Hasta la victoria siempre

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Egalitarismul, remediu universal

Richard Wilkinson si Kate Pickett sunt doi experti in materie de sanatate publica si de influente sociale care determina nivelul de sanatate si functionare normala si echilibrata a societatii (epidemiologie sociala). In lucrarea lor „The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better” aparuta la inceputul anului 2009, cei doi autori prezinta nenumarate dovezi coform carora cu cat societatile sunt mai egalitariste, cu atat ele sunt mai ferite de fenomene precum criminalitate, analfabetism, mortalitate ridicata.
O trecere in revista a datelor din carte se gaseste in articolul lor „ The problems of relative deprivation: why some societies do better than others”, aparut in Social Science and Medicine, 2007, 65(9):1965-78. Citez de acolo:

„Using income inequality as an indicator and determinant of the scale of socioeconomic stratification in a society, we show that many problems associated with relative deprivation are more prevalent in more unequal societies. We summarise previously published evidence suggesting that this may be true of morbidity and mortality, obesity, teenage birth rates, mental illness, homicide, low trust, low social capital, hostility, and racism. To these we add new analyses which suggest that this is also true of poor educational performance among school children, the proportion of the population imprisoned, drug overdose mortality and low social mobility.
That ill health and a wide range of other social problems associated with social status within societies are also more common in more unequal societies, may imply that income inequality is central to the creation of the apparently deep-seated social problems associated with poverty, relative deprivation or low social status. We suggest that the degree of material inequality in a society may not only be central to the social forces involved in national patterns of social stratification, but also that many of the problems related to low social status may be amenable to changes in income distribution.”

Asadar, inegalitatile socio-economice inseamna o crestere a mortalitatii, bolilor mentale, obezitatii, analfabetismului, consumului de stupefiante, a infractionalitatii.

Inegalitatile si cresterea mortalitatii
„In a recent review of 168 analyses of the relationship between income inequality and population health we found that a large majority of studies reported that more egalitarian societies tend to be healthier (Wilkinson & Pickett, 2006). Studies of small areas – such as parishes and census tracts – were the only major exceptions to this pattern. We found 104 studies of health in which income inequality was measured across whole nations, states, regions or cities – areas large enough for income inequality to be indicative of the overall scale of social differentiation and social hierarchy in those societies (Wilkinson & Pickett, 2006).
After adjustment for various control variables (including ones which could be either mediating or confounding variables), 81 of the 104 studies (78%) found all or some of the health variables they measured were significantly related to inequality. Before adjustment the proportion supporting this relationship was higher still. As well as a large number of international comparisons of developed and developing countries, evidence confirming this pattern also came from studies of regions, states, and cities in a number of different countries including Canada, Chile, China, Ecuador, Italy, Russia, Taiwan, UK, and USA. In contrast, studies which measured inequality and health in smaller areas (counties, tracts and parishes) produced more equivocal results.”

Inegalitatile si raspandirea obezitatii
„In a study of obesity rates (BMI >30) in 21 of the richest countries we reported that rates were higher in more unequal societies (Pickett, Kelly, Brunner, Lobstein, & Wilkinson, 2005). These relationships were statistically significant for obesity among both men and women, but noticeably stronger among women. The same study also showed that greater inequality was associated with higher total calorie intake. The relation between obesity and inequality was attenuated, but remained significant, even after adjusting for calorie consumption.”

Inegalitatile si raspandirea bolilor mentale
„Using surveys of random samples of the population, the World Health Organization (WHO) recently produced comparable estimates of the prevalence of mental illness for eight developed countries – six in Western Europe plus Japan and the USA (Demyttenaere, Bruffaerts, Posada-Villa, Gasquet, Kovess, Lepine et al., 2004). We found statistically significant correlations between income inequality and the prevalence of both serious and any mental illness (Pickett, James, & Wilkinson, 2006).
We have since confirmed this correlation (r=0.79, p=0.002) in an expanded dataset, including data from a further WHO survey for New Zealand, and non-WHO population based prevalence estimates for Australia, Canada and the UK (Figure 1). However, we found no evidence of such a relation among the 50 states of the USA.”

Inegalitatile si distrugerea relatiilor sociale
„Many people have intuited that inequality is socially divisive and corrosive of human relations. Writing of the United States in the first half of the 19th Century, de Tocqueville emphasised his belief that the strength of the associational and civic life to which he drew attention was based (with the crucial exception of slavery) on what he called the “equality of conditions” (de Tocqueville, 2000). Numerous analyses including homicide, trust, social capital, hostility and racism, suggest that the quality of social relations in a society is poorer where there is more inequality (Wilkinson, 2005).”

Inegalitatile si cresterea ratei de omucideri
„A large body of evidence suggests that there is a robust relationship between greater inequality and higher homicide rates. All 24 studies of inequality and homicide rates in large areas (whole countries, regions, states or cities) reported significant relationships (Wilkinson & Pickett, 2006). An earlier review also reported a robust relationship which, like health, was stronger when the areas measured were larger rather than smaller (Hsieh & Pugh, 1993).”

Inegalitatile erodeaza increderea intre oameni
„There have been a number of analyses of the relation between inequality and various measures of the quality of social relations, including trust and social capital. As summarised elsewhere (Wilkinson, 2005), these results are consistent with the findings on violence, and suggest that the quality of social relations is poorer in more unequal societies. An international analysis of data from 38 countries (Uslaner, 2002) as well as an analysis among the 50 states of the USA (Kawachi, Kennedy, Lochner, & Prothrow-Stith, 1997) have shown substantially lower levels of trust where income differences are bigger. In the less unequal states only 10 or 15 percent felt they could not trust others; this rose to 35 or 40 percent in the more unequal states. The differences related to inequality internationally were just as large.”

Inegalitatile socio-economice inseamna cresterea agresivitatii si rasismului
„The last indicators that greater inequality is accompanied by less good social relations come from US data on hostility scores and racism. Williams measured hostility scores in random samples of the population in 10 US cities (Williams, Feaganes, & Barefoot, 1995). The average score for each city was significantly related to its income inequality (Wilkinson, 2005). In a separate study, Kennedy et al found that people held more racist attitudes and beliefs in US states where income differences were large (Kennedy, Kawachi, Lochner, Jones, & Prothrow-Stith, 1997).”

Concluzie generala:
„It is often assumed that the desire to raise national standards of performance in fields such as education and health is a quite separate problem from the desire to reduce health and educational inequalities within a society. However, perhaps the most important implication of the relationships with inequality shown here is that the achievement of higher national standards of performance may be substantially dependent on reducing inequalities in each country. As well as improving health, reducing inequality may also raise the educational performance of school children, increase trust, while decreasing violence and teenage births.
The associations we have seen between income inequality and a range of health and social problems are far from trivial.
Even ignoring extreme examples, there are ten-fold differences in homicide rates between more and less equal countries and US states, sixfold differences in teenage birth rates, six-fold differences in the prevalence of obesity, four-fold differences in how much people feel they can trust each other, five- or tenfold differences in imprisonment rates and, mainly as a result of deaths at younger ages, three years difference in the average length of life.”

Intelegem deci ca la radacina unui numar imens de rele sociale se afla inagalitatile de venit. Nu e intamplator ca, asa dupa cum subliniaza cei doi autori, statele inegale din SUA au de 10 ori mai multe omucideri, de 6 ori mai multe cazuri de obezitate, de 4 ori mai putina incredere inter-personala, de 10 ori mai multi oameni in inchisoare decat statele mai egalitare din SUA.

Dupa cum pertinent scrie si Philip Birch, editorul lucrarii amintite la inceput,
„Inequality is the root cause of all societies’ ills. It doesn’t matter if the average level of income is very low or very high, it is the gap between rich and poor that is important. It is why, when polled, more Indonesians, Vietnamese, Finnish and Japanese will claim to be more happy than Brits and Americans. And it isn’t just the poorest in the most unequal societies that suffer but the richest too. In London on the one hand we hear regularly about teenagers from poorer communities stabbing each other, but on the other more and more apparently successful, university educated, richer young people suffer from anxiety, depression and are open to casual drug use than ever before. Violence, crime, low educational achievement, poor health; and status anxiety and the misery of having too much money and too much choice go hand in hand, because of inequality.”

Un editorial aparut in Times la 8 martie 2009 ofera o noua viziune de ansamblu asupra inegalitatilor socio-economice, pe baza lucrarii Wilkinson&Pickett.
„It might be said that The Spirit Level merely formulates what everyone has always felt. Western European utopias have almost all been egalitarian. Polls in Britain over the past 20 years show that the proportion of the population who think income differences too big is on average 80%. But what is new about their book, the authors insist, is that it turns personal intuitions into publicly demonstrable facts. With the evidence they have supplied, politicians now have a chance to “do genuine good”. By reducing income inequality, they can improve the health and wellbeing of the whole population. How this should be effected, Wilkinson and Pickett do not think it is their job to say, but increasing top tax rates or legislating to limit maximum pay are possibilities they suggest. They warn, though, that short-term remedies like this could be reversed by a change of government, and that we need to find ways of rooting greater equality more deeply in our society. This is their book’s mission, and they have set up a not-for-profit trust (equalitytrust.org) to make the evidence they set out better known. One illusion that, cheeringly, they hope to dispel is that the super-rich are some kind of asset we should all cherish, rather than, from the viewpoint of social health, the equivalent of the seven plagues of Egypt.”

Egalizarea veniturilor in societate apare tot mai clar ca fiind un adevarat panaceu, capabil sa minimizeze influenta negativa a unei intregi pleiade de probleme sociale. Capitalismul trebuie combatut nu doar din cauza consumerismului pe care il naste, dar si din cauza libertatii pe care o ofera unora de a se imbogatii peste orice limita. Socialismul, prin moderatia materiala, echitatea si egalitatea sociala, mentalitatea colectiva pe care le aduce, este capabil sa ocoleasca aceste dificultati.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Bogatii, paria societatii

In articolul „Status and egalitarianism in traditional communities: An analysis of funeral attendance in six Zimbabwean villages”, scris de Abigail Barr si Mattea Stein, ambii de Universitatea Oxford, si publicat in octombrie 2008, se arata ca in societatile traditionale, bogatii sunt priviti cu suspiciune si marginalizati social, tratati cu lipsa de respect. Astfel, autorii explica, se demonstreaza ca populatia acestor comunitati pastreaza o mentalitate egalitarista, privindu-i cu dezaprobare pe cei care indraznesc sa incalce norma egalitatii.

„This paper explores two hypotheses concerning the role of status in relationships between rich and poor in traditional communities by analyzing who goes to whose funerals in six Zimbabwean villages. Funerals allow status to be observed because non-attendance is a sign of disrespect. We find that the richer a household hosting a funeral, the less likely heads of neighbouring households are to attend. Thus, the status-for-insurance hypothesis that the poor bestow status upon the rich in return for help in times of need is rejected in favour of the egalitarianism hypothesis that richer households are denied status.”

In ce consta ipoteza egalitarista la care se refera autorii?
Imbogatirea unora, rezultat al norocului si al saracirii altora
„Individual accumulation is viewed as a norm violation, punishable through status reduction. Drawing on extensive sociological and anthropological literatures, Platteau proposes a number of reasons why egalitarian norms should be prevalent in traditional societies. In particular, egalitarian norms are closely associated with a worldview in which the fate of humans depends on supernatural forces and economic prosperity is a zero-sum game. So, economic success is attributable not to effort but to luck and good luck for one person implies bad luck for someone else. According to this view, it is unfair for a successful individual to keep the fruits of that success to himself and accumulation, especially, will arouse feelings of envy and even hatred as it
will be perceived as enriching oneself at the expense of others. Further, individuals (or households) who are continuously successful over several years, will attract suspicion as persistent 'luck' is not normal and may be attributable to the malicious manipulation of supernatural forces, i.e., to the use of witchcraft (Platteau, 2000: Chapter 5.3). Thus, more prosperous households are likely to be subjected to status reduction.”

Imbogatirea unora, pericol pentru coeziunea sociala a grupului
„Another reason why egalitarian norms may prevail in traditional societies is that they obviate a positional arms race for status (Platteau, 2006: 828) that could endanger village cohesiveness. In the literature on subjective well-being, it has been shown that people care about their relative economic status (Easterlin (1995), Stutzer (2004), Kingdon and Knight (2007)). Village life is characterized by frequent interactions between a limited number of people with highly personalized relationships; therefore, in small village societies, the enhancement of one's relative position is potentially a strong motivation for individual actions. If status were a positive function of prosperity, one individual's eorts to accumulate wealth would induce others to follow suit, stimulating competition and triggering a positional arms race. In this sense,the very dynamic of modification of relative status positions is perceived as a dangerous force susceptible of jeopardizing the fragile social equilibria typical of small-group societies”.

Fara a mai cita, din nou, date in sprijinul acestor afirmatii, nu se poate nega faptul ca mentalitatea oamenilor din societatile traditionale contine o buna doza de adevar. Anume ca averile depind de noroc, de infractiuni si alte comportamente la limita legii, de saracirea altor membrii ai grupului si ca ea creaza invidie si un raport disproportionat de forte in colectivitate, pe care o slabeste astfel, lovind in coeziunea sociala.

Mai departe, Abigail Barr si Mattea Stein demonstreaza ca in numeroase astfel de societati traditionale, cu cat un decedat a fost mai bogat, cu atat mai putini oameni vor lua parte la inmormantarea sa. Astfel, comunitatea isi arata ostilitatea si dezaprobarea pentru cel mort, desi in cultura locului funeraliile au o importanta deosebita si, in plus, ei ar fi putut fi ajutati material de urmasii celor trecuti in nefiinta.

Autorii conclud:
„In contrast, the egalitarianism hypothesis stated that there is a negative relationship between economic prosperity and status because the rich are denied status as a punishment for violating the egalitarian norm.
Our principle innovation was to use data on funeral attendance in six Zimbabwean villages to infer the status of funeral hosting households. We, then, analyzed this data in conjunction with data on household income and other household attributes using a dyadic approach.
The resulting estimates indicated that the richer a household hosting a funeral, the less likely heads of neighbouring households are to attend. This finding provides strong evidence against the status-for-insurance hypothesis and in favour of the egalitarianism hypothesis.”

Rezultatele acestui studiu sunt utile deoarece arata ca pana si oamenii simpli, care traiesc relativ izolati de restul umanitatii, au o oroare practic innascuta fata de inegalitatile sociale. Pentru ei, fara a fi aflat de rezultatele unor studii elaborate pe tema nocivitatii precum cele prezentate pe acest blog, existenta bogatilor este un lucru nefiresc, o abatere de la legea naturala care trebuie si merita sa fie pedepsita. Desi nu suficient in sine, acest lucru ne poate indreptati in buna masura sa consideram ca natura umana este mai inclinata spre egalitarism decat spre o societate inegala, care permite existenta bogatasilor.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Costa Rica, Vietnam si Cuba, cele mai fericite si echilibrate state din lume

Institutul New Economics Foundation a lansat la 4 iulie raportul/studiu „The Happy Planet Index 2.0: Why good lives don't have to cost the earth”. The New Economics Foundation a prelucrat date din 143 de tari ale lumii (reprezentand 99% din populatia globala) privind nivelul de satisfactie al locuitorilor, dar si speranta de viata si politicile privind mediul inconjurator. Cea mai mare medie a celor trei factori esentiali este obtinuta de urmatoarele sapte state: 1. Costa Rica (durata de viata de 78,5 ani, satisfactie de viata de 8,5 puncte si o amprenta ecologica de 2,3) 2. Republica Dominicana, 3. Jamaica, 4. Guatemala, 5. Vietnam (durata de viata 73,7 ani, satisfactie 6,5, amprenta ecologica 1,3), 6. Columbia, 7. Cuba (durata de viata 77,7, satisfactie 6,7, amprenta ecologica de 1,8).

Cateva concluzii generale au fost trasate de catre realizatorii studiului, dupa cum urmeaza:
* Latin America tops the Index with Costa Rica the 'greenest and happiest' country. Nine of the ten highest-scoring nations are Latin American
* The USA, China and India were all 'greener and happier' twenty years ago than today
* The World's richest plummet from 1960s to late 1970s, with scores still lower today than 1961
The UK comes 74th, USA 114th out of 143 nations surveyed.

* OECD nations' HPI scores plummeted between 1960 and the late 1970s. Although there have been some gains since then, HPI scores were still higher in 1961 than in 2005. Life satisfaction and life expectancy combined have increased 15 per cent over the 45-year period, but it has come at an earth-shattering cost - an increase in ecological footprint per head of 72 per cent.
* Of a group of 36 major nations it was possible to track over time in detail, around two-thirds increased their HPI scores marginally between 1990 and 2005, but the three largest countries in the world China, India and the USA (all aggressively pursuing growth-based development models) have all seen their HPI scores drop in that time.

* Rich, developed nations fare poorly. The highest placed Western nation is the Netherlands - managing only 43rd out of 143. The UK still languishes midway down the table - 74th, well behind Germany, Italy and France. It is just pipped by Georgia and Slovakia, but ahead of Japan and Ireland. The USA fares particularly poorly, in 114th place out of 143.

Pe scurt, SUA, China si India erau mai fericite si mai in armonie cu mediul inconjurator in urma cu 20 de ani decat acum, chiar daca averea lor a sporit considerabil intre timp; tarile Occidentale au obtinut rezultate mediocre in privinta duratei de viata, satisfactiei populatiei si dezvoltarii durabile, Italia aflandu-se pe locul 61, Franta pe 71, Marea Britanie aflandu-se pe locul 74, SUA pe locul 114 etc. Astfel, studiul realizat de NEF dovedeste cu prisosinta, o data in plus, imbecilitatea urmaririi dezvoltarii economice si cresterii consumului, fapt subliniat si de Nic Marks, unul dintre fondatorii NEF:

„As the world faces the triple crunch of deep financial crisis, accelerating climate change and the looming peak in oil production we desperately need a new compass to guide us. Following the siren's song of economic growth has delivered only marginal benefits to the World's poorest whilst undermining the basis of their livelihoods. What's more, it hasn't notably improved the well-being of those who were already rich, or even provided economic stability. Now we must use the Happy Planet Index to break the spell and chart a new course for a high well-being low-carbon economy before our high-consuming lifestyles plunge us into the chaos of irreversible climate change”.

Criza financiara, incalzire globala si imputinarea resurselor energetice, in acestea consta performanta statelor dezvoltate, care nu au reusit sa imbunatateasca satisfactia de viata a propriilor cetateni.

Urmarile catastrofale ale economiilor capitaliste dezvoltate Cum subiectul capitalismului consumerist in exces prezinta un interes aparte pe acest blog, sa urmarim ce rezultate au avut, in practica, economiile statelor vestice puternic dezvoltate:

„Despite 60 years of constant economic growth, in 2005, more than half of the world’s population (56.6 per cent) lived on less than the equivalent of $2.50-a-day. The benefits of growth have been wildly disproportionate. For every $100 worth of growth, only $0.60 contributes to reducing poverty for the more than one billion people living below $1-a-day.15 Worldwide, one in thirteen children dies before the age of five. For people living in twenty-two of the poorest countries, this rate is over one in seven.

Even in rich countries, our system has not been a constant tale of success. Inequality has been rising in OECD countries over the last 20 years – before the recession kicked in, disparities in income in the UK were highest since records began in the 1960s. Real median incomes have actually remained stagnant in many countries, including the USA. People do not report being any happier or more satisfied with life than they did 20 or even 40 years ago. Commentators on both the left and right talk of a ‘social recession’. In the UK, child poverty still remains a shameful reality, and the Government has abandoned its ambitions to halve child poverty by 2010. Our model of progress has failed to deliver even what it claims to deliver best: money in people’s pockets.”

Asadar, inegalitati monstruoase, saracie alarmanta in randul copiilor, si o stagnare, in cel mai buna caz, a satisfactiei de viata a populatiior occidentale de 20, daca nu chiar 40 de ani. Ceea ce a reusit cu prisosinta modelul neo-liberal a fost sa murdareasca Pamantul cu un adevarat dezastru ecologic, menit sa pericliteze viitorul generatiilor viitoare:

„And where it does worst, the current model has done very badly indeed. The UN Millennium Ecosystem Assessment found 60 per cent of the world’s ecosystems to be degraded. Concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere stood at 387 parts per million (ppm) in 2008. This is the highest they have been for the last 650,000 years. With the annual rate of CO2 emissions actually increasing in recent years, it is no wonder that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicts that the ‘most likely’ global increase in temperature, in a ‘business as usual’ scenario, would be 4˚C above 1990 levels – double the 2˚C target that climate scientists and indeed the EU have strived to meet to avoid positive feedback loops leading to the climate spiralling out of control. Indeed, many scientists, including NASA’s top climatologist Jim Hansen, now feel that only by returning to a level of 350 ppm can we prevent this happening. In other words, to preserve the climatic conditions which human civilisation has enjoyed since it began, not only do we need to stop emitting fast, we also need to physically remove CO2 from the atmosphere.”

Concluzia cade ca o sentinta asupra nebuniei capitaliste: „The dogmas of the last 30 years have been discredited. The unwavering pursuit of economic growth – embodied in the overwhelming focus on Gross Domestic Product (GDP) – has left over a billion people in dire poverty, and has not notably improved the well-being of those who were already rich, nor even provided us with economic stability. Instead it has brought us straight to the cliff edge of rapidly diminishing natural resources and unpredictable climate change. No wonder that people are desperately seeking an alternative vision to guide our societies.”

In acest context sumbru, o tara precum Costa Rica ii lasa undeva departe, in urma, pe locuitorii super-puterii americane, atat ca durata de viata, cat si ca satisfactie si armonie cu natura: „Costa Ricans also live slightly longer than Americans, and report much higher levels of life satisfaction, and yet have a footprint which is less than a quarter the size.”

Studiul NEF 2009 demonstreaza, o data in plus, ca durata de viata, satisfactia de viata si minimizarea influentei nocive asupra mediului nu au nimic de-a face cu mania progresului si dezvoltarii economice. Capitalismul, cu inegalitatile si consumerismul poe care le aduce, are rezultate in cel mai bun caz mediocre, in cel mai rau dezastruoase pe termen lung. Socialismul, prezent in tari precum Cuba sau Vietnam, victime ale unor evenimente extrem de neplacute pe plan extern, precum embargouri impuse, sunt in primele zece cele mai fericite tari din lume.