Why is poverty and economic security not reducing amidst the enormous increased wealth we’ve seen on the planet so far?
In Poverty is not Natural, the author George Curtis draws upon the work of
19th-century American economist, Henry George. It was George who looked into the cause of wealth disparity during the Industrial Revolution.
George is known for his 1879 classic book, Progress and Poverty. This is the book that even outsold the bible at its time of publication – and for a decade after.
The book begins by quoting Nelson Mandela’s speech in Trafalgar Square in 2005:
“Overcoming poverty is not a task of charity, it is an act of justice. Like slavery and apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made and can be overcome by the actions of human beings.”
As we flip through the pages, the book shows Curtis’s commitment to justice.
It’s sad but true. Such unequal wealth distribution has since created poverty right up until today. By the same token, the book acknowledges that the cause of poverty is entrenched across the world in a widely accepted institution, just like slavery or apartheid.
This ‘institution’ is well described by Curtis: the unequal rights to land. Or perhaps better put, the enclosure of the commons.
The book elaborates on the economic arrangements that have created a system that benefits only the rich. With this man-made system, landowners can take a giant share of the wealth and leave little to anyone else.
In addition to Henry George, the book also mentions a few other historic figures, like Winston Churchill who expressed his concern that such rising inequality could lead to harsh injustices and perhaps even eventual overthrow of the system.
A fairer system is, therefore, necessary to narrow the economic disparity.
Recalling Mandela’s speech, the last chapter takes the reader to unveil the actions that can reduce poverty, such as replacing the complicated tax system with the collection of economic rent.
It’s the collection of the Rent that has such dramatic ability to alter the distribution of what society produces in a more ‘just’ fashion.
Poverty is not Natural is the book Financial Times (FT) columnist Martin Wolf picked as one of his best essential reads for 2020. (FT, 17 June 2020.)
The book is available for you to read at Shepheard-Walwyn, here.
If you wish to buy the book, you can click here.
It’s a well-known fact that the world’s most renowned construction projects, monuments and buildings have historically been built to celebrate something. To commemorate the past, in other words. Whether they are ancient works, like the Great Pyramids of Giza being used to celebrate the glory of the Egyptians pharaohs
Currently the growth model of economics, as measured by GDP, is on a collision course with environmental limits. The idea of endless growth is incompatible with what Nature can provide. So what is the alternative? Reporting on the 1988 Conservative Party conference The Economist, in an article entitled ‘The Greening of Mrs Thatcher’, quoted her as stating: ‘No generation has a freehold on the earth. All we have is a life tenancy with a full repairing lease.’
According to a report in The Times(17/7/20), the campaign to make ‘ecocide’ an international crime at the International Criminal Court begun by Polly Higgins, who died last year, has been picked up by ‘Malala Yousafzai, the Nobel peace prizewinner [who] has joined Greta Thunberg and 150 celebrities and scientists calling on world leaders to make ecocide – the mass damage of nature – a criminal offence … Such a law could make company bosses and government ministers responsible for funding, permitting or causing severe environmental damage.’
The author, is, unusually for a supporter of land value taxation and free trade, a graduate in economics, having gained a first class honours degree in Politics, Philosophy and Economics at the University of Oxford. This puts him in the advantageous position of being able to apply a critique of mainstream economics in its own terms, something which most of us are unable to do.
“You can become wealthy by creating wealth or by appropriating the wealth created by other people. When the appropriation of the wealth is illegal it is called theft or fraud. When it is legal economists call it rent-seeking”
John Kay, Financial Times 27th Dec 2009
“If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, they cannot save the few who are rich.”
John F Kennedy, Inaugural Speech, Jan 1961
“If science is defined by its ability to forecast the future, the failure of much of the economics profession to see the crisis coming should be a cause for great concern”
“Today we live in a world that is divided. A world in which we have made great progress and advances in science and technology. But it is also a world where millions of children die because they have no access to medicines… It is a world of great promise and hope. It is also a world of despair, disease and hunger”
How Our Economy Really Works
– Why are so many trapped in poverty, when others are grossly well-off?
– Why are house prices continuously rising faster than inflation?
– Why do people so often find themselves in jobs that give them little sense of fulfilment?
– Why is a multi-national coffee shop franchise not actually making its money from coffee?
These questions have confronted the UK economy for decades without resolution by governments of the right or left. It is the failure of economics, the author argues.
ISBN 9780856835292 | Price: £9.95