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Social Cohesion, the Trouble with Income Inequality


Levels of domestic unrest across the world are by some measures 4-fold what they have been for the last 50 years. In response public policy, political commentary, and corporate reactions alike have focused on narratives of inequality. It is inequality that is blamed for the rise of populism, the backlash against globalization, and popular revisionism seeking to undermine political systems of every form.

What holds back even further action on inequality might be only the long-standing worry about the leaky-bucket tradeoff between equality and efficiency.

But what if the culprit is not inequality?

We are delighted to be joined by Danny Quah and Carne Ross for this event to discuss ‘Social Cohesion, the trouble with income inequality’. We will touch on:

  • A review of existing inequalities across East and West
  • Addressing the link between income inequality and social cohesion
  • Empirical evidence of why current perceptions on inequality are distorted
  • Highlighting the root causes of social degradation

This discussion presents empirical evidence on inequality that suggests even as inequality rises, the well-being of those at the bottom of the income distribution continues to improve. The talk presents specific national case studies both in the West and in Asia and shows that inequality is no barrier – outside of a zero-sum world- to the poorer members of society continuing to assert ever-greater control of their own destiny. Ultimately, it is this last that should matter to those who care about the well-being of the poor.

But if inequality is not a sufficient statistic, what then ails society? This talk argues that it is instead patterns of income mobility, media narrative, and the psychological basis of identity politics that need to be re-examined as potentially the more likely factors underlying the great social risks of our time.

About the Speakers:

Danny Quah, Li Ka Shing Professor in Economics and Dean at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, NUS explores nations across West and East that are now struggling with the erosion of social cohesion.

Danny’s research on inequality and income mobility characterises the range of experiences across economies to suggest that a single narrative on inequality is unlikely to be correct or helpful. His work on world order takes an economic approach to international systems, studying the supply and demand of world order: what international system do the world’s superpowers wish to provide; what world order does the global community need?

Quah is a Commissioner on the Spence-Stiglitz Commission on Global Economic Transformation and serves on the Executive Committee, International Economic Association; the Advisory Board, LSE IDEAS; the Eminent Advisory Council of the UNDP Bureau for Asia-Pacific; and the World Economic Forum’s Global Future Council for Geopolitics. He is the author of “The Global Economy’s Shifting Centre of Gravity”.

Carne Ross, writer and thinker. He is a former British diplomat who resigned over the Iraq War. Since then, he founded and ran an innovative non-profit, Independent Diplomat, that advises democratic countries and political movements on their diplomatic strategy. He has written two books: “Independent Diplomat” looks at the deficits of contemporary diplomacy; “The Leaderless Revolution” discusses ways in which ordinary people can successfully govern and organise themselves, without relying on top-down authority: a model of ‘gentle anarchism’ that’s very relevant for today’s circumstances. Carne has written dozens of articles for national and international publications and is a frequent media commentator, on international radio and TV, about world affairs.

March 23 2022


Date: March 23
Time: 2:00 pm - 3:00 pm
Cost: Free
Website: Visit Event Website

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