Sixty per cent of people live on less than $5 a day, a billion people scrape by on less than $1, and the ‘eight richest men in the world have as much wealth between them as the poorest half of the world’s population combined.’
We tend to see poverty as unavoidable, even natural, but Hickel rejects this premise. It was only 500 years ago, with the birth of the West’s colonial project, that ‘mass poverty became an issue for the first time in history.’ We approach poverty as a technical issue, to be alleviated through economic policy and mighty international organisations, but perhaps these supposed solutions are part of the problem? Instead of creating a cheery narrative defined by concepts such as development and progress, we should overhaul the entire system. Hickel scolds some lofty targets (the World Bank, the IMF and the WTO included) for creating an ‘inequality machine’. In order to participate in the global economic cut and thrust, poorer nations are required to play by certain rules and embrace structural adjustment. This, for Hickel, represents de facto control of their policies and is an assault on sovereignty.
The answer? For Hickel, the abolition of the debt burden, the democratisation of international bodies, a global minimum wage, and a trading system with a bias in favour of poorer nations would all be good places to start