Gender and class equality should go hand in hand


Anti-Poverty Week posterLast week we witnessed one of the most powerful articulations of gender equality by any prime minister. It was heartening that so many women felt the prime minister was giving voice to their experience of gender-based oppression and discrimination. And it was significant that we have reached a stage in our evolution as a nation where feminist analysis is not marginalised even though the reality of sexism is still with us.

But it was saddening that on the same day the Government and Opposition pushed through legislation to force more than 140,000 sole parents onto a Newstart Allowance that has seen no real increase since 1994.

There was no articulation of gender equality in this action. Rather, there was an expression of a warped political consensus that these households, predominantly headed by women, are fair game; that it is alright to put the boot into these families because they are purportedly outside the moral boundaries of the sacred labour market.

No one is questioning the logic of employment participation as a policy objective. Indeed, around 50 per cent of the affected sole parents are already in some form of paid work. We do, however, need to note the inaccuracy of describing these parents as 'jobless' or 'workless'. This assumption bespeaks a real lack of understanding of the value of caring as a social good that goes way beyond the bounds of commodification.

The fundamental flaw of this legislation is that, though it will result in a saving of $728 million over four years, it will do nothing to assist sole parents into employment. It will result in a decline in the availability of some of the supports that might have been available on the Parenting Payment, and a weekly cut of between $65 and $115.

You don't help people into jobs by forcing them into poverty. You don't build people up by putting them down.

We can only hope that this cut does not result in homelessness for some of these families. A weekly cut of $100 could easily mean the difference between paying the rent and having to sleep in a car.

The Parliament's own Human Rights Committee was unconvinced by the Government's assurance that these families were not going to be pushed into poverty. In a worrying sign of the Government's lack of respect for the Committee's recommendations it pressed ahead with the legislation, employing the rhetoric that this was a measure designed to lift women out of poverty by moving them into paid work. If only that were true!

In an excellent analysis of that day of contradictions, writer Stephanie Convery declares that 'standing up for women's rights is not just about calling sexism for what it is':

It's about agitating for specific change. It's about making concrete demands of society and of the government ... I don't care how many sharp speeches [Gillard] makes: her government is making life for some of the most vulnerable women in Australia even harder than it already is, and I want no part in it ... If we want to stand up for women, let's start by standing up for these women.

It is time to reject the consensus that it is okay to make people experiencing poverty bear the brunt of fiscal austerity; that a chunk of the surplus should be skimmed from the pockets of single mums and their children. It is time to lift the Newstart Allowance, and it is time to stop blaming people for being left out or pushed out.

As the groundbreaking 1996 Australian Bishops' Social Justice Statement declared: 'In the main, people are poor not because they are lazy or lacking in ability or because they are unlucky. They are poor because of the way society, including its economic system, is organised.'

Anti-Poverty Week (14–20 October) exists so that more of us will be impelled by solidarity and compassion to make poverty eradication a reality, by addressing its structural and historical causes; so that the mainstreaming of gender analysis will go hand-in-hand with the acknowledgement of the necessity of class analysis, and so that none of us become silent about the fact that poverty is caused by bad policy, not bad behaviour. 


John Falzon headshotDr John Falzon is an advocate with a deep interest in philosophy, society, politics and poetry. He is the St Vincent de Paul Society National Council Chief Executive and a member of the Australian Social Inclusion Board. 

This week is Anti-Poverty Week. The St Vincent de Paul Society joined with ACOSS, the Social Justice Fund, Jobs Australia, Anglicare and the Salvation Army to produce a report on poverty in Australia [PDF].

Topic tags: John Falzon, Anti-Poverty Week, Julia Gillard, Tony Abbott, misogyny



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Existing comments

Thank you John Falzon. How can government learn that the health of the nation is reflected in the lives of the poor, marginalised and underprivileged. Australians like to call their country lucky...but underneath sick and diseased...and defiantly unchristian.

The Reverend Patricia Bouma | 16 October 2012  

Thank you, John. Couldn't agree more.

Sara Dowse | 16 October 2012  

If, indeed, "poverty is caused by bad policy, not bad behaviour", why are not all of us poor?

john frawley | 16 October 2012  

Funny how Gillard and Abbott are happy to waste nearly $500m on school chaplains, people who have no clear role beyond being 'a listening ear', and of course, a missionary for Christ, with absolutely no research to back up the claims their employers make, Christian churches and church groups. Or the endless waste in supporting power companies with guaranteed returns. Or pouring tax money into plug-in electric cars that few people want. But of course, the biggest waste of all is to allow religions an automatic tax free status. Why do our politicians and media support bludging religions over what they obviously regard as 'bludging mums'? It makes all of Gillard's rather pathetic and ramped-up rhetoric about Abbott hating women sound rather limp, doesn't it?

janice wallace | 16 October 2012  

Because JOHN FRAWLEY, the bad policy is designed to protect the economic interests of a minority. It just happens that Australia is wealthy enough for some of the benefits to trickle down so that hard working unskilled citizens can at least live a bearable existence.

AURELIUS | 16 October 2012  

So much for Labor's endless complaints about Tony Abbott's "relentless negativity". Again and again the ALP and Libs support one another on policy.The other falsity is the misogyny campaign.Playing to one's gender or one's ethnic group is always dangerous and divisive. The injustice of the claims against Abbott is creating a backlash. What is more demaning for our leaders and hurtful to their families - To call your political opponent a liar or a misogynist?

Peter Yewers | 16 October 2012  

Janice Wallace, instead of this cliched atheist rhetoric, maybe look at the reality of people working on the ground and getting their hands dirty. Speak to Catholic nuns - the Brown Nurses - and tell them they should be paying tax on their Toyota Corollas they drive to visit our inner city forgotten poor - bathe their wounds, clean up their squalor, lend an ear.... there's really no need for that sort of thing, is there?

AURELIUS | 16 October 2012  

John Frawley's comment is extremely disappointing.

Kate Ahearne | 16 October 2012  

Perhaps, John Frawley, your presumably very peculiarly moralistic views of what constitutes "bad behaviour" is unfairly judgemental, lacking in compassion (there but for the grace of God go I) and just downrigh false. Such devoted adherence to Christianity should at least have taught you to give preferential consideration to the poor, who, after all, "will always be with you".

Michelle Goldsmith | 16 October 2012  

An excellent article John Falzon. In response to John Frawley: Bad policy means that people who are already behind the eight ball are pushed further into poverty. Sadly, economic inequality is multiplied by the unequal impact of bad policy. In fact, one of the effects of bad policy is that it helps widen the inequality gap, benefitting those who are already well off while punishing the poor.

Koba | 16 October 2012  

Milton Friedman made the following comment on the quest to gain equality before liberty. "In my opinion, a society that aims for equality before liberty, will end up with neither equality nor liberty. And a society that aims first for liberty, will not end up with equality, but with it will end up with a closer approach to equality than any other kind of system that has ever been developed. Now that conclusion is based both on evidence from history -- across history -- and also, I believe, on reasoning, which, if you try to follow through the implications of aiming first at equality, will become clear to you.You can only aim at equality, by giving some people the right to take things from others. And what ultimately happens when you aim at equality is that A and B decide what C shall do for D. Except that they take a little bit of a commission off on the way." I suspect that many readers of this site will urge the government (A and B) to direct the well off (C, as defined by the government) to give to those who live in poverty (D, again as defined by the government). This is called socialism. It has never worked and it never will work. Programs to assist the poor only ever lead to an every increasing bureaucracy.

MJ | 16 October 2012  

Capitalism works well if your measure of success is an increase in wealth for some and a deepening of poverty for others. Those of us who want to build a fairer society however are far more at home with the goal of; and in the words of Marx, "from each according to their abilities and to each according to their needs".

Koba | 16 October 2012  

I never miss reading whatever you write, John, and it's great to hear your voice again!

I didn't realise that this new legislation was being pushed through and the same time as the PM took a stand on sexism - never done before by an Australian woman politician. And I live in Canberra! It is indeed disgusting that the Labor party should have such stand with these people. I can see that we will soon have more single parents knocking at doors of St Vincent de Paul and other charities. It's so humiliating for them. I just don't think we have a real 'left' party who stands for the disadvantaged anymore. Both parties have gone 'neoliberal' and I can't see the end of it.
I hope you continue to hit at them, John.I'll be sending this article to friends and family. And God bless!

Nathalie | 16 October 2012  

I strongly agree with Dr Falzon's proposition that government policy causes poverty and misery. Here are, in a rough but I'd say fairly accurate order of risk, the most threatened classes/demographics in Australia, and the link of their plight to government policy. 1. Zygotes. Reason: Government laws permitting embryonic stem cell research, donor insemination and IVF. (Risked outcome: death.) 2. Other unborn babes. Reason: Government legalised, subsidized and otherwise encouraged abortion. (Risked outcome: death.) 3. Aborigines in remote communities. Reason: Government funding with untold millions of an ideologically fantasized, artificial and meaningless way of life that is neither traditional aboriginal, nor western. Plus, ongoing government refusal to address the violent and impoverishing consequences of their enforced ideology. (Risked outcome: death by murder, suicide, or alcohol, etc.) 4. Women, men, and children of broken families. Reason: Government legislation and initiatives - again, ideologically driven - to abolish no-fault divorce, to promote "de facto" marriage, contraception, abortion, "sex education", "feminism", etc. (Risk: severe poverty at least.) 5. Pensioners. Reason: government-created inflation, "bracket creep" taxation, and so on. Oh, and throw in legalised euthanasia coming round the bend.(Risk: grinding poverty, maybe death.) 6. The Unemployed. Reason: government laws pertaining to "environmental" considerations, minimum wage, "safety", "unfair dismissal" and so on ad nauseam, which punish employers (and hence the workers they don't hire) if they opt for labour over machines or land in their enterprise. (Risk: grinding poverty.) 7. The sick and disabled. Reason: government-mandated disconnects between a highly bureacratised health system, where, eg, nurses and doctors have to spend more time protecting themselves (understandably) from lawsuits by writing voluminous essays on their dealings with Patient X than actually treating Patient Y, Z, and A. (Risk: poverty, premature death.) 8. The homeless. Reason: Goverment laws and regulations of all kinds which eg, tightly restrict land releases and thus massively drive up prices and land rates/taxes in one of the most sparsely populated nations on earth, thus making housing ridiculously overpriced in an economic/technological setting where house prices should be dropping like the price of computers (Risk: grinding poverty.) Of course, "poverty" is relative in this ACOSS report, as it acknowledges. Most people in history would, from behind the Rawlesian veil, give, in all likelihood, anything to be an Australian in the early 21st century, except the first or second (and maybe third) class above. Reason: economic liberty (not government) has made things so much better.

HH | 16 October 2012  

Kobe, as Friedman said, history proves that a free market system will come closer to any other system yet devised to bring about a society that is closest to equality. It is not perfect. However, by allowing people to follow their separate interests and talents, we unleash the people’s potential to invent, invest, build, create, making a market for labor and products for the consumers to buy. The absolute failure of Marxist principles is seen in the various countries that followed it. When was the standard of living in a Marxist or Communist society anything like that of a society where the free market ruled? The best way to pull people up from grinding poverty was and is through the free market. In addition, again as Friedman noted, the Marxist societies ruled and still do rule, with a heavy hand, intruding into people’s lives, sometimes violently, in ways we would not tolerate in the West. The heaven on earth that the Marxist philosophy promised most often ended up as a hell for those unfortunate enough to be caught in it.

MJ | 17 October 2012  

Thanks for this excellent article! We need to distinguish the difference between Julia Gillard's speech on gender equality and the legislation to force single parents onto the lesser welfare benefit of the Newstart allowance. Julia Gillard's speech on gender equality, which I agreed, was nothing more than an attempt to attract the support of upper middle class women voters and most of these women are happy with reductions in welfare payments to marginalised people. The single parent women voters are probably a minority and their votes are probably split 50/50 between the Labor and Liberal parties and therefore their interests are secondary to the upper middle class masculine dominant Parliament. I believe that the real issue for single parent women is the lack of responsibility and accountability of their former husbands and boyfriends to provide adequate financial support to their children and household costs of the custodial single women. I also believe that Julia Gillard and the ALP are not strong advocates of feminist philosophy and the main motivation is social justice and better opportunities for all people. However, I believe that we need affirmative action policies for maginalised people such as single parents, aboriginal people living in remote areas and people with physical and mental disability.

Mark Doyle | 17 October 2012  

MJ presents Milton Friedman as the one to follow in reducing poverty. For a reality check, look at the poverty of Wales, Scotland and the northern English counties during & following the Thatcher years and the poverty in Chile during the Pinochet period. Thatcher & Pinochet are the only two national leaders who fully implemented Friedman's economic theories. A wealthy nation like Australia doesn't need Friedman or Marx. It just needs the Parliament to take its role seriously - stop the endless playground squabbles and apportion some respect to the 2.2 million Australians who are living in poverty.

Ian Fraser | 17 October 2012  

HH, the points you make in your comments are all factual, but they show no understanding or compassion for the current social situation. Criminalising abortion and imprisoning women for committing murder if they resort to abortion is the same as criminalising hunger and malnutrition, and prosecuting anyone suffering the results of this global problem. Abortion is the end and tragic result of a society that brushes the problems under the carpet for the sake of greed - we want our materialistic, individualist society to march on - but we can't cope with the consequences of that so we demonise the ones at the very end of the pecking order. We want everything - our comfortable living standards, but we don't like it when a mirror is put in front of us and have to admit the we are all guilty.

AURELIUS | 17 October 2012  

Great points MJ. The most free market economy in recent history was Hong Kong in the late 20th C. The results are incontestable: a massive vindication of the power of capitalism to lift people out of poverty into wealth. Hong Kong was an underdeveloped backwater in the 1940s and 1950s. It sailed past Australia in GDP per capita in the early 1990s to become the economic powerhouse it still is today. And yet it is studiously ignored by development economists (the late Lord Peter Bauer heroically excepted), church social justice agencies, and government foreign aid bureaucracies. The reason: most of them would be out of their sinecures if we heeded its simple lesson of "laissez-faire".

HH | 17 October 2012  

But while focusing on all these vital issues (and I'd add the National Disability Insurance Scheme into the mix, which will hopefully be a positive thing for many in poverty) let's not detract from the lovely gift of seeing Abbott made so uncomfortable and squirming - squirming, I say! - as he didn't now how to respond to being called out as a misogynist. That will long be a cherished memory for me.

Penelope | 17 October 2012  

So does Friedman's economic policies include the slaughter of political opponents, as in Pinochet's 11-year dictatorship?

AURELIUS | 17 October 2012  

No, Aurelius, Friedman's economic theories were based on libertarianism. He thought that people should be free to make their own choices. He did not advocate violence as far as I am aware. He thought that the less that government was involved in dealings between people the better. I fully understand the repugnance that you express for dictators like Pinochet, and I share it. However, if you are looking to denigrate the free market system, you will need to find something other than the fact that Pinochet allegedly applied Friedman's economic principles, as they did not include killing your political opponents. You might fight more appropriate targets leveling that criticism at leaders that followed the economic theorist that Kobe mentioned above.

MJ | 17 October 2012  

Well done, MJ. Based on your responses, I'm beginning to think that this post might have been worthwhile. God permits evil, and bona fide error, in order to draw good out of it.

HH | 17 October 2012  

Not trying to denigrate free market system at all and I don't know enough about economics, let alone Friedman's principals, I'm just clarifying the issue that Pinochet imposed this free market system through military force in a country with a long history of democratic freedom and which had legitimately elected a socialist-leaning government (Salvador Allende). I've also noticed Central American countries with free market policies (also bullied into it by the US) actually end up at a disadvantage because the US then applies trade restrictions/subsidies on certain products to protect it's own interests - eg farmers.

AURELIUS | 18 October 2012  

Aurelius, glad to read the clarification. I am no expert on Friedman either, but I have been reading his works and watching youtube videos. However, I can say with certainty that he did not favour any tariffs. If the foreign farmers could produce their goods more efficiently and cheaply than the American farmers, then good for them and the consumers that would benefit from a lower price. HH, I fully back what you are writing too. Thanks and cheers.

MJ | 18 October 2012  

I agree with Koba in his sentiments about the quality of Mr Falzon's article. I am aware of a mother and victim of domestic violence, with two children, one of whom has a disability who after being supported in a St Vincent De Paul refuge was able to locate a rented house for $390 p.w. Her pension and entitlements amount to $550 p.w. How does this mum support her family on $23 a day? And the government that purports to be concerned with social welfare wants to drive these women further into hardship. Why aren't their stories being told. Clearly only the middle and upper class have a voice in this oppressive society. Lawrie Beriya Canley Heights

L Beriya | 19 October 2012  

I think you misunderstood my point, MJ, the foreigner farmers do produce the products cheaper than America - but it's not "good for them" - because they can't sell their products in the US market, because the US subsidises their local producers. That keeps the latin american peasant economy in its subsistence/poverty-stricken state.

AURELIUS | 20 October 2012  

Aurelius, I did understand your point, and I agree with it. The Americans should open up their markets to the farmers from other countries. You are dead right that the closed US markets keep them poverty-stricken. But when the US farmers, and other pressure groups, want the prices kept articifically high, it is basically a political decision. If we had open global markets, we would go a long way to creating a world that is closer to being equal. We in the West may not have as much, but others in the third world would benefit. This, to my mind, is a much better way of redistributing wealth than having any government decide. However, I doubt that many in the first world would really want to back up their talk of equality with action. We will always want the well-off, which does not include us of course, to have to give up their wealth. What we have was gained by the sweat of our own brows and nobody has a right to take it from us. God forbid that our standard of living should ever drop!

MJ | 20 October 2012  

MJ, the whole capitalist system is predicated on the idea that you take surplus from the sweat of the brow of workers. Capitalists themselves don't do the work; they're the owners.

D. Papanicolaou | 21 October 2012  

D. PAPANICOLAOU, in the capitalist system and free enterprise, the worker gets to keep whatever he earns from the sweat of his brow. It's the socialist system that takes it off him. The basic failure of Marx was to recognize that most people are motivated by self-interest. We work to improve our own lot and the lot of our families. People will not slog their guts out just to have the government take it and then redistribute it to someone else who is not working. Socialist systems breed a lack of initiative and laziness. Why should I work harder, when I get paid anyway? And what makes people think that greed does not exist in socialist systems anymore than it exists in countries with the free market? Was the lot of deserted wives any better in the Soviet Union than in modern day Australia? I think that Adam Smith was once quoted as saying, "I don't like capitalist but I like capitalism." Yes the bosses are out there to make money and to minimise costs and maximise profits. But with an open market, workers can go where they get the best conditions. We are free to choose from the competing employers and suppliers.

MJ | 22 October 2012  

M.J, you have done nothing but resort to aprioristic reasoning. Everything you utter derives from a preconception you have about what you wrongly perceive to be socialism (basically that it's bad because, well, it isn't Capitalism!), not to mention your tendency to conflate it with Leninism/Marxism. Your view of Capitalism is similarly based on preconceived judgement. You start with the principle that it is a good thing, and use this as the basis for accepting it. Redistribution occurs under Neoliberal capitalism-it's just that what is being redistributed is going upwards to the rich who make their profit from workers. Gina Rinehart is not mining herself; someone else is. And the worker does not keep everything from the sweat of hi/her brow; there would be no profit if he or she did.

D. Papanicolaou | 23 October 2012  

"MJ, the whole capitalist system is predicated on the idea that you take surplus from the sweat of the brow of workers. Capitalists themselves don't do the work; they're the owners." If that's not a prioristic reasoning, I don't know what is, D.P. Perhaps you feel you can easily demonstrate your suspiciously Marxist sounding "surplus value" theory to be just obvious. It's not to me, for one.

HH | 23 October 2012  

A bit like the prioristic reasoning that God condemns people to hell?

AURELIUS | 24 October 2012  

That the surplus value theory may not be "obvious" to you, H. H, has really no bearing on the theory as such. It may just be that you don't grasp it. What gives the theory validity is whether the argument matches up with reality and describes what at heart is the true workings of capitalism. The fact that something is "suspiciously Marxist sounding" is also not a disqualification, except to someone biased towards market fundamentalism who has a vested interest in being deaf to everything that doesn't accord with that particular prejudice. Nor am I reasoning aprioristically when I say that the exchange between capitalists and wage labourers is not an equal exchange; the workers do not receive a value equivalent to what they contribute to the exchange. For that to qualify as such you would have to show not that I didn't 'demonstrate' this occurs-after all would I need to 'demonstrate' that gravity exists by throwing you out the window?-but that there is no objective evidence at all outside of what I'm saying to support the claims. The fallacy of M. J.'s argument is that he continually put forward preconceived judgements, despite a great deal of evidence to the contrary existing outside of his comments that have discredited them, along with the so-called credit crunch that nearly tipped us into economic Depression.

D. Papanicolaou | 25 October 2012  

John Frawley asks:"If indeed, "poverty is caused by bad policy, not bad behaviour", why are not all of us poor?"

That's as ridiculous as saying: If, indeed, slavery is caused by bad policy, not bad behaviour, why are not all of us slaves?

The fallacies that abound in this comment is astounding. What in your opinion constitutes "bad behaviour", Frawley? Being poor? picking one's nose? Not being born rich, like you perhaps? What? Not working hard enough? So, if x poor cleans toilets day in and out, they'll what, become Rockefeller? Why, if thousands of us did it together, and never stopped to sleep, we'd still not attain what Rockefeller has accumulated through the labour of others. Oh, wait, they can put the wage that barely gets them a shoeshine after rent, food, utilities, clothes etc. are paid for (if it stretches that far) and buy stock. The naivety; or is it-bigotry?

Also, since when is being poor the same as living in poverty. Quite a few Cubans are poor but they don't live in poverty, unlike poor working minimum wage Americans who still can't make ends meet even when they have three jobs as demonstrated by Morgan Spurlock on his documentary TV show, 30 days (not a problem during the Keynesian era). So, those starving Somalians, they're poor because they're spending too much time at the Chanel counter.

The insensitivity really where other people's suffering is concerned. The callousness which the plight of the poor can so easily be dismissed by the well-fed pampered Australian.

D. Papanicolaou | 25 October 2012  

D. Papanicolaou, you accuse me of resorting to nothing but aprioristic reasoning. I beg your pardon, good sir! If you had read the quote from Friedman properly, you would have noted that he appeals to history to support his case. I followed this up by offering as evidence that history shows free market societies bring both greater material prosperity and more social freedoms to their citizens than any centrally planned economy. These are the criteria by which I judge a society. Not that it's bad because it's not capitalist. I would be interested to have you differentiate Marxism/Leninsim from Socialism. In my mind they are all on the same spectrum, with Marxism/Leninism differing largely from Socialism in the extent of control and force that the government is prepared to exercise. What I have found most convincing on this issue was Milton Friedman's presentation on youtube. It is the second part of his "Free to Choose" series, "The Tyranny of Control". I know this issue is complex snd canot be satisfactorily dealt with in posts, so throw any links to me that present your side of the debate. I would be only to happy to peruse them.

MJ | 26 October 2012  

"History shows", M. J? This is what is known as hypostatization. A historian may show, certainly, because they're a real person. But not an abstract noun. You have made the mistake of thinking that an abstract noun is a real thing.

You are actually the one doing the showing, and as usual you fancy that the historical record confirms your bias-that the free market is the best of all possible worlds; and that Capitalism is a fair and level playing field: it is this Panglossian belief that I was questioning. That "a central planned economy" is worse (debatable)is not evidence that Capitalism is therefore good, just as showing that Attila the Hun is better than Hitler is not evidence that the former is ethical. The point is, Is capitalism itself harmful? It matters very little that feudalism was too. Why, next to Nazism even Iran looks good. It is not alright for Capitalism to exploit others because the others are worse still. Exploitation is exploitation. It is not more bearable to the exploited because it also happens in societies that are organized differently economically. You're just resorting to special pleading for your own side, excusing Capitalism when it is brutal, ignoring its casualties (how convenient), by invoking a straw man. You're also assuming those who oppose Neo-liberal Capitalism are all Marxists or Socialists. Gillian Tett and Simon Johnson are vociferous in their condemnation.

For someone who points to history you ignore a great deal of it. The potato famine, for instance. The Irish starved not because of potato blight (there was other food but free trade policies meant it was exported as people starved; soldiers were deployed to make sure it was), but because of obedience to Laissez Faire policies. Also, history isn't just economic history. It does matter that Corn Laws were implemented. Yes, it makes a difference that the Bolsheviks came to power instead of the Mensheviks.

D. Papanicolaou | 27 October 2012  

So D. PAPANICOLAOU, what system would you follow to bring about the best of all possible worlds? What philosopher or economist's theories would bring about a world where there was a minimum of exploitation? Name the angels that would guide us to bring about your best of all possible worlds.

MJ | 28 October 2012  

M. J asks: "What philosopher or economist's theories would bring about a world where there was a minimum of exploitation?" Note that M.J doesn't ask, what would minimize the exploitation brought up by Neo-liberal capitalism - making it a disingenuous question (after all, that is the topic at hand). Instead I'm asked to conjure up a fantasy counter-world, like the fantasy one of the 'free-market' M. J fancies exists. And asks: what "system" would I "follow to bring about the best of all possible worlds" and to "[n]ame the angels that would guide" us there. It's as if someone were to ask: what philosopher or economist's theories would bring about a world where there was "a minimum" of slavery or child labour in the community? Name "the angels" that would "guide" us to "your best of all possible worlds". What "system would you follow" to bring about "your best of all possible worlds". Just as the abolitionists didn't need to bring about a perfect world to emancipate slaves in western Europe and the Americas, but only needed to end the African slave trade by enacting laws and amending constitutions to abolish it, so the contemporary world doesn't need to build an instant heaven on earth for Neo-liberal exploitation to be abolished (sweat shops, deficit reduction pressed by the IMF, redistribution of wealth made by us all to the richest ten per cent etc.), but only needs to draw up a new economic order (as was done after world war 11 when the Keynesian welfare or social democratic model was installed). To do this requires political will, not "angels"-nor saints for that matter-although having more George Orwells and Oscar Romeros in the world is certainly better than having Reagans and Thatchers.

D. Papanicolaou | 29 October 2012  

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