Redestribution of Wealth
After the Norwegian Nobel prize committee decided to give the United States president Barack Obama the peace price, a president that later came to continue to war in Iraq, and also fund insurgents in Syria, I seriously started to doubt the reasoning skills of the members of this Nobel Prize committee. And after having watched the documentary ‘The Micro Debt’ by Tom Heinemann, I have concluded that the Nobel Prize committee (at least those handing out the peace prize) do not know anything about what it means to create actual peace in this world. Because when they decided to give Muhammad Yunus the peace price, for having founded the Grameen Bank, and invented the concept of micro loans, and for thereby apparently having found a solution to poverty, they were obviously not using basic mathematics to assess the outflows of such loan methods.
Though, before we dive into the basic mathematics of Micro Debt and whether this can be a solution for poverty or not, let me share the story of Muhammad Yunus, his bank, and the stories that has begun to surface about his money lending practices. It begins in 1976 when Yunus (supposedly) found out that small loans could make a disproportionate difference in a poor person’s life. According to Wikipedia, the first loans Yunus gave, made it possible for the borrowers to profit. Yunus business expanded, and by July 2007, his bank had issued around US$6.38 billion to 7.4 million borrowers.
As mentioned above, Yunus was awarded the peace price in 2006 for his efforts to create economic and social development. However after the release of the documentary ‘The Micro Debt’ the Bangladeshi government decided to review Yunus bank, and Yunus himself was removed as Managing Director of his bank. This is not particularly strange considering the claims that are made in the documentary, and the compelling evidence that it presents, that the micro debt is not at all a solution for poverty, but rather a trap, making the large amount of borrowers worse off than before.
Though in this blog I am not going to focus on Yunus and whether the claims made against him are true or not. My focus will instead be the concept of micro credits and whether these loans makes any sense; is it really possible to remove poverty through debt? The Micro Credit concept is not unique to Bangladesh; it has also become popular in South Africa, where it has created the opposite of poverty reduction. The following quote gives a stark description of the situation that unfolded.
”The microcredit-induced problems that emerged in South Africa are two-fold. First, microcredit per se is actually an “anti-developmental” intervention. For one thing, it exists on paper to support the smallest income-generating activities, but in practice is increasingly all about supporting consumption spending. In South Africa, the microcredit movement has created an incredibly risky and expensive way to support the immediate consumption needs of the very poorest.
With few poor individuals possessing a secure income stream that might ensure full repayment of a microloan – unemployment is now higher than it was under apartheid – many of the poorest individuals have been forced to repay their microloan by selling off their household assets, borrowing from friends and family, as well as simply taking out new microloans to repay old ones. For far too many now “financially included” individuals in South Africa, using microcredit to support current spending has been a disastrous and irreversible pathway into chronic poverty.”
Milford Bateman, Microcredit has been a disaster for the poorest in South Africa, http://www.theguardian.com/global-development-professionals-network/2013/nov/19/microcredit-south-africa-loans-disaster (2015-09-25)
Academics and other proponents of the Micro Credit as a way out of poverty makes the assumption that the money lent will be used by the borrower to further his business. This however, is just that, an assumption. Most poor people are just as middle class people, not entrepreneurs, and do not have a very entrepreneurial relationship with money. The loan will be used to buy goods for immediate consumption, and will only serve to put more pressure on the debtor. In worst-case scenario, this will lead the already poor person, to loose the little safety they do have, when they are forced to sell their house to meet interest and installment payments.
Further, those borrowers that are indeed entrepreneurs, and that do invest their money in a business, there is nothing that says that these businesses will be able to profit. Nine out of ten startups fail – and that number will probably be even higher when not only you, but also all of your neighbors, decide to go out on the streets and sell the same thing – which did happen in South Africa.
Then we have the big problem when it comes to Micro Credits, the interest rates. On some of the Micro Loans that interest rate will be at 100 % or more. There is no startup that yields a sufficient profit to cover such a high interest rate. Conveniently for the creditors, most of the debtors are not proficiently literate, and will thus not really understand what they are signing.
Yunus was applauded when he was able to offer loans to poor people that cannot offer any securities in case they would forfeit on their installments. However, to ensure repayment of the loans, Yunus bank have developed a system of “solidarity groups”. It is these small informal groups that together apply for loans and its members act as co-guarantors of repayment and support one another’s efforts at economic self-advancement. Hence Yunus use the psychology of group pressure to ensure that the poor people are sufficiently motivated to pay back their loans. And even though this might seem innocent, in reality it has lead to the most horrific of consequences. One woman that was unable to pay her loan was pressed by her co-guarantors to take up prostitution as a way to meet her installment payment. That woman later poured kerosene on herself, and lit herself on fire. That is the effectiveness of group pressure when survival is in the picture.
What are we then able to conclude from all of this? One thing is clear: We cannot trust academics to know what is right! Even though they have a degree in economics, and even though they have received the Nobel peace price, that does not mean they actually understand how reality operates. Academics have their nose buried in deep books and because of that they will many times miss what is right before their eyes. Hence, we have to educate ourselves, and take responsibility. We cannot rely on a small intellectual elite to know how to solve such things as poverty – this is a problem that involves, and touches all of us, and accordingly it is everyone’s responsibility.
Then, the second thing we can learn: Change cannot come through DEBT. The very reason why we are living in a world where money is increasingly more difficult to obtain is because of DEBT. We live in a debt based system, and this forces us to work more – and even still there will/must be a loser. With debt, someone always loses; someone must be that poor guy that has to pay back the interest.
Real change will come through changing the structural design of the economic system – because only through changing the rules of the game are we removing this incessant fear of survival that is currently holding the entire human race in its grip. That structural change must involve giving all human beings a dignified life, real security, real safety, and easy access to money. This cannot come from debt, as debt is the very instigator of fear, anxiety and stress.
Hence, if you are interested in solving poverty, I suggest that you investigate the Living Income Guaranteed. This is an economical system that will revolutionize the way we think about money – and that is precisely what we need. We need something new, a brand new way of looking at things – a fresh start – free from debt and the old pessimistic ideas that apparently, poverty is unable to be removed from the face of this earth.
For more reading:
Watch the documentary ‘The Micro Debt’
Investigate the Living Income Guaranteed Proposal
Within the Living Income Guaranteed with a capitalist approach, profit is one of its cornerstones; therefore it must be ensured. Another point that tends to waste extensive money is the point that new businesses are started which then fail.From that perspective it is a suggested that there – like you have with city planning – you have business planning where it is assessed what type of businesses the community can sustain that is possible within the money supply that exists, and that those businesses are then planned-out and offered to the citizen to take on with full support from the business planning section which should be part as a governmental function, a citizen support function ensuring that businesses do not fail.
This will save massive amounts of money which makes Living Income Guaranteed a very cheap solution to a situation where there is seemingly endless amounts of money ending up in either foreclosure and/or failure and/or abuse and/or maladministration. At this stage there are no actual figures being kept of all of this – we never get to know the real numbers of how much is actually wasted. But there is more wasted through business failure, maladministration, charity and foundation creation abuse due to the influence of the consumer than what is needed to bring about a Living Income Guaranteed.
You should ask yourself some questions:
- Why are the no clear figures that inform the population of the administration of resources?
- Why are there no figures kept of how much is actually lost through foreclosure?
- How much is actually lost through businesses that are going bankrupt?
- How much is actually lost through people losing their jobs at this stage, unable to participate in the system, unable for instance to pay tax or to buy stuff to increase the revenue streams?
- How much is wasted by corrupt government officials?
- How much is directed toward inappropriate placement of tenders?
These are massive amounts beyond belief; how much is happening because there’s no oversight and everybody participating in the system knows one thing: there are resources being stolen and there is maladministration and corruption, that’s why they don’t want transparency, it’s convenient.
In some countries like South Africa, there’s the prospect of placing in laws to ‘limit transparency,’ which is no different to saying ‘Let’s legalize corruption!’. So the integrity of the human within a Living Income Guaranteed system should be administrated through a system. We have the technology now to have systems in place that can support the human to the extent of creating a system that is trustworthy and that assists everyone effectively in the world. We have the expertise to do this, now we need the will to stop corruption and to stop abuse. This can be done by Guaranteeing a Basic Income, guaranteeing a minimum wage and guaranteeing profit because all these three foundational stones will actually guarantee the existence and expansion of Capitalism and bring about a high functioning and effective society with the use of technology to produce what will ensure proper usage of resources, technology and human creativity. This cannot happen without a sense of freedom and money does give a sense of freedom.
We have come to the conclusion that trying to establish a society without a way within which the human can express their freedom is simply not going to work. Freedom is in money, it translates as the ability to express yourself in a way where you feel empowered as well as having your Basic Human Rights recognized and dignified. Not having enough money is to disempower people and to force them into crime and as you’ve noticed, massive amounts of money are lost to crime. All these things will stop if we have in place a proper technological system which we can establish with great ease at this stage. We have the technology and the managerial mechanisms to do so. In a matter of a few years, the whole world will be an internet grid and we can make use of all these things to prevent crime and corruption.
Living Income Guaranteed is not only an opportunity to support yourself from an economic perspective in terms of ensuring everyone’s survival, but also from the economic perspective to have an equal opportunity to support yourself and your family, which is a Basic Human Right. This is the equal right we give to each other to potentially become wealthy individuals while ensuring all resources are made available for everyone equally.