But, But, Extreme Poverty Reduction Is The One Truly Great Achievement Of Neoliberal Globalisation


It’s really quite remarkable how certain places can publish certain sorts of articles. OK, sure, Salon believes in rather more government than the rest of us of but really, what are they doing publishing this sort of drivel? For our laddie here has decided to tell us that extreme poverty is rising. An absolute and direct contradiction to reality. That extreme poverty reduction being the one great and massive achievement of the neoliberal globalisation of the past few decades.

But, you know, when there’s an ideology to promote then what do facts matter?

It’s impossible to ignore the growth of economic inequality in each corner of the planet. Vulgarity is the order of the day, with the very rich hoarding vast amounts of wealth while the poor scratch the earth for their livelihood. The British-based charity group Oxfam has done an important service by offering an annual indication of the gravity of inequality. This year, Oxfam noted that a mere 42 rich people have as much wealth as 3.7 billion poor people. What is most astounding is that in 2017, 82 percent of the social wealth produced by the world’s people was vacuumed into the bank accounts of the wealthiest 1 percent among us. This is not an ancient problem, in other words, but a current problem posed by the structure of capitalism: Goods and services are produced socially, but profit is sequestered privately — and with fewer and fewer hands able to seize this profit.

What is less digested is that increased inequality compounds not only poverty — which is obvious — but hunger.

But it’s entirely possible for poverty and inequality to move in different directions. Or the same directions of course as well. Global income inequality is falling, extreme poverty is falling. Inequality within certain countries is rising and yet again extreme poverty in those countries is falling. And yes, we are here talking about actual poverty, not the relative kind either.

Data on poverty should make any sensitive person pause. The United Nations and the World Bank keep track of poverty figures. There is always some disagreement about the methodology followed by the analysts. But there is near consensus that half of the world’s people — in excess of three billion people — live on less than $2.50 a day, the benchmark for poverty. Of these people, at least 1.3 billion live on less than $1.25 a day, the standard of extreme poverty.

Nope, those numbers are substantially out of date. Which is important, because those numbers for extreme poverty have been falling and falling hard. As this page shows, as this chart shows:

The effect of neoliberal globalisation – poverty plummets. Credit, Our World in Data, CCSA

In fact, we all sat around and insisted that as part of the Millennium Development Goals we should try to halve extreme poverty in the world. That ending up as the only one of the MDGs that was over-achieved and early. But here’s our laddie again:

What will end hunger? Not an empty pledge by the United Nations nor the expansion further of monopoly firms into the countryside. Onus is on the people’s movements, whose slowly growing political power must change the terms of the conversation about starvation. Fixation on efficiency and markets — the code words that mask the power of monopoly firms — rather than on an economic policy that understands the rhythms of agriculture will create profits for the large firms, but not food for people.

Well, actually, if we bothered to look out the window at that universe out there we’d find our answer. Extreme poverty has been halved in the last couple of decades. By neoliberal globalisation. So, we’d like extreme poverty to be reduced again would we? Why not try neoliberal globalisation? After all, we’ve evidence that it does actually work, haven’t we?

But that there are the deluded out there isn’t what worries. What does is, well, why does anyone publish them? And not edit them before they do?