It’s Not the Economy; It’s About Equality

 Whatever our spiritual connection, December, our darkest month, signals a journey toward light, clarity, and a fresh start for the New Year.

 The book, Spirit Level: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger, by Wilkinson and Pickett, is an eye opener that helps us understand how USA relates to the rest of the world and what our task is if we want to reclaim vibrant health for American citizens in 2013.

 The authors found that “if a country does badly on health, you can predict with some confidence that it will imprison a larger proportion of it’s population, have more teenage pregnancies, lower literacy scores, more obesity, more mental health problems, and so on.”  Currently, the US leads the world with health problems, imprisoned population, and so on.

 After WWII, we, in the US, experienced a more equal society until about 1965, when we began the shift toward more inequality. Here’s a partial list of what happened: trade unions were weakened, profit sharing agreements were abandoned, changes in taxes and benefits were legislated, and adequate minimum wage legislation never happened.

 In the US, Wilkinson and Pickett found that the states which perform well are dominated by ones which have more generous welfare provisions. New Hampshire, the state which performs best, has among the lowest public social expenditure of any state. This doesn’t mean that we in NH have no need to improve. The US average of all our states still makes us the most unequal of all countries in the world. Wilkinson and Pickett’s conclusion is that how a society becomes more equal is less important than whether or not it does so.

 The issue is not about the economy and economic growth. It’s about equality. In 2007, chief executives of 365 of the largest US corporations received well over 500 times the pay of their average employee. The issue now is the community and how we relate to each other. Countries with more equality, like Japan and Scandinavia, also enjoy better health.

 The issue is also not about the greedy rich. It’s about who determines public policy. Wilkinson and Pickett found that greater equality was gained by either using taxes and benefits to redistribute very unequal incomes or by greater equality in gross incomes before taxes and benefits, which leaves less need for redistribution.

 By looking at what more equal countries do to provide greater equality and better health, we can begin to map out where we need to put our energies in 2013. Here’s a partial list of  dynamics found in more equal countries:

  • Democratic employee-owned companies that help companies change from being property to being communities.
  • Profit sharing companies that inspire employee-owners to be conscientious and innovative in their work performance because everyone reaps a share of the profits.
  • Shorter work hours and longer holiday time that increase energy, creativity, and sense of self-worth.
  • More patents are granted per head of population.
  • Health Care is provided for everyone as a right.
  • Early childhood development and education programs are provided that result in high literacy rates.

 What the authors found seems to work best is a series of small changes, not one big revolution. December may well be the best incubator for positive thoughts as we come together with family, friends and groups and celebrate the bonds that hold us together.

Time  to think about what  we need to do as a community to keep each other well both now and for  generations to come so that heaven and nature will sing!

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