Labour-run Islington Council has set up the Islington Fairness Commission. While the rest of us get on with the challenge of keeping down Council Tax and defending front line services, Islington indulge in a talking shop.
It's chairman (or "chair" as, of course, Islington Council describe him) is Richard Wilkinson, the co author with Kate Pickett, of The Spirit Level which justified Big Government on the grounds that egalitariansim makes society as a whole better off. Islington Council sound as if they will be very deferential towards the "leading expert" Wilkinson.
But perhaps before agreeing to whatever he proposes they ought to ask him to reply to the following questions posed by Christopher Snowdon, author of The Spirit Level Delusion: Fact-checking the Left's new theory of everything.
1. Why do you exclude the Czech Republic, South Korea and Hong Kong from your analysis when all these societies are wealthier than Portugal?
2. Why do you exclude Singapore from your graph of mental illness when you included it in the same graph when it was published in Olivers James' Affluenza?
3. Why do you say that the USA’s decline in homicide ended in 2005 when 2008 saw the lowest number of homicides since 1965? As you must know, America's murder rate has halved in the last two decades despite rising inequality.
4. Why did you use older data for your life expectancy/inequality graph than you used elsewhere in The Spirit Level? Is it because more recent data shows no correlation with inequality?
5. You use the high rate of teen births in Portugal (in 2002) as proof that inequality is related to teen births. Why do you not mention that abortion was illegal in Portugal until 2007?
6. Why do you not include the crime rate in your index of health and social problems? Is it because the crime rate tends to be higher in 'more equal' countries?
7. Why do you say that homicide is inversely related to suicide when there is no evidence for this?
8. Why do you suggest that people in more equal countries give more to charity when the reverse is true?
9. Why did Kate make a video called ‘Why Cubans live longer than Americans?’ when all the sources show that life expectancy in Cuba is lower than in the USA?
10. Why do you write about "increased family break-down and family stress in less equal countries" when divorce and single-parent households tend to be more common in more equal countries?
11. Why do you say that community life is weaker in less equal countries when these nations have more people involved in community organisations (charities, sports clubs, environmental groups etc.)?
12. Do you accept that the World Values Survey data show no correlation between 'happiness' and inequality, but a strong correlation between 'happiness' and income?
13. On page 19 of The Spirit Level, you say you included alcohol addiction as a 'health and social problem', but you never discuss it in the rest of the book. Is this because the highest rates of
alcoholism are in Scandinavia?
14. Why do you show no data about the (high) prevalence of mental illness in Scandinavia?
15. If equality creates good health, why does Denmark currently have the lowest life expectancy of any country in your list?
16. Why were Singapore and Hong Kong excluded from your graph on obesity?
17. Do you accept that the "correlation" between trust and equality rests entirely on figures from the four Nordic countries and that there is no pattern amongst the remaining 19 nations?
18. Why do you say that young people "defer sexual activity" in more equal countries when there is no evidence for this?
19. If greater equality makes countries less violent and more law-abiding, why does Sweden have the highest rate of rape and theft of any country in your list? Why does Finland have the highest murder rate in Europe?
20. Since when has the definition of a tax haven been a country with fewer than 3 million inhabitants? Isn't this just an excuse to leave out Slovenia?