miércoles, 18 de enero de 2017

It is time for Oxfam to finally realize that society is not necessarily a zero sum game.

Oxfam's Hypocrisy on Private Wealth
Mateusz MachajMateusz Benedyk

Earlier this week, the Oxfam organization published a “report” about global inequality. It’s not really a report, since most of it consists of babble-economics with little empirical foundation, and the hard data that it includes comes from an external source: the Credit Suisse Report. In any case, this data indicates that there is a lot of poverty in the world, whereas in some other places there is relatively much more wealth. This has led to loudly shouted statements in the media of how 8 people in the world have more wealth than half of the world population combined.

Data vs. Data Interpretation

If we look at the data (Credit Suisse Global Wealth Databook 2016, pp. 112–115) we see that any person living in OECD country is likely to be relatively much richer than the rest of the world population. If you own just 30 dollars, you are already richer than 10% of the poorest people. If you own 250 dollars, you leave 20% of world population behind. If you own slightly more than 2200 dollars, you are already richer than half of the global population.

[RELATED: "Inequality Doesn't Cause Poverty"]

The question remains: if you put 30 dollars into your bank account, does it mean that you caused extreme poverty for 10% of the world population? This is what Oxfam is implying in its biased pseudo-economic analysis.
Judging Oxfam by Its Own Standards

Oxfam does not practice what it preaches. It is a foundation, functioning on annual revenues and also various benefits from invested capital. They are no different than the regular company in the market, though one difference is that they formally do not pay out the dividends from their activity, but instead spend it on their projects. Yet they work — like virtually any other entity in the market — to expand their activity in a specific market, and maximize the value of their various assets. Let us see then what are the total assets in Oxfam United States’ division, assets per head, and “national income” per head — and see how that looks in comparison to the other countries.

According to their financial statement (p. 11) the total net assets of Oxfam US are around 69 million dollars (for all Oxfam branches around the world it is surely much bigger, but we merely want to make a point rather than do the world audit of the organization). As a legal entity it means that the American division of Oxfam, by itself, has accumulated the value of assets which is higher than in case of 99.7% of the whole world population. Some may say that it is a legal entity, not a person, but then: so what? Wealth is wealth, right? We are merely stating the obvious fact: Oxfam’s assets are already higher than 99.7% of the population. That's a pretty impressive concentration of wealth!

We can of course divide these assets per number of employees, which amount to 351 people. Per head the amount of assets is almost 200 thousand dollars. It is still more than 92.5% of the world population.

In the end we can also measure the sort of national income of Oxfam US. According to their statement salaries, compensation and other employee benefits are around 34 million dollars per year (38% of the budget). It basically means that national income per head is almost 97,500 dollars annually. This means that Oxfam US is the third richest country in the world. Only Qatar and Luxemburg are richer. Oxfam US easily leaves behind Kuwait, Singapore, Norway, Switzerland, the US, and Sweden, among others. Sounds like a great place to live in: “creating lasting solution to global poverty, hunger and injustice” is especially working for the one doing it.

Now, obviously we are playing with a demagogues’ arguments. Oxfam itself must resort to this demagoguery for the simple reason: just because someone is rich, and the other one is poor, it does not mean that one is causally linked to the other. Faced with a notion of how rich they are, Oxfam would probably counterargue: but we hire valuable people, we have to employ the smart ones, we are running a company.


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