A Theory of Everything, Well of a Different Kind

Richard-Wilkinson-and-Kat-001 John Crace in the Guardian:

Quietly spoken, late middle-aged and quintessentially English, Richard Wilkinson is the last person you would expect to come up with a sweeping theory of everything. Yet that's precisely what this retired professor from Nottingham medical school, in collaboration with his partner, Kate Pickett, a lecturer at the University of York, has done.

The opening sentence of their new book, The Spirit Level, cautions, “People usually exaggerate the importance of their own work and we worry about claiming too much” – yet by the time you reach the end you wonder how they could have claimed any more. After all, they argue that almost every social problem common in developed societies – reduced life expectancy, child mortality, drugs, crime, homicide rates, mental illness and obesity – has a single root cause: inequality.

And, they say, it's not just the deprived underclass that loses out in an unequal society: everyone does, even the better off. Because it's not absolute levels of poverty that create the social problems, but the differentials in income between rich and poor.