I have been debating green economics with a libertarian (Nikhil) on the Tory Attack post. I'd rather be debating with a Conservative Party economist, but the libertarian seems to be a reasonable proxy for their position.
The critical issue of difference is over the evidence that more equal societies are more healthy societies.
Nikhil points me to this "refutation" of the Spirit Level by exiled UKIP (or possibly ex-UKIP, they seem to have a short residence time) blogger Tim Worstall.
1 In three cases, social hierarchies, not economic hierarchies, cause the problems.
This relies on the doubtful assumption that economic status does not affect social status.
2 Some races are more egalitarian than others. Swedes are an egalitarian race, Brits are not. So Swedes are a more egalitarian and happy society, and incidentally accept the taxation rates that allow economic reality.
To be fair, Worstall adds: "I don't insist that this is true of course, merely propose it as an alternative explanation."
Er, yes, exactly, Tim.
3 Even if we made Britain more equitable, British class structure would still keep us in our present position of misery, so there's no point in trying.
Is this the best they can do, in dealing with a whole succession of strong scientific evidence showing a positive correlation between inequality and social breakdown? He advances a couple of wild guesses, and thinks that is sufficient to negate years of patient scientific work. He does not have to design and work on experiments to test his hypotheses.
A second right-wing think tank blog challenges the evidence for a link between life expectancy and inequality beyond the 5% level of statistical significance. Using methods that are eerily reminiscent of climate change deniers, the "Super-Economy" site infers from one case that the whole Spirit Level case is dismissed.
I will not divert into the intricacies of this here and now, but just point out that even if there should prove to be no correlation between life expectancy, "infant mortality, low birth weight and self-rated health have repeatedly been shown to be worse in more unequal societies". (Kate Pickett).
So the Conservatives think-tanks are going to have to get busy, nit-picking the entire body of evidence that Wilkinson and Pickett have assembled. Sadly, they have the resources to do it, and the media outlets and contacts to megaphone their opinions on the matter.
In the meantime, it is the job of serious politicians to work on the problem of creating a more equitable economy and society.