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Priorities in Capitalism

22 October 2008

A lot of people think it would be nice to have a lot of money. No more worries about paying the mortgage, putting food on the table, affording an education for the kids, and so on. But their dreams are nothing compared to the realities of the world’s rich. Dubai’s Palm Island, which opened in September and featured in the Toronto Star (28/09/08), is the latest word in Persian Gulf excess. It’s a $1.5 billion resort boasting a $25 000 per night suite and a water park with dolphins flown in from the South Pacific, all on a man-made island built in the shape of a palm tree. Also in the works are an indoor ski slope and the world’s tallest sky scraper. The resort includes a giant, open air aquarium with 65 000 fish and, of course, the dolphinarium. Donald Trump plans to build a hotel there and the storied ocean liner, Queen Elizabeth II, will become a hotel and tourist attraction. An eighteen thousand-seat theatre will house a permanent Cirque Du Soleil show starting in 2011. The island, called “Palm Jumeirah” will become one of Dubai’s major tourist attractions according to CEO developer Joe Cita, “Boosting the number of attractions on the island will not only entice more visitors, but also persuade them to spend more time and money in the city.”

The 113 acre resort on the artificial island is one of the city state’s bets that tourism can help sustain its economy once regional oil profits stop flowing. Obviously, it’s a playground for the super rich and in the real world contrasts in a gruesome way how many have to live in a capitalist world. Hundreds of millions are unemployed or underemployed; 250 million children are exploited by forced labour; women work two thirds of the world’s working hours and produce half of the world’s food, yet earn only ten per cent of the world’s income and own less than one per sent of the world’s property and make up seventy per cent of those in absolute poverty; three billion people exist on less than two dollars a day; eight hundred million lack access to even basic medical care; seventeen million, including eleven million children die every year from easily treated diseases; over eight hundred million people are hungry or malnourished; eight hundred and seventy million of the world’s adults are illiterate. Meanwhile the richest one per cent earn as much as the poorest fifty-seven per cent. The top five per cent earn as much as the bottom eighty per cent and the wealthiest fifth earns seventy-five times that of the poorest fifth. One must assume that it is that wealthiest fifth that will avail themselves of the attractions at Palm Jumeirah. One can argue that it’s no crime if they can afford to partake of those luxuries and socialists do not blame the rich for our monstrously stratified society. Rather we blame, and wish to change, the system that allows this to happen. Nor does it make sense for the super rich to give away their wealth to the poor. This would only be an equalization of poverty. The call of the Left to tax wealth more wouldn’t eliminate poverty either. Seeking answers in capitalism is not, never has been, and never will be, the answer to the problem. It should be obvious to all that, given the state the world is currently in with its financial crisis, energy crisis, armed conflicts, and global warming, that capitalism cannot possibly provide a secure, poverty-free, and fulfilling life for all. If that is the desired goal, and who wouldn’t want that, then we must strive to establish a society based on the common ownership and democratic control of the earth’s riches and production of wealth. Perhaps then we could all enjoy a healthy, full lifestyle and even Palm Jumeirah.

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