The 147 Banks and Super-Companies that Run The Entire World Economy
The 1% indeed: a new study of the global economy and wealth concentration has identified a complex system of only 147 banks and corporations around the world which share in the largest chunk of the change. While that number might not seem too shocking to those of us paying attention, this study, "by a trio of complex systems theorists at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, is the first to go beyond ideology to empirically identify such a network of power," writes New Scientist. In other words: valuable data which will not only strengthen OWS' political arguments but will help us identify whether, and how, the global economy is unstable.
The work, to be published in PLoS One, revealed a core of 1318 companies with interlocking ownerships (see image). Each of the 1318 had ties to two or more other companies, and on average they were connected to 20. What's more, although they represented 20 per cent of global operating revenues, the 1318 appeared to collectively own through their shares the majority of the world's large blue chip and manufacturing firms - the "real" economy - representing a further 60 per cent of global revenues.
When the team further untangled the web of ownership, it found much of it tracked back to a "super-entity" of 147 even more tightly knit companies - all of their ownership was held by other members of the super-entity - that controlled 40 per cent of the total wealth in the network. "In effect, less than 1 per cent of the companies were able to control 40 per cent of the entire network," says Glattfelder. Most were financial institutions. The top 20 included Barclays Bank, JPMorgan Chase & Co, and The Goldman Sachs Group. [...]
"It's disconcerting to see how connected things really are," agrees George Sugihara of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, California, a complex systems expert who has advised Deutsche Bank.
For OWS purposes: Merrill Lynch is at number 10, Goldman Sachs at 18, Morgan Stanley 21, Bank of America sits at 25. Number one? Barclays, which currently helps fund Robert Mugabe, among other things. The scientists in the study were split on whether economic concentration necessarily amounted to political power, but it's certainly a porous distinction in some places. Read the full summary and list at New Scientist.