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Our society can’t afford the richest 1%

In these extracts from his book "Inequality and the Social Thinker" Danny Dorling lays bare the impact of the wealthy elite on the rest of society.


We have an educational system that is designed to polarise people. It creates and elite that often has little respect for the majority of the population, thinks that it should earn extraordinarily more than everyone else, defines many of the jobs of others as so contemptible as apparently to justify their living in relative poverty. The ideology that underlies the elitism in imparted in childhood. For the elite, especially in the most unequal countries where the status quo, other people’s children can be greatly denigrated.Indifference
It is not hard to train people to treat others badly, especially if you can persuade your young recruits not to consider others as fully human. As inequality rises, growing numbers of people turn a blind eye to the suffering of others, while they become increasingly concerned about themselves and how they are seen. That is why fundraising events involving the superrich are public spectacles, with the press often invited along.

Our grandparents’ generation created the National Health Service while ours came up with the National Lottery. That is sad indictment of our times, but it does at least allow a natural experiment to be carried out to answer the question of what happens to people if they are simply given a large amount of money. The answer, most often, is that they become rapidly and sometimes rabidly more right-wing.
Pollution is the product of the rich far more than the poor. In the UK the average carbon emissions of the richest tenth of households are three times greater per capita than those of the poorest tenth, their emissions from car use are eight times higher, and from international flights nine times greater.Health
Growing economic inequality as the richest take more and more for themselves is bad for everyone’s health, possibly even more for some of the very best-off. The reason may be myriad, but the outcomes are clear. And this, above all else, is why the money taken by the 1 per cent needs to be reduced, to improve our health and perhaps even save some lives.

A majority (57 per cent) of the Londoners who live in poverty are in families with at least one wage earner, but their wages are now insufficient for them to survive with dignity. More people in poverty in London now rent privately than live in social housing. A quarter of all Londoners rely on housing benefit. As result, although London has seen the greatest mean average increase in salaries and wages in recent years of any European city, it is also the most economically divided and remains the ‘poverty capital’ of England.

Danny Dorling is an English social geographer and is the Halford Mackinder Professor of Geography of the School of Geography and the Environment of the University of Oxford.

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