The British charity Oxfam is at risk of losing hundreds of millions of dollars in government funding over claims that various aid workers used, or perhaps abused, prostitutes. This is all most amusing to me — not the abuse, of course, but the background in this case.
Part of this is really just bureaucratic infighting. Gossip I've heard, and it is just that, is that two similar organizations are sniping at each other. One claims Oxfam workers in Haiti abused prostitutes. A day or two later, stories appeared about a senior executive at a similar charity, Save the Children, having significant issues with sexual impropriety with his employees. The next news cycle has further accusations about Oxfam in Chad and … well, who knows what the catfight will bring next.
Some defend Oxfam, saying, "Sure, there are a few bad apples, but look at the good things the organization does!" That excuse is not generally accepted these days. Google is castigated for not paying enough taxes, and we’re not allowed to use the point that the search engine itself is hugely enriching. Far too many Catholic priests had a go at the altar boys, but the good done by the church, the solace and salvation of souls, is not regarded as making up for it. And so on and on — Oxfam itself shouts about how capitalism increases inequality, while entirely ignoring the good done in the reduction of poverty caused by the same economic system.
And that is the real reason we should be contemptuous of the Oxfam. Oxfam’s not to be castigated for the sexual escapades of some few workers, but for the fact that they are idiots. This report providing a slew of examples. The one which annoys me the most from that plethora being this:
Oxfam has shown that minimum wages in countries like Morocco, Kenya, Indonesia and Vietnam are not enough for people to escape poverty. The Asia Floor Wage Alliance has found that legal minimum wages in the garment sectors in various Asian countries fall far short of providing a living wage.
Specifically, they note that their idea of a living wage in Bangladesh is about $250 a month, while the minimum wage in the garment factories in that country is about $70 a month or so. Clearly, Oxfam's thinking goes, this is an outrage and something must be done.
To which the answer is, yes, we’d all like something to be done. None of us are interested in our fellow humans living on such pitiful pickings. But the question is, what should be done? Oxfam’s answer is that the minimum wage should simply be raised to their desired one — an act and suggestion of true idiocy.
GDP per capita in Bangladesh is around $1,500 a year. A $3,000 a year minimum wage doesn’t work in such an environment. To translate that into American numbers, it is like insisting that the U.S. minimum wage should be $100,000 a year, or roughly some $50 an hour. Whatever we might think about the effects of modest increases to $10 or $15, there’s no one stupid enough to think that $50 would be anything less than disastrous.
Yet, that’s what Oxfam really does suggest should happen in one of the poorer countries of the world. Madness.
These past few years have seen the organization morph from being one dedicated to the alleviation of famine to one spouting the usual ragbag of foolishness about inequality, the pernicious effects of capitalism and economic growth and such. It is for that reason, not whatever employees have been doing with their gonads, that we should reject Oxfam.
They’re now just the standard lefty campaign group making all the usual mistakes, instead of making the world a better place.
Tim Worstall (@worstall) is a contributor to the Washington Examiner's Beltway Confidential blog. He is a senior fellow at the Adam Smith Institute.
If you would like to write an op-ed for the Washington Examiner, please read our guidelines on submissions here.