Fighting the Hell of Poverty

by Gordon Abiama

There is a force behind today's unjust world economic order that has placed humanity's very existence at great risk, thus reducing billions of people to living under conditions of deep and embarrassing poverty.

And the people that make up such a force are none other than those that have access to limitless economic resources, comfortably hiding behind democratic ideals to continue to subdue and impoverish the vast majority to maintain their privileged status quo.

Right thinking people recoil with shock this concentration of income in the wealthiest fifth of the world's population and call for policies that will reverse this unnatural trend. The battle appears to be a losing one, though -- as this phenomenon now characterize even grassroots economies of developing nations.

These gross distortions in wealth distribution are the direct results of neo-liberal economic policies where the money system have been controlled by a financial elite. It is time economic planners stopped to take a deep look at the Georgist paradigm which is based on the moral and ethical ground of basic fairness for all. If they do not do this, then all policies that purport to eradicate poverty would amount to nothing more than lip service.

It is disheartening to note that neo-liberal economists, champions of "free trade and capital movements" still make bold to impress on us that world income distribution is becoming more equal as globalization proceeds, and we should therefore stop calling for international public policy to address income distribution.

The entire world is drowning in debt. America is now the world's biggest debtor nation, and development foundations are seriously considering giving aid to Britain like they do to third world countries! Swiss banks through the connivance of the two Bretton Woods institutions, the IMF and World Bank, have colonized the planet through debt bondage turning it into a global slave/serf economy which fuels inflation as ever more debt is serviced ever more debt which in turn ignites unsustainable economic madness.

Nigeria, like many HIPCs, is continually being granted more loans by these charlatan western creditors -- even in the face of the reality that these poor countries would never be able to come out from under the crushing millstone of debt.

The prescribed antidote is for poor countries to export! Export all their resources! Does this game have any winners? Yes, but only the ruling elites of these poor countries and their western creditors. The majority, including the yet-unborn child, are made eternal debtors who must sacrifice painfully to pay back a debt they knew nothing about nor enjoyed any benefit from.

It is a fact that 30 million Americans subsist on food stamps while more than 10 million Britons live below the poverty line. The politically protected fraternity of corporate thieves and exploiters of course do not see this development as alarming. Why would they, when they have stashed away enough money to last them for all 'eternity' through the monopolies and special privileges they enjoy.

Declared America's foremost economic thinker, Henry George in a speech delivered at Burlington, Iowa, US:

That poverty is a curse, the bitterest of curses we all know. Carlyle was right when he said that the hell of which the Englishmen were most afraid was the hell of poverty and this is true of not of Englishmen alone, but of people all over the civilized world, no matter what their nationalities. It is to escape this hell that we strive and strain and struggle ....

And I should add, it is to escape this hell that African rulers hang tenaciously onto power even against their better judgment. It is little wonder why the 'second tenure' syndrome has become a common parlance Nigeria's political scene today. All governors, lawmakers and local government chairmen want to stay in power at all costs, their woeful performance in office notwithstanding.

Henry George further said "that the curse born of poverty is not confined to the poor alone; it runs through all classes, even the very rich. They, too, suffer, they must suffer; for there cannot be suffering in a community from which any class can totally escape. The vice, the crimes, the ignorance, the meanness, born of poverty, poison so to speak, the very air which the very rich and poor alike must breathe."

What a true observation! Looking at the socio-economic culture practiced by the elite especially in developing nations like Nigeria, it is hard not to conclude that they deliberately underdevelop their constituents, keep them in perpetual ignorance and poverty so they could continue to manipulate they for their selfish ends through the dangling of a few carrots before them.

Nigeria's ruling elite continues to say we are undergoing as a learning phase in democratic practice, but what have we learned? Political thuggery resulting in assassinations are arson have become a common feature on the political landscape since the 1960s. And those politicians who through thuggery and violence gain political advantages somewhere along the line become the victims.

All these experiences go to accentuate the urgent need to entrench in our political economy a system that will ensure equal rights to the earth's resources -- a system free of special privileges and monopolies; a practical guarantee of individual freedom in economic production and exchange which encompasses fairness in the overall distribution of wealth and just rewards for labour of all sorts.

The starting point to achieving socio-economic equity is a fundamental reorientation in our system of land tenure which must recognize the fact that land is a common heritage to which everyone is entitled to equally.

Former British Prime Minister, Sir Winston Churchill described land monopoly as the mother of all forms of monopolies which greatly hampers sustainable development while creating distortions in the economies of wealth distribution.

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