Friday, February 01, 2008

Winner-Takes-All World: From Mud Cookies to Truffles

The hand of a woman is covered in mud as she makes mud cookies on the roof of Fort Dimanche, once a prison, in Port-au-Prince, Friday, Nov. 30, 2007. Rising prices and food shortages threaten the nation's fragile stability, and the mud cookies, made of dirt, salt and vegetable shortening, are one of very few options the poorest people have to stave off hunger.




World's Most Expensive Truffle Brings $112,000





The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) reported that government aid to developing countries reached record highs in 2005, peaking at $106.5 billion. That sounds like a lot of money until you look at the percentage each country gave of its gross national income. The United States gave the most, $7.5 billion, which accounts for (0.2 % GNI) ; followed by Japan at $1 .1 billion (0. 8 percent GNI); the United kingdom at $10.8 billion (0.48 percent GNI); and France $10.1 billion (0.47 percent GNI). Although the United States contributed the highest dollar amount, it gave the lowest percentage of its GNI.

The data from the UNDP (1998) report the 358 richest people in the world possess a fortune equivalent in value to the combined income of the poorest 45 percent.

There is something wrong with this picture. Why should some people have to eat "mud cookies" while an infinitesimally small percentage of people feast on fungus, fungus that cost more than gold, but ends up in the same digestive tract as the mud, where it is converted into the "great equalizer" none of us like to discuss and for good reason.

Even newly-created wealth becomes concentrated in the possession of the already wealthy -- wealth condensation -- preventing those who eat mud cookies from ever getting a shot at eating a "Tollhouse cookie" let alone a truffle. The truffle-eaters who already hold all the wealth, have the means to invest in new sources of creating wealth and thus become the beneficiaries of recently acquired wealth, adding on to the great abundance of valuable material possessions or resources already so readily available to them. Meanwhile, the poorest members of a society are forced to spend all their income on bare necessities - food, housing, medicine - and will have nothing left over to invest as the wealthiest people do.

It's very much a "winner-takes-all" global economy where all the wealth is held in a very small part of each country's population or if speaking in global, the majority of the wealth is held in the hands of very small number of countries. Most of this can be attributed to the structure of markets and technology today.

As the globe continues to shrink, it will be harder and harder to avoid the interconnectedness between all of us, whether we live in Haiti, the USA, Africa, or the Middle East. Unavoidably, our continually shrinking world will cause interdependence, where we, the United States, will depend on other countries to remain healthy, free of violence, terrorism, ect because we are no longer isolated from the problems of other countries...it will become much more difficult to prevent whatever it is we are trying to avoid from crossing over into our territory.

Organizing our world economy in the interests of the super or hyper-rich can only heighten the chance this world will cease to exist. Many of our current domestic and foreign policies, which give enormous advantages to the rich over and above the already enormous advantage they already have over the poor and middle-class just by having such an abundance of wealth will become more than a moral question as it is now, and a more a question of our own survival.

3 comments:

Anonymous,  12:44  

The subsidy systems in the US, at least the way they work now, inherited from the New Deal 75 years ago are not helping family farmers stay in existence. The system now is tilted very heavily toward agribusiness, capital intensive agriculture, corporate concentrated agriculture and not at all toward poor family farms barely struggling for whom this was targeted toward when created.

As long as the powerful countries remain stubborn, the inequity will continue.

Unfortunately, I believe you are right that nothing will change until we experience the consequences of continuing our isolationist policies acting as if we are the only people on the planet.

Anonymous,  16:25  

There are a few companies such as Starbucks, Peet's and Millstone who are marketing a fair-trade coffee blend produced by worker cooperatives and certified by the TransFair label. .. www.transfairusa.org, a nonprofit monitoring agency.

bill,  12:13  

who in their right mind would pay that much money to eat fungus?

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