The Spirit Level: A Quick Look

 

  • In The Spirit Level, the authors seek to answer the following question: “How is it that we have created so much mental and emotional suffering despite levels of wealth and comfort unprecedented in human history?”
  • In terms of western democracies/capitalist societies, the truth is that the luxury and extravagance of our lives is so great that it threatens the planet.
  • There is a predictable pattern: the more and more you get of anything, the less and less it contributes to your well being.
  • The factors that contribute to modern societies being social failures are characterized by the following: level of trust, mental illness (including drug and alcohol addiction), life expectancy and infant mortality, obesity, children’s educational performance, teenage births, homicides, imprisonment rates, and social mobility.
  • Greater equality and improving the wellbeing of the whole population is the key to national standards of achievements and how countries perform in a lot of different fields.
  • As the importance of social status increases, due to inequality, the social position becomes one of the most important features of a person’s identity.
  • Our position on the social ladder affects whom we consider as part of the in-group and who as a member of the out-group, which, in turn, affects our ability to identify and empathize with other people.
  • It is more important to consider how a society becomes more equal rather than whether or not it actually does so.
  • Economic growth and social status are the biggest determinants of income inequality in any given country.
  • Overall, in order to make a change or to achieve greater equality, countries need to make a continuous stream of small changes in a consistent direction.  This can be done by creating a sustain movement committed to a better society (political will); creating the political will to make society more equal is more important than implementing a set of policies to reduce inequality. 
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