Wednesday 24 June 2015

Policies to reduce inequality

In his Guardian article on Monday Larry Elliot refers to a book by Tony Atkinson, published in May, which lists 15 separate policy proposals for the UK.  Elliot lists only eight  of them, namely:

  1. guaranteed public employment;
  2. a minimum wage set at the level of a living wage;
  3. a minimum inheritance when a child reaches adulthood;
  4. a sovereign wealth fund;
  5. a universal basic income;
  6. replacement of council tax by a regularly updated and progressive property tax;
  7. a wealth tax;
  8. a 65% top rate of income tax.
Eliot claims that these proposals "[give] the lie to the to the argument that in a global economy nothing can be done."
Tony Atkinson is no loony left-winger but no less than Sir Anthony Atkinson of the London School of Economics, on whose work the recently popular French economist Thomas Piketty bases many of his findings.  To find out what the other seven proposals are I should buy Atkinson's book, Inequality.
Sadly there are already several fairly weighty unread tomes on my shelf and I don't wish to add to my guilt complex by buying yet another, so if anyone can complete the list in a comment below that would be appreciated.

It is possible to quibble about  the list above, or at least ask for further and better particulars.  For example, what exactly is meant by "guaranteed public employment,"   and wouldn't a land tax be better than, or in addition t, a property tax?  But what is acutely disappointing is that Atkinson's proposals, or at least the first eight of them, are light years away from what any major British political party has the guts to propose at the moment.  Or, with he exception of Jeremy Corbyn, who is not expected to win, (but who, according to the New Statesman, may spring a surprise), the timid contenders for the Labour leadership.

And yet growing inequality is one of the major economic and social problems facing our society today. Inequality inhibits economic growth (wealth at the top doesn't "trickle down," it is syphoned up) and reduces the cohesiveness and well being of our society, as Wilkinson and Pickett  have demonstrated.

But instead of proposals to tackle this issue all three major UK parties have just fought the election advocating greater or lesser degrees of government austerity, which will make our society more unequal.   And, alas, the winner was for the greater austerity, so we must endure five years of policies which will make matters worse.
It is surely the duty of our political parties to attempt to educate us to the realities of our circumstances, and the policies which could improve the quality of our lives.  Instead, with  the honourable exception of the Scottish Nationalists and the Greens, they cravenly follow the whims of their focus groups. 


  1. The aim of politics is to encourage equality of opportunity, not to enforce equality of outcome.

    1. Equality of opportunity would be a good start, even if it means just equal opportunity to become unequal.

    2. Anyway I thought inequality was already reducing: