Oxfam’s annual report statitstics on inequality are blatantly dishonest.Highly paid researchers for the multinational Oxfam produced an annual report decrying the economic state of the world.
Their goal? Creating “5 shocking facts about extreme global inequality and how to even it up in Davos”. For the second January in a row, Winnie Byanyima, executive director of Oxfam International, appeared in these pages as part of the organisation’s PR campaign. She starts with a patent falsehood: “Just a handful of men control the wealth of the world. Billions of us take what we can of what’s left of the cake – and it’s getting smaller.”
Oxfam does not understand this basic principle of economics. Its “even it up” rhetoric is classical Marxism, casting economics as a struggle between rich and poor which can only have one winner, and in which the ideal would be to take from everyone according to their ability, and give to everyone according to their need.
The most interesting part of the Oxfam report, which almost nobody will read, is the methodology note. I was startled to discover that I fall in the bottom 10% of the global population, by wealth, because I have more debt than assets. Stunningly, Oxfam doesn’t measure income at all.
The report performs some amazing sophistry in an attempt to justify this, but it cannot escape the absurdity that more than half of all the net debt among the bottom 10% of the world’s poorest people is held by citizens of Europe.
The report doesn’t bother to consider income, nor does it count government assets that give these people access to free medical care, free public transport, free education, subsidised housing and unemployment benefits. Such benefits in Europe vastly exceed the resources available to the average citizens of a developing country. To call these people poor is a slap in the face of people living in genuine poverty.
Oxfam’s perverse report considers high-income individuals with no assets poor, and low-income individuals with a patch of land or a Mandela house richer than them. In short, Oxfam’s statistics are completely unable to describe actual wealth, and therefore they are unable to describe inequality. This flaw fatally undermines the entire report.