By Dave Crouch
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Profiting from Poverty

This article is over 16 years, 4 months old
The strongest arguments for socialism are the simplest ones.
Issue 299

Capitalism can develop technology capable of putting human beings into orbit and getting them home again (just), but its best brains cannot work out how to meet the basic needs of people facing starvation in Niger and Malawi.

According to the logic of capitalism, it makes sense to spend over £6 billion a year on space exploration, but it really makes no sense at all to save lives in Africa.

The Financial Times reported that Malawi had ‘broken the eleventh commandment: thou shalt not be poor’. World market prices for the country’s main crop, tobacco, are falling, and over 4 million face food shortages.

The country spends a third of its budget on servicing its debt to western banks. Yet Malawi is not even one of the 18 countries earmarked for immediate debt relief by the G8. The IMF suspended a loan to Malawi in 2003 because it said government spending was too high.

In Niger the investors’ newspaper the Wall Street Journal reports that market reforms have fostered selfishness and greed that have seen traders profiting from the population’s desperation.

The newspaper’s reporter found ‘unexpected reasons for the hunger crisis… including vendor profiteering, a government policy shift towards a free market, and a decline in the traditional culture of generosity that once helped communities survive cyclical periods of scarcity’.

Away from the streets full of shrivelled children and their exhausted mothers, there are bustling markets groaning with food – for those who have the money to pay for it. Ending world poverty means rejecting the logic of capitalism that puts profit before human need.

Dave Crouch
North London

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