So says Richard Wilkinson in his TED Talk below. Wilkinson is Professor Emeritus of social epidemiology at the University of Nottingham and co-author of The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better, a study of the pernicious effects of inequality in modern industrial democracies.
A whole array of social pathologies — including infant mortality, homicides, mental health, teenage births, life expectancy, etc. — are significantly worse in more unequal societies, regardless of the absolute level of wealth of that society as measured by GDP per capita.
In other words, poorer but more equal societies (like Denmark) fare better on this scale of social health than do richer but more unequal societies (like the U.S.).
If you want to live the American Dream, move to Denmark.
What, if anything, does this have to do with the Occupy Wall Street movement?
Just this: Many fearful critics of that movement[ ((See, for instance, cartoonist Bob Crabb’s recent Halloween cartoon))] [ ((See also “Eric Cantor criticizes ‘wealth redistribution’ and Occupy protesters during University of Michigan speech“))] are afraid that the protesters want simply to redistribute wealth, rather than — as is actually the case — make sure that the rules of the economic game are applied more equally and fairly.
In other words, fairness at the starting gate of the economic race — not absolute equality of wealth at the finish line — is the demand.
Professor Wilkinson’s research, which he describes clearly in this short TED Talk, illuminates vividly the unrest we see all about us now.
His work, though not limited to the U.S., could also be thought of as a “Science of the American Dream,” and should interest anyone who is worried about why that dream is dying.