More equal societies include – unsurprisingly – the Scandinavian countries
Tuesday, 15. October 2013
Tuesday, 15. October 2013
This reminds me of one critic who once mentioned that the Human Development Index, or HDI, was basically a measure of how Scandinavian a country was. Cynics aside; let’s have a look at some of the problems that statistically correlate with the measure of inequality. Most fundamentally, we can observe an erosion of trust. With inequality increasing, less fewer people would answer the question “most people can be trusted” with yes. What’s more, mental illness appears to be more common in such societies. More than 25 percent of citizens in the USA suffer from any some kind of mental illness, according to Prof. Wilkinson who has shared these insights with us at the Aacademia, talking to the audience via Skype.
Teenage birth rates are higher in more unequal countries. So are imprisonment rates, and also homicide rates. Whether this occurs because of a lack of empathy and trust, or a feeling of unease and fear remains to be proven. What emerges from these findings though is that if you can’t somehow put the diverging movement to a halt, you’ll have to spend more on police corps and prison infrastructure. Because as we’ve seen, criminality and inequality are positively correlated. The picture seems to gain in sharpness: whatever issue we’re debating, you’ll probably do worse in more unequal societies.
Social mobility is lower in more unequal countries. In Scandinavian countries with their more equal distribution of wealth, social mobility is quite high. Contrarily in the USA, social mobility is low, thus contradicting its stance as “Land of Opportunity”. Professor Wilkinson: “If you want to live the American Dream, you shouldn’t go to America, try it in Denmark instead.”
As wealth gaps open more and more, classes become more important, and the quality of social relations deteriorates. Along comes increasing competition for status, and more emphasis on consumerism, because this is how we compete for status. In an already deteriorating natural environment, this development is worrying and totally unacceptable. One question that arises in the aftermath of the presentation by Professor Wilkinson is whether social inequality is best fought by establishing a strong welfare state. Your correspondent in at this very moment regrets having missed the opportunity to address Mr. Wilkinson right after his lecture. But there might just as well be other participants here that are willing to share their thoughts on this question. On we go to day two of the conference, then.
Donators and Partners
The ETH Board is responsible for the strategic leadership of the ETH domain and assumes the supervision of its institutions. Its close relationship with the ETH Council has contributed to the successful continuation of Academia Engelberg Foundation since 2000.
The Foundation promotes research into the connecting human fundamentals of science. Academia Engelberg Foundation and the Foundation for Basic Research in Human Sciences have entered into a cooperation agreement for the period 2011 to 2015.
Helvetia is a quality-oriented comprehensive insurance company with over 150 years of experience. Academia Engelberg Foundation is convinced it will be able to use important synergies from the partnership starting in 2015.
A partnership with the University of Lucerne has existed since summer 2013. Since 2016 we have also a parthership with the Faculty of Economics and Management of the University of Lucerne. Through these partnerships, synergies are used and joint projects are tested and realized. The University of Lucerne currently consists of three faculties: the faculties for Theology, Culture and Social Sciences, and Law.