Dame Anne Salmond, the esteemed New Zealand historian and writer and Professor of Maori Studies and Anthropology at the University of Auckland, has written an impassioned essay in the New Zealand Herald: We Could Do with a Change of Heart.
The “invisible hand” of the market, first conceived in the Enlightenment but coupled at that time with notions of justice, human dignity and “the rights of man”, has failed to deliver prosperity and happiness, in New Zealand as elsewhere.
The problem, it seems, is a loss of balance. In the pursuit of profit, everything in the world – the earth itself, other species, knowledge and indeed, other people – has been turned into a “resource” to be exploited, often without care or conscience.
In the process, ideas of justice, truth and the common good have been undermined. Without these bulwarks, democracy falters, capitalism fails to share wealth and the distribution of income shifts dangerously out of kilter.
Since the 1990s, income inequality in New Zealand has soared.
In the midst of successive financial crises, the hand of the market still harvests wealth for the wealthy. While the richest avoid taxation, billions can be found to shore up the corporate sector, but not to deal with child poverty, third-world diseases, high rates of youth incarceration and suicide, and other indicators of suffering and failure.
There is more to her essay as op-ed, so please do read We could do with a change of heart in its entirety.
For more on Anne Salmond, the New Zealand Book Council provides an extensive and insightful profile. Her latest book looks fascinating: Aphrodite’s Island: The European Discovery of Tahiti.