Tuesday, 19 May 2009

We condemn the poor to capitalism and only offer the rich socialism

Welf Werner Professor of international economics at Bremen's Jacob's University was invited to speak at this morning's sessions of the Kirchentag's Global Network Congress meeting on "The most pressing global challenges and possible solutions".
The five challenges he offered and attempted solutions for in order were:
1) Climate change and environmental resources
2) Poverty
3) Economic crisis
4) Economic globalisation
5) The crisis in values and community
Werner is not only an economist but also an economic historian and set his reflections within the wide sweep of the past 200 years.
While warning that economists are open to deluding themselves he neverthelss made tentative proposals for solutions, speaking in particular about Amartya Sen's capability approach.
Any economic and social solutions we propose have to be tested against whether they foster people's capability to access education, health, food, water etc. It is in this area that values and community are of key importance.
One of the problems with the US economic model that is being sold worldwide is that it condemns the poor to live under capitalism - no universal health care or education provision, the individual has to foot the bill. Meanwhile the rich live under socialism - bankers' mistakes are being paid for out of taxes on everyone, they don't have to take responsibility for their errors and the state bails them out. The poor have to pay the price for getting ill, the rich don't even pay for their mistakes.
Responding to Werner's analysis Nicola Bullard addeed that resisting the individualisation of risk, for health, housing, water, sanitation eetc, was a key area to work on. She also insisted that it was important for NGOs to put issues of power and politics much more clearly onto their agendas. The financial institutions are not neutral entities but places of power and there is a need to use the current crisis to reinvigorate our democracies.