The greed, excess and selfishness that brought liberal democracy and capitalism to the edge of the abyss have been demonstrated once again by the latest research from Income Data Services (IDS). It shows that the pay of directors of the UK’s top businesses (FTSE 100) rose by 49% over the past year, bringing their average pay package to about £2.7 million. This is at a time when average pay nationally for private sector workers rose by 2.6%, a cut in real wages when inflation is running at 5.2%. The march of income inequality is gathering pace, with total disregard to the effect such injustice and unfairness have on society.
There is ample evidence to demonstrate that this is not related to the performance of these companies, but based on complicated formulae, with pay panels comprising like-minded people that recommend raises regardless of how the company performs. In any case, the performance of a company surely does not depend entirely on the performance of a few people at the top, but on the entire workforce. If the company is successful, rewarding the bosses only is insulting to everybody else who has contributed to that success. It is divisive and unjust.
Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett in their book, The Spirit Level, present rigorous statistical analysis of the effects of income inequality on the lives of people in 23 rich countries and across states in the U.S. Examples of more economically equal societies (low income inequality) are Japan, Norway, Finland and Sweden. Examples of less economically equal societies (high income inequality) are the U.S., UK, Singapore and Portugal.
Their analysis clearly demonstrates that most of the ills that afflict rich countries rise with income inequality. Mental illness, alcohol and drug abuse, obesity, stress, anxiety, homicide and prison population are higher in less economically equal societies. Positive traits such as life expectancy, social mobility, and trusting each other are lower in less economically equal societies. The book leads to the inescapable conclusion that more economically equal societies are better for the poor, the middle class, the rich and the super-rich; in short, for the whole of society.
Polly Toynbee in the Guardian (29 October) under the title The rich keep grasping while the young poor face freefall writes:
As the income gap yawns wider, yet another report – this week from Bertelsmann Foundation – ranks Britain 15thin the OECD for social justice. Though one of the richest nations, UK child poverty is only just above Greece’s. That’s hardly news. But here’s a small insight into hardship that Dr Eoin Clarke unearthed from the Centre for Retail Research. Shoplifting is rising, as it does in recessions. What are the most stolen items? Not luxuries. Cheese comes a long way top, meat second, then fish and baby milk only just behind alcohol. Baby milk!
This week at St Paul’s [Cathedral], the Church of England agonized over God and mammon, with only the admirable Canon Giles Fraser willing to consider the lilies of the field with the protesters on the steps. Instead of seeking an eviction, the Cathedral should be demanding the stock exchange lifts the injunction on its steps so the protesters can camp where they should be. At mammon’s heart
Today’s Independent on Sunday (30 October) under the heading Cover-up at St Paul’s – Clerics suppress report on bankers’ greed to save church embarrassment, the report presents a study by the St Paul’s Institute described by the paper thus:
A highly critical report into the moral standards of bankers has been suppressed by St Paul’s Cathedral amid fears that it would inflame tensions over the Occupy London tent protest… Publication of the report by the St Paul’s Institute has been delayed in an apparent acknowledgement that it would leave the impression that the Cathedral was on the side of the protesters… The decision will fuel the impression that the wider established church is attempting to stifle debate about the tent protest, as leading members of the Church of England, including the Archbishop of Canterbury, have failed to comment publically about Occupy London.
Churches and other religious institutions have a moral duty to denounce practices and actions anchored in greed, excess and selfishness that are impoverishing the quality of life of millions in the U.S., UK, and worldwide. Otherwise, what are they for?