Equality for All?
Over the past half-century, globalization has narrowed the gap between rich and poor in the world as a whole. But the gap between rich and poor within Western democracies has widened, posing serious risks to the hard-fought gains of social and democratic reform movements over the past 200 years.
LONDON – Last month, I was invited to speak at the York Festival of Ideas, an annual forum for debating alternative, predominantly progressive policy goals. I talked about my work on asset-price stabilization. Andy Wood of the consultancy Grant Thornton spoke about inclusiveness in business, Neil McInroy of the Center for Local and Economic Strategies discussed local organizing, and Ander Etxeberria of the Mondragon Corporation told us about their employee-owned cooperatives in the Basque Country. But, most importantly, Wanda Wyporska of The Equality Trust gave a fascinating talk about the principle of “equality for all.”
Few on the left or the right nowadays would actively advocate inequality for all. Rather, the divide is between conservatives who promote equality of opportunity and progressives who promote equality of outcomes. This is an important distinction. But whatever your definition of equality, the bigger question is how best to achieve it.
After World War II, the world adopted the Bretton Woods system, whereby countries maintained fixed exchange rates against the dollar, and capital was largely immobile at the international level. When tourists from the United Kingdom traveled to France, Italy, or Spain, they faced restrictions on how many francs, lire, or pesetas they could buy; and international investment was constrained by a pervasive system of capital controls.