An Entirely Hilarious Letter To The Guardian On Angus Deaton’s Inequality Inquiry For The IFS

7
903

I am not all that hopeful about Angus Deaton’s plan to research inequality for the IFS. I’ve said so, elsewhere:

If our starting point, our input into our analysis, is that US median wages have been static this past five decades then we’re simply not going to end up with an accurate portrayal of current inequality. After all, garbage in, garbage out isn’t restricted to computing. We’re willing to be pleasantly surprised by the IFS Deaton examination of inequality. But we don’t think we will be. We expect the inputs to their musings to be the incorrect yet currently fashionable and that’s really not a good way to be doing science.

And then today we’ve got this quite lovely letter in The Guardian:

However, there is widespread concern about the composition of this review’s “expert panel”, which has a majority of white economists. Although the panel includes an expert on health inequalities, none of the world’s leading experts on the health and psychosocial effects of income inequality itself are included, nor is there expertise in the spatial aspects of inequality. And there is a conspicuous absence of world-leading economists for whom income inequality is their primary focus – no Piketty, no Stiglitz, no Galbraith, no Frank, no Fitoussi, no Palma, no Chang, no Milanovic. Sir Angus Deaton, leading the review, stated in the journal Science in 2014 that he “get[s] angry” about the theory that inequality has psychological and social effects on health – perhaps he has changed his mind now that his own research has uncovered rising deaths from addiction and suicide in the US, but there are many researchers with much greater depth in this area. Even more troubling, there is no ethnic minority representation on the “expert panel”, no people with lived experience of inequality, no representatives of charities, trade unions or other NGOs. The number of disciplines represented is also small, although the impact of inequality goes far beyond economics.

We, and others, have been researching, educating and campaigning on inequality for many years, we understand the issues and we know what needs to be done. We cannot wait five years for a report from a worryingly elitist review. Getting policymakers and politicians to tackle inequality will require grassroots support from those most affected and is needed urgently.

The argument being, who the hell needs research anyway? We’ve already done it and so there. And, you’ve not included any of us in your research team. So, they might be unburdened by our own prejudices.

But what makes it hilarious is the list of signatures:

Kate Pickett Professor of epidemiology and research champion for justice and equality, University of York
Richard Wilkinson Emeritus professor of social epidemiology, University of Nottingham
Danny Dorling Harold Mackinder professor of geography, University of Oxford
Dr Faiza Shaheen Director, CLASS

The first two wrote the Spirit Level. You know, that book proving that inequality causes all sorts of harms. The book which has been comprehensively shown to be entire colei*. The fourth runs a trade union funded think tank – political independence anyone? – and the third is, well, Dorling’s not one known for his political impartiality, is he?

What they’re actually complaining about is that someone might research inequality and find out that it’s not as bad as is said and the effects aren’t as bad either. Which would never do now, would it, given the head of steam the concept has so far?

*Gibbon

7
Leave a Reply

avatar
4 Comment threads
3 Thread replies
0 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
6 Comment authors
Dodgy GeezerChester DrawsLeo SavanttMohave GreenieJonathan Harston Recent comment authors
  Subscribe  
newest oldest most voted
Notify of
Matt Ryan
Guest
Matt Ryan

Follow the money.

Jonathan Harston
Guest
Jonathan Harston

I sometimes wonder if they’ve got the wrong Angus Deaton.

Dodgy Geezer
Guest
Dodgy Geezer

People talk about a ‘Carbon tax’, which is meant to counteract the ‘Social Cost of carbon’. But no one thinks about the Social Advantage of carbon – which surely is many times greater. Similarly, we should think about the social advantages of inequality. In particular, it is probably the major driver for people to better themselves and advance living standards generally. A completely equal society would have no pressure to improve at all…. Buy the way – what does ‘..nor is there expertise in the spatial aspects of inequality….’ mean? Is it some kind of requirement for public transport seating… Read more »

Chester Draws
Guest
Chester Draws

I think it means wealth is unevenly spread geographically.

Although that’s actually a bonus, reducing the effect of poverty. It’s cheaper to live in poor areas. Whereas living in London on a low wage isn’t so easy.

Dodgy Geezer
Guest
Dodgy Geezer

You can certainly live in parts of London on a low wage – though these parts are getting smaller. Immigrants manage it on grants… An interesting attempt was made to merge rich and poor areas in the town of Gloucester after WW2. It had been heavily bombed, since it was a centre for aircraft production, and the incoming Labour administration had the bright idea if rebuilding it with ‘mixed’ streets. That is, they would build one big expensive house, then two smaller cheaper houses, then a council house, and repeat that cycle along the street. What happened was that the… Read more »

Mohave Greenie
Guest
Mohave Greenie

Then they should ask Thomas Sowell to join.

Leo Savantt
Guest
Leo Savantt

That would have been a splendid idea, sadly a bit late for that now. They could, of course, refer themselves to his often beautifully crafted musings on matters just such as these which he kindly gifted to posterity, although perhaps they are too erudite, balanced and informed for them to either grasp or even countenance.