From Socialist Voice, November 2004

A world of inequality

“The basic law of capitalism is you or I, not both you and I.”—Karl Liebknecht (1907)

We live in a world of inequality, a world of haves and have-nots. The story of humanity today is a story of barbaric capitalism. In today’s world everything revolves around profit. As E. B. White wrote in One Man’s Meat, “the trouble with the profit system has always been that it was highly unprofitable to most people.”

     The richest 20 per cent of the world’s population have seventy-four times the income of the poorest 20 per cent. Even more horrific and sickening is the fact that the three richest billionaires have greater assets than the combined GNP of more than 600 million people in the least developed countries. Is this a capitalist success? No, it is a story of modern barbarity.
     There are 4.4 billion people living in the developing world. 60 per cent of these people lack basic sanitation. A third have no access to clean water. A quarter do not have adequate housing. 20 per cent do not have proper health services. The same proportion of children do not finish primary school. Child mortality rates are eight times higher in Africa than in Europe. 10.9 million children under five die in developing countries each year, and 60 per cent of these deaths are caused by malnutrition. Indeed hunger and malnutrition are such a problem that they kill more people than AIDS.
     Forty-two of the world’s poorest countries pay more in debt repayments and interest than on health and education. Good health is a fundamental human right. It is clear that poor health leads to a poor quality of life, and it is those living in poverty that suffer from poor health most. Priority also needs to be given to education. 115 million children are out of school. 862 million people cannot read or write, and two-thirds of these are women. Of course there is more than enough produced by the world to provide for everybody. However, capitalism does not allow this. Capitalism is about exploiting for the good of a few. These few then have outrageous amounts of wealth, while the massive majority struggle. This is why fundamental change is needed to redistribute the wealth and thus create a better life for everyone, not just the few. As Mohandas K. Gandhi said, “the earth provides enough to satisfy everyone’s need but not enough to satisfy everyone’s greed.”
     To deal with the problems of inequality there must be radical change. Efforts are needed to empower the people to seize power from the capitalists and to create a just society based upon the redistribution of wealth. Efforts are needed to
• eradicate poverty and hunger
• achieve universal primary education and the ending of illiteracy
• reduce child mortality and improve maternal health
• combat HIV/ AIDS
• ensure environmental sustainability.

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