Last month, Oxfam published a report that contained more leftist clichés than a Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) speech. Titled “Reward Work, Not Wealth,” the international anti-poverty organization expatiated the typical talking points you would find at an Occupy Wall Street demonstration: income inequality, the top 1%, gender pay gap, and the list goes on.
Oxfam parroted the same economic fallacies and diatribes that we have heard for years. Everything from increasing wealth distribution to slamming the number of billionaires in the world, you would think the paper was written by diehard socialist Kshama Sawant or Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).
Martin van Staden, a legal researcher at the Free Market Foundation of South Africa, succinctly summarized the report with this Freedom for Economic Education (FEE) article title: “Oxfam Cares More About Ideology Than Poverty.”
No, we shouldn’t be upset that Amancio Ortega’s net worth is $1.6 billion. No, we shouldn’t be irked by inequality. And we shouldn’t advocate spending billions more to solve poverty.
Let’s examine some of the core statements uttered by Oxfam:
Why Inequality Matters
Suffice it to say: income inequality is a hoax perpetrated by politicians trying to identify scapegoats for their failed War on Poverty policies. In every society, successful and unsuccessful, there is inequality.It is something that transpires naturally.
There are numerous misconceptions about inequality.The richer get richer, and the poor get poorer.It’s unfair that so few people are prosperous while so many are impoverished. You hear these arguments ad nauseam. But are these accurate claims? Not quite.
Freedom and utility play important roles in an economy. When you are free to choose your path, and you have invested in your own human capital, then you will not only survive but thrive. Your skills and aims can determine your success in life.
But there is another factor: the wealth of society.
For the most part, economists calculate income inequality using five quintiles and then crunching the average and median numbers to compare. For instance, taking inflation out of the equation, John Smith earns $75,000, and Jane Doe makes $45,000. A year later, Smith is bringing in $125,000, while Doe is earning $65,000.
The income spread has widened, but both are better off than they were. There is inequality, but should we be angry that both are making more money? Of course not. Yet we’re told that the disparity has grown, which should perturb everyone.
Let’s take a gander at the world’s second-largest economy. Thirty years ago, China was in financial destitution: everyone was essentially impecunious. Today, it is an economic powerhouse and a world superpower: the affluent have seen their wealth skyrocket, but the poor have seen their wealth grow, too.
You can examine a myriad of other cases, including Hong Kong. Would you rather endure income dissimilarity in a place like Hong Kong or Sudan?
Weare routinely told that the middle class in America is disappearing. So, where are they going? Activists would have you believe that they are living in alleyways depending on the kindness of strangers a la Blanche Dubois. Is this true? Nope. Using 2016 Census Bureau data, the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) released this chart:
The well-off in America are getting wealthier, but so is everyone else.
It has been proven time and again: employment, capital, and savings produce wealth, not welfare.
Oxfam alluded to the gender pay gap argument: women only get 79% of what men earn. Liberty Nation recently debunked this myth: the concept does not take into account a wide array of factors, like career, education, skills, and lifestyle choices. The fallacious idea only compares pay for all men and all women regardless of their chosen jobs or hours worked. Why Oxfam decided to include this in their paper is befuddling.
Extreme Poverty and Extreme Wealth
Let’s get this out of the way right now: the global poverty rate has collapsed over the last century. For the first time in history, a mere 9.6% of the world is living in extreme poverty.
The report discusses monopolies and crony capitalism, inherited wealth, and the population being born poor and dying underprivileged.
First, it can be agreed that monopolies and crony capitalism are bad for the economy. Crony capitalism enhances corruption and fosters the rise of monopolies – in a truly free market, these are impossible to create because of the immense competition.
Second, why does inherited wealth get such a bad reputation? Envy is likely the answer, which is why so many people want to maintain the death tax.
Here is what Oxfam writes:
“Where there is extreme wealth inequality, inheritance can affect the equity ofopportunities and social mobility. Economist Thomas Piketty is renowned for histhesis that the world is heading towards a new Victorian age dominated by heirs ofgreat fortunes. For example, Billionaires like Susanne Klatten and her brother StefanQuandt, inherited almost a 47% stake in the automobile manufacturer BMW from theirparents. From their BMW shares alone they received dividends of more than $1.2bn (€1.074bn) in 2017.”
But doesn’t the left want more female billionaires?
What Oxfam fails to mention is that Klatten, for instance, has invested in a wide range of other companies, including a wind turbine manufacturer, a biotech company, and an oil recycling business. She isn’t twiddling her thumbs, staring at her pile of cash; she is creating jobs and helping produce new technologies and products.
But the inheritance tax is a disastrous policy since it hits savings, stocks, bonds, real estate, and businesses. Yes, there are wealthy brats who spend their days on yachts, taking selfies to post to Instagram. But as they do that, the money in their savings accounts, stocks, or businesses are seeping into every aspect of the economy. The money in your savings account isn’t just sitting there; it is being used to extend loans to entrepreneurs. Shares in stock are helping pay dividends to retired old ladies, and the business the son inherited is employing thousands of workers.
Moreover, an inheritance tax decreases overall wealth. When the estate tax goes up, more people will stop saving and start consuming. A father may not be able to leave his daughter $1 million when he dies because there is a 50% estate tax. Remember, legendary economist Milton Friedman argued that we are a society of family: a lot of what we do is for our children and grandchildren.
Ending Extreme Poverty Seven Times Over
Oxfam asserts that billionaires’ wealth has soared by $762 billion in 12 months. The entity also avers that this “huge increase could have ended global extreme poverty seven times over.” For decades, the U.S. has extracted money from the top income-earners – the top 1% in the U.S. pay most of the taxes– and transferred it over to bureaucrats running dozens of welfare programs. Yet, Washington hasn’t eliminated poverty.
Oxfam authors claim government inaction is contributing to the problem. How is that even remotely honest? Since President Lyndon Baines Johnson declared the War on Poverty, the U.S. government has spent more than $20 trillion on anti-poverty programs. And this doesn’t include the expenditures by local and state governments.
How many times have we been told that we can solve poverty if we only spend more? This is a common argument. It is regularly used, for example, to justify increases to education outlays.
But the U.S. isn’t the only illustration. Nations all over the world have tried to alleviate poverty by doling out money and declaring certain aspects of life as human rights. In South Africa, where housing is a right, 7.5 million citizens lack access to adequate housing, and 13.6% reside in informal dwellings. The UK spends 6% of its gross domestic product on education, but it ranks 22nd in reading and 27th in math.
Clearly just spending money to alleviate a problem isn’t succeeding.
Designing a Human Economy That Works for All
In other words, Oxfam is proposing central planning, even more than what governments and central banks do today. The group is requesting more taxation, more regulations, more restrictions, more limitations. Haven’t we had enough of these?
What makes matters worse is that Oxfam isn’t searching for only economic solutions, it is aiming for social-engineering. Oxfam is asking governments to:
“Implement policies to tackle all forms of gender discrimination, promote positive social norms and attitudes towards women and women’s work, and rebalance power dynamics at the household, local, national and international levels.”
Oxfam needs to cease listening to the likes of socialist economist Thomas Piketty, or even Karl Marx. Life is not a zero-sum game. Markets do not concentrate wealth. The marketplace produces more value. Billionaires don’t get prosperous by taking money from one-legged toddlers in Taiwan. Capitalism, free markets, and the private sector allow the destitute to absquatulate from hellacious conditions.
Any Oxfam representative will tell you that they are doing a great job working to end poverty. But hasn’t the organization concentrated the wealth? The American division of Oxfam has accumulated more than $70 million in assets, more than most of the global population. It also pays out $35 million per year in salaries, benefits, and other compensation, which accounts for more than one-third of the budget. This means its income per head is nearly $100,000 per year.
Using Oxfam’s logic, its wealth caused another person’s misery. But that isn’t the case. Steve Jobs became a billionaire by selling a product to the public – the rich and poor alike. Oxfam got rich by tugging on the heartstrings of donors – the rich and poor alike. Neither party pickpocketed an affluent limousine-riding white old man from New York City or a poor, young, sick, pregnant woman from Mexico City.We are not monolithic beings; we are individuals making our own decisions in a hectic world.
Do you support Oxfam’s findings? Let us know in the comments section!