Oct 1, 2011

Behold, The Financial Superentity

Economic literature often depicts markets as so dynamic that they are absent hot spots of control. Nevertheless, people have always suspected that a disproportionate amount of the world's economy is controlled by a small number of individuals. As it turns out, there is new and for the first time, empirical evidence to back up our anecdotal conspiracy theories. Thanks to the Cornell University Library, you can see The Network of Global Corporate Control.

Looking at a network of key financial actors within transnational companies, Stefania Vitali, James Glattfelder, and Stefano Battiston sorted through more than a million ownership ties to reveal a financial superentity. The diagrammed relationships show that in 2007, 147 companies controlled 40 percent of the world's global monetary value. The disproportionate ownership and close interconnectedness of so few financial titans appears, on its face, frightening.

In fact, like a common cold in kindergarten class, it seems fairly certain that if one of these players catches a virus then all of them will fall ill. However, the more optimistic flip side may also be true. The existence of this transnational superentity of immense economic value means global level change is achievable with only a small number of players. It's conceivable that seemingly impossible problems like climate change are addressable given these new facts.

While a virus might decimate the superentity, positive behavior and meaningful alignment is also more easily distributed via its interconnectedness. Today's New York Times features an article about our forests and our climate in peril. A group that controls 40 percent of global wealth could agree to a set of measures that would positively impact climate change. The only piece missing is to introduce these folks to each other. A social network might do the trick.