October 23, 2011

Less than 1 per cent of companies hold 40 per cent of world's wealth

If you think that 40 per cent of the world's wealth being concentrated in only 147 companies is ok, then you'll never need lose sleep over how pathetically powerless you are over your financial well-being and security. The great moral challenge of our times, the great inter-generational crime, is not life-essential carbon dioxide, it's the obscene concentration of wealth in the hands of so few, who answer to no one but each other.

If you think 147 companies sounds like a lot, think again.  The database used by the Zurich team contained details of about 37 million companies, which was reduced down to a 43 thousand or so trans-nationals, then whittled down a bit more, until the magic 147 surfaced.

Think of 147 men, 147 CEOs (and yes, it's likely they're all men, because men make up only 49 per cent of the population; that's why they invariably run the world and hold pretty much 100% of the power) - think of those 147 being bankers or in some other arm of the finance industry:  yes, the banks, the finance industry, which produce absolutely nothing, really do run the world.

Things are likely worse now, as the data used for this study was from 2007, when the GFC hadn't yet concentrated wealth in even fewer hands.  Albeit, less wealth in real dollars, since 20 years worth of  growth was wiped out during the GFC.  If you read yesterday's paper, you'd have noticed that the elderly in Australia are staying in or returning to work:  the $460B the government insisted they stash away for a self-funded retirement has all but vanished.  (Which is why the current government is going to make us put even more of our money into mandatory super - so the finance industry can roll around like pigs in mud, regardless of whether our money is lost and retirement becomes a fantasy.)

Oddly, the study has only made the top 50 companies public.  Perhaps they ran out of funding when it can time to printing the findings.

Already thoroughly critiqued, apparently by lots of people who are squeamish about admitting the obvious and who prefer to concentrate 100 per cent of their nit picking on the semantics of "control".  There's no reason to get hung up over that, unless you're especially sensitive about anything that might make the 147 companies feel bad. 

A concentration of massive wealth in the hands of few, whether you call that "control" or "inequality" or "obscene" or "absurd" or "dangerous" or "meta disaster waiting to happen" - call it whatever you want, but don't pretend it's not meaningful, not real, not bad, and nothing to get your knickers in a knot about.  Your knickers should at the very least bunch-up a bit every time you think of it, if not, you're a bit, well, stupid, if you don't mind me saying.

The research paper is here and the list of companies is on page 33.

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