"8 people are richer than 3.6 billion, says Oxfam. So? My daughter, who has $20, is richer than 2 billion. So the problem is poverty, not inequality." ~ Johan NorbergGuest post by Peter KermodeRight up until last Monday I was a supporter of the charity organisation Oxfam.I supported them right up until Monday when they sent me an email entitled "8 men have the same wealth as half the planet."
The email, which seemed to go out to half the planet and has since gone viral, went on to express outrage at the inequality in wealth distribution that this represents, and the obligation they say that these few have to helping the poorest and least fortunate.
The irony that seems lost on Oxfam is that, outside the riches garnered by what we might call the various members of the dictator class -- who quite literally take their wealth from others, and frequently and quite literally at the point of a gun -- the vast majority of those who have become wealthy have done so by creating businesses that make our lives better. They have used their enormous productive ability to identify and bring new value into the world, value which would not have existed without them and which has made other lives vastly better - made lives better as measured by the enormous wealth they have created, and which Oxfam so undeservedly disparaged.
They've been able to create this enormous wealth because of their own entrepreneurial talent, and because they have put their wealth-producing ability to work in countries where the rights of the individual and private property are generally enshrined in law, and so all individuals can (if they wish) invest in building businesses and creating new value, reassured that the fruits of their labour will be protected.
In most third world countries however, when most of those poor folk live who are poorer even than Johan Norberg's daughter, individuals lack these protections and are therefore subject to exploitation and oppression by the tyrant class.
Rather than directing their outrage at those who are busy creating a better world, Oxfam's time would be better spent understanding how wealth is created and protected, and directing their outrage instead at the tyrants that keep others in poverty.
- Sorry Oxfam. Capitalism is not making the rich richer at the poor's expense - Ben Southwood, CITY AM
- Oxfam is wrong about how to alleviate poverty - Tim Worstall, FOUNDATION FOR ECONOMIC EDUCATION