Valued contributors at the Café have often commented on the social and economic consequences of the growing inequality in Australian society. During the Howard years we saw the encouragement of a ‘greed is good’ mentality expressed by Howard as his ‘aspirationals’. This term not only encouraged smugness in the already wealthy but reinforced the idea that the only goal worth aspiring to was wealth and its accompanying benefits such as being able to buy the best. The best it was expressed, equated with happiness.
The result of this attitude was that there was hardly a bleat except from the left-leaning blogs and a few hardy mainstream journalists about the erosion of investment in our public schools, public health & hospitals and the general lack of interest in anything pertaining to community.
As many on this blog have observed, it seemed inevitable that Australia continue to follow the US lead towards ever increasing inequality.
Nicholas Kristof in this morning’s Age in this article comments on the ideas of British epidemiologists Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett from their book The Spirit Level: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger
The Spirit Level suggests that inequality undermines social trust and community life, corroding societies as a whole. It also suggests that humans, as social beings, become stressed when they find themselves at the bottom of a hierarchy.
The authors provide specifics which include “more mental illness, infant mortality, obesity, high school dropouts, teenage births, homicides..”
It is clearly not possible for all in society to be equal due to ability and opportunity but given the consequences then surely a more egalitarian society is what is really worth aspiring to.