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The Fair Society series: understanding inequality, meritocracy and mobility

The Policy Institute has partnered with the newly established Fairness Foundation to explore issues of fairness, inequality and meritocracy with some of the world's leading thinkers. In a series of online events, they'll discuss their ideas and work with other leading experts and look at how we can move closer to a world in which everyone has equal chances in life.


Visit the Fairness Foundation website > 

The Inequality of Wealth: Why it Matters and How to Fix It



The super-rich have never had it so good – but millions can't afford a home, an education or a pension, argues former Treasury minister Liam Byrne MP in his new book, The Inequality of Wealth: Why it Matters and How to Fix it.

He says that unless we change course soon, the future will be even worse. Much worse. But things don't have to be like this. In the book, Byrne explains why wealth inequality has grown so fast in recent years; warns how it threatens our society, economy and politics; shows where economics has got it wrong – and proposes five practical ways to rebuild an old ideal: the wealth-owning democracy.


Peter Turchin on End Times: Counter-Elites and the Path of Political Disintegration



What factors drive political turmoil and societal breakdown? How do elites sustain their dominance, and why do ruling classes occasionally lose their hold on power?

Peter Turchin, an expert in researching the origins of political instability, uncovers a recurring trend. When the scales of power heavily favour the ruling elite, it leads to a surge in income inequality, enriching the wealthy and impoverishing the less privileged. As more individuals aspire to join the elite, dissatisfaction with the established order intensifies, often resulting in calamity.

Are we truly living in "End Times," or can history provide a glimmer of optimism for breaking free from past cycles?



The Spirit Level revisited – with Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson


In their influential and award-winning 2009 book The Spirit Level: Why Equality is Better for Everyone, Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson argue that societies with the biggest gaps between the rich and the rest are bad for everyone, including those who are most well off.

They contend that everything from life expectancy, mental illness and obesity to violence and illiteracy is affected not by the wealth of a society, but its level of equality and propose solutions to move towards a future that is both fairer and happier.

In this session from the Policy Institute and the Fairness Foundation, we revisited The Spirit Level and its lasting impact on how we think about inequality.


How to create a fair society: can the left and the right find common ground?

How do politicians from the Conservative and Labour parties think about what a fair society looks like? Are their differences intractable, or are there areas with as-yet unrealised potential for cross-party consensus? If we can find common ground between the fairness principles and priorities of those on the left and the right, what might this look like in terms of concrete policy solutions?

In his new book, Free and Equal: What Would a Fair Society Look Like? Daniel Chandler builds on the philosophy of John Rawls to argue for a society that protects free speech and transcends culture wars, limits the influence of money on politics, and builds a more just economy that operates within the limits of the planet.

Mark Carney & Nick Macpherson on Value(s): Building a Better World for All

In his recent book, Value(s): Building a Better World for All, former Governor of the Bank of England Mark Carney argues fundamental problems – such as growing inequality in income and opportunity, mistrust of experts, and the existential threat of climate change – all stem from a common crisis in values. In this webinar, Carney discusses his vision for a fairer and more humane society with Nick Macpherson, former Permanent Secretary to the Treasury and Policy Institute Visiting Professor with the Strand Group.

Sir Michael Marmot on The Health Gap: The Challenge of an Unequal World

Dramatic differences in health are not a simple matter of rich and poor – poverty alone doesn't drive ill health, but inequality does. Marmot and our panel explain why it’s more urgent than ever that we tackle inequalities in order to improve health, why more progress has not been made in the last decade, and how we can rectify this failure in the era of levelling up.

Selina Todd on Snakes and Ladders: The Great British Social Mobility Myth

Travelling up or down the social ladder has been a British obsession for over a century, but can political leaders continue to claim that social mobility is a real and just reward for hard work? Professor Selina Todd and our panel discuss class and social mobility in modern Britain and how we can create greater opportunities for all.

Minouche Shafik on What We Owe Each Other: A New Social Contract

In What We Owe Each Other: A New Social Contract, economist and Director of the LSE, Minouche Shafik, examines societies across the world and demonstrates that the urgent challenges of technology, demography and climate require a major shift in priorities – a social contract fit for the 21st century.


Michael Sandel on The Tyranny of Merit: What's Become of the Common Good?


What accounts for our polarised public life, and how can we begin to heal it? Political philosopher Michael Sandel offers a surprising answer: those who have flourished need to look in the mirror.

In his book, The Tyranny of Merit: What's Become of the Common Good?, Sandel explores how "meritocratic hubris" leads many to believe their success is their own doing and to look down on those who haven't made it, provoking resentment and inflaming the divide between "winners" and "losers" in the new economy.