Why World Peace
and Other Good Things are Bad
for the Economy
by J.S. Larochelle - 2005
"The problems that exist in the world today cannot be solved by the level of thinking that created them." -- Albert Einstein
THE ECONOMICS OF PEACE
In 2003 politicians in the US and Britain were demanding that Iraq disarm. But why stop at Iraq? Why not disarm the whole world, abandon militarism and cooperate for world peace?
One aspect of "peace" is that it poses a serious economic problem. Many people are living in poverty because they are unemployed or have jobs that don't pay enough money. But under the free market system, in order to have enough money to pay people well, large quantities of products must be produced and sold.
Currently, many people have jobs in the military industrial complex where they produce the things needed for war. The United States alone has a military budget of $401.7 Billion for 2005.
Worldwide, hundreds of billions are being spent on the military every year. But we read that "more than 2.2 million people, mostly children, die each year from water related diseases..." The world's public utilities are not producing enough safe drinking water, yet vast amounts the world's labour and other resources are being used for militarism. Given this situation, how can peace be achieved when war is far more profitable?
WAR AND ECONOMIC DOMINATION
Imperialism is the policy and practice of controlling the world's economy through militarism. In 1873, in his book "On War," General Carl Von Clausewitz wrote: "The war of a community ...always starts from a political condition, and is called forth by a political motive..."
One "political motive" behind war is to have monopoly control of land rich in valuable resources. Many of the world's Indigenous peoples have lost their lands to Europeans in wars of conquest. But even as Western Civilization's historic imperialism is more fully exposed, politicians in places like British Columbia continue to demand that more of Indigenous people's land be "privatized" and "developed" to ensure economic growth.
Indigenous peoples' poverty is caused by the theft of the lands that they have used to feed their communities for thousands of years. Despite this obvious hard fact, many Westerners continue to attribute poverty in Indigenous communities to a lack of education or some other "individual" failing.
ONLY THE WEALTHY BENEFIT FROM THE WAR ON THE POOR
Some people want us to believe that the key to being productive and wealthy is to have a university degree. But if wealth is going to accumulate, merely reading, writing or doing research won't do it. In the end, someone must do the actual work of growing the food, harvesting it, building homes, shopping, cooking, cleaning up, taking out the garbage, feeding babies and so forth.
But staggering amounts of the world's time and resources are now tied up in vast bureaucracies. Instead of building homes for people to live in, we build more offices, manufacture more office furniture, office equipment, computers and printers etc.
After two centuries of militarism, industrialization and growing bureaucracy, there are still only relatively a few "independently" wealthy people in the world. However, average "poor" people -- who are either unpaid or work for low pay-- still must do much of the world's daily work that is not done by the machines.
Millions of mothers and children are living in abject poverty but the free market justifies their poverty by stating that they are not "productive" members of society. Yet people who work in the military industrial complex are considered to be productive and get paid.
But what hope is there for world peace when making weapons is a "productive" paid job and being a mother or a child is not?
SWIM OR SINK IN THE "FREE" MARKET
When people are unemployed, their lives either depend on charity or inadequate welfare benefits. But in British Columbia, premier Gordon Campbell's Liberal government is denying people access to welfare through various "sanctions" including denying people welfare and cutting people off welfare regardless of whether they have a socially useful, environmentally sustainable job that pays a living wage.
The obvious goal of denying people economic security is it to force them to work at any job available, and for as low wages as possible. Under the free market system, there is no guaranteed access to fresh water, nutritious food, housing, health care or the other life-giving basics. This forces desperate people to take any job they can get. And every country is also desperate to use whatever means it can -- including militarism -- to grow "its" economy to prevent civil unrest.
THE VIOLENT ROOTS OF POVERTY
Many people are too frightened of losing their jobs and ending up in poverty to say no to the people who control the current political and economic systems. Therefore we live in world where a tiny number of people become multi-billionaires while many others starve. Not only is there little moral outrage at such obscene inequity, but most of us remain quite silent despite the growing evidence of genocide by poverty.
In "Poor People Movements" Frances Fox Piven and Richard A. Cloward write: "Common sense and historical experience combine to suggest a compelling view of the roots of power in any society...those who control the means of physical coercion, and those who control the means of producing wealth, have power over those who don't."
Violence and "threats" are used to ensure an ongoing supply of "poor" people to do the world's low paid and unpaid labour. However some people continue to talk of progress, "democracy" and economic growth even while the vast majority of people are either very poor or just a few paydays away from poverty.
We read that "the world's rchest 50m people earn as much as the poorest 2.7bn and may soon be forced to live in heavily protected gated communities to escape the resentment of the billions living below the poverty line..." (The Guardian, Jan. 18, 02).
WINNERS AND LOSERS
The American author Gore Vidal wrote: "It's not enough to succeed. Others must fail." The truth of this statement is demonstrated by the fact that the vast majority of us cannot be winners, become dependently wealthy entrepreneurs, or win a million dollars in the lottery.
Similarly, professional sporting leagues are purposefully designed so that only one team can be the "champs." All the others must be "losers." Like professional sports, wars and lotteries are also written to ensure that only a tiny number of people win, and the free market system itself is designed to ensure that the vast majority remain as poor as possible.
The problem with having money is that if everyone were rich then no one would available to do all the low-paid or no paid manual labour jobs such as picking fruit, changing the baby's dirty diapers, cleaning the toilets and a myriad of jobs that must be done, but cannot be done in ways that makes people rich.
"Professional" economists don't even bother with the pretence of trying to practice the economic theories they preach. No, they take safe jobs at universities, banks, in the government or at places like the Fraser Institute where they get well paid to merely be the shills for the free market economic system.
WHO MADE UP THE RULES OF THE ECONOMIC GAMES?
If some people are going to sit in offices or in restaurants sipping fine wines and eating good food, then others must be harvesting the food, doing dishes and taking out the garbage. But despite all the scientific talk about cloning, farm and kitchen workers still don't grow in test tubes. Mothers must give birth to future workers and someone must do the "unpaid" work in the home.
Unpaid workers such as mothers and children are amongst the big losers under the free market system and so it's hard to imagine that they would give democratic consent to the continuation of a set of rules whereby they are supposed to compete for money and other scarce resources with grown men by doing things such as hitting golf balls, boxing or waging wars.
Moreover, to "win" in a world society designed as a game requires others to be around to participate, finish last and be losers. But if more of the losers sink into poverty and die, then the games would come to a crashing halt for the winners would have no one to compete with.
This calls to mind the saying: 'what if the politicians or generals declared war but no one showed up?' Economists may talk about the law of "supply" and "demand" but in order for there to be an ongoing need for the military there also must be the idea that war in perpetuity is our only fate.
THE WAR ON PEOPLE'S HEALTH
Good health is another obvious example of the problem of economic growth, for the prerequisite for making and selling "more" health services and drugs is the need for "more" sick people. However, scientific evidence proves conclusively that people who have access to clean drinking water and air and who eat nutritious food, exercise regularly and get a good night's sleep are much healthier than people who don't.
We also read: "Tobacco use is one of the chief preventable causes of death in the world. The World Health Organization attributes 4 million deaths a year to tobacco use, a figure expected to rise to about 10 million deaths a year by 2030; with 7 million of these deaths occurring in developing countries."
Selling more tobacco products to make money is nothing less than manufacturing sick people in order to grow the economy. We also read that in the United States "paralleling this enormous health toll is the economic burden of tobacco use: between $50 billion and $73 billion in medical expenditures and another $50 billion in indirect costs."
If you're an average person trying to stay healthy to have a full, healthy life then the above statistics are ominous. This is especially true if you're a smoker, but it is also true if you inhale secondhand smoke. Surely the message should be for people to quit smoking and do everything to convince young people not to ever start using tobacco products.
But if economic growth is the criteria used to measure "success" then what difference does it make how the economy grows as long as the numbers keep going up and you get rich? Clearly, from an economic standpoint, bad things such as war and ill health generate far more economic activity than peace and good health, and surely the main reason why average people passively play these destructive free market economic games is that we fear living in poverty.
GUARANTEED LIVABLE INCOME NOW
Martin Luther King Jr. last book was called "Where Do We Go From Here:Chaos or Community? He wrote: "I am now convinced that the simplest approach will prove to be the most effective -- the solution to poverty is to abolish it directly by a now widely discussed measure: the guaranteed income."
It is impossible to image how a basis for world peace can even be discussed while vast numbers of people are living and dying in poverty and while so much profit is to be made from waging war and causing ill health.
The fact that mothers and children are still living in poverty even in the wealthiest countries demands that we take immediate action to ensure that all people have a guaranteed livable income. Conversely, the continued belief that "full employment" is even remotely possible when most jobs produce nonessential or destructive goods or services stands reason and morality on their heads.
US Military Budget cost comparisons
World Water Crisis
Frances Fox Piven, and Richard A. Cloward "Poor People's Movements: Why They Succeed, How They Fail," 1977.
World No Tobacco Day
The Burden of Tobacco Use
J.S Larochelle is a member of Livable Income For Everyone