The true tragedies of our economic system go unrecognized

This photo was taken by Edward Burtynsky in China

Imagine waking up at 5 am every morning, 6 days of the week, to go to a factory to make the same stupid thing 1000 times of the course of your 15 hour work day. Only to be paid a $1.50 an hour, and the products you just made end up in places like this:

What you just imagined is the everyday life of a 100 million people in China. These are the lucky ones, about half of the population of china lives on less than $2 a day. This goes much further than China too, about 2.7 billion people also live on less than $2 a day in the world. These are the people that probably made the shirt you are wearing, and the technology that you are reading this on.

Even though I strongly believe in a free market capital society, something seems very wrong to me about this. We have set up developing countries to work for developed countries so that in theory developed countries have ultra low priced items. We then turn a blind eye to people in developing countries and act like we care.

How could we have created such a world where people in the United States, Europe, and ‘developed countries’ sit around and watch netflix all day when people in ‘developing countries’ are working 15 hours a day and searching for food?

It is so mind boggling to think about how much stupid stuff we care about over here in the western world, especially when there are real problems in the world. On the contrary it would seem that by the numbers we do care about these people. The United States Government gives 35 billion a year to foreign countries, and United States Charities give about 60 billion a year. Many other countries make contributions also, and every year more is given, yet the problems seem to get bigger and bigger. This is because we are giving them handouts, instead of teaching them how to live to make their society better. Just like the classic saying “if you give a man a fish, he will eat for a day, if you teach him how to fish he will eat for life”. These seems to be how people want it though, by keeping them in poverty and making products extremely cheap in developing countries it helps more people in developed countries to consume more.

We say we want to help, and we make it look like we do, but we really are not helping very much.

There are three main differences between the 25 richest and most developed countries, and the rest of the world: institutions, geography, and culture.

In developing countries they lack many of the things that developed worlds take for granted. Firstly they lack the infrastructure and faculty for a good education system. This makes the poverty cycle repeat itself the most, because without proper education, nothing can change. They also do not have the systems necessary to keep their people healthy. The poverty cycle breeds corruption, and this is most notable in their politicians and police force.

Hurting these countries even more is where they are located. The majority of developing countries are in places where there is little water, and bad soil for growing food. Also there tends to be many diseases in these areas, such as malaria.

Finally, the most difficult issue to face is that of culture. As sad as it is, this may be the biggest thing holding these people back. The biggest difference between developed and developing countries is that on average 98% of them strongly believe in religion. Before anyone gets offended, let me explain why this hurts them. The majority of them believe that this stage that they are in is just a passing, and that the next life will be better. So they do not true to make their situation better, even though they are suffering.

The Solution:

Since we know the problems, we should be able to solve them, but they are very complex. For example:

  1. To fix the geography would mean moving millions of people to areas where they can grow food, or work in cities.
  2. To fix the culture would mean changing how these people have thought for hundreds if not thousands of years.
  3. To fix the institutions would mean massive reconstruction of every government agency in each country

Each of these are huge projects to take on for any person or country, but it is these tough things that must be done to improve their quality of life. This is also only the beginning, this would also mean a massive transition backwards to when we made things and sold things for what they are actually worth.

The change will be hard, but if we truly care about these people then it must be done. We need to teach them how to fish, instead of just give them one.