THE Oxfam report on global wealth distribution should come as no surprise. By next year, just 1 per cent of the world’s population will own half of all the world’s wealth.
Such huge inequality is the intended outcome of 30 years of capitalist neoliberalism and globalisation.
Neoliberalism proclaims the virtues of free enterprise, free markets and free trade, liberating capitalism’s “wealth creators” so they can grow economies everywhere, with the benefits trickling down to all those below.
Thus business must be liberated from the shackles of state regulation and restrictive trade unionism, costly and inefficient state ownership of industries and services must be privatised, investors and entrepreneurs have to be incentivised with tax cuts, while barriers to the free movement of capital, labour, goods and services are swept away.
It’s a doctrine based on lies and deception. Even the terminology deployed to promote it is fundamentally dishonest.
The only “liberal” thing about neoliberalism is its freedom for giant corporations and the super-rich to accumulate, stash and enjoy their cash.
There is no place, on the other hand, for free trade unionism. The capacity of workers to organise and bargain collectively — the only power they can muster against that of employers — must be restricted or crushed by state and corporate power.
The “free market” in reality means the domination of every sector of the economy by a handful of monopolies whose only mission is the short-term enrichment of fat cat shareholders.
The “free movement of labour” means freedom for employers to shunt and shackle super-exploited workers whose home economies have been wrecked by capitalist profiteering or war.
And, as Oxfam confirms, instead of trickling down from the top, the wealth created by the worker bees down below is sucked up by the bloated drones who produce nothing.
Yet this neoliberal propaganda remains the predominant doctrine peddled in Britain’s universities and business schools. No wonder their students are unable to make sense of a capitalist world in turmoil.
In country after country, bankers are bailed out by sacking workers and impoverishing the poor. Commodity prices and currencies tumble as governments look on, unable or unwilling to halt the chaos, in thrall to companies which have no interest in solving the most basic problems of humanity.
Some of these problems — hunger, poverty, global warming, women’s oppression — will be discussed at the World Economic Forum in Davos later this week. The world’s rich and powerful will shed crocodile tears by day, before popping the champagne corks at night.
Yet nothing substantial will be done until governments are installed at national level which act to shut down the tax havens, levy big business profits and the super-rich, abolish anti-trade union laws and take energy, public transport and banking into public ownership so that sustainable growth can be planned for the benefit of all.
On that basis, rather than in some pipe dream about a “social Europe,” international co-operation between left and progressive governments can reduce the outrageous wealth gap between classes and countries.
President Barack Obama has probably left it too late to hit the big five Wall Street banks and the wealthiest 1 per cent of US citizens with higher taxes on borrowing, capital gains and inheritance.
But in Britain, where 10 per cent of people own five times more than half the population, now is the time for Ed Miliband and Labour to propose a radical programme which includes not only wealth redistribution but also public ownership and a Trade Union Freedom Bill.