Wednesday, April 16, 2014

An Income and Equality Game 

Helping any group work out its preferred Income Max/min multiplier

And the level of a LIFE (a Living Income for Everybody) that the group thinks should apply where it lives

Wholosopher, Independent Writing and Editing Professional, Research chemist

An Income and Equality Game

Updated April 2014 - first played in about 2011 (see )

Contact: John Courtneidge                                            

Over the past two or so weeks, the following game has emerged – it helps, in my experience, to move matters on for people who already 'get' the message of 'The spirit level' book (see the Equality Trust web-site for more on that book).

So, have the participants sit in a circle and, then, pass out small slips of coloured paper, clockwise (one for each participant) and, counter-clockwise, small slips of white paper. (The circle indicates equality and the two direction sharing helps get everyone involved.)

Once the surplus paper has completed the circle, ask the participants to write on the coloured slips their view of what the income ratio (minimum to maximum) should be in the society/country/whatever where they live. Now, this usually starts discussion, but stick to the should be phrase – not 'what is achievable' etc, etc. - and, gently give examples of 'should be' ratios – 1:1, 1:3, 1:5, 1:50, 1:100, 1:1000, etc.

Now, pass around a cup - for people to place the responses in - and, once that's returned, ask people to write on the white slips what they think is the income – after tax – that a single person, living in this city/community/country/whatever geographical dimensionality you choose needs to have – monthly – to live a decent life. Again, bundles of questions emerge, but stick to that opening question.

While the participants are doing that, note down the results of the income ratio question (from the coloured slips of paper) and estimate both the range of answers and an average (yes, I know that the statisticians will go for medians, means, etc – I don't know about that . . . !).

Again, scoop up the responses to the second question and then ask someone to volunteer (to roughly collate the answers to the monthly income question) while you report back on the income ratio question – again there will be questions, responses, etc, all of which offer two possibilities (at least!): firstly this gives the volunteer collator time to 'do the math' on the monthly decent income question. Secondly, if the discussion gets 'hot', then this is an opportunity to introduce the 'talking stick' method – including the option to 'pass', 'go-round in circle', etc, techniques.

The final phases of the game (perhaps!) involve two possibilities.

First, try to marry-up the responses to both questions with something like, 'OK, suppose that I'm the King of Bromley, or whatever and I'm going to get the highest income that we have socially-determined, here. That would amount to, for example, with the socially-determined 1:3 ratio and an averaged 'Liveable Income' of £2000 per month, I, the King of Bromley would get £6000 per month, and you, on the lowest income, £2000 per month. How does that feel? And what effects would that have?' (pointing back to the Spirit Level book might be included here and, in the UK, a group called 'One Society' has data on income ratios in the UK). Again, inclusive discussion time.

Secondly, you could discuss 'what to do' with these findings. One possibility would be to publicise them – by letter (to? MP?, church?, web, what-ever ) – and to log the results in some sort of public place to compare the results from other groups playing this game.

Then, after some tea, wiggle and refreshment, the participants might enjoy playing 'The Teaspoon Game' – which is all to do with the way that wealth and income is created –. . . and how it is shared out . . . Have fun! Please let me know how it goes!

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John C.
Wholosopher, Independent Writing and Editing Professional, Research chemist
ps My F/friend Gianne Broughton used a nice development of this experience, by asking as the final question, 'So who of you think that your work is only worth a third of that of any-one else?' (The group being Ottawa Quakers and they had essentially agreed a 1:3 income rtio as fair.

Nice work Gianne!

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