Breadline Britain – the return of mass poverty

Breadline Britain – the return of mass poverty

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By: Stewart Lansley (with Joanna Mack) (Oneworld Publications (2015))

Review by: Tom Rubens

Stewart Lansley’s book Breadline Britain presents a concise and powerful analysis of the huge increase in economic inequality in Britain since the late 1970s. Today, the top 1% of the population possess a full 14% of national income. This is partly the result of the long-term decline in the share of economic output which goes to wages, and of the long-term rise in the share going to profits. Currently, one in five workers is low-paid.

The argument that a de-regulated, laissez-faire capitalism would in due course bring more benefits for everyone has been disproved: as clearly demonstrated by the immense gap between profits and wages. Economic inequality has stifled the purchasing power of wage-earners. Also, corporate profits have led, not to more productivity, innovation and jobs, but to company cash-surpluses lying idle, not put to productive use.

Lansley suggests that the way out of this situation would be to break up Britain’s massive concentration of economic power, in favour of smaller businesses and wage-earners; and to move to more collective business models, including co-operatives. In the meantime, measures should be taken to ensure: full tax-collection from the rich; caps on corporate salaries; tighter regulations on finance; shrinkage of the financial sector; and an increase in workers’ bargaining power.

Lansley quotes data from a range of sources including his other book, The Cost of Inequality. These are listed in the Notes at the end of his text in the August issue of Ethical Record, reporting his talk to CHES on 28 June 2015 on this subject.



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