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Oxfam’s Logical Failure Over Inequality

Oxfam is indulging itself in a little bit of backcasting. Actually, not just bits or gobbets but vast steaming piles of it. This is the practice of taking a result you like, then assuming back to what causes it. Then you construct an index – if you’re going to propagandise – from your backcasting and you’ve a tool to berate all. Oxfam assuming – good little progressives that they are – that a high tax, high spending socio-economic environment is desirable, so they’ve constructed to insist that all should be doing this.

So, here’s their listing of what makes a place a good little place:

The CRI Index measures government efforts in three policy areas or ‘pillars’: social spending,
taxation and labour. These were selected because of widespread evidence6
that government
actions in these three areas have in the past played a key part in reducing the gap between rich
and poor.
1. Social spending on public services such as education, health and social protection has been
shown to have a strong impact on reducing inequality, particularly for the poorest women and
girls who are the most dependent on them. For example, a study of 13 developing countries
that had reduced their overall inequality levels found that 69% of this reduction was because of
public services.7 Social spending is almost always progressive because it helps reduce
existing levels of inequality. Despite this, in many countries, social spending could be far more
progressive and pro-poor. Social spending can play a key role in reducing the amount of
unpaid care work that many women often do – a major cause of gender inequality – by
redistributing child and elder care, healthcare and other domestic labour.
2. Progressive taxation, where corporations and the richest individuals are taxed more in
order to redistribute resources in society and ensure the funding of public services, is a key
tool for governments that are committed to reducing inequality. Its potential role in reducing
inequality has been clearly documented in both OECD countries9 and developing
10 and highlighted recently by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in its October
2017 Fiscal Monitor.11 However, taxation can be progressive or regressive, depending on the
policy choices made by government. Equally, a belief that taxation is gender-neutral has led
to a lack of attention to how taxes levied have increased the gender gap. The ability of
countries to collect progressive taxes is also undermined by harmful tax practices which
facilitate tax dodging.
3. There is strong evidence that higher wages for ordinary workers and stronger labour
rights, especially for women, are key to reducing inequality.
12 Governments can have a
direct impact here by setting minimum wages and raising the floor of wages; they can also
have an indirect impact by supporting and protecting the right of trade unions to form and
organize. Evidence from the IMF and others shows that the recent decline in trade union
organization has been linked to the rise in inequality, as workers lose bargaining power and
more of the value of production goes to profits and the owners of capital.
13 Women are
disproportionately represented in the lowest-paid jobs, with poor protection and precarious
conditions of employment.
14 Governments can help correct this by passing and enforcing
laws against discrimination and violence against women, and laws that promote equal pay
and parental leave.

Lots of tax to be spent upon diversity advisers, add unions and we’ve got nirvana. You’ll not be surprised to find that Denmark comes top of their list.

The thing is, this is all about reducing inequality. They regard such as the pernicity of our age, therefore we must wipe it out. Which does pose an interesting point. Why measure only one set of possible actions about inequality? Why not measure the inequality itself?

Why monitor government policy? Why not just monitor levels of inequality?
There are three reasons why DFI and Oxfam have chosen to measure the commitment of
governments to reducing inequality.

No, it doesn’t matter what those reasons are – they’re casuisty. Because they’ve started their entire labours with a misunderstanding:

Many countries across the world, rich and poor, have experienced rapid growth in the gap
between the richest people in society and everyone else over the past 30 years.
1 Failure to
tackle this growing crisis is undermining social and economic progress and the fight against

Well, you see, that’s just entirely wrong. We’re entirely crushing poverty. We’ve made more progress these past 40 years against it than we did in the previous 4,000*. So much so that it is entirely obvious what does in fact reduce poverty. Global neoliberalism, that capitalist free marketry red in tooth and claw. All us richer people buying things made by poor people in poor countries. The lust for pelf and lucre plus trade does the trick.

None of those things being things Oxfam likes therefore some different index must be constructed in order to insist that everyone do the things Oxfam likes and the hell with their effects upon poverty. Or, indeed, inequality. At which point we should note that these recent decades have also seen the reduction of global inequality.

That is, what we’re already doing solves those twin problems, poverty and inequality. Err, without the intervention of Oxfam or any of the policies they favour. Thus why it cannot be allowed to continue of course, for it is quite obviously the policies which are correct, not the outcome. Oxfam wouldn’t be recommending them unless they were correct, would they?

Essentially, this is an extended whine from Oxfam about how the world is solving these twin problems of poverty and inequality without doing it the way Oxfam want. In fact, doing it be following exactly the policies that Oxfam argues against.

Pity, eh?

*Hyperbole alert.

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Surreptitious Evil
Surreptitious Evil
5 years ago

You really ought to remove the spare carriage returns from the quoted text. I’d remove the centre alignment as well.

Surreptitious Evil
Surreptitious Evil
5 years ago

You really ought to remove the spare carriage returns from the quoted text. I’d remove the centre alignment as well.

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