The Steady State Economy Conference

Workshop 3: Distribution of Income and Wealth

Question: In a steady state economy, how can fair distribution of income and wealth be ensured?

Why: Currently, economic growth is used as an excuse to avoid dealing with both poverty and inequality. The conventional wisdom is that “a rising tide lifts all boats”. However, this trickle down approach has not reduced inequality in the UK. In fact, over the past 30 years, the gap between the richest and poorest 10% of the UK population grew by almost 40%. As described in The Spirit Level by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett, income inequality within society results in a variety of health and social problems, including decreased trust, increased mental illness, and higher crime rates. High levels of inequality also tend to lead to unhealthy status competition, and therefore to higher levels of material consumption than are necessary to meet people’s needs, with negative consequences for the environment.

In a steady state economy, a stable level of resource use would imply a stable, non-growing stream of total income. To alleviate poverty and reduce inequality, the issue of how to distribute this income needs to be dealt with explicitly.

How: Some approaches that have been proposed to achieve a fair distribution of resources in a steady state economy include: a basic (or citizen’s) income for all, a maximum income, revised income tax structures, employee-owned cooperatives, improved access to education/health, and improvements to the local environment in deprived areas.

Kate Pickett    Kate Pickett (Speaker)

Kate Pickett is a Senior Lecturer at the University of York and a National Institute for Health Research Career Scientist. She studied physical anthropology at Cambridge, nutritional sciences at Cornell and epidemiology at Berkeley before spending four years as an Assistant Professor at the University of Chicago. She has published research on a wide range of topics from the effects of smoking during pregnancy to the effects of income inequality on public health. She is the author, with Richard Wilkinson, of The Spirit Level: Why more equal societies almost always do better (2009).

John Battle John Battle (Chair

John Battle was a Leeds City Councillor from 1980 to 1987, the 1st Director of Church Action on Poverty from 1984 to 1987, and represented Leeds West as the Labour Member of Parliament from 1987 to 2010. He campaigned for and introduced in Government the Statutory Minimum Wage, and recently campaigned for legislation against loan sharks and to cap high interest rates. He lives in West Leeds and is a member of West Leeds Debt Forum and Bramley Credit Union.

Kathryn Fitzsimons (Rapporteur)

Kathryn is the Urban Officer for the Diocese of Ripon and Leeds. She was ordained in 1990 and since 1999 has worked with Christian congregations across Leeds as they respond to current issues such as the plight of asylum seekers, the levels of debt in our poorer communities and the rise of political extremism. She is involved in developing Community Organising in Leeds. She represents Christian faith communities within the local strategic partnership structures and was elected as the first chair of Third Sector Leeds, a new approach to enabling voluntary, community and faith based organisations to work together more effectively at the strategic level.

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