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Oxfam demands that we all get much poorer right now

Summary:
Oxfam has given us an interesting little lesson in how an assumption drives the conclusion here. They’re telling us that richer people have higher carbon emissions than poorer people. This is terribly naughty of us all. And it is all likely to read this too. The top 10% of the world is, as they say, those earning more than ,000 a year. Everyone on more than median UK income that is, roughly enough. Their solution is that everyone at this giddy height of plutocratic luxury must have less - that we all should become much poorer.This is indeed what they say:The richest 10% of the global population, comprising about 630 million people, were responsible for about 52% of global emissions over the 25-year period, the study showed. Globally, the richest 10% are those with incomes above about

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Oxfam has given us an interesting little lesson in how an assumption drives the conclusion here. They’re telling us that richer people have higher carbon emissions than poorer people. This is terribly naughty of us all. And it is all likely to read this too. The top 10% of the world is, as they say, those earning more than $35,000 a year. Everyone on more than median UK income that is, roughly enough. Their solution is that everyone at this giddy height of plutocratic luxury must have less - that we all should become much poorer.

This is indeed what they say:

The richest 10% of the global population, comprising about 630 million people, were responsible for about 52% of global emissions over the 25-year period, the study showed.

Globally, the richest 10% are those with incomes above about $35,000 (£27,000) a year, and the richest 1% are people earning more than about $100,000.

That’s all of us in that 10%.

The report is here and it’s necessary to get to footnote 25 to find the calculations of all this, which are here. The only important line of which is:

Our starting point is the assumption that household income drives household consumption, which in turn drives the level of household consumption emissions.

The starting assumption is that higher income people have higher emissions. The finding is that higher income people have higher emissions.

Our word, that is a surprise, isn’t it? So too are we terribly surprised at Oxfam’s policy insistence that follows, which is that all those naughty rich people must have less. Presumably everyone who works at Oxfam is going to take a pay cut to under $35,000 a year. For do note that given their starting assumption trying to live a greener lifestyle, walking not driving, recycling everything, giving up meat to live on grass, none of this aids or helps in any manner. Because the assumption has been made that income and income alone determines emissions. Thus income must be lowered, not lifestyles changed. That starting assumption also means that piling up the bird choppers and the solar cells makes no difference - income is all. Shriving ourselves is the only solution, a finding entirely driven by that starting assumption.

Our verdict is that Oxfam must do better. The logical fallacy of begging the question was identified by Aristotle as τὸ ἐξ ἀρχῆς (or sometimes ἐν ἀρχῇ) αἰτεῖν and he died in 322 BC. We don’t think it’s too much to ask for that people make new mistakes, is it?

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Tim Worstall
Tim Worstall is a British-born writer and Senior Fellow of the Adam Smith Institute. Worstall is a regular contributor to Forbes and the Register. He has also written for the Guardian, the New York Times, PandoDaily, the Daily Telegraph blogs, the Times, and The Wall Street Journal. In 2010 his blog was listed as one of the top 100 UK political blogs by Total Politics.

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