Thursday, November 15, 2012

Prophet of the Day: the President of Uruguay

Think of a world leader, politician, or indeed anyone in power that you know, who gives away 90% of their income.

Tricky. But there is one: the President of Uruguay. He has personal wealth of just over £1000, which takes the form of an old VW Beetle, and living off 10% of his official salary means that his regular income is about the same as that of an average Uruguayan.

I was struck by this quote, from his address to the Rio 20+ summit earlier this year, on development.

 "We've been talking all afternoon about sustainable development. To get the masses out of poverty.

"But what are we thinking? Do we want the model of development and consumption of the rich countries? I ask you now: what would happen to this planet if Indians would have the same proportion of cars per household than Germans? How much oxygen would we have left?

"Does this planet have enough resources so seven or eight billion can have the same level of consumption and waste that today is seen in rich societies? It is this level of hyper-consumption that is harming our planet."

So though I'm as mystified as the next person about how we're managing to create jobs in a flatlining economy, it's actually good news. We have to find a way to prosper that doesn't involve ever increasing consumption. One day, the Chinese will stop making cheap tat for people to market to us, and then what will we do?

And full credit to the Uruguayans for electing a guy like that to be president. We might indulge someone who gave away 90% as a harmless eccentric, or a funny story for the end of the news, but would Brits ever elect someone that radical and challenging to be PM?


  1. Great point. I wish our media outlets would focus more on words like his and actions like his so that we actually knew that already. Certainly a challenge to (most of) our politicians with their personal wealth, high salaries and desperation for continued consumption to prop up a faltering economy.

  2. It's so nice to know there's a world leader not clearly just in it for himself.

  3. You sparked off a political dream!

    I looked at the picture of his house (well, his wife's), and compared it with Zumaville Political dreams | Notes from underground