Wednesday, 27 November 2013


This website exists as a forum for additional notes and discussion related to the book The Spirit Level Delusion. Some of this information takes the form of extended footnotes, which can be accessed at the right-hand side of this page.

The meat of the argument is, of course, in the book itself—which is available here (UK), here (USA) and here (Sweden). If you haven't read it, my articles in the Wall Street Journal and Spiked Review of Books give a brief overview.

Please scroll down for more recent entries, including a fact-checking of the response given by The Spirit Level's authors to my 20 Questions, a rebuttal to their article in Prospect magazine and some highlights from Kate Pickett's interview on BBC Radio 4's More or Less.

You can also read (for free) the new chapter included in the second edition of the book, which deals with Wilkinson and Pickett's response to criticism. Download as PDF.

"A devastating critique"
The Economist

"If you haven’t read a book that made you laugh out loud on the bus or the Tube in a while, try Christopher Snowdon’s superb release, The Spirit Level Delusion. But the book’s subtle humour is not the reason I am recommending it. The Spirit Level Delusion is, above all, a book that delivers and goes well beyond the promise of its subtitle – 'fact-checking the left’s new theory of everything'... It may well be that the next big battle for a free society will be fought against the new anti-wealth egalitarianism. Christopher Snowdon has provided defenders of freedom with powerful ammunition."
— Kristian Niemietz, Institute of Economic Affairs

"Snowdon picks so many holes in the theory that were it a building it wouldn’t be passed as structurally sound by the most crooked of third world local government surveyors... Next time someone starts spouting off about “equality” – a goal that has dug more graves than all the gods in history combined – send them a copy of Snowdon’s excellent book and make sure they read it from cover to cover." 
Ed West, The Telegraph

"This year’s most important publication"
— James Delingpole, The Telegraph

"The myth of inequality as the root cause of just about all social ills is dismantled... Snowdon’s thorough appraisal of available data and literature, and examination of alternative causes – all underpinned by acerbic wit – sees to that." 
Sam Hamilton, Medical Writing

"The Spirit Level Delusion not only successfully and dramatically undermines much of the evidence in The Spirit Level, but also takes on the other fashionable opponents of economic growth... His engaging discussion unpicks the evidence of the anti-growth brigade and demonstrates that it is selective and partial. This book is excellent “tube reading”.
Philip Booth, City AM 


Barman said...

Thanks for posting it so quickly!

I've read it and it is excellent! Very well researched and a gripping read.

Thanks again...

Rob Fisher said...

Finished it today. I have a feeling it is going to be very useful ammunition in the years ahead. Thanks for a good read.

D. King said...

Hey Chris,

I'm just curious as to why you're aiming this book as a rebuttal of 'the left' and their recommendations of big government when The Spirit Level doesn't advocate big government and suggests in fact that small governments, like in Japan, do very well?


Snowdon said...

D. King,

Thanks for dropping by. A full explanation is in the book, but the short answer is that Japan is the exception in The Spirit Level in a number of ways, including the way it has achieved a narrower gap in wealth. As the authors say, part of the reason is its collapse after World War II. There are other reasons, such as fewer women in the workplace (thereby keeping wages up). Japan apart, 'more equal' countries = 'high tax' countries.

We do not expect a world war or a reaction against feminism, so the Japanese experience is not going to be replicated. In practice, the only way to narrow the wealth gap would be through large-scale redistribution, higher taxes, wage caps and other left-wing policies that Richard Wilkinson has endorsed throughout his career, whether through the Socialist Health Association or the Equality Trust.

Whatever the merits of these policies (which, of course, can be espoused with or without The Spirit Level), they are of the left.

Iain said...

Congratulations on a great book, Mr Snowdon. I finished it yesterday and will recommend it to my friends, especially those who fell for The Spirit Level's quackery. It's rare to find someone who can write about these kind of issues in a intelligent and objective way. Keep it up!


Anonymous said...

I haven't read either book, but have read the authors' "rebuttal" of the criticism, and attended a promo talk including many graphs included in The Spirit Level and was amazed at the bunkum posing as science. There is obviously a correlation, but not a causation, between socio-economic inequality and various social ills. One of the main causes of social ills is lack of social cohesion. One of the main causes of lack of social cohesion is lack of cultural homogeneity. One of the main causes of lack of cultural homogeneity is rapid mass immigration. There is little immigration in Japan/Finland/Sweden/Denmark (the language is too difficult), there is huge mass immigration into English-speaking countries (English is the world language), which were consistently (and conveniently) shown in the authors' graphs as "doing worst". Most unfortunately, the head-in-the-sand in-denial authors of The Spirit Level refuse to countenance this elephant in the room (and the many other imponderables and unquantifiable variables which are also part of the equation), and accuse anyone who mentions the obvious cultural and civilisational effects of mass immigration into English-speaking countries of "racist slur". Science? I don't think so.

S Vaughan said...

Anonymous, you state that:

"One of the main causes of social ills is lack of social cohesion. One of the main causes of lack of social cohesion is lack of cultural homogeneity. One of the main causes of lack of cultural homogeneity is rapid mass immigration."

I would very much welcome finding out the sources of these assertions. You doubt the scientific nature of the claims made in the Spirit Level, yet fail to make any reference as to your ways of reaching your conclusions here.

Whilst I appreciate that you are not making the same claims to scientific robustness and rigour that Wilkinson & Pickett do, it would go some way to avoiding the accusation of "racist slur"

From what I can (quickly) find on foreign born as percentage of national population (2005), many of the countries that appear to 'do better [in health and social problems]' actually have a much higher proportion than the UK (Netherlands, France, Spain, Sweden, Germany, Austria...)(

I feel that attacking work on the basis of it's claim to science, whilst basing your argument (seemingly) entirely on assumption somewhat hypocritical.

how to climb said...

thanks for the posts. good blog.

Ben said...

In Switzerland the Young Socialists party has launch an initiave to introduce a law that would limit the ratio between the lowest and the highest salary in any given enterprise to 1:12.

Wilkinson is support this initiative with reference to his Spirit Level.
(in German)

L fairfax said...

Any chance of your book being avaliable on Kobo? (The spirit level is)