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Taxpayers Alliance blasts The Spirit Level

Screen shot 2010-07-07 at 14.47.40 Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickard's "The Spirit Level: why equal societies almost always do better" summarises its theme in its title.  It argues in effect for equality of outcome, not equality of opportunity.  The Guardian's Polly Toynbee has praised it as "ground-breaking" (now there's a surprise).  Charles Moore, the Greatest Living Englishman and Daily Telegraph columnist, has blasted its methodology as "bogus" and labelled it a "socialist...political tract" (now there's another surprise.)

Now along comes the Taxpayers' Alliance.  Matt Sinclair writes on its blog about a new analysis of The Spirit Level that the organisation has published today, entitled "The Spirit Illusion: A critical analysis of how “The Spirit Level” compares countries, written by Nima Sanandaji, Arvid Malm and Tino Sanandaji.  Sinclair says -

"The findings are stark.  On almost no measure does the central claim of the Spirit Level, that income inequality decreases life expectancy, stand up to scrutiny. In some areas, the book’s authors appear to be promoting utterly absurd ideas, like the notion that the United States doesn’t host a particularly innovative economy.

The truth is that income inequality is a much more complex phenomenon than the all-purpose bogeyman that redistributionist politicians would like it to be.

...There can certainly be problems if a failure to provide proper education and training or social dysfunction prevents certain groups within society responding to that incentive, and creates a lasting inequality.  But the answer then is not to try and treat the symptom, inequality, but the cause, and reform education and benefit systems that trap people in poverty.

Hopefully this report can contribute to a more meaningful debate about the causes and importance of inequality, by showing that the simplicity of The Spirit Level just doesn’t reflect reality.  That way we can avoid unjustified policies hurting the economy and burdening ordinary taxpayers."

Paul Goodman


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