You'll have seen the stories about this latest Oxfam report all over the place. The bottom 50% of the world has the same wealth as the top 85 people etc. This is presented as if it's an obviously bad thing and yet I cannot quite bring myself to agree with that conclusion. Here's the list of evidence they compile:
Almost half of the world’s wealth is now owned by just one percent of the population.
• The wealth of the one percent richest people in the world amounts to $110 trillion. That’s 65 times the total wealth of the bottom half of the world’s population.
• The bottom half of the world’s population owns the same as the richest 85 people in the world.
• Seven out of ten people live in countries where economic inequality has increased in the last 30 years. •
The richest one percent increased their share of income in 24 out of 26 countries for which we have data between 1980 and 2012.
• In the US, the wealthiest one percent captured 95 percent of post-financial crisis growth since 2009, while the bottom 90 percent became poorer.
OK, let us just, for the sake or argument, accept all of that as being true.
So, what else has been going on in the world over this same 30 odd years of excessive neoliberalism? Actually, no, let's just look at one other thing the Oxfam reports tates first:
Some economic inequality is essential to drive growth and progress, rewarding those with talent, hard earned skills, and the ambition to innovate and take entrepreneurial risks.
OK, so let's also take that as being true, just for the sake of argument. So, what has been the effect of the world moving in the direction Oxfam describes it as having done?
Well, we've had the greatest reduction in absolute poverty in hte history of our entire species, as I've noted here passim ad nauseam. We've also had global inequality falling even while in country inequality rises. So we could certainly make a case that we've got the right amount of inequality to drive that growth and progress that we actually desire.
For we do want the poor to become richer, don't we? We want hundreds of millions, nay billions, to climb up out of historical peasant destitution and into the bourgeois pleasures of three squares a day and a change of clothes? And if inequality is, per se, a problem then we'd like it to be reduced globally and not just within some arbitrary lines on the map that make up nations?
So, erm, it would appear that the very things that Oxfam are complaining about are producing exactly the goal that we at least desire and Oxfam should at least be considering desirable.
Which leaves us with only one question left. Just why are they complaining about this?