Poverty is a Symptom of Capitalism

Today Abigail addressed the urgent situation of millions of individuals who are living in poverty because of capitalism and the failure of the Government to help those most vulnerable. 

Abigail said (15:04):

Poverty is a symptom of our economic system—a system which is working exactly as intended. Capitalism is built on extraction of value for profit and it rewards exploitation with more profit. The more corners you can cut, the more natural resources you can extract from the earth, the more you can get away with underpaying your workers and the more money you have in your pocket at the end of the day. It is a system that pits everyone against one another in a fight to the top that needs someone on the bottom to function. So is it any surprise that when the Government looks at people in poverty, it sees its bottom line rather than a person struggling to have their basic needs met? The Government asks "What do we get out of helping?" rather than "What can we do to lend a hand?" Not everything should be a market. We should not have to make the case to the Government that it costs more in the long run to leave people languishing in poverty. The Government should see widespread suffering as undesirable simply because no‑one should suffer.

Our lives should not be dictated by the market. Being less marketable should not sentence someone to a life without a home, without food, without everyday essentials like electricity, internet, medicine and water. People are not commodities whose only value derives from what capitalists can extract from them. Every one of us has inherent value, whether we can sell that value on the market or not. We all contribute to and participate in our society in different ways, but the market only assigns value to a fraction of those contributions. Whether you are a carer, an artist, a student, a parent or an entrepreneur, you should be able to get on with what you need to do without the market‑assigned value of your contributions dictating whether you are supported or not.

If we as a society choose to operate under this particular economic system—because that is a choice, not an inevitability—we must also recognise that market ideology can only go so far. Capitalism is not compatible with compassion, with quality of life or with community. We can and we must constrain the market obsession to the markets and acknowledge the inherent value of people, not just their market value. Then we can, and must, act to lift every single person out of poverty. As a society we are so wealthy, but, thanks to capitalism and its influence on our governments, one in eight individuals still lives in poverty while the richest 10 per cent hold almost half of our collective wealth—money that is currently benefiting no‑one as it accumulates dust in the bank vaults of billionaires.

If we redistribute even a fraction of this hoarded wealth and share it amongst us all, we can end the extraordinary inequality and needless suffering of millions of people. Just imagine for a moment if everyone had what they needed to live a good life. Imagine if, instead of one in eight of us rationing every dollar and dealing with the constant stress that comes with it, it was a given that if you are a participant in our society you will have access to what you need—not just to barely survive, but to thrive. Everyone has the right to share in the wellbeing of our country, so let us choose to structure our economy for the benefit of all of us. Let us share the wellbeing around.


The full transcript can be found in Hansard, here.

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