Different problems, common roots.

Roots. You know the kind of thing. In an earlier post, I described a desire to see societal issues tackled by identifying the root of the problem. To reiterate this point I’d like to draw from The Spirit Level which describes this approach much more convincingly. To quote directly…

“The health and social problems which we have found to be related to inequality tend to be treated by policy makers as if they were quite separate from one another, each needing separate services and remedies. We pay doctors and nurses to treat ill-health, police and prisons to deal with crime, remedial teachers to and educational psychologists to educational problems, and social workers, drug rehabilitation units, psychiatric services and health promotion experts to deal with a host of other problems. These services are all expensive, and none of them is more than partially effective.

“…And even when the various services are successful in stopping someone re-offending, in curing a cancer, getting someone off drugs or dealing with educational failure, we know that our societies are endlessly recreating these problems in each new generation.”

To paraphrase (perhaps unnecessarily), policy-makers would serve us better by treating the root rather than the symptoms. Furthermore, and in the context of The Spirit Level, authors Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett believe that income inequality is just such a root, given that common social problems are many times worse in unequal societies.

Is income inequality the root of our social problems? The evidence is pretty compelling (although I’m now curious about everything that could drive inequality) but it is the approach that I am highlighting here. We must understand and treat the root, not just the symptoms. We need to join up our thinking – find the links between the remarkable research that exists to help us understand how societies work.

With this in mind, it is important to research ‘root causes’ like income inequality and offer them for comment and debate. I want to join the search for root causes – to help identify them beyond any reasonable doubt, and consider how best to treat them.

And then? What next? Wait for policy-makers to take it on board? Hope that the next government listens a bit more? The aim, should we get to this stage, is to present the evidence and support for it in a way that is not only impossible for politicians to ignore, but enables our own communities to take action without waiting for legislation. We have a wonderful opportunity to learn and share knowledge that can impact all of our lives for the better – not just the poorest, but all of us. Let’s take it.

Matt Chocqueel-Mangan

Digital producer, agile practitioner, scrum master. Pursuing sustainable democracy and social change.

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