I was startled and glad, to read that leading Tory thinker Dave Willetts thinks this:
The evidence has become stronger and stronger that inequality matters. That gradual accretion of the data shows that it is where you are relative to other people which matters enormously. I think that is an issue that my party had not registered and that has now come home.
It is not the drop of a few points off GDP which ensures the slump will soon give rise to anxiety and crime. All that means is that average incomes will return to where they were a year or two ago. The real damage is done by the pain being unfairly shared, shouldered overwhelmingly by the minority who lose their jobs, their livelihood and their status. Wilkinson and Pickett look far and wide – from the effect of the caste system on Hindu children’s exams to the tendency of subordinate monkeys to self-medicate with cocaine – to elucidate why it is that lives lived at the bottom of the pile are so often brutish and short.
The Guardian also has this pdf visualising the correlations between inequality and a wide array of social ills. I was depressed to see that while the Thatcher-Major years coincided with a big rise in inequality, a decade of New Labour has done nothing to reverse it.
For me, one of the provocative manifestations of Labour’s failure is that major reports on our future, such as the recent ones on Digital Britain and Child Protection, are produced by Lords. I’m also struck by how many of the dark figures in corruption scandals in Westminster and the City are Lords or Knights. These are titles from feudal times. They give rise to phrases like “lording it over me”.
I think our honours system, which seems to have been co-opted by Labour instead of reversed, is a toxic indicator of a much deeper malaise.
Call me a techno-optimist, but I think one of the most profound benefits of the net is that it starts to undermine this kind of rigid hierarchy. I’ve been quipping lately that Lord Carter’s idea of peer-to-peer networking is having a chat with Lord Mandelson in the back of the ministerial limo. In reality, I think peer-to-peer is going to overwhelm any Canute-like urges in government, and the sooner the better.