During these times of rampaging predatory capitalism, one is tempted to dwell on the details; the endless new scams and instruments to generate profits from debt, and always new creations:
- Blythe Masters (who gave us the credit default swap) hard at work on carbon derivatives,
- JP Morgan Chase’s q-Forwards,
- Goldman Sachs and their collateralized risk obligations (CRO) and convoluted public-private partnership configurations,
- Morgan Stanley and their Pinnacle Notes,
- Citigroup’s crisis derivatives,
- and ELX Futures’ (Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase, Morgan Stanley et al.) exchange of futures for futures (EFF) gambit,
but sometimes examining the fundamentals is recommended.
A long time ago, Henry George, the great political economics thinker, came to the conclusion that the concentrated land ownership – or the monopoly of land – was the chief cause of poverty.
The free-thinking economist, J.W. Smith and his elegant economic democracy philosophy elaborated this to the monopolization of land, capital and knowledge. While in logical agreement with Dr. Smith, the second two categories are always dependent upon the primary monopoly of land.
Adam Smith, in his Wealth of Nations so very conveniently avoided a confrontation with the land owner hegemony of his day; instead writing to the status quo and avoiding the obvious concentration in land ownership.
Kevin Cahill avoids perpetrating the same social crime, instead Mr. Cahill, with Rob McMahon, continues the battle for truth and humanistic progress with his recently published book, Who Owns The World.
One thousand years ago the monarchs ruled -- so what's different today?
One thousand years ago the monarchs owned the bulk of land, and many would be shocked to realize that so very little has changed in the present.
In Mr. Cahill’s marvelous book we learn:
- 59% of all arable land in Europe is owned between 0.3% to 0.6% of the European population and they receive 59% of the European Union’s farming subsidy, or $28 billion (a monopoly of both land and tax benefits);
- that one-third of the earth’s surface is ruled by 35 monarchs;
- that the top five of those monarchs, by land valuation, are trillionaires (Queen Elizabeth II, the king of Saudi Arabia, the pope, the king of Morocco, and the king of Thailand);
- that Queen Elizabeth II is the largest land owner on Earth,
- that the largest private land owner in America is Ted Turner, with almost 2 million acres; and,
- that the largest corporate land owner is Plum Creek Corporation, with over 7 million acres.
- ECONNED, by Yves Smith
- It Takes a Pillage, by Nomi Prins
- The Buyout of America, by Josh Kosman
- The Predator State, by James K. Galbraith
- Who Owns The World, by Kevin Cahill with Rob McMahon
- The Watchers, by Shane Harris
- 13 Bankers, by Simon Johnson and James Kwak
- Broker, Trader, Lawyer, Spy, Eamon Javers
While the sad world history of immigration has so often been that of those who have been kicked off their land (had it stolen from them) relocated to steal the land of others, we now exist at a point in history where humans can finally admit the predatory past, and seek to remedy it.
Mr. Cahill also elaborates on the massive land ownership by the world’s prevailing religious establishments; an important consideration in assessing global wealth.
Kevin Cahill covers some subtle points in his book, one of which is how, in the U.K. and U.S., major land owners have recruited the conservation lobby on their behalf. This allows the major land owners to opportunistically use bureaucratic methods to hide the full extent of their land ownership, while also accruing tax benefits from those conservation lobbies and organizations turning their unused lands into conservancies and wetlands.
There are several excellent examples of this in the U.S., where Greenpeace and the League of Conservation Voters stand diametrically opposed on the cap-and-trade issue.
Now, while one may argue as to the effectiveness of Greenpeace against the super-rich, it is indisputably an environmental organization of long standing. On the other hand, the League of Conservation Voters fully supports the cap-and-trade issue, favoring the profits of the bank-oil cartel (which owns ALL of the climate exchanges and would also directly profit from carbon derivatives, carbon permits and carbon offsets), while accomplishing nothing on the environmental front.
Similarly, anyone who has closely followed the activities of the Sierra Club will probably have noticed that they appear far more a corporate shill than a true environmentalist group.
Cahill and McMahon’s excellent book also covers the patterns of land ownership of the countries throughout the planet –- and the individual states of the U.S.A. -- truly a wonderful reference!
Doubtless there may be some obvious dispute of Mr. Cahill’s attribution of some of that land ownership to the British Commonwealth (no doubt Pakistan, India and South Africa would be mighty surprised as to their inferred status), but overall his book’s insightful arguments capture the day!
How frequently the majority is accepting of the feudalistic and medieval practice of the (aristocratic) few owning the majority of land, while renting out to the rest of us?
How anyone can be accepting of such inane concepts – especially today with all those debt-based schemes to enrich the criminal few --- while impoverishing the many --- and greatly destroying true progress (social, technical, scientific and humanistic) in the process.
While necessity is often the mother of invention, concentrated wealth through monopoly is the true destroyer of progress.
Recommended reading list:
Advisory Warning - Please avoid reading list:
The above three books represent, at best, either lame writing or purposeful misdirection. The first one, The Watchers, would have us believe that all that money spent on the intel community and its data mining is completely disorganized, instead of greatly increasing their ability at the acquisition of financial intelligence -- and really, that is what it's all about?
The second book, 13 Bankers, would have made some sense had it been published a few years back, but today it is far too little, far too late. More so, it is written by Simon Johnson, former IMF chief economist, who is consistently all over the place with his opinions on "the economy."
Sometimes he's pro-credit default swaps, sometimes he's quite confusing about the damage they do. I have yet to hear him repudiate the IMF (which is why I am a big fan of that real political economics thinker, Raj Patel) and he is, after all, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute, promoter of the privatization of everything, and the financialization of the economy, which Johnson makes mention of in his book, and thus is what Johnson is purportedly criticizing? (As I mentioned, Johnson is consistently all over the landscape!)
Now the last one I am suggesting no one bother to purchase, Broker, Trader, Lawyer, Spy, is a true work of obfuscation and confusion, whereby the author trivializes what has been taking place before our very eyes, the privatiziation of the American intelligence community -- which Javers appears to be completely ignorant of?
Javers instead is perplexed by some relatively almost innocuous business endeavors which haven't even appeared on my radar as they are almost so completely inconsequential in nature.
But lo and behold, Javers unwittingly drops a bombshell on the bottom of page 191 (and continues to the top of page 192): Jeffrey Starr, a Department of Defense employee, is on loan to Goldman Sachs. (With the emphasis on the word, "unwittingly.")
Now this should have been the thesis of Javers' book, instead of some moonlighting on the part of C.I.A. employees, etc. Why exactly is the number-four, or number-five guy at the D.O.D., Starr, working for Goldman Sachs?
And are there any other D.O.D.-D.I.A. types working for Goldman? Or Morgan Stanley? Or JP Morgan Chase, and how about Citigroup?
Oh, and by the way, are there any other American intel establishment types employed at any financial services or investment banks out there, as well?
Truly, I would avoid these three books.
(Book Reviewed) Cahill, Kevin and McMahon, Rob. Who Owns The World. Hachette Book Group. 2010. ISBN 978-0-446-58121-9
George, Henry. The complete works of Henry George. New York, Doubleday, Page and Co., 1911
George, Henry. Progress and poverty; an inquiry into the cause of industrial depressions and of increase of want with increase of wealth; the remedy. New York, Robert Schalkenbach foundation, 1933.