Thursday, June 06, 2019

Thursday Evening Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Jonathan Aldred calls out the combination of handouts to the rich, cultivated attitudes of self-reliance and antisocial assumptions which have exacerbated inequality over the past few decades:
European countries have, on average, more redistributive tax systems and more welfare benefits for the poor than the US, and therefore less inequality, after taxes and benefits. Many people see this outcome as a reflection of the different values that shape US and European societies. But cause-and-effect may run the other way: you-deserve-what-you-get beliefs are strengthened by inequality.

Psychologists have shown that people have motivated beliefs: beliefs that they have chosen to hold because those beliefs meet a psychological need. Now, being poor in the US is extremely tough, given the meagre welfare benefits and high levels of post-tax inequality. So Americans have a greater need than Europeans to believe that you deserve what you get and you get what you deserve. These beliefs play a powerful role in motivating yourself and your children to work as hard as possible to avoid poverty. And these beliefs can help alleviate the guilt involved in ignoring a homeless person begging on your street.

This is not just a US issue. Britain is an outlier within Europe, with relatively high inequality and low economic and social mobility. Its recent history fits the cause-and-effect relationship here. Following the election of Margaret Thatcher in 1979, inequality rose significantly. After inequality rose, British attitudes changed. More people became convinced that generous welfare benefits make poor people lazy and that high salaries are essential to motivate talented people. However, intergenerational mobility fell: your income in Britain today is closely correlated with your parents’ income.

If the American Dream and other narratives about everyone having a chance to be rich were true, we would expect the opposite relationship: high inequality (is fair because of) high intergenerational mobility. Instead, we see a very different narrative: people cope with high inequality by convincing themselves it is fair after all. We adopt narratives to justify inequality because society is highly unequal, not the other way round. So inequality may be self-perpetuating in a surprising way.
- David Climenhaga predicts that the UCP's review of health services - like so many before it - will cost more than it ever recoups in promised efficiencies. Brielle Morgan, Katie Hyslop, Cherise Seucharan and Tracy Sherlock highlight the absurdity of offering more money to foster families to house children after findings of poverty-based "neglect" than to the vulnerable families who only lack sufficient financial resources to be able to provide an adequate home. And Jesse Snyder reports on new research showing how blinkered fearmongering against carbon pricing stands to increase the cost of any climate progress.

- Brendan Kennedy discusses what the future will look like in New Brunswick as climate change continues to exacerbate the flooding which has become commonplace in recent years. And Charlie Smith looks at the effect of a movement away from air travel on cities such as Vancouver which currently rely on air traffic as a major part of their local economies.

- Finally, Simon Dyer offers six factors to look for in determining whether a climate policy is viable. And David Miller highlights how the NDP's climate plan measures up to the scope and urgency of our climate crisis.

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