Dec 14, 2010

Opportunity will solve poverty, we can all get stinking rich if we work hard enough, and my pet unicorn is real


Mark Milke argues in today’s Vancouver Sun that massive and growing inequality is not a serious problem. In his mind, anyone concerned about the growing gap between the rich and the rest of us must simply suffer from a bad case of envy.

It is unfortunate that the Sun chose to run this piece the day after a public talk in Vancouver by Richard Wilkinson, author of an internationally-renowned book The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better. Unlike Milke — who doesn’t offer a shred of evidence to support his arguments — Wilkinson has reviewed a massive body of evidence that firmly links inequality to poor social, economic and health outcomes. The more unequal a country, the poorer its performance on a host of measures ranging from infant mortality and crime rates to literacy and physical health. Most ironic of all is Milke’s argument that the only thing we really need to worry about is whether there is equality of opportunity. Wilkinson’s research shows that the most unequal societies also have the least social mobility. Meaning the notion that if we all just work hard enough, we can all get as stinking rich as Bill Gates is as absurd as it sounds.