Boris Johnson, the Conservative Mayor of London who recently compared the super-rich to “a put-upon minority” like the homeless, has now claimed that greed and inequality are virtues that should be celebrated — and that they actually benefit society.
In a series of highly provocative remarks, Johnson (who is seen as a potential future leader of the Conservative Party) claimed that equality is not only undesirable, but also not possible because of the number of people who have low IQs. Departing from his prepared remarks, Johnson told his audience that since 16% of the population has an IQ below 85, we should be doing more to help the 2% in society with an IQ over 130.
Delivering the annual Margaret Thatcher lecture to the Centre for Policy Studies, Johnson said:
The harder you shake the pack the easier it will be for some cornflakes to get to the top. . . I stress – I don’t believe that economic equality is possible; indeed some measure of inequality is essential for the spirit of envy and keeping up with the Joneses that is, like greed, a valuable spur to economic activity.
Seeking to shore up his support on the right of the Conservative Party, Johnson invoked the spirit of the late Margaret Thatcher, Britain’s most successful and controversial post-war prime minister. Her revolutionary economic policies, known here as “The Big Bang,” deregulated the stock exchange and removed regulation from the financial sector. While the wealth of a small minority exploded, income inequality, unemployment and poverty rose to record levels.
To avoid the harshness that Thatcher is still associated with by her opponents, Johnson said he wanted an updated, more socially conscious form of Thatcherism:
I hope that this time the Gordon Gekkos of London are conspicuous not just for their greed, valid motivator though greed may be for economic progress, as for what they give and do for the rest of the population, many of whom have experienced real falls in their incomes over the last five years.
Johnson’s assertion that we should be celebrating inequality and greed instead of criticizing them is consistent with his recent claim that we should stop discriminating against the super-rich who he believes are being unfairly targeted. Unfortunately, the facts do not seem to back him up.
A 2011 report by the OECD showed that income inequality in Britain rose faster than in any other industrialized nation since the 1970s, including the United States. The think-tank’s report showed that annual average income of the top 10% of earners in 2008 was just under £55,000 ($89, 842). This was 12 times higher than the average income for the bottom 10%, a mere £4,700 ($7,677). Meanwhile the share of wealth enjoyed by the top 1% of income earners in the UK rose from 7.1% in 1970 to 14.3% in 2005.
Among the super-rich, things are even better. The top 0.1% of earners in Britain now hold a staggering 5% of total pre-tax income, a figure not seen since the Second World War.
Watch a segment of Boris Johnson’s speech in the video below: