How Does Inequality Affect Our Relationships With Other Countries?

When our familiar landscape is covered suddenly in snow, like this scene in rural Warwickshire, it changes how we view environments which we are familiar with. This made me think about what people assume about human relations in their own society and how this informs their basic assumptions about the world at large? If our social landscape was altered to become less unequal, would this change our perspective of, and relations with, other countries?” Given the enormous human suffering caused by the differences in living standards between rich and poor countries, it may seem beside the point to focus attention – as the Equality Trust does – on the inequalities within the rich countries. But rather than seeing these as two quite separate problems, greater equality within the rich countries seems to lead them to adopt policies which are more helpful to poorer countries.

Two pieces of evidence suggest that this is true. First, the rich countries with the smallest income differences within them tend to spend a higher proportion of their Gross National Income on aid to developing countries. Second, more equal countries also perform better on the Global Peace Index which reflects militarism and violence. When looking at the role of different countries in international trade agreements it looks as if the proposals supported by more equal countries are less dominated by attempts to serve their own economic interests at the expense of other countries. Sweden, Norway and the Netherlands have also contributed many times more in total (not just per head) than has the USA to the World Trade Organisation’s Global Trust Fund.