How much is enough?

THE financial crisis has exposed rampant greed and the growing inequality of our modern world. City bonuses totalled £14billion in 2010 and revenue loss through tax avoidance amounts to about £100billion.

The richest five per cent increased their share of the nation’s wealth to 40 per cent during the last 30 years.

Overall, income inequality in Britain is close to its highest level since records began.

The Coalition’s moves on executive pay and proposed banking reform are a welcome start even if the latter action is rather leisurely paced. It is encouraging to see the Lib Dems, Vince Cable in particular, pressing for action on boardroom and banking reform. At the other end of the scale, the Lib Dems have pushed through income tax relief so from April 2015 no one will pay income tax on the first £10,000 earned.

If a civilization is merited by how it treats its weakest and most vulnerable members, we need to go much further.

As Jeff Sachs recently reminded us (The Guardian, December 17, 2011) societies function properly only when they are judged by their citizens to be reasonably fair.

Equity and economics have to be hitched to the same wagon.

There are now many organisations addressing this: Compass, UK Uncut, the Fair Pay Network, the Centre for Social Policy Research, Avaaz and 38 Degrees, Centre Forum and particularly the New Economics Foundation and the Rowntree Trust.

Their ideas include job sharing, setting up community banks, reviving local economies so we do not rely on export-led growth, and improving our work/life balance so there is more time to take care of youngsters and the elderly.

Growth should not be the only mantra; there are other forms of capital. The corrosive effects of economic inequality and thinning social support require all of us to think and act differently.

People are prepared to make sacrifices and adjust expectations but only if the pain is seen to be shared and society is based on fairness.


The Arcade, Belsay