The problem with Oxfam\’s social justice paper: lack of ambition

So George tells us all about Oxfam\’s pencil sketch of where we are and where we should be in balancing social justice and matters environmental.

We have environmental limits to what we can do but we also have social justice limitations to what we must do. The two can conflict.

I\’ve no real problem with the basic outline of that argument. I may well disagree with the limits that they insist are there on hte environmental side but leave that aside. Where I really disagree is here:

Bringing everyone above the global absolute poverty line ($1.25 a day) would need just 0.2% of global income.

Who in buggery has that as the limit to their aspirations?

I certainly don\’t think that managing to drag the last remnants of humanity up to the living standards of a medieval peasant is the end of the story. I would much rather we drag that last remnant of humanity up to the sort of living standards that we pinkish people enjoy. You know, that $100 a day sort of lifestyle, not the $1.25 one.

Tehre are those who say this cannot be done: at which point I say try reading your own reports matey. The SRES, the economic models upon which the entire IPCC, climate change is going to boil Flipper, model is built upon.

In there you will see that if we continue down this globalised market path, the A1 family, and we largely decarbonise our energy production system (and note, this particular scenario in the family excludes specific measures like carbon taxes and bloody windmills, relying only upon simple technological advance) as A1T supposes, then we both beat climate change and we also have the current poor of this world (OK, their grandchildren, given that we\’re talking about 2100) living at the same position high on the hog as USians in 1990.

Now that\’s an ambition that beats that $1.25 a day, isn\’t it?

And the only limit to getting there, the only environmental limit, is that carbon in the atmosphere thing. Solve that problem and we can do it: we don\’t face systematic limits from water availability, metals, energy, fertilisers, land, food or anything else.

6 comments on “The problem with Oxfam\’s social justice paper: lack of ambition

  1. I wish I could afford a $100 a day lifestyle. That would be like winning the lottery.

    Anyway, one thing that is never entirely clear; does this $1.25 or whatever thing include non-cash income? A subsistence farmer has “free” housing and “free” food and “free” water and so on, in that he’s not getting them via the cash economy. A person with a viable farm who lives on their own produce and a bit of barter may not have any cash interactions at all. Indeed, as I understand it, Africans who were dissuaded by the joys of cash economies had to be forcibly dragged in via the imposition of a Hut Tax, paid in coin of the realm.

    So anyway, is this a good measure? I’m not saying such people are living the life of Riley, merely that they may not be actually having to live on $1.25 a day in the sense of “buying everything they need with it”.

  2. Indeed Ian, as Jimmy Carr observed:

    I’m not sure if you’re aware of this, but if you took all the money that we in the West spend on food in one week, you could feed the Third World for one year. I’m not sure about you people, but I think we’re being overcharged on groceries.

  3. I’m not sure if you’re aware of this, but if you took all the money that we in the West spend on food in one week, you could feed the Third World for one year.

    Groceries in Lagos are about three times the price of groceries in a UK supermarket, and I’m not just talking about those for sale in an expat store. Sure, you can buy vegetables from a local market seller at a mere 1.5 times what you’d pay in the UK, but from a bag of 20 items you’d be lucky if three were edible.

  4. Wasn’t Luanda recently pronounced as the world’s most expensive city?

    In the absence of a proper distribution infrastructure, getting stuff to capital cities before it rots is non-trivial and there will always be enough of the really-rich, the on-expenses and the crooks to drive prices for anything reasonable up.

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