Monday, January 16, 2017

Oxfam and post-truth statistics

Every intelligent and well informed person knows that the world contains some extremely rich individuals and billions of poor individuals, some of whom are very poor indeed.

Every intelligent and well-informed person knows that a relatively small number of rich individuals own a much higher proportion of the world's wealth than many millions of very poor people.

Every well-informed and compassionate person thinks it would be a good thing to do something to help those very poor people and millions of those compassionate people give some of their money to good causes to help achieve that. Three of the world's eight richest people have given particularly enormous amounts of their money to try to help the poor, spread education, and fight disease.

I can see why Oxfam would want to highlight the undoubted fact that there are many poor people in the world who desperately need help and encourage people to do something to provide that help.

What I cannot understand is why they think it helps the world's poor to pump out statistics which, as the IEA correctly points out here, are as misleading as the £350 million a week claim and all the other exaggerated numbers produced by both sides in the recent EU referendum campaign.

It is ludicrous to treat someone who has just graduated from Harvard with a law degree or from Oxford with a qualification likely to prove equally lucrative as one of the world's poorest people.

They don't need to include that sort of distortion in their figures to make the perfectly valid point that there are a lot of very poor people in the world who need our help, so why do it?

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