|The rich just keep on getting richer. In most developed nations
inequality has been growing for decades; last year the OECD reported
that its 34 member countries were more unequal than at any time in the
past 30 years. As the gulf between rich and poor rises up the political
agenda so it has become an object of scientific study. The findings are
not encouraging for anyone.
There is already ample evidence that people at the bottom suffer a range
of health problems. More controversially, unequal societies appear to
have higher levels of social ills, from teenage pregnancy to violence
and obesity, that affect quality of life across the board.
Now there is another reason to decry growing inequality. Greater wealth
correlates with selfishness and lack of empathy, which might help
explain why the divide persists and the rich seem so reluctant to close
Apologists for inequality argue that it is harmless, or even a powerful
motivator. The evidence suggests otherwise. A huge gap between have and
have-nots is bad both for individuals and for society. It is in
everybody's interests that we narrow it.