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Views & Reviews Review

How can we rediscover the magic of more equal societies?

BMJ 2010; 341 doi: (Published 04 August 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;341:c4155
  1. Robin Stott, co-chair, Climate and Health Council, United Kingdom
  1. stott{at}

    The Nordic societies and Japan have kept the faith with the goal of social equality. Why can’t the rest of the world, asks Robin Stott

    Inequality is a significant marker for and cause of poor health. Why is it so persistent, and why isn’t there a much greater clamour about it? Both these books explore these issues.

    Both attribute the emergence of fairer societies after the great depression to enlightened public policies, such as genuinely redistributive taxation, regulation of the banking systems, and introduction of the welfare state. These were made possible by shared values of peoples drawn into the collective struggle to survive the depression and subsequent wars. Public service—personal action for the collective good—was widely considered to be an honourable and fulfilling way of life.

    So by the end of the 1950s want, ignorance, disease, squalor, and idleness—the ills that William Beveridge defined in his report that formed the basis of the UK postwar welfare state as those most necessary to combat—had been much reduced. The United Kingdom and …

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