‘Economics Unmasked: From power and greed to compassion and the common good‘ is a collaboration between a physicist Philip B Smith (they are much better at spotting the mathematical nonsense in accepted economic ‘wisdom’) and economist Manfred Max Neef. The book was written because of their desire for a more just world. They relate how just a society is to the distribution of economic and financial power; the more concentrated the power, the less just the society. The following summarises their opening chapter.
Neoliberal economics which exalts the unregulated (so called free) market, leads irrevocably to the concentration of power i.e. injustice. It is the economic structure of today’s world that is the greatest barrier to a more just world. Political power is subservient to economic power because economic and financial power gives political power to those who have it and while those without economic power are bereft of the means to wield political power.
In capitalist countries there is some regulation of markets, but the last three decades have witnessed a convergence toward deregulation especially in money and financial sectors. An unregulated market is certain to create an unjust division of power as wealth concentrates in the hands of those who are already wealthy and leaves those who are poor without either the means to defend themselves from exploitation or the injustice that comes with it.
The plundering of poor countries was originally achieved through political and military means – colonisation. Now it happens through the invisible hand of the market. Globalisation works for those individuals and nations who are already wealthy and powerful.
Not only does our economic system promote the enrichment of the few, while the vast majority live their lives in indignity and poverty, it threatens all forms of life, through a merciless onslaught on the capacity of ecosystems and their consequent poisoning and depletion. This hasn’t happened by chance. It is inherent in the system that only recognises value in material things and is obsessed with growth of production. A socio-economic system based on the growth paradigm can never be sustainable.
A sensible economics would ensure that taking care that the ‘house’ is well provided for, for tomorrow and the future. But our economic system is not based on housekeeping but on exploitation that doesn’t look beyond the next quarterly figures.
Greed, condemned by religions throughout history is now exalted. You cannot be in favour of greed and justice at the same time. Nor can you defend future life by exploiting without limit today.
The economic arrangement of our society is to the liking of those who profit from it and history shows no examples of the powerful voluntarily relinquishing power to the powerless.