Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson’s 2011 book The Spirit Level: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger was an instant classic for the way it described the impact of wealth inequality.
There is a telling bit of archive footage showing an exchange between Jeremy Paxman and a youthful-looking Tony Blair who looks momentarily confused, then genuinely puzzled when asked: ‘Do you believe that an individual can earn too much money?’
‘What you mean that we should sort of … cap their income?’ he asks. ‘No not really. Why? What’s the point?’
We don’t hear much from the super-rich except a passing few insights from Richard Berman an exhausted-looking 70-year-old venture capitalist who offers a hilariously plaintive justification of the system: ‘Without big rewards, people like me aren’t going to work 15-20 hours a day in order to get rich’.
The rise of debt and the origins and consequences of the sub-prime crisis in the US are also touched on; look out for the footage of George Bush saying first: ‘We certainly don’t want fine print to get in the way of people owning their own homes’ and ‘achieving the goal of a five and a half million unique minority home owners’ –
– and then a few years later after the financial crisis remarking sternly: ‘We should not help out those who made the reckless decision to buy a home they could never afford’.