Question 2: ‘More unequal societies are bad for everyone within them--the rich and middle class as well as the poor’ [From the dust jacket of Wilkinson and Pickett (2009) The Spirit Level]. Discuss the evidence for and against this proposition. IntroductionWhen commending on the un-equality that is so prevalent in today’s society, Wilkinson and Picket (2009) say that ‘more unequal societies are bad for everyone within them. ’ They look at this proposition in detail in their book “The dust jacket of Wilkinson and Pickett (2009) The Spirit Level. ” The two authors show that a society in which some people are treated un-equally is never fit for any group of people be it the rich, middle class or poor.
This essay is based on Wilkinson and Picket’s observation. It discusses the evidence for and against the above proposition by these two authors. Unequal societies are plagued with many ills and problems that tend to affect all the people. Some of the things that are common in such societies include teenage pregnancies, obesity, abuse of drugs and alcohol, premature death, violent crime and pervasive mistrust.
A good illustration to this which has also been used by Picket and Wilkinson is the Scandinavian countries and Japan whose difference between highest and lowest levels of income is the smallest so far. These countries display a positive profile when compared to Portugal, America and Britain. These Western countries have the highest difference between income levels (Wilkinson and Pickett 2009 pp. 210). Unequal societies’ subject their people to a harmful scramble that makes the bodies and brains of the people to be come chronically prepared for flight or fight. The scramble casts the people into unending envy, gloom and resentment.
It erodes their immunity to disease infection and over winds their biological clocks meaning old age catches up with them sooner than expected. In a society with acute deprivation such feelings easily give birth to violence, a kind of criminal conduct associated with inequality in society. When these psychological and physiological problems affect the poor they will not fail to find their way into the rich people’s lives (Wilkinson and Pickett 2009 pp. 210). Poverty acutely affects unequal societies.
The link between mortality and poverty is very strong. A girl born in Japan has a life expectancy of 86 years while that born in Swaziland expects to live for 32 years. The reason for this observation is found in unequal wealth distribution. Countries that have similar wealth levels show different health indices. Mortality in mothers and infants are seen to be worse overall where the levels of inequality are high. It is not just the poorest who are affected. Those with middle incomes do badly in unequal countries than those with similar incomes in countries that are more egalitarian (Bourdieu, et al 1999). Wilkinson and Picket (2009, pp.
167) give us a good illustration in which they explain that in primary school there are lower average scores in literacy and mathematics in places with high income inequality. U.S states with more inequality in incomes have more children dropping out of school than the other states. The percentage of people having mental illness rises with inequality. The case is the same for the percentage of people put in prison and the rates of homicide.
Indeed capitalism causes a society to become dysfunctional (Wilkinson and Picket 2009, pp. 167). The problems that arise do not only affect those who are most deprived. Everybody in such a society is disadvantaged compared to those countries with lesser inequality. Inequality destroys social cohesion, community collaboration and trust which eventually cause social problems (Lambert 2002, pp. 19).