The amusement of Oxfam's wealth report


Oxfam is one of those groups jetting off to Davos this week to talk about how to set the world to rights. And they're doing so by going to sit among the plutocrats and telling everyone that it's the very plutocrats that are the problem. The top 80 people have more wealth than the bottom 50%, this is appalling and so on. You can see the report here.

Wealth: Having it all and wanting more, a research paper published today by Oxfam, shows that the richest 1 per cent have seen their share of global wealth increase from 44 per cent in 2009 to 48 per cent in 2014 and at this rate will be more than 50 per cent in 2016. Members of this global elite had an average wealth of $2.7m per adult in 2014.

Of the remaining 52 per cent of global wealth, almost all (46 per cent) is owned by the rest of the richest fifth of the world's population. The other 80 per cent share just 5.5 per cent and had an average wealth of $3,851 per adult - that's 1/700th of the average wealth of the 1 per cent.

Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of Oxfam International, said: "Do we really want to live in a world where the one per cent own more than the rest of us combined? 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.

Winnie needs to get out more. As Saez, Zucman and Piketty have been explaining to us all this is just how wealth distributions work. The bottom 50% always have less than 10%.

Fraser Nelson is very good here. This global capitalism stuff has been reducing poverty like billyo these past few decades. And for a charity like Oxfam, nominally focused upon poverty, we might think that's a good thing. But they seem to have changed their minds a bit.

But for one elegant point about this brouhaha have a look at Figure 1 on page 2 of that very Oxfam report. Their actual complaint is that global wealth inequality is climbing back to, but is still under, the level reached in 2000 and 2001. This isn't unprecedented, it's not staggering and it's not even unusual. Wealth inequality is actually lower than it was 15 years ago.