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What Oxfam doesn’t want you to know: global capitalism means less poverty than ever

19 January 2015

8:58 AM

19 January 2015

8:58 AM

The hijacking of Oxfam by the politicised left is nothing short of a tragedy. It’s heartbreaking to see a charity that has built up so much goodwill from so many people being used by activists as a vehicle for global class war. As a result, Oxfam is switching its focus away from global poverty towards something very different: wealth inequality.

It has today come up with some questionable figures suggesting that the richest 1 per cent will soon own over 50 per cent of the wealth. Here is Winnie Byanyima, executive director of Oxfam International, with a message she intends to give before she heads off to Davos:

‘We see a concentration of wealth capturing power and leaving ordinary people voiceless and their interests uncared for… 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.’

She didn’t have space, it seems, in her Guardian interview or in the Oxfam research to point out that right now global poverty has been declining faster than at any point in human history.

Even if Oxfam’s forecast came true, you have to ask: isn’t the charity supposed to be worried about the poor, rather than obsessing about the rich? Its adverts want to you believe that age-old (and laughably incorrect) trope that the poor are poor because the rich are rich: that wealth is a pie, and the powerful are helping themselves to an ever-larger slice. In fact wealth is something that people generate, and on a global basis more of it is being generated than ever before. This ought to be celebrated, because the pie is bigger than ever before – this is translating into fewer hungry people than ever before.

BBC Radio earlier had someone on from Oxfam saying that the shocking wealth of the 1pc stood alongside the fact that ‘one in nine’ go to bed hungry. Oxfam wants you to believe that the two are somehow linked. There is a link between wealth and global poverty – the more of the former, the less of the latter.


It’s true that one in nine (about 12 per cent) of the world is undernourished. But what Oxfam does not say is that this rate has plummeted since global capitalism really took (i.e., off after the fall of the Berlin Wall).  The United Nations has been keeping tabs on this – below (link: pdf).

Screen Shot 2015-01-19 at 08.29.48

Of course, hunger is only one of the killers of the world’s poor. How is all of this inequality that Oxfam complains about affecting the others? Answer: global prosperity is being converted into better medicine and healthcare for those who need it the most. Chinese investment in Africa is now a major factor in helping Africans do things for themselves.

The Oxfam report is stuffed with the usual leftist cliches. It wants to review

existing public subsidies for health and education provision by private for-profit companies


private being evil, of course. Oxfam says it’s time to “redistribute money and power from the few to the many”. In fact, global poverty is falling because people are doing it for themselves – with the helping hand of free trade. Oxfam prefers to think of people as helpless, waiting for its handouts. Its posters reinforce damaging stereotype images (see above), which damage the dignity of Africans as well as belittle their own achivements.

Here is another graph that you’ll never see in an Oxfam report, published in last month’s edition of The Lancet:

War on Disease

We are, right now, living through the golden age of poverty reduction.  Anyone serious about tackling global poverty (and I’m afraid we have to exclude Oxfam from this category) has to accept that whatever we’re doing now, it’s working – so we should keep doing it. We are on the road to an incredible goal: the abolition of poverty as we know it, within our lifetime.

Those who care more about helping the poor than hurting the rich will celebrate the fact – and urge leaders to make sure that free trade and global capitalism keep spreading. It’s the only true way to make poverty history.

PS And Oxfam is also wrong to scream about an “inequality explosion” – things may have been getting worse for the last two or three years but the longer view is of global inequality falling.  (hat tip: John Rentoul).

Screen Shot 2015-01-19 at 15.41.39

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Show comments
  • Sabahat E Chaudhry

    Adopt the middle way “Good Capitalism” By Eliminating “Slave Manufacturing”
    The role of SME’s in the world economy needs to high lighted,on an average World SME’s generate 60% to 70% employment and contribute 40% to the GDP in Developing countries,we need more millionaires in form of SME’s
    Exploitation of SME’s by Global Multi billion Companies is rampant and unchecked at global forums
    How a 3 dollar T Shirt Ends up at 20 dollars in Davos is what needs to be stopped.
    Big Brothers of Wealth Creation need to help Little brothers around the world
    We need many more millionaires around the world

  • Bernard Moran
  • IdPnSD

    You wrote – “isn’t the charity supposed to be worried about the poor, rather than obsessing about the rich?” You probably did not think clearly about the question What creates poverty? It is the rich who creates the poverty. There is no win-win situation. All transactions cause a win-lose problem. That is a law of nature known as law of conservation. For every win-win situation you will always be able to find some third party, usually from the bottom fifth, who will be the loser. The real answer to the question is to wage a war against the money or the central bank, who supplies the money. Milton Friedman, a Nobel Laureate in economics, said the Fed must go. Look at the blog site on Soul Theory at for more detailed explanation. Thus higher is the richness the lower is the poverty.

  • andylowings

    Never give to big charities.

    Give direct to someone you see who needs it. You will always do this better than someone else, who.doesnt have your interest..and who will ake 25% for himself for doing it.

    I’ve always wished I could have an hour or so with Sir Bob, to hear first hand his take on saving the world in retrospect.

  • Will

    You want to be wary of any mega-charity, who employ managers to channel the maximum amount of donations. I have heard of stories where significant donations (in wills) of properties in London were declined due to the fact that they were in the wrong area, didn’t have a conservatory etc.

    Give to local, small charities only. It’s the only way you know your donations are appreciated.

  • Marianna

    Oxfam has never hidden that poverty is decreasing, as you can see in the campaign advert: . Of course if you consider people like animals it’s a fact that they are dying less from famine. Don’t you think that as human beings we need to make a step forward and consider other factors within their poverty such as the lack of rights, healthcare, education and so on? In order to get out from this kind of poverty, the capitalistic (and paternalistic) way of just sending them money doesn’t really work.

    • Diotima

      “the capitalistic (and paternalistic) way of just sending them money doesn’t really work.”

      The capitalistic way is certainly not sending them money! You need to look at how so many people have been lifted out of poverty in the last couple of decades. It hasn’t been through aid or Western paternalism – they’ve done it themselves through market means.

      Giving people stuff, even help, is always paternalistic because it carries the implication that they are incapable of helping themselves.

  • Mark Moore

    So to recap, since 2000, poverty came down, hunger came down, health outcomes improved all while the world became more equal.

    And yet the lefties aren’t happy, because it’s capitalism and not socialism that is delivering these outcomes. It used to be that the ends justified the means for Marxists. Now it seems the means justify themselves, regardless of whether they even deliver the ends lefties claim they want.

  • Paul Hollister

    One would hope your parents, frugal or otherwise would have instilled in you a sense of standing on your own two feet and achieving your own fortune rather than the benefits of compound interest, furthermore the tiresome argument that only rich people work hard is destroyed by your lack of ambition. As for tax don’t even pretend to suggest you haven’t done everything in your power to use the benefits of “tax advisers”. And when for goodness sake are you going to construct a better argument then “it only goes to scroungers oh and mentally ill but then they are just kidding the system aren’t they” Your money has eradicated your soul. All the best phh

  • mikewaller

    For all of the above, I still wonder if we are not at a very strange point in world history in which Western living standards are being maintained by a combination of borrowing and selling the family silver (= our technological edge), whilst the new workshops of the world are having their living standards raised by that borrowing flowing into their pockets. What will happen when out credit runs out and, as a consequence, their best markets disappear? It could be that then the gulf between the global have-nots and the haves will be immense.

  • Michael Guyer

    So you think that the top 1% has too much money? The problem would have already corrected itself in a world with REAL capitalism.

    Read “The Era of Pseudo-capitalism and The Day America Blinked” at:

  • cmflynn

    Oxfam, CEO salary £75,000 p.a. before expenses, very nice.

  • Des Demona

    Oh dear. Hundreds of comments, the vast majority utterly failing to recognise that ”trickle down” economics is a discredited busted flush, possible the most inefficient economic system ever devised for growing wealth.
    What is worse the vast majority also showing a callous disregard for the people of the world who have practically nothing compared to them.
    The platitude that ”global inequality is decreasing” is just that – a meaningless platitude. If you take people with next to nothing and give them a tiny increase then of course inequality is decreasing, but at a ridiculously small rate compared to the vast increases in wealth shown by the richest 1% which is only getting bigger..

  • Midas


  • lulup

    Gruesome, childish stuff. This hackneyed neo-liberal claptrap is the same sort of stuff that persuades the poor in America to vote to have more stolen from them. Whatever happened to the clever, witty, free-thinking Spectator? The magazine is so full of hate and rage now – and this sad rant is by the editor.

  • commentator001

    Fraser Nelson should know better. Even the IMF understands that inequality is bad for growth – to quote a report they published in April last year: “lower net inequality is robustly correlated with faster and more durable growth”. Regardless of political persuasion, if we are interested in economic growth we should thank Oxfam for highlighting the growing inequality that hampers growth.

    • lulup

      Of course he knows better. It’s a tendency of this mag to reduce every important debate – climate, abortion, human rights, inequality – to tedious left/right argy-bargy.

      His stats are highly selective. Nelson must know that most poverty reduction of recent decades is largely accounted for by growing wealth in China and some other SE Asian countries. And the causes of that growth in average wealth are not simply capitalism and free trade – far from it. Meanwhile in much of Africa poverty reduction has remained stagnant, or worse. In “booming modern India” nearly half of all children are malnourished.

  • ebonystone

    Interesting that the chart “Winning the war on disease” doesn’t include abortion as a cause of death. I calculate that the number of years of life lost per 100,000 people comes to ca. 36,000 each year. Rather more than all the others combined

  • ebonystone

    Oxfam’s poster doesn’t say which country Akiru lives in, but it’s a good bet that she lies in one ruled by some “president-for-life” or other tyrant who has a few billion stashed in a Swiss account.
    Or maybe a country where the effective rule is in the hands of Moslem gangs whose main interest is killing non-believers.

  • Helen of Troy

    1. Climate change is natural and immensely complex and we don’t understand all the factors that cause it. Also, the computer models used to predict future change are not even good at ‘predicting’ the past. They are tendentious and faulty, to say the least. Finally, the institutions and measures tracking climate show no upward rise for approximately 19 years now.

    2. Why does the Left — the progressives so-called — believe that wealth creates poverty? They see the world through a lens that is 150 years out of date — and was wrong when it was created. Wealthy people reduce poverty, which is why the 21st-century West has the fewest poor people of any society in world history by far.

    3. The condition of poor people, in terms of food, health, shelter, comfort and luxury, has made progress ONLY in capitalist societies.

    • Pacificweather

      1. The ice is still melting.
      2. Lack of wealth creates poverty.
      3. But the non capitalist countries have the most capitalist so how an you tell the difference.

      • Helen of Troy

        Totally incoherent response. And wrong.

        • Pacificweather

          If it was incoherent you would not be able to tell if it is wrong or right. So you have firmly establish that your judgement is flawed.

  • umberto

    “Charity” is not business of the letf anywhere. Lefty militants are against. People of the conservative rigth are the true donnors. The left took control of the charities bureaucracies and they will crumble them…as they make with everything they touch,

  • D Finch

    You know when you play beanbags and the goal is to get to 21, but if you go over, you go back to 13? Maybe we should have something like that in our capitalism.

    • mohdanga

      Makes sense. This way people will never be motivated to take a risk because their risk taking will be penalized. That will help alleviate poverty.

  • John Andrews

    The BBC, it seemed to me, reported Oxfam’s report on inequality as though they contained unvarnished facts.