22 june 2011, camels, eyes and needles

The ten richest people on earth are worth some €200 billion - 60% of the income of the 700 million people of sub-saharan africa. Whilst 76.9% of statistics are made up, this one isn't, and it hammers home the depravity of the level of inequality in the world, which continues to rise. In an ever more open world though, a common market for the world's highest paid talent, this is a somewhat inevitable side effect. Clearly incomes at the bottom will never keep up, meaning the differentials will rise. The spirit level is a valiant attempt to show that societies with less inequality prosper more, a thesis that has surged across the world in all sorts of fields: here, in the marmot review; globally, even the uber-urban richard florida seems to be at it. We cannot though suspend our knowledge of the inevitable consequences that the forces of globalisation tend towards, nor take an overly optimistic view of how policy at any level can affect these forces. In a global market, without global governance, arbitrage is king. This profound change, the onset of which has been relatively rapid over the last 60 years, has changed every society it has touched, and will continue to do so, ever more quickly. Like the market itself, to embrace this hyper-charged version of free trade, with its effects both for good and ill, means you can't buck it; only understand, navigate and anticipate - if you're wise and lucky.