KAMLOOPS — The antics of some Conservative leadership hopefuls are pathetic. Chris Alexander at a rally bobs his head in rhythm to the chants “lock her up” in reference to Premier Rachel Notley, tone deaf to the toxic implications; Kellie Leitch calls for immigrants to be tested for “Canadian Values” even though no such test exists and if it did, she would probably fail.
Trump-style populism will not succeed because Canadians are not ripe for such politics –we need more inequality and the resultant unhappiness for this approach to work.
Inequality creates a sense of injustice and anger that manifests itself in a variety of ways. Jan-Emmanuel De Neve and Nattavudh Powdthavee researched the effects of inequality for the Harvard Business Review (January, 2016). They found that anger and stress increased in countries where the richest 1 per cent controlled the greatest share of wealth.
“In societies where the richest hold most of the country’s income, people were more likely to report feeling ‘stressed,’ ‘worried,’ or ‘angry’ on the day before the survey.”
Angry politicians appeal to angry voters. Trump’s anger is what propelled him into power; that’s why his racist and misogynistic views were largely overlooked. He was as mad as hell and wasn’t going to take it any more.
It’s not just anger that is affected. As anger went up, life satisfaction went down.
“We examined data from the Gallup World Poll and the World Top Incomes Database and found that the more income is concentrated in the hands of a few, the more likely individuals are to report lower levels of life satisfaction and more negative daily emotional experiences.”
Life satisfaction exacerbates unemployment. For every 1 per cent increase in the share of income of the top 1 per cent, unemployment rises by 1.4 per cent. There are a couple of factors involved --exporting jobs to areas of cheap labour increases profits; unhappy workers tend to be less productive, take longer sick leaves, and quit their jobs.
At the other end of the scale, greater wealth also creates unhappiness. Nobel laureates Daniel Kahneman and Angus Deaton calculated that day-to-day happiness peaks at an income of $75,000 a year, after which it plateaus. Inequality creates unhappiness at both ends of the wealth spectrum.
Canada is the sixth most happy country in the world according to the World Happiness Report behind the Scandinavian countries but ahead of the U.S. at thirteenth. Can you guess how these counties rank in equality? Right, the Scandinavian countries are the most equal followed by Canada and then the U.S.
Inequality is rising fastest in the U.S. where the top 1 per cent increased their wealth from 8 per cent of total wealth to 19 per cent in just thirty years (Scientific American, September, 2016).
Equality and satisfaction of life can be increased, and anger reduced, through fair taxes and benefits to the poor: like minimum wages, child care, job security, employment insurance, and an affordable education.
Conservative leadership hopefuls can increase their chances by increasing inequality and decreasing the happiness of Canadians by lowering taxes, increasing tuition, resisting wage hikes, and reducing job security.