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Voice From the Back

No prize this time
The Nobel prize-winning economist Amartya Sen writing in the Observer (16 June) starts by asking an intriguing question. “Q: Why, in the twenty-first century, are 800 million people living in the shadow of hunger? A: Widespread hunger in the world is primarily related to poverty. It is not principally connected with food production at all. Indeed, over the course of the last quarter of a century, the price of the principal staple foods (such as rice, wheat etc) have fallen by much more than half in 'real' terms.” So far, so good, but what about his answer to the question “What is the solution?” The usual reformist claptrap “It also requires visionary economic policies which both encourage (especially allowing exports from poorer countries into the markets of the rich) but also reforms (involving patent laws, technology transfer etc.) to dramatically reduce deprivation in the poorer countries.” Nothing about how capitalism must have trading blocs and patent laws in order to exist.

Heartbreak hotel
Amongst the Labour Party's more sweeping boasts about dealing with “social exclusion” was reducing the plight of the homeless, but once again capitalism has shown that good intentions are no substitute for clear thinking. “Despite repeated government promises to end the problem, 81,000 families are living in temporary accommodation, which includes bed and breakfast hotels and hostels, a rise of 9 percent on last year. More than 11,000 children are being brought up in bed and breakfast hotels . . . the figures will cause dismay for ministers, who promised this year that no homeless family with children would be forced to live in bed and breakfast accommodation by 2004.” Times (18 June).

Grapes of wrath
In any sane society a bumper grape harvest would be greeted with joy, but this is capitalism, a mad society, where wine, like everything else, isn't produced to be enjoyed but to make profit. “Faced with a worldwide glut of wine and a tidal wave of competing New World tipples, the producers' union of the Beaujolais region has finally succumbed – 100,000 hecto-litres of unsold wine is to be destroyed. The equivalent of 13 million bottles of wine, certified of Beaujolais appellation, is to be made into vinegar, distilled into ethyl alcohol for use as road fuel or just poured down the plughole.” Times (25 June).

White House hypocrisy
Capitalism is a nasty, competitive social system, so politicians should be very careful about striking high moral poses. They are so often exposed for the hypocrites that they are. Take the case of George W. Bush fulminating about the wrong-doing of corporate America, and promising to clean up any crooked inside dealing or phoney accounting. “Mr Bush had failed to disclose stock sales promptly, as required by law, on four occasions in the 1980s. In the most serious incident, he disclosed a 1990 sale of $848,560 (£558,263) of Harken Energy Corp stock 34 weeks later than was required by federal law. Mr Bush was a director in the Texas-based oil and gas exploration company at the time. Two months after Mr Bush had sold the stock, the company announced losses and the stock fell 20 percent.” Times (4 July) In his defence Mr Bush has come up with a feeble excuse. “In the corporate world sometimes things aren't exactly black and
white when it comes to accounting practices.” Newsweek (22 July)

A dog's life
If you have ever been in New York City you will probably have noticed the number of homeless people eking out an existence on next to no money.According to the following news items they would probably have fared better in the capitalist jungle if they had been a rich woman's pet dog. “The former Mayor of New York, Rudolph Giuliani, got out of subsiding costs for his pet in the divorce courts. His estranged wife wanted him to pay £850 a month to cover the care of their golden labrador. The dog lives in Manhattan's Upper Eastside, which boasts pet-gyms, swimming lessons for dogs, and exotic pet suites that cost £200 a night . . . Mariah Carey sends her dog to a dog psychiatrist for $300 (£200) per hour.” Independent Review (5 July).

Spoiled for choice?
Apologists for capitalism are always telling us about the wonderful choices that this competitive system presents to the working class. Take beer, they argue; look at the wonderful varities of brands made by scores of brewers that you lucky workers have to choose from. Stella Artois, Boddingtons, Bass, Rolling Rock, Becks, Hoegaarden, Leffe, Sol, Dos Equis, Tennents, Oranjeboom and Staropramen. The list looks like a formidable example of competition until you realise that all of these brands are owned by the one company; the Belgian based multi-national Interbrew.

Figure it out for yourself
Socialists are constantly hammering on about how capitalism is a mad house, where a mere handful live in obscene grandeur while the majority scrape by as best they can. But don't believe us; here are some figures from the owning class's own sources – Observer (14 July): “... 2.8 billion of the world's 6 billion people live on less than $2 a day; 1.2 billion on less than $1 a day. Between 30-35, 000 children under five die every day of preventable diseases . . . with the assets of the world's top three billionaires exceeding the GNP of all the 48 least developed countries (population 600 million).”