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Everyday Lies

Irregular and unequal

Is inequality really a disease? The chairman of the British Medical Association thinks so…

Why do people write or say things that they must know to be untrue, and thereby expose themselves to the charge of being liars? One reason is that they desire to be thought better than they are, more feeling, more compassionate, more on the side of the angels, than the rest of humanity.

Recently, I received a communication from the chairman of the British Medical Association, of which I am a member, with the title Inequality is a preventable disease within our profession. But is inequality a disease anywhere, let alone a preventable one, rather than the inevitable consequence of freedom and justice, the possibility of inequality indeed being a precondition of the latter two? The communication takes inequality of outcome as arising solely from the practical application of racial and other unpleasant prejudice. But it is perfectly obvious that it can arise from other sources.

Take my own case as an example, not necessarily a good one in any other than an illustrative sense. My medical career has, of my own choice, been somewhat irregular, and as a result I now find myself financially less secure in retirement than most of my colleagues who kept their noses more conventionally to the grindstone. It is perfectly obvious to me that I am not entitled to complain about this; I made my choices, I take the consequences.

Does the chairman’s terminological inexactitude (to put it kindly), or mendacious sloganeering (to put it less kindly), matter? I think it does, for it cannot but inflame passions and lead to a hunt for a unicorn, if not for witches.

It diverts attention and money from remediable problems, promotes navel-gazing, stirs resentment, exacerbates careerism, increases time-wasting, encourages the employment of yet more useless or harmful bureaucrats to chase an unreachable goal by means of endless form-filling and other unproductive procedures, and stimulates litigation. In other words, it serves a function.

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