Why we should beware Oxfam’s claims about the world’s richest 1 per cent - ASI Senior Fellow writes for CityAM

Senior Fellow at the Adam Smith Institute, Tim Worstall, highlights the problems with Oxfam's inequality report in CityAM:

Oxfam tells us that global wealth inequality is increasing, as the world’s 80 richest people are approaching the same cumulative wealth as the entire bottom 50 per cent of the planet. In fact, the top 1 per cent is about to end up with 50 per cent of everything. This is just terrible, of course, and something must be done. Or perhaps we could just read the economic literature on the subject, where we’ll find out that this is entirely normal.

Since it’s possible to have negative wealth, any wealth distribution will always be hugely uneven (a new graduate with student loans is likely to have negative wealth, for example). And as those doughty researchers (Piketty and friends) tell us, the bottom 50 per cent of the people are always going to have between not very much and very little wealth. That’s just the nature of things. Indeed, we might suggest that Oxfam read its own report. For on page two, it points out that global wealth inequality is reaching the astounding levels of the year 2000. That is, the recent rise in that top 1 per cent share of wealth is really just the recovery back to normality from the recent recessionary travails.

Yet Oxfam also claims, without any real evidence, that excessive inequality hampers economic growth. It suggests that, since we want that economic pie to be as large as possible, we should tax wealth and capital. The problem is that all taxes destroy some economic activity, shrinking that pie. And different taxes do so differently. We also know that capital and wealth taxes destroy more of the pie than almost any others (other than that Robin Hood Tax Oxfam also supported). So the argument is that we must shrink the economic pie in order to stop inequality shrinking it. This has shades of having to destroy the village so as to save it.

Read the full article here.

Kate Andrews' comments on the United States' ban on haggis feature in CityAM

Communications Manager at the Adam Smith Institute, Kate Andrews, was quoted in CityAM on the United States' continued ban on haggis imports.

Robert Oxley, of Business for Britain, called on ministers to “fight harder to overturn America’s haggis ban” and Kate Andrews, from the Adam Smith Institute, described the rule as “arbitrary” and “bureaucratic”.

Read the full article here.

Press Release: Oxfam's inequality figures don't add up

For further comments or to arrange an interview, contact Communications Manager Kate Andrews: kate@adamsmith.org / 07584 778207 Commenting on Oxfam's inequality report, Head of Research at the Adam Smith Institute, Ben Southwood, said:

Oxfam's wealth statistics do not make sense. According to their methodology, Michael Jackson was one of the poorest people in the world, and Ivy League graduates just starting their jobs at Goldman Sachs are in the direst poverty.

It just doesn't make sense to look at net wealth without considering the incomes people might be expected to earn.

What's more, it's not clear why we should care all that much about rising global wealth inequality, when it has come with unprecedented declines in global poverty. Hundreds of millions have escaped penury in India and China, but it is not just there where global living standards have been rising—African poverty fell 38% between 1990 and 2011.

Notes to editors:

For further comments or to arrange an interview, contact Kate Andrews, Communications Manager, at kate@adamsmith.org / 07584 778207.

The Adam Smith Institute is an independent libertarian think tank based in London. It advocates classically liberal public policies to create a richer, freer world.

Kate Andrews' comments on Labour's proposed public health reforms feature in The Telegraph

Communications Manager at the Adam Smith Institute, Kate Andrews, was quoted in The Telegraph on Labour’s proposals to ban a range of fatty foods and further regulate the alcohol and tobacco industries:

However, Kate Andrew form the Adam Smith Institute said that the proposed restrictions were “deeply illiberal”.

“Labour is not even in government and already it is drunk on power,” she said. “We cannot pass the buck to an increasingly power-mad nanny.”

Read the full article here.

 

Kate Andrews' comments on Labour's proposed public health reforms feature in Breitbart and CityAM

Communications Manager at the Adam Smith Institute, Kate Andrews, was quoted in Breitbart London and CityAM on Labour's proposals to ban a range of fatty foods and further regulate the alcohol and tobacco industries: From Breitbart London:

Kate Andrews, communications manager at the Adam Smith Institute agreed, telling City AM: “Meddling in people’s lifestyle choices can backfire: in Australia, the only country to have tried plain cigarette packaging, household expenditure on tobacco has actually increased, and there is mounting evidence that smokers have turned to even more harmful black market products.”

Read the full article here.

From CityAM:

Criticism of the speech is coming in thick and fast, with opponents saying the measures are a draconian overreach of government power and a reminder of Labour's penchant for nanny state policies.

Kate Andrews, communications manager at the Adam Smith Institute, said:

Meddling in people's lifestyle choices can backfire: in Australia, the only country to have tried plain cigarette packaging, household expenditure on tobacco has actually increased, and there is mounting evidence that smokers have turned to even more harmful black market products.

Andrews argued some of the proposals will end up being regressive:

Targeting "low-cost alcohol" hits the poor much harder than the rich, and has virtually no effect on problem drinkers, who are the least sensitive to price hikes. If Labour raise taxes on booze it will end up hurting moderate drinkers on low incomes the most.

Read the full article here.

 

Ben Southwood's comments on Osborne's budget surplus plan feature in The Huffington Post

Head of Research at the Adam Smith Institute, Ben Southwood, was quoted in The Huffington Post, criticising George Osborne's proposed law to require a budget surplus in 'normal years'.

Ben Southwood, head of research at the free-market Adam Smith Institute think-tank, told HuffPost UK: "It is not necessary to run a budget surplus in normal times to make the national debt sustainable, or even to make it fall steadily, as long as the UK economy is growing healthily.

"What's more, it's highly implausible that any government would be able to keep itself to such tight strictures given the temptation to boost spending or cut taxes.

"On top of this, we would usually think efficiency is best achieved when the government runs as balanced a budget as possible, letting people make their own decisions how much to spend and how much to save."

Read the full article here.

Author of ASI report “The Green Noose” speaks to BBC Radio Oxford and BBC Radio Kent

Tom Papworth, ASI Senior Fellow and author of new ASI report The Green Noose – An analysis of Green Belts and proposals for reform appeared on BBC Radio Oxford and BBC Radio Kent to speak about the report’s recommendation to solve London’s housing crisis by building on 3.7 percent of the Green Belt near a railway station. Listen to Tom's interview on BBC Radio Oxford here. (Starts 40:40)

Listen to Tom's interview on BBC Radio Kent here. (Starts 01:09:29)

The new ASI report, The Green Noose: An analysis of Green Belts and proposals for reform, looks at the Green Belt’s impact on England’s housing shortage. After a comprehensive review of the causes of the housing crisis, it concludes that the planning structure is out of date and in need of radical reform.

ASI report "The Green Noose" is featured in the Evening Standard

The ASI’s new report The Green Noose: An analysis of Green Belts and proposals for reform was featured in The Evening Standard in both a news article and as the paper's lead comment piece: From The Evening Standard:

Evening Standard comment: We may soon have to build on the green belt

Right-wing think-tank the Adam Smith Institute has reignited the debate about keeping the green belt with a report calling for it to be substantially modified.

It points out that a million new homes could be built by sacrificing 3.7 per cent of greenfield land — the belt of green space around big cities that local authorities have been able to keep free from development since 1947. Indeed one option it suggests is to open up greenfield land for building within half a mile of a railway station. It is an idea gaining currency across the political spectrum: Labour mayoral hopeful David Lammy, for example, has suggested that we must consider building on the green belt.

Demand for housing in London has increased dramatically and supply has simply failed to keep up with it. The green belt serves a useful purpose —to prevent urban sprawl — but should not be sacrosanct. In terms of environmental diversity, not all green spaces are of equal worth: some brownfield sites are far more valuable as habitat than intensively farmed land. It is worth considering whether building on land around railway stations could meet demand for commuter homes.

At the same time, there are other options than giving up the green belt to increase the housing supply. Many developers sit on land they already own in order to maximise its future value rather than using it. There are other ways of creating sustainable housing, such as plans for new “garden cities”. There are also ways of building more intensively within London that could use space far more productively.

The suggestion of building on the green belt is inevitably controversial and would trigger major local battles were any government to pursue it. But this is a debate we need to have: to meet demand for housing, we must now look at every possible option open.

Also from The Evening Standard:

MPs attack plan by think-tank for green belt London homes A plan to tackle the housing crisis by building a million London homes on London’s green belt was blasted by MPs today. 
The Adam Smith Institute called for the development of 3.7 percent of city green belt land within 10 minutes walk of a railway station.
The Right-leaning think-tank argued that this designated special protection is damaging other parts of the city.
But Greenwich and Woolwich labour MP Nick Raynsford said: “The idea you can nibble away at the green belt without long-term consequences is wrong. The reason it was put in place is to safeguard England rom urban sprawl.”
The institute branded the current planning structure out-of-date and called for radical reform.
But Ilford North Tory MP Lee Scott said: “There are a lo of brownfield sites that could be built on, including some very close to stations.”
Tom Brake, Liberal Democrat MP for Carshalton and Wallington, called the plan “too blunt an instrument”. He added: “We need a safety belt around London to ensure it does not suffer the urban sprawl prevalent in the US."

The new ASI report, The Green Noose: An analysis of Green Belts and proposals for reform, looks at the Green Belt’s impact on England’s housing shortage. After a comprehensive review of the causes of the housing crisis, it concludes that the planning structure is out of date and in need of radical reform.

ASI Fellow's comments on PM's encryption plan feature in The Guardian

Preston Byrne, Fellow at the Adam Smith Institute, was quoted in The Guardian on the problems with David Cameron's encryption plans, which could include banning messaging apps that the government does not have access to:

Preston Byrne, the chief operating officer of Eris Industries, warns that his company will be forced to leave the UK if Cameron’s comments on the technology become policy, and move to “more liberal climes such as Germany, the U.S., the People’s Republic of China, Zimbabwe, or Iraq.”

Byrne, who is also a fellow at the London-based free-market think tank ASI, told the Guardian that “secure open-source cryptography is at the core of our business… so we were able to make the decision more or less immediately.”

Eris Industries uses technology loosely based on the bitcoin cryptocurrency to build a decentralised network, with potential applications in communications, social networking and community governance. But, Byrne warns, “none of these benefits can be realised without secure cryptography, including end-to-end encryption.

“David Cameron has said this measure is designed to ‘modernise’ the law. He fails to understand the full extent of how out of date the law is. The only way you can shut down cryptographic distributed networks today is to either arrest the vast majority of (or in the case of a blockchain database, all) persons running a node and ensure that every single data store containing a copy of that application database is destroyed; or shut down the Internet.”

As a result, he tells the Guardian, “I’d be very surprised if the Conservatives stick to their guns on this.”

Read the full article here.