Thursday, January 30, 2014

Economic inequality

Oxfam has recently released a new briefing on economic inequality around the world that is well worth perusing. Among the Oxfam findings of particular note are:

• Almost half of the world’s wealth is now owned by just one percent of the population.
Source: ‘Global Wealth Report 2013’.Zurich: Credit Suisse

• The wealth of the one percent richest people in the world amounts to $110 trillion. That’s 65 times the total wealth of the bottom half of the world’s population.
The bottom half of the world’s population owns the same as the richest 85 people in the world.
The bottom half of the world’s population owns the same as the richest 85 people in the world.
• Seven out of ten people live in countries where economic inequality has increased in the last 30 years.
• The richest one percent increased their share of income in 24 out of 26 countries for which we have data between 1980 and 2012.
• In the US, the wealthiest one percent captured 95 percent of post-financial crisis growth since 2009, while the bottom 90 percent became poorer.

The Oxfam report traces the correlations between, on the one hand, financial deregulation, declining marginal tax rates, and parental socio-economic level and, on the other hand, increasing economic inequality. The data speaks loudly and clearly: the wealthy are using their influence national political systems to give them preferential treatment.

Oxfam tied the release of its briefing paper to coincide with the annual summit of world economic leaders in Davos, Switzerland. Policies that Oxfam believes will contribute to improved economic equality and opportunity include:

• Cracking down on financial secrecy and tax dodging;

• Redistributive transfers; and strengthening of social protection schemes;

• Investment in universal access to healthcare and education;

• Progressive taxation;

• Strengthening wage floors and worker rights;

• Removing the barriers to equal rights and opportunities for women.

Those recommendations are consistent with the Christian economic agenda that I have commended in previous Ethical Musings posts. Saying that one is a Christian is, in most parts of the world, easy and cost-free. Acting like a Christian is the real test of one's spiritual identity.


Travis Cork said...

Father Clifford;

You might find "What Every Christian Should Know About Income Inequality" on the Acton blog interesting.

Travis Cork
Conway, SC

George Clifford said...

The Acton blog is not helpful. Great disparities in income are wrong; the parable of the talents is not about income distribution; the problem of income inequality is compounded by an even more disturbing inequality of wealth.

Anonymous said...

Father Clifford;

To implement the Oxfam vision will require some body, i.e., government, to do it. Who in government has that ability?
If it is wrong (and it is) for wealthy to capture government for its advantage, why is it not wrong for the less wealthy to do so?
You may not like Lord Acton, but his statement that power corrupts has been proven beyond a doubt, whether that power is used by a crony-capitalist or the Presiding Bishop.

Travis Cork

George Clifford said...

Government does not have to exercise absolute power - hence the rationale for checks and balances, periodic elections, etc. Shifting government's priority from crony capitalism (your phrase) to protecting the least vulnerable (a Biblical concept) does not mean that the least vulnerable should exercise absolute power. Indeed, in a healthy society the least vulnerable would comprise a constantly shifting group rather than a permanent underclass.

Stan Theman said...

Please say "It's wrong-and here's why" instead of "It's not helpful"; you'd sound less Caspar Milquetoast, less devious and much less like you're begging the question-Helpful how;what are you trying to do? (A pair of scissors is great for cutting paper; for mowing the lawn, not so much)
How about your own church (and churches like it)leading the way-and not just with slogans, banners and resolutions that nobody except those who write them will even know exist? Demand that your "affiliated schools" accept the same proportion of "most vulnerable" students as their percentage in the general population, with at least partial scholarship. Renounce your tax breaks and clergy housing allowances; why not lead the way in paying your fair share?