Effects of a Society’s State of Equality on its Strength

Effects of a Society’s State of Equality on its Strength


In the ancient days, cases of inequality were uncommon, communities treated all individuals equally and communal resources were shared. However, this changed about 1000 years ago when humans learned how to privatize lands after the invention of agriculture. Since these changes, various effects of inequality have been felt by humanity. It is not surprising how modern inequality leads to health and social problems. As explained by Wilkinson and Pickett (2010) in their book The Spirit Level Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger, state affects not only the poor but everyone in the society. Many scholars and writers have diverse opinion as far as this subject is concerned. Hence, this paper seeks to bring about the dividing line between the two opposing sides. In this sense, it seeks to examine as well as provide a clear view of the issues and talks societal inequality, its causes, effects and remedies.. Majorly, this paper will dwell on the social problems, the effect of equality on health as well as on crime and its corrections or imprisonment. In sum, it is true that greater equality makes societies stronger.









Effects of a Society’s State of Equality on its Strength

To what extent should societies’ state of equality be seen as the spirit level that measures societies’ strength? This is a subject, which so many people have sought to understand.  The quest for society’s equality and its role has elicited different opinions and ideas. This has seen so many scholars and writers get on board the world over to give their opinion on this subject. However, in spite of the different ideas as well as opinions given and scholarly articles published, there remains a big question, should we view society’s strength in terms of their equality?

However, in support of the assertion that “greater equality makes societies stronger,” the paper explores the ideas and opinions that Wilkinson and Pickett put forward in their book, The Spirit Level: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger as well as The spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better. The two texts point out clearly that there are so many effects out there, which many people are not aware of and which come up as a result of income inequality in a society. Besides, Wilkinson and Pickett (2010) point out that the effects of inequality among individuals affect not only the poor and less equal, but also the rich. In The Spirit Level: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger, they further argue the malicious implications caused by the cases of societal lack of equality. True to the assertion, inequality in any society is likely to lead to social evils. For instance, lack of equality may lead to trust erosion, increased anxiety as well as increased prevalence of communicable diseases in various societal quotas. This in effect encourages crimes, excessive consumption thereby leading to a plethora of health and social problems (Wilkinson & Pickett, 2010).

There are a number of health and social problems that result from a society’s lack of equality. Some of the pressing health and social problems in any society are as follows:

  • Mental health; the correlation between income disparity and health problems, specifically mental health indicate that higher incomes experience better conditions because of ease of access to healthcare services.
  • Drug abuse; many individuals will resort to drug abuse as a hide out from their problems
  • Physical health; due to lack of proper diet as the affected individuals are not able to get the recommended diet and as such it may lead to malnutrition to small kids
  • Education; higher income allows access to better quality education. This empowers societies. If part of the society receives education, they access employment opportunities while others do not. This furthers inequality and associated problems.
  • Social molarity: for instance prostitution witnessed by teenage girls as a way of earning their livelihood
  • Imprisonment; as a result of involvement in criminal activities so as to satisfy basic needs
  • And trust erosion: especially by neighboring societies and investors

As such, a society that is more unequal will be characterized by high prevalence of violence since the poor will struggling to survive on the limited available resources, while they will always feel deprived by the rich. In addition, as Wilkinson and Pickett (2010) put it, teenage pregnancies will continually be on the rise while the well-being of the children will remain significantly compromised in such unequal societies. It has been been reporteded time and again that cases of teenage pregnancies are on the rise due to poverty (Wilkinson & Pickett, 2010). Ideally, children remain so overpowered by the status in their homes such that they have to seek for means of survival. In the end, the innocent teenage girls end up in ruthless hands of the rich who impregnate them on claims that they are trying to ease the poverty in the girl’s home (Wilkinson & Pickett, 2010). If the world were fair, everybody would be at the same level with their neighbor in terms of equal richness. As such, some societal problems and illness would be at bay. On this note, Wilkinson and Pickett (2010) conclude that the societies which offer the best for their people are those which have equal distribution of resources.

It is therefore true that greater equality makes a society stronger. Just as Adam Smith in Wealth of Nations puts it, anything that enhances the situations as well as the activities of the greater part of the society can never be used as a representative of the whole community’s well-being. On the other hand, it is clear that there is no single society can surely be developing as well as achieving happiness for all its members while larger parts of the same society remain underprivileged and miserable. Instead, there will be dissatisfaction and rise in social evils.

Evidently, a society’s status will in the long run dictate the type of life to be lived. True and quantifiable economic and social development cannot be realized in a society where one group remains extremely rich while the rest remain poor. The less privileged members will continuously pull down the more privileged in trying to bring the society to a state of equality. The society will therefore become a victim of fights for equality. In this continuous struggle, the resultant outcome will be social and health problems that affect the whole society. Due to inadequacy, the less equal individuals will get into crimes and prostitution as ways of acquiring possessions, a process geared towards trying to achieve equality. In the long run, the society gets torn apart when the social problems outweigh the available resources. It is for this reason that the society’s equality becomes vital.

Wilkinson and Pickett (2010) explain this phenomenon in the form of graphs. Clearly, their presentation of the effects of inequality in terms of income is a true picture of what really happens to a society suffering from inequality. Such a society will have so many cases of homicides and a clear look in the matter, unveils that a majority of the victims are those at the higher sides of the income inequality balance (Kalleberg et al., 2004).

In addition, a large group of people suffering from mental illness will most likely come from those who fall in the lower side of the inequality sphere. Due to this state of the society having so many people with health problems, the economy of such a society will be negatively affected (Wilkinson & Pickett, 2009). The society will have to spend so much of its earned revenue in health expenses, thereby undermining its economy. This is because the cost of healthcare is consistently on the rise, even with other commodities in the market experiencing tremendous drops. In essence, the considerably less equal will tend to fight against inequalities and consequently, cause a state of push and pull within the society depriving it of its strength.

The society’s relation with other societies largely depends on its economic state. One that is suffering from issues of income inequality will tend to scare away prospective investors. This in effect results to low investment from investors and hence poor economy growth. Quintessentially, the relevance of equality in a society presents itself as the driving force responsible for sustainable economic development as well as social wellbeing.

What about the education sector in a society faced by inequality problems?  Definitely, such a society is deemed to have so many illiterate individuals. The effect of this is equally negative to the society. While illiteracy remains a direct cause of un-employability, the societal production and output ability will extremely drop. In essence there will be overdependence on donor funds which is not a sure and sustainable source for funding. What therefore can a society experiencing income inequality and very low economic growth give in return? The result is that the society’s economy will deteriorate further and further as there would be so many unproductive individuals. Ideally, if the society were having equality in its income as well as resource distribution, its members would get educated to become productive individuals. Individuals who can help to grow the society’s economy further and hence its stability, as Wilkinson and Pickett (2009) assert, the strength of a society fundamentally depends on the society’s state of equality.

According to Wilkinson and Pickett (2010), it is clear that public investment in education is a sure path to a better economic world. The reason for this is the fact that an educated population has an improved and more efficient entrepreneurial and investment ability. This culminates wealth creation tendencies and consequent improved living standards. This implies fulfilled people as well as a healthy society. Therefore, the revenue that such a society gets would be used to further investments other than getting used to take care of a sick population or provision of necessities to criminals or perhaps paying grants. The productivity of such a society would tend to take a circular form, whereby the resources acquired are invested back towards building a better society. The resultant effect of a more equal society is increased economic stability, better health care, and less crime (David, 2013).

Wilkinson and Pickett (2010) clearly present their argument basing the ideas on touching on the issues that arise as a result of inequality within the society. Traced to their roots, the problems within societies are more inequality based. Health problems, social evils, prevalence of illiteracy, and high economic disparity all have their roots in societal inequality structures. The more unequal a society is, the less stable its economy and social institutions.

In societies whereby the disparities in income between the poor and the rich are unnoticed, studies show that such a community’s life is far stronger, and that violence cases are minimal. As well, the health standards in such societies tend to rise with each new day (Wilkinson & Pickett, 2009). Wilkinson and Pickett (2010) highlight that the simple reason for negative situations like unending poverty in other occasions is due to inequality all levels of societal structures. In very unequal communities, people lesser endowed with wealth are likely to have social status, which is not wholly satisfying for them.

In conclusion, a society’s state of equality (in income and resource endowment) is the spirit level that can be used to measure the society’s strength (in its economy, education, as well as social mobility). As opined by Wilkinson and Pickett, it is true that more ‘more equal societies almost always do better’ and ‘greater equality makes societies stronger.’ Not only do they indicate why inequality is the cause of the problem but also suggest logical ways out of this problem.




David, R. (2013). How messy it all is. London Review of Books, 31 (20), 3-6. Retrieved from: http://www.lrb.co.uk/v31/n20/david-runciman/how-messy-it-all-is

Kalleberg, et al. (2004). Inequality: Structures, Dynamics and Mechanisms: Essays in Honour of Age B. Sørensen. Amsterdam: Elsevier JAI.

Wilkinson, R. G., & Pickett, K. (2009). The spirit level: Why more equal societies almost always do better. London: Allen Lane.

Wilkinson, R. G., & Pickett, K. (2010). The spirit level: Why greater equality makes societies stronger. New York: Bloomsbury Press.