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The Spirit Level Delusion: Fact-Checking the Left's New Theory of Everything Paperback – 17 May 2010

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Product details

  • Paperback: 172 pages
  • Publisher: Democracy Institute/Little Dice (17 May 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0956226515
  • ISBN-13: 978-0956226518
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 1 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 78,676 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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3.2 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

208 of 248 people found the following review helpful By E. Braben on 21 Aug. 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
What motivated Christopher Snowden to turned his intelligence and skill to debunking the anti smoking lobby (earlier book) and the anti inequality movement? Perhaps his next book will debunk global warming. I am reminded of the plethora of research in the USA in the 60s which aimed to show that blacks were less intelligent than whites. For what purpose? The Education System should educate all to the best of their ability whatever this is. Similarly, smoking is bad for health, and the huge disparity in wealth and power between those who have and have not, in the UK is, to any fair minded person, unacceptable. And it needs to be addressed now, not, as and when, the free market gets around to it.

Snowden's introduction is in my view a simplistic distortion of what The Spirit Level is about and at times, reads like a rant (p10 3rd paragraph onwards) rather than a rational criticism. What Snowden demonstrates very well in his book is that where data and statistical analyses are concerned, the arguments and counter arguments can run and run. He questions the data and methodology underlying the conclusions drawn by the authors of the Spirit Level and attributes their motivations to left wing ideology. The same accusations could be made about Snowden's cherry picking of data and his obvious anti-left ideology. He is motivated to throw in anything which muddies the waters, creates a smoke screen and under minds his targets - Wilkinson, Pickett, Layard, James and Lawson. Me thinks the man protests too much.

There is much of interest in Snowden's analysis of data but this is spoilt by what he selects, says and how he says it. He uses ridicule, innuendo, personal slurs and takes points of view to the extreme and in doing so, reduces them to the absurd.
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16 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Hande Z TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 14 Jun. 2012
Format: Paperback
Christopher Snowdon, more historian than economist, attacked Wilkinson & Pickett's 2009 book "The Spirit Level". In the process, he hoped to inflict collateral damage on several other books such as Richard Layard's "Happiness: Lessons from a New Science" (2005), and Oliver James' "Affluenza" (2007). The thesis advanced by Wilkinson & Pickett was that physical and mental health suffer most in countries in which the inequality gap between the wealthiest 20% and the poorest 20% is greatest. Snowdon states his case in his opening remark that if Wilkinson & Pickett were propounding a grand unifying theory, "its implications for politicians were obvious: instead of chasing economic growth which will make us sicker, they must divert their efforts towards redistributing wealth."

The rest of Snowdon's book was dedicated to showing up the weakness in Wilkinson & Pickett's book, mainly by pointing to outdated data, excluded data, and the misinterpretation of data. Although many of those criticisms appear valid and persuasive, Snowdon was not postulating a rival theory himself. His was a work of destruction. A neutral reader may conclude that Snowdon might have won on a technicality if the objective criterion was evidence based data. Snowdon had not, however, disproved the claim that inequality in wealth is detrimental to society - that issue has been an age-old debate in which opponents have worn weary from the fight. Wilkinson & Pickett perhaps strode boldly to execute what they thought might have been the "coup de grace", but thanks to Snowdon, their opponents live to fight another day.

Both books engaged in polemics from time to time. Snowdon, for example, claims that Layard was advancing the theory that a "punitive tax system...would restore work-life balance.
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211 of 269 people found the following review helpful By J. Ashworth on 14 April 2011
Format: Paperback
Admittedly, I have only read part of this book, but that was enough. There is a profound asymmetry between these two books, which seems to have been overlooked in a spirit of post-modern relativism. The Spirit Level is the culmination of hundreds of research years of rigorously peer reviewed, intellectually honest research, by hundreds of researchers from many different countries, and many different backgrounds. This book is an attempt to nullify the findings of this research in one fell swoop, based on the prior assumption that market forces are righteous, and governments are evil. It is cynical in its view both of the scientific method, and of the intelligence of the general book-buying public. I recommend reading and making sure you understand The Spirit Level, before bothering to tackle this attempt to retard rationally-directed progress, for ideological ends.
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177 of 230 people found the following review helpful By Zipster Zeus on 12 Nov. 2010
Format: Paperback
After reading Wilkinson's and Pickets `The Spirit Level' I picked up a copy of this rebuttal by Christopher Snowdon, in the interests of fairness.

The problem Snowdon has are first perceptions; what is he trying to say? That Wilkinson and Pickett are wrong and the UK is actually a more equal place than they describe, or that its societal inequalities are actually acceptable, that in fact a small minority of people should be allowed to be `super-rich,' for the `benefit of all', and an increasingly marginalised underclass is a fair price to pay for this, particularly as they usually deserve to be there through their own failings, anyway?

The first stumbling block this book has to get over [and fails] is that any ordinary person [i.e. 95% of the population] can see day in day out that Britain is a very unequal society and we are, frankly, in a social and economic mess where any sense of community is barely a memory now for much of its population. The vast majority of people can sense there is something very wrong with this, even if they cannot fully articulate it.

So again the question begs to be answered: what is Snowdon trying to prove? His association with a right wing libertarian think tank probably explains a lot, and the speed of this rebuttal to the publication of `The Spirit Level' clearly shows Wilkinson and Pickett's book must have disturbed the libertarian right considerably, but having said that Snowdon's book is well written and, as a couple of reviewers have said, is a good `tube read' which is no bad thing, but probably sums up its `academic' weight. The fact is unfortunately, apart from spending a lot of time trying to shoot down Wilkinson and Pickett's figures and methodology, Snowdon comes up with very little counter-analysis of his own.
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