Brothers and sisters, what are we doing wrong?
According to data compiled by Oxfam:
Eight men own the same wealth as the 3.6 billion people who make up the poorest half of humanity, according to a new report published by Oxfam today to mark the annual meeting of political and business leaders in Davos.
Here’s the report’s summary.
And here’s the full report.
Financial Journalist Felix Salmon has a problem with Oxfam’s methodology:
What Oxfam’s misleading stat gets wrong about inequality.
Makes for good headlines and shares, though. Right about the same time every year. Worldwide wealth and income disparity is indeed extreme. So why make shit up?
I guess what where I would quibble with this writer is that debt, the lower you go on the food chain, tends not to be for college, or for a business loan, or for any other amount of cash that might be construed, as he says, as an investment. It’s for survival, and the person who is indebted hasn’t a chance in hell of paying it back — certainly not like a college student or a business owner. But I take his point.
There’s lots of ways to spin the Credit Suisse data used in the Oxfam report. I went with Salmon because he’s Keynesian, he was right about the 2008 crash, and he wasn’t part of the right wing echo chamber.
My problem isn’t with the basic assumption of the Oxfam report: Inequality Bad! It’s that by using questionable methodology, that assumption is too easily discounted by conservative economists, rendering the whole thing essentially useless. Except for maybe clickbait and fundraising close to the World Economic Forum in Davos. The WEF did, as a matter of fact, cite wealth and income disparity as a leading cause of nationalist populism, which they regard, this year, as a significant threat to Business As Usual.
I miss the days when I thought “populism” strictly meant “of the people,” as opposed to “of the nativist people.”
Populism can be exploited by both Right and Left. I think that was obvious this last election cycle.
Right wing populism conflates equality with a homogeneity that excludes groups that it recognizes as “durably different”: Immigrants. African Americans. Latinos. Muslims. And the poor. Think Trump and the Tea Party. Racism and social conservatism informs their notion of durable difference.
Left wing populism is inherently more inclusive, but too often lacks a homogeneity that completely rejects the idea of durable difference. Think identity politics and tokenism. Difference is still durable, but for different reasons. It’s always somebody else’s fault.
When you add nationalism to either Left or Right wing populism, bad things happen. Nationalism feeds on ressentiment and enmity. It embeds durable difference into the populist rhetoric of both camps, which creates division, not unity. And defeats the internationalism necessary for a full embrace of multiculturalism. And can be, as the WEF warns, just plain bad for busine$$.
Historically, by my reading, populism has always included a least a whiff of nationalism, which is easily exploited, manipulated, etc. My head hurts.
That’s very true. Especially in the United States.
Leave a comment