On Sunday’s Philosophy in Action Radio, Greg and I will answer the following question on social effects of economic inequality.

Is an egalitarian society a better society? The 2009 book “The Spirit Level” by Richard Wilkinson argues that income inequality has a broad range of negative effects on society. According to the summary on Wikipedia, “It claims that for each of eleven different health and social problems: physical health, mental health, drug abuse, education, imprisonment, obesity, social mobility, trust and community life, violence, teenage pregnancies, and child well-being, outcomes are significantly worse in more unequal rich countries.” Are these egalitarian arguments wrong? If so, what’s the best approach to refuting them?

These arguments are more philosophically interesting than I expected, as they’re basically an empirical version of Rawlsian egalitarianism. The statistics are also more compelling than I imagined at the outset: apparently, even wealthy people are better off in societies with less disparity between incomes.

If you’d like to familiarize yourself with these arguments before Sunday’s broadcast, check out this TED talk by the author of The Spirit Level: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger, Richard Wilkinson:

This episode of internet radio airs at 8 am PT / 9 MT / 10 CT / 11 ET on Sunday, 20 October 2013, in our live studio. If you miss that live broadcast, you can always listen to the podcast later.

  • John Pryce

    Considering that egalitarianism can only be accomplished by force, I really don’t think I care. I would go into it at the outset with the presupposition that they either used flawed data or else cooked said data, assuming the study used valid analyses in the first place.

  • Don Kenner

    People always remark how wonderful, smart, insightful, and intellectually invigorating the TED Talks are. But whenever I watch one my jaw drops open. Short-sighted, transparently political, or just downright idiotic, each time I click on these talks I’m disappointed. This one on econ inequality is no different. The last one I viewed instructed the grinning, fawning audience that the dispersal of information in our society was BETTER back when we had “gate keepers” like Dan Rather to filter our news. Now (the 20-something year old speaker told everyone) we live in an “information filter bubble” where people are choosing their own sources of information (the internet, being the big culprit), and that makes us less open to new ideas (which are evidently the old, leftwing ideas).

    Granted, I’ve only seen a handful. Are all the TED Talks just lefty academic types telling us that slavery is freedom, or am I just unlucky?

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