The prices of food and other essential things keep rising. Newspapers and TV channels celebrate it in catchy headlines. But the number of private vehicles on the roads keeps increasing indicating that people have money to buy them and fill their tanks with fuel. The number of people spending time in expensive shopping malls and multiplexes have not decreased. So who is affected by the inflation and price rise?
Economist and Nobel laureate, Joseph Stiglitz, delivered a speech recently to the AFL-CIO convention and said:
“95% of the gains from 2009 to 2012 went to the upper 1% (in the USA). The rest — the 99% — never really recovered.
“We have become the advanced country with the highest level of inequality, with the greatest divide between the rich and the poor.”
The situation is not confined to the world’s most “advanced country.” It is replicated in every country which follows the same economic policies, including India. The American economic policies are tailored to make the rich richer at the cost of the poor. Earlier, in the toddler days of the system, about 20% of the population were benefitted by the system – their wealth increased. The proportion continued to dwindle systematically and has now become a mere one percent. That’s the tragedy (or advantage, depending on which side of the dividing line you are) of the system: it works for less and less number of people. The system is manufactured to cater to less and less number of people at the expense of all others. It is tailored to create the ultimate plutocracy.
Is such inequality inevitable? Stiglitz raised the question for the umpteenth time in his recent speech. He said:
“Inequality is not inevitable. It is not … like the weather, something that just happens to us. It is not the result of the laws of nature or the laws of economics. Rather, it is something that we create, by our policies, by what we do.
We created this inequality—chose it, really—with [bad] laws …”
The system we adopted refused to address the problems and needs of the vast majority as any good system should do. Instead, it focused on a few in the name of “wealth creation.” Profit became the only motive.
The insurance companies deny the rightful claims of their clients in order to maximise the profits of the company. The business people bribe the politicians in order to formulate policies that promote trade and generate profit. Educational institutions appoint people in managerial posts so that the entire staff can be exploited to enhance the profit of the institution. Hospitals prescribe all the tests available to the new technology. Banks have to innovate strategies to retain balances in the accounts of the aam aadmi.
Unemployment and poverty rise in such a system. Crimes become natural offshoot.
And crimes won’t be confined to that side of the dividing line where the survival game is on. The crime virus identifies no borders. It penetrates even the holy of holies. And then godmen rape their devotees, and godwomen erect empires of commerce. Spirituality metamorphoses into a drug to sedate the harrowed nerves of the hapless 99%.
Is there a way out of this enormous trap laid by the economic system?
“It is plain that the only true and sustainable prosperity is shared prosperity. If we could ensure that everyone who wanted a job and was willing to work hard could get one, we could have an economy and a society that is both more equal and more prosperous,” said Stiglitz.