Oxfam’s new ‘Perfect Storm’ campaign poster has drawn plenty of criticism from conservatives, and rightly so. It’s a risible piece of common room agitprop, full of hoary old clichés about spending cuts and capitalist greed. All that’s missing is some Der Sturmer-style cartoons of bloated fat cats and monocled toffs.
At least one good thing has come of this story, however. No one can now be in any doubt that Oxfam is a left-wing pressure group, masquerading as a fundraising organisation. Its image as the guys who help starving Africans has been sullied once and for all by their adolescent political posturing.
Oxfam’s declared motivation for their campaign is a dramatic rise in the use of food banks, which it attributes to the government’s ‘austerity’ programme. A spokesman for the charity has insisted that drawing attention to poverty and tackling it “should not be a party political issue” — which neatly demonstrates the Left’s ideological blindspot when it comes to problems, their causes and their solutions.
Oxfam agrees with the narrative that says the cure for poverty is the opposite of its supposed cause: too little wealth redistribution. It thinks the world can be healed by letting mardy non-profit types splash other people’s cash, instead of spreading the benefits of free markets and property rights. From the charity’s blinkered perspective, this isn’t just one perspective among many, but an impartial appraisal of the facts, that any cool-headed pragmatist would agree with — hence its absurd denial of any wrongdoing.
But even if Oxfam’s concern for the undernourished is sincere, its belief that we are living under a regime of penny-pinching Scrooges is nonsense. Back in 2000, when the nation was moving to the groove of Cool Britannia, no one had much to say about ‘austerity’, despite public spending being about two-thirds of what it is today.
Now we’re living under the Tory Terror, however, we’re supposed to believe the country has been plunged into a state of Georgian squalor. It just doesn’t add up.
Implicit in the ‘austerity’ argument is the idea that people’s welfare is chiefly a product of state spending. When the flow of government cash is stemmed, people suffer; when it increases, they prosper. Sky-high spending is taken to be the proper state of affairs, and any deviation from this principle is a regrettable setback that politicians have a duty to put right at the first opportunity.
One shouldn’t be surprised that charities subscribe to such leftist guff, and attract individuals of a liberal disposition. After all, their raison d’être is to help those who are unable to help themselves, so it’s in their interests to believe that people cannot cope with the helping hand of the government or its proxies.
Their immunity to the slings and arrows of outrageous competition makes them a perfect refuge for snooty lefties and overgrown adolescents, who’d rather not test themselves in the crucible of the free market.
And there’s nothing wrong with any of this. Fundraising bodies should be free to take political positions, and people sympathetic to their beliefs should be at liberty to work for them or give them money. But when an organisation is subsidised by the taxpayer, all bets are off.
Nearly half of Oxfam’s funding comes from governmental sources, such as the EU, the UN and the UK Treasury. As such, it should not be pushing an overtly political message. It’s one thing expecting taxpayers to fund established institutions like the NHS, which (for now) enjoys widespread support. It’s another to expect them to finance organisations with a political agenda that may differ from their own.
It’s disgraceful, too, that Oxfam has been able to trade on its reputation as a benign, non-partisan aid outfit for so long. It’s not alone in this, either. Many well-known charities, such as Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and the WWF, are widely perceived as cuddly enterprises that people donate to for a feel-good fix.
Some, such as the RSPCA, even enjoy a Royal Charter, which lends them an air of regal respectability. In truth, these charities are enthusiastic supporters of authoritarianism, misanthropy and/or anti-capitalism — a fact that deserves (and is hopefully now getting) greater recognition.
Oxfam made its bed; now it should be forced to lie in it. Those on the Right should seize on this story as an opportunity to shoot down the corrupt ‘austerity’ narrative being pushed by Oxfam and its like-minded buddies.
They should point out that free food would prove popular in a land of millionaires, let alone one weaned on welfare. They should argue that reduced government spending is a good thing, and present the case for people living as proud, self-sufficient individuals, rather than helpless dependants, holding out their begging bowls to an aristocracy of liberal caregivers.