top of page
  • Writer's pictureThe James Kennedy Podcast

#42 - Richard Wilkinson - Why equality is better for everyone

Professor Richard Wilkinson is an epidemiologist, professor Emeritus of social epidemiology at the University of Nottingham, co-founder of the Equality Trust and co-author of the books, 'The Spirit Level' and 'The Inner Level' with his wife, professor Kate Pickett. Here we chat about why economic and social inequality is the root cause of a whole range of social issues including crime, mental health, obesity, life expectancy and many others and why equality really is better for everyone. We compare the examples of the USA and the UK with countries such Japan and Norway and how the data proves beyond doubt that more equal countries are safer, happier, healthier and live longer. Hear our conversation at : https://linktr.ee/jameskennedypodcast


TRANSCRIPT


JAMES KENNEDY

Hello and welcome to the James Kennedy podcast. Thanks for coming back today. We're talking all about inequality, someone that most of us sadly know a lot about already. But what if I told you that has been actually scientifically proven, that it is in fact, inequality That is the root cause for pretty much all of our social ills? I'm talking about things like mental and physical, ill health, drug abuse, life expectancy, educational performance, violence, crime, fear, imprisonment, anxiety, insecurity, stress, depression, depletion of our resources, teenage pregnancy, pollution, corruption, environmental breakdown. Fucking everything is caused by inequality.


Now we all know that inequality sucks. It's unfair. It's not fair that some people should have more, whilst others should be struggling. We we kind of know instinctively that inequality is wrong. But Professor Richard Wilkinson and his wife, Professor Kate Pickett, have scoured hundreds and hundreds of studies from all around the world and correlated it with data on each country's level of inequality.


They put all of their findings into the excellent book the Spirit Level, which has sold tonnes and tonnes of copies and has been universally praised for actually putting into indisputable proof what most of us know instinctively that inequality is bad. Not only bad, but it is ruining our society, our values and life as we know it. The book is filled with graphs and charts and references and studies and information, but it's a real easy read. It's a short book, and they focus each chapter at the start of the book on each social cause that I mentioned earlier, such as, you know, mental or physical health, imprisonment, crime, violence. They go through all that stuff and they explain what the correlation between social inequality is and those outcomes and then they show you the graph. And what's uncanny about this is that all of the graphs look exactly the same. All of the countries with inequality are scattered upon the same point in the graph.


So if you pick an issue, say violent crime and then you you lay the statistics for that we have around the world for countries that have rates of violent crime. You lay that on top of a country's graph for their level of inequality relative to the others, and it shuffles about and it ends up looking exactly the fucking same as all the other issues. So the countries that have higher rates of inequality also have a correlating the high rate of whatever issue you want to pick. It's really uncanny, and it's like I say, It's kind of, you know, intuitive to us that we would know that anyway. But it's so fucking normal for us now to to live in such unequal, unjust and fucked up societies that we just kind of We're just trying to get through the week, right?


You know what I mean? But to see it, they're proven scientifically, is a real wake up call because it's like, Yeah, OK, we are. We are really off track here. We've been led astray by an ideology and a political system that is just not serving most people's needs. So I've been really lucky to be able to get one of the authors of the brilliant spirit level to come onto the podcast and blow your minds. Today I've got the brilliant Professor Richard Wilkinson co-author of the spirit level, and he's going to explain the content of the book, the broader issues, why it matters and what we can do about it.


But before we get down to business. One more nag. Have you subscribed to the goddamn podcast? I'm sick of asking you, man, if you listen to this, please help the brother out. Click follow, click subscribe. Click like click share Spread the word. There's a lot of good info on this podcast developing now over the previous 40 something episodes with some really cool people and some really great minds.


So please tell your friends about the podcast and spread the word and let's get this information out there and let's join forces and take control of our country and our society back again. Knowledge is power, man. It all starts with information and education. So I'm doing my bit for the cause by getting access to these great thinkers and these great teachers and sharing this information with you guys free of charge. All you got to do is help me out by subscribing and, you know, helping me to promote this goddamn thing. Otherwise you know what will happen. I'll go. But you know what? I can't pay my gas bill by making a free podcast. I'm gonna have to get a day job and it will be your fault. So subscribe to the podcast. I click share. Click like Give me a star rating. Let's kick this up the algorithm and let's get this info out there. Right?


So now you've been told, Let's bring on the guest. Today we are joined by Professor Richard Wilkinson. Richard is an epidemiologist, professor emeritus of social epidemiology at the University Of Nottingham, co-founder of the Equality Trust and the co-author of the brilliant aforementioned book The Spirit Level as well as others. Richard, I've been really looking forward to speaking with you. So thanks so much for stopping by. How are you doing, sir?


RICHARD WILKINSON

Thanks for having me. It's nice to be doing this. I always think there's no point in doing research unless people get to know about it.


JAMES KENNEDY

Yeah, I hear you there, mate. Grateful to you. Well, a lot of people do know about the book. It's done very, very well and rightly so. I absolutely love the book. It's mind blowing stuff, and I it's so broad ranging, that I can't imagine the the level of research that must have gone into creating the book. So yeah, kudos to you and Professor Kate Pickett as well, for for bringing us this amazing book. And for those who haven't yet read the book or don't know anything about it, would it be possible to give us a bit of a summary as to what the book is about? And what's the central theme of it?


RICHARD WILKINSON

Well, in in a way, it comes from a out of a very old intuition that inequality, is is, socially damaging. Socially corrosive, damages the social fabric in a society. But, now you can get figures on the scale of income inequality in different countries and actually start to look and see whether there are differences in various outcomes related to how unequal our society is. And, in the rich developed world, countries like the USA and Britain are much more unequal than some of the Scandinavian countries. And it looks as if, as a result of that, they suffer more violence, more imprisonment, worse health, including mental health.


A whole range of problems get worse. So, for instance, as I said, the US is one of the most unequal of the rich developed countries. It has the highest obesity rates. It has more, more homicide it has more people in prison. It has, worse drug problems. It's life expectancy is actually going down at the moment. And, that contrasts, for instance, with, countries like Norway or Denmark, where you find exactly the opposite. They're doing well on all of those things, and they have much smaller income differences between rich and poor. And basically, we just did that sort of analysis.


JAMES KENNEDY

It's uncanny when you look at it because one of the things that that stood out to me I mean, the book is very fresh for me at the moment because I want to just finish reading it. So I'll just, reiterate some of the issues that you just mentioned there and in the book as well. Such as physical ill health, drug abuse, lower life expectancy, educational performance, high rates of violence and imprisonment, crime, obesity, social mobility, teenage pregnancies. All of these things you mention in the book and they all get a chapter. And what I found was really uncanny, as I mentioned in the intro, is that when you assess all of these issues and then superimpose them over that country's level of inequality. The graphs that that outcome from that are all exactly the same.


So it proves indisputably, visually on the page that a country's level of inequality is directly related to its level of poor performance on anyone and all of these issues. And I just found out really uncanny, because it's it's air tight. You know, you would have thought there would have been a little bit of exception to the rule, but there's not, you know, it's iron clad and and I just found that very uncanny. Like, for me, it's case closed, that inequality is the cause of these things.


RICHARD WILKINSON

Yeah, what's actually really uncanny is you find exactly the same pattern. If you look at the 50 American States, some States do better than others, and the ones that do the best are the ones with the smallest income differences between rich and poor. And so in a way, it confirms that intuition that has been around since I guess before the French Revolution that inequality is divisive and socially corrosive. Now, you know that is a common intuition, and in a sense all we do is show this in hard statistical terms. What is surprising is that it's not just amongst the poor, that inequality does the damage.


Even better off people, would have happier lives if they were in more equal countries. They'd be their children would likely be less likely to get seriously involved in in drugs. They might live a little bit longer. They do better. Educationally, they'd be less likely to be victims of violence. That kind of in that sense. Even better off people would do better if they lived in a more equal country. So we're all affected. And the problems which inequality has its greatest impact on are the ones with what we call social gradients problems that are more common amongst in the poorest areas of benign inner cities.


And we all know, in in in many of our big cities the areas that have the worst health or the most violence or where kids do worst at school. So it's telling us that that pattern gets worse in in, more unequal societies, which which makes a lot of sense.


JAMES KENNEDY

Well, it is an intuition, I think, for for many of us, it would be common sense, but to have it there visually proven. It's indisputable. You can see it with your own two eyes. You know, it's indisputable that this is a pattern that happens all around the world everywhere that it's tested, whether it be in various States, within a country or in countries around the world. It's just it's an indisputable fact, I think, how do we get here then? Because what's quite distressing to read as a as a British citizen is that we are pretty much always at the top four of of the worst cases. Whether it's mental health or drug abuse or violence or imprisonment or social mobility. We are always pretty much at the top of the league there, along with the United States. How is it that some countries like us are so unequal? And then other countries like Japan or the Scandinavian countries are literally, always right at the extreme other end of that graph?


RICHARD WILKINSON

Well, we used to be one of the more equal countries, in the 19 sixties and seventies, we were as equal as the Scandinavian countries are now. And we did better on all these things, right? If you compare us over time with other countries, you can see standards slipping as high income differences widen.Right, and looking at things like infant mortality, seeing that pattern there, that, you know, we use to be one of the best countries in those in terms of infant mortality and you see, year by year, our position in the sort of international league table of infant mortality are slipping all the time. Until now, we do pretty poorly.


And it still you asked why? There's a clear pattern in most rich countries that income differences were very large in the 19 twenties and started to decline in the 19 thirties and went on declining. So we were becoming more and more equal until the late 19 seventies. And then, from about 1980 onwards, we get a huge rise in inequality again. And so we're now back to levels of inequality. Last seen in the 19 twenties. All the social progress has been reversed. Effectively, class and status are now much more important than they were.


And with that goes declines in in social mobility and and so on. The whole social structure has become more more ossified. Status, as I say, matters much more. I think that long term pattern of changes in inequality is the result of, really political changes or ideological changes that, if you like in the, early part in the 19 thirties onwards, there's a growing importance of the Labour Movement, Social Democratic Parties, a belief that people have that there is a better way our societies can work better for all of us that life can be qualitatively better.


And so you get, voices on on radio and television representing that sort of other view. What I call the sort of countervailing voice if you like, whether trade union leaders or, Labour party figures or whatever, But, from about 1980 that all starts to crumble. Disappear. And you get a rise of, neoliberal free market fundamentalist ideology under Thatcher and Reagan. And it's not just in one country. It's an international change in thinking, that that ideology that right wing ideology wins out. And the left loses any confidence in what it's about where it's going and so on.


So I think that's what happens. And of course, the Thatcher government and other governments around the world. They privatised the utilities, you know, electricity, gas, water, phones, post offices and so on. And they lowered top tax rates. You know, in the sixties and seventies, top tax rates on the richest people were up to, 80 or even 90%. Now they're back to 40 or 45%. So the rich are, are getting much, much more than they used to. But it's not just that the tax burden has declined. It's that the income differences before tax have increased dramatically. And there are now research papers looking at income differences within big companies. And you find CEO's were earning well, I sometimes think I shouldn't say earning.


They were getting 20 or 30 times as much as the average production worker in the sixties and seventies, up to around 1980. But by the first decade of this century, they were getting not 20 or 30 times as much. They were getting two or 300 times as well. Suddenly, a huge escalation in the differences within large multinational companies. And there are also research papers which look and see whether the performance differs according to how well paid the CEO is. And if you take the top four or 500 companies in the US, for instance, you find the companies doing best at the ones with the less well paid CEO s. You know, so they're not actually earning it? It's not justified at all by, performance. Which is, of course, how they justify the outlandish salaries.


JAMES KENNEDY

That's really interesting. So I was gonna mention you, You said that it all started to go south on the in the late seventies, and I thought, Oh, what happened in the late seventies? Oh, yeah. Thatcherism, Reaganism. So you could see a direct correlation there between, you know, the the undoing of socially orientated politics more towards completely, you know, unregulated free trade capitalism and the you can see that how the the the corrosive social effect that that has had is demonstrated clearly in your in your graphs.


RICHARD WILKINSON

Yes, although it's hard to sort of graph changes in ideology, what people have graphed is, changes in the proportion of the Labour force in trade unions. And you see, as, the proportion in trade unions goes up, inequality comes down. And then when the proportion in trade unions starts to, starts to fall, inequality goes up again. And I I think that's not because trade unions transform your wages. I'm sure they help. It's that, trade union membership is a sign of the health, if you like, of the whole Labour Movement, the Social Democratic Parties, and so on that alternative ideology in society.


JAMES KENNEDY

Well, there has definitely been a global ideology shift, hasn't there? You know, since the the eighties, and certainly here in the UK, you know, we've followed the American model of just unregulated everything free trade, capitalism, doggy dog mentality. And we've got the, demonstrable social scars to show for that which which seem to be very similar to the sort of social issues that that they have, and much like America, our politics has now become completely dominated by the interests of you know, the rich, you know, elite 1% business class, who I'm assuming are the main barriers to progress on the issue of inequality because they, of course, are the main beneficiaries of it.


RICHARD WILKINSON

Well, I think the influence of the rich on politics has increased enormously. With rises of income differences, you know, they buy their way their influence. The money spent by large corporations and the super rich on on lobbying, in in most countries has increased enormously, and they managed to get the legislation they want. A lot of people have have remarked how inequality is is fundamentally destructive of democracy. And I do think our democracies have become more and more meaningless in a way, and I think there's a solution to that. I think one of the ways of reducing pay differences is, forms of economic democracy. Employee representation on company boards. Employee ownership, things like that. So, gaining more equality by extending democracy into the economic sphere. And the evaluation suggest that more Democratic companies, work better, right? Than the usual, forms of management.


JAMES KENNEDY

I guess it's difficult, though, isn't it? Because the the people that truly hold the reins of power these days the people that you just mentioned. You know, the super rich. I I suppose they're not really affected by this, though, are they? I mean, they live in, you know, gated communities and yachts and private planes and their kids go to private universities. And so I suppose they are essentially insulated from the damage that this inequality that they are the causes of reeks on the rest of society.


RICHARD WILKINSON

Well, I think they're not completely, insulated. We don't have data on the super rich, so we can't see, the levels of mental illness or violence or whatever, but, right we can talking about the super rich as the top fraction of 1% but we can talk about the top five or 10% and we see even they would do a bit better and more. And the difference is, are smaller, at the top, differences in what inequality does to people. Compared to the impact on the bottom of society. But it looks as we all know, that their children get mental health problems and become drug addicts. And, you know, commit suicide and so on. They're not really insulated from it. What goes on in the rest of society?


JAMES KENNEDY

Yeah, and regardless, anyway, I mean, you know, 95 to 5% ratio is not a good split for the people that have got everything. And then the rest of us that are scrambling amongst ourselves. So regardless of whether the the top 15 10 20% or whatever like it or not, it's still not cool.


RICHARD WILKINSON

The Democratic society ought to be able to deal with this, whatever the top 1% are doing. Thinking. Yeah, right. But But actually, it's they who can control what happens. And it it's It's not only the lobbying, it's also the control they have over the media. And, you know, the the major newspapers and television and so on. And actually, it was clear in the States you could see, the right setting up, right wing radio stations and so on which became more influential and, helped this change in popular ideology.


JAMES KENNEDY

Well, I suppose it comes down to our values, doesn't it? I mean, we, as you mentioned, we do have an instinctive set of values, and most of us know kind of instinctively that inequality is wrong. We don't need to explain to us why that is so you know, we do have those values, but we we we've been locked into a system now whereby we are living in out out alignment with our quite primal and natural human and communal values. So essentially, I feel that we need to shift back Now we need to reclaim the the ground that we've lost and get back to a sense of living in alignment with the values that are better for everybody.


RICHARD WILKINSON

Well, I think there are more immediate effect. So in one of the things when I give talks, I show that, community life weakens. People feel they can't trust each other. There are various questions in in, national service. Like, Do you feel, people would take advantage of you if they got the chance? Or do you feel most people can be trusted? And that plummets with greater inequality? And of course, that goes with, people not feeling safe walking home late at night in in our towns. And, you know, it's a major issue, particularly for women, and an infringement of their freedoms and very important fundamental infringement. But, you also get this rise in homicide rates, which has been shown all over the world. So those more unequal societies are not only less friendly, less community orientated, less trusting of each other. But they're more dangerous. And if you look at really the most unequal societies, places like Mexico and South Africa, you see, it's gone a stage further, There are people are actually afraid of each other. They've got bars on their windows and doors and razor wire around the top of the, you know, around their gardens and so on. And, you know, other people are are to be feared, kept out dangerous. And, that is really so tragic because, studies of happiness and well being show that the quality of social relations is absolutely crucial. You know, having lots of friends being involved in community life are fundamental to happiness. And it's there that inequality is doing its greatest damage. And that's not just the poor. It's what all of us suffer.


JAMES KENNEDY

100%. Yeah, And that ties in with something else I wanted to ask you about. I haven't yet read the inner level, which is the other book that you co-authored with Kate Pickett. The tagline to that is how more equal societies reduce stress, restore sanity and improve everyone's well-being. Now I'll be fascinated to read that because we have seen. And it's quite well known now that there's a global increase in certainly in the Western world, of anxiety and stress and depression and all of these things. And I think it's a direct result of this ideology shift that we've been talking about this kind of dog eat dog. You're on your own, There's no community. It's just the individual that's living out of alignment with our natural sense of community and and tribalism is it's going to be detrimental to people's mental health. And certainly now, at a time of the cost of living crisis and war and all the bad news and our national assets are getting sold out from under us and stuff like that. More and more increasingly, are we becoming stressed and tense and pressured and anxious and despairing because of the ever tightening grip of this right wing conservative, capitalistic world view. So am I right in thinking that that's where you're going In the other book, The inner level?


RICHARD WILKINSON

Yes. I think after writing the spirit level, we felt that, people still didn't see that they were personally affected by income inequality. It was something that was out there in society. But you know, most of us, we only think about our friends and family and so on. We have an idea of the personal life that really matters to us and the big outside things in society. Somewhere else. And so we wanted to show that actually, the mechanisms come right into our most personal experience and actually, what inequality does I said it makes class and status more important. It that means it raises issues of, your your feelings about self-worth. And it's clear that we feel that we're more worried by other people's judgments of us.


How they, they see us and, you know, do they think we're we're stupid in confident failures, or do they think we're very successful and clever and all the rest of it And, there is a response to that. If you're worried about how you're seen and judged by other people, and we all are to some extent, you know, you're worried about the impression you give to people and what you look like. And you know, whether you've got the right sort of a decent car or, whether you've got the latest phone or all those if your clothes where you've got the designer labels and what you find is people buying more status goods, spending more money on on on things that look good from clothes to cars.


But, the the psychological response is is two fold. You can either, feel, lack of confidence. Insecurity that you're no good. You find social life too stressful. You withdraw from, you know, you you don't go to parties and even things like that because you're worried about, all this stuff and social contact becomes more stressful and anxiety provoking withdraw from social life who get depressed and so on. Or you can the other response to feeling worried about how people see and judge you is to be yourself up. So, you go in for what psychologists call self aggrandisement.


Self enhancement, and part of it, as I said through consumerism. But you can see it And there's a nice research paper which looked at what they called status anxiety. And they show that in more unequal countries, the whole population, all income groups, from the rich to the poor have more status anxiety than people in, unequal. More sorry, more equal societies. So we all get more twitchy about how people see and judge us and that those issues of confidence, are very personal. And I think we all feel that, you know, we have this little psychological weakness. We're all bit worried about what other people think of us and that lack of confidence is seen. I think we we mostly see it as a sort of personal psychological weakness that we hide away.


In fact, we should share it with others and say, Look, I know I actually like this, and so do you. We must put our guard down and and share these things a bit. But I think part of the decline in community life, is that, we are more worried about these social, connections. We're more worried about, you know, you're more hesitant to start chatting to people who don't know because of you just feel more inhibited. Socially inhibited, I suppose.


JAMES KENNEDY

Yeah, Yeah, that I think you're right. That's something that we all carry. Even even people in the top 5% I'm sure are going to have that kind of, I suppose you could describe it as a kind of, relative status. You know, it's like we're all constantly, made to feel inadequate compared to what's happening, What we think is happening in the rest of society and because of this value shift that's now happened, you know, since the late seventies is, you know, we now tend to measure things based on a personal level of success or personal riches or personal possessions or personal power or strength in whatever form that might be. And we tend to identify very much now in that way. And of course, we get it rammed down our throats as well. You know the examples of people who are richer and better looking and more successful than we are.


And we we do have this feeling that it's on us, you know, to to make it on our own and to to to fight our way to the top of the pile rather than being part of a functional, healthy, equal society, which would be a lot more attainable and a lot better for everybody.


RICHARD WILKINSON

Yes, it's a very fundamental damage to the social fabric. And I think people, you know, they feel it now, but they don't see the pattern of change, right? Perhaps it's It's harder for younger people to see See it? But, you know, I'm I'm getting on now. And, in terms of age. And, I remember when society was different and the changes, since free market fundamentalism neoliberalism, Thatcher and Reagan came in around 1980. I can. In my own experience, I can feel that they have made our society more antisocial, right. It used to be a warmer, more friendly cooperative place than it is now.


JAMES KENNEDY

Well, I'm an eighties baby, so I don't have any other point of reference, you know, I know it's crazy. But I don't have a personal point of reference of what life could be like that would be different to this


RICHARD WILKINSON

Bad luck


JAMES KENNEDY

Yeah, Yeah, you're right.


RICHARD WILKINSON

We have to be campaigning, struggling to make a better society That has those characteristics that we know are important to our well-being and happiness.


JAMES KENNEDY

Well, speaking of solutions then and moving us into a better direction, to to kick off, I asked the Chat GPT, you know, the artificial intelligence, computer, how we can solve inequality before I came on the podcast today. And I want to share with you what it said. Number one : tax the rich. Number two : increase wages. Number three : strengthen the unions. Number four : provide free education and free health care for all. Number five : tightly regulate the financial and real estate industries. Now, I was quite impressed with that. I thought that sounded quite lefty for a robot. Would you agree?


RICHARD WILKINSON

Yes, I would, I I've tried it out on a number of things, Not that particular question. And I've been rather impressed by it. Answers. And I suppose it it's going through vast quantities of research and discussion and literature. And so on and just pulling out the stuff that comes up repeatedly. But I mean, there's no doubt we've got to tax the rich more. And given that our our services, public services are falling to bits, you know, whether it's school buildings with the ceilings falling down or, lack of teachers in all sorts of subjects or whether it's the NHS, the idea that you should allow the super rich to be pulling in, millions each year and giving rise to, in families.


I can't remember the word I want, but, who will not have to work for generations because their great great grandfather was paid millions and they stashed away and so on. We don't want the society like that, and nobody can really believe that allowing people to have those huge incomes is more important than funding the health service properly. Yeah, but it's not just a matter of taxes and benefits, it's It's, as I was saying earlier, a matter of, extending democracy into the workplace. And if there was some, a measure of democracy in the workplace, you might think your boss should get a bit more than you. You might think maybe you'd vote for him to have twice as much, but you probably wouldn't have to 300 times. I'm saying him all the time, but of course, there are now a few women CEO's.


JAMES KENNEDY

We say him because that is generally the way it is, unfortunately, the way it is.


RICHARD WILKINSON

Yes, people actually often ask me how, other forms of, inequality fit into this, ethnic inequality, gender inequality. And actually, they're all related because in societies where they've got bigger overall income differences, there is more discrimination by, ethnicity and gender. So women's pay disadvantages bigger in those societies and the differences between black and white and bigger.


So you know, it's part of the way I said, the class and status becomes more important with that goes a process of thinking that the people at the top are brilliant and the ones at the bottom are are hopeless. And the prejudice view, the poor are poor because they I don't know, lazy and stupid. And all those prejudiced ideas. But actually, as soon as anything becomes a marker of low social status, whether it's skin colour or, in some countries, you know, linguistic group. You know, in the States, Spanish speakers, or in in Belgium, there are different linguistic groups that go and have some status, relevance. And, or in Northern Ireland with religion. When any of those things become markers of status, they are stigmatised, right? And actually, you can see in some of these things like, obesity. It changes. It used to be the fat and the rich who are fat and the poor who are thin. And in the 20th century, that reversed. And, so suddenly, obesity starts to be stigmatised.


Actually, you see the same, with the sun tan. When the poor, worked in the fields and were very suntanned, you tried, the upper classes tried to keep as white as they could, because it showed they weren't working in the fields.


JAMES KENNEDY

Right. I get it. Yeah.


RICHARD WILKINSON

And then as soon as the the poor were living in in cities, in basements, working in factories, without seeing the sun at all. And they became white and it became fashionable to be to have a nice suntan, right? And and it it's awful how these the importance of class and status work out.


JAMES KENNEDY

Yeah, I know it really is, man. It's such a shameful, needless destruction to so many people's lives in so many different ways when it could so easily be the other way. And when you look at the world now, from your experience of of the transitions that society has made, do you see hope? Are we moving, you know, there are signs that we're moving in the right direction that things are turning a corner or are we just freewheeling our way to the end of the cliff?


RICHARD WILKINSON

Well, I think there's a big, big fight going on, but, actually, even fueling the far right is I think that sense of loss of status, and, you know, make America great again is people wanting, you know, even if they've been diminished and looked down on, they want to be part of something that is seen as as great, partly as a response to, but I mean, I think the prejudices increase with, the more you have your own, status self worth taken away from you, the more you try and regain it by saying at least I'm better than those bastards, right? And so, it generates prejudice, downward prejudice division. But I'm in a way, I'm hopeful, because I think that, the amount of inequality is intimately linked to whether or not we can move towards sustainability. And the the environmental footprint of the rich is so much bigger than the poor. And, if you start to try, if you're having environmental taxes, carbon taxes and so on, the poor will feel they're unfair.


Unless they are much raised much, much higher rates on the rich. And, you see, saw this in France when President Macron, proposed raising taxes on fuel, which he thought saw as a green measure. And, the response was the There was this huge Movement lasting months and months that then endless, different French cities saying that that was unfair to be taxing the fuel that the porn used. And, so Macron had to drop it. And you know, there are lots of reasons for thinking that to make any environmental, policies acceptable, they have to be accompanied by, measures to increase equality.


But as I say, particularly because, you know, the private planes and the endless months of flying done by the rich, and, lifestyles and huge houses and so on. And the environmental footprint is really so much worse. And actually, to to move towards sustainability, environmental sustainability. We just have to lower consumption. And it's the consumption of the rich, which is the main offender. No problem.


JAMES KENNEDY

Yeah, 100%. Well, as we come towards the end, then because I'm conscious to not take up more of your time that I promised you I would. What can people listen to this? Do what can we do? What can what can the 95% of us actually do to regain control and steer us back to sanity?


RICHARD WILKINSON

Well, we started the Equality Trust, which you'll find on the web if you look up, EqualityTrust.org.UK and that's a small, registered charity that campaigns for greater equality. But, I think what people do in the, workplaces, membership of trade unions and so on is is important. And students in some universities have taken up the issue that pay differences within the, universities between the vice chancellor at the top and the cleaners at the bottom. And that has led to some changes. Many of the Labour controlled local governments in Britain. I think 15 or 20 of the big cities in Britain, controlled by Labour authorities, have set up what they call fairness commissions to recommend how to make, how to reduce income inequalities locally. And they have led to almost all those, cities, paying at least the living wage rather than the minimum wage. And some of them are insisting that the the the suppliers, the people they buy from the companies also pay the living wage, and there is now a big living wage Movement. And so campaigning on these issues is really important in all sorts of, situations not only at work and students and so on, but also through the sort of things that the Equality Trust is doing, talking about it. But joining trade unions is important too


JAMES KENNEDY

100% Yeah, I mean, essentially coming together as a community again regaining that community attachment and that communal identity rather than the indi visual identity that we've all been so bought into now and and coming up together stronger together and regaining control of our shared resources and shared identity and shared power.


So, Richard, thank you so much for doing everything that you've done along with, Professor Kate Pickett as well to highlight and amplify this issue and to lay out the case so plainly and so clearly demonstrated with the the data as to why this issue now is case close and indisputable. So we know what the problems are. We know why we have these problems and we know what we've got to do about it.


So it's a it's an It's an invaluable book gift that you've given us. So thank you so much for all of the hard work. As you said there, check out the EqualityTrust.org.UK if you want to get involved and also I would 100% everybody listen to this rush out right now and buy the book. The spirit level, the book that we've been talking about today.


But all of this stuff is laid out with all of the information and all of the background. And also check out the inner level, which I have yet to read. But you can Mark my words. I will soon be doing so. Richard, thanks so much for giving us your time today. It's been a fascinating chat, and we thank you again for everything you're doing.


RICHARD WILKINSON

Well, thank you for spreading the word. It's essential work. Thanks.


JAMES KENNEDY

That's the least I can do any time. Thanks again, Richard. It's been eat to meet you, and, we'll speak to you again soon. Bye. Professor Richard Wilkinson, ladies and gentlemen, put it together for him. We must, of course, give a shout out as well to Professor Kate Pickett, who was the co-author of the spirit level, who has been, I'm sure equally involved in the project. Such great work those guys have done in those books fascinating stuff. And just to have that issue case closed is really, really useful and important. And there it is in black and white. They've proven it, man. They've been through all the data. They've collated it all together in a scientifically sound method.


And they've put it all there in black and white for you, all of the social ills that we struggle with and that cost us a lot of money and that we all have to suffer. The results of are all without question the results of financial and social inequality in our society. And those societies that don't have that financial social inequality do not have any of those problems. I mean, of course they do. In tiny amounts. Of course, you know, people are people, right? But it's proportional, directly proportional to the level of equality or inequality in a society. So if you want a better, fairer, safer, better educated, less violent, happier, well adjusted, more creative and productive society, you gonna have to get rid of that inequality, baby. And the only way we're gonna be able to do that, it seems, is by coming together, we've got to let go of this Thatcherite Reagan idea that we are all dog eat dog against each other. You know, we've got to fucking be winners, and you know, be richer and stronger and work harder than the next guy and get to the top and be a fucking survivor in a fight that we got to get rid of that mindset. It's bullshit. If it wasn't bullshit, how come it only works out for, like, less than 1% of the population? And most of those motherfuckers are rich when they were born anyway. So it's a fucking lie, man. It's a lie. It's never gonna happen to you.


You're better off coming together, stronger together and fucking overthrowing the system and creating a new one. And that's not a radical idea. This is not a romantic yearning for some kind of unrealistic utopia. We've been there before. We've had a society that was fairer, but you can't take your eye off the ball. You know, the bad guys are always looking to come and fucking pull the rug out so they can run away with all the cash again. You know, we like Tony said, every generation must fight the same battles. You know there is no final victory and there is no final defeat, you know, and I love that. It's one of my favourite quotes. But what it means is, is that, yeah, we can't get too comfortable.


It's like it's the same battle over and over and over again. A man. The bad guys have been kicking our ass quite severely for quite a long time now. I think I think the pressure is boiling now. It's so bad out there that we really need to come together as brothers and sisters and fucking let them know where the power is. We are the power, and enough is enough. So I hope you enjoyed the episode. I hope you found that insightful and interesting and great food. For thoughts do check out the EqualityTrust.org.UK and also the spirit level and the inner level books as well by Professor Richard Wilkinson and Professor Kate Pickett. And if you do nothing else with your day to day, give me a subscribe hit the James Kennedy podcast subscribe Button the follow button. If there's a star rating. If you're on Apple or Spotify, give me a star, dude, there's one click of a button. It doesn't cost you nothing, and you'd be helping me out. You'd be making a little Welsh podcaster happy. Ok, look at all the free goodies I'm giving you here, man. This is good stuff. As always. I'll be back next week with another awesome guest. So I'll see you there. In the meantime, take care of yourselves. Take care of each other. I love you loads, and I'll see you next time.

Recent Posts

See All

#50 - Marina Purkiss - Tells it like it is...

Marina Purkiss is a political commentator, writer, presenter and host of The Trawl podcast with Jemma Forte. In this episode we chat Tories, the Labour Party, Brexit, corruption, the media, Boris John

#41 - Peredur Ap Gwynedd - Pendulum

As well as being the guitarist in the band 'Pendulum', Peredur Ap Gwynedd has also toured with Natalie Imbruglia, Anastacia and many others. In this chat, we talk about his amazing career, life as a

#52 - Frankie Poullain - The Darkness

Frankie Poullain is the Bassist in the multi-platinum band, The Darkness. We chat about the band's 20th anniversary reissue of their album 'Permission to Land...Again', their upcoming tours & document

Commentaires


bottom of page