Busting Oxfam’s spin on the 1% now owning 50% of the world’s wealth

The other day Oxfam claimed via some highly questionable figures that suggest the richest 1 per cent will soon own over 50 per cent of the wealth.

Predictably the left-wing were all over this as some kind of truism that capitalism is inherently evil and the government must act somehow to stop this.

The mere notion that Oxfam puts forward is silly in the first instance and wrong in the second.

Fraser Nelson at the Spectator explains.

The hijacking of Oxfam by the politicised left is nothing short of a tragedy. It’s heartbreaking to see a charity that has built up so much goodwill from so many people being used by activists as a vehicle for global class war. As a result, Oxfam is switching its focus away from global poverty towards something very different: wealth inequality.

It has today come up with some questionable figures suggesting that the richest 1 per cent will soon own over 50 per cent of the wealth. Here is Winnie Byanyima, executive director of Oxfam International, with a message she intends to give before she heads off to Davos:

‘We see a concentration of wealth capturing power and leaving ordinary people voiceless and their interests uncared for… The scale of global inequality is quite simply staggering and despite the issues shooting up the global agenda, the gap between the richest and the rest is widening fast.’

She didn’t have space, it seems, in her Guardian interview or in the Oxfam research to point out that right now global poverty has been declining faster than at any point in human history.

Screen Shot 2015-01-20 at 11.53.06 am

Even if Oxfam’s forecast came true, you have to ask: isn’t the charity supposed to be worried about the poor, rather than obsessing about the rich? Its adverts want to you believe that age-old (and laughably incorrect) trope that the poor are poor because the rich are rich: that wealth is a pie, and the powerful are helping themselves to an ever-larger slice. In fact wealth is something that people generate, and on a global basis more of it is being generated than ever before. This ought to be celebrated, because the pie is bigger than ever before – this is translating into fewer hungry people than ever before.

Wealth grows the pie. The shame is socialists think the pie is a defined and limited size. This of course is untrue and anyone can point to real world examples.

Google and Facebook are good examples. They never existed in the ‘pie’ before…now they do, they were created, built, by risk takers and investors to create wealth which in turn employed people….all around the world.

At the turn of last century there was no motor vehicle industry or airline industry…the so-called ‘pie’ was even smaller back then, and yet the ‘pie’ got bigger and so everyone benefits.

Except the socialists don’t believe in abundance…they believe in scarcity.

BBC Radio earlier had someone on from Oxfam saying that the shocking wealth of the 1pc stood alongside the fact that ‘one in nine’ go to bed hungry. Oxfam wants you to believe that the two are somehow linked. There is a link between wealth and global poverty – the more of the former, the less of the latter.

It’s true that one in nine (about 12 per cent) of the world is undernourished. But what Oxfam does not say is that this rate has plummeted since global capitalism really took (i.e., off after the fall of the Berlin Wall).  The United Nations has been keeping tabs on this – below (link: pdf).


Of course, hunger is only one of the killers of the world’s poor. How is all of this inequality that Oxfam complains about affecting the others? Answer: global prosperity is being converted into better medicine and healthcare for those who need it the most. Chinese investment in Africa is now a major factor in helping Africans do things for themselves.

It’s a terrible thing though, Oxfam wants people helping people to help themselves stopped.

The Oxfam report is stuffed with the usual leftist cliches. It wants to review

existing public subsidies for health and education provision by private for-profit companies

private being evil, of course. Oxfam says it’s time to “redistribute money and power from the few to the many”. In fact, global poverty is falling because people are doing it for themselves – with the helping hand of free trade. Oxfam prefers to think of people as helpless, waiting for its handouts. Its posters reinforce damaging stereotype images (see above), which damage the dignity of Africans as well as belittle their own achievements.

Free trade, which the left opposes, is the only real way in which to lift living standards. Trade provides revenue which allows nations to spend on welfare and education…shame the left wing wants everyone to be poor together.

We are, right now, living through the golden age of poverty reduction.  Anyone serious about tackling global poverty (and I’m afraid we have to exclude Oxfam from this category) has to accept that whatever we’re doing now, it’s working – so we should keep doing it. We are on the road to an incredible goal: the abolition of poverty as we know it, within our lifetime.

Those who care more about helping the poor than hurting the rich will celebrate the fact – and urge leaders to make sure that free trade and global capitalism keep spreading. It’s the only true way to make poverty history.

And as for the claims of poverty and inequality increasing…yeah, nah the facts don’t support that either.

PS And Oxfam is also wrong to scream about an “inequality explosion” – things may have been getting worse for the last two or three years but the longer view is of global inequality falling.  (hat tip: John Rentoul).



– The Spectator


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  • MrBarrington

    Yep, well that’s Oxfam off the giving list…. no point in contributing if they are now going on a ‘holy war’ against the most successful economic system of all time. It is a pure tragedy to see the good hardworking people at Oxfam being done over by a bunch of lefties who are now more focused on the politics of envy rather than focused on helping those in genuine need….

  • Dr Wang

    According to Oxfam’s departing executive director Winnie Byanyima: those with a “concentration of wealth capture the power and leave the ordinary people voiceless”.

    Perhaps this silly bint would like to explain how the uber-wealthy DotCom’s catastrophic (for him) foray into NZ politics last election supports her pathetic self-serving baseless theory?

  • JeffW2

    I hate to have to say that I hate these lefties with a passion. It is apparent that capitalism drives improvement in living standards. This does not mean I support cronysim, which in fact is enabled by government, i.e. it is a lefty thing rather than a righty thing. It is so obvious to me that government cannot make people equally rich, they can only make them equally poor. There is nothing stopping the good people at Oxfam and the million other lefty institutions from donating more of their income to the government.

  • Grizz30

    What is wrong with wealth inequality. The main thing must be to ensure the opportunity to generate wealth over a working lifetime. When I graduated uni, I possessed nothing but debt and enthusiasm. People who own property and are in a position to make investments will generate wealth. Often it is a conscious decision. I for one was frugal and have acquired a small amount of capital assests in my working life so far. However I could quite have easily squandered it with nothing to show for my earnings to date. Then I would be one of the 40% that hold 1% of the world’s wealth.

    • sandalwood789

      “What is wrong with wealth inequality?”

      Absolutely nothing.

      There has always been “wealth inequality”.
      There will always be “wealth inequality”.
      The reason – people have different abilities, skills, levels of motivation, quality of parenting and luck.
      So, a very large part of the equation comes down to *genes*.

      Lefties whining about all this is like whining that the sun rises in the morning.

  • Richard

    It gets worse, during her intro to the story last night Hilary Barry stated that soon the richest 1% would own 99% of the wealth.

    • sandalwood789

      If Barry feels so strongly about it then why doesn’t she dress herself in sackcloth and ashes and give away her own wealth?

  • pisces8284 .

    It must be depressing being a leftie. No aspiration, glass always half empty, always the victim, poor me, it’s not fair….. You can pick someone who votes left as soon as they open their mouths

  • Nige.

    well my point would be that the top 1% whether it is true or not would be that THEY HAVE EARNED IT.

  • Wallace Westland

    Oxfam. An agency where 90% of donations are sucked up in admin costs and 9% goes to corrupt dictatorships and tribal bandits. I’d be willing to bet that Winnie Byanyima’s salary is closer to 7 fingers than 6 and that there is an executive on similar.
    The hypocrisy astounds me.

  • Karma

    I note they don’t acknowledge the fact that many extremely wealthy people (e.g. Bill Gates, Warren Buffett) actively practice financial philanthropy, so in a way they’re already redistributing their wealth to those less fortunate.

  • sandalwood789

    Most of the very big so-called “aid agencies” are *extremely* left-wing now.
    This includes Oxfam, WHO and the Red Cross.

    One that is not (as far as I can tell) is MSF – Medecins Sans Frontieres.

    People may want to mention other agencies that should be avoided…..

    • jonno1

      Agree about MSF [Doctors without frontiers]. A friend spends about 3 months per year with them volunteering; has been to some amazing and scary places. As team leader she often has to be selective due to lack of medicines or other resources, thereby turning away some whom she knows will probably die. Remarkably she has never regretted those decisions, however difficult, as they simply must be made.

    • David Moore

      Most of the bigger charities have been hijacked by activists with political goals, amnesty international has lost all it’s credibility with a strong left wing line in recent years while it completely lost sight of what it was created for in the first place.

  • Disinfectant

    And I would just about bet that the biggest increase in poverty/decline in wealth is taking place in nearly all of the Muslim countries around the world.

  • Benoni

    “that wealth is a pie, and the powerful are helping themselves to an ever-larger slice. In fact wealth is something that people generate.”

    This notion that wealth is a pie is a huge wrong conclusion held by the left wing . It underlies all their wrong policies from class warfare “sock the rich” to to more and more “benefits” to increase the share of the pie held by the poor , even though these policies make people poorer.
    Wealth is an “emergent”.
    It emerges from four streams which flow together 1 money and investment, 2 skill and knowledge, 3 new ideas and favourable environment 4 leadership hardwork and commitment . People make these four inputs become available when they are rewarded by the gain of wealth for themselves.
    Until the left rid themselves of this false notion of “wealth is a dividable pie” they will remain as much a drag on people’s well-being as disease, addiction, natural calamity , and lazyness.

  • Hughesy

    Not sure if this is correct but makes sense. Go to http://www.globalrichlist.com and see where you fit into the scheme of things globally.

    A net NZD salary/wage of $26k puts you in the top 6% globally.

    Looks like we’re doing ok in a global wealth sense.

  • David Moore

    Using the methods Oxfam have, this is the worlds poorest man:


    More of our tax money should be given to him to stop inequality of course.

  • caochladh

    I have not given them anything since the 70’s when as I recall they had a place in Kingsland area and it was reported that the “volunteers” were helping themselves to the pick of the crop donated clothes. Now, they have progressed to paying themselves fancy salary’s, funding pressure groups, supporting the PLFP and god knows what other nefarious activity. I’m glad I stayed away.

  • Andy

    “Oxfam anti-fraud boss jailed for stealing £65,000 from the charity
    Edward McKenzie-Green jailed for more than two years after using fake companies to defraud Oxfam while working in Haiti”


  • Bobb

    The average net worth of the top 1% globally is 1.75million pounds. Thats about NZ$3.4m. Not that much really.