Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Global inequality is a threat to democracy

Today's shock statistic: the 85 richest people in the world control as much wealth as the poorest 3.5 billion of us:

The extent to which so much global wealth has become corralled by a virtual handful of the so-called 'global elite' is exposed in a new report from Oxfam on Monday. It warned that those richest 85 people across the globe share a combined wealth of £1tn, as much as the poorest 3.5 billion of the world's population.

The wealth of the 1% richest people in the world amounts to $110tn (£60.88tn), or 65 times as much as the poorest half of the world, added the development charity, which fears this concentration of economic resources is threatening political stability and driving up social tensions.

As for how this has happened, the report is pretty clear: the total capture and subversion of our political systems by the rich:
The Oxfam report found that over the past few decades, the rich have successfully wielded political influence to skew policies in their favour on issues ranging from financial deregulation, tax havens, anti-competitive business practices to lower tax rates on high incomes and cuts in public services for the majority. Since the late 1970s, tax rates for the richest have fallen in 29 out of 30 countries for which data are available, said the report.

To point out the obvious, this is highly undemocratic. And if we want to solve the problem of inequality, we need to start by taking back our democracy and removing the influence of wealth from our political system. We've outlawed direct bribes, but that hasn't been enough; we now need to outlaw large donations and replace them with public funding instead. No-one likes politicians, but if we want them to listen to us rather than the rich, then we need to be the ones paying them. Its that simple.