Tuesday, 12 October 2010

I Believe that I do not Believe in the Spirit Level

On the Radio 4 Program, Analysis, there was well presented and balanced report on that unlikely bestseller the "Spirit Level". This book is being read, digested and regurgitated by all quarters of the political classes. The book is a scientific study which claims to have found increasing evidence that societies which are inherently unequal are the ones which fail quality of life indicators such as levels of youth crime, teenage pregnancy and child will being. I've only had the most fleeting of looks at this book so I'm not have any place to judge but what I do know is that it has been pulled apart by statisticians and even my basic A-level knowledge of statistics can see that some of the figures stretch linear regression beyond breaking point to establish the "facts". I don't get particularly vexed about political commentators imposing their own views, although the spirit level is supposed to be a scientific analysis and not political. But where I think true blue Tories will not be able to accept the book's findings lies in some simple heartfelt beliefs which we all have and where the centrepiece of Michael Howard's 2005 general election campaign. Although this seems like 1000 years ago it would not take too much of a memory jolt to remember his "I believe" speech. The part of Michael Howard's speech which I find most at odds with the spirit level is one of his "I do not believes". - "I do not believe that one person's poverty is caused by another's wealth". In fact most of the "I do not believe" parts of his election address are at 90° to the political theory contained in the spirit level such as "I do not believe that one person's sickness is made worse by another's health". I know what I choose to believe, I believe in the "I believe" of Michael Howard (http://tinyurl.com/29xawyj). I do not believe in the Spirit Level.

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