Our review article about the rightly fêted book The Spirit Level asks that we go deeper into the causes of inequality than the authors have been able to do, but we can only applaud the book’s message: that inequality matters, that why it occurs matters, that the damage that it does matters, and so seeking greater equality matters. But there has often been an understandable worry that social policy designed to create a more equal society might make the economy less efficient. Lilia Costabile’s book on European social policy, also reviewed here, hasn’t received anything like the publicity generated for and by The Spirit Level, but it is at least as important because it shows that social protection measures don’t necessarily make an economy less efficient.
These books have important consequences for the debate on the desirability and feasibility of a Citizen’s Income: We no longer have to regard economic efficiency and greater social equality as mutually exclusive: indeed, we can regard them as complementary and as mutually reinforcing. A social policy which promotes both should therefore be particularly welcome.
There is a General Election on the way, and it will soon be time to discuss some new directions. If all of our major political parties were to recognise and state that equality and economic efficiency can be mutually reinforcing, and that economic and social policy belong together, it could move us into a new era of the debate on the desirability of universal benefits. A Citizen’s Income is one of those social policies which would promote both greater economic efficiency and greater equality. If the Citizen’s Income Trust can help by contributing to the necessary debate, then we shall of course be very pleased to participate.