At TEDxTableMountain, ‘the case for the maximum wage’

This is the text of a talk I did on 27 May at TEDxTableMountain, at the Fugard Theatre in Cape Town. It should perhaps be prefaced by saying that it is not an argument for communism or punishing the wealthy, nor for removing decent and proportionate incentives for hard work and enterprise. The video of this talk can be viewed here – or you can find it at the bottom of this article.

Introduction

Speaking at TEDxTableMountain, 27 May 2012: 'The case for the maximum wage'I’m an environmental journalist. I believe that the environmental crisis is mostly a human crisis. It reflects profound imbalances of power in human relationships, and it won’t be solved just by switching to renewable energy and electric cars and improved seed varieties.

To restore the Earth, and that’s what we now need to do, we must begin by restoring the relationships between ourselves.

Slide: ‘It is all wrong to have millionaires before you have ceased to have slums.’

Which of course is something we should be doing anyway – but it’s a priority we seem too often to have lost sight of.

I am speaking today about what is for some people, a very sensitive topic: how we distribute wealth in most of today’s economies and societies, and particularly here in South Africa. Wealth and income, of course, is just one dimension of inequality.

VIDEO: The case for the maximum wage – David Le Page at TEDxTableMountain, May 2012

Continue reading At TEDxTableMountain, ‘the case for the maximum wage’

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Sunday Times: ‘Save us from the super-rich’

Robin Hood cartoon: We have a job for your merry men.Published by The Sunday Times, 10 October 2010

The very rich are a danger to the environment, democracy, economic empowerment and themselves, says David Le Page

Rich people are becoming a luxury we can no longer afford. In fact, rich people are rapidly becoming even more of a danger to themselves. So it’s little wonder that rich people have been queueing up to endorse Cosatu boss Zwelinzima Vavi’s recent call for a tax on the super-rich … oh, but they haven’t. So why should they be? The fact is that all the evidence and experience of other countries that have succeeded in building more sustainable and healthy societies suggests that a class of super-rich people is not part of the solution. Our rich should declare their interests: are they for South Africa, or just for themselves?

Noting October as Social Development Month, the ANC has called for an intensification of the “war on poverty”. Indeed, the government is making efforts to deal with poverty, such as the Community Work Programme now managed from the Department of Co-operative Governance. But to truly deal with our many social afflictions, the government is going to have to get to grips with the effects of our country being host to a class of super-rich people.

What are those effects? There are many social afflictions we associate with poverty that are in fact also afflictions of Continue reading Sunday Times: ‘Save us from the super-rich’

City Press: ‘Equality is key in fight for the poor’

Published in City Press, 2 October 2010

Growing inequality is one of the awkward truths of South Africa’s new democracy.

According to local researcher Kate Philip, at a recent Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) conference on the ­subject, South African attendants looked “contrite” as their international colleagues expressed amazement that income inequality in South Africa has actually grown since the end of apartheid.

Yet it appears vital that South Africans cease to talk only about poverty and start being honest about our world-leading inequality.

According to University of the Western Cape Professor Andries du Toit: “The proper study for poverty research is inequality.”

The South African trend of growing income inequality is arguably in part the curse of being so influenced by economic trends in English-speaking democracies such as the US, Ireland and the UK. Democratic South Africa has followed economic policies approved in spirit by the World Bank. Our approach to poverty reduction, Du Toit argues, has so far been largely shaped by Continue reading City Press: ‘Equality is key in fight for the poor’