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The Spirit Level Delusion: Fact-Checking the Left's New Theory of Everything Paperback – 10 May 2010
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So, do not be fooled by who can manipulate statistics more effectively, and bear in mind that they can be used to prove or disprove almost anything. Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett, the authors of The Spirit Level, might be left-wing but at least the genesis of their argument is a rational and proactive desire for change. This book is a self-serving series of negatives - a rebuttal compiled to protect the interests of the very rich, who think capitalism needs to be left to run unchecked towards its inevitable endgame of extreme inequality, huge health divides, and a ruined environment.
What you think of this book will largely depend upon which side you are on. No prizes for guessing where I stand.
In the event it focuses on the statistics, and sampling rigour, and guess what! it has as much a point to prove as I assume Spirit Level had.
Not the most gripping of reads but the ideas are there
The original Spirit Level book showed that inequality of income and wealth was at the root of society's ills once income reached a reasonable level. After that equality mattered more than pushing up the average GDP per person statistic.
The book made sense and for those left of centre, supported their existing views and for those on the right who were prepared to have an open mind, it will have given them cause to challenge their views.
But this book shows that the original is not the unbiased presentation of research data that it first appears. Instead data has been cherry picked to create the trends that the authors wanted to show to justify their doctrine.
The Spirit Level Delusion isn't a good book. Its premise is negative... to destroy an argument rather than to advance an alternative. However it is necessary.
Manipulation and distortions of the truth must be challenged.
Remember the quote "All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing" by Edmund Burke.
Politics dressed up as science and empirical economics is dangerous to society no matter whether it comes from the left or the right.
Personally I believe inequality is a serious problem but I'm disappointed that The Spirit Level is constructed on such a fragile basis.
About my book reviews - I aim to be a tough reviewer because the main cost of a book is not the money to buy it but the time needed to read it and absorb the key messages. 4 stars means this is a good to very good book.