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Social Justice

Greens believe in social justice. That's a big, banner heading with a number of subheadings:

Up till the 1970s the gap between rich and poor seemed to be narrowing steadily. Then came the Thatcher/Reagan years, and ever since, the trend has reversed. Much of Western society, and Britain in particular, is more unequal than it has been for decades.

This matters not just because it's unfair - though it is - but because a more equal society just works better than one in which a few people get all the goodies.

There is plenty of evidence for this assertion, and it has all been collated by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett in their book The Spirit Level: Why Equality is Better for Everyone, in which they show that all sorts of completely unconnected societal indicators get worse as societies become less equal. They quote specifically (with evidence):

  • levels of trust
  • mental health
  • drug use
  • physical health
  • life expectancy
  • obesity
  • educational performance
  • teenage pregnancies
  • violence
  • imprisonment rates
  • social mobility

That's an impressive list - and it's not even comprehensive; if we can turn around all those indicators just by reining in the rich and providing more opportunities for the poor, it's a no-brainer.

If we can't, then we can probably look forward to more greed and more riots .

Citizen's Income
As part of our drive for equality and fairness, the Green Party would do away with Jobseeker's Allowance, most of the benefits system and the old-age pension, and replace them with a Citizen's Income, which every adult would get regardless of circumstances. The only separate benefits we would retain would be disability allowances for those with specific needs for extra care, mobility problems and the like - and these would no longer be provided on the assumption that applicants were cheating until proved innocent, as is too often the case presently.

The administrative savings would be immense, and a further advantage would be to do away at a stroke with the 'poverty trap', as getting a job would no longer be the cause of losing your benefit. Any rises in taxation to cover the gap between the administrative savings and the cost of the scheme would be offset by a general lowering of salary levels to emloyees whose basic needs were already taken care of. See Natalie Bennett's blog on the subject for a more detailed explanation.

Decent housing, sustainable communities
Everyone needs a decent and affordable place to live, shops close by, schools to send their children to, parks and all the other infrastructure that most of us take for granted. We store up trouble for ourselves if we permit those who have fallen on hard times, or who are not quite up to the challenges of modern living, to be relegated to 'sink estates'.

We need more housing that those on low income can afford, and we need that housing in all areas so that those with low-paid jobs are not doubly-disadvantaged by having to pay for - and endure - long commutes.

Vibrant communities revolve around local shops, post offices, pubs and community facilities. Out-of-town supermarkets and shopping malls are destroying communities - as well as increasing car use and CO2 emissions. Those without cars or unable to drive are left out entirely. Local independent retailers are the heart of local communites, giving them character and boosting the scope for self-employment.

International commitments
The Green Party has long advocated the fulfilment of the promise developed countries made in 1970 to give 0.7% of GDP in aid. We welcome the recent commitments by both the previous Labour government and the present Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition finally to move towards that target.

This is not just a matter of justice but also enlightened self-interest: poverty is one of the drivers of unrest and fundamentalism; it holds countries back from necessary environmental commitments; it hamstrings moves towards greater democracy and human rights, and it is the chief cause of mass emigration and asylum-seeking. All that was written above about inequality within nations seems to apply equally to inequality between nations. In extreme cases it can lead to famine

The current trend towards ever-freer trade and globalisation has been profoundly inequitable and we would reverse it. Poor countries need to room to grow before exposing their industries to international competition.

We would institute a much more humane system for asylum-seekers and others seeking entry to this country, while simultaneously aiming to address the causes of their flight from their homelands such as poverty and persecution.

Human Rights
It need hardly be said that Greens are supporters of human rights. We deplore the erosion by both this government and the last of ancient rights: 'Extraordinary rendition', implication in the use of torture, 28-day detention without trial (only kept from being 90 days by determined resistance!); the introduction of double-jeopardy trials; ever-greater powers for the police, cutbacks in legal aid etc, etc. All of these are symptomatic of a government that does not trust the people - a deeply unsatisfactory and dangerous state of affairs.

Published and promoted by Bill Linton for Enfield Green Party, both at 39A Fox Lane, London N13 4AJ