That some people aren’t quite up with the way the world works is unfortunate but not tragic. Most people aren’t campaigning to change that reality after all. Then there are those who do campaign but are still misinformed, that’s tragic. Unfortunately, we’ve a third class, the malevolently ignorant. Those who are wrong, those who campaign on their wrongness and whose wrongness will make the world worse if their aims were ever achieved.
Assuming that here is no class worse than this I give you Global Justice Now, as thick a group of pig ignorants as you’re likely to meet:
Extreme poverty was the focus of New Labour’s international development policy. The wanted to make global capitalism work for the poor – better markets and voluntary codes of conduct to encourage the private sector to “do the right thing”. It wasn’t without its achievements, coming as it did after an era in which the poor were regarded as responsible for their own poverty. But it continued to allow the real drivers of poverty, western corporate and foreign policies, to go unchecked, while offering a charitable contribution to clean up the mess they created.
That is the usual drivel. Poverty is something caused as opposed to reality, which is that poverty is the natural state. It is wealth which is created, the thing that has to be built. But, you know, stylishly ignorant isn’t that uncommon.
On Monday, Labour announces a new development policy which takes a radically different approach. In essence, you can’t solve the problem of poverty without tackling inequality. And you can’t tackle inequality without dramatically changing how the global economy works.
But that’s further ignorance. For of course global inequality has been falling under the current neoliberal globalisation. The poor have been getting less poor faster than the already rich have been getting richer. It’s one of those sorta math-y things that this means reducing inequality. But then Nick Dearden has always struck as being the Barbie of development, math is hard and all that.
Fighting inequality requires huge changes to the way the global economy works.
If the current policy mixture is reducing inequality then why?
Aid is still important, but it must look different. Over recent years it has been increasingly poured into free market schemes, like setting up private schools and hospitals across Africa and Asia which end up undermining public provision.
This being rather one of the victories of that neoliberal dispensation. No, not that markets and private are better in theory, but that those market and private operators have turned out to be better in practice in many of those places. After all, we do actually care that the poor receive education and health care, yes?
Perhaps more interesting than anything is the new tone of these policies. Not only is charity inadequate to deal with the world’s problems, it can be actively unhelpful.
Yep, your £10 a month to help in digging wells is actively unhelpful, isn’t it? Government aid often is unhelpful of course, but charity not so much so.
Our society is, with some good reason, increasingly ambivalent about development. If we want to rebuild support for it, it must be recast as an issue of social justice. An updated version of what Labour achieved in government in the late 1940s, applied to global society. Reduce the market and redistribute wealth and power. Labour has thrown down the gauntlet – the development sector must respond with an equal degree of ambition and hope.
And there’s the real evil. “Reduce the market”. That market which, in globalised form, has just produced the largest fall in absolute poverty in the history of our species. We must stop doing what works in reducing poverty and move on off into something socialistically approved of. Because it’s socialistically approved of, whatever the effects of non-market economies upon poverty.
Because, you know, Nick Dearden and Global Justice Now want to be ideologically pure, not actually solve poverty in any manner. And for that they’d be better off with that millstone around their necks. For as we have it on that good authority of this time of year, those who would harm the children would be better off in that manner. And ideological purity in the name of preventing poverty reduction is indeed harming the children.
These people aren’t just ignorant or stupid they’re vile.