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If not now, then when? The Spirit Level

Image of goldfish in a bowlThe Spirit Level: how and why a major study on inequality has gained support.

As the campaign to raise funds for The Spirit Level Documentary reaches its final week (the deadline for donations is this Sunday, July 1st), support continues to flood in.

The campaign has shot past its $50,000 (30,000 GBP) target for Indiegogo donations, has built an online community of over two thousand and has received messages of support from around the world.

“Your initiative has had global impact”, “this is vital”, “a laudable goal” are just some of them.

And the campaign has received the backing of a number of prominent commentators, whose endorsements make the case for the project loud and clear:

"The Spirit Level is a remarkable study that spells out with stark clarity that more unequal societies are socially dysfunctional across the board. Income inequality, the authors show beyond any doubt, is not just bad for those at the bottom but for everyone. The Spirit Level film is a great opportunity to communicate these findings more widely. I urge anyone committed addressing the root causes of Britain's social problems to give it their support." -Will Hutton, Principal of Hertford College, Oxford; author of Hutton Review of fair pay in the public sector, former Chief Executive of the Work Foundation

"The Spirit Level transformed the political debate around inequality and its impact. No policy-maker dare ignore it, yet still too many pay only lip service to its powerful message. Now we need to harness public opinion to keep up the pressure on political leaders. The documentary can help do that and give voice to the millions of our citizens who want action to tackle inequality." - Kate Green MP, Former Chief Executive of the Child Poverty Action Group

"Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett did something enormously brave in writing the Spirit Level. They took the methods of economics and showed that what economists prescribe does not work. More is not always better, as economists say. Richard and Kate showed once we have enough equality always produces better outcomes. What is more aiming for equality can help everyone have enough. That's an enormously powerful message that needs to be heard more widely. Please support this appeal to help that happen." - Richard Murphy, Tax Research UK

"The arguments for inequality have been made too loudly and for too long. The consequences are all around us. If now is not the time to hear from the other side, when is?" - Nick Cohen, The Observer; author of You Can't Read This Book

This final comment from Nick Cohen really hits the nail on the head. There are plenty of voices (many of them handsomely funded by all-too opaque interests) willing to brand inequality necessary or even desirable.

And as Kate Green notes, many more are ready to pay lip service to the need to attenuate the gap between rich and poor, but fail to walk the walk.

The case for the alternative - a concerted campaign to put inequality on the agenda - has never been more urgent. Just consider the landscape. Economists Saez and Piketty recently showed that the income share of the richest 0.1% of Americans has quadrupled from 2% to 8% since 1960.

Media-savvy protest outfits such as Occupy have dragged the notion of the 1% out of the fringe and into the mainstream. In his book 'Fault Lines', the celebrated academic Raghuram Rajan has demonstrated the prominent place of inequality amongst the causes of the global financial crisis. The OECD now states that the income gap is growing faster in the UK than in any other rich country.

No work has better crystallized the eddies and currents of research and scholarship around inequality than The Spirit Level.

As Hutton and Murphy mention, the book marshals an impressive arsenal of evidence to show that a whole range of social ills - health problems, violence, low trust, drug use, teenage pregnancy and many others - are more acute in unequal societies.

The authors - Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett - have assiduously rebutted various ill-founded attacks on their work (none of which, they note, have been peer-reviewed).

Yet as the social theorist David Beetham noted in his review of The Spirit Level back in April 2010, after the initial flurry of coverage, "its message has now almost totally disappeared from public view". Politicians who once cited its findings in speeches and essays (the Prime Minister amongst them) are now conspicuously quiet on the topic.

That is why, in this final week of the campaign, the documentary team are asking everyone who supports this essential project to donate - or, if they have already done so, to ask their friends to join the growing community backing the film by donating and spreading the word further.

There is still a long way to go to reach the full budget for production and distribution of the film; the more raised, the faster the team can begin making something that could really spread the word. An Inconvenient Truth and Age of Stupid did it for climate change: it is high time to do so for inequality.

If not now, then when?

Find out more:

1. Share our campaign page here: indiegogo.com/spiritlevelfilm
2. TELL your friends, family, colleagues, neighbours, students about this campaign and share the page with them
3. SHARE the campaign page through facebook
4. SHARE the campaign page through Twitter @SpiritLevelDoc
5. Sign up to our newsletter at www.thespiritleveldocumentary.com to find out more about the campaign as it progresses.

Jeremy Cliffe is a Contributing Editor at Shifting Grounds, and tweets from www.twitter.com/jeremycliffe


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