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- Prior to colonisation, most people lived in subsistence economies where they enjoyed access to abundant commons – land, water, forests, livestock and robust systems of sharing and reciprocity. They had little if any money, but then they didn’t need it in order to live well – so it makes little sense to claim that they were poor. This way of life was violently destroyed by colonisers who forced people off the land and into European-owned mines, factories and plantations, where they were paid paltry wages for work they never wanted to do in the first place.
- "Bill Gates says poverty is decreasing. He couldn’t be more wrong" (29 January 2019), The Guardian
The Divide: Global Inequality from Conquest to Free Markets (2018)
- The Divide: Global Inequality from Conquest to Free Markets. W. W. Norton & Company, 2018. ISBN 978-0393651362
- Today, some 4.3 billion people - more than 60 per cent of the world's population - live in debilitating poverty, struggling to survive on less than the equivalent of $5 per day. Half do not have access to enough food. And these numbers have been growing steadily over the past few decades. Meanwhile, the wealth of the very richest is piling up to levels unprecedented in human history. As I write this, it has just been announced that the eight richest men in the world have as much wealth between them as the poorest half of the world's population combined.
- Beginnings, p. 2
- The plunder of Latin America left 70 million indigenous people dead in its wake. In India, 30 million died of famine under British rule. Average living standards in India and China, which had been on a par with Britain before the colonial period, collapsed.
- The Development Delusion, p. 19
- From his base on Hispaniola, the island shared today by Haiti and the Dominican Republic, he forced the local inhabitants - the Arawaks - to bring him a certain quantity of gold every three months. Those who failed to do so would have their hands chopped off or were hunted down and killed. Men were forced to spend their lives in mines, stripping the mountains in search of gold. Up to a third of workers died every six months. Within two years of the Spanish invasion, some 125,000 people had been killed - half the island's population. Most of the remaining inhabitants of Hispaniola were forced into slave labour on plantations. A few decades later, only a few hundred Arawaks remained alive.
- Where Did Poverty Come From? A Creation Story, p. 70
- Economists often speculate that the global South failed to develop because of a lack of capital. But there was no such lack. The wealth that might have provided the capital for development (precious metals in Latin America and surplus labour in Africa) was effectively stolen by Europe and harnessed to the service of Europe's own development. The global South could theoretically have developed as Europe did were it not for the plunder of its resources and labour, and were it not for the fact that it was forced by Europe to supply raw materials while importing manufactured goods. Whether or not they would or should have done so is another matter, of course - after all, much of European-style development required violence towards other lands and other peoples. But the point remains: it is impossible to examine the economic growth of the West without looking at the base on which it drew.
- Where Did Poverty Come From? A Creation Story, p. 75
- When the CIA made clear that they would back a coup, General Suharto - who was upset with President Sukarno for supporting policies that undermined the military's power - offered to lead it. In 1965, with the aid of weapons and intelligence from the United States, Suharto hunted down and killed between 500,000 and 1 million of Sukarno's supporters in one of the worst mass murders of the 20th century. By 1967, Sukarno's base had been either eliminated or intimidated into submission, and Suharto took control of the country. His military regime - which ruled until 1998 - was open to Western corporate interests.
- From Colonialism to the Coup, p. 120
- As it turns out, making rich people richer doesn't make the rest of us richer. Nor does it stimulate economic growth, which is the sole justification of supply-side economics. In fact, quite the opposite is true: since the onset of neoliberalism, the rich countries of the OECD have seen per capita growth rates fall from an average of 3.5 per cent during the 1960s and 1970s down to an average of 2 per cent during the 1980s and 1990s. As the numbers show, neoliberalism has failed as a tool for economic development - but it has worked brilliantly as a tool for restoring power to the wealthy elite.
- From Colonialism to the Coup, p. 138
- If we dig behind the rhetoric, it becomes clear that Western support for right-wing coups had little to do with Cold War ideology, and certainly nothing to do with promoting democracy (quite the opposite!); the goal, rather, was to defend Western economic interests. The veil of the Cold War has obscured this blunt fact from view.
- From Colonialism to the Coup, p. 140
- People commonly think of neoliberalism as an ideology that promotes totally free markets, where the state retreats from the scene and abandons all interventionist policies. But if we step back a bit, it becomes clear that the extention of neoliberalism has entailed powerful new forms of state intervention. The creation of a global 'free market' required not only violent coups and dictatorships backed by Western governments, but also the invention of a totalizing global bureaucracy – the World Bank, the IMF, the WTO and bilateral free-trade agreements – with reams of new laws, backed up by the military power of the United States. In other words, an unprecedented expansion of state power was necessary to force countries around the world to liberalize their markets against their will. As the global south has known ever since the Opium Wars in 1842, when British gunboats invaded China in order to knock down China's trade barriers, free trade has never actually been about freedom. On the contrary, as we have seen, free trade has a tendency to gradually undermine national sovereignty and electoral democracy.
- Free Trade and the Rise of the Virtual Senate, p. 218
- To get a sense of how extreme overconsumption is: if we all were to live like the average citizen of the average high-income country, we would require the ecological capacity equivalent of 3.4 earths.
- The Necessary Madness of Imagination, p. 281
- Scientists tell us that up to 140,000 species of plants and animals are disappearing each year due to our over-exploitation of the Earth's ecosystems. This rate of extinction is 100 to 1,000 times faster than before the Industrial Revolution - so fast that scientists have classed this as the sixth mass extinction event in the planet's history, with the last one having occurred some 66 million years ago.
- The Necessary Madness of Imagination, p. 281
- GDP was intended to be a war-time measure, which is why it is so single-minded - almost even violent. It tallies up all money-based activity, but it doesn't care whether that activity is useful or destructive.
- The Necessary Madness of Imagination, p. 282
- While global real GDP has nearly tripled since 1980, the number of people living in poverty, below $5 per day, has increased by more than 1.1 billion. Why is this? Because past a certain point, GDP growth begins to produce more negative outcomes than positive ones - more 'illth' than wealth.
- The Necessary Madness of Imagination, p. 285
- In light of this, perhaps we should regard countries like Costa Rica not as underdeveloped, but rather as appropriately developed. We should look at societies where people live long and happy lives at low levels of income and consumption not as backwaters that need to be developed according to Western models, but as exemplars of efficient living - and begin to call on rich countries to cut their excess consumption.
- p. 293
- Rather than submitting to plans handed down by central governments in distant capitals, people are using direct democracy to make decisions about their resources and environments, seeking regeneration and harmony with their surrounding ecology. In the Middle East, communities in the mountains of northern Iraq and in Rojava in Syria are experimenting with similar ideas.
- The Necessary Madness of Imagination, p. 305
- Jason Hickel articles for The Guardian.
- Jason Hickel articles for Al Jazeera
- Jason Hickel articles for Jacobin.