In New Zealand for a conference the authors of The Spirit Level were invited to stay an extra week in Dunedin.  We supplied the weather.  I’ll supply some notes:

Reducing carbon emissions is seen as an unwelcome belt-tightening exercise — can we achieve sustainability and improve quality of life.  There is a point at which life expectancy levels off among rich nations.  The statistic rises out of the poorer nations and levels off with minimal improvement possible.   It still makes a difference in rich nations among those who earn less income.  Problems emerge among those who are not at the top.

Countries becoming more inequal creates problems.    There are issues of trust  between unequal groups.  Mental illness is more common.  As Flanders and Swann once said the technical term for our mental health is ‘stark staring bonkers’, which makes up quarter of the population, fortunately I’m one person.  Social relationships, health and human capital deteriorates.

New Zealand has a high level of social problems and health issues that are related to inequality.

Status matters more.  Working hours are longer in unequal countries.  Household debt increases.  We want the good things in life.  I wondered about my own situation as I live alone in a marginal situation.  Have I opted out?

Business leader in equal countries give higher priority to international environment agreements.  They contribute more to foreign aid donations.  Inequal countries are bigger contributors of carbon dioxide.

Everyone benefits from living in an equal society.  We need to extend democracy into the economic sphere.  In a rich world material standards do not determine well-being.  Our social relations and social environment has become critical.  We are living in the best of times, we are living in the worst of times.

Those who contribute the most to society are inversely paid.  That’s why bankers live so well.

Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson, authors of The Spirit Level

Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson, authors of The Spirit Level