"We have to tolerate the inequality as a way to achieve greater prosperity and opportunity for all." These were the words of Lord Brian Griffiths, Goldman Sachs international adviser, when he spoke at London's St. Paul's Cathedral last fall. With inequality at historic levels here in the United States and around the world, it's a reassuring message we all might wish to be true.
Unfortunately, scientific research reveals a sharply different reality: inequality is a driving force behind many of our most profound social ills. The Equality Trust reviewed thousands of studies conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, the World Health Organization, the United Nations, and the World Bank. Consistent patterns emerged, both between and within countries. Inequality is associated with diminished levels of physical and mental health, child well-being, educational achievement, social mobility, trust, and community life. And it is linked to increased levels of violence, drug use, imprisonment, obesity, and teenage births. In short, Lord Griffiths' claim--despite the venue--was a self-serving fiction.
Shared Outrage and Solidarity
Although there are no easy or quick solutions for reversing today's extreme inequalities and repairing the daily harm they cause, the path forward may be clearer than we realize. Change of this magnitude requires a stubborn, passionate, and broadly embraced commitment to greater equality as a moral necessity. Although regularly overlooked and misunderstood, the catalyst for such a transformation is often surprisingly simple: shared outrage. Indeed, when shared by the disadvantaged and oppressed on the one hand and by those with greater security and resources on the other, outrage can spur the concerted action required to overcome the injustice, insensitivity, and inhumanity that foster inequality around the world.