Home >Opinion >Quick Edit >Opinion | Anxiety over inequality

According to an Oxfam International report, titled Time To Care, global inequality is “out of control". Blame has duly been assigned to biased economic systems that tend to disadvantage women while allowing billionaires to amass huge fortunes of their own. This, of course, is the view of Oxfam, the famous do-gooder organization that doesn’t lay much store by capitalism. But facts are facts. If 22 of the world’s richest men have more wealth than all the women in Africa, it tells us something about male dominance. And if the wealth of 63 Indian billionaires taken together exceeds the sum at New Delhi’s disposal in last year’s Budget, it speaks of how poorly we’re living up to the country’s egalitarian ideals.

Before anyone jumps to decry billionaires, it must be noted that it’s an apples-vs-oranges comparison. Unlike a budget, their wealth is not an annual figure of the money at their disposal. It’s a stock, not a flow, and it’s mostly locked up in assets. Mostly, they’re so rich because the market value of their assets is high. If they start selling some of these (shares, for example), their value could crash. Of course, they could still use their funds for philanthropic ends.

The causes of inequality should get more attention. Why women own and earn so little—most put in plenty of unpaid labour—needs to be addressed socially. Oxfam, however, would have the wealthy taxed heavily for governments to uplift the poor. This assumes: one, that states are good at this; and two, that the wealthy won’t find an escape. Neither are very realistic. The classic tax-and-spend model sounds good on paper, but has had a record of poor outcomes.

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