October 05, 2012

Leveling out

El Cabrero has been a bit of a blogging slacker lately, a trend that may continue over the next several days due to road trips and such. I'm not sure whether it was a question of being tired or uninspired, but I guess the two might be related.

Anyhow, here's an interesting tidbit I came across lately from the book The Spirit Level: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett:

A dramatic example of how reductions in inequality can lead to rapid improvements in health is the experience of Britain during the two world wars. Increases in life expectancy for civilians during the war decades were twice those seen throughout the rest of the twentieth century. In the decades which contain the world wars, life expectancy increased between 6 and 7 years for men and women, whereas in the decades before, between and after, life expectancy increased by between 1 and 4 years. Although the nation's nutritional status improved with rationing in the Second World War, this was not true for the First World War, and material living standards declined during both wars. However, both wartimes were characterized by full employment and considerably narrower income differences--the result of deliberate government policies to promote co-operation with the war effort. During the Second World War, for example, working-class incomes rose by 9 per cent, while incomes of the middle class fell by 7 per cent; rates of relative poverty were halved. The resulting sense of camaraderie and social cohesion not only led to better health--crime rates also fell. 
Three thoughts occur to me. One, it would be nice to get the same result minus the world war thing. Two, these days wars don't do much to reduce inequality. Instead, they only make it great in lots of areas.  Three, the Whackadoodle element would call the authors freedom haters.

NOT SO BAD. Here's economist Dean Baker on the latest jobs numbers, which are giving Whackadoodles hissy fits.

THERE IS A DIFFERENCE. Lots of people have wondered whether things have really changed since Massey Energy was bought out by Alpha Natural Resources. I've always said that whatever its flaws, Alpha is significantly less evil than Massey was back in the day. In fact, in the extremely unlikely event that I was in charge of Alpha, I'd make the company slogan be: "Alpha...we're less evil." Can you imagine former Massey CEO Don Blankenship talking like this?



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