Social Inequality And “A Melancholy Of The Soul”

Posted by | January 2, 2011 18:02 | Filed under: Top Stories

by Bruce Friedrich

Nicholas Kristof continues to more than justify my subscription to the New York Times. Today’s column offers yet another reason for concern at the widening gap between rich and poor in this country: “a melancholy of the soul” that leads to “high rates of violent crime, high narcotics use, high teenage birthrates and even high rates of heart disease.”

Kristof is discussing a new book by epidemiological researchers Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett, The Spirit Level: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger. The book’s findings are jarring, and important:

Among rich countries, those that are more unequal appear to have more mental illness, infant mortality, obesity, high school dropouts, teenage births, homicides, and so on.

They find the same thing is true among the 50 American states. More unequal states, like Mississippi and Louisiana, do poorly by these social measures. More equal states, like New Hampshire and Minnesota, do far better.

Kristof sums up his column with a clarion call that would make an excellent policy focus for President Obama and the Democrats over the next two years:

So as we debate national policy in 2011 — from the estate tax to unemployment insurance to early childhood education — let’s push to reduce the stunning levels of inequality in America today. These inequities seem profoundly unhealthy, for us and for our nation’s soul.

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Copyright 2011 Liberaland
By: BruceGFriedrich

Vice President, Policy, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

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