by Zafar Bangash (Editorials, Crescent International Vol. 44, No. 1, Jumada' al-Ula', 1436)
If capitalism is such a great system why is there such widespread poverty in the world? Capitalism is run by vultures that prey on the innocent and the weak creating gross inequalities between and within societies.
If capitalism were such a great system, there would not be so much poverty and hunger in the world. Similarly, wealth would not continue to be concentrated in so few hands, as the UK-based charity, Oxfam International finds in its report released in December 2014. The report indicates that the ultra-rich are getting richer; the richest 1% own 48% of global wealth and if this trend continues, by 2016 more than 50% of the world’s wealth would be in their hands. Thus, 1% of the world’s population will have as much wealth as the remaining 99%. This is what the 99% movement briefly captured in late 2011 but agents-provocateurs quickly subverted it with the corporate media, owned by the same 1%, tarnishing its image.
The issues highlighted in the Oxfam report, and before that by the 99% movement (aka the Wall Street movement), are real. There is gross inequality between countries and within countries. A glance at some figures would help clarify this. Some 200 years ago, the rich-poor gap was 3:1; today, it is 100:1. The world’s richest 85 individuals own more wealth than the combined assets of half the world’s population, enjoying greater economic clout than 3.3 billion people. Among the 10 richest people in the world, three are Muslims including the now-deceased King Abdullah of “Saudi” Arabia and his nephew al-Waleed bin Talal (net worth $20.4 billion). This is nothing to crow about. While “Saudi” Arabia rakes in nearly $300 billion in annual revenues, mostly from oil sales but also from pilgrimage, 60% of its population lives in poverty; 70% cannot afford to own a house.
Other statistics are equally grim. Of the 2.2 billion children in the world, one billion live in poverty. Capitalism’s other “gift” to humanity is that 22,000 children die of hunger every day. In the time it would take an average person to read this editorial — perhaps 15 minutes — 229 children would have died of starvation worldwide. This is not because of lack of food but mal-distribution of resources with the rich and powerful usurping the share of others.
America’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) at $15 trillion is the highest in the world but 40 million American children lack basic healthcare while 48 million out of its 300 million people also live in poverty. Ordinary Americans were forced to pay the price of the 2008 global financial meltdown caused by the corrupt practices of Wall Street financiers. Austerity measures were imposed on ordinary Americans but the banksters and corporate thieves were handed a bailout package of $800 billion instead of being sent to jail for their corporate crimes.
At the other end of the spectrum, spending preferences of the rich and even not so rich are badly skewed. For instance, in the US, $8 billion is spent each year on cosmetics and $12 billion on perfumes. A massive $105 billion is spent on alcohol and $17 billion on pet food in Europe and North America. This amount is sufficient to take care of the nutritional needs of all the hungry people in the world.
Even more obscene is the spending on military hardware: a massive $1.738 trillion annually. Given such outlays, it is not surprising that there are so many wars in the world and more are planned. The victims of these wars reside in poor countries as well as the poor in belligerent countries — the US, Britain, France etc. Wars are an extremely profitable business for the corporate and banking thieves. Capitalism’s primary motto is profit (and, hence, war). If innocent people have to be killed to maximize profit, so be it. This is what we are witnessing globally.
Despite being endowed with great resources, the Muslim world presents a pathetic picture because its rulers, virtually all of them illegitimate, are agents of imperialism, Zionism, and capitalism. It is depressing that while 70% the world’s energy resources and 20 % of its mineral wealth is in Muslim lands, most of the world’s poor, destitute and refugees also reside in the Muslim world.
Capitalism, however, is not the solution to any of these problems. Muslims will have to create their own system based on the principles outlined in the noble Qur’an about social, political and economic justice. The alternative is more misery and humiliation. Such a system will only come about at the hands of muttaqi leadership, not the present crop of corrupt rulers.