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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 1/21/14

Limits To Wealth

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"In the United States, wealth is highly concentrated in a relatively few hands. As of 2007, the top 1% of households (the upper class) owned 34.6% of all privately held wealth, and the next 19% (the managerial, professional, and small business stratum) had 50.5%, which means that just 20% of the people owned a remarkable 85%, leaving only 15% of the wealth for the bottom 80% (wage and salary workers). In terms of financial wealth (total net worth minus the value of one's home), the top 1% of households had an even greater share: 42.7%... In terms of types of financial wealth, the top one percent of households have 38.3% of all privately held stock, 60.6% of financial securities, and 62.4% of business equity. The top 10% have 80% to 90% of stocks, bonds, trust funds, and business equity, and over 75% of non-home real estate. Since financial wealth is what counts as far as the control of income-producing assets, we can say that just 10% of the people own the United States of America."

Wealth, Income, and Power, G. William Domhoff

When stock markets are high, apologists point to the petty increases in stock ownership by today's struggling middle-classes as indicating progress has occurred. This is despite the fact both social and natural security are collapsing, and the ability of an evaporating middle-class to fund even a modest retirement has become nearly impossible. Come the time when markets crash, currencies decline, and depressions emerge then the wealth, freedom, and social security of the majority disappears.

At the latest peak of a massive stock market bubble generated by private central banks, the top 5 per cent of U.S. households, for example, still own 75 per cent of all stocks. The bottom 80 per cent own only three to five per cent of equities, shares, defined-contribution pension funds, IRA's, Keoghs, and mutual funds. In the U.S., only 1.7 % reach the $600,000 level of taxable estate at death.

Worldwide, 358 billionaires are now worth the combined income of 45% of the planet's population. and less than two hundred companies control half of the world's wealth and production as mergers continue.

Today's global concentration of wealth, and economic and political power, is almost without precedent. In any case, such ill-distributed wealth and power cannot possibly define success for the vast majority. Combined with a pervasive lack of natural freedom, current conditions define oligarchy with its obscene concentrations of wealth and power, monopoly, oligopoly, and pre-revolutionary social conditions.

Where enclosure and factor imbalance prevail, limits to wealth and periodic reshufflings of assets, competition, and opportunity soon becomes a necessity. If reform is thwarted society cannot peacefully ameliorate great disparity or disenfranchisement. We are then destined to breed greater concentrations of wealth and power until society is completely convulsed and the severity of reckonings is greatly increased.

Given a capital-controlled global marketplace, we have entered a new era of stateless oligopoly, monopoly, and disparity without limit, or offset. At this writing, a new round of depressions, recessions, and repressions around the world today are leading to re-evaluation of capital's trade policies, election of "populist" governments, and a new scrutiny into the institution of private central banks, and the undemocratic international tribunals now controlling our lives.

With little or no effective democracy remaining, and nation-states increasingly impotent, every industry is destined to be controlled by one, two, or at most five or six, global mega-corporations - each with little interest in any real competition or consumer benefit. With the increasing size of global corporations, absence of compensating tariffs and anti-trust levers, few, if any, competitors can mount a challenge or raise enough capital to compete with established giants. Thus, no competition for emerging global oligopolies will emerge and, as a result, they will then turn the screws on hapless consumers without choice.

The enormous power of capital today is seen in the fact that, of the top 100 economies in the world, fully half are multinational corporations - i.e., private economies whose annual revenues exceed the G.D.P. of many nations. With companies grown as large and powerful as nations, democracy, effective competition, and truly free interdependencies must prove difficult if not impossible. The sheer size and power of global corporations today is well beyond anything imagined by economists and social theorists only a few decades ago. As a result, we are fast losing control of "our" markets, communities, and nations. Needed today are new and old mechanisms to prevent global monopoly, oligopoly, oligarchy, and the control of world markets and society by a few immensely wealthy individuals, powerful corporations, and "independent" central bankers.

If, on the other hand, we lived in a world of the enfranchised, and markets existed without great barriers to entry and competition, we might then conclude that such bigness is not a threat - or, at least, not likely to become a danger in a world of the enfranchised. However, this dream world is clearly not the case today. Worse, we are no longer maximizing domestic competition, capacity, creativity, and community control but, instead, minimizing local authority, autonomy, as well as our ability to escape one factor's power and predation.

Rather than a new capitalist millennium, the world is being set up to revisit nineteenth-century social conditions. Indeed, we are manufacturing conflict as growthism spawns decline, depression, currency ruin, crime, violence, envy and a revenge aimed at wealth and capital. Only with pervasive factor balance, enfranchisement, and trade schemes fit for a disparate world, can we alter a dismal dynamic, and avoid a sorry conclusion.

Short of reforms, however, there are currently no limits to wealth, enclosure, or capital's purchase of protection and political power.

In sum, within today's "laissez-faire" societies, our land and wealth distributions, as well as laws and legal systems, reflect the interests of those already in possession of wealth, power and freedom. This causes the privileged to ignore, and make worse, the plight of growing numbers of "late-comers." As oligarchies defeat reform, and manipulate the vote, they feed the forces insuring their demise. Without new limits upon wealth, and corporate size and power, we are condemned to global enclosure, oligarchy, violence, and revolution.

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