With the Pandemic, the Time Has Come to Put Limits on Private Property

02.07.2020 - Guillermo Sullings

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With the Pandemic, the Time Has Come to Put Limits on Private Property
(Image by Pixabay)

Today the world is fighting a pandemic. Sooner or later the health issue will be resolved, but the economic consequences will be devastating, perhaps worse than those of the collapse of 1929, if a global recovery plan and a global redistributive shock are not implemented. But such a plan cannot in any way be financed by further indebtedness, which would affect the population even more.

Instead, it should be financed by having concentrated capital and putting it at the service of humanity (and not against it as has happened so far). The time has come to put a limit on the ad infinitum sacralization of private property, letting the more concentrated wealth channel itself towards fair and sustainable development.

Any ideological basis for a possible correlation between private property, individual merit and social stability can be reasonable within certain limits. But when few people in the world accumulate more wealth than half of humanity (and the trend indicates an acceleration of the phenomenon), those foundations collapse, because there is no personal merit that justifies these differences, because no rights acquired by a few can legitimize the marginalization of millions of people and because there will be no social stability with such inequalities.

For some time the world has been wondering about the excessive level of inequality, but in the face of the current pandemic and its economic consequences, it is urgent to implement drastic policies in this sense. In other historical moments, the irrationality of world wars has forced governments to create war and post-war economies, adapting production structures to put them at the service of emergencies. Now the time has come for a great global convergence to support radical economic measures, indispensable in this emergency of struggle against inequalities, marginalization, dehumanization and environmental disaster.

Today the financial and production systems should be oriented towards a reconversion of the global economic system, which has the aim of getting people out of poverty, of guaranteeing fundamental human rights and changing the productive model in terms of fair and sustainable consumption from the environmental point of view.

It will not be enough to impose higher taxes on those who concentrate wealth, because even if this measure will finance emergency programs, it will not structurally change the distribution and productive model. It will be necessary to force arms factories to convert to factories of vehicles, machinery and means of production. Banks and investment funds will have to stop speculating, to devote themselves to financing production and to support the consumption of the necessary goods and services, within the framework of environmental protection policies. We will have to force the productive reinvestment of the profits of large companies, putting an end to the capital flight towards tax havens and speculation.

A criterion for limiting private property should be that the degree of freedom to dispose of capital and its income is inversely proportional to its size. The more capital there is, the greater the social responsibility to allocate it to the progress of society as a whole and not only to the profitability of a few. If someone has a small or medium-sized business, they will see the best way to invest their profits within certain legal, tax and environmental frameworks. But if someone owns large companies or banks, their influence on the economy is greater, so their decisions should be limited to a narrower framework where the common good is the priority. And of course we are not talking about symbolic donations to protect the corporate image, nor about recommendations or suggestions from the public to the private sector. We are talking about the fact that States with a real Humanist Sensitivity, emerging from a new Social Contract, should actively intervene to direct large capital investments towards areas of general interest, through fiscal policies that make other investments of funds not coinciding with the interest of the majority prohibitive.

Some will say that such public intervention in the private sphere is a violation of property rights. We will answer that the human rights of the majority have priority over the ownership rights of concentrated capital. Others, on the contrary, could argue that instead of redirecting investments, it would be “more revolutionary” to expropriate everything and distribute it at once. It will be necessary to explain to them that, if an apple tree is cut down to distribute the apples, soon there will be no more fruits. In any case, it is good to remember this part of the Humanist Document: “Profit not destined to be reinvested in the company, not directed to its expansion or diversification, takes the path of financial speculation. And we have the same financial speculation if the profit does not create new jobs. Consequently, the struggle of workers must oblige capital to reach its maximum productive yield. But this cannot become reality without a partnership in the management and direction of the company. Otherwise, how can mass layoffs, company closures and emptying be avoided? Indeed, the real problem lies in the inadequacy of investments, in the fraudulent bankruptcy of companies, in the debt chain, in the capital flight, and not in the profits that could derive from the increase in productivity. If then someone still insisted, on the basis of nineteenth-century teachings, on the idea of the confiscation of the means of production by the workers, that someone should keep in mind the recent failure of real Socialism.”

Of course, in the face of the current health and economic emergency, an increase in health care funds and a basic income for every human being should be guaranteed now, so that no one falls into poverty. This will require heavy taxes on big fortunes nationwide; but since there is a great inequality of resources between the various countries, the UN and international credit agencies should create an international fund to meet these needs in the most disadvantaged countries.

It will be sufficient that a drastic and simultaneous reduction of the military spending of the powers is agreed within the UN, in order to free up sufficient resources and it will be sufficient that the international credit agencies, instead of looking after the interests of the financiers, support the indebted countries in overcoming the crisis.

But in the immediate emergency, the image of a new world must be shaped through profound structural changes, because there is no more time for further postponements and in the economic field this certainly implies setting limits on private property and the dictatorship of the markets that led us to prey on humans and their habitats.

As we have always said, all these decisions are far from the will of most rulers, therefore all the people will need to push in the right direction. And perhaps today more than ever, there is an opportunity for the various people of the world to tune in and converge in building a common future.

Translated from Italian by Ilaria Cuppone

Categories: Economics, Opinions
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