the divide

the divide.png

(2017) by Jason Hickel

[Matt Taibbi‘s the divide notes on his page]





today some 4.3 billion people – more than 60% of world’s population – living in debilitating poverty,..t..  struggling to survive on less than the equiv of $5 a day

the gap between the real per capital incomes of he global north, and the global south has roughly tripled in size since 1960..t


the divide between rich/poor countries isn’t natural or inevitable..  it has been created..


why is ineq getting worse.. and why do we not know about it

the story about global ineq.. is about the belief, shaken w doubt from time to time, but otherwise firm, that another world is possible..  if we are going to solve the great problems of global poverty and ineq, of famine and environ collapse, the world of tomorrow will have to look very diff from the world of today..t

ie: a nother way

part 1 – the divide

1 – the development delusion


it probably wouldn’t be a stretch to say that almost everyone in the western world has at some point encountered or even participated in the story of development (1949 truman inaug speech p4 – to help developing world).. it has become an enormous industry, worth 100s of bns of dollars.. as much as all the profits of all the banks in the us combined  (ie: toms shoes.. sponsor child in zambia.. volunteer in honduras)

(me during final yr in uni – moved to nagaland india to work w microfin org).. it made me feel as though i was part of something important.. it made me feel noble..

to continue.. returned to swaziland to work w world vision.. one of world’s largest development ngos..  i worked water systems to healthcare..


after initial excitement faded, i found myself confronting some difficult questions..  ie: millions from us.. but only one of many ngos tackling very same problems..  but nothing really seemed to be changin.g.. why did most people in swaziland remain so poor..?

word vision had hired me to help analyse why their development effort in swaziland were not living up to their promise.. the reason, i discovered, was that their interventions were missing the point.. 

their story  (via truman) led them to assume tha tall that swazis needed was a bit of charity to help them out..

ie: world vision cared for aids patients.. set up income generation for unemployed, teaching new techniques to farmers, paying for children’s ed.. but as helpful as these projects were, they did nothing to address the actual causes of the problems.. ie: why dying of aid? learned it had to do w pharma co’s refused to allow swaziland to import generic .. keeping prices way out of reach.. why farmers unable to make living./? related to subsidized foods that were flooding in from us and eu.. which undercut local agri.. why gov unable to provide basic soci services..  because buried under pile of foreign debts and .. forced to cut spending..

the deeper i dug i realise that the reason poverty persists.. had quite a lot to do w matters that lay beyond swaziland’s borders .. became clear that the global econ system was org’d to make meaningful development nearly impossible..


when i told world vision managers.. said it was too political.. that if we started to raise those issues.. we would lose funding, after all.. patents, trade, and debt was what made some of our donors rich enough to ive charity in the first place..  better to shut up .. stick w the sponsor-a-child programme .. don’t rock the boat

frustrated and disillusioned, i left world vision and went back to studying, determined to learn everything i could about the deeper structural determinants of poverty.. why so much of world continues to live in grinding poverty despite decades of ‘development’ .. while a few countries enjoy almost unimaginable wealth

missing pieces


anthropologists tell us that when the structure of a core myth begins to change, everything else about society changes around it, and fresh new possibilities open up that weren’t even thinkable before. when myths fall apart, revolutions happen..t

a quiet revolution


one of reason that the development story has been so compelling .. is that it has at its core a narrative of success – good n in world full of bad.. thanks to rich countries.. the story goes, we have made remarkable strides in fight against global poverty..

true around the edges..  but not in ending world hunger/poverty


ie: hunger went from 460 mn in 74 to 800 mn today.. actually more realistic .. around 2 bn..

it is hard to imagine a greater symbol of failure than rising hunger..  esp given we already produce more than enough food each year to feed all 7bn .. w plenty left over for another 3 bn..t

ie: poverty.. 2015 report that it was halved since 1990.. but very misleading..

1\ almost all of gains have happened in one place, china..t

2\ relies on proportions instead of absolute numbers..  if we look at absolute numbers – the original metric by which the world’s govts agreed to measure progress – poverty headcount is same now as it was when we measured in 1981 at about 1 bn.. improvement over 35 yrs.. and that’s according to the lowest possible poverty line..  in reality .. picture is much worse..  ie: $1 a day.. but in many global s countries $1 a day is simply not adequate for human existence, to say nothing of human dignity.. many area saying now that people need 4x that.. to have a decent shot at surviving until their 5th bday..

if we measure at this level.. headcount of about 4.3 bn..  more than 4x what un would have us believe.. and more than 60% of humanity

sounds like puerto rico death count


and all the while.. ineq has been exploding..  1960 – gap (between richest and poorest countries) 32x higher income.. 2000.. 134x.. and global ineq even worse at level of individuals.. 2014 oxfam.. richest 85 had more wealth than poorest 50% of world’s pop.. (3.6 bn) .. in 2017.. richest 8 had as much as poorest 3.6 bn

no story can survive (development industry) very long when it runs so obviously against the grain of reality.. something has to give


stakes are high.. if story of development collapses, so too will our certainties about the present order of the global econ..  it will become clear that something is fundamentally wrong w our econ system.. that it is failing the majority of humanity and urgently needs to be change..  the official success story has helped keep people on board w our existing system for a long time. if that story falls apart, so too will their consent..t

pluralistic ignorance .. voluntary compliance .. manufacturing consent..

teaching at uni of virginia in 2005.. asking why are poor countries poor.. responses same each year:

1\ people lazy or have too many children or backwards culture

2\ corrupt govt or poor institutions or poor environ

3\ natural order.. like children.. haven’t grown-up/developed yet..


truman calling it a border thing.. rich countries just work harder.. even when he knew during his own career – us military was invading/occupying ie: honduras and cuba.. at late at 20s and 30s.. at the behest of american banana and sugar co’s..  and europe controlling vast regions of south since 1492


european capitalism driven by imperative of growth and profit – prised people off their land (ie: plunder of latin america left 70 mn indigenous people dead in its wake; in india 30 mn died of famine under british rule.. avg living standards in india and china..  which had been on par w/britain before colonial period.. collapsed.. ) t.. and destroyed capacity for self sufficient subsistence..  development for some meant underdevelopment for others.. but all of this was carefully erased from the story that truman handed down..


foreign policy advisor to eisenhower – walt whitman rostow: ‘if poor countries wanted to develop, all they needed to do was accept western aid and advice.. sought to pull people’s attention away from unfairness by telling story focused on domestic policies..  – 1960 stages of econ growth..  he advertised it as ‘non communist manifesto’..


south doing good on own in 50s and 60s.. western powers not pleased..  in early 80s.. us and western europe discovered they could use their power as creditors to dictate econ policy to indebted countries.. in south.. effectively governing them by remote control.. w/o need for bloody interventions..  leveraging debt, they imposed ‘structural adjustment programmes’ that reversed all the econ reforms the global s countries had painstakingly enacted..t  even banning very polices they had used for own development.. effectively kicking away the ladder to success..


if bring history back into the analysis.. takes a far more complex/sinister hue.. whole idea the rich countries are the saviours of poor countries begins to seem more tha a bit naive.  the problem is not that poor countries are having difficulty hoisting themselves up the development ladder; the problem is that they are being actively prevented from doing so..  intentionally obstructed.. undone.. reversed by an external power..t

exactly .. this is huge.. local and global.. fractal to ie: unauthorized home less ness.. no one needs help.. we just need to get out of people’s way.. quit making them jump thru hoops.. and putting them on hold..   money bail industry is another good ie.. as is immigration.. as is school.. as it work..

evicted.. et al

poverty doesn’t just exist.. it’s created

aid in reverse.. rich countries give poor countries $128 bn a year..  via jeffrey sachs.. the end of poverty et al..  claiming poor not caused by rich and .. ie foreign aid contributions increased.7% able to eradicate global poverty un only 20 yeas..


what matters is not the content of the proposal.. but the story it implies ie: 1\ rich countries are not responsible for causing underdevelopment in poorer countries.. and  2\ they are reaching out in loving concern.. however. at same time.. us and britain just invaded iraq.. bush admin had just helped topple govt in haiti and supported coup attempt in Venezuela..   but the flow of aid would stand nonetheless as irrefutable proof of western benevolence.. it was a matter of perception management.

if look closely.. even this dimension crumbles.. it’s not that $128 bn doesn’t exist.. it does.. but if broaden view.. it is vastly outstripped by financial resources that flow in the opposite direction..


ie: in 2012.. developing countries receive $2 trill.. but more than twice that .. some $5 trillion flow out … in other words, developing countries ‘sent’ $3 trill more to the rest of the world than they received..  if we look at all years since 1980.. add up to 26.5 trill.. drained out of global south..  about the same about as gdp for us and western europe combined.. t

these outflows.. payments on debt..  today. poor countries pay over 200 bn each year in interest alone to foreign creditors..  much of it on old loans that have already been paid off many times over..

sounds like housing debts.. any debts..


biggest chunk.. 23.6 trillion.. outflows has to do w capital flight..

ie: for every dollar of aid developing countries receive, they lose $24 in nest outflows..

what this means it that poor countries are net creditors to rich countries – exactly the opposite of what we would usually assume..t


perhaps most significant loss.. exploitation thru trade..  rich countries able to get their way because they have much greater bargaining power..  and.. trade agreement often prevent poor countries from protecting workers in ways that rich countries do…


yes.. some aid goes a long way towards making people’s lives better, but it doesn’t come close to compensating for the damage that the givers of aid themselves inflict.. t

some by the very groups that run the aid agenda: world bank profits from global south debt.. gates foundation profits from intellectual property regime that locks meds behind patent paywalls; bono profits from tax haven  that siphons revenues out of global south.. t

paywall ness

this is not an argument against aid as such.. rather.. it is to say that the discourse of aid distracts us from seeing the broader picture.. it hides the patterns of extraction that are actively causing the impoverishment of the global south today and actively impeding meaningful development..  the charity paradigm obscure the real issues at stake.. t

ie: to belong rev.. ness et al

rich countries aren’t developing poor counties; poor countries are effectively developing rich countries.. and they have been since the late 15 th cent.. t

so not only that the aid narrative misunderstands what really causes poverty, it’s that it actually gets it backwards..


poverty is, at base, the inevitable outcome of ongoing processes of plunder.. processes that benefits a relatively small group of people at the expense of the vast majority of humanity.. t

it si delusional to believe that aid is a commensurate.. let alone honest and meaningful, solution to this kind of problem..


ie: palestinians struggling to survive in the desert.. but palestine doesn’t have a shortage of water.. israel (from 1967) asserted total control over aquifers beneath the territory.. israel draws close to 90% of its water from there.. as water table drops.. palestinian wells are running dry.. and they are not allowed to deepen their wells..w/o permission and permission is almost never granted..  if they build.. bulldozers arrive next day.. so palestinians are forced to buy their own water back from israel at arbitrarily high prices..t

flint et al – what eyes don’t see

it’s not that they lack water.. water has been stolen from them..t  the usaid sign only adds insult to injury (saying they are helping alleviate water shortages)

poor countries don’t need our aid; they need us to stop impoverishing them.. t

and homeless.. and refugees.. and incarcerateds.. and immigrants.. children

1 yr to be 5

until we target the structural drivers of global poverty – the underlying architecture of wealth extraction and accumulation – development effort will continue to fail..


this is a difficult truth to swallow for the mn’s of well meaning people who have been sold on the development story.  but also opens up world of new possibilities.. and clear way to a diff kind of future..t

as it could be .. sans money/measure

oy.. that’s just one ch

2 – the end of poverty .. has been postponed


after launch of mdgs.. a well funded pr campaign kept the programme prominent in the public imagination  and high on the global policy agenda.. (basically.. all bad things gone by 2015).. 2012.. announce poverty already cut in half.. bill gates published a public letter in 2014.. ‘by almost any measure, the world is better tha it has ever been’ and hans rosling  continues to make his earnest presentation s w shiny visual gimmicks illustrating how the plight of the poor keeps improving..  his ted – best stats you’ve ever seen – viewed more than 10 m times..  this is what i call the ‘good news narrative’ about poverty.. it’s comforting and serves as a political tool..


some claims are strong and deserve to be celebrated.. ie: # of deaths among children under 5 declines from 12.7 m in 1990 to 6 m in 2015.. 18 000 fewer children dying each day.. same of maternal mortality..

? – i thought maternal deaths were higher

primary school enrolment is up

that’s a minus

hiv and malaria infection rates have declines..

but claim that poverty and hunger have been cut in half.. reset on much shakier grounds…  in fact.. nearly the opposite of the official narrative..


thomas pogge likes to point out ‘the morally relevant comparison of existing poverty is not w historical benchmarks but w present possibilities: how much of this poverty is really unavoidable today? by this standard, our gen is doing worse than any in human history’

part 2 – concerning violence

3 – where did poverty come from? a creation story


said most go back to 1990 or 81 or 49.. and so think we stumbled upon poor countries.. he goes back to 1500 for a very diff story.. there was little diff between europe and rest of world when it came to living standards of ordinary people. in fact, people living in s america, india and asia were in many ways better off than europeans..

citizens of aztec, inca and  mayan civlisations were not much better of than europeans in terms of life expectancy. like europeans .. lived in settled communities that were crowded, highly unequal and rife w disease.. relied exclusively on agri for food.. which required back breaking labour and very little nutritional value..

agri ness

but archaeological records show that people in forager farmer communities that lives out side these early states were a good deal better off.. life expectancies around 50% longer..  they were healthier, stronger taller, better nourished than their more ‘civilised’ counterparts in s america and indeed in europe..

civilization ness

they were less likely to die of famine for they had a much more diverse food system: they grew some of their food and foraged for the rest.. they worked far fewer hours and work was lighter..  no powerful aristocrats or landlords to force them to work or to skim their yields for profit. less exposed to the diseases that plagued densely populated societies..  in the americas of the 15th cent.. such communities were the norm.. probably around 80%, while settled agri states were the exception.. t


affluence w/o abundance


so.. how did small number of countries in w europe become so much richer/powerful than rest of world?

usual answer we learned in school: tech innovations in britain jump started the industrial rev tha t spread thru europe and the us..

but only part of story.. in fac, by time watts build steam engine, britain was already at centre of world system..


back up further to really understand how divide began..

columbus remarkable law:

1492 – columbus.. shoddy geo calculations landed him in cuba..which he insisted was india..

he encountered a remarkable people – a civilisation very unlike his own.. in his journals he reported that the people were ‘so free w their possession that no one who has not witnessed them would believe it. when you ask for something they have, they never say no. to the contrary, they offer to share w anyone‘.. they lived in communal buildings and enjoyed a remarkable degree of equality, t.. even between genders: women were free to leave their partners if they felt they were being mistreated.. the people were healthy and strong.. columbus described them as ‘well built, w good bodies and handsome features’ other observers marvelled at how far they could swim and noted that even pregnant women were agile and independent, gave birth w ease, and were up and about again shortly thereafter..

columbus noticed that in addition to being open and generous the people he encountered were a peaceful lot..t


‘they do not bear arms, and do not know them.. when i showed them a sword they took it by the edge and cut themselves out of ignorance’.. columbus was eager to exploit this vulnerability .. jotting  a rather ominous note in his journal: ‘w 50 men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want’

during his 2nd expedition.. this time w 17 ships and 1200 men.. he traveled around the caribbeancapturing thousands of indigenous americans to be sent back and sold in spain as slaves.. but this time his real objective was gold..  he had noticed indigenous people wearing gold ornaments and assumed that the metal must be abundant in the region..  he as having difficult time fining the source.. so he restored to coercive measures..


from his base ion hispaniola, the island shared today by haiti and dominican republic, he forced the local inhabitants.. the arawaks – to bring him a certain quantity of gold every 3 months.. those who failed.. would have hands chopped off or were hunted down and killed.. men were forced to spend lives in mines, in search of gold..  up to a 1/3 of workers died every 6 months. w/in 2 years.. some 125 000 people had been killed.. half the island population..  most remaining were forced int slave labour on plantations..  a few decades later, only a few hundred arawaks remained alive..

one european witness, bartolome de las casas, reported startling stats of slow motion genocide unfolding in the caribbean region: ‘from 1494 to 1508.. over 3 m people had perished from war, slavery and the mines.. t who in future generations will believe this? i myself writing it as a knowledgable eyewitness can hardly believe it’

columbus was only the first in a long line of european conquistadors..

while reading .. george shares this 5 min video:

The true legacy of Christopher Columbus: ‘Western Civilisation’ | George Monbiot


3 min – the impact of the rich/powerful nations has been so phenomenally murderous and destructive that it has been completely airbrushed from our national consciousness..t.. in order to justify.. had to create an ideology of rescue.. to do that have to demo that the rest of the world is depraved and backward.. from this arose the racism that is still w us today.. it was necessary component of the colonial project.. where we are is a continuation of the project

4 min – we don’t have to be like this.. skin color and any other diff.. is completely irrelevant by comparison to what we share.. which is our humanity..

hernan cortes.. landed in mexico in 1519.. once again the indigenous of the land responded to their european invaders hospitality and their generous gestures are well documented.. .. when hernan arrived.. emperor welcomed him w marvellous gifts of gold/silver.. cortes imprisoned him in his own palace and took control of the city


europe and used silver to resource themselves beyond limit.. and in 1492 latin american region had a combine population fo 50-100m.. by middle of 1600s.. 3.5m.. around 95% had been killed.. t

much of this genocide played out in form of massacres.. some had to do w forced dispossessions and dismantling of their social and econ systems which made it impossible for them to subsist.. many also died in slavery..  mining was dangerous and poisonous..  and.. much had to do w diseases.. which europeans brought .. sometime intentionally  ie: infected blankets distributed as ‘gifts’..  because indigenous lacked immunity germs too heavy toll epidemic wer as useful to the european conquest as horses and cannon


indigenous americans not only ones forcibly roped into expanding empires of europe.. slaves from africa.. trade began early in the 1500s.. t.. british purchasing slaves from w african in exchanged for european goods ( rather.. good s that europeans bought from china and india .. paid for w precious metals taken from the new world)..  once transported to americas.. put to work on european sugar plantations in caribbean an in mins of brazil..

by end of slave trade in 1853.. some 12-15 m african had been shipped across atlantic.. between 1.2 and 2.4 died en route.. bodies cast into sea..t


estimated that us alone benefited from a total of 222,505,049 hours of forced labour between 1619 and 1865..  worth 97 t today in min wage..  and that’s just us..  britain could be equiv of 300 b today..  reflect only price of slaves.. nothing of total value they produced during their lifetimes..  and those who dies..

plus sugar and cotton supplied europe w another windfall..mush as silver did..


w/o ecological windfall from slave colonies.. europe would not have been able to shift its econ capacity towards industrialisation

latin america would be stuck in a relationship of econ dependency   on europe even into the 21st cent..

economists often speculate that the global south failed to develop because of lack of capital. but there was no such lack.. was effectively stolen by europe and harnessed to the service of europe’s own development.. the global south could theoretically have developed as europe did were it not for the plunder of its resources and labour and were it not for the fact that was forced by europe to supply raw materials while importing manufactured goods.. t


whether or not they would or should have done so it another matter of course..  after all, much of european style development required violence ..  but point remains.. it is impossible to examine the econ growth of the west w/o looking at the base on which it drew

for many decades.. the main alt to the received story of the industrial rev in europe held that the resources and labour extracted from the periphery of the world system provided the wealth that was necessary for significant capital investment to occur.. adam smith called this ‘previous accumulation’ amassing capital that is necessary for capitalism to get going.. karl marx called it’ primitive accumulation’.. perhaps to highlight its barbaric nature.. .. colonial extraction..according to this view.. was the driver of accumulation and accumulation made capitalism possible..


but too.. in order for capitalism to work.. it needs workers too.. budding capitalists cannot get very far unless there are people willing to work for them in exchange for wages.. we take this for granted today, but there was a time not so long ago when it wasn’t quite so easy..

up thru the middle ages, the vast majority of people in europe – at least outside the city state – wouldn’t have wanted to work for wages.. people didn’t need to earn wages in order to live.. most people lived as ‘peasants’ .. as

*small farmer cultivating the land to provide for their own needs.. and for the most part they were quite happy doing so..t


earning a living.. schooling the world.. until we’re all whales in sea world.. aka: not ourselves.. [that’s why this part of the book is so resonating.. it’s talking about a time we were closer to our indigenous selves.. which is what we need to get back to.. but most don’t believe it’s possible.. because of the schooling we’ve had about history .. and about how to live today.. et al]


we usually assume peasants lived miserable lives.. and this is true in many ways: disease, nutrition, life expectancy.. but peasants did have most important thing to guarantee a stable livelihood: secure access to land.. to sue for farming, grazing livestock, hunting, water, wood,..  it was unthinkable that anyone would not have secure access to the basic resources they needed for survival..

security system came under attack in 15th century.. started in england.. wealth nobles.. turning land into sheep pasture.. .. also began to privatise the common land.. denying access.. fending off for own commercial use..


the enclosure movement as it came to be known.. saw the privatisation of 10s of mn’s of acres over course of 2-3 centuries.. displacement of much of country’s population and clearance of 100s of villages.. enclosure was not a peaceful process.. profoundly violent.. it required a considerable degree of force – burning villages, razing crops.. to prise millions of people off their ancestral lands..

while wood industry was a major driver of enclosure.. reformation added impetus to the process..  when henry 8 dissolved the old catholic monasteries, church lands were quickly appropriated by the elite.. many of the peasants who lived on them were kicked off..  but by far the most powerful driver of enclosure had to do w agri..  ie: gave leases only to those who were able to produce the most.. less productive would be kicked off land and left w no way to survive.. this new system.. know nat time s ‘improvement’ put peasants under tremendous pressure..  had to increase workload an intensify farming techniques.. led to a dramatic increase in agri output, but only real improvement was to the landlords’ profits..

agri surplus

the application of this market logic to land and farming marked the formal birth of capitalism..  it meant that, for first time in history , people’s lives were effectively governed by the imperatives to intensify productivity and max profit..t



but still another crucial step to get to today’s capitalism.. riots led to oppression by physical violence which led to oppression by bureaucratic violence.. legislation extinguishing rights to commons

this coincided w industrial revolution .. by mid 19th cent.. almost no common land left and millions of people hd been forcibly displace.. result was a massive refugee crisis, unlike anything we can imagine today.. bleaker tha our most dystopian science fiction films..


first time in history a significant proportion of the population had no access to any form of livelihood for survival.. by mid 1600s the word ‘poverty‘ had come into common use to describe this new condition.. during late 18th and early 19th centuries.. the term became entrenched as a major concept in english language discourse.. t

displace peasants had to sell labour for wages..  not technically slaves, but wage work was hardly a matter of free choice..

some worked on new sheep runs or on capitalist farms.. but majority had no choice but to move to cities and live in slums..

silver lining for country’s elite.. impoverished refugees provide cheap labour necessary to fuel the industrial revolution..


emergence of landless working class added a final piece to great transformation of england’ econ: they became world’s first mass consumer population.. they depended on markets for even most basic goods necessary for survival: clothes, food, housing and so on.. t

so huge

we don’t need money/market/measure

these 3 forces: enclosure, mass displacement and creation of a consumer market – that provided the internal conditions for the industrial revolution.. the external condition as we have seen, had to do w the colonisation of the americas and the slave trade..t

important to grasp diff between this emerging capitalist system and various systems that preceded it.. previously, monarchs conquistadors and feudal landlords directly appropriated wealth from others either by stealing it from them or by forcing them to pay tribute.. in other words, relied on some kind of direct coercive force. but under the new system such direct coercion was no longer necessary.. the elite simply relied on the fact that the competitive pressures of the labour market (and the market in leases) would increase workers’ productivity at a much higher rate than the one at which their wages increased.. this was the basic mech of profit and it served as an automatic conveyor belt for redistributing wealth upward..t

whoa.. this book..

we tend to assume the emergence of capitalism was a natural/inevitable process.. but the emergence of capitalism required violence and mass impoverishment.. both at home and abroad..t


the process of enclosure not only marks the origin of mass poverty.. it also illustrates the basic logic of the process that would produce poverty across the rest of the world..

in 1585 english colonisers made first attempt at reproducing new system of enclosure and ‘improvement’ in a foreign territory. (ireland).. they forcibly expropriated the land of irish peasants and resettled it w farmers trained in methods of agri intensification..


by the early 1800s.. enclosure has run its violent course over 2-3 centuries.. irish peasant had so little land for own use they were planting only potatoes..  the one crop that would yield sufficient calories for them to survive on very small plots..

proved deadly when potato blight hit in 1845.. over 7 yrs.. 1m people died.. more than 10% of irish population.. the great famine.. ireland was still producing plenty of food, in aggregate; the problem was that it was all being siphoned away by he british..

continued in america.. even using some of same people who helped w ireland experiment..  thanks to john locke – 1600s.. wrote 2nd treatise of govt which developed a new and very wonderful theory of property ownership.. he stated that while land initially belongs to all people in common, once you ‘mix’ your labour w it then it becomes your private property

h & n property


this ‘labour theory of property’ was used to justify the theft of land in the americas.. locked added.. what really counted for ownership was not simply act of farming, but the improvement (ie: intensification and profit orientation) of the farming techniques..  so settlers justified in appropriating the lands of others.. .. according to locke, this added to the common good because it would increase overall productivity.. even if it mean displacing land’s original inhabitants: it was a contribution to the betterment o humanity.. bringing people from dark ages into the light of capitalist civilisation..

indeed.. improvement began to assume the status of a religious creed, and its economic principles took on a kind of moral meaning

ugh..  sounds like school.. like everything

these land grabs took the english into outright warfare w indigenous people and culminated in dozens of bloody massacres..  indian removal act of 1830.. at time 120 000 native americans living east of mississippi river. by 1944 only 30 000 remained..  many killed.. most  forced to move westward… some 15 000 people perished along the way

opened up for than 25 m acres for white settlement..  tobacco, cotton, grain farming..


irish and american cases bad.. but india worse.. and very little known.. began in early 1600s and by 1800s had established direct admin power over most of the subcontinent..  which it eventually handed over to the british govt..

didn’t force indians to resettle.. but forced them to adopt a new agri system.. made to cultivate crops for export  ..  opium, indigo, cotton, wheat and rice.. instead of for subsistence.. for many this was only way to survive.. to pay crushing taxes/debts th at british had imposed..  force them to sell off grain reserves and did away w system s of mutual support and reciprocity that people had long relied on..  also enclosed common lands at a dizzying pace..  ie: forests; water


idea was that by stripping them you could compel indian farmers to be more productive

sounds like school (strip of curiosity).. productivity law

el nino visits in 1876.. w no grain reserves/commons.. human tool 10 m died of starvation.. .. 1896 and 1902.. el nino struck again.. death toll higher.. 19 m..


just as in ireland.. mass starvation in india was completely avoidable..

could have shipped food in via train.. had plenty of food.. but instead.. used food for profit.. in 1877 and 78 during the worst years of the first drought, they shipped a record 6.4 m tons of indian wheat to europe rather than relieve starvation in india..during 1875 to 1900, indian grain exports increased from 3 m to 10 m tons per year

puerto rico et al

the indian famines of the late 19th century were not a natural disaster, as the british insisted at the time.. the famines had nothing to do w endogenous econ problems; rather, they were caused by india’s incorp into the emerging capitalist world system..


europe wanted to turn colonies into consumers of their goods too.. india already had strong industry..  ie: textile..  trying to stifle this in many ways.. one.. crushing fingers of weavers and destroying their looms.. but most potent tool was use of one way tariffs..  it worked.. india, once self sufficient and famous for tis exports, was remade into ‘the greatest captive market in world history’ .. before india had 27% of world market.. after.. 3%


british apologists defend colonialism in india and china on basis that it brought ‘development’ .. but evidence we have suggests exactly the opposite story..


africa next wave

in 1870 only 10% of africa was under the control of europeans; by 1914.. 90%.. only ethiopia and liberia remained independent..


same story of violence in colonisation.. this time via taxes and polices


from late 15th cent to early 20th.. european powers justified inequity by dehumanizing those w black/brown skin – by repeatedly asserting that they were not quite as human s white people and that therefore their suffering did not matter..


teddy roosevelt  in 1904.. justified military intervention against latin american country that refused to coop w us econ interests..  so same as india and china.. but his was a colonialism of a special type. the roosevelt corollary was invoked to justify more than a dozen us interventions during the early 20th cent.. including multiple invasion and occupation of cuba, mexico, honduras, columbia, nicaragua, haiti, the dominican republic and puerto rico.. these are known now as the banana wars..  as in many cases the invasions were designed to guarantee abundant land and cheap labour for american fruit com’s..


tempting to see this as just a list of crimes, but it is much more.. these snippets of history int at the contours of world econ system that was designed over 100s of years to enrich a small portion of humanity at the expense of the vast majority.. by early 20th cent.. new order was complete.. core.. europe and us – could (rule)


orthodox econ theory presupposes international ineq’s as if they have always existed, but the historical record is clear that they were purposefully created

4 – from colonialism to the coup


after great depression.. john keynes pushed for higher wages.. to get people buying again..  then 1933  franklin delano roosevelt came to power.. the new deal… good wages


w new deal so security.. provided affordable housing and large uni tuition subsidies for veterans..  later national health service, free ed public housing,  et al.. .. thees keyneisan principles designed to prevent another world war..

success story like no other.. of course.. many were left out.. ie: middle class women.. blacks.. so.. worked mostly for people who conformed to a particular norm.. white, male and straight..


(this meant less cheap labor et al for america).. when eisenhower took office in 1953, h e took a decisive stand against developmentalism.. which he regarded as a threat to the commercial interests of american’s multinational co’s.. .. iran became the first target of eisnehowers’s backlash..


)iran) elected leader hamossadegh had risen to popularity .. intro’d unemployment compensation.. benefits for sick… abolished forced agri labour.. raised taxes on rich..  sought to renegotiate ownership fo country’s oil reserves..  which outraged british govt.. which quickly turned to us for assistance..  military intervention on the table..  but didn’t want to tick off ussr.. have them come to iran’s aid.. so .. covertly thru a secret project called operation ajax.. (plan – included bribing politicians wo whip up anti govt sentiment and paid demonstrator to take to street to create false impression mossadegh was unpopular.. .. it worked.. coup in aug 1953 toppled mossadegh..  shah took over for next 26 yrs..  shah supports us and saudi oil ness.. mossadegh under house arrest for rest of life..

operation ajax was one of first us o’s to overthrow a foreign govt..  ie: guatemala.. brazil


we could rehearse many more ie’s of western backed interventions in latin america. in 1953 britain overthrew the world’ first democratically elected marxist president in guyana.. in 61, us attempted to overthrow the revolutionary govt in cuba.. with the failed bay of pigs invasion.. in 65 johnson ordered invasion of dominican republic.. in el salvador us armed and supported a violent military govt thru the 80s..  in nicaragua.. us provided illegal financial and military support.. known as contras thru 80s..  us also supported right win dictatorship  at various times in bolivia, ecuador, haiti, paraguay, honduras, venezuala and panama..

not just latin america.. went on to asia.. africa…


this legacy complicates some commonly held assumptions about african politics. in the western imagination, africa is stereotyped as a continent plagued by corrupt dictators, w the supposition being that africans are perhaps too ‘primitive’ to appreciate the virtues of western style democracy. but the truth is that ever since the end of colonialism africans have been actively prevented from establishing democracies.. .. western powers have thwarted countless attempts are real independence, which casts a rather ironic light on the west’s historical image as a beacon fo democracy and popular sovereignty..

howard zinn people’s history going on  here


the elite – those whose wealth was eroded by higher taxes and higher wages – were desperate for a solution, and they found it in the ideas of friedrich hayek ad milton friedman.. since 1930 friedman had openly called for destruction of the new deal..

friedman and hayek accept post in econ dept at uni of chicago 1950.. friedman head of dept pursed his ideas.. he believed in the vision of a totally pure market, and held that the economy should be returned to its ‘natural’ sate, prior to what he saw as the distortions of human interventions


friedman – free market not only in accordance w economic laws of nature.. but also w values of democracy and freedom…he worked to establish strong connections in the public imagination between the ideas of market freedom and individual liberty

we should all be free to express our own desires in the market..

we should all be free.. but market is a prison


this (friedman ness) came to e known as neoliberalism..  it was against subsidies and protections for the working class and regulations that supported unions, but was quire comfortable w subsidies and protections for the rich and regulations that supported large corps

in 70s upper classes and corp world thrilled to have an academic mouthpiece – friedman and uni of chicago.. to lend their econ agenda an aura of legitimacy.. before long, the chicago school was flush w corp donations..

the chile experiment..  50s and 60s..  us feared chile ideas would spread .. to counter.. launched project chile in 56..  goal was to resist development by training chilean econ students.. 100 of them.. in neolib theory at uni of chicago.. the idea was to train students to scorn social safety nets.. became one of america’s first official ‘international development’ programmes..

but despite millions of dollars that donors like usaid and the ford foundation pumped into it was failing miserably..

at time much of chile’s population was still mired in extreme poverty, while a small elite controlled most of the country’s vast land and wealth..


unable to stop allende’s nationalisation in chile.. the us felt it had no choice but to shift to more aggressive stance.. the good old fashioned coup.. sept 11 1973 code name operation fubetl.. british made bombers sent on order of cia.. came in on santiago and pounded presidential palace..  killing allende..  via richard nixon

pinochets’ rise to power was swift an d brutal.. according to declassified cia docs after bombing he proceeded to arrest and imprison between 80 000 and 100 000 people who supported allende’s ideas.. most of them peasants and workers..  3200 were disappeared/executed.. many of them in sports stadiums reconfigure as mass death camps .. 200 000 fled country as political refugees

same as other us backed coups.. but crucial new element.. us sought to totally remake econ policy in line with free market


cia funded a group of chilean economists – grads of uni of chicago known as the chicago boys.. to advise pionochet’s regime..   via milton friedman’s capitalism and freedom..  friedman was key adviser to pinochet regime..

results were devastating..  even the economist called it ‘an orgy of self mutilation’

88 friedman and chicago boys declare the experiment a success.. bu t a success for whom.. poverty rate was 41% et al..  the only ones benefited were the elite.. banks and foreign investors wer having a field day.. ‘liberated’ as they were from regulation..  chile had become one of most unequal societies in the world..


same econ strategy applied elsewhere in latin america w us backing.. brazil.. uruguay.. bolivia..  et al

point to take from this..  sordid story is that neolib economic policies were so obviously destructive to people’s lives that it was very difficult to get them implemented in a democratic govt.. in most cases.. only way to bring them in was thru military dictatorship and a state terror programmed that would quash resistance where ver it emerged..  in order to aggressively dereg the econ you first have to aggressively reg the political sphere.. total market freedom requires total political unfreedom.. even to extent of mass imprisonment and concentration camps..


on nixon .. printing money.. and spending on vietnam war spiraling out of control.. price of dollar down.. price of oil up.. perfect storm.. used as opp to say keynesianism had failed in us


reagan giving more money to rich as way of stimulating econ growth..


margaret thatcher drew inspiration from friedman.. implementing man of same policies in britain


the neolib counter rev restored levels of ineq that had not been seen since before the great depression..  so much for the trickle down effect..


the solution to mass poverty turns out to be remarkably simple. poor people don’t need charity, they need fair wages for their work.. labour unions to defend those wages and state reg that prevent exploitation.. they need decent public services – such as universal healthcare and ed – anda progressive taxation system capable of funding them.. they need fair access to land and a fair share of natural resource wealth..  in other words, real development requires the redistribution of power.. redistribution of resources..

that’s simple..?.. there’s a nother way.. simple.. and sustainable.. ie: raise wages.. or give ubi..  what’s to keep prices from rising.. et al


under the banner of the cold war, pro poor legislation was demonised in western media as ‘communist’  and this designation gave western govt licence to employ even the most draconian tactics w impunity..  ie: leaders assassinated id’d as communists..

it is interesting to imagine how states such as guatemala, brazil, iran, indonesia and the congo would have developed had they been allowed to continue w their pro poor policies in peace..  it is possible that by now they would have com very close to eradicating poverty..

part 3 – the new colonialism

5 – debt and economics of planned misery


two ways to conquer and enslave a nation. one is by sword .. the other is by debt – john adams..t


g7 forms in 1975 (us, britain, france, italy, japan and w germany and canada) – to counter rise of developmentalism..  prevent global s countries from working together to increase prices of raw materials..  kissinger.. us secretary of state.. laid out new strategies that groups would use.. kissinger sought to change narrative about ineq.. hoping to convince them to settle for aid handouts .. instead of global political reform..


instead – us and europe seized de facto control .. this time job done by banker and bureaucrats.. price of oil goes so high.. end up w $450 bn in excess.. not sure what to do w it.. start loans to global south countries..


banks having a field day.. thru miracle of compound interest.. raking in enorm profits.. more than 100 b per year by 1980.. poor countries found they simply could not pay their loans at such high rates.. .. third world debt crisis.. (mexico, brazil, argentina..)


would normally be up to lender (banks) to shoulder debts.. but knew they couldn’t so got us govt to bail them out..  forcing mexico and other countries to repay loans.. they did this by repurposing the international monetary fund..


imf originally to help out payment problems.. but now g7 was going to us e imf for a diff purpose entirely: to force global s counties to stop govt spending and use their money instead to repay loans to western banks..  so had developing countries had to cut spending on public services.. like healthcare and ed.. and subsidies for things like farming and food.  and funnel back to wall street to repay debts..


social spending and public assets became collateral in repayment of foreign loans.. an agreement that was of course never agreed at the time the loans were signed..  this amounted to an enorm transfer or wealth from public coffers of impoverished global s countries to the richest banks in west


from 50s thru 70s western powers had struggled to prevent the rise of developmentalism in the sought. what they failed to accomplish thru piecemeal coups and covert intervention, the debt crisis did for them in one fell swoop.. instead of being imposed thru violence.. imposed by leveraging debt.. debt became a powerful mech for pushing neolib around the world..  w/o embarrassing inconvenience of dictators and torture chambers..


the brilliance of structural adjustment is that is seemed as though it was voluntary..  (to get out of debt) in reality.. not voluntary at all..

voluntary compliance et al

this time the coup was invisible and most citizens would never know it happened.. they would continue to believe their elected reps held power..  when in fact power.. had been shifted abroad.. to the core of the world system..

imf not alone in this efforts.. beginning in 80s.. world bank .. same..


imf and world bank promised world that structural adjustment would reduce poverty..  but ended up doing opposite..


protests had little effect.. ultimate targets of rioter’s’ discontent were suited men shuffling loan papers in washington where the imf and world bank hq sit side by side..  remote an unreachable.. insulated..  invulnerable to any political pressure from below..  and that was precisely how it was meant to work.


under this arrangement no one can sue them (imf and world bank).. many have tried.. all have faile.d..


a number of world bank and imf insiders have defected and set out to expose misdeed.. joseph stiglitiz.. chief economist of the world bank for 97 to 2000 has written books..


this is why the world bank and the imf are so valued by the us govt and wall street: they are essential to the continuity of the system...t

makes sense that all the world bank’s past presidents have been not development experts (as one might expect of an org devoted to development and poverty reduction), but rather us army bosses and wall street execs.. people who have  strategic interest in america’s role in the global econ system..


the us govt’s choice of top brass sends a clear message about the bank’s true aims..  it wasn’t until 2012 that an actual development expert – jim yong kim – was appointed to the top job in an attempt by obama to recup the bank’s reputation

jim yong


the feeling that debts have to be repaid is so deeply entrenched in our culture that it is almost impossible to dislodge..  it’s about accepting responsibilities.. fulfilling obligations..  reneging on a promise.. it’s just wrong

i see responsibility..obligations.. promise.. ness.. as wrong.. inhumane.. keeping us from us

graeber: ‘there’s no better way to justify relations founded on violence, to make such relations seem moral, than by reframing them in the langue of debt.. above all, because it immediately makes it seem that it’s the victim who’s doing something wrong’.. t


early 1990s.. talked  of jubilee 2000.. sounds nice.. but catch.. all cases, debt relief tis tied to stringent conditions that require countries to liberalise and privatize their economies..  in other words.. debt relief has become a mech to impose further structural adjustments..


if you’ve ever found yourself wondering what is responsible for global poverty today, this is your answer… and yet because the institutions that have overseen this destruction enjoy legal immunity, they will never be held to account..

interventions by world bank and imf in name of development have shifted political power away from democratically elected decision making bodies and place it in hands of remote unelected bureaucrats..

neither is good for humanity (elected or unelected)

econ and political freedom has been attacked  ironically in the name of econ and political freedom..

6 – free trade and the rise of virtual senate


if we step back a bit it becomes clear that the extension of neolib has entailed powerful new forms of state intervention.. the creation of a global ‘free market’ required not only violent coups and dictatorships backed by western govts, but also the invention of a totalising global bureaucracy – the world bank, the imf, the wto and bilateral free trade agreements –  w reams of new laws, backed up by the military power of the us.. in other words, an unprecedented expansion of state power was necessary to force countries around the world to liberalise their markets against their will..

concept of free trade zones took off in 1990s and today there are more than 4300 zones in nearly 150 countries (no regs for trade.. ie no taxes et al)

7 – plunder in the 21st cent


the econ system that we have put in place over the past few decades my have rendered us incapable of meeting the most serious challenge of the 21st cent

part 4 – closing the divide

8 – from charity to justice


prevention is always better than cure.. learn to pay attention to systems and not just symptoms.. t


wilde property law:

oscar wilde: ‘their remedies do not cure the disease. they try to solve the problem of poverty for instance by keeping the poor alive. but this is not a solution: it is an aggravation of the difficulty. the proper aim is to try and reconstruct society on such a basis that poverty will be impossible.. the altruist virtues have really prevented the carrying out of this aim.. just as the worse slave owners were those who were kind to their slaves.. prevented horror of system being realised by those who suffered from ti and understood by those who contemplated it.. people who do most harm are people who try to do most good. charity degrades and demoralises..

huge.. and w ubi.. poverty would still be possible.. we need to zoom out further.

ie: schmachtenberger meta law.. all the way to meadows undisturbed ecosystem


wilde’s words: 1\ while charity may indeed improve lives of poor in an immediate, temp sense, it then returns them straight back into the conditions that produced their poverty in the first place.. in the end.. nothing actually changed

ie: w ubi.. what’s to keep prices from going up.. (on food, wifi, healthcare).. so that the ubi amount becomes insignificant


2\ wilde goes a step further.. he argues that charity not only distracts our attention from causes.. from rot at centre of system.. but also obscure the nature of the problem from those who suffer it..  charity can detract from people’s ability to directly challenge the forces that degrade them  in first place and strips them of political agency..  though usually unintentional on part of humanitarian.. it smooths over contradiction of a deeply flawed system.. and allows system to continue a bit longer

this is student voice ness.. in regard to school..

wilde makes another critical intervention: ‘it is immoral to use private property to alleviate the horrible evils that results from the institution of private property.. both immoral and unfairt

h & n property law


to the extent that charity is enabled by the accumulation of surplus wealth it can never be a meaningful solution – for the very processes by which wealth is accumulated are those that produce poverty in the first place.. t



on changing rules tha produce poverty in first place

1\ abolish debt of developing countries

ie: would free them to spend more money on healthcare;education

? isn’t that part of the system..? big pharma; school; et al


some ngos have called for debt ‘relief’ or even ‘forgiveness’.. but these words send exactly the wrong message.. implying debtors have committed some kind of sin and by casting creditors as saviours, they reinforce the power imbalance that lies at the heart of the problem.. debt forgiveness has largely perpetuated the problem..


2\ democratise the major institution of global gov: world bank, imf, wto..  allowing global south countries to have fair/equal rep w a real say


3\ make international trade system fairer


4\ global system of labour standards – just wages


5\ reclaiming public resources and protecting the commons..


tax evasion drains hundreds of billions out of developing countries each year..


put an end to land grabs..


cut subsidies to those damaging other countries.. ensure developing countries receive due compensation for damage cause by climate change.. et al


lists people/groups working on these.. ie: strike debt

9 – the necessary madness of imagination


you cannot carry out fundamental change w/o a certain amount of madness. in this case, it comes from nonconformity, the courage to turn your back on the old formulas, the courage to invent the future’ – thomas sankara.. t


(on imagining that we succeed): more jobs created, labour unions win decent salaries for workers…  room for spending on healthcare and ed.. universities increase their enrollment..  it’s a compelling vision


only if you want to perpetuate all that you talked about in your entire book.. dang. not getting at the root..

this is possible.. but there is one problem we haven’t yet accounted for..  poor countries .. catch up w rich countries.. requires increase in resource consumption.. and .. increase in waste, pollution and emissions…

and ongoing ness of inhumanity..  measuring is at the root of all this..


the conundrum of growth.. gdp was intended to be a war time measure, which is why it is so single minded – almost even violent..

the measuring is root of the violence.. which we’d still have w ubi


if you grow your own food, clean your own house or take care of your aging parents, gdp says nothing, for these activities don’t involve transacting money.. it only counts if you buy these services..

of course there’s nothing wrong w measuring some things and not others..  *gdp itself doesn’t have an impact in the real world. gdp growth however does..

*totally disagree.. any measuring of humans/transactions/et-al.. killer..


it is worth pointing out that, as long as gdp growth remains the main objective of the global econ, the solution s we covered in previous chapter may prove impossible to achieve..  the pressure to increase gdp translates into pressure for more debt, more structural adjustment, more ‘free trade’ and so on ..

that can be said about any measuring  (and i don’t thing the things covered in previous chapter are deep enough solutions..)


the problem isn’t just the type of energy we’re using, ti’s what we’re doing w it.. what would we do w 100% clean energy? exactly what we’re doing w fossil fuels: raze more forests, build more meat farms, expand industrial agri, produce more cement and heap up more landfills w waster.. all of this will pump deadly amounts of greenhouse gas into the air..  we will do these things because our econ system demands endless expo growth.. switching to clean energy will do nothing to slow this down


people are ready for a diff world..


one crucial step.. get rid of gdp.. and replace it w something diff..t

why replace it..? let’s just quit measuring


debt cancellation .. would only provide a short term fix.. it wouldn’t really address the root problem.. which is the fact that the global econ system runs on money that is itself debt

no.. it’s that we are running humanity on money/measure.. debt or not is irrelevant


changes like these would do a lot to liberate us from tyranny of growth.. but goal is to figure out how to actively downsize aggregate consumption..

affluence w/o abundance.. via have/need ness.. fill the right holes first..


advertising is an enormous part of our econ.. easy solution.. ban advertising.. sao paolo.. a city of 20 million has already done it..  result – happier people.. paris recently made moves in this direction too..

another more aggressive option is ro replace advertising w public messaging that encourages reduced consumption.. china is pioneering this

or ban unnecessary /destructive products.. like bottle water as some cities in australia nd the us have done..

regulating credit cards.. raising taxed on luxury products..  outlawing ‘planned obsolescence’ by manufacturers..

what then will happen to jobs..?

graeber job less law..

super first part of this book.. but let’s save tons of energy/time.. by cutting to root of imagination.. cure ios city.. sans money/measure


another idea that has really captured public imagination over the past few years – intro a ubi.. t

only if ubi as temp placebo


unfortunately it is not likely degrowth will happen as quickly as we need it to. social change can be slow.. that said.. we might have a way out.. and it has to do w soil..t


soil is 2nd biggest reservoir of carbon on planet.. next to oceans.. it holds 4x carbon than all the plants and trees in the world..  but human activities… ie: deforestation and industrial farming.. are degrading our soils at breakneck speed.. killing the organic materials they contain..

scientists and farmers are pointing out that we can regenerate degraded soils (now 40%) by switching from intensive industrial farming to more ecological methods..  not just organic fertiliser, but also no tillage, composting and crop rotation.. regenerative farming may be our best shot at actually cooling the planet..  and produce higher yields  over long term.. by enhancing soil fertility and improving resilience against drought and flooding..  so may be our best bet for food security too.. it requires remembering some of the ancient wisdom that got our species thru the last 200 000 years.. on this point we have much to learn from people on the periphery of the world system..t – the ones our govt have so long referred to as ‘underdeveloped..

so.. like india farmers.. and ladakh farmers.. before we schooled them.. w agri surplus?

holmgren indigenous law


sumak kawsay: an indigenous quechua term that translates as ‘living in harmony and balance’.. calls us to recognise that we are interconnected..  part of a whole, that our well being is inextricable from that of our ecosystems

ie: schmachtenberger meta law.. all the way to meadows undisturbed ecosystem


in india.. ‘ecological swaraj’..

manish et al

in middle east.. mtns of n iraq and in rojava .. experiment w similar ideas


once people begin to reject the single story of development, the future is fertile and rich w possibility.. we need only have thee courage to invent it

invent it.. as we (all of us) go.. ie: rev of everyday life

a nother way book