povertyGreed is good. That’s not just Gordon Gekko speaking, it’s also Britain’s current Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, who has argued that greed encourages innovation and entrepreneurship: “The harder you shake the pack, the easier it will be for some cornflakes to get to the top.”

Inequality is commonly thought of as a bad thing, but could it actually bring benefits to society? As long as there is also social mobility, could income inequality actually encourage greater productivity? If people think they will be well-rewarded for their efforts, could it spur them to work harder?

We had a comment from Polichronis, who associates social inequality with political instability. Is the rise of extreme political forces in contemporary European politics partly because the rich have grown richer, whilst the poor have stayed poor?

To get a response, we spoke to Professor Riccardo Leoncini from the University of Bologna. He’s an economist whose research (among other things) focuses on the impact of inequality on innovation. What would he say to Polichronis?

riccardo_leonciniFrom my point of view, inequality by itself does not give rise to political turmoil. There are lots of psychological studies showing that people do not actually realise how unequal the society they live in is. For instance, I have seen an article from psychologists that were asking people in the US how much money they thought CEOs should earn with respect to workers. And the panel of citizens estimated that the current CEO-to-worker pay ratio was 30:1, and that, ideally, it should have been 7:1. What’s the reality? The reality is that the average CEO earns 354 times what his or her workers get…

The second reason is that we have ‘The American Dream’. The idea of the ‘self-made man’ is an important fantasy for many people. And these are two reasons why inequality is not an issue that will give rise to political unrest. Furthermore, and this is something that many other economists have been pointing out, the control of the media is crucial. Since the top 1% also controls the media, they control what is being said on inequality.

We also had a comment from Bastian, who wonders about the relationship between social inequality and innovation. Could inequality have a positive impact on innovation?

riccardo_leonciniThe idea that inequality has a positive impact on economic variables is probably one of the main reasons why people think a certain amount of inequality is good for societies. But all the data shows that the more unequal a country is, the less long-run growth it experiences. There is a negative relationship between inequality and growth. So the idea that inequality is a sort of incentive for people to become richer and richer and richer doesn’t represent a universally-held attitude among economists. In the vast majority of countries, inequality is a sort of obstacle to the growth of income.

Is inequality good for society? Does it encourage innovation? Or does entrenched poverty and prevent social mobility? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below, and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!

IMAGE CREDITS: CC / Flickr – Alexander Baxevanis

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225 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. Vinko Rajic

    That is not about inequality and greed for people living on the street . They are homeless for the most because justice and police did not do their work also work they are paid for by tax payers . Most of them living on the street are homeless because of church and other religious organisations . Church should never enter our justice system and police . If you tell something church don’t like they sabotage you and you are gong to become homeless . Church joined police and now you can get heroin everywhere in the EU . Church is taking control over organisations that should care for homeless but those hate church and they can’t help them.

    • Duncan

      Wow, such a statement. Any supporting evidence for your barrage against “church”? Also, is it one specific “church” you refer to, or is it all christian “churches”, or indeed all religions that you say are doing this? I’ve heard some pretty hardliner atheist sentiments in my time, but i think we have found something akin to Dan Brown levels of conspiracy theorism here. Are you actually head of the illuminaty in possession of secret documents proving JFK and Martin Luther King and John Lennan were all assassinated on the orders of the Pope? Seriously, back up your accusations with facts (and also clarity of what/who you’re accusing) or stop with the accusations.

  2. Anton Mihiș

    People should only be equal in front of the law. No arguments there. Otherwise, to make people equal is a communist idea, and it means lazy idiots get advantages they don’t deserve, and brilliant people are restrained from living as well as their capabilities would allow them.

    • Duncan

      Such a narrow-viewed response. There are many reasons relating to inequality resulting in talented, and even gifted individuals never getting the breaks they need. Even if university education (as just one of many examples) is free to anyone with a certain aptitude (which it isn’t in every part of Europe), then there are still more elite universities available at a price. Ignoring the potential for better professors and education standards in general these universities can afford to offer, they are also places where the powerful mingle and make acquaintances forming pre workforce network capabilities. Then there’s a young adult from a family struggling to pay the bills to keep a roof over their heads, you think that it’s an easy choice for someone to selfishly choose higher education over going out and contributing to the household income as soon as they are able? Inequality of wealth is what limits potential, not laziness.

  3. Julia Hadjikyriacou

    It just has to be balanced, ethical and compassionate. Abolish poverty. Do not enable worker exploitation globally, tax the mega-rich not the workers-the profits are from all the people’s income collectively anyway. It is only when poverty is abolished and all the people actually have ‘spending money’ that the economy can grow. If you siphon away peoples money to banks via debt, taxes, food their money can only go to mega-corporations and no local businesses or niche businesses can flourish. Also people need more time to spend money. The huge lack of jobs can be turned into a positive with less working hours, and subsidised by a guaranteed minimum income.

    • Yavor Hadzhiev

      I agree Julia. And your observation about taxing profits as taxing labour too makes all sense. On the other hand, what is really amazing is that many, if not the majority, of poor people in the world do work. This blows right in the face of meritocrats and of trickle down economists.

    • Duncan

      Corporations are very short sighted. They will make ridiculously bad decisions for their long term survival in return for short term financial boosts. But why wouldn’t they? They’re driven by share holders and when a company’s bad decisions come back to haunt it the share holders can just sell out and invest in a new corporation to cripple for personal gain.

  4. Rednick

    Inequality, as a principle, is good for the society. It really is the engine that increases human momentum. Nevertheless, we shouldn’t look everything in black and white. Inequality doesn’t necessarily presume a lack of justice or of the moral values. The modern society, through its modern institutions of the state authority, is supposed to use inequality in the common interest, in order to improve society’s goals, by limiting unmoral inequalities and acting as a referee between individuals.

  5. catherine benning

    The answer lies within your own pack. Does it encourage or induce great leaders to reach the top of your tree? I don’t think so.

    And just look at Boris Johnson. Eton educated, son of a Eurocrat of some sort, and not only in a position of leadership, when he cannot comb his hair or act with a sense of noblesse oblige, he goes around breeding outside his marriage at a pace a rabbit would find tiring. He is no stallion and only a fool would believe he has the ability to run a corner shop, let alone a country. Basil Fawlty if ever there was one.

    The answer has to be, remove his life privileges and find him an equivalent doorway to sleep, then let him find his way up, without being a suppliant at the benefits queue. Add to that, the NHS refusing him treatment for his rough sleeping sores and lice, because of his gross obesity, the way his government has called for here.

    • Duncan

      @Catherine, that doesn’t have to be the answer. Jeesh you need to let compassion and understanding into your life! Have you ever slept on the streets? The answer is obviously no because nobody with a soul that had experienced it would wish it on another human being, no matter who they were or what they’d done.

  6. José Bessa da Silva

    Then eurocrats ask why is the UE being rejected. This is by far the most stupid question ever and a deliberate attempt from Brussels to brainwash us in favour of capital acumulation by the lobbes that currupted the EU in it’s core. The EU was never a great institution but it is fastly turning into a social, economic and political hazard for all those that are unable to leave it like the brits are doing.

  7. Oli Lau

    Based on your biaised llustration (taken in venezuela or cuba?), you probavly don’t think so.

  8. Andre Lopes

    I guess the problem it is not inequality. Rather to limit their differences. What it is done to prevent someone or organization to own the world? (I know its a stupid question) but for me very pertinent. As well the inequality of what is moral and legal.

    • Duncan

      Well put.

  9. Dino Boy Mican

    QEgaliarianism as it was imposed in communist Europe brought labour idlensess in society. Envy and competition between individuals is what makes us find ways to produce more and this ultimately add more wealth to the already existing. But there are always those who do not want to take part in (or cannot compete) this game, so the state has to make sure that they do not fall into poverty.

  10. Paul Cladas

    Which kind of inequality are we speaking about? Never forget that Adam Smith, the father of Liberalism, was an ethical person, and found misery unacceptable.

  11. Cyrus Bales

    Equality of opportunity is a very different thing to making everyone equal. Inequality is not inherently bad, but the levels of inequality can certainly be horrific. It’s about comparing the range and standard deviation of inequality. If we have people working 40 hour weeks who still have to claim in work benefits etc, then we have a serious problem.

    The issues we face now are best summed up by the graph I will post below. Basically, since the introduction of neoliberalism, instead of all deciles slowly growing together in prosperity like they did beforehand; we have had the top deciles grow whilst everyone else falls by the wayside. It isn’t about inequality, as the pre-neoliberal era was unequal, but the staggering levels of inequality that has seen an unbalancing of society.

    https://scontent-lhr3-1.xx.fbcdn.net/v/t1.0-9/10846372_961021237259754_2349424088652896026_n.jpg?oh=003689573765beceea7a6333a568ed93&oe=58A66E91

  12. Stefano Zuzzi

    That’s because people get not job,
    the poorers are growing in holder and you can see it everywhere; in the high schools all,in the shopping malls even alongside where you live.
    It’s a war!
    The fettish rich becoming more rich than ever, and the poorer are becoming
    more poorer than ever.

  13. Micaela Malosso

    im sorry…is this about milton friedmans trickle down economy ?? so families should be allowed to accumulate enormous wealth so it can trickle down into the middle class? so we can create dependency on the higher income class? BULLSHIT ! A LIE PERPETRATED SO THEY GET RICHER AND WE POORER !!!!!!!!!!

  14. micaela

    is this about milton friedmans trickle down economy ?? so families should be allowed to accumulate enormous wealth so it can trickle down into the middle class? so we can create dependency on the higher income class? BULLS**T !

  15. Milan Szathmari

    I do agree. But I also agree that society should not allow any of its members to die of hunger, cold, and untreated diseases.

  16. Tarquin Farquhar

    Yes and no.

    Extreme inequality is not good for society.

    No inequality is not good for society.

    Not facilitating those so-minded individuals that want to achieve things (great or minor) is also not good for society.

  17. Sebastien Chopin

    There are only two types of people… on the one hand those who submit, vote, rely on government, live and work for someone else… they may even have a religion… these are called employees…… on the other hand you have the others… who are independant, take risks, live… often don’t have a religion and don’t rely on others or governments (because if one government fucks up you just move to the next country…) this group is called the free men of the earth or children of the wind and seas… its not a question of being rich or poor unless you are the dependent type…. now which are you? (because honestly I don’t see the link here with the EU… this question could apply to every square cm in the world….)

    • Paul X

      So these independant risk takers who don’t rely on others or government, do they grow all of their own food? I assume they do not own cars or use public transport? where do they get money to pay for essentials? Do they “rely” on the NHS? ..I’m assuming they crap in a hole in they ground so they don’t have to “rely on a government” financed sewage system…I’m kind of thinking one of your “type of people” is an extremely small minority who probably live in a cave just outside Milton Keynes

  18. Stefano Zuzzi

    Sure I don’t care much if the Europe is becoming a rotten story.
    One way or another I get my meal, even thought the Russia is our second partner.
    Says it all!!!!,,,,

  19. Stefania Portici

    voi parlate di disugualianza e noi parliamo di DIRITTI SOCIALI, umani e civili.che abbiamo conquistato in 150 anni di storia e l’euro ce li sta scippando .

    you speak of inequality and we talk about SOCIAL RIGHTS, human and civil that we have won in 150 years of history and the euro there is snatching them.

  20. Lisa Kirk

    Im not rich but feel if people have worked hard and become rich why should they pay for people who have not done the same, the problem we have is the people standing with there hands out asking for something they havent earned

    • Duncan

      Earned is a very contentious term. Some may well have “earned” their wealth, but I am absolutely certain more have conned, robbed, exploited or outright cheated their way to extreme wealth than ever earned it. You think the ceo’s so important to a company he’s able to earn 354 times more than the people on the bottom rungs of the ladder? Try seeing if any company would sooner employ a ceo instead of 354 workers. No of course not, there’s no way anyone could. So, you could well argue a ceo should get a bigger piece of the pie, and you are probably right. But that should be somewhere closer to 30 times as much than over 300 times as much. Especially if the workers in this situation are not getting fairly paid for their efforts, which is the case in most companies today. I don’t see how we could have gone from “never having it so good” to never having enough to cover all the bills in a few short decades if greed was of benefit.

    • Paul X

      I totally agree. I have no issue with someone putting in a lot of effort and reaping the rewards and they should be praised not fleeced for every penny the taxman can steal from them
      There are two ends of the scale in this debate, those described by Duncan who earn enormous sums with little justification and those who only get out of bed in the morning to spend their benefits on cheap cider and fags, on balance, I despise the latter more because I have no say in their theft of my taxes
      To be honest I wouldn’t single out CEO’s, lets face it, many low earners are happy to pay out money to watch 22 people who also earn up to 340 times their wage kick a ball around for 90 minutes on a Saturday afternoon, yet these “workers” don’t seem to incur the same wrath of the left wing (sic) as those in corporations and big business do they?

    • Duncan

      @Paul x, it was not my intention to single out CEO’s it was an example given in the thread header I was merely repeating the example. Career unemployed is as unacceptable to me as anyone coasting through their job and relying on others to make up their missing contributions. As for overpaid sports players, I completely agree, talent should be rewarded, but not to the extent it is today. But of course, sport is big business still. So it’s fair to include sports players, mangers etc. into corporate examples.

  21. Lynne Warner

    Only Utopian ideals create equality. Sorry but I have an aversion to being equally poor even though I work and pay taxes that the EU would hand out willy nilly and increase prices on every service for more of our money. Fact of life… There will always be some who are poorer than others for many diverse reasons. I do what I can and pay taxes.

  22. Yordan Vasilev

    Making inequality is a natural process in the free society, but the role of the society is to help of the people, who has no a good luck.

  23. Bernardo Martins

    It is only good for the jewish society

    • Duncan

      See, this right here is why I hate money. A rich life and a vast fortune are completely separate things that somehow the masses have become deluded into thinking are one and the same. What actual good will it do you to have acquired €/$/£ infinity in your life on your deathbed? Not a jot! You could argue it sets up your children to have a better future, but this is a phallus statement since your child’s wellbeing us tied to a good family and social atmosphere and if you spend your life accruing wealth at the expense of spending quality time with your child and at the cost to the society you are a part of, your children will have a bad time of it. Maybe they’ll be too rich to notice, but with no moral compass based upon good parenting they will most likely go to substance abuse as a way to deal with the inherent boredom that comes with not needing to work and not having the morals to dedicate your time to worthy causes instead. Maybe they’ll follow in your footsteps and be determined to add to their inherited fortune, but this will also be a waste of their life since, just like you before they cannot take it with them when they die.
      In short extreme “wealth” harms those forced to go with less than is dignified to allow a few to have more than they will ever need. Therefore, balance needs to be restored and maintained, money needs to circulate not get hoarded or continuously be reinvested into “synthetic” investments for capitalism to function at all (and even then, capitalism is wasteful of resources which in turn harms the environment and harms potential innovations). If everybody in the world doesn’t start to see this and stop behaving so selfishly then capitalism needs replacing with a system that works better.

  24. Santiago Verissimo

    Agree, it is indeed good for the imposed way of governing today’s society, but not good for any personal target achievement. Especially for the lower and medium classes of course.

    • Duncan

      I don’t think the middle classes need to be worried about inequality. They live a lifestyle that permits a certain amount of luxury without risking bankruptcy to obtain it. It’s the lower classes that suffer from inequality.

  25. Gatis Gailitis

    Inequality is part of capitalism. There is someone successful and someone will be unsuccessful. There is a winner and a loser. Same with economic cycle – there is a boom and then there is recession and great uncertainty in between. This is a worked in part of capitalism. I think some socialism has to exist to equalise this gap or we end up with the 1percent that owns all the wealth (the gold medal) and bunch of nobodies who barely get the taste of it in their lifetimes.

  26. André Branco Pereira

    The question isn’t done correctly. The good question would be if ”massive” inequality is good or bad for society. Of course, some inequality will always exist and it’s even necessary for capitalismo to function.

  27. Μάρκος Κουντουρούδας

    Nature “Loves” Inequality, Humanity preserves Equality only in organized societies and Human can only to live in a Society. So Inequality should prevail but in a frame of political rights that preserve the Equality towards Law.

    • Duncan

      Nature does indeed love inequality. Are you opting for anarchy, where only the strong of mind and/or body will prevail? I’m ok with that, I’m a fairly well rounded individual. I know I can easily take what I need from others too weak and/or stupid to stop me. I also know that it will kill off much of our population, but frankly until the population rejects personal greed then we need to reduce our numbers substantially to maximise our species’ survival anyway. Of course, fundamentally this method will kill off our descendants completely when the sun explodes and we’ve all been too busy killing each other off and taking what we want to have come up with a viable alternative home, but who cares right? We’ll all be long dead by then. That’s “future people” problem!

  28. Giuliano Grasselli

    It is having large success in Italy a book by journalist Nicola Porro on the subject. A book which gained the favour of the public and the ostracism by the establishment.

  29. Anthony Katsoufris

    Absolutely not when put like that.Any society which allows misery and destitution for any of its members is a failed society.Inequality is debatable as an option once a decent,no a proper standard of living is ensured for the many.

  30. Katrin Mpakirtzi

    Society is a team of persons that everybody need one the other… some people are better to create more jobs and money some others wants less but all should have jobs homes and food. Capitalists took the resourses of other countries and people died suffering. This is bad…

  31. Alex Browne

    Yes because it gives you somewhere to go and a way up. What is lacking is the fair play

  32. Matheus Santos

    When it’s the result of some people working harder than others, yes, it’s fair. It becomes problematic if inequality negates oportunities to those with lesser means, which almost always does.

  33. Yavor Hadzhiev

    Great inequality simply destroys human beings. It destroys the concept of “society”. It is no surprise that even liberal thinkers such as John Rawls do not accept extreme inequality. And although they see some degree of inequality as useful, they rightfully reject poverty as something good for society. It is not. Poverty is shameful and serves no other purpose than to humiliate people experiencing it and to take away their basic freedoms.

    Thinkers such as Michael Walzer, on the other hand, remind us that the problem is not as much inequality in itself but the meaning attached to it and its various consequences. So, for example, the problem is not in there being a 1%, but in the fact that those in it use their resources to have privileged and illegitimate access to social goods from outside the sphere of the market and trade. For example, they use their wealth to influence politics or to access medical care that is not at the reach of the majority of citizens, when what should count for getting the best healthcare available is need and not possessions.

    • Duncan

      The problem with the 1% is completely to do with the disproportion of wealth involved. I am unable to find comprehensive figures for the wealth deficit in the UK and wider EU (I wonder why that is?) but in the good old U.S. of A. The 1% of the population own/control 99% of the wealth. Ergo 99% of the population get to divide 1% of all money in their society. It is absolutely not acceptable as a situation. 1% owning 50% would be more palatable, but frankly even then would be too high to be healthy.

  34. Dave Dee

    Why would any society be so unequal as to have people sleeping on the street and be treated with no humanity at all and to create a society that accepts this rather than recognizing that these are people that are mentally ill, have dependencies and some trauma from abuse or post traumatic stress disorder or domestic violence victims and those who have been also made homeless through no fault of their own this can happen to absolutely anybody and more should be done, it’s disgusting and disgraceful

  35. Ioanna Geor

    Equality in income is more than good in society. Being the same and creating a mass or ” exactly the same” is not good. So it’s not inequality is DIVERSITY

  36. Jakub Bláha

    One ideology tried to eradicate this…communism anyone? So, dear SJWs etc. go f**k yourselfs. World does not need your self righteous ego to be inflated even more. You are screwing EU enough already.

    • Duncan

      Ah communism . . . . . As a base concept it is by far and out the single most fair and effective method of government. Then people get involved . . . . . . . Kind of exactly like the same problems we have with western society, which is a blend of consumerism, capitalism and democracy. Have you ever seen “The Dictator”? Towards the end there’s a speech which compares dictatorship to democracy in an ironic fashion. Sufficed to say, it turns out both forms of government have very similar outcomes. The same is true of communism/democracy. The problem is greed everytime.

  37. Toze Monteiro

    ” he control of the media is crucial. Since the top 1% also controls the media, they control what is being said on inequality “

  38. Duncan

    As you can probably tell from my other posts, if it came to a choice between total equality and oppressive control of “wealth” (as it’s not just money, it’s a place to call home etc. That should be a basic human right but is being priced out of reach of the masses). That I would sooner total equality. I don’t think though, that complete equality is needed. What is needed is a correlation between the top and bottom that is fair to all, rewarding innovation and hard work alike with better living standards. But absolutely limiting the gap between the extremely wealthy and extremely poor. If society doesn’t provide then those without will simply take from those with. We will be back to anarchy. Time for a system that works for everyone!

    • Duncan

      I’d also question exactly how this myth of hard work being rewarded started. It’s been my experience (and I’m certain I’m not alone I this) that working hard at your job results in your hard work getting taken for granted while those less willing to put in the effort simply get the same benefits as you while noticeably putting in less effort. Good ideas are also not rewarded, simply instigated at a higher level, possibly as a result of your boss stating to their boss it was their idea, maybe even their boss told their boss the same thing, until the head of a company is the only one to ever come up with a good idea, it’s also thanks to them that workers are working harder apparently. How exactly in this system is working hard rewarded?

  39. Spyros Polkas

    Equality and inequality get much romantic significance attached, but don’t mean much. Equal poverty is equality, equal riches is equality, equal liberties is equality as much as equal spanking or anything you could imagine. And some use it as such; like others use ‘liberty’ to justify granting it only to themselves and their friends. ‘Liberty for whom?’ I’d ask. And I’d say let people do what they want.

  40. Cristina Rodrigues Pereira

    Inequality exists no matter we do like it or not, we have two children and they will no be the same but to defend that inequality should be mantained and even provoked is to believe that injustice and pain must be kept. I think we must fight to reduce injustice and not to make it common, normal…

  41. Rock The Revolutionary

    Entire nations are plunged into disaster. Entire social classes are sentenced to extreme poverty. Families are torn apart. People are left destitute. Young people are turning to drugs. Crime rates sore. People are committing suicide.

    When the way an economy functions brings such tragic results we are not talking about an economy any more but war. We are not talking about real competition but premeditated murder. Given that the entire situation is a result of the decisions made by some people, it is only natural that we can talk about crimes against humanity.

  42. Nick Coulson

    Interesting comment made by an economic teacher of mine some 30 years ago. The value of wealth is not judged by how much you have but how little others have. Thought provoking.

    • Duncan

      Why are so many forgetting that the two go hand in hand? If two people start out in adult life with the exact same education, amount of inherited money, same clothes on their backs and same circle of friends then they have equal chances. If they then both apply for the best job around and one gets it and the other must take a lesser job, the equality level drops. By the time they have children one child gets the best diet and education money can offer, the other child gets average diet and education (maybe even is suffering long term effects from average healthcare). They, all of a sudden are very unequal. This is one single generation’s divergence of equality through a single lucky break on the part of one individual over another and has already had a significant impact on opportunity. Factor in that when the rich child’s parent dies and they inherit even more wealth that they can invest into making them (and the 3rd generation in this situation) even more advantaged over the other family and things can very quickly spiral out of control. Inequality of income results in inequality of chances.

  43. Luchian Mdm

    The amount or better the percentage of taxes paid by the rich tax avoiding corporations is outerly low compared to taxes on wages paid by ordinary citizens. Tax avoiding corporations should be outlawed from operating in countries where they slip from their paying their fiscal duties.

  44. Brian Wadie

    would you care to share the statement by Boris that you are basing this debate on. Seems more like an attempt to boost your numbers otherwise

  45. Philip

    Inequality, survival of the fittest, kill your neighbour, unless joining up with him protects you against your enemy… those are the rules that nature has set. Society is simply a means by which we evolve to the top of the food chain. But, even within society, the rules of the jungle apply. Inequality isn’t a problem until we choose to look at it. We’re more than happy to eat our cheeseburgers, while others across the globe die from hunger or war.

    • Duncan

      I wouldn’t say happy about it exactly. But I’m not going to not eat just because someone else cannot. That’s survival, only the stupid chose to starve if they don’t need to. But I’d throw every luxury item I own in a big pile and thermite it if it would result in nobody starving.

  46. Aaron Edward

    Yes, inequality drives ambition. But implying that people who think inequality is good also belive homelessness is good is dishonest.

    Everybody deserves a home, food, the ability to care for Thier family and to cloth them.

    Not everybody deserves to wear armarni suits, own a yacht and drive a fancy car.

    • Duncan

      What hs deserving got to do with inequality? Are you living in a magical fantasy world where only the deserving have more?

  47. Chris Davies

    Inequality and aspiration are the two fundamental social conditions that capitalism requires to function. Inequality (poverty) means you will sell your soul to get a job to feed yourself. Aspiration means you will support policies that only benefit the wealthy, just in case you might get there yourself. Capitalism only functions when there is inequality, and that inequality is a natural emergent property of capitalism. Capitalism feeds wealth into around 10% of the population. Instant inequality. And aspiration is a vile con job designed to make sure those on the bottom of the pile don’t rise up against capitalism. Working class Tories for example…

    • Duncan

      @Chris, the “Tories” of today are not what they were, political parties in the UK are not recognisable from 40 years ago. If you’ve seen the speeches of Theresa May, you’d have to agree it sounds very promising for the working class over the next 4 years. Of course words are wind, actions are what matters. But I remain sceptically optimistic.

  48. Art Lewis

    If we were all equal then those super rich people wouldn’t have the upper hand, the best food and drink, luxurious holidays and they would be made to queue. I mean come on, what kind of society would that be? Reality check. The people who have most go out of their way to make sure they keep that advantage even if that includes treating others to a shortened hellish existence. Parasites.

  49. Michał Łukowicz

    Do you understand difference between being equal and have equal opportunities?
    We will NEVER be equal – everyone is different – trying to implement equality is just following way of communist EU-SSR. This will create tons of completely stupid moves like we need at least 10% of blacks, 15% of whites, 32% of womens in any company … THIS IS NOT about that! Giving people equal opportunity is something that have chance to work – and even then many people will not even try to reach for this opportunity.
    Trying to make everyone equal is like building diver costume by people who have never seen a sea.

  50. Sandro Čavrak

    It’s good if it means that the lowest paid is still paid a solid salary for a dignified existence and the highest paid has maybe 5 times as much. Not when people starve while working 2 jobs while their bosses make 300 times as much…

  51. Ivan Vikalo

    Yeah sure, and let’s have african standards now that we are at it as well!! Who the hell thinks that!? What a stupid question to pose

  52. Derek Hanks

    I agree that most people are driven by wanting to achieve the best they can, for themselves and their families. Call that greed if you like. In an ideal world, there would be equality of opportunity, education, etc. We don’t live in an ideal world. On top of that there are the “breaks”. Health, being in the right place at the right time and so forth. Not everybody gets the breaks. It is incumbent on the successful ones to look after the vulnerable, but we can’t all be equal in everything. Taxation may bring a form of equality, but it can also stifle ambition and achievement.

  53. Henk Marks

    what a nonsense. more equality yields more happy people and will boost economy much more (there s more to spend). A basic income would be a great help there.

    • Adrian Limbidis

      That’s an understatement…

  54. ectoplasma

    This ironic question shows well the hypocrisy the human society.
    People seem to be forgeting but, America (and the world) only got out of the great depression crisis with the “New Deal” social program.

  55. Tim Haight

    I would suggest a different approach to this. Start with the question of why anybody making more than, say, $ 1 million per year, needs any more money. What do you need it for? In the face of so much suffering, wherever you look, how can you justify not spending the rest on trying to help people?

  56. EU reform- proactive

    No. It depends.

    In an EU context, good political leadership is supposed NOT to design or introduce policies to support & grow unequal societies or destroy fairly equal ones.

    To increase benefits for entrenched politicians, corporatists, CEO’s, banksters & the established rich even further- based on EU’s centralized governance, comparative advantages & unfavorable trade deals for the folks – would be questionable and labeled as unhealthy greed. Brave & honest entrepreneurship & its redistribution via taxes to benefit the not so well endowed (socialism) need a delicate balance.

    Was our to date progress not due to the competitive & appalling “free (& fair) spirit” throughout our human evolution to improve and build on what previous generations created? Global inherited inequalities are/were determined by many factors- but used by greedy sociopaths to make them even wider.

    So, how can (sick) greed encourage innovation and entrepreneurship? Please, rather find some better explanations or expressions! Boris & Gekko are grossly mixed up.

    • Duncan

      You really need to explain. Your comment makes 0 sense as it stands.

  57. Andrej Němec

    We need to give equal opportunities to everyone. But people who make more effort shall get better awarded. It’s justice. And the same applies to Countries, which are the grouping of individuals. A Country with proactive and hardworking individuals will be a successful and wealthy one. Differently, a sluggard will stay poor , and a Country made up of sluggards will stay or become poor.
    It’s real and even fair.

  58. jason

    I am a builder, I am a teacher, connectivity and working together it is said to be able to get more done, I’ll agree for the majority of the time, however learning and how we choose to spend our time, I don’t think there is any one right answer, but to speak as for myself, I learn where ever I am at and whatever I am doing.
    I like capitalism, it make brands that want to stay and become iconic heavily invest and “think”, always be “thinking” and therefore it is also said if a homeless spends his or her day say enjoying sitting on the park bench, then the day is said not to be wasted. But to be lazy and a begger, it has its toll on society at large

    • Duncan

      There are other types of beggars though. Lots of people expect the world to provide for them without ever contributing. The ones that don’t have a roof over their heads at night are the less repugnant in my opinion, the fact people have to live this way is repugnant, but not the people themselves. And yes, I know that some chose that life, but many more have no option. And when you’ve got that far down the wealth ladder, it’s far more difficult to get back up. I can only think of one example of a homeless person who has risen to an above average level, Shane Richie. Ed Sheeran was a sofa surfer for a while, but that is a less desperate situation than being outside on the tarmac/concrete in all weather with no guarantee of enough calories to stop from freezing to death, or to have no access to a shower/bath and means to wash your clothes for interviews.

  59. Wyn

    I firmly believe that you can accurately judge a society by the way it looks after its less privileged. Our obsession with a material expression of wealth is very narrow and un-enlightened. A rich expression of what life offers should be our collective goal. We will then stop seeing the things that seperate us and instead see the things that unite us.

  60. Morgan

    Inequality of opportunity is one of perhaps the worst things that currently exist. Inequality of outcome is only natural, but this should be evened out. A society that leaves its worst suffering and most vulnerable at the bottom of the bin to rot is a despicable one with no real humanity within it.

  61. Marko Martinović

    What we need is equality of oportunity, not equality of outcome. We need benevolent meritocracy. Everything else will sooner or later fail

    • Vitaliy Markov

      Meritocracy will eventually lead to huge inequalities in opportunity, it will never work unless there is a welfare state to provide minimum healthcare, education, housing standards which of course involve taxing wealthier people. It’s a pipe dream

    • Marko Martinović

      Vitaliy Markov I said BENEVOLENT meritocracy. There is also no real evidence or anything to show that meritocracy would lead to real inequality. It is just an assumption. Too much welfare state will be detrimental for state and people.

  62. Lynne Warner

    It is a fact of life for very many reasons and not necessarily because it is the fault of anyone in particular. It is wrong to make people feel that they should somehow feel guilty for being wealthier than others. We can all help without governments getting involved in our taxes and salaries. They should rather be looking at obscene profiteering for the sake of shareholders in energy, basic needs etc.

    • Bruno Nunes

      If you are wealthier than others because you exploit others or you achieve that status taking advantage of others you should feel guilty. Sooner or later that is coming to bite you from behind…

    • Lynne Warner

      Bruno Nunes read my comment again. That is precisely my point.

  63. Pirvulescu Florin

    Inequality of opportunity – lack of education, healthcare and the bare minimum condition so that a human being ca developed ARE NOT good for any society.

    Inequality of outcome is another thing.

  64. Nadia Dereguardati

    in every thing in this worldly life has a limit!…and the best behaviour is to be BALANCED! so even “INEQUALITY” must have its own limits! ok?

  65. Kovács János

    It isn’t necessarily good or bad, but egalitarianism is surely a dangerous idea. We are living in a market economy, and there are consequences. Inequality can be justified when it comes with a meritocratic logic-based resource-allocation.

  66. カメニャク マリオ

    Inequality of opportunity – lack of education, healthcare and the bare minimum condition so that a human being ca developed ARE NOT good for any society.

  67. Bruno Nunes

    You can have all the inequality you want, as long as no one is living in poverty and everyone has access to all the basic needs for a proper living (education, health, housing and proper nutricion).

    If that is not the case, inequality will bring social desorder, sooner or later

  68. Vitaliy Markov

    Of course not, inequality always leads to a disaster and usually revolution. It’s ok to have some differences between incomes, but not the extreme we see today, where 1% controls 50% of the wealth.

  69. Stefania Portici

    ” avevamo il sogno americano ” e non capivamo perchè gli americani negli anni passati ci dicevano che il vero sogno americano era il nostro Paese . Ora capiamo perchè , adesso ci fanno pena e il loro modello non lo vogliamo per noi.

    “We had the American dream” and we did not understand why the Americans in the past years we were told that the real American Dream was our country. We now understand why, now make us worth and their model does not want it for us.

  70. Matej Mlinarič

    You can’t have everybody that will have everything they desire without impoverishing those that pay for it. However taking care of at least basic needs for everybody like food, water and shelter that is something that can be done. Only thing that lack with that is will and support structure for logistics and distribution.

    After that initial physical demands comes need to educate and become useful in society. So if you want to help with that then you need middle class that should be helped with businesses so in return they will have enough capital to hire people. Just that shouldn’t only be provided from regular people. Cause reality is those richest control more wealth then majority of the planet. So if you are really serious about dealing with inequality then those richest should provide their fair share.

  71. Dimitris Orfanoudis

    Homeless there are everywhere in the world however EU couldnt made it possible to reduce uneployment as it is the major problem for increaseness of poverty…

  72. Ivan Vikalo

    Yep, we should aspire to be like Latin America, Africa, the Gulf states and Asia :) how can one debate something so stupid

  73. Bobi Dochev

    Its depend of the level of Inequality. If you fight for food for your children you don’t think for innovations and you don’t think for personal development because it is always have risk to leave the job and follow your dream – you wont do that when you know somebody depend on you.
    So it is all about to have a certain levels of equality. People are competitive by nature, so even there some will try to do more.

  74. GonEprata Megarp

    Wtf…im biggining to think these questions are made by the libtards extremists to measure the level of revolutionary sentiment…seriously this is the most stupid question ever, and it has made some pretty dumb ones.

  75. Anssi Ileuma Eboreime

    Depends on the extent of inequality.
    A little bit of inequality is good, it makes people want to change the status quo for themselves, they want to be rich, and the rich want to stay rich.

    But when inequality gets too big then those at the top become complacent and the ones at the bottom lose hope.

  76. Ana Spínola

    NO. ABSOLUTELY NOT! And all the people who say otherwise never experienced real social and economic inequality.

  77. Hector Niehues-Jeuffroy

    Inequality is neither good nor bad per se. The abilities with which individuals are endowed are unequally distributed over mankind. This inequality is often further accentuated by the development of these abilities through education and training since e.g. a stupid person will face inherently larger challenges in learning and further developing his talents than a smart person (ceteris paribus). Moreover, the willingness to exert effort in the pursuit of one’s goals differs widely across individuals. These issues imply that a certain degree of economic inequality between individuals is normal. Put differently, the absence of inequality is highly abnormal. It requires an extent of economic redistribution that removes most external incentives to engage in entrepreneurial initiative and exert lots of effort, thereby critically stymying economic growth.

    A high degree of economic inequality, however, can be just as bad as no inequality whatsoever. It doesn’t matter whether this inequality is due to regulatory capture (think Carlos Slim’s quasi-monopoly on Mexican telecom or too-big-to-fail investment banks) or whether it reflects large returns to education and entrepreneurial risk premiums. While most people will agree that the former is obviously bad and a drag on economic progress, the latter simply reflects deeper structural problems, despite its fairer appearance. Indeed, while high returns to education in the long run can partially be explained by natural differences in ability constraining access to higher education, they reflect more often than not a highly negative relation between household income or parental education and children’s educational opportunities. Appropriate policies – not the market! – can remedy this inequality, yet they require political support.

    This brings us to the next issue with inequality, namely, that economic inequality feeds back into political inequality (and vice versa) or, more precisely, an inequality with regard to individuals’ influence on the political trajectory of their country. This holds obviously true in an autocracy, but people would be misled were they to believe that democracies are exempt from this issue. Individuals’ political behavior – most importantly their vote — is shaped by their political opinions, which ultimately are the result of the interplay between their values and their information on political matters (e.g. whether a policy is feasible and effective or whether a candidate has a record of dishonesty and corruption). Both of these things can be manipulated (though arguably a person’s values are less flexible than a person’s knowledge), but doing so requires large sums of money. It never ceases to amaze me how persons vote against their own economic self-interest. In the long-term, this pattern is unsustainable; just as political inequality complements with economic inequality, political inequality breeds political instability, which is harmful to any economy and society.

    So, what level of inequality is good for a society? This question has a sibling: “what level of economic redistribution is good for society?” From my perspective, you need enough redistribution to keep inequality from rising to an extent where it threatens political participation and perpetuates unnatural inequalities in economic opportunities, especially those related to education. At the same time, redistribution must be sufficiently small so as not to void economic incentives, in particular the incentive to exert effort and take up risks. Finding a balance between too much and too little inequality is a difficult, a fickle thing, and a timeless debate subject. At the very least, it will keep wordsmiths in employment for a long time to come.

  78. Luis de Castro

    The content management in this Facebook page has proven to be quite weak. You come across the same posts, and you end up brining questions which doesn’t make a lot of sense… Obviously inequalities are bad, what kind of discussion can there be around this?
    Try to innovate, bring technology, environment, and logic societal questions into the “table”.

  79. Joao Carlos Alves Henriques Branco

    Deport all migrants out of europe. here its not america. in america can be a Legal migrant. in europe that is not possible, only by a dictator shultz and junker, lock them UP. END EU NOW

  80. Luis de Castro

    The solutions lie within the type of system we do have. It it no longer sustainable, to keep progress will require a new type of system, or a turn over inside this one. But before that achievment, bad things will have to happen in order for us to move forward, has it always has been.

  81. Yannick Cornet

    Sustainability theory talks of a social floor and environmental limits. We need to operate within that.

  82. Jose Marcal

    Greed can be good, but governments should balance the system so that the system is fair. Inequality will exist, but there are limits for decency.

  83. Jeremy Bornstein

    Inequality is bad for social cohesion but good for innovation and in a sense at this period of history material ,even basic material well being. These aren’t the pre 70 days when all the wealth was concentrated more or less in the western world. Inequality is a given and high taxes/spending are no longer feasible,ending all tax havens and forcing the rich to fork over more dough would barely be a drop in the bucket

  84. Dimitris Orfanoudis

    The improvement of life standards it will help people to live with dignity However inequality will be exist even if we were iving in a world of angels…

  85. Erik Jakub Citterberg

    Of course no? He says: “There are lots of psychological studies showing that people do not actually realise how unequal the society they live in is. For instance, I have seen an article from psychologists that were asking people in the US …”

    Wow, let me talk about complex issue from a point of view of subjective deelings of people, that do not even live in Europe. Very valid opinion. Especially since it was done in a country that has nowhere near the international movements that europe gets. How many Americans actually get to travel around?

    And just moral perspective of this is reason why people do not like EU. You can not promote EU by being a jerk.

  86. Betti Mike

    Only the haves make this argument, which they can make and people must listen, because they basically own the media in one form or another. Ask a psychologist or psychiatrist if inequality is good. See if anyone is stupid enough to say yes.

  87. Chris Pavlides

    You need balance no big gaps and new value system. Non responsible concept from Boris. By shaking you help some flakes come up but destroy the course of others that might be better for society.

  88. Bódis Kata

    Extremes are bad, whatever the subject of extremism. Extreme inequality is obviously bad, so is extreme equality.

    As with most things in life and society (and economy), the key issue is finding the right balance.

    Such “either/or” debates are not much help, they keep telling people that only extremes exist, the choice is between black and white, and no other colors in between. >> This is how society is becoming dumber.

  89. Stefania Portici

    la disugualianza culturale ed il rispetto delle diverse culture è un valore , una ricchezza . La disugualianza economica senza giustizia sociale è un vuoto a perdere

    cultural inequality and respect for different cultures is a value, an asset. Economic disugualianza without social justice is an empty lose

  90. Joseph Bartolo

    Work 50 hours a week for 200 Euros and the pensions much less, thats not equality, just naming one !

  91. Dóris Cavalcanti

    Equality must be of rights and OBLIGATIONS!!! PC lithanies just preach rights making people believe that the obligations are of the society and state as if both were not formed by people!!! Rights are to everybody as much as obligations must be shared by everybody!!! If you don’t want your share of obligations, you don’t deserve rights.

  92. Manuel Alegria

    unfortunatly inequality is what people love and want more every day…
    whenever one wants a bigger car or some new stuff just arriving in the mall…

  93. Ana Spínola

    WHAT A STUPID QUESTION! READ STIGLITZ and many other women and men thinkers! Inequality means poor democracy and is an obstacle to human and economic development.

  94. Ainhoa Lizar

    All the big fortunes must be nationalised and redistributed. It´s outrageous that some unscrupulous people can hold so much richness and some can´t even have the basic things for the living!

  95. João Pedro Alves

    Social inequalities have limits, if they are very accentuated the country does not have a middle class and it is difficult for the economy to prosper

  96. Rosy Forlenza

    But surely the agreement that countries must help asylum seekers, must be allowed to plead their cases and to appeal and to be looked after in some form (quite correct), should extend to the homeless as a basic human right too. At the moment people are getting quite annoyed and believe that charity should begin at home so isn’t time to have a basic dignity piece in our human rights’ collective legislation. And I agree, the erosion of th emiddle classes is a bad sign which will make things worse not better. Come on EU get a grip, the writing is on the wall, people want to see more action on fairness like this.

  97. Wolfgang Mizelli

    competition sucks! cooperation rules! greed produces evil! the rat race just leaves us all in exhaustion. according to some sociologist, social mobility is a myth. For me myself: if i have to choose between an intersting work with less pay or an odd job with much pay, i take the interessting work. never regreted that decision.

  98. Tadas Gyvas Tikras

    A little bit of inequality is good-it kick you in the bottom and makes you achieve things. But too much inequality is bad-some have achieved, bot for you surface is just too high and you understand that you will drown. Every ten of thousand of bucks of capital should need progressively higher endeavours, so that if you start, its easy, little taxes, etc, but as you reach 100k’s or even millions of bucks of assets, that should become harder and harder.

    • Michael

      Your absolutely right. The richer a man is the higher taxes he should pay as this will not takeaway his basic needs to survive.
      But, tax the poor and it will certainly strain there chances to succeed or even survive.

  99. Marco Peel

    Like all things, too little is too little and too much is too much. Some inequality is needed to motivate progress and innovation, as long as compensation is perceived to be more or less in line with the effort involved. That is far from true today, where growing inequalities are unjustifiably out of proportion and therefore economically, morally and socially unsustainable.

    • Denis Lejeune

      sadly, there’s never enough revolutions. mankind is too shy.

  100. Filipe Nunes

    Just considering such a question shows the degradation level that out society has reached.

    • Boyko Vesselinov

      Would like to move to Cuba, just no long-term visa, 3 mths max.

  101. Ivan Burrows

    .

    The EU is built on inequality. North V’s South, East V’s West & most importantly of all Brussels V’s everyone else.

  102. Michael

    I’ve read these U.K. Views and laughed a little.
    My ideas shared here are from a US citizen.
    Americans all have the capability of becoming wealthy.
    The tools we all possess. Some let life issues guide there paths and some allow it to make them stronger.
    We just voted in a floppy haired bad toupee wearing president who’s ideals are so detached from politics it’s absurd. Don’t get me wrong I thought both candidates were unfit but for different reasons.
    Here’s the lowdown from a once financial rich American to now a struggling disabled 43 year old who’s rich with love, family and friends support.
    I literally had a million dollars and spent it all, all to find that money wasn’t what I needed after all. Money buys everything of want but little of need.
    When greed is attached to your life it will slowly eat away at who you are as a person.
    I learned that money truly the is the root of all evil.
    Now in my humble life I find only pity for those greedy rich people.
    So to this forum I say be thankful for everything you have and be in control of your wants instead of greed being in control of you.
    I do believe that all humans should be allotted basic human rights and all should have a roof , food , water and some type of sanitary condition.
    What I don’t care for is the 1% ers that prey off of everyone else to build there wealth even more.
    No one man needs billions as no sports athletes needs millions. Or perhaps the words “deserves” all the wealth over a teacher or a paramedic and even the blistered hands of a brick mason.
    Know this the world is upside down and inside out. The true intention of a fair democracy has been put aside all for those that harbor or clutch greed.
    In the end though those few 1% shall face the truth that money can never buy them out of.

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