Help us finish the film "The Spirit Level"

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Help us finish the film “The Spirit Level”

by Katharine Round


Part of The Spirit Level film (© The Spirit Level film)

Income inequality is an important story in the news again. Thomas Piketty’s important book Capital in the 21st Century says that, in the future, there will be extreme wealth and income concentration, and this will make people unhappy and have a bad effect on democracy.

It is shocking to see what happens economically with increasing inequality. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) once said we need to accept these negatives to get the global economy working. But the IMF, in their new research, now sees that inequality is making the world less stable and is bad for growth.

But it’s not only the economy that has problems when fewer people have more income and wealth. And it’s not only good markets that are important, but also morality. As developed countries get richer and richer, how big do we let the gap grow if the result is sick, miserable people? Is inequality (as Pope Francis recently said), ‘the root of all social evil’?

All the research in the book The Spirit Level shows that he may be right. The authors Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett studied 25 years of data to show how nearly all problems with society – stress, bad educational performance, child wellbeing, violence, less community feeling – are more common in those societies with a big gap between rich and poor.

This does not prove that inequality is the cause of all these problems, but there’s good reason to believe the income gap is one of the basic causes. When there are bigger income differences, this divides the society and makes us see people as ‘other’. Our societies become more difficult, more divided places to live in.

This is a powerful message, and many of us see the signs of it around us: when people say the poor are bad, in the rising stress and in the consumer culture. This is why two years ago, I started a ‘crowdfunding campaign’ to get enough money to make a documentary to show how big differences in income affect us, our lives and the futures of our children. The response was wonderful; it was clear this was an issue people cared about.

Since then, I’ve been working closely with communities across the world with different incomes. I’ve met quite rich people who feel poor because they don’t have the ‘right’ car. I’ve met families afraid to leave home after dark because of violence on their streets, sometimes real and sometimes imagined. From low to high income, the most important thing for me was not that people’s lives are different, but that they are so similar. People worry about how others judge them, about respect at work and in our communities, about the pressure of surviving and giving the best to our children.

People often ask me how we can make any change to such a big, solid problem as inequality. Well, we did not always live in a world with these huge differences in income. If inequality can move so much in one direction, it is always possible to move back again in the other direction. The philosopher Anthony Appiah in The Honor Code talks about how moral attitudes have changed about slavery, footbinding (restricting girl's feet so they don't grow) and dueling (fighting to decide a problem). By changing our attitudes, we can change the world.

I’ve been passionate for a long time about how films can help change attitudes. In films like Cathy Come Home and An Inconvenient Truth, people can make emotional connections and this can be much stronger than reading a book. We want The Spirit Level to be a film that creates real change in laws and attitudes. As Richard Wilkinson says, ‘A better life is possible for us all.’

To support us:

This week we’re starting the final part of our crowdfunding campaign, with a new two-minute trailer. Watch it here: and share it on Facebook, Twitter and blogs. Pre-buy your copy of the film.