Past Event


Inequality and Gresham’s Law: Does the bad drive out the good?

28 November 2013 17:00–18:30

Institute of Development Studies, Library Road, Brighton BN1 9RE

After spending decades in obscurity, inequality is back on the political agenda. But rather than ask why the topic is back, the relevant question is why it vanished from public discourse in the first place?

This lecture will seek to clarify the difference between equity and equality, and between equality of opportunity and equality of outcomes. It will also question the validity of the trade-off between economic prosperity and societal equity. The evidence regarding growing inequality will also be presented, alongside the thoughts of some of the major philosophers of political economy will be explored.

The evidence, the research and the relevant philosophical thoughts, combined, will make a strong case that a variation of Gresham’s law—that bad money drives out good— applies to inequality too. Hence, of all the competing ends we might pursue, narrowing the gaps must come first because high outcome-inequalities will make all other goals so much harder to achieve – if not impossible altogether. As important as it may be, poverty reduction should no longer come first.

About the speaker:

Jan Vandemoortele has served in various capacities with the United Nations for over 30 years, both in the field and at headquarters – with UNICEF, UNDP, ILO and on loan to the World Bank. His last position was as UN Resident and Humanitarian Co-ordinator to Pakistan. He is the co-architect of the Millennium Development Goals and has published widely on the topic. He now reads, writes and regularly speaks at high schools, universities, NGO forums, UN seminars and donor conferences. He holds a PhD in Development Economics. He is member of various advisory groups, including to the UN Secretary-General.

Listen to interview with Richard Jolly and Jan Vandemoortele

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