Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The convenient illusion of the fair market

Jopseh raking sea weeds from the beach

I am spending a few days at the Sarova Whitesands in Mombasa, a very large and posh hotel (participating in a workshop).

Every morning there is an army of people raking sea weed from the beach. They are paid by the government to clean up the beach to make it attractive for tourists.

It is just one of many examples of how those that are better off - including myself - benefits from the poverty of others. If Joseph and his colleagues got paid the same as I, or you, this work would be so expensive that it would not be possible to do it.

Also those that never go abroad or even see or meet a really poor person can still benefit from their labour. A glaring examples was of course the collapse of the textile factory building in Bangladesh which left more than a thousand people dead. It is their blood that makes our clothes cheap. Of course one can argue that if we didn't buy the clothes, or if tourists didn't come to Mombasa, these people would have no work at all. But I do think that is a far too convenient argument that we have heard to often. People with privileges always find moral excuses for maintaining them.

Our excuse is that the market is always fair. This is underpinning our whole society. Markets are by definition self-regulating and fair. 
But, the unequal value we (well we don't want to admit that it is "we", but instead it is this power of nature - the market) assign to peoples work is simply not fair or reasonable, it doesn't matter if we discuss the difference between the top CEO in Sweden and the workers in the same company or the difference between those workers in Sweden and the farmers producing their morning coffee. As we all live in the global economy, comparisons should also be global, and measuring (in)equality should be global.

And the sea weed? Unfortunately nobody takes care of the sea weed - it is an excellent fertilizer. It is washed out into the sea, and most of it comes back the next morning...
I think Joseph is done now, time for a swim.

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