Nobody wins unless everybody wins. It's a phrase on a post it that's been stuck to my computer monitor for weeks.

I don't know when I put it there, or why. Perhaps it provided a profound insight into someone I was researching. Most likely I just liked the way it sounds.

It's a neat little slogan, eight syllables, the "everybody" echoing the "nobody" like a stone hitting the bottom of a well. It's direct enough to be forceful, broad enough to apply to just about any situation you want. It's social justice, but not dreary socialism, and a touch more poetic than "Peace, Bread, Land".

Anyway, I've been saying it to myself a bit over the last few weeks, repeating it in my head while I'm out walking around. Nobody wins unless everybody wins. It makes me feel righteous, just the sound of it.

It's up there there on a blue Post-it on my work computer, staring at me every day. It doesn't even bother me that I don't really know what it means. I suppose it means that there has to be enough to go around. That it doesn't matter how much you have, if everyone else doesn't have enough as well.

Perhaps I am turning into a socialist. That would be a disaster. Socialists roll their own cigarettes, and make you want to kill yourself when they're trying to chat you up. And yet. Nobody wins unless everybody wins.

There is a force to the Post-it that will not be denied. Why should everyone not have enough? Enough food, enough water, enough space, enough love? These are the basic necessities of life, why shouldn't there be enough of all of them for every single person on this earth?

This is a question of such staggering idiocy that it takes three years of writing a newspaper column to formulate it, obviously, but having considered it seriously, I'm stumped. Because the planet is overpopulated, and because money talks?

Because war works and peace never had a chance? Because people are inherently hateful and women aren't in charge?

There are myriad reasons why we live in a world so unequal that I carry symphonies of music around with me in a device the size of a credit card and children in Niger don't have enough to eat. Anyone who reads The Economist knows them all.

And yet, in the post-nuclear age of alliances, when our collective survival depends so much on the fellowship required to dissuade us from blowing each other into tiny bits, I'm surprised stupid questions like this aren't asked a lot more. Why are some people's lives worth so much more than others? Why can't everybody win?

Is it because some people are better than others? If the hippies got up to go to the gym before work, like the bankers do, would social justice have a better chance?

I'm being silly, it isn't just hippies versus bankers, motivation is an important part of the reason why everyone doesn't win. The making of money is its own reward. It makes you feel good about yourself, and it helps you to look good too.

The reward that comes from helping others is a much more intangible thing. You can't even see it sometimes, when people are ingrates, which also makes it hard to soldier on.

The values of social justice are not incentivised by our economic system. This is why social workers make their own sandwiches, and property developers have lunch at Soul.

Poor people can be difficult to deal with, they can be smelly and angry, and incoherent, and that's just the ones on our own front door.

The over one billion people who live in poverty all over the planet are even harder to reckon with, they speak other languages, are socially and culturally removed. Helping them to improve their lives is a big ask.

And yet, despite the desperate unsexiness of poverty, the wretched, grinding poverty of the poorest parts of the world, there are those who are trying to do something about it, who are actively engaged in changing the equation.

I interviewed former prime minister Helen Clark, now head of the United Nations Development Fund, last week. We talked about the UN Millennium Development goals, the most ambitious goals for the reduction of poverty that the world has ever seen.

She is absolutely convinced that the goals are improving the lives of millions of people already. This despite the fact that only five of the world's developed countries have donated what they said they would to the fund, and that the original target of halving the number of people in abject poverty by 2015 probably won't be reached.

So we do care, but probably we don't care enough. Not yet, anyway. It's a very big paradigm to try to turn around.

Still though, it felt good listening to Helen Clark There was something remarkably inspiring about hearing the blueprint for a better world laid out in familiar New Zild tones. Made you think we've got a better chance of everybody winning, with a no-nonsense Kiwi in charge.