Conflicting Viewpoints on Economic Inequality

As noted at the start of this book (2.2) there is a stark difference between the views of individualists and collectivists on ‘fairness’, and a government’s role in reducing economic inequality.  OECD data shows that inequality of disposable income in Britain and America is among the highest in the OECD countries, and both countries have two-party political systems, so they provide good case studies as examples of conflicting viewpoints.  Most European countries embraced neoliberalism ( less fervently than Britain and America, so there is less disagreement about reducing inequality.

The Democratic Party has some collectivist leanings (6.2.3).  It wants to reduce economic inequality, as illustrated by this excerpt from The 2016 Democratic Platform: “Democrats believe that today’s extreme levels of income and wealth inequality are bad for our people, bad for our businesses, and bad for our economy.”

The Republican Platform 2016 doesn’t mention inequality, and takes an individualist (6.2.2) line: “As Republicans, we oppose tax increases and believe in the power of markets to create wealth…”.  After the election, it was reported that “America’s getting $10 trillion in tax cuts, and 20% of them are going the richest 1%”, illustrating Republican lack of concern about inequality.

There is a similar contrast between the attitudes of the Labour and Conservative parties in Britain, where the latter has been in power since 2010.  The plight of British people living in poverty was dubbed the ‘cost of living crisis’ in the Spring of 2021, and this became a high profile political issue – as referenced in Newspaper headlines: Families face record squeeze after Bank’s warning on 6th May 2021.  The newspaper reports on this story reflected the different shades of political opinion.

The tension between conflicting viewpoints must be resolved politically: compromises are necessary.  People can contribute to the negotiations if they have ‘a hand on the joystick’ (



This page is intended to form part of Edition 4 of the Patterns of Power series of books.  An archived copy of it is held at https://www.patternsofpower.org/edition04/6721.htm.