There is a mass of data that demonstrates the link between violence, defragmented famillies and unemployment in the poorest areas. But are these symptoms of the impoverished a result of their living situation, or are they a cause of it?
You could easily be forgiven for thinking that this poverty is the result of the above problems, and many more. But a study by Richard Wilkinson in The Impact of Inequality actually contradicts this idea. unequal societies are broken societies, all of whose members suffer. Violence is more common in societies where income differences are larger, not just in things like murder rates, but in low-level arguments, racial hostility, and antisocial behaviour. Communities are more fragile in less equal societies. And political participation is lower, and political institutions less effective, in less equal societies. Wilkinson shows how it is the stress, competition and exclusion generated by living in a highly unequal society that underlies these outcomes.
What do you think? Richard Tawney, the famous historian, once said ‘we need the equal start as well as the open road’ if equality of opportunity is to mean anything. With the problems of poverty in today’s society, does he have a valid point? Should we seek to redress natural inequalities that exist within society, in order to mend the problems we face? Is violence, defragmented communities and poor political participation going to continue in these areas until we find a solution to natural inequality?