Yes, I am well aware of the 1% threshold and the comfortable position of most western countries in this regard. And your link to the Global Rich List is a great help to show more people their favourable position, and that they do not have much to complain because they are technically within the 1% or close to it.
But when those people mention “the elite 1%” this is mostly an easy way to mean the real elite, and to wealth inequality phenomena more like this:
“The three richest people in the US – Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos and Warren Buffett – own as much wealth as the bottom half of the US population, or 160 million people.” - The Guardian
“An alarming projection produced by the House of Commons library suggests that if trends seen since the 2008 financial crash were to continue, then the top 1% will hold 64% of the world’s wealth by 2030.” - The Guardian
Note that while the last statement uses the 1% segment, within this segment the wealth inequality gap is also growing. So I don’t expect the ones earning 30,000 yearly to be much better off in 2030, and it will be mostly the 0.1% within the 1% that stand to gain most.
I admire your efforts to really change your lifestyle and truly contribute to a fairer world. Like you I am aware of the prolems for a long time, and I have never been prone to mindless consumerism (I value quality products that will last a lifetime, and knowing I can use something for many years without replacing gives me great satisfaction). But only in the last 3 years I realized I should be prepared to do with much less. To be much more modest. And that - for a sustainable inhabitation of our planet - much more people should be prepared to do the same.
Your approach to globalization is the proper one: Globalization for the benefit of humanity! An often heard benefit of globalization is that is has caused “more people to live above the poverty line than ever before”.
But there is a huge, huge problem with current globalization trends, and your stimulation of them might only serve to worsen them. The problem is that globalization is also mostly driven by the elites, but for different reasons, namely:
- To lower production costs, and maximize profits (the capitalist zero-sum game)
- To open new markets for (western-style) consumerism
- For reasons of tax avoidance, moving wealth to safe havens
From this perspective the wealth increase of the poor is only an undesirable side-effect. It is caused by reason 1, when production is moved to a low-income country, but when wealth standards increase then this work flows to other countries and regions, and the enriched population is now subjected to reason 2. - participating in the capitalist dance.
Of course, they are better off in some ways - e.g. having access to modern medicine and other technology that improves life. But they are now subjected and addicted to money and debt (where before they could live from bartering. I am also worried on micro-financing trends in this regard). Traditional markets that functioned well for centuries no longer do (e.g. the sending of 2nd-hand clothes to Africa has destroyed entire clothing markets). Productivity requirements in agriculture means small farmes can no longer keep up, they lose their living, and either have to work for big land owners (as with the palm oil plantations in Asia), or move to the city to eek out a living (urbanisation).
I wonder whether this wealth increase is only temporary, and whether these people are truly better off in the long run. I think current globalization only speeds up wealth inequality. The production flows to where it is cheapest regardless of negative effects. The big producers close their eyes to this if abuses are further along the supply, and they can get away with it. We see this with the e.g. the Apple and fashion brand sweatshops that now move from China to Bangladesh because of pay rises and increased worker awareness. And we see it with slavery:
“There Are More Slaves Today Than at Any Time in Human History” - AlterNet
We have to ask ourselves: Why are those people in countries that have the richest resources also the poorest? This is because of our exploitation of them, that dates back from colonial times, but still continues to this day. And that is a model that is now copied by new upcoming economies that join in on this feeding frenzy.
The obvious solution to the globalization problems - one that leads to the beneficial type of globalization - is consumer awareness, where consumers make informed choices. They buy quality products that are durable, that are fair-trade and ecological, and they have a critical eye on how production takes place, raising their voice and ultimately boycotting products when required.
Unfortunately here it is also the western countries where this is easier to do than in developing countries, as we are much further in awareness, and have the wealth and luxure to make different choices (I recently saw a documentary about rural areas in India where people intentionally litter their front-yard with plastic wrappings of western products to display their wealth to their community).
The upcoming tech revolution
To bring this back to CHT mission: The gigantic tech revolution in AI and Robotics that has only just started can go both ways. On the one hand it has the potential to bring great technological advancements within reach of most of the human population, make them affordable. On the other hand - and this is where the CHT should play a role - there are some great dangers, also to the ‘under-developed’ world:
I believe it was in the great Do you trust this computer? documentary, where they showed a robot having enormous dexterity that could replace 2 workers in a production line, doing arbitrary production tasks. Now that robot cost (I think) about 40,000 dollars, and can work 24 hrs a day without pausing, without leave of absence. Let’s say that this robot can last without much maintenance for about 10 years…
This means that it could replace workers earning $ 2,000,- yearly!!
And this is only just right now, at the beginning of this revolution. There is talk about the benefits of this revolution… “people no longer have to work” and we can have a Universal Basic Income and develop ourselves along our interests and hobbies.
But I fear this is just a pipe dream, as long as the robotics factories and tecnology development are solely in the hands of the elites, as they are now.