Wednesday, 11 February 2015 17:40

Income Inequality is Bad Medicine, Expert Claims

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Dr. Michael Omidi is co-founder of No More Poverty, among other charities. Here he discusses Richard Wilkinson’s TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) talk on income inequality.

In a recent TED talk, Richard Wilkinson discussed how income inequality harms societies. Wilkinson is a left-leaning epidemiologist, not an economist, who penned the controversial book, “The Spirit Level,” which outlined his economic theories in detail.

In “more equal” countries, according to Wilkinson, like Japan and Portugal, the top 20 percent are three times richer than the bottom 20 percent. However, in more unequal nations, like the US, the UK, and Singapore, the top 20 percent are between seven to 10 times richer than the bottom 20 percent.

It is no surprise that countries with higher income inequality are more likely to experience more social problems.

It’s all about distribution

It doesn’t matter how wealthy the residents of a particular country are. Wilkinson demonstrated there is no relation between amount of wealth and social problems. The key issue is how wealth is distributed and how wide the income gap is.

An interesting point that Wilkinson brought up is that countries with higher income inequality trust each other less than the nations where the income gap is smaller. Lack of trust leads to higher crime, which is also documented in Wilkinson’s study.

Beyond the data, one can visit the countries and see for themselves. I knew someone who fell asleep on a train in Tokyo and woke up with all of his belongings intact. If that had been a train in New York or Chicago, who knows what the victim would have been missing when he woke up, or if he would ever wake up again at all?

Wilkinson also notes, “If Americans want to live the American Dream, they should move to Denmark.”

Inequality affects everyone

Social mobility has become difficult in the United States, where a full 42 percent of Americans born in the bottom fifth of the income strata stay there their whole lives. This is in striking contrast to Denmark, where only 25 percent get stuck on those lower economic rungs.

Wilkinson also noted that two of the most “equal” countries, Japan and Sweden, have a different philosophy when it comes to shortening the gap. The Swedes have more welfare programs and higher taxation of the rich, while the Japanese have lower taxes and a smaller welfare state.

Income equality does not affect only the poor, it affects everyone. Wilkinson’s research clearly shows that the smaller a society’s income gap, the higher its standard of living, and the lower its crime and stress rates.

Yours in health,

Michel Omidi

The Omidi Brothers, Julian Omidi and Michael Omidi MD, are dedicated to the elimination of global poverty. No More Poverty was cofounded by the brothers.
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