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Mark Littlewood comments on Oxfam's inequality report

Commenting on Oxfam’s report which claims that eight people own the same wealth as half the world, Mark Littlewood, Director General at the Institute of Economic Affairs, said:

Once again Oxfam have come out with a report that demonises capitalism, conveniently skimming over the fact that free markets have helped over 100 million people rise out of poverty in the last year alone.

Their claim that eight people own the same wealth as half the world is as spurious as their methodology – adding assets and subtracting wealth to make ‘net wealth’ – implies that some of the ‘poorest’ in the world are those with high debts. It is misleading at best to label the average university graduate who has accumulated £50,000 of debt among the world’s poorest, without any consideration of their future earning potential.

Aggregating net wealth figures is largely meaningless headline fodder. Unfortunately there are some corrupt countries where wealth is accumulated at the expense of the poor but this is a case for tackling big government, not bashing free markets.

As an ‘anti-poverty’ charity, Oxfam seem to be strangely preoccupied with the rich. For those concerned with eradicating absolute poverty completely, the focus should be on ensuring the right institutional frameworks are in place to encourage economic growth, instead of obsessing over the wealthy.

Notes to editors

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The mission of the Institute of Economic Affairs is to improve understanding of the fundamental institutions of a free society by analysing and expounding the role of markets in solving economic and social problems.

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