Saturday, June 09, 2007

The ever widening gap

An interesting article in the Guardian Unlimited (online).
The author Mark Braund references the Make Poverty History campaign, and although the name is familiar, I don't know much about it. I did think these graphs were worth quoting:

The growing gap between rich and poor, within nations and between them, is an inevitable consequence of the way we've chosen to arrange the economy. Over the last 30 years, a politically-driven programme of economic liberalisation has tied economic success (as measured by GDP growth) to growing inequality. More people may be richer than ever before, but many more people are poorer; both are the inevitable consequence of economic advance under the current model.

It's pointless blaming emerging elites in developing countries for appropriating a disproportionate share of new wealth when that's exactly what happened in rich nations at a similar stage in their development. It's hardly surprising if an African running a recently privatised former state enterprise in Ghana or Gabon feels himself entitled to the lifestyle of an executive running a similar businesses in Europe or North America. That, after all, is what globalisation is all about.

Serious poverty reduction will only be possible if the economy is reconfigured to provide a redistribution, not of wealth, but of the factors that beget wealth. The growth in scale of corporations that has accompanied globalisation has restricted access to the resources necessary for economic independence to a small minority of people worldwide.

As next week is a relatively free one for me, I picked up a couple of books from the library at school (a small but fairly satisfying collection of fiction, and a lot of quite interesting non-fiction can be found there). I picked up ZZ Packer's "Drinking Coffee Elsewhere" (short stories), which I heartily recommend, and John Perkins' "Confessions of an Economic Hit Man", which I've heard a lot about. He's got a new book out and is doing the media circuit for it; hearing him talk about it prompted me to pick up this book.

I do believe "Confessions" will prove what this author is saying about economic liberalization creating greater economic inequality through the developing world is true.

In my Mass Communications class we had to watch a Tom Friedman interview (yes, the horror - to make it worse his shit eating grin was accompanied by a mock turtleneck/sport coat ensemble) and write about his ideas that the world is fair now because people in India get to affect American accents in call centers. Srsly.
Anyhow, this subject reminds me of him, because it's fairly obvious that while high tech stuff is moving across the globe (and you know, I need to learn more about what is going on in the less talked about continents in this discussion - Africa and South America), people are not being relieved of poverty in comparable numbers.

[I've just put in an interlibrary loan request for Mark Braund's book. Apparently there are 72 libraries in the world who have a copy of his book, 2 in Wisconsin. I'll review it when it comes in.]

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