Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Capitalism cannot solve the global crisis, it is the cause of it.

by Richard Mellor

We have had a number of commentaries on this blog about global poverty and the consumption of the world’s resources.  This also connects in to the issue of overpopulation as there are those who place overpopulation as the dominant feature in the crisis of global capitalism and as the cause of environmental destruction; lets call them neo-Malthusians for want of a better word.  It is too many people that are at the root of the crisis and not enough food to go around.

If you search this blog or the internet enough you will quickly discredit this argument and discover that it is the way food is produced and allocated that is the issue not too many hungry mouths.  The US throws away and wastes enough food to feed a few countries not that it would be of the quality most people would want to eat in ordinary circumstances.

The data site, Global issues gives some relevant data regarding consumption.

Globally, the 20% of the world’s people in the highest-income countries account for 86% of total private consumption expenditures — the poorest 20% a minuscule 1.3%. More specifically, the richest fifth:
  • Consume 45% of all meat and fish, the poorest fifth 5%
  • Consume 58% of total energy, the poorest fifth less than 4%
  • Have 74% of all telephone lines, the poorest fifth 1.5%
  • Consume 84% of all paper, the poorest fifth 1.1%
  • Own 87% of the world’s vehicle fleet, the poorest fifth less than 1%
 "Runaway growth in consumption in the past 50 years is putting strains on the environment never before seen." their report says. The other aspect of this is important.  There is much talk about raising living standards and bringing democracy and vibrant market capitalism to the underdeveloped world.  But if other countries adopted the consumerism, the useless products, the 2500 sq. foot houses for two people. The cars, waste, garbage produced by a country like the US the environment could not support it, life as we know it would cease on this floating sphere.  Life would not cease, but life for us would. We must not underestimate this. 

We blogged some time ago about poor women in India who agreed to be sterilized for a cell phone.  Some deal.  But the overpopulation argument always seeks a solution among the poorest among us. The poor have too many children and are consuming the world’s food, there’s just not enough land to go around.  But these statistics show that this is not the case. 

In 1995, Americans spent $8 billion on cosmetics.  The Europeans spent $50 billion on cigarettes and $105 billion on Alcohol. The two continents spent $17 billion on pet foods.  Meanwhile, the State of Human Development resource published by the UN declared in 1998 that the cost of basic social services in “all” developing countries would be (in billions):

Basic education for all
Water and sanitation for all
Reproductive health for all women
Basic health and nutrition                  


So the entire “underdeveloped” world can receive these basic social services for all at a cost that is less than half of the wealth possessed by three American coupon clippers, the heirs to the Wal-Mart fortune. Does this make any sense?  Is this what people can honestly call civilization?

I think there’s something amiss.

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