On the decline in inequality: a question of emphasis

Robert Sweeney of TASC writes on the decline of inequality in Ireland.

In sum, income inequality, according to the best evidence, has fallen; Ireland, by conventional measures, has the most progressive tax system in the EU; and Ireland has a very high share of low-work intensity households. It is also the case that in historical terms our inequality is high, and differences in living standards have likely increased. Lower income households basically work as much as the rest of society, and the poorest pay almost the same share of their income in tax as the rich. Facts are facts and needn’t be quarrelled with. But there are many ways to present them.

One reply on “On the decline in inequality: a question of emphasis”

This may be true, but the only facts of this nature that matter are those drive policy changes that are enacted in legislation and subsequently implemented. Unfortunately, irrespective of the salience or relevance of the data and analysis presented, far too much effort is put in to making the case that there is no to change policies in any meaningful way. JK Galbraith captured it well: “Faced with the choice between changing one’s mind and proving that there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof”.

But an increasing number of voters are not convinced. Our approach to the governance of capitalism and economic regulation is totally dysfunctional and excessively favours producers and suppliers to the detriment of the interests of consumers and service users – and of workers who lack economic and organisational power. Most voters may not be au fait with the minutiae, but more and more of them are struggling with the impacts. And they now have a means of channelling their discontent politically.

The current governing politicians and policy-makers have a choice. They can work to remedy the serious dysfunctions in the governance of capitalism and economic regulation – the approach applied in the US provides a superior and easily applicable template, or they can try to hold on and sweat it out – until they are evicted from office and have a far more disruptive set of policies applied.

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