31 January 2010

How to Share The World's Resources: A Proposal

Excerpt from Sharing The World's Resources, 24 September 2007

'A comprehensive proposal for how a system of economic sharing could function within a reformed world economy and the effect it would have on corporate trade, international finance and aid mechanisms:

A growing body of progressives within the global justice movement, including environmentalists, economists and policy makers, broadly agree that a significant overhaul of the world’s economic and political systems is long overdue, and that without significant restructuring our most pressing problems will never be tackled.

Whilst financial wealth soars to new heights for the few, the majority world are growing relatively poorer in the face of unfair trade, debt-based finance and grossly insufficient international aid. At the same time, developing countries have to endure the harsh environmental consequences of the industrial growth that fuels the skewed generation of wealth. Instead of being given the tools to end poverty they find themselves forced to systematically abdicate democratic control over their economies and resources to economically dominant countries and corporations.

Whilst economists and policy makers of the G8 nations remain comfortable in their runaway train of neo-liberal policies, we cannot rely on governments to instigate change until after the train collides. Their systematic prioritization of competition, self-interest, market forces, economic growth and the blatant subsidizing of corporate activity has created an unsustainable, commercialized society and has distorted the very meaning and function of economics. In a world where 2.7 billion people live on less than two-dollars-a-day and 50,000 people die as a result of poverty each day, economic practice can no longer claim to ensure the efficient distribution of resources for all, but rather the maximization of wealth generation without regard for consequence.

It is clear to many that the rogue train is on a collision course with environmental devastation and global economic and financial instability . If that isn’t enough, old Cold War divisions from renewed competition over resources and resentment from marginalized communities throughout the world present themselves as security threats, which are potentially catastrophic in a nuclear age.

It is time for a significant re-evaluation of global economic and political values and the creation of an economy that serves the needs of the global community as a whole, within our environmental limitations. It may seem a vein hope that policy makers will wake-up before the collision, but we can at least be sure that they will take heed once they emerge from the wreck.

The question arises - along what lines should a sustainable economy be based? To answer this, it is useful to outline the key problems:

  • A rapidly globalizing market-based economy with self-interest and competition at its heart, prioritizing profit over people.
  • The privatization of resources for the sake of security and profit, and the propagation of economic growth as the panacea for development.
  • A corrupt and unstable global financial architecture based largely on speculation and bearing no relevance to the lives of most people.
  • The monopolizing power and influence of multinational corporations and the welfare they receive to propagate economic growth and shape the ideals of society.
  • Inefficient and damaging export-oriented trade and agricultural practices that prioritize profit over food security.
  • Grave environmental neglect and climate change as a result of overconsumption and excessive commercialization.
  • The neglect of mass poverty and growing inequality by policy makers who mistakenly leave the provision of basic human rights to commerce, market forces and the so called ‘trickle down’ effect.
  • The minimization of true democratic institutions and influence.
  • Political and economic competition between nations and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
  • The commercialization and homogenization of our values and cultures.

The list could be extended but is sufficiently comprehensive for the purposes of this analysis. On the other hand, a just and sustainable economy must:

  • Secure basic human rights and needs for all people everywhere as a priority.
  • Create effective and interdependent local economies that co-exist harmoniously within a stable world financial system.
  • Create democratic and representative global and local institutions to regulate economic activity and to guarantee social and economic rights.
  • Ensure that corporate enterprise serves the public good and is rooted locally where possible.
  • Ensure that all economic activity occurs with ecological limits and within a strict framework for emission reductions.

An effective and uniting global framework for economic and political activity must supersede the restrictive and often divisive prescriptions of socialism, communism and capitalism. Once we overcome such ideologies, many comprehensive and inclusive solutions to these problems present themselves through the work of individuals and institutions around the world. Proposals by ‘green economists’, the International Forum on Globalization, proponents of ‘localization’ and others propose generally to root economic activity in local communities as a way of reducing CO2 emissions, reducing corporate power and reinforcing participatory democracy.

What is missing from these and other proposals, which have at times been interpreted as protectionist and regressive, is an overarching concept for how the global community can continue to operate in an interdependent and globalised capacity, in line with the observable cultural shift towards international unity. The more basic question is how can the outdated values of privatization, self-interest and competition - which drive economic globalization - be fundamentally transformed to reflect principles that more accurately embody our humane nature?'

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