On Global Justice

Malcolm Bull writes:

Global inequality has become one of the forms of the statistical sublime. There is a strange pleasure to be had from discovering that the top 0.5 per cent of the world population owns 35.6 per cent of global wealth, while the bottom 68.4 per cent controls a mere 4.2 per cent; or that the richest thousand or so billionaires are worth more than one and a half billion of the world’s poorest people; or that the wealth of the world’s three richest people is equal to the combined GDP of the 48 poorest countries. It’s like being able to look up at the world’s highest mountain and then straight down into the deepest trench of the ocean. Nature deprived us of this experience by covering half the world with water, and for a long time the true extent of global inequality was difficult to visualise too. But globalisation has brought the highest and lowest points of the world economy into closer proximity, and with more reliable statistics and electronic communication the chasm is there for all who dare to look. Yet once the vertiginous sensation has worn off, what is there to say?

(LRB 21 February 2013)