The Spirit Level Book Summary - The Spirit Level Book explained in key points
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The Spirit Level summary

Richard Wilkinson & Kate Pickett

Why Equality is Better for Everyone

4.2 (17 ratings)
16 mins

What is The Spirit Level about?

This book provides a detailed explanation of how inequality is responsible for many of our present-day problems, including violence and mental illness. It provides detailed explanations and studies to support this and shows how inequality not only hurts the poor but everybody in a society.

Table of Contents

    The Spirit Level
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    Key idea 1 of 10

    The strength of a country’s economy doesn’t necessarily reflect its citizens’ well-being.

    What causes the biggest problems in our society? One knee-jerk reaction is to blame a weak economy. If we all experienced a flourishing economy, we would all be healthy and happy, right? Actually, there are several arguments that say otherwise.

    The truth is that even countries at their economic peak endure severe problems.

    Take the United States, which boasts one of the strongest economies in the world: even this beacon of economic power suffers from major social problems, such as high prisoner rates, gang violence and obesity.

    China has also enjoyed booming economic expansion over the last few decades. Yet this growth has failed to improve its people’s life expectancy or resolve recent problems, such as pollution.

    The disconnect between economic prosperity and well-being is particularly evident in the field of national health. To illustrate this, let’s examine the fate of two babies born at the same time in different countries with contrasting economies.

    One baby is born in the United States, one of the richest countries in the world with a generous health care budget. The other is born in Greece, a poorer Western country that only spends half as much on health care as the United States.

    Based on economic factors alone, we might expect the American baby to live longer than its Greek counterpart.

    In fact, the opposite is true: the US baby is expected to live 1.2 years fewer than the Greek baby and faces a 40 percent higher chance of dying in its first year of life.

    How can that be?

    The following blinks reveal that the root cause of illness, violence and climate change lies not with economic strength but with inequality.

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    Best quote from The Spirit Level

    Be happy with what you have.
    Make a conscious effort to stop comparing yourself to others. Instead, remind yourself of how lucky you are to have what you have, and stop coveting your neighbors Ferrari.

    —Richard Wilkinson & Kate Pickett
    example alt text

    About the Author

    Richard Wilkinson is an expert in social determinants of health and a professor at multiple universities. Kate Pickett is professor of epidemiology at the University of York. Together, they started the website to further promote the cause of equality.

    Who should read The Spirit Level?

    • Anyone interested in sociology, politics or ethics
    • Anyone interested in the topics of equality and the distribution of wealth
    • Anyone who wants to learn about a new approach to solving worldwide problems

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