What the Market Does to People: Privatization, Globalization, and Poverty

What the Market Does to People: Privatization, Globalization, and Poverty

What the Market Does to People: Privatization, Globalization, and Poverty

What the Market Does to People: Privatization, Globalization, and Poverty

Excerpt

"The belly has no ears, nor is it to be filled with fair words."
Rabelais (1548)

How is it possible that, during a period of unparalleled prosperity, the richest countries in the world are content to allow ten to fifteen percent of their populations to live in abject poverty? How is it possible that after fifty years of foreign aid and development assistance, the Third World remains not only basically poor, but also subject to ever-increasing inequality? And why is there no public outcry from the people——including the poor themselves——against this immoral situation? After the Twin Towers destruction, there was a massive public outpouring of grief, including marches and meetings. Relief efforts were so great and so numerous that they literally got in each other's way. No such manifestations against mass poverty have ever been exhibited.

Similarly, the question of abortion raises so many emotional reactions that it has actually led to murders, and demonstrations of the "Right to Life" movement have invariably been met with "Right to Choose" counter-demonstrations. No such conflict between demonstrations against poverty have been recorded, because no such demonstrations have been held. Even the markedly fewer demonstrations conducted by organized labor over recent decades have had specific employer or industry targets and work-related objectives, and cannot be viewed as protests against poverty itself. In such struggles, strikebreakers are often viewed with opprobrium, rather than recognized as yet another sector of the poor who are also in need of a livelihood.

The fight against racial discrimination was rife with marches and meetings, in which both whites and blacks participated. Where were or are the marches against poverty in which both the poor and the non-poor join hands? The Gay Rights Movement demonstrates in many cities, and protest meetings against the closing of naval bases, location of a drug rehabilitation center, and other relatively minor issues have become standard. Only the question of poverty is sidelined, side-stepped, and made into a non-issue. Not since the 1960s — almost half a century ago—when President Johnson declared "war on poverty" (a war that America lost), and Martin Luther King, Jr. initiated a march against it, has any serious attention been paid to the phenomenon. Poverty is simply not on any government's national, regional or local agenda as a serious phenomenon to be addressed.

There is no question that during the last several decades there has been economic improvement for great swathes of populations. For example, in the year 2000, 90 percent of American households owned a vehicle, and 18 percent owned three or more vehicles. This is the highest share of vehicle‐ ownership ever. In 1990 only 75 percent of the population twenty-five and older had graduated high school, but in the year 2000, 82 percent had. In 1990 only 20 percent had at least a bachelor's degree, and by 2000 this had grown to 25 percent. Towards the end of the millennium the Gross Domestic Product was growing by more than 3 percent a year and unemployment reached its lowest level since World War II.

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