June 04, 2009

How to fight envy

Michael Sargent reviews the book The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better in Nature. Sargent and the authors of the book agree that more unequal societies fare worse because of envy, which they call "neuroendocrinological stress."
Governments can get there by using redistributive taxation and an extensive welfare state, as in Sweden, or by restraining income disparities and minimizing public spending, as in Japan. The book ends optimistically: whatever route is chosen, the authors argue, the current economic slump may be a providential opportunity to start righting the balance.
But why stop at equalizing income? Shouldn't we also "right the balance" of physical beauty, sports ability and dancing skills?

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