Equality and Sustainability in an Era of Globalisation – A Guest Blog by Molly Scott Cato MEP

Molly Scott Cato, one of our special guest speakers at our upcoming Inequality Today 2016 conference, gives a flavour of the themes and issues she will be addressing on the day. Don’t miss out, reserve your place today at #TETConf16 

The movie I, Daniel Blake has had a powerful impact on the pernicious debate about poverty in this country. This is partly because Ken Loach has so effectively elicited our compassion for the real human characters who suffer poverty, rather than the breathing stereotypes of Benefit Street. It is also because the film makes quite clear what we all instinctively know: that the division between strivers and shirkers is an entirely invidious and insulting one. Poverty is something that can befall all of us due to an economic calamity or unexpected ill health. Only those who have the comfort of considerable wealth will never have need for the solidarity of the welfare system.

As globalisation offshores employment, leaving us with downgraded and precious employment, most of the poor are now in work. So the old trick of blaming people for their fecklessness no longer washes. The economy is proving the adage from the old weaver’s song, ‘Them as works the hardest are the least provided’. So we have to look for deeper causes of poverty, and undertake a thorough reconsideration of how the economy works not just in the UK but across the world.

As a European politician I am most closely focused on the issues of tax avoidance, by corporations and wealthy individuals. We used the outrage caused by the Panama Papers revelations to establish a special inquiry committee. What we have learned is that the City of London is the centre of a global network of bankers, lawyers, and accountants who operate in the shadows to help the wealthy hide their money. This extracts wealth from the community and exacerbates the poverty of those who rely on public services that we can no longer afford to fund.

This conference is focused on sustainability as well as inequality. This immediately brings to mind the question of the global trade system, and the claim that it is trade that will make poverty history. As a Green I am concerned about the unnecessary CO2 emissions that result from the global trade system. But I am also aware that much trade is a global swapping game that benefits the middlemen and that the benefits of growth have not been fairly shared, meaning that globalisation has increased inequality within and between societies.

In my book The Bioregional Economy I was trying to answer the question: how can we achieve the maximum human well-being for the minimum input of energy and resources. The ideal community I came up with actually looked rather like the community I live in in Stroud! It is a community where people choose not to fly and do not need to escape to the Seychelles because they enjoy their own place. Contrary to stereotypes we are not particularly wealthy in financial terms, nor horribly smug. We are a post-industrial community with our own social problems where we value each other and our natural environment more than we value material consumption. Achieving contentment for all the world’s people with a lifestyle that offers dignity and security is the goal of equality, as well as sustainability.

​This is a guest blog and the views of the author are not necessarily those of The Equality Trust.​