Max Rashbrooke has another excellent piece on inequality in The Guardian:
New Zealanders need to share our common wealth. Let’s start by discussing inequality
The emergence of a young, monied elite whose inherited wealth is highly visible is a new thing for New Zealand – but how do we respond?
The core of my book is straightforward information: new data showing that the wealthiest 10th of New Zealanders own more than half of all assets, while the poorest 50% have just 4%.
Most of the talk to date about “inequality” has actually been about poverty, the problem of the poorest families falling behind the middle. Inequality is also about the most affluent households pulling away from the rest. This matters because the two trends are connected: we can understand poverty only by understanding affluence.
Wages are so low because in the last 30 years the workplace balance of power has shifted away from salary earners and towards the owners of capital, such as shareholders, investors and banks, allowing them to take a growing share of company income. The average New Zealand working person earns $10,000 less than they would if they had kept their early 1990s share of income.
Similarly, our benefits are much lower than those in other countries – for single people they replace just a third of the average wage, whereas in the Netherlands that figure is 70%. That is partly because we don’t generate enough tax revenue from our wealthiest citizens.
We don’t tax wealth, gifts, inheritances or, except in limited circumstances, gains made from selling assets. That stance is justified by the idea that allowing some people to become very wealthy is the best route to raising incomes for all. So just as a seesaw makes no sense if we look only at one end of it, neither can poverty be understood without considering both ends of the spectrum.
For some people, these facts are confronting. While poverty can be “othered”, or held at a distance, talking about wealth forces people to see inequality, in Linda Tuhiwai Smith’s words, as “a whole-of-society problem”. They have to consider their own position of power and privilege. …
Rashbrooke also discusses the reaction to his book:
…I was a little surprised to find that only a couple of days after my book’s launch, I was described on social media as “consumed by hatred”. Others labelled me a “dangerous communist” and a “depressive leftie”.
— Max Rashbrooke (@MaxRashbrooke) November 23, 2015
See a depressing discussion that followed on the kinds of attacks that Rashbrooke and others have endured.