For those of us prone to conspiratorial thinking, it won’t come as a surprise that Swiss researchers revealed that the global economy is dominated by a core group of 1,300 companies, all of which are quite intertwined.
New Scientist reports that a team of Swiss complex systems theorists based in Zurich conducted a study of the interconnectedness of 43,000 multinational corporations. They found a core group of about 1300 companies that controls a disproportionate amount of the global economy, and which shares many investors in common.
Using a database called Orbis 2007, which has investor data for 37 million companies all over the world, according to New Scientist, the researchers isolated the multinationals and looked for links between their owners.
Then, they made a visual model of “which companies controlled others through shareholding networks, coupled with each company’s operating revenues, to map the structure of economic power,” according to New Scientist.
1318 companies make up the core of the world’s economy, and every single one is connected to at least two other companies. “On average,” writes New Scientist, “they were connected to 20.” And within that core group, they identified what they called a “super-entity” or 147 companies that “control 40 per cent of the entire network.”
Among the top 25 companies, almost half are banks, including Barclays (#1), JP Morgan Chase, UBS, Merrill Lynch, Deutsche Bank, Credit Suisse, Bank of New York Mellon, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, SocGen, and Bank of America (#25). Perhaps not surprisingly, financial institutions populated this core group of 147 quite densely.
And while this doesn’t mean that there’s a conspiracy between financial institutions to rule the world, it does mean that they wield a disproportionately large amount of financial power. Their interconnectedness makes them a powerful bloc, not only because they share mutual interests that do not necessarily line up with consumers’ interests, but also because one bank’s failure could mean several banks’ failures — this is what happened in 2008.
For opponents of too-big-to-fail institutions, this is bad news: this core group of interconnected businesses controls almost half of the economy — that sounds like too-big-to-fail to us.