Oxfam is an international organization dedicated to fighting world poverty. In their recent report entitled (“Wealth: Having It All and Wanting More”), Oxfam makes the case that by 2016 the wealth of the top 1% will overtake the remaining 99%. This report was released right before the World Economic Forum in Davos that took place last week, where some of the world’s richest people fly to Switzerland to talk about the future of our planet and do a little skiing on the side. Oxfam’s timing proved to be spot on as they have fueled a debate between those who believe in their assertions and others who refute them.
Oxfam delivered their warning to the world that the sharp rise in inequality is slowing down the fight against poverty, where 1 in 9 people do not have enough food to eat and more than 1 billion people live on less than $1.25 a day. They also present the statistics that of the remaining 52% of global wealth in 2014, about 46% was owned by the rest of the richest 1/5 of the world’s population. Like many others, Suzanne Moore from The Guardian applauds the Oxfam study and has written an article a few days ago entitled “Inequality isn’t inevitable, it’s engineered. That’s how the 1% have taken over.” I think this title pretty much speaks for itself.
Tim Worstall from Forbes, however, claims that Oxfam’s logic is flawed and does not offer a genuine view of wealth distribution. He argues that someone needs to have just under $800,000 to be in the top 1%. This means that most people who own a home in the U.K. or a flat in London would qualify. Meanwhile, someone else living in a different country could have a higher standard of living than those living in UK and be worth far less on paper. As a final note, Worstall fires back at Suzanne Moore by saying that she is a hypocrite since she is a member of the 1% club that she is actively criticizing.
I think it is important to recognize that there is a dichotomy within the top 1% before one wages war on the whole group. Certainly, there are a growing number of billionaires around the world who can afford to pay more. There are also, however, many living in high cost of living areas that are in the top 1% and not living like rock stars. While Oxfam is right to call attention to the statistic that 1 billion people live on less than $1.25 a day, their statistic that 1% > 50% does not tell the whole story. The truth is that there is no one size fits all solution that will magically fix the world's wealth inequality problem. Yes, there is a problem, but one that can only be addressed by compromise and not conflict.
For more information on Wealth Inequality, please refer to the following articles:
Richest 1% will own more than all the rest by 2016, Oxfam, January 19th, 2015
Inequality isn’t inevitable, it’s engineered. That’s how the 1% have taken over, Suzanne Moore, January 19th
There's Probably More One Percenters Working For Oxfam Than There Are Billionaires, Tim Worstall, January 22nd, 2015
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