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Danger Ahead: The Oligarchs Don't Understand That Economic Collapse Happens When They Get All the Money

The corporate masters seem to have forgotten they depend on working people for their own survival.

Photo Credit: Tatiana Popova/


Let’s face it, if your opponent in Monopoly scoops up Boardwalk, Park Place, North Carolina Avenue, Pacific Avenue, both utilities, and the four railroads – that’s game over.

The other players, all of whom have been relegated to mere consumers instead of property owners, will slowly go bankrupt having to pay higher and higher costs for rent and services, utilities, and transportation. Eventually, one player has all the money and the losers have to clean up the board game and put it away.

But let’s assume the Monopoly game doesn’t end there. Let’s assume the broke players keep rolling the dice and keep going around the board. They essentially keep living their lives desperate and broke, using their credit cards and home lines of credit to stay in the game. Maybe they end up in jail. If they’re lucky, they land on Baltic Avenue and can afford to stay a night in the slums.

Meanwhile, the oligarch who owns everything can no longer collect any income. The other players can’t afford to pay rent, they can’t pay utilities, and they can’t ride on the railroads. Eventually, without consumers spending money, the Monopoly oligarch goes broke, too. His properties and businesses disappear and suddenly everyone is broke!

That’s what Monopoly’s version of economic collapse looks like. And it’s very similar to what global economic collapse in the real world looks like, too.

Now put the Monopoly game board away and consider this:  Researchers in Zurich, Switzerland have found that there are roughly 43,000 transnational corporations that dominate the global economy. Of those, there are about 1,300 companies that control 80% of all the global revenues for all the transnational corporations on the planet. Now let’s take it a step further. Of those 1,300 core companies, only 147 companies, which all happen to own each other in some way, control 40% - or nearly half – of all the wealth in the entire transnational corporate network. That means 1% of transnationals own 40% of all the world’s business wealth.

In other words, the global 1% has its own 1%.   

This is similar to a Monopoly situation in which just one player owns 40% of the board. And just like it’s game over for Monopoly, it’s game over for the global economy, too.  

Right now, you can count the number of banks that own half of all the wealth in the U.S. economy on just one hand.  There are just five of them and they are the usual suspects: Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, and Citigroup. Their total assets equal 8.5 trillion, which is 56% of our entire economy.

In 2007 we all learned the consequences of disproportionate wealth and power concentrated in the hands of just a few companies. When one company begins to fail, they all begin to fail. And when they all fail, well, that’s what collapse looks like.

That why policymakers labeled the banks “Too Big to Fail” and bailed them out to prevent total collapse. Today, these banks are even bigger. And thanks to globalization, their tentacles are wrapped around the entire world’s economy. It won’t just be the United States imploding the next time these giants fall: it will be much of planet Earth itself.  

This is the danger of raw, unfettered capitalism. This is where the demands of higher and higher quarterly profits take down the economy. Companies begin devouring each other, sucking whatever wealth they can from each other. This was made easier by deregulation policies in the 1980’s and 1990’s that trigged a mergers and acquisitions mania under Reagan, and free trade policies under Clinton that opened up the game board for these transnational corporation to feast on even more industries abroad.  

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