The Spirit Level
Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger
by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett
A shorter version can be found in the TED talk. A critique from the Economist. I also found several rebuttals from think tanks to blogs. It would be interesting to look at the correlations between social wellbeing and equality and think about what or how much can be inferred from the data.
A few interesting reviews from Amazon.
Review 1: Crucially, Mr. Wilkinson and Ms. Pickett explain that reducing income differentials at the low and high ends decreases the stress and anxiety that comes from status competition, therefore improving life outcomes for everyone (not just the poor). This is an important insight because it sweeps away the commonly held notion that social dysfunction is someone else's problem; by showing that life expectancies level off and actually decrease at a certain income level, the authors argue convincingly that we are all in it together. Indeed, the authors contend that greater emphasis on non-material pursuits such as education, family and recreation can improve the quality of life for everyone while lessening the impulse to acquire material goods, with beneficial effects on the environment that we all depend upon.
Review 2: One could challenge the authors' hypothesis by comparing overall Swedish numbers, say, with conditions in its third largest city (Malmö), home to 287,000 residents from 170 nations. In the last decade, half of Malmö's Jewish population has fled in terror of its precipitously rising numbers of Islamic jihad attacks. One can safely suppose Malmö statistics would sharply diverge from Swedish numbers overall and that Malmö is neither healthy nor happy. That in turn might suggest that Sweden's overall "happiness" and "health" probably result from other factors than its socialism --- which would necessarily include the main thing Malmö lacks, a homogeneous populace.