There was a time, in the rich nations, when it seemed as if we could all triumph. From the second world war until the late 1970s, general prosperity rose steadily. The top 1% captured a decreasing proportion of total income. But then, in the US, the UK, Canada, Ireland and Australia, the curve suddenly turned, and the 1% began to grab an ever greater share. The trend has continued to this day, sustained by the neoliberal doctrines that were first imposed in the rich world by Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan.
The ultra-rich have gained most: since the beginning of the pandemic, the world’s 10 richest men have doubled their wealth, while 163 million people have been pushed below the poverty line. Wages for many people in the Anglosphere have stagnated, but the costs of living, especially housing, have soared.
But even during the “glory years” (1945 to 1975) the universal triumph capitalism promised was an illusion. The general rise of prosperity in rich nations was financed, in part, by poor ones. Decolonisation was resisted by the rich world with extreme violence and oppression, then partly reversed through coups and assassinations (such as the overthrow of Mohammad Mosaddegh in Iran in 1953, the crushing of Jacobo Árbenz’s government in Guatemala in 1954, the murder of Patrice Lumumba in Congo in 1961, Suharto’s coup in Indonesia in 1967 and Augusto Pinochet’s in Chile in 1973). Today, such extreme measures are seldom required, as the transfer of wealth is secured by other means. The rich world’s wealth continues in large part to rely on the exploitation of black and brown people.
OK, let’s take the dual complaints seriously.
The second first – we got rich because other folk didn’t. Those black and brown out there remained poor because all the income and wealth was challenged to us white folk in the Global North, the post-colonial overlords.
Well, it’s a view.
So, more recently. The global growth pattern has been entirely overturned. We in the global North are gaining 1 and 2% a year of GDP growth. That poor post-colonial South is gaining 3 and 5 and 7% annual GDP growth. Those brown and black are getting rich – richer at least – and we whiteys aren’t so much.
OK, that’s also a view.
Now think of how perverse you’ve got to be to complain of both these things happening.
The world before globalisation was bad because the poor didn’t get the growth. The world of globalisation is bad because the poor do get the growth.
Must be a Wednesday though. For normally George is complaining about there being growth at all, isn’t he?