How The Truth Persuades You

Oxfam recently reported that the eight richest people on earth have more wealth than the bottom half.  Eight people compared to three and half billion. My goodness, what pirates they must be.

The fact presented is probably true.  It does not sound unreasonable.

The question you need to answer is two part.

  1. Does it matter?
  2. Does the presentation lead to the particular feeling they wish you to have? 

It is theoretically possible that it matters, but given the much smaller number of poor people world wide compared to a few decades ago, I am not so sure we’re heading in the wrong direction.

Does the presentation matter?  Most certainly. Given the way it is presented, you must assume that great (implied excessive) wealth matters in some way. Great wealth is not functionally more useful for living than is more modest wealth.  As Craig McCaw once said, “You can live as well with $4 billion as you can with 12. Your envy is misplaced. The wealthy live on far less than they could and invest the rest.  That investment benefits all of us.

Aside from that,  if they distributed their wealth evenly it is about $150 for each of the bottom half. 

The net worth comparison structure leads to silly results. For instance, the last time I talked to my 6-year-old grandson he had a little over $20 in his wallet. Using Oxfam methodology, he has more wealth than about 2 billion people. Vastly more than a newly graduated doctor from the Harvard medical school who is heading off to his new job in a used car, with a few clothes and a nice laptop. The $200,000 student loan puts him well below the wealth of Sub-Saharan farmers. And Rory.

When true statistics present with obviously foolish comparisons, you should ignore them and mistrust the purveyor forever.  So much for any donations from me to Oxfam.

Explain to yourself what is the difference between someone lying to you and someone who manipulates your thoughts and feelings using narrow truth. In this situation truth and falsehood appear about equal.

The world is complicated enough without this sort of propaganda.

Don Shaughnessy arranges life insurance for people who understand the value of a life insured estate. He can be reached at The Protectors Group, a large insurance, employee benefits, and investment agency in Peterborough, Ontario.  In previous careers, he has been a partner in a large international public accounting firm, CEO of a software start-up, a partner in an energy management system importer, and briefly in the restaurant business.

Please be in touch if I can help you.  866-285-7772

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