OTOH there is a theory that Great States need a certain degree of inequality to become Great States. Bird Dog recently linked to this great article by Mr David Brooks where he outlines this view succintly.
Americans don’t particularly like government, but they do want government to subsidize their health care. They believe that health care spending improves their lives more than any other public good. In a Quinnipiac poll, typical of many others, Americans opposed any cuts to Medicare by a margin of 70 percent to 25 percent.
So far, defense budgets have not been squeezed by the Medicare vise. But that is about to change. Oswald Spengler didn’t get much right, but he was certainly correct when he told European leaders that they could either be global military powers or pay for their welfare states, but they couldn’t do both.
Europeans, who are ahead of us in confronting that decision, have chosen welfare over global power. European nations can no longer perform many elemental tasks of moving troops and fighting. As late as the 1990s, Europeans were still spending 2.5 percent of G.D.P. on defense. Now that spending is closer to 1.5 percent, and, amid European malaise, it is bound to sink further.
Mr Brooks doesn't spell out why inequality is essential for Great Power status, but one can read a little between the lines. Presumably less welfare spending ensures more competition, more living on the edge, a more competitive labour pool - sharpens the appetite for conflict and so forth. And indeed, the nations currently aspiring Great Power status, the BRICS, all stand out in that they are accelarating inequality.
So is it true? Do we really need inequality to further Great Power status? Statistics would appear to bear this out, so perhaps we need to consider and discuss this theory before rejecting it out of hand. Looking just at lessons learned from Americans, we see that as the America grew to be the world's premier and unchallenged military power from the 1950s through to the 2010s
When compared with the average of peer countries, Americans as a group fare worse in at least nine health areas:
• infant mortality and low birth weight
• injuries and homicides
• adolescent pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections
• HiV and AiDS • drug-related deaths • obesity and diabetes • heart disease • chronic lung disease • disability
Many of these conditions have a particularly pro- found effect on young people, reducing the odds that Americans will live to age 50 (see figures on next page). And for those who reach age 50, these conditions contribute to poorer health and greater illness later in life.
Not only that, Americans are pretty low in the group of 17 comparably wealthy nations in basic statistics such as life expectancy, IMR and so forth. Now, America being vastly more heterogeneous than, say, Japan, it means that average statistics show clearly that at least the upper 50th centile (the articulate and involved) is probably faring better than the corresponding centile in Japan. And at the same time, the lower centiles are probably doing considerably worse than similar populations in the other, more homogeneous states. We track American levels of inequality here - and anecdotally, so do the other BRICS; clearly we prefer the American model to, say, the European one. Are we right to do so?