Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Rebutting The Spirit Level

I'm way behind the eight ball here but have intended for ever so long to look up the rebuttal of The Spirit Level, the new bible of the left which purports to show that income inequality is the source of many social ills.  Previously it was sufficient for me to know that the hypothesis was flawed but I hadn't taken the time to read about specifically why.

A post by James Bartholomew prompted me to go looking. In case you are interested, here it  is:

This report shows that The Spirit Level has little claim to validity.  Its evidence is weak, the analysis is superficial and the theory is unsupported.  The book’s growing influence threatens to contaminate an important area of political debate with wonky statistics and spurius correlations.  The case for radical income redistribution is no more compelling now than it was before this book was published.

(There may of course be other rebuttals I'm unaware of).

1 comment:

JC said...

I took an interest in this a couple of years ago and to date I have over 40 articles bookmarked on rebuttals of the inequality theme.

I'll just stick this 1996 article here.. its actually been updated but it still holds true in its basic premises:


To add, I have three observations that come through many of these articles:

1. If you compare today with the so called egalitarianism of 50100 years ago the thing that sticks out is back then a place like NZ was strongly agrarian and manufacturing, banking, accounting, labour etc was geared to supporting the farming industry and/or import substitution.

When you are tied to a sheep economy most wage earner wages and costs can only rise or fall in relation to the fortunes of meat, wool and tallow. Thats where the egalitarianism comes from.

However, once you are forced to diversify and innovate new activities and processes the early innovators get rich and carry their staff with them.. then the ongong process of innovation, success, failure or just plain slumping creates a more unequal society.

2. Virtually everyone is poor at some stage due to age, lack of qualifications, marriage breakups etc. But the good thing is that for the vast majority its a temporary situation. You might well have 20% living in "poverty", but the individuals in that group are constantly changing.. to the point where the hard core in the group are as likely to be there by choice as much as personal circumstances.

3. There are six words that determine one's future prosperity...
"Get educated, get married, stay married".

You can substitute the words partnership or stable relationship or whatever but those six words should be taped to the foreheads of most people aged 16-30.