Many facets of inequality revealed in online sources: Honest History miscellany

A current article in Guardian Weekly wonders if the abundance of online sources is killing memory. We don’t need to remember anything because we can look it up. Maybe.

The upside is the ease of finding information online – information that might previously have been locked away in expensive journals subject to ponderous production schedules. Inequality is a case in point: the collection of sources under our Inequality thumbnail grows pretty much weekly and most of the articles report extensive research by reputable bodies. The problem arises with the next step – doing something in a policy sense about what all these megabytes of evidence reveal to us.

A recent batch of articles that we linked to reveals again the breadth of the inequality issue, the number of its facets.

  • Ian McAuley in New Matilda takes a broad and historical view of globalisation and the people who are not winning from it. ‘Australia is entering a new era of political instability’, McAuley says, ‘and it has a lot to do with a feeling among many of being “left behind” in the race for prosperity’.
  • Thomas Clarke in The Conversation looks at the moral and economic aspects of inequality world-wide and in Australia. ‘Essentially, inequality causes lower growth and reduces efficiency as a lack of opportunity means that the most valuable asset in the economy – its people – are not fully utilised … Australia has now slipped into the bottom half of the OECD countries with the highest inequality.’
  • Gabrielle Chan in Guardian Australia reports on a Chifley Research Centre study on the costs of inequality to Australia’s GDP. ‘Governments need to do more’, says researcher Michael Cooney, ‘through policies which lift wages for middle class and working class Australians and ensure people reliant on government payments have adequate incomes, and with wider health, education, housing and retirement income policy’.
  • Former Labor Treasurer, Wayne Swan, involved in the Chifley study, says the current period of low interest rates is the ideal time to invest in infrastructure and put people to work. Future generations will rightly think us mad if we miss this opportunity.
  • Cheryl Crisp on the World Socialist Web Site looks at evidence of national differentials in admission rates for heart disease, another facet of inequality. She quotes a Heart Foundation report that the further one lives from a major city the greater the rate of heart-related hospital admissions. Remote Australia has higher rates of smoking, obesity, physical inactivity, disadvantage but lower access to health services and the conditions for healthy living.
  • An older report from Swinburne University and others measures the inequalities arising from access to the digital world. The digital divide is narrowing and there is an assumption that digital access is the norm. Yet digital access is uneven across the country. Some facets of inequality are not obvious.
  • Researchers Baker, Beer and Bentley report in The Conversation on their work on Australia’s housing stock. ‘Governments must take steps to ensure the supply of affordable housing of reasonable quality. Otherwise, we are destined to become a nation scarred once again by slums, reduced life chances and shortened lives.’ Another dimension of inequality.

To sum up: very little of this research should surprise; the question asked or implied in all of it is: what happens next?

26 August 2016

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