Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Oxfam - knowingly misleading us about wealth and income


I don't take the view that Oxfam's charitable purposes prevent them from raising concerns about poverty in the UK. Indeed, you can look at the charity's purposes here:


You may feel that the way in which the charity interprets these objects can be challenged - I'm guessing this lies behind Conor Burns' decision to report Oxfam to the Charity Commission yesterday. You may also feel that Oxfam, in the minds of the public at least, is there to respond to the humanitarian crises that blight humanity and to support programmes to lift the poor out of poverty. And that publishing adverts that are more-or-less indistinguishable from the current campaigns of the Labour Party is less than wise. You'll definitely feel that the ad hominem attacks on Conservatives by Oxfam are also unjustified even if those Conservatives are critical of the charity's work.

But none of this contravenes Oxfam's purpose. What we should be more concerned about - other than Oxfam's focus on rural environments and the immoral sustaining of poverty-creating subsistance farming - is the manner in which the charity uses a dissembling approach (some might say deliberately misleading) to promoting its point:

Let's dissect this tweet. What Oxfam wants you to think is that the inequitable distribution of wealth links to the inequitable distribution of income and, therefore, to the creation of poverty.  Now it is undoubtedly the case that wealth is unevenly distributed but it is also the case that this has little or no connection to income. Indeed it is perfectly possible for a person to have a significant income but no wealth. By way of example consider a thirtysomething couple who have just bought a London flat for £250,000. To do this they've borrowed 90% of the money from a bank or building society and, in a lot of cases, the rest of the money from the bank of mum and dad. They'll have a car on a lease agreement, credit card debt and perhaps the remnants of some student loans. They have no wealth, they're part of that 54% in the Oxfam tweet. But they will have income - probably a household income significantly above the national average. They are not poor.

Oxfam want us to believe that the lack of wealth equates to poverty because it suits their argument. But it is completely false to suggest that we have food banks because half the population have little in the way of wealth. To be clear, if you've no debts and a fiver in your pocket you are wealthier than a large chunk of the population - best part of 2 million full-time students for a start.

What Oxfam's campaigns don't tell us is why we have food banks, how zero hours contracts came about, why prices have risen (if indeed they have) and what lies behind extortionate childcare costs. The charity don't mention that food banks are needed mostly because the administration of benefits is a shambles rather than because of benefit cuts. We aren't told that half the increase in the cost of energy results from cross-subsidy to support 'green' energy - most of this going to wealthier land- and home-owners. And we aren't told that the high tax on fuel results in additional costs for food, clothing and household goods.

Levels of poverty (and this is relative poverty not the absolute poverty that calls for food banks) are falling in the UK, perhaps not fast enough but falling nonetheless. But it doesn't suit Oxfam's message to explain how this is happening or to note that liberalising employment and reducing regulatory burden on the private sector is what will succeed in reducing poverty over the long haul. Instead, Oxfam prefer to misuse statistics - as we see above - to create an impression that poverty is a bigger problem. And Oxfam also want to perpetrate the myth that someone being rich - in wealth or income - is the reason for someone else being poor.

Oxfam know that world poverty has plummeted over the last couple of decades, falling faster than ever before. A billion people have been lifted out of absolute poverty. OK they're not yet up to our western standards of living but they're headed that way. And Oxfam also know the reason for this fall in poverty but choose to ignore it and promote the keeping of peasants on barely sustainable subsistence farms through subsidy. Oxfam know that it is free market capitalism that gets people out of poverty. But Oxfam tell the public something else - Oxfam lie to us.


1 comment:

Junican said...

"1% of Britons own the same amount of wealth as 54% of the population."

I must be thick. I do not understand what those words mean. What 'population' is it talking about?

Oh, wait! I see! What it means is that 1% of the population of Britain are so wealthy that they own as much wealth as 54% of the population of Britain when that 'share' is totalled.

Oxfam could have stated that much more clearly thus:

"1% of the Britons own almost half of the total wealth of Britain"

Right, we have heard that many times before. That is not the problem. The problem is that (possibly) these wealthy people are using the rest of us as their slaves by just paying us enough for our work to get by. Also, the 1% have great power, both physical and financial. Thus, it is not the ownership of the wealth which is the problem - it is the misuse of the power that goes with it.

But that is why we have an elected Government. If Oxfam want to pronounce on these matters, then they should indicate in what way the wealthy are starving people and have them arrested for cruelty.

Oxfam's statement is typical of the new, propagandised 'charity'. It hypes a problem which isn't a problem, in itself, but suggests no solutions to the non-problem.