The Analysis Is Simple; It Is Economic


David Adams | Transition to a Culture of Peace – TRANSCEND Media Service

For a Profound Analysis of Our Political Situation, the Answer Is Simple: It Is Economic

1 Feb 2023 – I wrote the following back in my blog of May 2017:

“What is the appeal of Donald Trump and Marine Le Pen? Why have they able to get so many votes? A superficial response is easy: Voters are angry and fed up with the present political system and they will vote for whoever best shares their anger and damns the present political system. . . . But a more profound response requires that we analyze why voters are angry and fed up. One cause is their economic hardships. The average wages of a worker continue to decrease year after year. More and more families are forced to work two or three jobs just to survive. And they understand, to some extent, that the problem is due to government policies that support capitalist exploitation, enabling the rich to get richer and the poor to get poorer.”

This month two new articles were published that update and provide details for my analysis of 2017.

The first article comes from Oxfam in their presentation to the Davos World Economic Forum:

“Billionaires have seen extraordinary increases in their wealth. During the pandemic and cost-of-living crisis years since 2020, $26 trillion (63 percent) of all new wealth was captured by the richest 1 percent, while $16 trillion (37 percent) went to the rest of the world put together. A billionaire gained roughly $1.7 million for every $1 of new global wealth earned by a person in the bottom 90 percent. Billionaire fortunes have increased by $2.7 billion a day. This comes on top of a decade of historic gains —the number and wealth of billionaires having doubled over the last ten years.

“At the same time, at least 1.7 billion workers now live in countries where inflation is outpacing wages, and over 820 million people —roughly one in ten people on Earth— are going hungry. Women and girls often eat least and last, and make up nearly 60 percent of the world’s hungry population. The World Bank says we are likely seeing the biggest increase in global inequality and poverty since WW2. Entire countries are facing bankruptcy, with the poorest countries now spending four times more repaying debts to rich creditors than on healthcare. Three-quarters of the world’s governments are planning austerity-driven public sector spending cuts —including on healthcare and education— by $7.8 trillion over the next five years.”

The second article is written by Nobel Laureate in Economics Joseph Stiglitz and published by CNN.

After citing the attacks on democracy in Washington two years ago and Brasilia a few weeks ago, Stiglitz writes, “Over half the world’s population lives under authoritarian regimes, and movements that clearly call individual and public freedoms into question and foster xenophobia persist at the ballot box. There are many reasons for this, but among them is a near-universal sense of grievance. So many citizens around the world suffer from economic hardship while a sliver of the population — the wealthy and the corporations they own and control — is doing extremely well . . .

“politicians have systematically cut virtually every tax that fell on the wealthy, from high-end income taxes and investment taxes, to estate and corporate taxes, to inheritance taxes, claiming the whole economy would benefit. You know the rest: Inequality in the US and countries around the world soared, working-class wages stagnated, working conditions deteriorated, and debts ballooned. As for the richest, they have done amazingly well, but they are the only ones. The same pattern has been repeated all over the world, with political consequences we are seeing in action.”

Both Oxfam and Stiglitz, in their articles, demand a big increase in taxes on the rich. Stiglitz concludes that “To refuse this solution is to force states to institute austerity programs, cutting public services and retirement benefits. This is a recipe for a chaos far greater than what we saw in Washington, D.C. and Brasilia. And that is a price too steep for the world to pay.”

It is good that the Oxfam analysis was presented to Davos where the rich were gathered for their annual meeting, and it is good that the Stiglitz analysis was published by CNN which reaches a wide audience. But that is not enough. Without profound and universal taxation of the rich, we are headed for what Stiglitz calls “a chaos far greater than what we saw in Washington, D.C. and Brasilia”.

It’s not clear what form this chaos will take, if we will survive it and if we will be able to find the way to a more humane world. But at least we should understand, with Oxfam and Stiglitz, its profound cause which is economic.


Dr. David Adams is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace Development Environment and coordinator of the Culture of Peace News Network. He retired in 2001 from UNESCO where he was the Director of the Unit for the UN International Year for the Culture of Peace.  Previously, at Yale and Wesleyan Universities, he was a specialist on the brain mechanisms of aggressive behavior, the history of the culture of war, and the psychology of peace activists, and he helped to develop and publicize the Seville Statement on Violence. Send him an email.

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