Inequality: the scourge of our age?
Since the tail end of the economic crisis, ‘inequality’ has been on the tongue of every politician, journalist and commentator. In 2013, Barack Obama described it as the ‘defining challenge of our time’. Thomas Piketty’s book Capital in the 21st Century is one of the most popular economic books of recent years. Charities such as Oxfam publish annual reports measuring inequality around the world. Statistics outlining what percentage of the population own how much wealth are continuously cited. Every political event - from the rise of Donald Trump to the UK’s vote to leave the EU - is now seen through the lens of economic inequality.
But what is meant by economic inequality? While it is decreasing globally with the rise of emerging markets such as China, income growth for the lowest paid workers in the West has lagged behind that of the higher paid. But is anybody really arguing for a leveling of incomes, or decrying income disparity in and of itself? There is concern about living standards, an argument that some groups earn too much and others too little, and an argument that we should tax and distribute accordingly. But does this formulation risk obscuring the more pressing problem - the stagnation of incomes in Western economies - and how we address it?
For more information contact Dave Clements
LISTEN TO TOM BAILEY’S INTRODUCTORY REMARKS
Introduced by journalist Tom Bailey