing to do but it actually helps the country economically in the end. Improve quality of life now rather than pay for the consequences later. The consequences usually cost more (jails, hospital bills, addictions, abuse, ect). I believe the argument that social programs breed laziness is unfounded. The overwhelming majority of people want to work, they want to provide for their family, ect. This idea sounds more like a stereotype than reality. For example, abuse of welfare funding is as little as 5%. Yet, some would have you believe it is rampant. Also, as a comment on another thread from T-bone: the idea that character stops people from becoming addicted, obese or reckless is actually sad. It lacks empathy and insight.
Matthew Gunnyon +2Reply
Feb 22 2012: If you are really concerned with theft than I hope you are against surplus value. Business owners who earn profits from the labour of their workers is a form of theft, the reason why they get away with it is due to the state enforcing property rights.
Henrik Thiesen +2Reply
Mar 4 2012: That redistribution is theft is nonsensical - society is the structure that makes it possible for you to have an income. If you do not give anything to make that structure function your income goes away.
Try again - listen to the evidence ...
Larry Holmgren 0Reply
Oct 24 2011: "Richard G. Wilkinson (Richard Gerald Wilkinson; born 1943) is a British researcher in social inequalities in health and the social determinants of health. He is Professor Emeritus of social epidemiology at the University of Nottingham, having retired in 2008. He is also Honorary Professor at University College London and Visiting Professor at University of York."

"He is best known for his book with Kate Pickett The Spirit Level, first published in 2009, which claims that societies with more equal distribution of incomes have better health, fewer social problems such as violence, drug abuse, teenage births, mental illness, obesity, and others, and are more cohesive than ones in which the gap between the rich and poor is greater."
...
"Wilkinson's first book, Poverty and Progress was published by Methuen in 1973. He was a research student on a Health Education Council fellowship at the Department of Community Health, University of Nottingham and spent a year on a large-scale computer analysis of the possible causes of different health outcomes and social strata"
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_G._Wilkinson

This is a presentation of statistics in the service of Leftist politics.

The three core American values: Liberty, e pluribus unum, in God we trust.
Leftist values: Equality, group identity, secularism;
and characterized by divisive envious, group identity politics.

People on the political right wing want to create wealth and plenty.
People on the political left wing want to re-distribute wealth. --- adapted from Dennis Prager, talk show host.

Joel Webber +8Reply
Oct 24 2011: I'm afraid your assertion of bias is undermined by the clear bias in your own post. Everything "left" in your description is cast in a negative light, to the point of absurd caricature. If you want people to take you seriously, please consider presenting a point worth discussing, rather than just hurling vitriol at those you perceive to be your adversaries.

Krisztián Pintér 200+ +4Reply
TED TRANSLATOR
Oct 24 2011: few observations and a thought experiment.

observation 1: the data seems to contradict the data presented by hans rosling about sweden and singapore.

observation 2: formulating an index from many different datasets is not very convincing. i understand that they put hundreds of sources in it, but then why not show us the convincing data, and why show an arbitrarily chosen mystical index instead?

observation 3: if we know a causal relationship, it is superior to statistical analysis. if they do have the actual link, why do we need to watch a 17 minute talk about the correlation?? show us the link!

observation 4: the body of the talk does not support the conclusion. if inequality has a negative effect, does it mean we need to reduce it? if we can show correlation between wearing a mini skirt and rape, it is wise to discourage women wearing mini skirts? if displaying wealth causes increase shoplifting, should we penalize displaying wealth?

and finally the thought experiment, to better understand the underlying forces. i urge everyone to think about the following scenario. suppose we have two neighboring countries, both with low inequality (high equality). but very different in GDP per capita, one is rich the other is poor. then we merge the two countries, like the two germanies were merged after 1990. what happens in those countries that will raise infant death? lower life expectancy? decrease social mobility? increase cases of mental illnesses? it is not a tricky question. i'm not trying to set up a trap. this is a real question to dwell on.

Mark Santiago +1Reply
Oct 24 2011: Tax The Rich!

Steven Dilloway +1Reply
Oct 24 2011: lol
Ben Jarvis 50+ +8Reply
Oct 25 2011: better idea, set some legal limit so that the rich can't gouge everyone else. people should get rich from doing amazing work, not by cutting benefits, employee numbers and salaries.

Julian Blanco 30+ +5Reply
Oct 25 2011: Or don't cap the rich at all, just have a decent baseline (food, health, education, roof)
paula moffatt 0
Oct 25 2011: with a decent and democratically discussed and frequently revisitted baseline AND with a carbon tax to factor in the 'external costs' of excess consumption....
Oliver Sisson +1
Oct 25 2011: Nice idea Julian, but our expectations of that baseline are forever expanding
Christy Sanford 0
Oct 25 2011: Paula, what is often overlooked in the proposal for a carbon tax is that it penalizes many rural communities. I live in an economically challenged area dependent on some of the worst coal in the country. In addition to that problem is the fact that there are no jobs here, thus people have to travel long distances to work. I feel the carbon tax is not the answer. Mass transit would be helpful. Being able to have assistance from the Federal Government to upgrade our coal burning plant would also help. But we have a governor bend on not letting the current administration do anything progressive here.
paula moffatt +1
Oct 25 2011: "Nice idea Julian, but our expectations of that baseline are forever expanding"

--and that may actually make sense. for example, a few hundred years ago, just basic literacy might have been on the baseline 'wishlist' but in a developed country is it maybe reasonable to expect more than this ?
Ben Jarvis 50+ +2
Oct 26 2011: i was suggesting not so much capping the rich, but legislating against certain ways of getting rich. if u can make an extra $1m by making a better product that sells well that's great, but you shouldn't be allowed to make $1m by firing 50 people.

actually what they do here in japan works really well, employment levels are legislated - basically if a company makes X amount of money it has to employ Y number of people - which ensures that the rich do not get rich from squeezing their employees.

personally though i also advocate tethering the rich to the poor, say a limit of something like 100x, meaning that no-one can make more than 100 times the minimum wage. if they want more that's fine, then they also have to increase the minimum wage.
paula moffatt 0
Oct 26 2011: RE: Christy Sanford: "Paula, what is often overlooked in the proposal for a carbon tax is that it penalizes many rural communities. I live in an economically challenged area dependent on some of the worst coal in the country. "

I haven't researched the howtos of carbon tax enuf to say much except that I think there would be a way to do it so that it could work. a huge topic. your are right i think that it may need to be paired with some green energy opitons being invested in....

Scott Trimble 0
Oct 28 2011: "Or don't cap the rich at all, just have a decent baseline (food, health, education, roof)"

This! It's really this simple. There's no need to make it any more complicated, in my opinion.

In a country like the USA, there is plenty of tax revenue to guarantee the baseline needs of the poor. There are more than enough people who create great things and make themselves rich and are perfectly willing to pay substantial yet reasonable taxes. More specifically, there would be plenty of tax revenue to guarantee the baseline needs of the poor if it wasn't wasted on things like exorbitant military spending, paying consultants $200 per hour to analyze government programs that weren't a good idea in the first place, etc etc. At the same time, let the free market do its thing! (Of course the US government gets in the way of the free market in various ways, but that's another topic.)

Bottom line, I can't put it any better than what Julian said: establish a decent baseline for the poor and let the market be free (with reasonable taxes).
Jon Britton +2Reply
Oct 25 2011: You also have to define what "rich" is. Earning £70,000-100,000 a year is rich. Earning £3,000,000 a year is obscene.
Brian Ess 0
Oct 25 2011: OR define rich as the top so many percent of society?
michael champion 0
Jan 26 2012: the real problem is the value of currancies around the world this allows the elite to play one currancy against the other.the old divide and rule tactic.this applies to politics,and finance and txation policy,we all have to agree to a world standerdon all the basic things to sustain life,then the elite would have nowere to run or expoloit, then standards can be enforced,and then the seriuous things that need to be done.can be done then sociaty can value ideas that affect everyone,the value would come to the person who had the idea.
Misha Newman 0
Feb 11 2012: 3,000,000 seems obscene from our perspective but to some one earning that it's just doesn't seem like enough
Oliver Sisson +2Reply
Oct 25 2011: Simple answers rarely work

Julian Blanco 30+ +2Reply
Oct 25 2011: Hi Oliver!

Even if the baseline is not exact, I think there can be an agreement.

My baseline:
No one dies of hunger or suffers malnutrition and kids get enough food for their brains to grow properly
There is a public school system that everyone can access including university
No one dies/is incapacitated because treatment of curable disease is denied (this includes vaccines)
Easy/free access to rudimentary housing even if remote or not pretty/small

We have all sort of agreements like this on democracies, like how much police you put where, where you build infrastructure, etc, why should this conversation be so different we can't find a reasonable concord?

Regards!

JB

PS I personally see no problem with the super rich.
Sebastian Winterflood 0
Oct 26 2011: You do realize that to achieve these rather ambitious goals an organization (government or otherwise) would have to raise tremendous amounts of money to fund this, most of which would have to come from the super rich (given that they're the ones with all the money.)

Joanne Donovan 30+ +2
Oct 26 2011: I agree with you Julian except for the last sentence. I do see a problem with the super rich. Instead of OWNING more big flashy crap, some of that money could instead be spent on therapy to help individuals understand their inner driver to have more and appear socially superior to their next door neighbour. The greed paradigm is costing the planet big and it is a fool's paradise.
Robert Ezell 0Reply
Oct 27 2011: What if a rising tide was forced to raise all boats. What if a company couldn't have more than a, lets say, 500% disparity in overall compensation?

Or

What if we had a simple progressive tax equation where you never receive less for making more, but those who benefit most from society still pay their due.

In any case, great talk. I love it when TED breaks free from the fluff and gets us to real data and real possibilities.
Dee Ren 0Reply
Oct 27 2011: Solutions: 1.Agree! Tax the Rich but make no mistakes. I mean the RICH. Not the guy trying to eek out a living in service to others but the ones that really do throw money around. (oops, are these RICH even taxable?)
2. Value the people who break there backs.
3. Educate the masses.
4. Support sustainability.
All this costs money and only the rich can afford more tax.
Like Richard W. said "If you want to live the American dream go live in Denmark." And then everyone laughed.
Ben Zittere 0Reply
Jan 30 2012: Always ready to take someone elses money?

How about this... don't buy from the rich.
Jason Straight +2Reply
Oct 24 2011: The talk presented what should be painfully obvious to any one with a background in econ or stats. Once it is established that wealth leads to higher life expectancy, for example, the rest follows automatically.

Clearly there are diminishing returns. The difference in life expectancy between $10,000 and $20,000 will likely be greater than the difference between $20,000 and $30,000 or for that matter even $40,000. At a certain point additional wealth will make no change. The difference between life expectancy for people with $100,000,000 vs $500,000,000,000 is non existent. It then follows that equality will boost average life expectancy because it is allocating resources where there is the largest marginal benefit.

This is just basic econ 101.

chris newman +2Reply
Oct 24 2011: Not really. To be honest you should probably watch this video again as he explains exactly why what you state isnt the case. Once you earn a minimal amount of money you can afford enough food and shelter to survive. This level is much less than $10,000. As most of these countries have free basic health where do these differences come from?

It probably has to do with taxation (how much public money is put into education/health - as more tax = less inequality), less chronic stress in equal societies and with societal 'norms' which come about with this inequality (more people in lower social classes drink, smoke, dont exercise and ignore illness at an early stage).
James Young +1Reply
Oct 24 2011: Yes really. Jason's is the much simpler explanation. Diminishing marginal returns and a composition effect. There is no need to even talk about anything causal. It is just a data artifact. Wilkinson gives no argument against this possibility. Occam's razor wins out.

Uriah Maynard 20+ 0
Oct 25 2011: I don't care to argue with Jason's comment, inasmuch as I'm a lover of economics, but it's not JUST a data artifact. That data artifact is an extremely compelling argument for pursuing economic justice. And it's not an argument AGAINST quality of life and status and chronic stress concerns in the slightest.
Knightly Blowguns 0Reply
Oct 24 2011: Where did Singapore go?

Axel Saffran 200+ 0Reply
TED TRANSLATORLANGUAGE COORDINATOR
Oct 24 2011: I was wondering the same thing. Blown off the chart...
You have to draw the line somewhere, I guess.
Olivier Wieringa 0Reply
Oct 24 2011: Very interesting presentation with a lot of valuable information. Then again it could use an extra ten minutes of going into the subject of causality, here discussed in just a few lines. Or have the data of an experiment looking at the chronic stress from social causes per region. I miss that in this presentation, now it's just as he said a presentation of correlations which do not imply causality. A presentation on this causality is what would actually make the difference.
david walsh 0Reply
Oct 24 2011: Would it be realistic for governments to have targets on equality? Using something like GINI coefficients?

Personally I think there is a resentment to the finance industry and governments looking at them but think the regulation should be across the board and its a governmental job to do that, not simply use a certain industry as people speak
Eric Gallant +2Reply
Oct 24 2011: I'd like to see the countries plotted out according to "significant cultural achievements". Which societies have actually gotten something done? Great feats of engineering? Been to the moon? Created great art/literature? Created advanced technologies? Mobilized to great effect during natural disasters? I am confident you would find that the less equal societies have a much higher rate of achievement.
A steep inequality gradient is a wonderful motivating force and it propels all of society forward. Yes, it's stressful. Yes, many will fail. But inequality is also the crucible from which human greatness springs.
Comment deleted
James Junker 0Reply
Oct 25 2011: You both would agree that incentive is needed to drive cultural achievement. Your disagreement stems from where people derive their source of motivation. Both of you would agree that a large portion of the population are motivated by dollar bills, cars, diamonds, or other worldly possessions. Both would probably also agree that some people find motivation from the "joy of creative work" as Howard states. Truly, both are needed for cultural advancement; it is a combination of both that allows great achievement.

The disparity in South America is another topic all together. The land owning families vast control of all aspects and types of capital made any monetary advancement nearly impossible for peasants workers. The only method for their advancement was revolt - violence, while hoping for land redistribution.

Julian Blanco 30+ +2Reply
Oct 25 2011: Hi Eric!

So you basically agree with the talk, just value more the social achievements (man to the moon, etc) than the problems generated (violence, etc).
Right?

Regards!

JB

PD I agree with Howard, inequality is far more common worldwide and I don't see how that helped social achievements in Africa, South America, etc…

Emerion Aldataur 50+ +2Reply
Oct 25 2011: Great feats of engineering? What good is that if you live in a slum?
Been to the moon? That was just a cold war competition. The US lost most interest in space once that was gone.
Created great art/literature? Lots of that in many countries, actually.
Created advanced technologies? Now moving out of the US, which is the US is happy with, since offshoring makes things cheaper.
Mobilized to great effect during natural disasters? Not needed as much if the population lives in well built and maintained structures, with countermeasures in place.

"I am confident you would find that the less equal societies have a much higher rate of achievement".

Where do you get such a ridiculous idea? Let's try a thought experiment. If inequality is good then the more the better, no?

So how would maximum possible inequality look like? Let's say 1 person has 99% of the money and owns 99% of everything, the rest barely survive on minimum wage. Literature? Nobody has the money to sit and write, they have to work 80 hours to survive. Advanced tech? Same. Going to the moon? If the one with the money is interested, but where are all those people going to get the required education and experience? They're busy working. Disaster mobilization? They all live in substandard housing, they're all screwed. The king in his castle is doing fine though.

Nope, doesn't look like a recipe for awesome achievements to me.
Emily Smith +1Reply
Dec 9 2011: Actually Eric, I think you'll find that many of those amazing achievements that you mention - engineering, moon landing, etc - were achieved when the cultures you are thinking of were in fact much more egalitarian than they are today. 20, 40, 60, 100 years ago, there was far less difference between the rich and poor in the US (and the UK, and most first world countries). Henry Ford, for instance, made his cars so that all of the employees of his factories could afford to buy one. This had far-reaching, positive effects.
I would also be interested in seeing a graph of "significant cultural achievements" (never mind that deciding how to choose what these are would be very subjective); but in order to be relevant, it would need to be plotted over time, and plotted on a graph that also shows change in inequality over time. I think you would be surprised at what it shows.
Simon Watkins +1Reply
Dec 10 2011: so inequality drive sdevelopment? Is that why south Africa developed razor wire?

Joanne Donovan 30+ 0Reply
Dec 11 2011: Eric, concepts of art and acheivement are not objective, they are subjective. How we measure the worth of our society's achievement is purely a construct of our particular culture. Going to the moon, would be considered pretty silly to a Kalahari bushman. Of course it seems of penultimate importance to you, because you have been taught to value it.

Tobias Duncan 200+ 0Reply
Oct 24 2011: Very interesting interpretation of data, I will have to watch this again at some point.I must say that while I like the idea of more equitable distribution of wealth, I believe it needs to take place on the bottom end of society by empowering the have nots to build wealth and not by taking money from the people at the top or capping their ability to earn.Sacrificing individual freedom for the good of the masses is something I cannot support.
Luis Velazquez +2Reply
Oct 24 2011: If we are talking about equality, we are taking about minimizing the distance between the extremes.
If we were talking about "giving more to the poors" (naive vision) one way of doing it should be just empowering the have nots, but as we are taking about relativity, there´s no way to separate this from stop the richest being richer. The gap must be reduced if we wanna talk about some soft way of equaitarism! It´s not for the poor people, it´s just for all, for peace, for trust, for dignity, to show we really grow as a society.
I´m not saying it from a poor place, I´m from a middle or maybe upper middle class living 3 kms away from a place where people live in houses made of sheet, and it´s not happy for me, but for them... I just can´t imagine.
I know I don´t wanna live being conscious of that and being just a watcher. I wanna live forever and all that stuff, but not in this way, maybe you can just look away and defend your individual freedom, but tell me, what kind of freedom do they have? As I´m free, I want to share my own freedom too, that´s seems to me the most human free choice.
Pete McCain +1Reply
Oct 24 2011: The other problem with inequity is that eventually the poor unwashed masses show up at the door of the haves to ACTUALLY take what they need. The vision of the world promoted by Randist does not measure against history. Few people will starve for a ideal. There is an old saying. I am unsure of all the actions of a hungry dog. Whether he will bark, sleep, or jump. I am sure of one thing a hungry dog will find a way to EAT. Better to feed him than have him eat you.

Axel Saffran 200+ 0Reply
TED TRANSLATORLANGUAGE COORDINATOR
Oct 24 2011: Tobias, is the Koch brothers financing "independent" institutes where researchers concoct "scientific data" and analyses which are (1) to their liking and which are (2) then used as the basis for political decisionmaking in Washington, also part of what you mean by individual freedom? http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2010/08/30/100830fa_fact_mayer
How about them kindling the early flames of the Tea Party movement, covertly making sure the activists in this "grassroots organisation" were fed all the right doctrines?

Surely people should be free to choose how they spend their own money? As long as it's "legal" , right? What if the good of the masses includes clean air and water? Should you allow that to stand in the way of the freedom to polute?

I agree with you up to a point, but the "freedom" you cherish seems to have gotten way out of control in the USA i.e. has morphed into something else.

Tom Comerford 30+ 0Reply
Oct 24 2011: I appreciate the analysis in this presentation. Too often I hear that income inequality is presumptively bad, but the assertion is undefended. This is not to say that the assertion is indefensible, as Richard Wilkinson ably shows.

On the other hand, the analysis leaves me with still more questions. The presentation only briefly mentions causality. I'd like to know what factors contribute to income inequality, and how we can prove which specific detrimental effects are caused by it both directly and indirectly. Is there an inflection point at which reduced inequality has maximum positive impact on those detrimental effects? What should be the philosophical basis for addressing income inequality?

Lilya Obmorsheva +1Reply
Oct 24 2011: Statistics say everything. I agree it is not biased at all. It is only numbers and the key point is how you interprete it. He showed data and analysis as wide as possible for those who might critisize. Thanks for informative talk.
George Montgomery 0Reply
Oct 24 2011: I dont quite buy the stress argument as the driving force behind this correlation. I always saw an analogy between electrical filters and tax brackets because of the fact that both of them reduce noise and randomness. In the electrical system, your objective is to preserve the signal. In an economic system, your objective is to have people with ability in positions that have more social status and higher income and more decision making authority. In this way, tax brackets reduce randomness that has to do with success and opportunity in life. Being at the right place at the right time or the wrong place at the wrong time can have a massive impact on success that can result in people with no real ability being put in powerful positions. This "noise" is amplified in an economic system because of the fact that once someone has money and power, it is very easy to keep or grow it(you need to have money to make money). Scaled tax brackets would reduce this noise by assuming that some successful people did not earn the amount of success that they actually have and that some unsuccessful people should have earned a little more than they actually did. Its not a fair way of regulating things but it would be a more efficient way to regulate things because it would come closer to presenting equal opportunity. Basically, in each society, you have to design your filter or tax bracket to fit with the signal. This would mean that the shape of the tax bracket should change depending on the pre tax income distribution, the abilities of the population, the industries in the country, and the international competition.

Thoughts?

Erica Carson 0Reply
Oct 24 2011: This is certainly a particularly poignant study in light of the current social movements in the USA today and throughout the world. Information, so clearly spelled out here, has the potential to further the efforts of organizations like Occupywallst.org, even if it is only out of self interest that those on top of the economic ladder move for change as well. The infant mortality rate to economic disparity proportions alone could be enough to loosen a few grips. If only people would pay attention.
Oliver Sisson +1Reply
Oct 24 2011: Completely biased statistics. Doesn't control for other factors and generalises across a whole nation or state, despite the fact that he's trying to describe differences within a state.

Take economic inequality and societies that pick the death penalty. Conservative voters tend to want both of these, and yet he seems to imply that an unequal society causes people to want to kill each other ... using the death penalty. Of course, as a liberal, he doesn't like the death penalty, so this is seen as a negative, not a legitimate political choice (fyi, I'm against the death penalty). Same argument for high levels of prisoners; conservative voters often like "tough on crime" stances.

His bias is quite clear from the beginning: "You all know the truth I'm going to say". In his speech he drops a hint towards his bias: "some states do well through re-distribution".

He seems to take GDP as a constant, ignoring that political choices that result in inequality are supposed to have the benefit of higher economic growth.

chris newman +25Reply
Oct 24 2011: In what way are the statistics biased? He goes to great pains to show us evidence that they didnt! ( By using standardised and independent child health data, in including all the countries in every analysis netc). If you are going to accuse him of statistical bias at least explain yourself please!

It is obviously very difficult to understand how and why certain societies have lower rates of social problems but his data and conclusions seem legitimate and make logical sense.

You could probably argue for other reasons why certain countries are placed as they are for each particular variable, but the association between monetary inequality in our societies and a unhappy and unhealthy societies is across the board!

For me its fantastic to see EVIDENCE that reducing the inequality (probably through cracking down on tax avoidance, lower high end salaries and higher taxation) IS GOOD!

I should add that I am part of the middle class who apparently 'always suffer' from these new tax legislations, but its time we stopped whinging and look at this new evidence for societal rather than personal gain.
Luiz Felipe Costamilan 0Reply
Oct 25 2011: I too am unconvinced about the statistics. For a start, despite his claim not to be cherry-picking and including all the data for the countries, he does draw a line at Portugal as the lowest income country - maybe because the next ones in line would be all the eastern european countries with high equality AND lots of social problems.

Even if we consider that there was no cherry-picking, there are just too few data points to draw a valid conclusion.

Some countries also look like they have been selectively omitted from some inconvenient tables, notably Singapore.

Furthermore, there is nothing mentioned in the talk about happiness - in fact, if you look at the Satisfaction with Life Index (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Satisfaction_with_Life_Index) there seems to be very little correlation with equality - though the Scandinavian countries do still top the tables.

I don't see this as evidence at all that reducing inequality is good. This might be evidence that inequality is correlated with some nasty things in developed countries, and that's about it.

Ethiopia, Pakistan and Kyrgyzstan all have higher equality than France and Canada - and much higher than the United States.

My statistics professor in college used to joke that if you tortured the numbers enough, they'd confess to anything, Somehow this video reminded me of her.
David Odell 0
Oct 26 2011: You obviously weren't watching closely enough. The reason poor countries are not in the stats is because there would CLEARLY be a relationship between average income and the factors such as life expectancy etc. What is interesting is that there ISN'T this relationship between rich countries, which suggests that something else drives the differences in social conditions.

Secondly, he isn't going to go through every single data point in a 17minute talk. He does mention that he has more stats.

I don't know why you think happiness has got anything to do with it. Happiness is influenced by a huge number of factors, simply having longer life expectancy, more social mobility isn't going to make individuals happier. Happiness is influenced by outlook and perspective and personal lives, on which there are no good indexes.

Given the idiocy of your comment I am surprised you did statistics at college.
Luis Velazquez 0Reply
Oct 24 2011: It´s not pefect but seems to be very reliable, how much could death penalty change there?
About his beginning, he´s been working on this since years, so, if you know him, it´s obvious what he´s going to say, as if you ask Kurzweil about Singularity, it´s obvious what he´s going to say.
Do you think, despite the things you said, his conclusions are not reliable? (It´s a real question).
David Alpaugh +1Reply
Oct 24 2011: "he seems to imply that an unequal society causes people to want to kill each other"

Actually, he flatly states that correlation doesn't indicate causation, and then goes on to posit the stress response from status anxiety as the cause of most of these disparities. I'm not sure what your thesis is: that conservative voters are to blame? That could be true and not have any bearing on this presentation, as the number of conservative voters could also be correlated to inequality.

The causal relationships have yet to be worked out. Correlations come first, and that's what he's showing.

As for not controlling for other variables, it sounds like you didn't watch the whole video.

Steven Dilloway 0Reply
Oct 24 2011: @ Oliver

Did you miss the point Mr. Wilkinson made about correlation v. causation?
Olivier Wieringa 0Reply
Oct 24 2011: No I didn't, but he doesn't go into it at all. As Krisztián Pintér comments why look at a 17 min presentation about correlations when it's the causality you're getting at.
Jon Britton +1
Oct 25 2011: Because the correlation is the interesting part!

Arnab Chakraborty +2Reply
Oct 24 2011: Actually, you are wrong. That is because cherry-picking of data was taken care of, plus - then you have to take into factor that more atheistic / less conservative societies (nations) are also correlated into the logic; Sweden has an 85% atheist population and politics in the US is almost driven by 'faith in God'. Education is another point in question; Finland scores the best in higher aptitude-tests - worldwide, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Netherlands spend some of the highest amount of state funds into education.
It is unfair to start watching something so informative with the notion that the presenter is biased.
Brian Ess +1Reply
Oct 25 2011: well said!!!


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