Review: What can we do about inequality?

Robert Ashby was the speaker at our meeting in November last year on the subject of The Entitlement of Elites (you can find the review of that talk by using the search box on the right). He finished that presentation with the question ‘Is inequality inevitable under capitalism?’ and concluded that, unless things change radically, it probably is. He returned to our meeting last month to speak on how we might achieve that radical change.

The first part of his talk was a repeat of the material he had presented previously: the causes of inequality; its history; its effects, particularly its impact on health & social problems; & its inextricable link into the culture & mechanisms of capitalism.

He then suggested what equality might look like – a human society delivering a good life for all rather than a fabulous life for a small elite & a miserable life for the rest. He proposed a four-part solution: achieve a society with a common purpose; make changes to democracy, politics & power; establish constrained & conscientious capitalism; & eliminate injustices & hostility. He sees this as a long-term but essentially humanist project & he had a long list of actions that needed to be taken. These divided into two groups: things to do jointly & things to do individually.

Joint actions included encouraging an ‘optimistic culture for change’, learning positivity, confronting cynicism & pessimism, and generally improving the mechanisms of democracy to achieve greater personal agency & involvement. Actions by individuals included being positive, building bridges with those that disagree, and creating portfolios of actions for change.

We then broke up into smaller groups to discuss his proposals & to suggest answers to three questions that Robert had posed: i) what actions can I take now as an individual? ii) How can we engage wider audiences in the short term objectives towards the longer term position? iii) what is the single short term political objective that would start to get a wider coalition movement aligned against inequality?

We closed the meeting with a feedback session, with each of the smaller groups reporting on the conclusions of their discussion. Most of the small groups focused on the third of these questions. The NHS was a popular suggestion for political action, being a service that is near to full equality & could act as a beacon & example of how equality can be achieved in one common & important area of our lives. Housing was also popular since at present it is glaringly unequal & there is an urgent need to achieve greater equality in that field. Education also got a mention.

This had been an interesting presentation followed by a challenging discussion – a well- spent evening.

Review by Tony Brewer 

You can access Robert’s presentation here: Robert Ashby – Inequality what can we do