According to a new report entitled “An Economy for the 99%” by Oxfam Canada, an international coalition of charitable organizations focused on fighting poverty across the globe, eight billionaires possess an amount of wealth equivalent to half of the world’s population.
These individuals are: “Microsoft founder Bill Gates; Zara founder Amancio Ortega; US investor Warren Buffett; Carlos Slim Helo, owner of Mexican conglomerate Grupo Carso; Amazon founder Jeff Bezos; Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg; Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison; and businessman and former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg.” Every measurable indicator suggest that these findings are correct.
Oxfam Canada’s report condemns the nature of this wealth inequality; the organization is calling for a fundamental shift in the world economy, denounces what they believe to be “false assumptions” about economics and the market, argues against free-market capitalism and minimal government, and suggests that a “human economy” should be instated. This “human economy” would include cooperation between governments, governments working for the 99%, renewable energy, and equality.
“To do this,” the study asserts, “we need to see the rich pay their fair share of tax: we must increase taxes on both wealth and high incomes to ensure a more level playing field, and clamp down on tax dodging by the super-rich.”
Oxfam’s study, however, failed to acknowledge that poverty is on the decline. According to the Wall Street Journal and The World Bank, in 1996 US dollars, in 1981 over 52% of the world’s population were living on less than $1/day – the definition of extreme poverty. As of 2010 that figure had dropped to 21%, and less than 10% by 2015.
This trend of a reduction in poverty is caused by the same mechanism that allows the wealthy to increase their wealth: capitalism.
Oxfam Canada’s study is an example of good intentions, but a fundamental lack of understanding of how to translate those good intentions into a viable solution. The aforementioned sources show that capitalism and urbanization are both key factors that have influenced a downward trend in world poverty, not wealth redistribution. Oxfam’s suggestion to raise taxes on the rich, asking that they pay their fair share – a far higher percentage and gross amount than the rest of the world – is not only a morally bereft idea, but one that doesn’t even provide an adequate solution to the problem. Not to mention that for a coalition of charitable organizations, Oxfam seems intent on forced charity as a means to achieve their end goal. A true “human economy ” would allow for voluntary human action, especially as it pertains to exchange of goods and wealth.
Check back at the end of the week for an in-depth analysis by Baland Rabayah.
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