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It’s time we got real about ‘levelling up’ | Letters | Politics

Tim Worstall of the Adam Smith Institute (Letters, 12 February) says: “Reality is telling us that the economy is not a zero-sum game”, as if that implies it is actually possible to “level up the needy” without redistribution of wealth. But GDP per capita tells us precisely nothing about wealth inequality within a country, and results in such a distorted picture in tax havens like Ireland that its central bank introduced another measure, modified gross national income, in 2017 to assess the country’s economy and indebtedness more accurately.

If 1% of the UK population in 1751 enjoyed most of its wealth, and 99% next to none, and those proportions are the same today, there remains a cogent argument for wealth redistribution as an engine of economic growth and wellbeing – as demonstrated by Piketty et al.
Dariel Francis
Tunbridge Wells, Kent

If Adam Smith isn’t turning in his grave, then Carl Friedrich Gauss, born 13 years before Smith’s death, certainly will be. Tim Worstall implies that the increase in the UK’s GDP per capita since Smith’s day refutes Imogen West-Knights’ assertion (The best way to ‘level up’ would be an above-inflation rise in benefits, Journal, 6 February) that it is impossible to level up without redistribution of wealth or opportunity.

It is clear from distribution theory (given a rigorous mathematical foundation by Gauss) that GDP and inequality can increase simultaneously, with inequality increasing either faster or slower than the GDP. The mathematics doesn’t prove that either Worstall or West-Knights is correct. Dependent on how our economy changes over time, it may be a zero-sum game or it may not, or it may fluctuate between the two. In order to assess what is happening, we must look at more than just the GDP per capita.
Glen Reid
Royal Wootton Bassett, Wiltshire

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