September 11, 2017 at 9:11 pm #4170
Capitalism, exploitation, and hunger worldwide: Unnecessary suffering in the 21st century
As reported by Oxfam, just eight billionaires have more wealth than the world’s poorest 3.6 billion people. This centralization of wealth is a result of extortion and exploitation, driving down wages and underpaying people for their labor. It would, of course, be entirely possible for billion dollar corporations to offer reasonably compensated work in humane conditions, but they choose not to because it’s less profitable. Without a given incentive to stop these practices, such as a law or pushback from workers (which is difficult in countries where unions are suppressed) capitalists have no reason to improve conditions. We’re not living in the 19th century.
Poverty in our world today is enforced and manufactured, not a natural part of development. Without this pool of very cheap labor, companies choose to raise the prices of their products. Politicians correspond to their interests and create trade laws benefitting them, as well as invade or manipulate governments of countries planning to turn against this order.
Africa is the largest victim of hunger, and its wealth is continuously stolen.
Based on a set of new figures, this report finds that sub-Saharan Africa is a net creditor to the rest of the world to the tune of more than $41bn. Sure, there’s money going in: around $161bn a year in the form of loans, remittances (those working outside Africa and sending money back home), and aid.
But there’s also $203bn leaving the continent. Some of this is direct, such as $68bn in mainly dodged taxes. Essentially multinational corporations “steal” much of this – legally – by pretending they are really generating their wealth in tax havens. These so-called “illicit financial flows” amount to around 6.1 percent of the continent’s entire gross domestic product (GDP) – or three times what Africa receives in aid.
Then there’s the $30bn that these corporations “repatriate” – profits they make in Africa but send back to their home country, or elsewhere, to enjoy their wealth. The City of London is awash with profits extracted from the land and labour of Africa.
Here is one interesting fact: There is enough food in the world for everyone to have 2,800 calories a day.
The world produces enough to feed everyone amply, according to the Food and Agricultural Association of the United Nations. Crop production worldwide has tripled over the last 50 years, bringing the average daily per capita food availability from 2,200 calories to 2,800 calories.
After being presented with this information, you’re probably wondering, why haven’t these issues been solved by the eight billionaires mentioned earlier?
Increased charitable giving to the world’s wealthiest corporations is simply one novel aspect of a much bigger phenomenon: the growing power and clout of private philanthropic actors over global institutions such as the World Health Organization.
With an endowment of $42 billion, the Gates Foundation spends about $3 billion each year towards causes that, at first glance, seem irreproachable. But the giving has hidden costs.
Take donations towards the World Health Organization. In 2013, the Gates Foundation gave over $300 million to the UN health agency — the largest contribution from any donor that year, including the US government. What the Gates Foundation spends on global development yearly is almost as much as the overall operating budget of the WHO, and that doesn’t include its other philanthropic programs.
The foundation expects something in return for its efforts. As Laurie Garrett suggested in a 2012 Foreign Affairs article, “few policy initiatives or normative standards set by the WHO are announced before they have been casually, unofficially vetted by Gates Foundation staff.” Some people argue this is a positive development. The Gates Foundation is praised often for its results-oriented philanthropic approach. Peter Singer, the controversial Australian philosopher who helped launch the “effective altruism” movement, has praised Gates and Warren Buffett for being the “most effective altruists” in history.
The problem is that there’s little evidence to back this remarkable assertion. On the one hand, there’s no doubt that the Gates Foundation has done some good in the field of global health. But at the same time, it’s clear that, whatever the opinions of Singer and others, the foundation is not spending its money on the largest global health killers.
Until recently, Gates was not even a proponent of a decades-long goal — championed since the WHO’s 1978 Alma-Alta Declaration — to strengthen primary health care systems and achieve universal health coverage. Far from being uniquely “effective,” grants made by the Gates Foundation “do not reflect the burden of disease endured by those in deepest poverty,” as the editors of the Lancet, the world’s leading medical journal, pointed out in 2009.
One thing is clear: We are not progressing slowly as a result of gradual economic development, we are being held back by a system that relies on undesirable and deadly conditions.
(An old IWW poster addressing the American exploitation of child labor in dangerous textile mills)
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