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Human Rights and Capitalism

A Multidisciplinary Perspective on Globalisation

Edited by Janet Dine and Andrew Fagan

Human Rights and Capitalism brings together two important facets of the globalisation debate and examines the complex relationship between human rights, property rights and capitalist economies.
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Chapter 3: Using Companies to Oppress the Poor

Janet Dine


1 Janet Dine THE TRIUMPH OF CAPITALISM? Using almost any statistics ‘we certainly know that the problem of world poverty is catastrophic’.2 Of 6133 million human beings, in 2001 some ● ● ● 799 million are undernourished3 50 000 humans daily die of poverty-related causes4 1000 million lack access to safe drinking water5 This means that ‘the global poverty death toll over the 15 years since the end of the Cold War was around 270 million, roughly the population of the US.’6 And the figures go on and on; ● ● 34 000 children under 5 die daily from hunger and preventable diseases7 1000 million lack access to safe drinking water8 Why? Imagine some visionary statesman, in 1830 say, posing the question of how the advanced states of Europe and North America can preserve and, if possible, expand their economic dominance over the rest of the world even while bringing themselves into compliance with the core norms of Enlightenment morality. Find the best solution to this task you can think of and then compare it to the world today. Could the West have done any better?9 This question is posed by Thomas Pogge explaining the ability of rational humans to shape their thinking to suit their interests. Pogge does not believe that any such grand plan existed or exists, but nevertheless believes that the existence of extreme poverty and the reasons given for not tackling the issue are a prime example of avoidance techniques by the rich; moral norms, designed to protect the livelihood...

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