Eight Men Do Not Equal the Wealth of Half the World
Debunking the "Oxfam Eight" myth.
Headlines around the western world have blared this week that the eight richest men in the world hold as much wealth as the world’s poorest, or half the planet. Setting aside the fact that the eight men listed would most easily be described as politically liberal, while also the fact that they have quite an impressive track record when it comes to philanthropic investments, the reality is that the headline is just not true.
Oxfam, an international confederation of global charities, is responsible for this latest claim, and it has a history of producing these headline grabbing reports. Where did Oxfam come up with this eyebrow raising claim? Well, as the old saying goes, “Lies, damn lies, and statistics.” Oxfam used a rather “unique” methodology to arrive at its extreme number, applying an unduly high level of negative liability toward debt. Using its methodology, Oxfam calculated that the bottom 10% of the world’s population has a sum negative total of $1 trillion. That’s a number Fusion’s Felix Salmon said was “an almost inconceivably large sum.” To put it into perspective, any debt grossly outweighs income potential. For example, the Washington Examiner described it as, “if your eighth grader holds down a paper route and a $200 savings account he’s [accounted as] wealthier than a Wharton grad with a good job and some Stafford loan [debt].”
By Oxfam’s logic, one wonders how the U.S. would be rated since it’s the nation holding the highest amount of public debt on the planet. Is the U.S. then one of the world’s poorest nations? Obviously, that’s a rather simplistic and absurd observation given the fact that the U.S. is also the world’s largest economy and we have a standard of living among the highest in the world. But the point is that Oxfam uses a dubious method in order to create this massive income disparity with the intention of discrediting capitalism and labeling it an unfair system. The fact remains that no economic system in history has been more fair, raised living standards of more people and lifted more poor out of poverty than has capitalism. Using cooked statistics to push a political agenda only serves to further validate that famous axiom about lies.