The news that just 85 people have as much wealth as the world's poorest 3.5 billion has left many liberals shocked. But the solution they are proposing is no solution at all.
The news that a small elite control the world's economic system - hardly a revelation for socialists - has, nevertheless, left a good many liberals aghast. There has been a lot of handwringing as liberals have absorbed the news from a Oxfam report that the world`s 85 richest people have as much wealth as the poorest 3.5 billion. They are shocked. Apparently they have not been living on Earth for at least the past three decades.
I haven't done a calculation but that means that the Occupy's much repeated argument that the world is controlled by just 1 percent of the population is wildly inaccurate. The situation is far worse than this.
What is the cause of this extreme disparity of wealth and power? For liberals the answer is blindingly obvious - it is neoliberal globalisation and the scourges of privatisation, the free mobility of capital, the unrefettered rule of the multinationals and just the 'free market' generally.
The 'obvious' answer to the problem is that neoliberal globalisation must be whipped into shape via such things as regulations on the movement of capital and more control over the activities of the multinationals.
This is the view of a neo-Keynesian economist like Paul Krugman in the United States. In New Zealand Jane Kelsey is a prominent advocate of this view. It extends through to old-style Labour supporters and Russell Norman's 'green capitalism'.
And it is also the view of Dr Wayne Hope writing on The Daily Blog: 'As the New Zealand experience shows, deregulation, privatisation and corporate welfare makes the transnationals larger and stronger in relation to the national economy. '
It is a vewpoint that might be described as 'left wing' but it isn't socialist. It is a view that prefers to believe the views of JK Galbraith rather than Karl Marx.
Such a view implicitly rejects that capitalism itself is the real problem. It rejects Marx who
never focused on the lack of regulations and interventions. He always emphasised capitalism's exploitative class structure.
We have to be clearly understand that those who say that neoliberal globalisation is the problem are not advocating an anti-capitalist project. They are at best, advocating the return to some Keynesian form of regulated capitalism. Given that the leadership of the Labour Party are hostile to even this, you could be conned into believing that this half-baked and inherently flawed project can actually get off the ground.
What is not being discussed is a new alternative to both neoliberalism and neo-Keynesianism
Perhaps we should looking to parties like Left Unity in Great Britain and the Left Party (Die Linke) in Germany for inspiration. Both parties are moving, tentatively, beyond neo-Keynesianism to a more radical response to the crisis of capitalism.
Unfortunately much of what is defined as the 'New Zealand left' is bogged down in the quagmire of a contradictory and ultimately futile attempt to find a way to manage capitalism on behalf of everyone.
Perhaps if the 'New Zealand left' decided to lift itself out of the quagmire it would be a whole lot less receptive to supporting the neoliberal Labour Party.
Perhaps if it was offering a new alternative and a new vision it might just attract support from the great many people who now think that politics is merely the machinations of politicians and the chattering class that support them.