Monday, February 24, 2014

Extreme Poverty Has Been Used to Divide and Terrify Working People for Centuries

From Truth Out:  http://www.truth-out.org/progressivepicks/item/21996-extreme-poverty-has-been-used-to-divide-and-terrify-working-people-for-centuries

By Frances Fox Piven Sunday, 23 February 2014

In the following excerpted chapter, scholar Frances Fox Piven argues that the guarantee of a universal income would facilitate a new economic fairness and stability to a financial system careening out of control.

Most of the world is now in the grip of hyper-capitalism, what we call neoliberalism. This new system has brought us careening economic instabilities, worsening ecological disasters, brutal wars, a depleted public sector and poverty in the affluent global north, and the prospect of mass famine in the global south.

It seems high time to think about alternatives to the capitalist behemoth. I don’t know whether we will ultimately call the new ways of organizing our society "socialist," but the values that have inspired movements for socialism in the past should inform our search. Those values include a society with sharply reduced inequalities in both material circumstances and social status. Socialist movements also aspire to lessen the grinding toil now imposed on those who work for wages. They dream of an inclusive culture. They fight for democratic practices and policies in which influence is widely shared. And they believe in eliminating the pervasive terror in everyday life that is produced by the exigencies of capitalist markets and the arbitrary power of the state regimes that support those markets.

No matter how successful the new society is in equalizing earnings and assets, however, we will have to be concerned about the potential for poverty and hard times. This might result from exogenous shocks, such as a drought or earthquakes, or from internal economic disorganization, including the instabilities produced by efforts to transform our institutions. Moreover, there will always be people who are not well suited to the work that is available because of their physical health or personal disorganization.

How our society treats these people is of great importance. Morally, it is important because it is unnecessary and cruel for an affluent society to impose impoverishment and humiliation on some of its members. It is less often recognized that the treatment of the poor has a large bearing on the well-being of the entire society.

The poverty policies characteristic of capitalist societies, especially the United States, form a template for what we should not do in the new society. They also suggest an agenda for constructing the institutions that will lead to a more equal, more democratic and more humane society.

Continue reading at:  http://www.truth-out.org/progressivepicks/item/21996-extreme-poverty-has-been-used-to-divide-and-terrify-working-people-for-centuries

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