Rethinking the Global Economy: The Case for Sharing

In a powerful essay published on the Common Dreams website,  economists Rajesh Makwana and Adam Parsons make the case for an entirely different economic system, one based on cooperation and sharing rather than competition, in other words a socialist rather than capitalist model (though they themselves don’t use that terminology). The key difference between these two models, as I have come to understand it, is the following: a socialist model has as its explicit goal the meeting of human needs in the society as equitably as possible (this is referred to, in textbooks, as “public or common ownership of the means of production and distribution”); whereas the capitalist model is based on maximizing the profitability of individuals and enterprises (this is referred to, in textbooks, as “increasing concentration of the means of production and distribution in private and corporate ownership”). A capitalist system leads inevitably, as we have seen over the past several centuries, to ever greater wealth for the few and greater immiseration for the many in “boom and bust” cycles.

As the 21st Century unfolds, humanity is faced with a stark reality. Following the world stock market crash in 2008, people everywhere are questioning the unbridled greed, selfishness and competition that has driven the dominant economic model for decades. The old obsession with protecting national interests, the drive to maximise profits at all costs, and the materialistic pursuit of economic growth has failed to benefit the world’s poor and led to catastrophic consequences for planet earth.

The incidence of hunger is more widespread than ever before in human history, surpassing 1 billion people in 2009 despite the record harvests of food being reaped in recent years. At least 1.4 billion people live in extreme poverty, a number equivalent to more than four times the population of the United States. One out of every five people does not have access to clean drinking water. Every day, around 50,000 people die needlessly as a result of being denied the essentials of life. In the face of these immense challenges, international aid has proven largely ineffective, inadequate, and incapable of enabling governments to secure the basic needs of all citizens. …The enduring gap between rich and poor, both within and between countries, is a crisis that lies at the heart of our political and economic problems.

If humanity is to survive the formidable challenges that define our generation – including climate change, diminishing fossil fuels and global conflict – it is necessary to forge new ethical understandings that embrace our collective values and global interdependence. We urgently need a new paradigm for human advancement, beginning with a fundamental reordering of world priorities: an immediate end to hunger, the securing of universal basic needs, and a rapid safeguarding of the environment and atmosphere. No longer can national self-interest, international competition and excessive commercialisation form the foundation of our global economic framework.

The crucial first step towards creating an inclusive world system requires overhauling our outdated assumptions about human nature, reconnecting our public life with fundamental values, and rethinking the role of markets in achieving the common good. In line with what we now know about human behaviour and psychology, integrating the principle of sharing into our economic system would reflect our global unity and have far-reaching implications for how we distribute and consume the planet’s wealth and resources. Sharing the world’s resources more equitably can allow us to build a more sustainable, cooperative and inclusive global economy – one that reflects and supports what it really means to be human.

http://www.commondreams.org/view/2010/11/26-2

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