A Better Politics: How Government can make us happier, & despair and hope in Scotland
Politics in Britain and in many other countries would be better if politicians concentrated on the things which are most important to people. The things which are most important to people when you look at their lives and what happens to them and what they say involve their health and their wellbeing and their happiness.
Now it is not often until you get to later on in life, that you get older, that you realize how important things like health are. And how unimportant other things that you might think matter are – the superficial consumption of goods that you think will make you happier turn out to be much less important than those around you and yourself having good health.
If politicians realized that these are things that mattered most to most people, and often not what the politicians thought mattered, or what might matter to the politicians that got them into politics in the first place, then politics could be much better than it is.
In late 2016 we learnt that life expectancy is no longer rising in Scotland. For the first time (outside war-time) since records were published in 1861 life expectancy for both women and men did not rise. After 2012 it appears to stall at 81.1 years for women and 77.1 years for men. This is part of a wider trend seen across the UK, and in the USA, but not in other countries in Europe or elsewhere in the world. There is now mounting evidence of falls in life expectancy taking place for particular groups in our societies. Why have things become worse here?
The talk these words summarise described recent trends in inequality and health in affluent countries and suggest that the UK and USA have become very unusual compared with global trends – with Scotland suffering as a result. There are signs of hope that people in these two, no longer very united, states are now beginning to realise that the growth of inequalities has caused, and is still causing, widespread harm. Signs of hope from elsewhere in the world where inequalities in many other places are much lower and/or falling were also explored.
What is happening in the UK and the USA is the exception, not the norm and that in some ways it is the end of a forty-year experiment to test the supposed benefits of promoting inequality, in which we (and especially people in Scotland) have been the guinea pigs. The experiment is unlikely to end well as those who have most benefited from it seek to preserve as much inequality as they can.”
Danny Dorling is the Halford Mackinder Professor in Geography at the University of Oxford. He was previously a professor of Geography at the University of Sheffield. Danny’s work concerns issues of housing, health, employment, education, wealth and poverty. His recent books include, co-authored texts The Atlas of the Real World: Mapping the way we live, Bankrupt Britain: An atlas of social change, Geography, and People and Places a 21st-century atlas of the UK. Recent sole authored books include All That is Solid in 2014; Injustice: Why social inequalities persist revised in 2015; and A Better Politics: How government can make us happier in 2016