What the Bankers Need: A Spirit Level | Craft | Equality

by , under City Life, Current Affairs, News

Bankers

There is a lot of debate in the news at the moment about what should be done with the wbankers. Should there be a ‘maximum wage’? Should they be allowed to earn obscene bonuses even though their banks have virtually collapsed? Should we all be held to ransom with the argument that they will go and work elsewhere unless we allow them to do as they please?

A couple of thoughts come to mind, springing from two things I am reading at the moment.

The first thought is about craft. I am loving Richard Sennett’s excellent book The Craftsman, in which he notes:

It is certainly possible to get by in life without dedication, but the craftsman represents the special human condition of being engaged.

And later he writes that ‘craft and community were for the ancient Greeks, indissociable.’ I am concerned that the craft of banking has been lost. The engagement with trying to help people to engage economically, the relational aspect of buying a ‘share’ in a ‘corporation’ has been lost.

The second thought is about equality. In a quite brilliant analysis of acres of research, Richard Wilkinson and Katie Pickett have produced a beautifully crafted book The Spirit Level. It’s argument is simple, and with chart after chart, forcefully put: if we want to improve life for everyone we have simply to reduce income inequality. Societies with less income inequality – regardless of the actual level of mean income – have less violence, fewer problems with mental health, less obesity, few drug addicts, better education outcomes, more community spirit, less suicide, fewer people in prison and greater longevity. And let’s be clear: these improved outcomes work for all levels of that society.

So here’s my point: whatever tax receipts bankers and their gallons of money bring in, this money can never achieve the better outcomes that a more equitable society can. So let them bugger off abroad if they like. We’ll be more equal without them, and happier as a result.


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