Kate Pickett to speak at SLF Conference

The Social Liberal Forum exists and campaigns to create a society where everyone has access to the wealth, power and opportunity to enable us all to lead full and rewarding lives, unfettered by social hardship.  We speak for and promote a vision for social justice.  So we are thrilled to announce that Kate Pickett, co author of The Spirit Level and the newly published book, The Inner Level, will be speaking at the annual SLF Conference on 28th July this year.

The Spirit Level, published in 2009, was a highly influential book, going on to sell 150,000 copies.  It demonstrated conclusively the pernicious effects of economic inequality. In more unequal countries, outcomes are worse for almost everyone in areas such as public health, education, obesity and social mobility.

In The Inner Level Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson posit that the growing level of anxiety in our society stems in larger part from increasing social pressures brought about by material inequalities—in effect greater status anxiety.  A recent meta-analysis of studies published in the Lancet Psychiatry concluded that rates of metal illness were higher in societies with larger income differences.  The UK and USA are at the top of the graph on both mental illness and income inequality.

We hope that this link between inequality and the growing tide of mental illness will be one of the focuses of Kate’s presentation at our conference.  However, there is much more crossover between the thinking behind Richard and Kate’s most recent book and the guiding philosophy behind the social liberal movement.  The co-operative model for workers, employee representation on company boards, and an education system that is inclusive and where the professionalism of teachers is respected are also discussed in The Inner Level.

We are sure there will be much food for thought and much to debate at this, our eighth annual conference.  

We hope that you can join us on 28 July (http://www.socialliberal.net/slfconference)* to hear Kate Pickett and our other speakers talk about Big Ideas across the policy space.  We are fortunate this year to have an amazing line up, including: Layla Moran MP (who will be giving the annual Beveridge Memorial Lecture), Ed Davey MP, Baroness Kishwer Falkner, Caron Lindsay, David Howarth, Duncan Brack, Lucy Salek and many more.  

* The Early Bird rate runs out on 27 June, saving £10 on the regular full price ticket

* Helen Flynn is an Executive Member of the LDEA. She is a former Parliamentary Candidate and Harrogate Borough Councillor and has served on the Federal Policy Committee and Federal Board. She has been a school governor in a variety of settings for 19 years and currently chairs a multi academy trust in the north of England.

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Daniel Carr 24th Jun '18 - 6:05pm

    Alas, the conclusions reached in The Spirit Level were far from conclusive. Before moving to the UK I briefly worked Australia’s top research economists turned Labor MP, Dr Andrew Leigh. Andrew is fiercely committed to tackling inequality – and wrote a book, Battlers and Billionares, about rising inequality in Australia and policies to reduce this. He reached a conclusion I share: the Spirit Level is a very poor attempt at examining evidence.

    It just makes cross-country international comparisons that tell you very little, rather than looking at how changes in inequality and other factors it seeks to claim are related (crime, mental illness etc) correlate over time (itself a measure still prone to error, but better than their attempt). When you look at the latter, most of the findings disappear. Many nations with rising inequality have seen health outcomes improve across the board. On crime and teenage pregnancy, the US has seen steep falls in these over the last few decades despite inequality increasing. Leigh blog – linked below – goes into more detail and cites robust research to back these trends up.

    That’s not to say we shouldn’t be looking at tackling inequality. Just that as an evidenced based party, we should not let ourselves get fooled into backing poorly evidenced diagnosis or remedies.


  • Daniel Carr,

    books published for a wider readership than the academic scientific community necessarily simplify the presentations. They are not filed with T-tests or other statistical analysis of sampling populations.
    That does not mean that Spirit Level co-authors Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett (two epidemiologists — scientists who study the health of populations) are not serious scientists. They also publish peer reviewed academic research papers that back-up their research.

    So too Thomas Piketty who has published an accessible tome – Capital in the 21st Century.

    Top economists in the study of inequality like Joseph Stiglitz and the late Tony Atkinson and others like Paul Krugman engage with their work.

    Piketty’s argument in plain terms is that : “Wealth accumulated in the past grows more rapidly than output and wages.” Inevitably, the entrepreneur “tends to become a rentier, more and more dominant over those who own nothing but their labor.” Eventually, “the past devours the future.”

    Books like the Spirit Level and Capital in the 21st Century do a great service in bringing to the attention of policy makers and the wider public the kind of work being undertaken in the study of these issues.

  • Helen Dudden 24th Jun '18 - 7:21pm

    I agree totally. Mothers being encouraged to work with babies. Have a baby, and back to work. It’s all about superficial and materialistic possessions, and nothing related to normal lifestyles. Child care is expensive, I’ve nothing against working mothers, I was one after becoming a widow, 40 years ago. But families need stability, school holidays and illness. I remember it well. How my children loved to have me around.
    Mental health is more now, with teenagers and young adults.
    As I read more about aggressive gang behaviour, is it simply not enough policing?

  • Peter Hirst 27th Jun '18 - 9:54am

    Inequality is a scale and there is an optimum level, underpinned by a threshold below which help is or should be provided. I think we can tolerate a great deal of material inequality as long as those on the lower end feel that they have a reasonable quality of life. Not everyone wants to be a millionaire preferring sound relationships, time to enjoy their life and give to their community.

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