Money moves around the world far more freely and quickly than humans, with far less regulation and restriction. Should this be the other way around? What are the repercussions of a disproportionate accumulation of wealth in the West, and the fact that the West is where most money is exchanged?
History does not speak well of our predilection for acquisition and consumption. In Civilisation and Its Discontents, Sigmund Freud speculated on how unconscious dynamics and phantasies govern the collective actions of human societies, including the distribution of wealth and the value accorded to it. The imperative today to acquire wealth ‘at any cost’ ignores these factors, and takes the pursuit of such goals as a given.
The technological revolutions of our time have made this even more complex. The speed with which money flows seems to short-circuit any chance to reflect carefully on what is actually going on. It is only in the event of crises that we are forced to think about the framework and ethics of the function and movement of capital, as well as the unconscious factors that might be at play. As well as a focus on the individual players whose actions can impact so powerfully on economic events, we need to explore the processes themselves through which capital operates.
Recent attention to the use of tax havens has placed an uncomfortable spotlight on corruption, and the extent to which vast amounts of capital are being appropriated by individuals and companies operating right at the heart of the economic system. It is estimated that $160bn is discreetly transferred from Africa to tax havens each year, far more than the total aid budget for the region. The people of Africa are thus doubly deprived as they enter global markets. They exchange rights to minerals, infrastructure and materials for badly needed capital, but in the process, a significant proportion of that capital is lost to corruption.
It is the global liquidity of capital itself which permits this to happen, since laws against bribery and tax haven regulations are notably ineffective when there is a lack of global consensus and enforcement. These problems call for a world that gives full credit – in every sense – to so-called developing regions. Only global action can prevent injustice and protect the global good.
© Zamyn, all rights reserved. No reproduction, whether in whole or in part, without the prior written consent of Zamyn.