Dr David Gordon
Professor of Social Justice
School for Policy Studies
University of Bristol
Equality and Social Exclusion in the 21st Century: Developing Alternatives
Wellington Park Hotel
Belfast 1-3rd February 2006
Champagne glass of income distribution
The stem of the
glass is getting
thinner. In 1960
the income of
fifth was 30
than that of the
now it's more
than 80 times
Wealth in the UK
“Inequality in health is the worst inequality
of all. There is no more serious inequality
than knowing that you’ll die sooner
because you’re badly off”
Frank Dobson, 1997
(Secretary of state for health
Age at death by age group, 1990-1995
Source: The State of the World Population 1998
Make Poverty History: Click Video
Only the good die young? – what kills children
Cause of death for children under five
―The world's biggest killer and the greatest cause
of ill health and suffering across the globe is listed
almost at the end of the International
Classification of Diseases. It is given code Z59.5
-- extreme poverty.
World Health Organisation (1995)
Severe Deprivation of Basic Human Need of Children
•A third of the Worlds children live in squalid housing condition with more than five people to a
room or living on a mud floor
•Over half a billion children have no toilet facilities whatsoever - not even a hole in the ground.
•Over 400 million children are using unsafe open water sources, rivers or ponds or they have to
walk 15 minutes or more there and back to water, that’s a thirty minute round trip, that’s so far
they cannot carry enough for their needs. Therefore, they cut down on water use and tend to get
•About 1 in 5 children (aged between 3 and 18) lack access to radios, televisions, computers,
telephones or newspapers at home. They have no information about the outside world apart from
what they can see in their community.
•16% of the world’s children under the age of 5 are very severely malnourished and almost half
of these live in South Asia.
•275 million children have not been immunised against any disease whatsoever, or they have had
a recent illness causing diarrhoea, which is one of the major killers and received no medical
advice or treatment. As far as we can determine, about 13% of the world’s children have never
come into contact with medical services.
•140 million children aged between 7 – 18, that’s about one in nine, are severely educationally
deprived - they have never stepped inside a school building
Do not weep; do not wax indignant. Understand.
Baruch Spinoza (1632 - 1677)
The Politics of Counting
“In the original sense of the word,
„Statistics‟ was the science of Statecraft:
to the political arithmetrician of the
eighteenth century, its function was to be
the eyes and ears of the central
Sir Roland Fisher (1938)
The Origin of Social Indicators
In 1962,NASA commissioned the American
Academy of Arts and Sciences to explore the
potential side effects of space exploration on
American society. Would the space program
threaten or disturb the social fabric? Would new
social problems arise?
Social indicators were "statistics, statistical series,
and all other forms of evidence that enable us to
assess where we stand and are going with
respect to our values and goals"
(Bauer 1966: 1)
Dimensions of Justice
• Recognition – Sex, Race,
Ethnicity, Disability, Age.
• Political – voting rights & voting frame –
who gets to vote?
Nancy Fraser (New Left Review, Nov/Dec 2005)
How Should Resources be Distributed?
Equality Rules. The principle of equality determines an equal
distribution of resources (“to each the same”) without considering
the special characteristics of individuals
Equity Rules. The principle of equity refers to the distribution of
social resources, according to the input of each individual. Three
main distributive rules are usually derived from this principle: (a)
effort, (b) actual contribution, and (c) ability.
Need Rules. The principle of need demands resource distribution
according to individuals’ needs (“to each according to its needs”).
Values and Choices
In 1974, Richard Titmus argued that if society wants to move
towards a more equal society then we need to decide which of the
following four maxims should determine the provision of welfare
To each according to individual need
To each according to individual worth
To each according to individual merit
To each according to individual work
The need for a scientific theory to count inequalities
Karl Popper – properties of a scientific theory
• The theory must be logically internally consistent
• The theory must be falsifiable, e.g. it must be capable of being shown to be
untrue. The existence of a Loving God and Freudian psychology are
unfalsifiable theories and therefore unscientific.
• The theory must be testable.
• The theory must have predictive value.
• The results of the theory must be reproducible. Other people using the
same methods will reach the same results.
Imre Lakatos (1974) scientific research programmes must also:
• Possess a degree of coherence that involves the mapping out of a definite
programme for future research.
• Lead to the discovery of novel phenomena, at least occasionally.
Growth is Good for the Poor?
Source: Dollar and Kraay, Journal of Economic Growth, 2002
Dollar and Kraay’s Conclusions: Did they Discover a New Law of Nature?
―Average incomes of the poorest fifth of a country on average rise or fall at the
same rate as average incomes …. in a large sample of countries spanning the
past four decades. This relationship holds across regions and income levels, and
in normal times as well as during crises ….
. This supports the view that a basic policy package of private property rights
fiscal discipline, macroeconomic stability, and openness to trade on average
increases the income of the poor to the same extent that it increases the income of
the other households in society. ….
. On the other hand, we find little evidence that formal democratic institutions or
a large degree of government spending on social services systematically affect
incomes of the poor‖
Random Average Income Vs Random Income Share of the Poor
Average Income in US$
10.00 20.00 30.00 40.00 50.00
Percentage of the average Income of the bottom 20%
Are Random Numbers Good for the Poor?
Faith in the Market
“At present almost all elite Americans, with corporate chiefs and fashionable economists in
the lead, are utterly convinced that they have discovered the winning formula for economic
success – the only formula – good for every country, rich or poor, good for all individuals
willing and able to heed the message, and, of course, good for elite Americans:
Edward Luttwak (1998), Turbo Capitalism
The world is plagued not so much by poverty but by a rampant “suspicion of
wealth…everywhere these ideas prevail…poverty persists and spreads”
George Gilder (1981) Wealth and Poverty
“It is the entrepreneurs who know the rules of the world and the laws of God”
George Gilder (1984) The Spirit of Enterprise
Towards the end of the century, many developing countries—China and India among them—
finally threw off this victim's mantle and began to embrace wicked capitalism, both in the way
they organised their domestic economies and in their approach to international trade. All of a
sudden, they are a lot less poor, and it hasn't cost the West a cent.
Economist editorial, 11/3/2004
"Faith is believing what you know isn't so."
Your faith is what you believe, not what you know."
-- Mark Twain
Poverty in the UK: The Solution?
―This would mean restoring to the centre of the tax system two
basic principals: the first, that those who cannot afford to pay tax
should not have to pay it; and the second, that taxation should rise
progressively with income. Programmes that merely redistribute
poverty from families to single persons, from the old to the young,
from the sick to the healthy, are not a solution. What is needed, is a
programme of reform that ends the current situation where the top
10% own 80% of our wealth and 30% of income, even after tax. As
Tawney remarked, ‗What some people call the problem of poverty,
others call the problem of riches‘.‖
(Gordon Brown and Robin Cook, 1983)