The immense gap between the world’s rich and poor has finally become a topic of serious discussion throughout the developed world, reaching even into G-8 meetings (although not the U.S. presidential campaign). And we can be sure that in poor countries it has always been talked about—a lot.
But this new conversation about global poverty misses some key points. The narrow monetary focus of economists, political leaders, the media, business, and philanthropists overlooks an essential nature of the problem. Yes, it’s a tragedy—and truly a sin according to the moral or religious beliefs of most people around the globe—that half the world’s population lives on less than $2 a day while most Europeans and North Americans make exponentially more than that.
It’s also a tragedy to reduce the meaning of life to an economic index.
As my friend Satish Kumar, a former Jain monk and Gandhian activist in India who now edits the UK green magazine Resurgence, once told me: “It’s commonly assumed that the opposite of poor is rich, but actually it’s sufficiency—a sense that there is enough.”
When you think about it that way, the most impoverished people in the world may be the high-rolling speculators on Wall Street and their colleagues in Frankfurt, London, Tokyo and elsewhere whose insatiable drive for money nearly tanked the world economic system last week. For them, there was never enough.
The overwhelming topic under discussion right now is how to repair our tattered global economy, a crisis that threatens to shove aside concerns about global poverty.
Yet these two crises are inextricably linked. We live on a bountiful planet, not a poverty-stricken one. There is enough for everyone if we follow the simple but sharp wisdom that money isn’t everything. Poor people have always realized this—otherwise they would have no reason to get up each morning. Let’s hope elite bankers, investors and economic policymakers have now understand it.
The great financial upheaval we’re experiencing is no momentary bout of bad luck, it’s the direct consequence of looking at the world as an economic engine that runs on money rather than a living organism nourished by natural and human resources. By learning that lesson, we’ll know everything we need to create a sound global economy that sustains everyone.
This piece originally appeared on the Ode Editor's Blog.
Very nice article.
"There is enough for everyone if we follow the simple but sharp wisdom that money isn’t everything."
This is based on the idea of 'pool' of money/goods and that if some people wouldnt take as much out of that pool there would be more for others. Not true. There is no such pool. Money and goods are created by hard working people who have access to resources. It is unfortunate that some do not but if the rest of us just stopped working; stopped creating goods from our resources... it would not help the unfortunate.
The article can be misunderstood as implying that the rest of the world is poor because this part is rich (see James' comment). I don't think that's the point here.
The issue is creating value rather than approaching business as sport.
That's what's wrong with impoverished speculators: their life is empty. Not that they don't work, it's just that their work perhaps creates not so much real value. But it takes them wholly: how are their kids, their wives, their pets doing?
Not that the rest of the world doesn't work, but the starting conditions are very different. Also (here comes my point): difference in knowledge - that's what is making a real gap between the rich and the poor world.
Maybe there is no "pool of money," but there is certainly a pool of resources and labour, most of which is being extracted directly from the poor countries, and transferred to the rich. This is obvious. See oil extraction in Nigeria, sweatshop labour across Asia (especially in the Phillipines and Vietnam) etc. It should be common knowledge by now that it would take a worker in one of those countries weeks (months?) before they could afford to buy even one of the shirts/shoes/whatever that they produce on a daily basis. This is theft, plain and simple.
(Sorry to derail the discussion further, but I had to add that.)
Am Belgium (Le Monde 13.02)
und am Deutshland ist Wirtscahtkrise
von Raivo Pommer
Trotz einer Rücklage von fast 17 Milliarden Euro rechnet die Bundesagentur für Arbeit (BA) bereits im kommenden Jahr mit neuen Schulden in Milliardenhöhe. BA-Chef Frank-Jürgen Weise sagte am Freitag in Nürnberg nach der Verabschiedung eines Nachtragsetats, die Behörde rechne bei stagnierendem Wirtschaftswachstum Ende 2010 mit einem Defizit von sechs bis sieben Milliarden Euro.
Der Verwaltungsrat der Behörde ist uneins darüber, ob der Bund über einen Tilgungsfonds oder die Rückkehr in die Defizithaftung für diesen Fehlbetrag aufkommen soll. „Ich würde die Zahlen nicht als gegeben annehmen, sie können schlechter werden, sie können aber auch besser werden, wenn wir gegensteuern“, kommentierte Weise das Defizit-Szenario.