Check out Repercussions of Gluttony — Part 1.
Our economies are based on the premise that more and more consumption is good, with the success of private enterprise and governments being measured by growth in profits and Gross Domestic Product (GDP). This predisposition to over-consumption and greed has led to the global financial crisis as finance companies, in an effort to boost profits, approved loans and credit too freely without providing adequate safeguards against debt default. Many loans were given to high risk clients. This gluttony by financial institutions and their clients remained unchecked by governments. When the housing market in the USA experienced a downturn, loans could not be serviced. Homes devalued and homeowners defaulted on their mortgages. Meanwhile, executives of financial institutions reaped the benefits of excessive salary packages. The bursting of the housing boom bubble flowed onto other countries around the globe. Now Europe is faced with austerity measures, financial bailout packages and high unemployment.
Youth unemployment levels are unacceptably high. In Greece youth unemployment is 52.7 % and in Spain it’s 51.5%. Imagine if you were one of those unemployed or your son or daughter was unemployed. What hope is there? How does one maintain morale? Many will have to move overseas in the hope of finding work, leaving friends and family. Others will not have the skills to do this. The divide between the rich and poor and the haves and the have nots will increase as welfare measures get cut back to reign in government spending.
In the USA the number of homeless is rising. In New York homelessness is the worst it’s been since the Great Depression, a shocking 43,000 according to the Coalition for the Homeless. So much for the land of the opportunity!
We are all learning the hard way that the private sector cannot be trusted to act responsibly. Governments must act to implement regulations and watchdogs with teeth. Governments must also act to implement maximum salary packages for executives rather than just having minimum wage rates for workers. Citizens must watch over governments to ensure that they too act responsibly in the interests of its people rather than be puppets to big business. It is time to reflect on action taken by Iceland where its bankers and politicians have been made to be responsible for their actions. We should all care about those displaced by the downturn, rather than persecuting migrants and refugees. None of us are immune from these economy woes. It is time to pull together and find a long term solution.
We need to change our political and economic mindset and switch to a more sustainable approach. In Australia we are ripping our resources out of the ground as fast as we can to take advantage of economic growth, particularly in China. There is little consideration of the need for these resources by our future generations. The only consideration is money. Likewise, the Australian Labor Party last year agreed to allow sales of uranium to India, overturning a previous ban regardless of the fact that India is increasing its nuclear defence capabilities. This is short term gain for long term pain. Other governments behave in a similar way around the world, allowing the destruction of the environment for corporate profit and energy. In Brazil, the Amazon is being destroyed by soya farming, cattle, mining and the construction of the Belo Monte Dam. This beautiful rainforest will never be the same again.
Politician and financial institutions worldwide put too much emphasis on judging an economy’s success by its economic growth rather than the wellbeing of its nation’s people. In Bhutan, the country measures its success by gross national happiness (GNH) – improvements in overall quality of life and social progress on holistic and psychological terms. Other nations should do likewise. We need sustainable global economies, rather than boom and bust, otherwise the death of mother earth is inevitable.
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