Workshop: “An Economy for the 99%”
Sat 19 May 2012, 9.30am-12, Quaker Meeting House, St James Street S1 2EW
To make the links between climate jobs and an economy for the 99%. All welcome.
http://alt-sheff.org/events/2045/

Sheffield Equality Group
7pm Wednesday 6th June, Sheffield Quaker Meeting House, St James Street
Monthly meeting of the Equality group, discussing income inequality and local actions. All welcome.

Fairness Commission
Next Fairness Commission meeting is around the topic of unemployment on this Thursday, 17th May, at Arbourthorne Social Centre, East Bank Road, Sheffield, S2 2AL (Opposite the new Medical Centre). The meeting is open to the public from 6.20pm.

Very good chat with Richard Wilkinson before the Fairness Commission meeting last Wednesday. We thought our chat was better than the meeting itself! We’ve put a few questions to the commission about its format and future. You can read a summary report of the discussion and meeting here.

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Discussion points and links
There exists the potential for a wedge to be driven between the majority of small and medium businesses where pay differentials are typically low, and multinationals. An embroyonic idea is “Bosses against bonuses”. The link between tax avoidance and Government cuts could also be made explicit, with a suggestion for the publication of tax records, as happens in Norway and Finland

The economic case against income inequality is strengthening, with clear links being drawn by leading economists to the recession
We need structural change, focussing on moral change, making postivie changes to society permenant. Greed can be made dishonorable, placing the selfish low on a moral hierachy, something that has happened for many other practices. “The Honor Code” by Kwame Anthony Appiah sets out how many moral practices have changed over time
Income inequality is clearly linked to moralilty and trust, as outlined in Eric Uslaner’s “The Moral Foundations of Trust” (the book is available to read online)

What psychologists term “social evaluative anxiety” causes issues with self-esteem, and is linked with depression and substance abuse. By feeling continual threats to social position because of relatively low income (which applies to everyone apart from at the very top) this anxiety is brought out and has harmful effects. The next book Wilkinson and Pickett are writing is around how our natural psychological responses to income inequality cause the harm.

The impacts of income inequality on early development is also important. Social status and stresses in early life lead to changes in how genes are expressed, therefore being another mechanism through which income inequality impacts on health and social wellbeing. See here for a summary

Children form an emotional/cognitive strategy to handle the society they grow up in, and parenting is a way of passing on cultural expectations that shape these strategies.
The example was given of where parents had encouraged their children to fight, in order to “toughen them up” – a reasonable strategy where there are perceived threats to status and selfish strategies are widely used.

However, this was contrasted with more egalitarian societies, with reference to the Continuum Concept by Jean Liedloff, where a tribe commonly attributed problem behaviour to a lack of understanding rather than malicious intent.

Practical policies such as pay ratios and living wage were mentioned to reduce income differences. A new study on the Living Wage shows it really is affordable for the majority of FTSE businesses, increasing wage costs by around 1% for most, and around 5% for only a couple of industries.

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And finally…
If you haven’t heard of crowd-sourcing before, then now is the time! Check out the planned Spirit Level Documentary and put your money to making a world changing movie…