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Nobody's Talking About the Silver Bullet That Could Heal the Economy and Cure Most Social Ills

Fairer societies simply work better.

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Lessening income inequality should be our main organizing principle. If a policy leads to more equality, it is likely to lead to greater social well-being and longer life expectancy.

As we face the challenge of climate chaos, some have argued that there is no time to worry about luxuries like equity and equality. I agree wholeheartedly with the urgency of our situation, but equality and equity are indeed highly relevant.

The more equal the country, the greater the likelihood of recycling. People who live in more equal societies tend to care more about the earth. Addressing climate change and social equity simultaneously is likely to provide the best outcome. We need a Green New Deal.

We can learn a valuable lesson from societies less developed than our own that have attained equivalent life expectancies. Costa Rica, for example, has a life expectancy close to ours with less than one-seventh the carbon footprint. The new Economics Foundation has declared Costa Rica to also be the happiest country on earth. Clearly, long and happy lives are possible without causing climate change.

The issue of income inequality is largely invisible, but there is a widespread sense of unease about the direction we are headed and a feeling that life is not fair.

The data on the deleterious effects of inequality can help us understand our unease and what we need to do about it. Greater equality results in improvement in health and life expectancy and reduces many of the social ills that currently seem intractable. Making this knowledge widespread is a prerequisite to developing the political will to move toward greater equality and a healthier society for us all.

Jeff Ritterman is a cardiologist practicing in Richmond, Cali., and a member of the Richmond City Council.

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