29.1 Will the neoliberal world order ultimately deliver on its promise of development and the abolition of poverty and hunger worldwide?
1. In a neoliberal world order, must the poor always be with us?
- For those who believe in the neoliberal world order, the answer is no. They argue that neoliberalism promotes opportunities for all to engage unhindered in the free market economy. This, they argue, serves the development of creative business skills and thus wealth is for the good of the community at large.
- Further, it is argued that the neoliberal logic of 'trickle-down' economics will serve to benefit all. This occurs as the wealth generated at the top of the social order is invested to create jobs and improve wages, improving the lives of the poor and hungry in the community.
- Those opposed to such statements, argue that enterprise and wealth creation alone are not sufficient to offer aid to the poorest. Instead what is required is a stable social context, which would require global structural changes. In this sense, what is advocated is a redistribution of wealth. This is linked to their second crucial counter-argument to the neoliberal discourse, which claims that rather than 'trickle-down' economics, the wealth of the rich is often sheltered in tax havens, and thus does not reach those in need.
- Such voices also highlight that evidence suggests both developed and less developed countries have indeed reduced social and welfare provision under neoliberalism. Again, this effects the poorest most crucially, and does little to eliminate poverty levels.
2. Does state aid help or hinder the process of economic development?
- In the neoliberal view of economics, a laissez-faire approach suggests that government engagement and regulation of the market should be kept to a minimum. This is justified on philosophical terms, where it is argued that minimum government intervention and taxation are an expression of human freedom, and economic terms, where it is claimed low taxation assures that maximum capital is available for investment. Reducing state welfare dependency thus encourages entrepreneurial spirit at all levels of society.
- Voices from the opposite camp often argue that more state regulation is required for a more equal distribution of wealth.
- However, in response to this argument for state regulation, critics also claim that what change has occurred over the past years has largely been achieved through external funding and initiatives rather than emerging from within communities themselves. This theory challenges 'dependency theory' and views it in a more global light.
3. If there is a human right to food, who has the duty to fulfill it?
- Locally, one might argue that the reintroduction of the welfare state would tackle the problem of the lack of food. This would place responsibility with individual nation states.
- Along with nation states, one might also argue that IO's should regulate related policies to control their actions across international relations.
- On the other hand, some might suggest that the idea of a global structural reform, which could lead to redistribution, would best serve those who have the right to food. This would place responsibility among all global actors.
- Or others might want to place the duty with global and regional civil society organizations, as these might provide the most direct and culturally-sensitive access to those whose rights to food are withheld.
- Finally, transnational corporations could be held accountable, as some argue that their drive for profit and regulation of the market dictates throwing away tonnes of food each year.
- There is, of course, no right or wrong answer to this question. However to the extent that hunger develops in, through and out of global relations and structures, a reform and rethinking of such structures would be required to tackle the issue. This might likely involve multiple actors.