[bestbits] for the WEF and NMI enthusiasts

parminder parminder at itforchange.net
Fri Jan 23 03:24:12 EST 2015

Maybe the following is something to ponder upon ..

Not only is the inequality at an unacceptable level, the pace of its 
growth in unthinkably high, coinciding with a period when Internet is 
transforming every social structure and system.

Is the IG civil society contributing to the problem or solving it - or 
has it even seen the problem in the right manner, beyond what is 
presented by those who gain the most from current Internet power 

But then perhaps one may want to ignore this as not an IG issue.... 



  In Davos, worrying about inequality

  * by Seumas Milne
  * Jan. 23, 2015
  * original

The billionaires and corporate oligarchs meeting in Davos this week are 
getting worried about inequality. It might be hard to stomach that the 
overlords of a system that has delivered the widest global economic gulf 
in human history should be hand-wringing about the consequences of their 
own actions.

But even the architects of the crisis-ridden international economic 
order are starting to see the dangers. It’s not just the maverick 
hedge-funder George Soros, who likes to describe himself as a class 
traitor. Paul Polman, Unilever chief executive, frets about the 
“capitalist threat to capitalism.” Christine Lagarde, the IMF managing 
director, fears capitalism might indeed carry Marx’s “seeds of its own 
destruction” and warns that something needs to be done.

The scale of the crisis has been laid out for them by the charity Oxfam. 
Just 80 individuals now have the same net wealth as 3.5 billion people — 
half the entire global population. Last year, the best-off one per cent 
owned 48 per cent of the world’s wealth, up from 44 per cent five years 
ago. On current trends, the richest one per cent will have pocketed more 
than the other 99 per cent put together next year. The 0.1 per cent has 
been doing even better, quadrupling their share of U.S. income since the 

This is wealth grab on a grotesque scale. For 30 years, under the rule 
of “market fundamentalism,” inequality in income and wealth has 
ballooned, both between and within the large majority of countries. In 
Africa, the absolute number living on less than $2 a day has doubled 
since 1981.

In most of the world, labour’s share of national income has fallen 
continuously and wages have stagnated under this regime of 
privatisation, deregulation and low taxes on the rich. At the same time 
finance has sucked wealth from the public realm into the hands of a 
small minority, even as it has laid waste the rest of the economy. Now 
the evidence has piled up that not only is such appropriation of wealth 
a moral and social outrage, but it is fuelling social and climate 
conflict, wars, mass migration and political corruption, stunting health 
and life chances and increasing poverty.

Escalating inequality has also been a crucial factor in the economic 
crisis of the past seven years, squeezing demand and fuelling the credit 
boom. We don’t just know that from the research of the French economist 
Thomas Piketty or the British authors of the social study The Spirit 
Level. After years of promoting Washington orthodoxy, even the 
western-dominated OECD and IMF argue that the widening income gap has 
been key to the slow growth of the past two neoliberal decades. The 
British economy would have been almost 10 per cent larger if inequality 
hadn’t mushroomed.

*The big exception*

The big exception to the tide of inequality in recent years has been 
Latin America. Progressive governments across the region turned their 
back on a disastrous economic model, took back resources from corporate 
control and slashed inequality. The numbers living on less than $2 a day 
have fallen from 108 million to 53 million in little over a decade. 
China, which also rejected much of the neoliberal catechism, has seen 
sharply rising inequality at home but also lifted more people out of 
poverty than the rest of the world combined, offsetting the growing 
global income gap.

These two cases underline that increasing inequality and poverty are 
very far from inevitable. They’re the result of political and economic 
decisions. The thinking person’s Davos oligarch realises that allowing 
things to carry on as they are is dangerous. So, some want a more 
“inclusive capitalism” — including more progressive taxes — to save the 
system from itself.

But it certainly won’t come about as a result of Swiss mountain musings 
or anxious Guildhall lunches. Whatever the feelings of some corporate 
barons, vested corporate and elite interests including the organisations 
they run and the political structures they have colonised have shown 
they will fight even modest reforms tooth and nail. To get the idea, you 
only have to listen to the squeals of protest, including from some in 
his own party, at Ed Miliband’s plans to tax homes worth over £2m to 
fund the health service, or the demand from the one-time reformist 
Fabian Society that the Labour leader be more pro-business, or the wall 
of congressional resistance to Barack Obama’s mild redistributive 
taxation proposals.

Perhaps a section of the worried elite might be prepared to pay a bit 
more tax. What they won’t accept is any change in the balance of social 
power — which is why, in one country after another, they resist any 
attempt to strengthen trade unions.

It’s only through a challenge to the entrenched interests that have 
dined off a dysfunctional economic order that the tide of inequality 
will be reversed. The anti-austerity Syriza party, favourite to win the 
Greek elections this weekend, is attempting to do just that — as the 
Latin American left has succeeded in doing over the past decade and a 
half. Even to get to that point demands stronger social and political 
movements to break down or bypass the blockage in a colonised political 
mainstream. Crocodile tears about inequality are a symptom of a fearful 
elite. But change will only come from unrelenting social pressure and 
political challenge.

— *© Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2015 *

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