back to article Oxfam, you're full of FAIL. Leave economics to sensible bods

As I become ever more viciously right wing with age, I become ever more disappointed with Oxfam. It's not just because I have left behind the views of Genghis and am galloping up close behind Attila. It's rather that the organisation itself has changed from being that well-meaning, thoroughly humanitarian organisation that …

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  1. GettinSadda

    Good Grief!

    It's like being told by an Eton toff that I don't have a right to complain about being hungry because these modern food banks are really rather spiffing!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Good Grief!

      What are you complaining about? Not happy with bingo tax relief and 1p discount on a pint? The Tories are very proud of their pro-plebs budget....

    2. AVee

      Re: Good Grief!

      Well, if the food banks work as expected you wouldn't be hungry and you indeed wouldn't have the right to complain about it. The food banks don't even have to be spiffy, they need to be functional. That still leaves enough to be said about how desirable or effective a specific solution to your hunger is, who should provide it, who actually needs it etc. But no, you can't complain about bing hungry if your not actually hungry. Just like the queen can't complain about being poor.

    3. DavCrav Silver badge

      Re: Good Grief!

      His point was that, as someone with a few thousand pounds in positive wealth, I am *also* richer than the bottom 10-20% of people in society, because they have negative wealth. And because they have negative wealth, adding them together makes an even more negative number. *Anyone* is richer than the collection of all people in negative wealth, including people in negative wealth!

    4. Jim 59

      Comment magnet

      Obviously a comment troll but if you can't beat 'em, join 'em...

      In my view this article is a flow of shock-jock verbage covering a threadbare line of reasoning which would promptly melt in the crucible of any serious analysis. I have seen more nuanced argument in a rap video.

      The author says that the "bottom 10 or 20%" of Britons are in "negative wealth", meaning insolvent, or with liabilities exceeding assets. He supports this with several daft statements:

      "You can be running along in a well paid job, be renting, carry a bit of credit card debt and have no net wealth."

      No. Renters in good employment generally have savings >0, or larger, often with the eventual aim of buying a property. Credit card debt ? No. The possessions you bought on credit have value to balance against the debt, except in cases of gross fecklessness.

      "Take a newly minted graduate carrying £30k odd of student debt. Unless they're from the lucky sperm club they've got negative wealth"

      No. 30k of student loan is not like 30k of real debt. It is a a limited liability, legally enshrined with guaranteed favourable terms, means testing and slow repayment. Otherwise, students not from the "lucky sperm club" would have to declare bankruptcy on their first day of employment. Absurd.

      "But then the state pension is also wealth"

      No it is income.

      "The right to live in a council house at a subsidised rent of the rest of your life is wealth"

      It may be considered a moral benefit in the wider sense, but not wealth. Wealth is assets, your property, ie. that which you control. You have only marginal control of your council house. Because it isn't yours.

      "...given the existence of possible negative wealth, then of course one person or another in the UK will have more wealth than the entire lowest swathe".

      For Pete's sake. One rich person may have more wealth then the sum of people with genuine NW, but those people number far fewer than your "bottom 10 or 20%", which you have deliberately overstated simply in order to equate it with Oxfam's "20%". Furthermore, you have argued that insolvency is widespread and that the poor are therefore actually much poorer than Oxfam has claimed. Rebuttal FAIL.

      Should have stopped at "rap video".

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Comment magnet

        You've obviously completed missed the entire point of the article - which is that what we consider wealth is absurd - so all the points you're making about what he considers wealth not technically being wealth are in fact not only pointed out in the article, but the entire point of it. The author was trying to make the point that while what Oxfam has said is technically correct, it is based on technical definitions that are completely misleading.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sort of agree

    But, of the main 'feed the starving' charities they are still my favourite.

    I like there stand on Israel for example.

    Could they be better ? absolutely.

    But given the choice of giving money to Oxfam or Christian Aid, it goes to oxfam every time.

    1. Ben Liddicott

      Erm... really?

      Why does a "feed the hungry" charity need to have a position on the Israel/Palestine question?

      Why do they need a position on Global Warming? Or Social Justice?

      I would have plenty of time for them if they stuck to feeding the hungry and clothing the naked.

      But that's not glamorous enough, it seems.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Erm... really?

        Yes, why can't they just shut up and fix what our society breaks, without calling us out? Prole free speech is such a burden.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Erm... really?

          They are supposed to be a "Feed the hungry" charity (it's in the name - Oxford Committee for Famine Relief) not a right social wrongs charity.

          People giving money to a "feed the hungry" charity expect it to be spent on feeding the hungry, not espousing political viewpoints (Israel, social injustice etc) that the donor may or may not agree with.

          1. Jim 59

            Re: Erm... really?

            It is a problem when charities become overly political, and when they start to pay their executives like bankers. I my view, charity is a good activity, it implies self-sacrifice, not something you do for money. Sure, they could argue that the poor can be helped via politics, but that is somebody else's job, not the charitiy's. And to pay the CEO megabucks is not compatible with acts of charity. Just my view.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Erm... really?

            There is an social/economics theory that suggests that famines only happen in despotic states, since otherwise the lack of food causes social unrest that encourages those in power to change thing to fix the situation.

            Closest geographic example is the Irish Famine which occurred while Ireland was exporting large quantities of food to England, which undermines the natural disaster/act-of-god storyline that people often find more appealing when it comes to famines.

            So, having to "feed the hungry" might be entirely unnecessary if you find another way to offer "relief" from "famine" by altering the social wrongs and injusticies that lead to famines occuring in the first place.

      2. Evil Auditor Silver badge
        Trollface

        @Ben Liddicott

        Are you anti-pron?

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Erm... really?

        "Why do they need a position on Global Warming? Or Social Justice?"

        Because where they used to be privately funded to do things that didn't involve government, Oxfam (and a number of other large charities) are now ghastly, incestuous NGO's, busy lobbying and "advising" government, AND funded by the government through the departments they are lobbying to change the policies of.

        So in 2013, guess what proportion of Oxfam income came from government? I'll tell you: 41%, amounting to £159.8m. Politicians (including the current government) and civil servants are still drunk on the levels of endless debt fuelled public spending and waste that Gordon Brown masterminded, and they really think that giving £160m of taxpayer's money to Oxfam is "austerity". I've had a look at a couple of other large charities, and the same is true for them.

        Strange how on so many issues government won't listen to the voters, yet are only too happy to listen to the people they are giving taxpayers money to by the bucket load.

        1. Alan_Peery

          Re: Erm... really?

          > So in 2013, guess what proportion of Oxfam income came from government? I'll tell you: 41%, amounting to £159.8m.

          Interesting. Was there any breakdown as to how much of that was Gift Aid matching? I ask because I personally would consider Gift Aid matching not to be the government funding the charity as such, and more as an awkward patch to the tax code so that income given to charity is taxed less.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Erm... really?

            >> So in 2013, guess what proportion of Oxfam income came from government? I'll tell you: 41%, amounting to £159.8m.

            > Was there any breakdown as to how much of that was Gift Aid matching?

            Oxfam had a total income of £368 million in 2012/13.

            A little over £10 million of this was in Gift Aid.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Erm... really?

            "Was there any breakdown as to how much of that was Gift Aid matching?"

            None. Gift aid is specifically included in the voluntary income side of things, and at a quick glance I don't see that they break down the Grant Aid versus actual donated sums. If we guess that 30% of voluntary income was gift aided, then we're talking about £30m of gift aid coming from the taxman. That wasn't included in my government funding figure, although I personally still see that as government spending because it was paid in tax, and is subsequently directed by the state into the hands of a charity.

            I should also point out that the £160m of government funding wasn't just or directly the UK government because it includes other governments, multilateral agencies (all ultimately tax payer funded), Oxfam associate charities with no visibility on their funding. And it doesn't include an £11m contribution from DFID for "partnership programme arrangements". In the round about £160m seems a sufficiently accurate ball park figure for the money that one way or another Oxfam doesn't get from private or commercial donors.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Erm... really?

              > If we guess that 30% of voluntary income was gift aided, then we're talking about £30m of gift aid

              You are incorrect. They received £53.8 million in "regular giving" which included all the gift aid. About 20% of that would have been the actual gift aid making it about £10 million.

              One of the other things Oxfam (and others) do is move money around their associated charities which inflates the non-governmental income. As an example a charity might have a government income of say £40 million. If they then donate £20 million to some of their international branches and receive back £20 million from other international branches their income now appears as £60 million - £40 million from government and £20 million from other sources. Additionally, the £20 million appears as charitable spending.

      4. rh587

        Re: Erm... really?

        "Why does a "feed the hungry" charity need to have a position on the Israel/Palestine question?"

        Pretty much exactly why a bunch of Student Unions broke away from the NUS over the past 15 years. Their reps got bored of going to the Annual Conference and sitting through days of debates on what the NUS position should be on Israel/Palestine, arms dealing, or other matters broadly irrelevant to students, and only of interest to the few political activists who were practising for a career in national politics.

        And paying affiliation north of £60k/yr for the privilege.

        They saved their money and poured it into the media departments, sports union, bars and cafe - things that directly improved the facilities available to the students.

        The NUS, seeing affiliations dropping are starting to reform before they go bust, but there's a fair few Unions - Southampton at the head of them - who don't see much reason to go back unless it's going to pay for itself (which at the last referendum on rejoining was somewhere to the order of £80k/yr).

        1. Corinne

          Re: Erm... really?

          Similar thing with me, I quit being a union rep in my youth because I thought that the purpose of the local union committee was to look after the needs of the members in that area - instead, we'd spend the whole of the union meeting discussing things like fair trade coffee & whether we should go on a work to rule to support some totally unrelated industry sector who were striking over "only" getting an 18% pay rise that year (this was in the days before sympathy striking was banned, we'd had a rise of around 5% that year)

          1. Ted Treen
            Unhappy

            Re: Erm... really?

            Not only that, but why do so many charities need a CEO on upwards of £150k p.a.?

            Add to that a chief fundraiser on @£95k, and various 'strategists' on anything between £65k and £75k per annum, and I am beginning to have just the teeniest suspicion that our old friend "Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy" is sneaking in here...

            Iron Law of Bureaucracy

            In any bureaucracy, the people devoted to the benefit of the bureaucracy itself always get in control and those dedicated to the goals the bureaucracy is supposed to accomplish have less and less influence, and sometimes are eliminated entirely.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Erm... really?

              @Ted Treen - You may complain about the amount of money a CEO of a major charity earns, but £150k is much less than in the private sector and I would be the first to complain if they gave the job to someone with no qualifications because they only want minimum wage. They need to have a good CEO because they need someone who understands how a to deal with a large organisation, you don't get this for free.

              1. localzuk

                Re: Erm... really?

                Its quite surprising that so many supposedly intelligent people (I generally think of the readers of this site as intelligent) don't understand the links between global warming, the middle east situation, social justice and hunger.

                Does Oxfam really need to just be sending bags of rice to people, and not campaigning and working to prevent the problems that cause hunger in the first place?

                Why do places suffer with famine? Lack of food? Not really, no. There's plenty of food to go around. Usually, its some form of social injustice - such as war, discrimination, social inequality etc...

                Sticking a plaster on a severed limb never really helps. Nor does shipping bags of rice to hungry people.

                1. TheFatMan

                  Re: Erm... really?

                  "............. never really helps. Nor does shipping bags of rice to hungry people."

                  I think you'll find that the hungry people in question would disagree

                  1. localzuk

                    Re: Erm... really?

                    @TheFatMan

                    Sure, at the moment they get the rice. But when they run out again after a few days? Do they spend the rest of their lives living purely off hand outs? Would *you* want to live like that? Or would you want the cause of their hunger to be resolved and not have to take handouts?

                2. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: Erm... really?

                  Indeed, Oxfam has done economic modelling which shows that shipping bags of rice to hungry people is a really bad idea.

                  It is actually far more effective to give them economic power. If they have money, the food will come.

                3. Apriori

                  Re: Erm... really?

                  Actually it is usually some idiot ideology dating from hundreds to thousands of years old which has "all the answers", and usually involves large scale death for those who don't agree which is responsible for most disasters of any duration.

                  Natural disasters, which appear to be getting fewer in number - can now be addressed by well organised outfits such as the US Navy (our ships will be along soon if we can get them back from the scrapyard) and transport of food can be arranged by air to anywhere on the planet in around 24 hours.

              2. Smig

                Re: Erm... really?

                If they're taking a salary, they are no longer being CHARITABLE.

                Bureaucracy top-heavy "charities" are now Non-Governmental Organisations with favourable tax liabilities.

            2. opaque

              Re: Erm... really?

              The basic answer is these people have the contacts and do the work to know people who will donate massive amounts of money in terms of time, exposure, cash and resources.

              If you went in as the Oxfam CEO for free you have saved them £150,000. But can you get an event together than can raise £3 million for Oxfam?

              It sounds mentally high, but there are reasons behind it.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Erm... really?

                > If you went in as the Oxfam CEO for free you have saved them £150,000. But can you get an event together than can raise £3 million for Oxfam?

                The CEO doesn't fulfil that function. They employ 146 people in their marketing division to do this.

          2. endorendil

            Re: Erm... really?

            I guess you were wrong in your youth, but of course, we all were at some point. It's called growing up. In your case, you must have realized by now that globalisation means that things like global trade agreements and working conditions at the other side of the world affect your local situation. Now, if you think that unions are not the place to study this and find answers, that's one thing. But if you believe that the political class (or worse, the very rich themselves) are going to even *want* to find answers, you have not lost your youthful naivety. Good for you!

        2. rh587

          Re: Erm... really?

          Hmm, downvote. Guess someone from the NUS reads El Reg.

          What's wrong? Still smarting from Southampton telling you to bog off. Again. In 2012?

          1. DrBobMatthews

            Re: Erm... really?

            No I'm not smarting I am trying to contain my laughter at a self opinionated idiot making a fool of himself in public. Higher education in your case tells me two things, 1) It was wasted on you 2) Facts are absolutely a worthless currency when manipulated by patronising morons. Enjoy.

            1. gazthejourno (Written by Reg staff)

              moderator hat on

              Dr Bob Matthews. Stop being abusive, please. This is your one and only warning.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Erm... really?

          I recall a certain Scottish university with a strong tradition in science, engineering, and other subjects (the closest it had to an "arty" subject was Landscape Architecture). It had a student association that was not affiliated to the NUS. There were a few occasions during which there were moves to make the linkup with the NUS but these came to naught until the university absorbed an arts college and the average political position moved leftwards.

          The male:female ratio of the campus (10:1?) probably had an effect on the political stance. I saw a SNP candidate go down badly at a meeting when they criticised the Falklands War.

      5. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @Ben

        "Why does a "feed the hungry" charity need to have a position on the Israel/Palestine question?"

        er.. because some of those hungry, and starved of medical supplies, etc are IN Palestine and being MADE hungry by the Israelis.

        1. James12345
          FAIL

          Re: @Ben

          "er.. because some of those hungry, and starved of medical supplies, etc are IN Palestine and being MADE hungry by the Israelis."

          Repeating lies endlessly doesn't make them true.

          There are no restrictions on food and medicine by Israel that affect Palestinians (either Jewish or Arab) in Israel, the PA, Gaza or Israeli controlled areas of Judea and Samaria.

          You may just be ignorant, rather than racist, so I'll give you the benefit of the doubt, and say that I think you are confusing what is being done by whom, and when you say Israel, you actually mean Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Egypt, all who restrict Arab Palestinians (the Jewish Palestinians have either been killed or kicked out, so no need to worry about them as a group in these places) access to all sorts of basic facilities, including food and medicine.

          1. Hans 1 Silver badge

            Re: @Ben

            @ James12345

            Read/lockup "jewish voice for peace" and I think you will understand what is going on. Your gibberish is completely baseless, biased, and, worse, untrue. JVP are Israeli PALESTINIANS (who have NOT been kicked out) and JEWS (among many others) who want Israel and Palestine to live side-by-side peacefully.

            Again, there are quite a few Jews (a majority, in fact) in this group and they clearly claim that Israel is bombing hospitals, poising water supplies etc etc ... Now, they live over there, so I guess they know what they are saying/seeing ...

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: @Ben

              > Read/lockup "jewish voice for peace" ... Now, they live over there, so I guess they know ...

              From wiki: Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) (קול יהודי לשלום Kol Yehudi la-Shalom) is a United States organization ...

            2. James12345

              Re: @Ben

              @ Hans 1

              As I said in my first post - Repeating lies endlessly doesn't make them true.

              I think it is "your gibberish that is completely baseless, biased, and, worse, untrue".

              First of all, it is the former Jewish communities in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Egypt that were being referenced when I said kicked out - read what is written in my post you would have understood. If however you insist that the Jewish Israelis are the source of all evil in the world, any evidence to the contrary will be ignored by you and dismissed.

              Now, getting back hungry Palestinians, compare and contrast:

              http://edition.cnn.com/2014/01/15/world/meast/syria-palestinian-refugees-starving/

              https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=palestinians+starving+in+gaza&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ei=DQUwU7zrAa3b7Ab3t4DIBg&ved=0CAkQ_AUoAQ&biw=1174&bih=752

              Regarding living side by side, it has consistently been the majority in Israel who support living in peace side by side with its neighbours. Within the Arab Palestinian community it isn't always the majority view. The level of support of peacefully coexistence is also consistently higher in the Israel community than it is in the Arab one.

              JVP is an anti-Israel pressure group and is founded on the principle of removing Israel from the map of the world. I wouldn't take their word as being unbiased if I were you.

              Finally, I would be very careful about making unfounded accusations of well poisoning - this is a historical anti-Semitic meme.

      6. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Erm... really?

        Why does a "feed the starving" charity have a position on "social justice"

        Just try to think for a second and you may come up with an answer.

      7. gbru2606

        Re: Erm... really?

        Because NGO's in the poverty business got wise in the end to the fact that their delivery of bags of rice to starving people was being used by governments and media to build a false picture of a benevolent Western World when in fact we were busy pillaging developing countries natural resources and skilled professionals, toppling democratically elected leaders and using our development aid to bribe crooked dictators to buy British made munitions and engineering. The NGO's have exposed multiple corruptions at the heart of British government and industry over the decades.

      8. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Erm... really?

        http://voiceofthepersecuted.wordpress.com/2014/03/22/why-the-media-doesnt-cover-jihadist-attacks-on-middle-east-christians/

        Wy do we fuss about palestinians when anther ethnic group, middle easern Christains are being extirapated ?

    2. BongoJoe

      Re: Sort of agree

      I object to Oxfam because of their massive cost base and they meddle in politics.

      There is one, and only one, 'Starving Charity' that I support: http://www.dafa.co.uk/

    3. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge

      Re: Sort of agree

      ...But given the choice of giving money to Oxfam or Christian Aid, it goes to oxfam every time.

      Given the choice of giving money to Oxfam or Christian Aid, it goes in my pocket. I don't like charities run as businesses.

      There are very few charities which are not part of the problem rather than part of the solution. One honourable exception is the RNLI.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Sort of agree

        You might also want to look at Medicins Sans Frontiers/Doctors Without Borders. They don't have political stances of any kind and accept no money from any government.

        The red cross is also worth looking at, thought they do get a bit political. They haven't stooped to having an opinion on Global Warming yet though.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Sort of agree

        Ok, you don't like charities run as businesses, fair enough. Personally I damn well want to know that any charity I give to is run as a business. I don't want feckless but well meaning people spaffing money up the wall in an ill advised and inefficient attemt to do good. I want a cold hard business mind understanding the best place to put the money for the best effect.

        Also, if you think the RNLI aren't run as a business, you don't understand the first thing about them. If they weren't run as a business, they wouldn't be able to own and manage millions of pounds of assets, they wouldn't be able to launch the first lifeboat in anything like a timely manner and they wouldn't be able to properly schedule the lifeguards they put on beaches.

  3. Eradicate all BB entrants

    More from .....

    ..... Tim please.

    How about Greenpeace's increasingly militant activism against companies like BP when they fuel their aging and highly polluting ships with BP fuel oil?

    As for my own personal view of charities, if they employ people to lobby the government for money and law changes, they are no longer a charity but a quango and should have their charitable status removed. Begging me for money, not paying tax then begging my government for money paid in taxes by me is a slimy practice.

    1. EssEll

      Re: More from .....

      "Begging me for money, not paying tax then begging my government for money paid in taxes by me is a slimy practice."

      Two points: Firstly, "not paying tax" is a right given to all charities by the government and suggesting otherwise is disingenuous. Secondly (and I appreciate this is a bit of a rose tinted view) if I run a charity I'm damn well going to make sure I get my money from as many different sources as possible.

      1. dogged

        Re: More from .....

        > if I run a charity I'm damn well going to make sure I get my money from as many different sources as possible.

        I need to correct a misapprehension here.

        If you collect from the public and the government, you collect from the public twice except in the second instance without their knowledge or consent.

        1. Hans 1 Silver badge

          Re: More from .....

          What you give to charities is always on top of what they get from the government - you did not know that ?

      2. Eradicate all BB entrants

        Re: More from .....

        @EssEll

        Two Points: Firstly, I did not suggest in any way shape or form that the tax free status is only applied to Oxfam. Suggesting otherwise is disingenuous. Secondly (and this in a non rose tinted view) if I tell your chugger on the street 'no, I do not wish to donate', I wouldn't expect them to pick my pocket as I walked away.

        1. EssEll

          Re: More from .....

          I was not accusing you of being disingenuous for suggesting that only Oxfam benefited from a tax-free status, I was accusing you of being disingenuous for suggesting that it was in someway underhand.

          And your pick-pocketing chugger allegory is funny, but incomplete. We - collectively - put that chugger on the street; we - collectively - knew he was going to nick our wallet; we - collectively - let him spend the money on whatever he wants.

          So the next election that comes round, step up and vote for a different brand of thief.

          1. Eradicate all BB entrants

            Re: More from .....

            'Firstly, "not paying tax" is a right given to all charities by the government and suggesting otherwise is disingenuous'

            That's exactly what did by only quoting the not paying tax part, you used it out of context. I think it's nice that they get a tax break on donations, as the donor gets to help a cause they believe is worthy and stick two fingers up to the taxman at the same time.

            I just don't think it is right they get to opt out of the tax club and benefit even more from those who don't have that choice. We complain that the poorest people in this country have to pay taxes to fund MP's high salaries, but it's perfectly ok for those same people to help boost a private organisations coffers by almost £150 million?

      3. Squander Two

        Re: More from ..... @ EssEll

        > if I run a charity I'm damn well going to make sure I get my money from as many different sources as possible.

        Then you're a fool.

        Money comes with strings. Charities have taken the Government's money only to find that that Government starts to dictate policy at some point down the line. Charities are being slowly put out of business because the Government are now actively competing with them via their funding of a rival charity -- and have indeed created the poisonous concept of a rival charity in the first place. In some sectors (social work), there's so much state money sloshing around now that charities are effectively faced with a choice between becoming a branch of the state or going under.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: More from .....

      Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and others get around the lobbying issue through slight of hand.

      They operate both a charity and a business. The charity gets the donations (and the tax breaks) and pays the business for the use of its office facilities and staff. The business doesn't make a profit (if it did it would just donate it to the charity) so doesn't pay tax and is free to lobby on anything it likes because it isn't a charity.

  4. Chris Miller

    The other thing these 'rich lists' tend to ignore (partly because it's much more difficult to find out) is how much debt the wealthy have. The Queen may be in the clear, but Maxwell would have been on the Sunday Times rich list until he went for his long swim and it turned out his wealth was negative too. I'm sure there are lots of current members of the club to whom this would equally apply.

    1. Roo

      "The other thing these 'rich lists' tend to ignore (partly because it's much more difficult to find out) is how much debt the wealthy have."

      Finding out the debts held by the toffs & celebutards won't happen often because a significant chunk of their income depends on them being perceived as being "successful" or "wealthy"... You can't run a personality cult/ponzi scheme any other way. ;)

  5. This post has been deleted by its author

  6. Jim Lewis

    Deiberately missing the point???

    Your argument is all very well. The proles will have the opportunity to get a council house, get into student debt and possibly, if they're very lucky earn £100,000 or own a business, so far so good.

    What they will never do is unseat the landed gentry and prise the majority of those assets out of the hands of the descendants of someone awarded in the dark annals of history for some forgotten act of loyalty.

    A neat demonstration of how limited are the 'normal' persons rights is in the new fracking debate.

    If you happen to own property the fracking may take place beneath, guess what, it belongs to those families that everything has always belonged to.

    No possibility of any redestribution there is there? Hence the political sop of throwing a few coins out of the carriage window to the street urchins whose communities will be blighted.

    In the US by contrast you'd be paid a handsome royalty as you own the land and its mineral rights.

    (See also wind farm incomes on crown estate, also going to royals etc.)

    1. Mike 140
      Headmaster

      Re: Deiberately missing the point???

      In the UK, gas and oil belong to the state. See https://www.bgs.ac.uk/mineralsuk/planning/legislation/mineralOwnership.html.

      Ownership of the land above it is irrelevant.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Deiberately missing the point???

      "What they will never do is unseat the landed gentry and prise the majority of those assets out of the hands of the descendants of someone awarded in the dark annals of history for some forgotten act of loyalty."

      Are you kidding? The number of estates crashed in the inter-war periods, and on into the fifties. Downton Abbey has alluded to it, but here in the real world I know a farmer who lives in the "servants quarters" (more like a sizeable manor house!) of a stately home that was demolished in the thirties when the family ran out of money to run the estate and fix the dry rot in the house. The footprint is still there - the place was colossal - but like hundreds up and down the country they went bust, their tenant farmers bought the land, or it was otherwise split up with "middle class" tradesmen of "new money" buying up parcels of land from the aristocrats whose "old money" had run out.

      His father started out in a small house, built up his farm field by field and when the big house came up with a plot of land they had that as well.

      Many tenant farms that weren't bought from the gentry by new businessmen were snapped up by councils, who now rent them out to tenant farmers at sensible prices.

      Yes, obviously there is inequality, and always will be. But there is no comparison between the situation a century ago and the situation today where anyone can rent a farm off their council (if they have a good business plan and there's a tenancy available), build up their own business or their own property. Try doing that even 60 years ago when all the land worth counting was owned by a big estate and you rented it from whoever sat in the manor, or it was a father-to-son farm in which case you're still not getting in on the act.

      Of course some business-minded gentry embraced modern farming practices, were successful and took the opportunity to expand their estates, but many folded and the land fell into non-aristocratic ownership, with the big houses either acquired by the National Trust, the YHA (e.g. Ilam Hall hostel) or demolished because they were uneconomical to run and maintain.

      My brother dated a "Lady" for a while, who went to the local comprehensive with him - the family passed over the big house to the NT a while back and there was no land left to go with the title anyway. She has a special pass that gets her free entry for life as the site includes the family crypt and more specifically her mother's grave.

      Similarly a distant cousin is now a "Lady" having married a Baronet, but there's nothing to go with the title. A lot of people don't even bother putting the title on their documentation.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Deiberately missing the point???

        You do know that Downton Abbey is fictional don't you?

        Thanks to primogeniture there are plenty of skint folk related to noble families, however the eldest inherited and they, generally, have kept the wealth.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Deiberately missing the point???

          "You do know that Downton Abbey is fictional don't you?"

          Yes, obviously. However, I thought it spoke well of Julian Fellowes that rather than focus entirely on the mushy love and marriage stuff he drew from history, such as the issues many farmers faced when the next generation of farmers and labourers failed to come back from the continent, and many estates went under.

          In that case he's chosen to portray Downton as one of the estates that modernised - driven by a fresh set of eyes (Matthew) and a socialist who sits at odds with the status-quo (Tom), but he does not fail to also portray the rich newspaper magnate (Richard Carlisle) who is briefly engaged to Lady Mary as acquiring a country house from a family who have fallen on hard times as he aspires from city businessman to country landowner, and later they have the government house guest who is nosing around failing estates post-war to ensure national food security if the estates fold and make sure the farming continues.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Deiberately missing the point???

      Exactly. Any talk of free or efficient markets complertely ignores the fact that the overwhelming majority of the very rich have done nothing whatsoever to earn their assets, other than be born with the correct DNA. As a result of this, they are allowed to run governments and make laws to ensure that this state of affairs continues. Every time we read a report from the IMF, we need to remember that it was almost certainly written by people from this entitled group.

      As an example, the Welfare State is supposed to protect the poor. But one of the activities intended to do this involves giving money to the Duke of Westminster in rent support. That's right; we have evolved a system in which we are taxed to give money to the ultra-rich, and we call it welfare.

      The point is that extreme wealth trumps (perhaps that's a pun) genetics. This is how it has been possible to have monarchs who needed assistance with drooling. But it enables the possessor to buy cheerleaders. Murdoch can buy extreme right wing agitators and give them space in his newsapers. Others can set up university departments of economics and stuff them with people who owe their jobs to somebody else's money. Others can set up "think tanks" with suitably Latinate names, like Cicero, Cato, or Heritage.

      The usual argument from these people is that socialism failed. But, looking back over history, so did feudalism and monarchism. Currently, we are in the middle of a return to feudalism, with the barons replaced by commercial empires under effective individual control, who dictate policy to government under threat of taking their assets somewhere else, or downgrading government debt.

      What is an organisation like Oxfam to do? Try and nibble away at the margins, or try and focus on the reasons it needs to exist?

      1. BoldMan

        Re: Deiberately missing the point???

        You have GOT to be kidding me:

        "As an example, the Welfare State is supposed to protect the poor. But one of the activities intended to do this involves giving money to the Duke of Westminster in rent support. That's right; we have evolved a system in which we are taxed to give money to the ultra-rich, and we call it welfare."

        This is such a ridiculous statement - the "welfare state" IS "protecting the poor" by paying their rent to their Landlord. Who that Landlord may be is totally irrelevant to that requirement.

        1. A J Stiles

          Re: Deiberately missing the point???

          No.

          The point is that everyone sees a poor person claiming housing benefit; but what they forget is that every last penny of that benefit money winds up in the pockets of a rich landowner. And, Daily Mail scare stories ("How dare these poor people have nicer things than us???!!1!") notwithstanding, that poor person has no choice. They can't live in a cheaper house, because the rich landowners have already conspired amongst themselves to make sure there are no cheaper houses.

          Instead of limiting the amount of rent that (rich) landlords are allowed to charge (I suggest a fair figure would be 75% of the equivalent interest, excluding capital repayment, on a 25 year mortgage on the property, reviewed no less frequently than every 2 years. A mortgage will be paid off sooner or later, but you can keep on claiming rent as long as the property stands), the government instead use a "monstering" campaign to make it look as though the poorest in society are idle, undeserving scroungers and so garner public support for limiting the amount of housing benefit that (poor) people are allowed to claim. Totally glossing over whose fault it really is that the poor can't even afford a roof over their own heads.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Deiberately missing the point???

            because the rich landowners have already conspired amongst themselves to make sure there are no cheaper houses.

            Nonsensical hyperbole. There will always be a market for cheaper rental acommodation, and so there will always be landlords willing to offer it.

            1. AVee

              Re: Deiberately missing the point???

              Nonsensical hyperbole. There will always be a market for cheaper rental acommodation, and so there will always be landlords willing to offer it.

              There will always be more margin in higher end accommodation, so a sensible landlord will always rather provide that. No conspiracy, but the net effect is the same.

            2. A J Stiles

              Re: Deiberately missing the point???

              There will always be a market for cheaper rental acommodation, and so there will always be landlords willing to offer it.
              No ..... there won't.

              The rich landlords will just crank up the rent they demand to as much as they can get. The Government will pay most of what they are asking, and the tenant will simply have to make up the shortfall out of money that they might otherwise have saved for the future. And all the resentment will fall upon the benefit claimant, not the person who is actually getting fat off this.

              We need government intervention to ensure that renting a property never costs as much as buying it would.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Deiberately missing the point???

                The rich landlords will just crank up the rent they demand to as much as they can get. The Government will pay most of what they are asking, and the tenant will simply have to make up the shortfall out of money that they might otherwise have saved for the future.

                Good propaganda, but not borne out by the facts.

                I have friends with low and intermittent income, who still manage to find places to rent in London. Not every landlord is looking for fatcat city tenants. Lots of landlords are happy to work in the student rental market, which isn't a high-rent one, for example.

                You're perhaps confusing "high rent" with "high profit". A landlord who buys some cheap properties in a not very desirable area and rents them cheaply could well make a better return over a period of years than someone with a flash apartment in a desirable area who is competing with a dozen other buy-to-let owners and has to drop prices or accept long unlet periods between tenants. Some landlords also want security, good tenants, and are willing to pay fees to a letting agency to vet potential tenants and deal with any problems. The ones with the cheap properties probably rely on a couple of heavies they know from down the pub to sort out awkward renters.

                There is as big a spread of landlords as there is tenants, and whatever the market is, someone will be there to fill it. The "beds in sheds" phenomenon is one aspect of that, for example.

          2. Corinne
            FAIL

            Re: Deiberately missing the point???

            "(I suggest a fair figure would be 75% of the equivalent interest, excluding capital repayment, on a 25 year mortgage on the property"

            So it would be fair for the property owner to have to pay 25% of the interest, and pay all the maintenance and legal requirements (not insubstantial) and still pay off all the capital themselves? It would actually COST them a large amount of money every year for the privilege of renting a property, so there would be absolutely no reason to own a rental property.

            Maybe you think that would be A Good Thing, but plenty of people prefer to rent or may have the kind of job where they move around a lot so renting is the best option for them. Or just can't borrow the money from the banks to buy their own property. But no, there won't BE any rental properties because your lovely idealistic idea of limiting rents to under the interest payments would stop anyone from being a landlord.

            1. A J Stiles

              Re: Deiberately missing the point???

              So it would be fair for the property owner to have to pay 25% of the interest, and pay all the maintenance and legal requirements (not insubstantial) and still pay off all the capital themselves?
              Yes, that is exactly what I am proposing. (Apart, of course, from the fact that it will all eventually be paid by the tenant in the end.)

              If you intend to let out a property, then either you should have finished paying for it already; or you should expect to have to rent it out for longer than the 25 years it takes to pay off a mortgage in order to turn a profit. Houses are for living in, not making money out of.

              But no, there won't BE any rental properties because your lovely idealistic idea of limiting rents to under the interest payments would stop anyone from being a landlord.
              All those properties currently being rented out at extortionate rents aren't going to go anywhere; the landlords will just have to cut their expectations and make do with a fair (by definition, cheaper than buying) rent. (Did I mention that I would make keeping an empty property a punishable offence?)

              1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

                Re: Deiberately missing the point???

                Did I mention that I would make keeping an empty property a punishable offence?

                Sounds like a fast way to create a housing shortage, and push up rents. Are you sure you're not a capitalist landlord in disguise?

              2. Graham Dawson

                Re: Deiberately missing the point???

                You keep going on about these "rich landowners", as if all rental properties in the entire country are owned by some old-world duke on horseback waving a riding crop at everyone who dares look him in the eye.

                You have absolutely no idea of the economics of the rental market. I was going to wheel out a big pile of statistics of who owns most of the rental properties in the country (a hint: they are not rich) and explain just how little money renting actually brings in, but frankly it's not worth the effort. You'd either ignore it or resort to knocking down another legion of strawmen in your response.

              3. YetAnotherLocksmith

                Re: Deiberately missing the point???

                There are thousands of houses sitting empty, long term, across the country. Mostly held by land banks, they decay slowly and take the rest of the neighbourhood with it, leading to more empty houses, & so on, until the last few are bought out for a pittance, and the area gets levelled and turned into 'luxury' flats. Which stay that way for a few weeks.

                The problem is, once the roof falls in, the land bank can stop paying council tax on the property, as it isn't habitable. So you can imagine the state of the neglect you find there. And the incentive to improve our maintain is a negative one - the faster they get everyone out, the better for their profit margin.

                1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
                  FAIL

                  Re: YetAnotherLocksmith Re: Deiberately missing the point???

                  ".....The problem is, once the roof falls in, the land bank can stop paying council tax on the property, as it isn't habitable....." What a load of cobblers! Any house repossessed by a bank is an ASSET on their books, they do not let those assets deteriorate to no value just to avoid paying a piddling Council Tax bill. For example, my current house I bought at auction as it had been repossessed by a building society. Despite having sat empty for three years whilst the building society chased the previous owner through foreign courts, it was in perfect order as the building society had maintained it so in order to preserve it's value. It seems you're one of those that are simply too quick to accept any anti-banker myth as gospel.

                2. h4rm0ny

                  Re: Deiberately missing the point???

                  You can sometimes see whole estates like this when travelling by train in the North. A simple re-balancing of work so it's not all clustered in the South would do much to revitalize housing.

                  1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
                    Stop

                    Re: h4rm0ny Re: Deiberately missing the point???

                    ".... A simple re-balancing of work so it's not all clustered in the South...." Yeah, like that hasn't been tried (and failed) by Labour before. Companies set up where they perceive there to be the best mix of services, skilled people and opportunities available. Trying to bribe companies to ignore the realities of an area simply does not work in the long run, all it does is drain money from the public purse and make companies uncompetitive.

                    As an example, you will hear plenty of similar drivel in Wales around the 'mining communities' and how it's 'terrible' asking the Welsh to leave the valleys for places with actual jobs. That is until you look at the histories of those communities - more than 90% of their ancestors only moved to Wales in the last 200 years because mining offered better pay and safer working conditions than the rural farm work the majority were then doing in places like Devon (where almost a third of all Welsh miners actually originated from). It seems their ancestors were happy to move for better money and better housing, shame their descendants seem to prefer sitting on their backsides.

          3. jebdra

            Re: Deiberately missing the point???

            @A J Stiles

            "rent ... I suggest a fair figure would be 75% of the equivalent interest, excluding capital repayment, on a 25 year mortgage on the property"

            You have to be joking. So if interest rates go down, the rent goes down, even though council rates, insurance, corporate body fees, land tax, maintenance etc etc keep going up. And if rates go skyhigh, rent rockets.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Deiberately missing the point??? - @Blodman

          I suspect you think you are a conservative. But you are not.

          Housing benefit as constituted is a subsidy to landlords and is contrary to the free market. If someone is given £50k a year to live in a flat belonging to the Duke of Westminster, that is interventionism.

          Given that we do not want people on the streets, we should be prepared to pay a reasonable amount of housing subsidy to the unemployed. My view is that, on free market grounds, that should be at an appropriate level - in London, say, 80% of the median rent for sufficient space.

          We should then let the free market operate. If, as the D of W claims, there are lots of prospective tenants prepared to pay his asking price, then those rich people will take up the space and there will be a general shift around creating vacancies elsewhere. Of course, if the whole thing is a bubble, we will see it collapse.

          Some of the money saved by capping housing benefit at a realistic level should be spent on setting up an efficient housing for rent market, removing the lack of transparency created by letting agencies. If it can be done for the stock exchange, it can be done for housing.

          We will then see how many private landlords want to stay in the business, and whether it is in fact more efficient for the State to make basic housing provision. (I don't have a view on this).

      2. Matt Bryant Silver badge
        FAIL

        Re: Arnaut the clueless Re: Deiberately missing the point???

        I guess people like you just really need to cling to that old class war mantra. If you hadn't noticed (round those big, red blinkers), the majority of the "rich" in London are not the old, landed gentry, it's foreigners and men that have worked their way up from being simply smarter than you. Want to pretend Sir Alan Sugar is a toff?

    4. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      Re: Deiberately missing the point???

      What they will never do is unseat the landed gentry and prise the majority of those assets out of the hands of the descendants of someone awarded in the dark annals of history for some forgotten act of loyalty.

      History clearly shows otherwise. Land today is far more widely and evenly distributed than it was even 200 years ago. My father's often-unemployed dad paid rent for a council house that was on land owned by "the city". My dad eventually owned his own house on land that has previously owned by a Viscount somebody (amusingly, the deeds showed that when the land was sold the original family retained the hunting rights. I'd love to see them try, "Tally Ho! Mind that patio chair."). Here in 2014 I own my own house and land, and paid off my mortgage at a younger age than my dad did. No lucky sperm, no rich benefactor, just taking advantage of opportunities when they appeared, and bloody hard work all round.

      Sure, there are still plenty of very wealthy people around, good luck to them. We all have the chance to get there, or part-way at least. Not everyone could be bothered to try.

      1. endorendil

        Re: Deiberately missing the point???

        "We all have the chance to get there, or part-way at least. Not everyone could be bothered to try."

        LOL. Seriously? Are you one of those people that believe that earning 100K pounds a year will get them in the top 1%? Do you believe that the wealthy become very wealthy by having high earnings?

        Owning a house is meaningless. You can buy a house in Detroit for less than it costs to buy a car. Tell me you own an apartment in central London, or at least that you can afford the rent there. That would be meaningful: it would indicate that you have at least a (tiny) shot at getting to the top of the UK wealth distribution.

        1. Tim Worstal

          Re: Deiberately missing the point???

          In the UK going past £150k a year puts you into the top 1% by income. I would expect there to be readers of this site who manage that. Not me and possibly not you but there will be people coding in The City on that and more.

        2. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

          Re: Deiberately missing the point???

          Tell me you own an apartment in central London

          No, nor any desire to own one. I have no desire to live in a big city, and would only live in London as a last resort, if I couldn't find a job elsewhere. If I did have to live there I'd rent so I could get out as fast as possible.

          or at least that you can afford the rent there.

          Yes, I could. Maybe not for a penthouse, but a decent 2-bedroom one wouldn't be a problem.

          Happy now? :)

        3. Jtom Bronze badge

          Re: Deiberately missing the point???

          You, like most who denigrate the 1%, do not realize the enormous difference between the vastly rich and the rich. I do not know the UK figures, but here are the US's: 1% translates to well over 3 million people. To join that club, one needs net assets of $1.3 million (about a million pounds). MOST of the people in that group are precisely the ones you say cannot get there - those who earn the equivalent of 100k pounds a year who worked and saved for decades. Besides working all those years, they have invested much of the fruits of their labors into the economy, creating more jobs and more wealth for everyone.

          When you disparage the 1% because a very few of them are super-wealthy (by birth or otherwise), you disparage the very people who keep our civilization from collapsing.

  7. Random Q Hacker

    Through the miracles of tax evasion and compound interest, you can now contribute nothing to society, yet still look down your nose at it.

    In order to help you arrange those deck chairs on the Titanic, I'll point out you should also be counting a lot more towards the wealth of the top 10%: corporate welfare, tax incentives, bailouts, multinational tax dodging, lobbyist acquired loopholes, disproportionately low punishment for crimes committed..

    It's not envy of the rich, it's anger at the unfairness of those who cheat to get and stay there.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      It's not envy of the rich, it's anger at the unfairness of those who cheat to get and stay there.

      Exactly this. If you're wealthy enough you can avail yourself of services from "wealth protection advisors" who will help you to use things like blind trusts, LLPs (limited liability partnerships), tax havens and various other wheezes. Take the owner of a certain newspaper for example. He claims non-domiciled status despite having his main home in the UK and spending almost all his time here, reducing his tax liability massively. Then he has his money in elaborately structured networks of trusts and "brass plate" companies in tax havens that obscure what he owns so much that the Revenue have no hope of finding it.

      The Revenue try to close down loopholes, but the number of tax inspectors has been dramatically cut in the last few years leaving them helpless in the face of large numbers of rich accountancy firms that themselves exploit things like LLPs. These in particular should be scrapped, as they not only *intentionally* protect accountants and auditors from ballsing up the auditing of their clients (allowing the likes of Enron to continue for so long) but are the favoured vehicle of international crooks and the corrupt.

      SPEFD (See Private Eye For Details).

      1. dogged

        > The Revenue try to close down loopholes, but the number of tax inspectors has been dramatically cut in the last few years leaving them helpless in the face of large numbers of rich accountancy firms that themselves exploit things like LLPs.

        Bollocks. The Revenue don't give a shit if you're rich. They're too busy trying to extract more money from the poor because there are more poor people to tax and they can't afford lawyers and accountants.

  8. TheOtherHobbes

    "We already redistribute wealth by taxing the rich to provide pensions, housing, free education (only until 18 these days) and so on to people who could not otherwise afford them. But when bemoaning the amount of inequality that clearly cries out for more redistribution, we fail to note how much we're already doing."

    We don't 'tax the rich to provide pensions' - we pay pensions through NI into a fund, where eventually it's paid back.

    That'll be the same rich who moan about the low standard of basic education and training in the UK, but don't understand that if you want quality you have to contribute to it.

    In reality the wealth is distributed towards the rich, and has been increasingly distributed towards the rich since the 1980s. Money flows uphill. Virtually all of the productivity gains since the 80s - the ones made out of longer hours, decreased job security, and increased debt - have been made at the expense of most of the population.

    The supposedly frantic redistribution forces a tiny trickle of it back downhill - where, incidentally, it goes to the people who actually create it, and not the people who think that having money and land makes them so much better and more important than people do useful work, like inventing things, and keeping the things that have been invented working.

    We're also, in case you haven't noticed, forcing people to starve or rely on food banks.

    Anyone who writes oily smug prose about this as if it doesn't matter - as if it's actually a bit of a joke, chaps - is quite literally beneath contempt.

    1. Buzzword

      "We don't 'tax the rich to provide pensions' - we pay pensions through NI into a fund, where eventually it's paid back."

      Haha, good one. Let me know if you ever find that mythical fund. NI is just another income tax, don't let the name fool you. It all goes into the same pot.

    2. DavCrav Silver badge

      "We don't 'tax the rich to provide pensions' - we pay pensions through NI into a fund, where eventually it's paid back."

      Have you noticed how NI contributions are variable (percentage of salary up to a certain limit) but the pension is the same? That's the redistribution right there.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Unless they're from the lucky sperm club they've got negative wealth

    That sentence alone shows you've got sod all idea of what you are talking about. I was going to expand on that but on reading through it my reply would have been as offensive to you as that sentence was to me.

    1. Evil Auditor Silver badge

      Re: Unless they're from the lucky sperm club they've got negative wealth

      Chris W, may I ask you to elaborate for I really cannot see your point and why this would be offensive to you. Did you never have any luck in your life except for this one time, although I hesitate to call that life, as a sperm?

      Then again, I might fail to understand because having graduated from university without any debt at all (and very little if any wealth neither) I probably should count myself to this club.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Unless they're from the lucky sperm club they've got negative wealth

        Many people were not born to the lucky sperm club yet worked hard, saved and invested wisely enough to be financially secure and, as it was the example given, be able to put their children through university without them having to go into debt.

        1. Evil Auditor Silver badge

          Re: Unless they're from the lucky sperm club they've got negative wealth

          Chris W, this is exactly what happened to my parents and me. And that's why I wrote "should count...", but in fact, I wouldn't. Still I'm absolutely not offended by Tim Worstall's sentence.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Unless they're from the lucky sperm club they've got negative wealth

          That's great for those individuals, but it doesn't scale up well, does it? If everyone tried to do the same thing, your special snowflakes wouldn't be so wonderful, would they?

          And we're all different (thank God!) in our abilities and interests, so it's obvious to me that only a select few will have what it takes to "work hard, save and invest wisely" - so your outlook on life seems to suggest that those who naturally aren't built that way should be condemned to poverty and misery? Is that what you're saying?

          Be grateful that you're a high achiever. If everyone else was as successful, then you wouldn't be so special.

          1. TrishaD

            Re: Unless they're from the lucky sperm club they've got negative wealth

            "so it's obvious to me that only a select few will have what it takes to "work hard, save and invest wisely"

            Oh, I think you'll find that a large number of people have what it takes. Its just that for most of us working hard doesnt provide enough of a surplus to save and invest wisely. Or indeed at all.

            I do enjoy reading Tim's articles though. Its rather like being lectured on morality by a Mexican bandit.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Unless they're from the lucky sperm club they've got negative wealth

            It does scale up but not into something palatable to the ruling classes. It scales up into a society where everybody is equally wealthy instead of the current situation. Unfortunately it seems that human nature is that some always want more than others and are not happy being equal. Anybody who is healthy and has full control of their mental capacity should be able to do well at something and be rewarded accordingly. Oh, and I don't consider myself a high acheiver nor special, far from it.

            1. Evil Auditor Silver badge

              Re: Unless they're from the lucky sperm club they've got negative wealth

              Unfortunately it seems that human nature is that some always want more than others and are not happy being equal.

              I'd rather say: fortunately the human nature is that we all have individual needs and wants which we do not share with all other human beings. Yes, some want more. Maybe more wealth, maybe more freedom and free time. Some like to travel, others prefer reading, and so forth.

              Would life be worth living if we all wanted having the same, being similar? At least, I think it would be bloody boring. (Some communists tried it. It didn't work well.)

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Unless they're from the lucky sperm club they've got negative wealth

                Being equally wealthy doesn't mean having the same interests, it means having the same opportunity to pursue and celebrate your differences.

                1. Evil Auditor Silver badge

                  Re: Unless they're from the lucky sperm club they've got negative wealth

                  Being equally wealthy doesn't work. Not only do we have different interests, and one of those interests may indeed be being more or less wealthy, but also pursuing those interests requires more or less wealth. This is, however, seen only from the end.

                  As Phil O'Sophical wrote, inequality encourages progress. And without progress we wouldn't even be discussing wealth but hunting down some animals and collecting berries. Phil also mentioned that some are happy with less and we shouldn't push them to do more. Absolutely true. But the flip and really ugly side of the coin is, that those who wanted to do more, those who are ambitious, wouldn't get much of a reward for their efforts. Of course, they'd still have the intrinsic reward though.

                  Now tell me, Chris W, how motivated to work would you be if all of your income is taxed away? This is what being equally wealthy means.

                  1. Anonymous Coward
                    Anonymous Coward

                    Re: Unless they're from the lucky sperm club they've got negative wealth

                    >how motivated to work would you be if all of your income is taxed away?

                    I don't believe income should be taxed. I think all revenue should come from VAT.

                    Inequality encourages progress! And where has progress got us? Half the world doesn't have anything to eat and the other half are obese and want to obliterate their neighbour. Why can't people be ambitious to help each other instead of always looking out for themselves?

                    1. Maty

                      Re: Unless they're from the lucky sperm club they've got negative wealth

                      ' And where has progress got us? Half the world doesn't have anything to eat and the other half are obese and want to obliterate their neighbour. '

                      Actually, that is indeed progress. A few centuries back almost no-one in the world had enough to eat and obesity was restricted to the few that did. You probably won't starve or freeze to death next winter. For many - even in Britain - that was a very real worry just a few generations back.

                    2. Apriori

                      Re: Unless they're from the lucky sperm club they've got negative wealth

                      I am sitting in Kenya, a country which is by no means rich but whose economy is growing at around 9% per annum; three weeks ago I was in Zambia which is clearly thriving (despite the figures published by various bodies with vested interests in poverty). China, India, Vietnam, South Korea (though not very-equal-Socialist North Korea, or BBC-worshipped Venezuela and Cuba), Brasil, Chile and increasing amounts of Africa are getting more and more wealthy.

                      It is utterly untrue that 'half the world doesn't have anything to eat'. In fact, apart from where retarded followers of idiotic ideologies rule by violence, there is no starvation and there is a general and probably unprecedented rise in wealth throughout the world. Provided trade continues and governments, ideologies and religions are marginalised (or better, destroyed) as far as possible, the world will continue to improve.

                      Of course, this does rather eliminate the need for outfits like Oxfam. And where would all those otherwise unemployable Oxford PPEs and socialists find work? The House of Commons is already full of the ignorant and useless.

                      1. Anonymous Coward
                        Anonymous Coward

                        Re: Unless they're from the lucky sperm club they've got negative wealth

                        "Oxford PPEs and socialists"

                        A wide spectrum there, but the only Oxfam employee I've ever met was actually an ex-army truck driver. Someone has to know something about logistics.

                        1. Apriori

                          Re: Unless they're from the lucky sperm club they've got negative wealth

                          Presumably it was a pleasant step up when he stopped driving Army trucks and got to drive nice new Oxfam Toyota Land Cruisers instead.

            2. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

              Re: Unless they're from the lucky sperm club they've got negative wealth

              Unfortunately it seems that human nature is that some always want more than others and are not happy being equal.

              True, and I personally think that's a good thing, it encourages progress.

              Equally, of course, some always are happy with less if they can get it for the least work, and that's fine too. We shouldn't waste time trying to push them to do more if they don't want to, for example by forcing them to go to university if they'd be happier living in a caravan and farming an allotment. Each to his or her own.

            3. Vic

              Re: Unless they're from the lucky sperm club they've got negative wealth

              It scales up into a society where everybody is equally wealthy

              And you want that?

              You described yourself as hard-working. I'll describe myself[1] as a lazy little shit. Do you really want us both to earn the same? That would mean me profiting from your greater work ethic.

              The alternative is that we each earn according to our constribution - and that way lies both wealth inequality and the subjective appraisal of what constitutes "contribution"...

              Vic.

              [1] Not in front of prospective employers, obviously :-)

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Unless they're from the lucky sperm club they've got negative wealth

                Vic, I'm sure you know that the secret of being a lazy little shit is leaving your employer believe that you are hard-working. That kind of invalidates your argument since you probably earn the same (or even more) than your truly hard-working colleagues.

                Anon, 'cos I'm looking for another job :-)

              2. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Unless they're from the lucky sperm club they've got negative wealth

                >You described yourself as hard-working. No I didn't.

                If you want to be a lazy little shit you'll be forced to do what all other LLSs do and audition for the X-Factor.

            4. endorendil

              Re: Unless they're from the lucky sperm club they've got negative wealth

              Poppycock. The problem is not equality of outcome, but equality of opportunity. For a couple of decades we thought that it might be possible to create a society where success is mostly determined by your innate ability and you willingness to work on discovering and cultivating that ability. It is pretty obvious that we fell short (some countries more than others), and that a large part of the problem is that opportunities are still not spread very equally. Unfortunately, all current research points to equality of opportunity being impossible to achieve when the wealth gap is too large.

          3. Richard Jones 1
            FAIL

            Re: Unless they're from the lucky sperm club they've got negative wealth

            OK, brief history lesson, my father's mother was one of 7, possibly more children. Only two survived past their third birthday my grandmother and her sister, so do I come from a silver spoon background. Father had his education stopped at 16 to start work, only to have work and study disrupted by something called WW2. Then father worked his way up through a multinational company in three different countries outside the UK before resuming his carer back here.

            I had no silver spoon but I did have a desire to work and progress. I was short of money when I worked here, I took the chance of overseas work, sometimes working 7 days a week for up to 18 hours a day. Money was good and time to spend it was limited, even when I worked fewer hours I still avoided spending freely.

            Now I am retired my house is worth at least twice what father's house fetched when it was recently sold, and yes my house was mortgage free from the early 1980's I worked damned hard at positioning myself, as well as at the tasks I took on. If I did not know how to do something I would still take it on, learn how to do it and return the job completed.

            [Short IT angle, the company bought a training simulator, then changed the process for which people were being trained, I reprogrammed it in assembler using HEX with no command interpreter or compiler. Code was entered directly to memory - good fun. I also wrote and recorded the scripts and shot the synchronised slides to instruct the trainees. I was asked by a later generation staff member where I learned what I did, RTFM - no training courses. I taught the Japanese the short cuts I developed for encoding the tapes, -they also asked where I had been taught to do the things I did.]

            Was I a high achiever? No I was not. Was I the best worker? No I was not. Did I gamble with what I did? Yes sometimes I admit I did, if I thought the odds were right I would take risks - (NOT health and safety risks!)

            Years ago I read an account by an agricultural mechanic. He always wanted to own a Rolls Royce. He bought one in what he called bad condition. He used his skill and tools to refurbish it and got his Rolls. He only ever really used it to take his large family on holiday. Fuel might have cost but he said it was lot cheaper than the train or other options with all of his family. He put his mind to the task and got what he wanted. He did not beg, steal, or borrow - so no huge interest bills.

            My sofa will not see its 35th birthday again, I bought it cash, wasted nothing on interest with easy terms. Something broke last week, so I fixed it so I'm still obtaining my full value from its purchase.

            Hard work and the right attitude can take you a long way if you are prepared to match the two elements, the lucky sperm club does not enter into things at all.

            [As a child I used to play in parks that had once been owned by members of whoever's 'lucky sperm club'. They lost their luck when too many of their members died in the first world war and the family businesses floundered with no one left to run them by the thirties.]

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Unless they're from the lucky sperm club they've got negative wealth

              You wer lucky, tell that to the kids these days and they won't believe you....

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Unless they're from the lucky sperm club they've got negative wealth

              Honestly, you're pretty damn naive if you think the "lucky sperm club" doesn't "enter into things at all". Some people have an intrinsic advantage, some don't. You didn't [1], and so I applaud the fact that you have achieved everything you set out to do. However, for every person like you there is another who has had the right attitude, has busted their balls their entire life and has jack shit to show for it. BTW, the fact you're talking about your father's education being interrupted for WW2 suggests you are very likely a baby-boomer. The opportunities that existed for you DO NOT exist now on anything like the scale that they did in your - long-passed - yoof. Judging people today by the standards of a society that doesn't exist anymore is a really shitty trick and is a favourite of political discourse in the UK today.

              [1] Although the fact that you were in a position (e.g. geographically, learned right work ethic from people around you etc.) to be able to do the things you did might, by some definitions, put you in the "lucky sperm club". Being the lucky sperm doesn't necessarily mean being born to the rich parents.

        3. Tim Worstal

          Re: Unless they're from the lucky sperm club they've got negative wealth

          If you're the child in that position then you have indeed benefited from being in the lucky sperm club, haven't you?

  10. Red Bren
    WTF?

    Leave economics to sensible bods

    Who are these "Sensible Bods" we should leave in charge of the economy? Are they by any chance related to the bods who's mantra of "Deregulate! Deregulate! The market knows best!" led us into the current economic collapse? Where were they when banks were lending money they didn't have, to people who couldn't afford to repay, to buy property that was overpriced?

    As for the idea that Oxfam should stick to their core mission of feeding the hungry; Starvation and poverty go hand in hand with conflict, economic and environmental change. It is well within Oxfam's remit to address the cause of the problem, rather than just focusing on the symptoms.

  11. Bogle
    Go

    I am shocked

    "You'll not be all that surprised to find that these are mostly Western European states that do that social democracy thing. Yes, even us here in the UK."

    I am very surprised to discover that I live in a social democracy. I was under the impression it was a constitutional monarchy - only without the constitution.

    1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge
      Thumb Down

      Re: I am shocked

      I am very surprised to discover that I live in a social democracy. I was under the impression it was a constitutional monarchy

      The two terms are not mutually-exclusive

      only without the constitution.

      Of course there's a constitution, it just isn't written down neatly on one piece of paper headed "Ye Olde Conftitution".

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Somehow this came to mind....

    The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.

    Freeman and slave, patrician and plebeian, lord and serf, guild-master and journeyman, in a word, oppressor and oppressed, stood in constant opposition to one another, carried on an uninterrupted, now hidden, now open fight, a fight that each time ended, either in a revolutionary reconstitution of society at large, or in the common ruin of the contending classes.

    .

    .

    .The modern bourgeois society that has sprouted from the ruins of feudal society has not done away with class antagonisms. It has but established new classes, new conditions of oppression, new forms of struggle in place of the old ones.

    Our epoch, the epoch of the bourgeoisie, possesses, however, this distinct feature: it has simplified class antagonisms. Society as a whole is more and more splitting up into two great hostile camps, into two great classes directly facing each other — Bourgeoisie and Proletariat.

    ...time again for revolution

    1. A J Stiles

      Re: Somehow this came to mind....

      Um, yeah, but now we have two things that didn't exist in Marx's time.

      Firstly, we have a labour surplus -- more workers than jobs. And secondly, we have a new "consuming class" who, if they work at all, don't do anything so indispensable that anyone would notice if they withdrew their labour.

      1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

        Re: Somehow this came to mind....

        Firstly, we have a labour surplus -- more workers than jobs.

        That presupposes the fallacy that the number of jobs is somehow finite. It isn't. Weatlh creates new jobs, which create more wealth. Not evenly distributed, of course, but the system wouldn't work if it was. It is inevitable that there will be (and always has been) more workers than jobs, otherwise there would be no scope to create new jobs.

        And secondly, we have a new "consuming class" who, if they work at all, don't do anything so indispensable that anyone would notice if they withdrew their labour.

        That's not new either. The difference is that, in the past, such a class was small and funded from inherited wealth. Today it is larger and a substantial part is funded from redistributed wealth, in the form of social welfare.

      2. Tim Worstal

        Re: Somehow this came to mind....

        "Um, yeah, but now we have two things that didn't exist in Marx's time.

        Firstly, we have a labour surplus -- more workers than jobs."

        What? Umm, Marx went on at some length about the reserve army of the unemployed.....

    2. Apriori

      Re: Somehow this came to mind....

      Drivel from a parasite who never did a day's work.

      And revolutions always turn out so well ... as 20 million dead Russians, 40 million dead Chinese, the 5-6 million who died in the French revolutionary and Napoleon's wars, all those Cambodians, the enslaved Cubans.

      And unlike North America, Western Europe and so on, the populations were so happy and prosperous.

      Anyone who thinks revolutions are a good answer doesn't deserve to be listened to.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Capitalist pigs

    Society is utterly broken these days, with the indoctrination from the vested interests in the state that you should work, consume, and then die, grateful for the opportunity to have served their wishes. Get together with a few like minded souls, buy a bit of land, farm it and achieve self sufficiency. Make music, art and love together. Show them you're not cogs in their capitalist machine, and that actually you'd prefer to live, to create, and to play. Embrace all that it is to be human, and make the most of this life.

    1. Evil Auditor Silver badge

      Re "Society is utterly broken these days"

      No, it isn't.

      If you don't like society and state how they are, you can, at least to some degree, indeed leave them behind - I do have sympathies for your "dropout" vision. But another way would be playing an active part of society and trying to change what you don't like.

      For example, quite a few western European nations do not have a long democratic tradition and their citizen's attitude is still pretty much us against the state and vice versa without realising that they are not only part of the state but they are the state. Problem is, such people make it too easy for politicians to disconnect from them; then people get frustrated and resign further from politics. Then again, I fully understand that not many want to engage in politics, it's tedious with little reward.

    2. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      Re: Capitalist pigs

      Get together with a few like minded souls, buy a bit of land, farm it and achieve self sufficiency. Make music, art and love together. Show them you're not cogs in their capitalist machine, and that actually you'd prefer to live, to create, and to play

      What a shockingly tedious, mediæval, way to live. I'll stick to capitalism any time, it may not be perfect but at least that way I can earn the money to enjoy my life, not piss it away in a hippy tent on a remote bog somewhere.

    3. rhydian

      Re: Capitalist pigs

      ". Get together with a few like minded souls, buy a bit of land, farm it and achieve self sufficiency"

      But how will I post my witty banter to El Reg?

    4. Squander Two

      Re: Capitalist pigs

      > Get together with a few like minded souls ...

      Form a buying group with enough wealth to achieve your objectives.

      > ... buy a bit of land ...

      Use your wealth to buy capital.

      > ... farm it ...

      Produce.

      > ...and achieve self sufficiency.

      Consume.

      > Make music, art and love together.

      Spend your surplus on things you enjoy.

      Death to Capitalism!

    5. Matt Bryant Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: AC Re: Capitalist pigs

      "Society is utterly broken these days...." I really, really hope you're just trying for some overly clever sarcasm there. Unfortunately, as the example of Oxfam shows, you probably mean it. Is society so broken you cannot get healthcare or education? can't drive on the roads safely?

      "....buy a bit of land, farm it and achieve self sufficiency....." So you won't make use of machinery produced by the Big Bad Society outside your commune, nor will you buy seed or livestock from that 'tainted' source, right? Yeah, right! And you won't use public roads to take your produce to market, right? No trips to A&E when your arm gets stuck in a threshing machine? And when the gypsies invade your farm every summer you won't be asking the local Plod and Courts to evict them? Complete male bovine manure! We have societies for a reason - because not even a large group can provide all the background services like health, education and policing, nor the fronted services like basic production of goods, which allow the rest of us to get on with our selective occupations. Societies inevitably mean rules and some will prosper more than others.

      1. rhydian

        Re: AC Capitalist pigs

        A lot of Hippies came to rural Mid, West and North Wales back in the 70s chasing the "self sufficiency"/The Good Life dream.

        This was all considered a right laugh by those who already lived in these places and who knew that the land these hippies had bought was usually rubbish for growing or grazing anything, and who had first hand knowledge of the "simple beauty" of a tin shithouse and no hot water...

  14. Lallabalalla
    Facepalm

    "We already redistribute wealth by taxing the rich"

    HAHAHHAHAHAH now I *know* this article is a troll.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "As I become ever more viciously right wing with age, I become ever more disappointed with Oxfam..."

    What a sad world we live in, when things are seen as so black and white, so left vs right, so 'I'm right. You're wrong'.

    Is it such a slow news day that we have to see this drivel posted here, or is the author just trying to stir a little rich vs poor, left vs right debate?

    Although not directly related to the story perhaps, personally, getting older - as I am - I see displaying a lack of empathy for others as a failure in life. We should all try to be a little more charitable as we age, irrespective of politics, statistics and personal opinion. But maybe that's just me?

    Useless article Tim.

    1. codejunky Silver badge

      @ smurfette

      Black and white? Oxfam make a statement which they appear to interpret wrong and tim calls them on it. He supports his view and explains why. Even if you dont agree with him he makes his point and provides supporting information. So yeah if oxfam have misunderstood this so badly then they are wrong and it is black and white.

      The moving further right comment makes sense in this unfortunate democracy. We have the choice through voting yet we (the people) choose a 2 horse race and when neither offers what we want we dont vote. Left and right ignores the huge spectrum of opinion and creates a single line representing the spectrum but it is well understood in this country in terms of money what is left and what is right.

      I have noticed some interesting debate over what is charitable (actually is giving to charities charitable).

      There are a few too many comments to be a useless article. But then in the large spectrum of opinion there is always someone to consider anything drivel.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: @ smurfette @codejunky

        Ok, I am short on time, so I have to be quick and pick just a few article snippets...

        "...It's obvious that the top five families will have more than 20 per cent of all Britons."

        It's not at all obvious, certain or pre-determined that the top 5 families will have more anything than any large and arbitrary percentage of Britons.

        "...if you've no debts and a £10 note then you've got more wealth than the bottom 10 or 20 per cent of the population has in aggregate."

        Using such logic one could falsly claim that most 'middle class' homeowners with a large percentage of their (£250k-£400k - average for 'middle class' where I live) mortgage still outstanding are less 'wealthy' than those in receipt of benefit who have little or no debt. An absurd conclusion, in my opinion.

        Further, it completely misses the fact that the net worth of higher earners can (and often does) increase despite a decrease in the value of some assests. (Tangential, but hopefully you get what I am thinking here).

        To me, the article is weak speculation, supposition and persional opinion, not fact.

        Oh, if only things were as simple as 'I have no debt and a tenner therefore I am wealthier than you, with your £200k salary and your £1m outstanding mortgage'.

        In as much as you will see a fail in my response, I see many similar fails in the article. But hey, that's life!

        "We already redistribute wealth by taxing the rich"

        Sorry, but I had to laugh when I read that.

        1. Tim Worstal

          Re: @ smurfette @codejunky

          "Oh, if only things were as simple as 'I have no debt and a tenner therefore I am wealthier than you, with your £200k salary and your £1m outstanding mortgage'."

          There's two possible situations here.

          1) You have a house that goes along with that mortgage and that house is worth more than the outstanding mortgage. In which case my tenner does not beat your wealth.

          2) You have a house that goes along with that mortgage and that house is worth less than the outstanding mortgage. In which case my tenner does beat your wealth.

          Remember, wealth is a stock. So, we have to measure the stock in order to determine the wealth.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: @ smurfette @codejunky @Tim

            "2) You have a house that goes along with that mortgage and that house is worth less than the outstanding mortgage. In which case my tenner does beat your wealth."

            No it doesn't, because even though my property may have decreased in value, and although I have mahoosive credit card debt and bridging loans, I also have various investment portfolios that are performing well and substantial capital reserves. What you really think I would be stupid enough to take on a £1m mortgage without first planning for the worst case scenario. Oh. Silly me. Sorry.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: @ smurfette @codejunky @Tim

              Bad form replying to ones own posts I know, but to be clear, I don't have a £1m mortgage in real life - thankfully. I was extracting from an earlier comment of mine outlining a hypothetical situation.

            2. Squander Two

              Re: @ smurfette @codejunky @Tim

              > even though my property may have decreased in value, and although I have mahoosive credit card debt and bridging loans, I also have various investment portfolios that are performing well and substantial capital reserves.

              But the point Tim was making in the article was clearly that you have to count all wealth when comparing wealth. So how do you think you're disagreeing with him here, exactly? You're making the same point he was: here is some more wealth you need to count.

              Someone with a tenner and no debt definitely has more wealth than someone in negative equity. As long as the person in negative equity can keep paying the mortgage, we don't see the extent of their problem -- but then the same can be said of the person with no mortgage as long as they can keep paying the rent. If the debt-free rent-payer misses their rent and gets chucked out by the landlord, they end up homeless. If the mortgage-payer fails to make their payments and the bank chucks them out and sells their house, they end up both homeless and in massive debt, with no asset against that debt.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: @ smurfette @codejunky @Tim

                I appreciate that. One point (as illiterate as I am here) is that comparing wealth in such a manner and at any one specific moment in time is misleading, superficial and trivialises the predicament some people find themselves in. It's not constructive - from either side of the debate. There's always something else we can put into the frame and there's always some silly sod (and yes, I'm a silly sod too) who will pen articles such as this.

                Obviously someone could of course have a mortgage, default and end up on the street. Perhaps then, in such a situation, I should say something like, "Oh well. What do I care if you, your wife and your kids are now homeless and penniless. After all, that's your fault for your myopic lack of forward financial planning and gambling with your familys future wellbeing." But that doesn't sit well with me - as true as it would be in absolute terms. But that's not what Tim was discussing, nor did he discuss.

                As for his, "We already redistribute wealth by taxing the rich to provide pensions, housing, free education". Err, yes the rich are taxed, and taxed quite heavily - but it's not just the rich being taxed is it? (Correct me if I am wrong). Being a higher rate tax payer, I'd happily vote for everyone on the higher bracket being squeezed further still. If they can't afford it then hey, that's their fault for making themselves less wealthy by taking that mortgage, all those credit cards etc.

                But seriously, did I read that right, "taxing the rich to provide pensions, housing, free education". How can education be free if funded though taxation? It comes at no cost to some, sure, but that does not make it "free".

                In my mind there's a big difference between actually being poor with no assets and no hope of obtaining any (like, you know, the so-called 'underclass') and earning a high wage, having assets and, using Tims logic, making yourself less weatlhy by reducing your wealth with mortgages etc. The difference here, is one of choice.

                Personally, I have far more sympathy for those living day-in, day-out at the bottom with no hope of escape than those who like to shout, "Hey look at me. Look at me! I'm poor. I lack wealth becuase I have a good job, a good wage, a mortgage and shit loads of credit debt.*"

                *I'm sorry, that argument is absolute bollocks - just like the article.

                1. Squander Two

                  Oh, I see.

                  > "Hey look at me. Look at me! I'm poor. I lack wealth becuase I have a good job, a good wage, a mortgage and shit loads of credit debt.*"

                  > *I'm sorry, that argument is absolute bollocks

                  Yes, it is certainly is, and it is the argument upon which Oxfam have based their report, which was Tim's point. Tim isn't trying to undermine sympathy for the genuinely poor here (one might respond to your "but it's not just the rich being taxed is it?" by pointing out that he's been campaigning against the taxation of the minimum wage for years), but is pointing out that Oxfam's statistic, contrary to their apparently genuine belief, doesn't say anything about the poor at all.

        2. codejunky Silver badge

          Re: @ smurfette @codejunky

          @ smurfette

          "It's not at all obvious, certain or pre-determined that the top 5 families will have more anything than any large and arbitrary percentage of Britons."

          Obvious depends on the direction your looking I find. Someone looking at economics will find a lot more obvious things than someone who has just started looking at a specific problem. Oxfam readers will now be looking at a specific problem regardless of their inclination to look at economics. It does make sense that some have a lot and some live day by day, so it would seem (at least perceptively) that the top 5 will have more than a large percentage (large is subjective).

          "Using such logic one could falsly claim that most 'middle class' homeowners with a large percentage of their (£250k-£400k - average for 'middle class' where I live) mortgage still outstanding are less 'wealthy' than those in receipt of benefit who have little or no debt. An absurd conclusion, in my opinion."

          That does sound right to me. I perceive my financial wealth as minus my freaking annoying mortgage because that is money I dont have, I owe it. If something happens to my income that big bill I have still needs to be paid. Lose a job or have some form of accident and that house doesnt magically become yours, you still dont own it until you have bought it. Compare that to the guarantee of a house on benefits with low debt and it is clear who has the least risk wealth wise.

          The problem is we accept the risk of a mortgage because its the norm. We assume we own the house/car/furniture/etc on credit but we dont until it is paid. Until then it can be removed from you.

          "Oh, if only things were as simple as 'I have no debt and a tenner therefore I am wealthier than you, with your £200k salary and your £1m outstanding mortgage'."

          Wealth is clearly defined as money so yeah. What happens if the £200k salary stops? You can try to sell the £1m outstanding mortgage but if you are out like the previous family we bought off (obviously nothing near that kind of value) they had to sell it a lot short of the price they paid. The asset has a very variable value when converting to money. If the £1m outstanding mortgage property is sold short by £1m or so how is the wealth? If they have little savings it could be very negative and that would make them one of the poorer. It would look like an instant fall but the truth was there all along.

          Btw I reread my original comment and it sounded a little snippy. Hope you didnt read it like that I was just pointing out that the article seemed (to me) to be a fairly good point.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: @ smurfette @codejunky

            Codejunky, I don't necesarily disagree with some of your comments. I regonise that wealth brings associated risks (i.e. job, mortgage, house prices, investment portfolios etc.) and that for some it can prove to be a little ephemeral.

            I have seen both side of this particular fence. I've been hard up and struggled to the cost of my health and subsequently I've also had the opportunity to have had far more disposable income that was healthy ;) So perhaps I am letting my personal experiences cloud my judgement a little here. I will have to reflect a little on this I think.

            One of the things life has taught me personally, is that such comparisons of wealth distribution matter little to the individual who struggles daily to merely keep his/her head above water. To them it's academic and of no importance. To them, it probably feels like they are being kicked whilst they are down.

            Having seen both sides of the fence, one thing I can say with absolute certainty, is that everyone, rich and poor alike, shoud try struggling to cope financially for a few years. It really is a valuable life lesson. It prepares one well and places a somewhat different perspective on what's really important in life.

            As for me, I am no longer particulary concerned with increasing my personal wealth. I'd rather do something a little more altrustic than mere bean counting in my basement safe.

            That said however, I still stand my statement about the quality of the arguments presented by the article author.

            "Btw I reread my original comment and it sounded a little snippy. Hope you didnt read it like that I was just pointing out that the article seemed (to me) to be a fairly good point."

            Not at all. Snippy, snappy, rude or downright insulting comments in my direction are all fine by me :)

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Landed wealth

    Only one aspect of the debate on hereditary wealth but you can see how much some families are getting from the EU farm subsidies here.

    http://farmsubsidy.org

    This data is at risk of being hidden in the future for privacy reasons.I fail to see how transparency in how billions of tax-payers is spent can be a bad thing.

  17. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse Silver badge

    This is not recent...

    I had the misfortune of working for them in a low ranking IT project role during the mid 90's. It seemed to me then that it was essentially staffed by pretentious affluent graduate types trying to push their own agendas rather than the overall "charitable" mission statement.

    As few years later on I had tea with an ex-pat lady living in Cameroon who stated to me that her primary observation was that the Oxfam people who generally come over to "do good" are generally upper/middle class twits, clueless, and see placements as a cheap gap-year or as an option ticked on a life checklist rather than from any sense of wanting to achieve anything.

  18. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge
    Happy

    It's worse in France

    Amusingly the French press picked up on the report, and looked at the situation under what they described as their "much-vaunted social model". They found that the situation is even worse, the 5 wealthiest French families own as much as 30% of the poorest, with one family taking 20% all by itself. As the paper said "so, the wealth gap is France is certainly abyssal. As much, indeed more, than across the channel".

    Ohh, M. Hollande, I'll bet that smarts. Not often France beats the UK when you don't want it to :)

    1. Evil Auditor Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: It's worse in France

      Isn't it ironic when the more socialist country has the higher inequality? Not that I'm surprised.

      1. Tim Worstal

        Re: It's worse in France

        It's even worse in Sweden. I've not checked this but at one point it was said that the Wallenberg family controlled a majority of the entire stock market of the country. Not owned, but controlled though majority shareholdings etc.

  19. h4rm0ny

    Alternatives, please.

    Okay. I have been a long-term supporter of Oxfam. Over a decade. Disaster and famine relief was always something I wanted to support.

    I also think this report is both dubious and outside the area of what I want my donations to support. So whilst not definitely deciding to drop Oxfam right now, what are people's suggestions for a replacement to give to instead?

    And I guess whilst I'm here, if you can suggest a wildlife or conservation charity that doesn't campaign for more stupid wind turbines, I'd like to hear that as well as I had to drop the RSPB over it last year.

    1. Vanir

      Re: Alternatives, please.

      For the human animal have a look at:

      Médecins Sans Frontières,

      RNLI.

      These people put their life on the line for others.

      As for wildlife, there are plenty of people who run very small centres that help wildlife in trouble. You should search for one local to you and if possible visit them. They are dedicated souls.

    2. Bumpy Cat

      Re: Alternatives, please.

      Kiva - www.kiva.org

      It's a charity that allows you to make micro-loans to people all over the world, to fund their housing, education and businesses. This is the kind of charity that actually helps people get up the ladder, unlike Oxfam where it helps some rich twat on their gap yah give a bag of rice to a poor family (leaving the family no better off and destroying the market for local farmers).

      1. h4rm0ny

        Re: Alternatives, please.

        >>Kiva - www.kiva.org

        That looks really interesting and I would probably support it, but I'm really interested in donating the money rather than loaning it to people. I'm not saying it's off the list, I'm going to look into it in more detail. But it seems to be very piecemeal - I have to locate a borrower, choose how much to donate, etc, repeat. I would be okay with a non-profit lending organization where I could just donate a set amount each month like I do with Oxfam, and then people who know what they're doing out there begin lending it out, and recycling any profits back into further lending. In fact, I'd love to help build up a cycle like that to build non-profit lending organizations. But this seems to require me to keep finding people, lending, finding people lending. I can see that works great for many people, but I know that the first month I have a heavy workload, it'll just fall off my radar.

  20. disgruntled yank Silver badge

    Which 20%?

    The subhead says "Five families own more than 20% of the UK? Rubbish"

    But the article says the the five families have more wealth than the bottom 20% of the UK households do. I suppose "20% of the UK" could be taken as an ellipsis for "20% of the UK Households Do", but at first glance it appears to say "20% of all wealth in the UK.".

  21. Bluenose

    "negative wealth"

    What the hell is negative wealth? Is it what people used to call debt? If you have £30K of student debt that is not wealth. You may regard it as an investment in an asset (a university degree) which may or may not result in an improvement in your overall wealth such that the debt is repaid but which ever way you look at it, debt is still debt.

    With respect to the taxation of the rich, yes they are taxed in order to pay pensions, for the NHS, defence, policing, etc. But only partially for the benefit of the poorer people in society since believe it or not the availability of pensions, NHS, defence and policing et al is also provided to the rich and let's be clear the poor earning about a certain level also contribute to this at a level that is disproportionate to their income.

    Oxfam are right to exclude the pensions and NHS plus all the other state provided elements of wealth from their calculation as these net out at zero in terms of value to all parties (rich and poor). The loss of paying for these items is however far greater for the poor whereas the value of state welfare is far more valuable the wealthy; think tax breaks for buying trees, not using farmland, investing in commercial property, etc. Also think about the tax breaks available for investing in other commercial ventures which mean you get the double whammy of reduced tax and potentially large investment returns.

    As for the absurd statement that it is logical that 5 families own more of the UK's wealth than some 20% of the population, why is that logical? Why should it not be 5% of the UK has more wealth than the bottom 20%?

    Redistribution of wealth is a bigger driver of progress than ownership by a few will ever be. Those at the bottom should and normally are always striving to improve their lot thus creating demand for goods and services primarily met by large scale industrialization and thus generation of employment and wealth. Those at the top always seem to be seeking greater returns thus generating more automation resulting in fewer jobs or paying of lower wages thus cutting consumption and reducing employment although not necessarily so in the country of low wages.

    Wealth inequality will always exist it is something that cannot be changed but the question that Oxfam is really asking is to what should that level of inequality be; where those at the bottom have to rely on charity to feed themselves whilst the rich can pay over the odds for a tin of tuna? or should the inequality be reduced where all people are able to feed themselves to an acceptable level without having to go in to "negative wealth"?

  22. endorendil

    Completely misunderstanding

    "It's obvious that the top five families will have more than 20 per cent of all Britons. Do they think we all just got off the turnip truck or something?"

    Actually, this is not obvious. In fact, if the Lorentz distributions that Gini uses were correct, this would certainly not be the case. For a Gini of 0.33, the bottom 20% owns/earns 4% of the total wealth/income. For the top 5 families of the UK (~ the top 0.00001%) to earn more than that, the Gini coefficient would have to be very close to 1.

    That is the point of the Credit Suisse report that the Oxfam numbers are based on. The Lorentz curves heavily underestimate actual discrepancies in the wealth and income distribution. This goes a fortiori for the after-tax distributions. This is what all the recent hubbub is about: there is a top echelon in our societies that is extremely rich, and hence extremely powerful. There is more than a whiff of ancient regime here, and it is dangerous. It is dangerous for the rich, who may find themselves targeted. It is dangerous for the politicians, who may find themselves stuck between assuaging populist anger and preserving the financial backing they need. It is dangerous for our economies, because - unlike the ancient regime - the rich are globally mobile, so their interests are even less aligned with those of their local economies.

    In short, you don't understand why there is an issue because, well, you either don't read the reports or you fail to grasp what they mean. Oxfam may be a peculiar champion for equality in developed nations, but it makes some sense: they know very well how wealth disparity on a global scale can keep vast swathes of the world in dire poverty. Maybe they should focus on fixing the global problem rather than the local one, but perhaps they concluded that developed countries are too much in thrall to those who benefit most from the global inequality. In any case, if you don't understand the message, don't shoot the messenger.

    1. Tim Worstal

      Re: Completely misunderstanding

      "Actually, this is not obvious. In fact, if the Lorentz distributions that Gini uses were correct, this would certainly not be the case. For a Gini of 0.33, the bottom 20% owns/earns 4% of the total wealth/income. For the top 5 families of the UK (~ the top 0.00001%) to earn more than that, the Gini coefficient would have to be very close to 1."

      Ouch. You're describing the income gini there. Yet all the rest of the discussion is about the wealth gini. And wealth is always hugely more unequally distributed than income. Can't recall the exact number but the wealth gini for the UK is up at 0.75 or 0.80 or so.

  23. GJR

    You are full of fail too

    Your sub headline and proposition disagree.

    Five families own more than 20% of the UK?

    vs

    The scale of Britain's growing inequality is revealed today by a report from a leading charity showing that the country's five richest families now own more wealth than the poorest 20 per cent of the population.

    Those are not the same thing. If the poorest 20% of the country own lets say 1% of the countrys wealth (just an EXAMPLE!!!) then saying 5 of the countries families own 1% of the countries wealth seems likely?? rather than owning 20% of the UK which is entirely different. i think this is poor statistical analysis, even after some lunchtime grape juice

    1. gazthejourno (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: You are full of fail too

      Given that the meaning's unclear, I've added a "do" to the subhead.

  24. Jim Willsher

    WTF has this got to do with IT? This is The Register, not The Guardian.

  25. James12345

    Oxfam don't know their arse from their elbow

    I don't know why people listen to the rubbish they spout.

  26. jelaft

    Yes and the top 1% in the UK pays 27.7% of the tax.

    http://ukhousebubble.blogspot.co.uk/2012/04/who-pays-income-tax.html

    So while people do what they can to avoid tax *at all ends of the scale* - "discount for cash mate, cough cough", I think that's a pretty generous contribution/

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Says it all really....

    Hitherto, every form of society has been based, as we have already seen, on the antagonism of oppressing and oppressed classes. But in order to oppress a class, certain conditions must be assured to it under which it can, at least, continue its slavish existence. The serf, in the period of serfdom, raised himself to membership in the commune, just as the petty bourgeois, under the yoke of the feudal absolutism, managed to develop into a bourgeois. The modern labourer, on the contrary, instead of rising with the process of industry, sinks deeper and deeper below the conditions of existence of his own class. He becomes a pauper, and pauperism develops more rapidly than population and wealth. And here it becomes evident, that the bourgeoisie is unfit any longer to be the ruling class in society, and to impose its conditions of existence upon society as an over-riding law. It is unfit to rule because it is incompetent to assure an existence to its slave within his slavery, because it cannot help letting him sink into such a state, that it has to feed him, instead of being fed by him. Society can no longer live under this bourgeoisie, in other words, its existence is no longer compatible with society.

  28. Scott Broukell

    Money – almost akin to dark matter – it's everywhere, we are told nothing would function without it and it interacts, with varying degrees, with all of us. Some have the means to attract large amounts of it to themselves, whilst others are less concerned with such attachments, preferring to place more 'value' in people and their environment. Or just plain 'putting up' with the fact that the bloody stuff has to be dealt with at times.

    Money as a Sticking Plaster (read Oxfam and International Aid etc.) – doesn't really work because it won't interact properly with 'softer' real-life values, like how to build a shelter for me and my family without it bloody interacting with the individuals who act as a conduit for it and syphon a portion off for their own gains. Human individuals go all bat-shit at the very sight of the stuff and cannot control themselves or think rationally about how to convert it into useful things. Neither does it solve underlying problems in the developing world, it just keeps interacting destructively with dumb people again and again.

    Every man on this planet wants; a dwelling, some active employment – rewarded with food or the means to buy food etc. and the chance to improve the lives of their offspring (read educational opportunities). But this bloody stuff (money), distorts and skews the chances wildly. Some people go crazy for Cartier watches and luxury cars – pumping up the particle energy levels of money to unsustainable stupid values. They revel in orgasmic-like trances over everything that glitters, further reducing their ability to rationalise the wider impact of applying too much value to this little understood material.

    People themselves are of so much more real value and importance – get over it.

  29. Chad H.

    Will the Physician be taking his own medicine?

    How about El Reg sticks to what it knows... Biting the hand that feeds IT. Leave the hand that feeds the hungry to those who know what they're talking about.

  30. SimonX
    IT Angle

    Why?

    What is this bollocks even doing in the Reg? Was the Daily Mail full today?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Why?

      No, Fred Phelps has died. I expect the DM is in mourning and there is no space left for articles for all the heavy black borders.

  31. Sherrie Ludwig

    You've got 'em across the pond, too, eh?

    Maybe I am assuming that the article writer is UK because that is where most of the articles hail from, but this "oh, shut up and eat your gruel" is classic Tea Party drivel. I have no problem with him asking organisations to stick to their original mission, but being proud of being a right wingnut is frankly proof of his stupidity. "I'm right(wing), and therefore, by definition, you are wrong" is what is murdering whatever "exceptionalism" the USA could have claimed to have. Yes, some people are poorer than churchmice. The question is, what if anything, to do about that? Throwing crusts to a permanently underfed, undereducated underclass and neglecting public works (from roads and sewers to libraries), or reasonable attempts to help people get out of that condition? "I've got mine - shove off" or "I got this partly through my own efforts and partly because those before me invested in the public good - so I need to pay it forward also" The US is foundering not because of the income inequality, but because people conflate wealth with superiority, with knowing what's best for all others, with OWNING others (we made that mistake once).

  32. John 62

    The problem is often liquidity, not inequality

    I think the problem is liquidity rather than inequality. You might have lots of shares, property, etc, but they don't mean much in your bank account when you need dosh at short notice. Likewise property often attracts lots of costs (e.g. maintenance, security, etc). Plus, owning an house only puts you at a wealth advantage if you can dispose of it for less than it would cost to house you for the rest of your life.

    I recently joined the ranks of the negatively wealthy by buying an house with the help of a mortgage. I have some savings and an income so we can live comfortably right now, but we could theoretically be turfed out by the bank if it wants its share of our house's equity.

    Inequality isn't a big problem so long as the bell curve of wealth is wide enough and people can live comfortably.

    Magna Carta happened because no one person was powerful enough to dictate things. We celebrate it because of the philosophical value, but the reality was that it mostly affected the barons who owned lots of land. They were the ones who had most to lose if the king arrested them without due cause. The peasants' lot was most improved by the forest charter, which was also signed at the time of Magna Carta.

  33. agricola
    Boffin

    Misery really does love company, you think?

    "The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings; the inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries."

    --Sir Winston Churchill

    In a country well governed, poverty is something to be ashamed of. In a country badly governed, wealth is something to be ashamed of.

    --Confucius

    The most perfect political community is one in which the middle class is in control, and outnumbers both of the other classes.

    --Aristotle

    A wise and frugal Government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, which shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government, and this is necessary to close the circle of our felicities.

    --Thomas Jefferson

    My reading of history convinces me that most bad government results from too much government.

    --Thomas Jefferson

    Experience hath shewn, that even under the best forms of government those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny.

    --Thomas Jefferson

    I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them.

    --Thomas Jefferson

  34. Anonymous Coward
    WTF?

    Disparity?

    I will never understand the notion that rich people should be prevented from being rich. So what if four or five people own the majority of the wealth in a nation? So long as everyoe else can live as well as they want, why all this resentment? This is envy being used as a political tool. Yes, that's right. If you gritch about your neighbours wealth you are guilty of jealousy. Hiring a politician to relieve your envy does not make you noble, either. It makes you awful.

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