Marjorie Mayo reviews Do We Need Economic Inequality? by Danny Dorling (Polity, £9.99)
DANNY DORLING has already written extensively on inequality and why it persists, supporting his arguments with a bevy of evidence. His publications address differing aspects of poverty and social inequality, including those of educational opportunity, employment, health and housing and, in the process, support the case for social justice.
They’re works marked by Dorling’s encyclopaedic knowledge, critical use of official statistics and original insights based upon his own research, evidenced in books such as Fair Play and Injustice.
Do We Need Economic Inequality?’ provides yet another key text, setting out the facts and figures to support his critique of neoliberal arguments.
As Dorling explains, in reality, neoliberals have been advocating inequality. Far from being an unfortunate side-effect of modern capitalist societies, as was Margaret Thatcher’s view, for other neoliberals, economic inequality ensures that the super-wealthy reap the rewards of their supposed talents and entrepreneurial skills in creating wealth that benefits us all.
But does it? Eight billionaires have as much wealth as the poorest half of humanity put together, with levels of inequality still increasing and Britain right out in front. There are greater levels of inequality here than in all but one other European country.
Dorling takes the neoliberal argument apart, showing that, far from benefiting society by stimulating economic growth, the underlying causes of increasing inequalities harm society as a whole.
The changes that accompanied the development of capitalism, as this book so clearly explains in documenting the links between economic inequality and racism, have their roots in the brutalities of slavery and colonialism. The market, when left to itself, rewards the most greedy and the least scrupulous.
Far from promoting economic dynamism and growth, the end result has been the opposite — the greediest are not necessarily the most successful, even in their own terms. Britain may be the second most unequal country in Europe, but it is also the country that has become relatively less affluent.
Meanwhile, those who have been losing out the most, including the precariously employed as well as the unemployed, are stigmatised and blamed for being scroungers and skivers.
Increasing economic inequality has been accompanied by increasing social polarisation and Dorling spells out the disastrous consequences in terms of increasing inequalities of educational opportunities, employment, health and housing. This is a recipe for a very dysfunctional society indeed.
This might all seem self-evident to Morning Star readers, but the arguments against inequality still have to be made to the wider population and they need to be supported by the evidence set out so persuasively in this excellent book.
As the concluding chapters explain, this nightmare vision of an increasingly polarised society doesn’t have to be the only option. Other futures could be possible.
Very clearly written and accessible, the book provides the tools for making the case for socialist alternatives. Highly recommended.