About Me

I ramble about a number of things - but travel experiences, movies and music feature prominently. See my label cloud for a better idea. All comnments and opinions on this blog are my own, and do not in any way reflect the opinions/position of my employer (past/current/future).

29 October 2011

Yes, there is a group that runs the world

The idea of a group of people who secretly control the world, is staple fare of many fictional novels. From the Free Masons to the Illuminati, to various groups in between; the fiction is lined with controlling agendas, secret hangouts and off course rituals. It seems that it is not all fiction ...

As reported in New Scientist, a research group from ETH Zurich conducted an analysis of 43 060 corporations, untangling their capital ownership structures and creating a network of ownership of these corporations. Once all the networks are untangled, only 147 companies remain as the sole owner of capital - so the Illuminati group is not a small clandestine group; but it is far smaller than one would have thought.

It is not surprising that the list is dominated by financial companies; though there are a few notable exceptions - such as Walton Enterprises and China Petroleum. The data is understandably old, and thus the pecking order may have changed; but the order also shows why Lehman Brothers' failure was so catastrophic - in 2007, it was 34th most powerful corporation in the world in terms of economic power; and thus it is no wonder that its failure affected so many others globally.

Also interesting to see is the various nationalities of the companies represented; with one South African company, Old Mutual, on the list (although Old Mutual now claims to be a British company, although it is still largely based in South Africa in terms of workforce and revenue). There is not much detail beyond the top 50 companies, but on the top 50 list, I was surprised to see no South American or Indian companies, or even a lot more of the sovereign wealth funds from the Middle East.

The full paper can be found here. It does not mention any prospective future research areas, but given the impact of Lehman Brothers' failure, I would suggest that the next step should be to look at the impact of a network node failure. For example, should there be another failure of a major financial institute, what other corporates would be impacted?

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