Challenging Structural Geographical Inequalities on a Global Scale by Andrew Henderson

Class War graffiti

Image by killabodhi via Flickr

by Andrew Henderson
Guest Writer, Dandelion Salad
November 1, 2019

Many of the most pressing problems all nations face are a result of failing to adequately tackle our increasing level of global interdependence.

Mobilized capital can play the tax-regime of one country off against another with ease, such that there is a race to the bottom with respect to the corporate tax revenues which might be expected from even the wealthiest transnational corporations. Such economic arbitrage is possible precisely due to the propagation of widespread variations in the distribution of social justice across the planet. There are no national solutions to such problems, which ultimately require the more equitable distribution of social justice on a global scale.

Even when faced with structural unemployment due to advances in automation, unconditional universal basic income on an individual state-by-state basis would do nothing to challenge structural geographical inequalities on a global scale – it would simply share the ill-gotten gains of inherited colonial and ongoing neo-colonial centres of capital accumulation amongst those ordinary citizens who are fortunate enough to be born in their immediate orbit (predominantly in the global north).

Furthermore, many on the left argue that this amounts to little more than a capitalist ‘sticking-plaster’: a reformist measure intended to redistribute private wealth to the minimum extent necessary to avoid a popular uprising amongst the poorest in society. Although such arrangements might well provide a valuable safety-net for the less well-off in the short term, it is indeed important to recognise that, as per traditional social security arrangements, such limited redistribution of private wealth is not at all sufficient to tackle the deep-rooted morbidities of the capitalist mode of production: i.e. class, neo-colonial and ecological exploitation of those who do not share ownership of the means of production, including the robbery of a sustainable future from the young, and those who are yet to be born. Instead of the ‘sticking plaster’ of basic income, something much more radical would instead be necessary in order to avoid the continued existence of a separate capitalist class which would otherwise retain the economic power to continue exploiting natural and human resources (ultimately land and labour) to destruction for their own short-term gain.

Instead, what would be required is some kind of unconditional universal citizen’s dividend based on the shared ownership of the means of production (perhaps most easily worked out in terms of fractional land ownership) as a birth-right rather than as a state/corporate handout – and on a necessarily global scale. Furthermore, it is reasonable to expect that this might even conceivably reverse migration flows in the direction of those areas which are most impoverished (where a globally equitable income would be worth more), thereby tending towards an amelioration of global economic inequality.

To illustrate further the futility of nation-by-nation legislation in the face of the widespread problems which face us all on a global scale, consider the following example: It is widely understood that the African continent is disproportionately resource-rich even though their populations are disproportionately impoverished compared to Europe and North America for example. Now just say that we are all to switch to electric cars in order to reduce carbon emissions and other pollutants. A fairly modest new electric car in the UK can be purchased for around twenty five thousand pounds, and reliable second-hand models can be picked up for well under ten thousand. It is a conventional aiming point for many, if not most households, that they might expect to have access to at least one car – and not least as cultural status-symbols.

It is also widely understood that the batteries for electric cars are manufactured from raw materials which are all-too-often mined by impoverished children whose labour is exploited to the detriment of their health (in the African continent and elsewhere). As the motor industry transitions to electric cars this situation is only likely to get worse. The only way we can circumvent such a scenario is to question our culture of individual car ownership whilst simultaneously working towards the homogenisation of social and economic justice on a global scale.

In order that the rare-earths necessary for these batteries might be mined professionally by well-paid, properly trained and equipped adults (whose children might thereby be freed from such labour) these twenty five thousand pound vehicles should actually cost much more – perhaps even starting at around one hundred thousand pounds or more. Furthermore, instead of being parked uselessly in driveways (other than as static exhibits of a household’s capacity to keep up with the proverbial Joneses), it is reasonable to propose that such vehicles might be owned and operated by community car pools, where they might be utilised much more efficiently and affordably.

There are always creative solutions, but they require us to leave behind many of our inherited habits of thought and expectations, and in the context of much wider allegiances than those to which we are all too often conditioned to subscribe. Hence my objection to localism, anarcho-primitivism and nationalism.

Having said all that, it is clear to me that an INTERdependent Scotland functioning within the European Union, which is (for all its faults, and at least at its best moments) a tentative move in the direction of such post-national thinking, is much more preferable than remaining within an isolationist UK, and even more so a UK which is likely to become even more of a neo-colonial American lapdog than it already is.

Brexit is just the latest episode of a century-and-a-half old culture war between US robber baron liassez-faire capitalism and the European model of a social-market economy geared towards the needs of the many before the profits of the few. I know which side I’m on.

From the archives:

Chris Hedges: History of the Factory

Ken Loach and Paul Laverty: The Idea Capitalism Can Be Regulated is RIDICULOUS!

How Do We Rent Our Lives? by The Anti-Social Socialist

Caleb Maupin: Can Socialism Be Achieved Through Voting? + What’s Up with Andrew Yang? A Conversation on UBI

Will Griffin: How the U.S. Military Shaped Global Capitalism

Chris Hedges: Extracting Profit: Imperialism, Neoliberalism, and the New Scramble of Africa

Chris Hedges: Hage Geingob, From Resistance Fighter to President of Namibia

A Basic Income Is Less Than Meets The Eye by Pete Dolack

Debate: Basic Income: A Way Forward for the Left? (excellent debate pro and con UBI)

3 thoughts on “Challenging Structural Geographical Inequalities on a Global Scale by Andrew Henderson

  1. Andrew,

    Most excellent to meet you this evening. I wonder what you make of the idea that Spain may Veto an independent Scotlands joining the EU in the light of Basque and Catalan separatism.

    New conversations, would very much like to stay in touch but can’t track you down on social media or find a direct email.

    Happy New Year!


    • Hi Duncan,

      It was a pleasure to meet you too. Sorry for the delay in replying, but you will no doubt appreciate that my chosen compromise with capitalism is such that I am particularly busy during the festive season.

      With regard to your question about the Spanish veto on an independent Scotland rejoining the EU, it should be borne in mind that this is a policy which originates the era of the original indyref when the UK was an established member of the EU – and was an important part of the argument against Scotland ‘upsetting the applecart’: i.e. the only way Scotland could be assured continuing membership of the EU was by remaining part of the UK.

      Now that the UK has itself decided to upset the EU applecart the situation is much less clear. Although it remains possible that Spain might veto the readmission of an independent Scotland to the EU, it is more likely that this would be a posture they might only be tempted to maintain prior to any further indyref. Should an independent Scotland result from such a referendum the pressure from their European colleagues to permit Scottish membership would be relentless and overwhelming, and bearing in mind the history of friction with the UK over the question of Gibraltar which is only likely to worsen post-Brexit, Spain is much more likely to wish to cooperate with Holyrood rather than Westminster under such circumstances in any case.

      Such imperious horse trading notwithstanding, it nevertheless follows from the broader argument I have made above that an INTERdependent Scotland which bucks the trend of national isolationism by seeking to re-commit to the project of maximal transnational cooperation within the EU is better than the alternative of becoming an increasingly isolated American outpost at the edge of Europe (perhaps increasingly resembling Oceania’s Airstrip One as portrayed by Orwell).

      Even if those in charge of arranging the deck-chairs on the Titanic attempt to block our path to the lifeboats, that surely doesn’t mean we should give up trying? As one wag once put it:-

      The meek shall inherit the earth,
      If that’s all right with you chaps?

      All the best,

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