Who Owns the World: The Surprising Truth about Every Piece of Land on the Planet

Who Owns the World: The Surprising Truth about Every Piece of Land on the Planet


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You don't have to be a student of geography or cartography to have an interest in the world around you, especially with globalization making our planet seem smaller than ever. Now you can IM someone in Alaska, purchase coffee beans from Timor-Leste, and visit Dubai. But what do we really know about these lands?

WHO OWNS THE WORLD presents the results of the first-ever landownership survey of all 197 states and 66 territories of the world, and reveals facts both startling and eye-opening. You'll learn that:
—Only 15% of the world's population lays claim to landownership, and that landownership in too few hands is probably the single greatest cause of poverty.
—Queen Elizabeth II owns 1/6 of the entire land surface on earth (nearly 3 times the size of the U.S.).
—The Lichtenstein royal family is wealthier than the Grimaldis of Monaco.
—80% of the American population is crammed in urban areas.
—The least crowded state is Alaska, with 670 acres per person. The most crowded is New Jersey, with .7 acres per person. —60% of America's population are property owners. That's behind the UK (69% homeownership).
—And much, much more!

With its relevance to contemporary issues and culture, WHO OWNS THE WORLD makes for fascinating reading. Both entertaining and educational, it provides cocktail party conversation for years to come and is guaranteed to change the way you view the U.S. and the world.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780446581219
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Publication date: 01/29/2010
Pages: 369
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

Kevin Cahill was born in the Irish Republic, and now lives in Devon, in the UK, with his wife. They have three daughters. A former army officer, Kevin has worked in the House of Commons, the House of Lords, the Irish Parliament, and the European Parliament as an adviser and researcher. He is the author of a number of books on business, trade, and landownership and was a researcher on the original Sunday Times Rich List.

Rob McMahon is a freelance writer and editor with more than fifteen years experience in book publishing.

Read an Excerpt

Who Owns the World

The Surprising Truth About Every Piece of Land on the Planet
By Cahill, Kevin

Grand Central Publishing

Copyright © 2010 Cahill, Kevin
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780446581219



Chapter 1

Of Wealth and Poverty, of Kings and Queens, of Power and Land, of the Planet and the Race

Income doesn’t make you wealthy. Assets do.

Advertisement for Portfolio Building Services, as seen in Financial Times, June 11, 2004

Poverty and wealth are not, as is often thought, opposites. Instead, the two words predicate a problem, poverty, and also indicate its solution—wealth. Land is the single most common characteristic of wealth worldwide. What the poor lack—land—the rich have in spades. In fact, land defines the wealthy to a far greater extent than cash. According to the World Wealth Report 2007 released by Merrill Lynch/Capgemini there are 9,500,000 millionaires worldwide totaling 0.15% of the population. Likewise, there are 3,200,000 in North America (mostly found in the United States) totaling 0.62% of the regional population. Of the earth’s 6,600 million inhabitants, few, perhaps just 15%, own anything at all, and most are pitifully poor. The distinguishing feature of universal poverty is landlessness. Yet there is no great movement to get land to the impoverished masses. Aid, yes. But land, no.

Land, though, is not scarce on our planet. There are 33,558,400,010 acres of land on earth, and only 6,600 million people to occupy those acres. (This excludes Antarctica, which is another 3,375,496,490 acres.) Notionally, there are 5.2 acres of land available to every man, woman and child on the earth.

Ten Counties in America with the Highest Number of Millionaire Residents in 2007

1      Los Angeles County, CA      261,081      23%     

2      Cook County, IL      168,422      38%     

3      Maricopa County, AZ      126,394      64%     

4      Orange County, CA      115,396      10%     

5      Harris County, TX      117,513      16%     

6      San Diego, CA      100,727      9%     

7      King County, WA      75,616      34%     

8      Santa Clara, CA      72,932      6%     

9      Nassau County, NY      71,896      12%     

10      Suffolk County, NY      71,343      12%     

Source: TSN Financial Services (2007) as reported by Reuters May 5, 2008     

Rank County No. millionaire households Percent of millionaire households households (based on states total population of millionaire households)

Trying to Visualize Space on the Planet—It’s Difficult

If you are rich, 5.2 acres will not seem like much land. If you are among the 85% of the earth’s population who own no land at all, 5.2 acres will seem like a dream beyond avarice. Conventionally, geographers quote a statistic of persons per acre, square kilometer or square mile to demonstrate demographic distribution. Acres and acres per person on the other hand, will be the normal measurement(s) used throughout this book.

Acres per person clarifies three things. First: the actual availability of land in any given country in relation to the population. Second, it provides a much clearer picture of how land is used, as well as occupied, when a fuller picture of actual distributions within countries is presented later in the book. Third, it provides an indicator of the potential for wealth creation, as land is taken from rural areas, say, and converted to urban use.

An acre is a little larger than the area occupied by a soccer field. So, for example, every person living in the wide open spaces of America has a potential 8.2 acres available to them—the equivalent of about 8 soccer fields. The converse picture, of Americans per square mile, which is 77, falsifies the actual distribution and is purely notional. It is a figure that is true for statistics but not for the real world. The acres per American, on the other hand, is factual and true for the space potentially available. As we shall later see, the majority of Americans live in America’s 60-million-acre urban area, leaving the rural population in America’s real wide open spaces, with about 101 (38.1) acres apiece, based on potential availability. The overall picture throughout the world is composed by separating those two figures—the acres available per person in urban areas, and the acres available in rural areas—and excluding wasteland.

The question then is simple. If there is this much land available, why is there poverty? The answer is simple. It is called exclusion. Over 85% of the earth’s population is excluded from ownership of land. In 2006, 50% of all human beings lived in urban areas. Urban land is probably a maximum of 1,000 million acres, about 3% of the 33,558 million non-Antarctic acres that make up the land surface of the planet. Exclusion from ownership is the context in which poverty occurs.

The World’s Five Richest Men

William (Bill) Gates III: Chairman of Microsoft

Net worth: $40 billion

Warren Buffet: Chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway

Net worth: $37 billion

Carlos Slim Helu & family: Chairman and CEO of Telemex, Telcel and America Movil

Net worth: $35 billion

Lawrence Ellison: Co-founder and CEO of Oracle

Net worth: $22.5 billion

Ingvar Kampard: Founder of Ikea

Net worth: $22 billion

Each individual’s wealth may be different at the time of publication as a result of the volatile economic climate.

Source: Forbes.com, March 3, 2009. Edited by Luisa Kroll, Matthew Miller and Tatiana Serafin.

The World’s Five Richest Women

Christy Walton & Family: Daughter-in-law of Sam Walton, founder of Walmart.

Net worth: $20 billion

Alice Walton: Daughter of Sam Walton, founder of Walmart.

Net worth: $19.5 billion

Liliane Bettencourt: Daughter of L’Oreal founder Eugene Schueller. She holds a controlling stake in the company.

Net worth: $15 billion

Susanne Klatten: Inherited from her late father a large stake in the auto manufacturer BMW.

Net worth: $12 billion

Birgit Rausing: After the death of her husband in 2000, inherited Tetra Laval, a multinational corporation headquartered in Switzerland that focuses on food processing and distribution.

Net worth: $11 billion

Each individual’s wealth may be different at the time of publication as a result of the volatile economic climate.

Source: Forbes.com, June 9, 2009. Steven Bertoni.

The word “exclusion” is used deliberately. Access to and use of land across the planet is determined, after nature has made its disposition, by ownership. Those not part of the ownership nexus, and consequently excluded from formal rights over, or access to and use of, land, save with the consent of the owners, constitute more than 85% of all human beings and may even be 90%.

In a nutshell, the root cause of poverty is the historic capacity of landowners to assign themselves the bulk of the land and to exclude all others from access or ownership of land, using what they call the “law.”

Landownership by a central power, usually the monarch, has an ancient history. This book will look to explore the transformation from poverty to comparative wealth, and its spread in the population of so-called developed countries. But this book will also show that it is the same underlying factor, the distribution of land, which lies at the heart of solving poverty in the developing world and of securing future economic development in the developed nations. As industrial employment declines in industrialized countries, the source of economic growth and development has shifted, from wages to real wealth, which are assets.

Those with the largest land assets have hastened to the propaganda barricades to prove that there is hardly any land in the world at all.

It is the creation of assets within the population which will solve poverty in the world, and economic stagnation too. It is not GNI that will measure the future wealth of nations, but GNAV: gross national asset value, per capita. And it is a rise in GNAV that will measure the true rise out of poverty of the world’s poor. Nations in the future will have not a GDP index but an asset index. The GNAV will have two categories. Private-land GNAV, based mainly on homeownership, which will be an indicator mainly of landed assets, and non-land GNAV, which will be an indicator of non-land assets—cars, etc. Each of the indicators will help make clear the gap between the wealthy, with fixed assets, and the relatively poor, those without landed assets. The real economic progress of all the countries can then be measured in a meaningful way, because the two measures, private-land GNAV and non-land GNAV, will between them yield a picture of how poverty is being eradicated and wealth created, and at what rate.

Where countries, populations and economies are concerned, the future is substantially predictable, excluding major catastrophes such as earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes and wars. Trends in populations and economics are well established.

What this book seeks to do is simple but also unprecedented. It seeks to establish an accurate picture of a current phenomenon, which is landownership, sufficient to disclose the historic trends which created the current reality, and also sufficient to make predictions about it.

Land Availability Worldwide

Below is a table of some of the world’s largest and most populous countries. The table shows the average Chinese citizen has twice as much homeland available to him or her than a citizen of the United Kingdom. India emerges as no more crowded than the UK, but Bangladesh is seen to be pushing the envelope badly, with land availability amongst the lowest of any country on earth. The table also reveals that 79% of the US population lives in urban areas, leaving one with a strong visual sense of just how much rural land and unoccupied real estate there is in the wide open space of America.

Table of Land Distributions for Some Sample Countries

Namibia      203,687,040      Less than 750,000      1,817,000      38.5% (700,000)      112.1      181.7     

Australia      1,900,741,760      3,000,000–4,500,000      19,873,800      90.6% (18,000,000)      95.6      1,013     

Canada      2,467,264,640      5,000,000–6,500,000      31,660,294      77.9% (25,000,000)      77.9      369.9     

New Zealand      66,908,800      Less than 1,000,000      4,009,000      87.3% (3,500,000)      16.7      129.5     

Mozambique      197,530,240      2,000,000–3,000,000      17,856,000      33.6% (6,000,000)      11.0      16.5     

USA      2,423,884,160      60,000,000      295,000,000      79% (233,000,000)      8.2      38.1     

South Africa      301,243,520      6,500,000–9,600,000      46,430,000      53.8% (25,000,000)      6.5      14.5     

Tanzania      233,536,000      5,000,000–6,000,000      29,984,000      40% (12,000,000)      7.8      12.8     

Republic of Ireland      17,342,080      1,000,000      3,996,000      60.1% (2,400,000)      4.3      9.6     

China      2,365,504,000      250,000,000–260,000,000      1,288,400,000      37.3% (481,000,000)      1.8      2.8     

Nigeria      228,268,160      80,000,000      126,153,000      46% (58,000,000)      1.8      3.2     

Pakistan      196,719,360      50,000,000–60,000,000      147,662,000      37.2% (55,000,000)      1.3      2.0     

United Kingdom      59,928,320      4,200,000      59,554,000      89% (53,000,000)      1.0      43.8     

India      782,437,760      50,000,000–70,000,000 (approx.)      1,068,214,000      21.6% (231,000,000)      0.7      0.9     

Japan      93,372,160      12,000,000–15,000,000      127,649,000      78.3% (100,000,000)      0.7      2.8     

Bangladesh      36,465,280      4,000,000–8,000,000      131,500,000      25.1% (33,000,000)      0.3      0.3     

Country Total acreage Urban acreage(est.) Population Percentage (and number) of population which is urban Acres per person for the country as a whole Acres per person living in a rural area

Tables like the above enable us to establish basic, though very approximate, facts about existing patterns of land availability and use, and offer a new way of planning for increased wealth and diminished poverty. They provide a goal and a way to plan the journey.

But it doesn’t explain the existence of a vast mass of the poor, any more than it explains why the rich are just a tiny tribe. Aberrant landownership, as we have said, does that. It was neither nature nor God who built estate walls to keep the starving Irish from the food that would have saved their lives during the famine. Nor was it nature or God who built fences to keep the dispossessed English, Welsh and Scottish peasantry off their own land during the enclosures. It was landowners and Parliamentary law. It was not nature or God who forced the Native American people off the land that was once theirs. It was would-be English and European landowners. It was not nature or God who kept the Russian population as landless serfs. It was Russian landowners and Tsarist law. It was not, and is not, nature or God who donates one-eighth of the planet to twenty-six people. It was forceful theft, followed by bent laws, and now inheritance, fortified by an aberrant version of the principle of private ownership, especially of land.

For here is a gorgeous contradiction. This book asserts that the main cause of most remaining poverty in the world is an excess of landownership in too few hands. The book will also assert that private ownership of a very small amount of land—one-tenth of an urban acre or an acre or two of rural land—granted to every person on the planet has the potential to, and, I believe, begin ending poverty on a global basis. The book will go further and reassert that the right to the direct ownership of land is a fundamental human right.

This book will hopefully demonstrate, as the Chinese government has actually proved, that the core concept of private landownership, even if limited to time-bound leases, is the single most important element in dredging the masses off the dung-heap of poverty. Conversely, as we shall show, it is the misapplication of the principle of private property which put the poor on the dung-heap in the first place and has kept them there throughout history.

The concept of the overwhelming right to own private property has deeper roots than might be supposed. To protect the primary human right, the right to life, both the European Convention on Human Rights and the UN Convention class a right to shelter as a basic human right. In practice, shelter needs to be more than a sheet of canvas on two sticks. Meaningful shelter includes, and has to include, the concept of security and with it a degree of permanence. Families are not one-night stands. Overnight shelter does not meet the requirements of the second human right.

It was a violation of this basic right, the right to secure shelter, which resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands, possibly millions, of Irish peasants during the famine in 1845–9. As the landlords evicted the starving peasants from their plots of dead potatoes, they invariably caused the peasants’ shelters or huts to be pulled down around their ears as the law permitted. This forced hundreds of thousands to live in holes in the ground, from which they were later rooted out and sent into the open countryside by troops acting on the orders of the landowners backed by the laws of the time. Ireland is classed as a temperate weather zone, but it is a wet temperate country and a cold one in winter. Without shelter in Ireland in winter, you die. Between one and two million people were murdered by landowners using, not abusing, the law, and by denying the peasants their right to shelter. The landowners did not have the peasants shot or bayoneted. They simply drove them, starving and sick, out of any kind of shelter, into the open countryside, as was permitted by law. The weather did the rest.

The right to private property, which may arise from many concepts, economic and otherwise, is fundamental to the protection of the second human right, the right to secure shelter. A thousand other catastrophes besides the Irish Famine have proved and continue to prove this fact on a daily basis. But in the complex urban structures which dominate the populations of the modern world, basic facts are often forgotten or obscured. In many countries, the right to secure shelter is undermined by landlords and by outdated concepts of landlord rights, written in and for another age. For instance, the concept of rent for a shelter not owned by the dweller is supposed to be fundamental to capitalism. It isn’t. It is an accident of a primitive and outdated concept of land use, mainly but not only central to feudal and medieval land tenure. The entire feudal and medieval structure rested on possession of land by a tiny aristocratic few and the payment of rent or service by the bulk of the population.

In the UK, private homeownership stands at 69% of all homes and is rising, if slowly. Private homeownership in Ireland stands at 79–82% and is rising but is probably close to its ceiling. In the US, private homeownership stands at approximately 60%. These three sets of facts, repeated around the world, state that “rent” is an outdated concept in economics.

People in developed semi-democracies no longer rent; they own. And it is out of private ownership that real democracy, as opposed to the neo-democracy we now endure, will finally arise. Not, however, before the third principle of economics is up and running. This is the mobility of land. This principle completes the underlying foundations of true capitalist economics and free markets, which is access by the entire population to capital assets and a free market in those assets. The true capitalist circle consists of the mobility of labor and the mobility of capital combined with the mobility of land. It is extraordinary that the fathers of modern economics, Adam Smith amongst them, failed to realize that if land is an inherent asset in the capitalist system, then it has to conform to the rules of the market of which it is such a critical component. It has to be, above all, available. In the landowner-bound world of the early economists, the idea of the mobility of land conflicted with the notion of landowner hegemony and the authoritarian structure of government that rested on universal ownership of all land by a small elite. In as much as this was a fundamental failure of analysis by the founding fathers of the dismal science, it was also a blunder that has left the West handicapped by totally unsuitable structures when it comes to land, especially in Europe.

To prove this, let us simply state the facts of landownership in modern Europe. In Europe, about 59% of all arable land is owned by between 360,000 and 720,000 people, many of them from aristocratic families. This number is between 0.3% and 0.6% of Europe’s population. How unsuitable these structures are follows from what these family groups obtain from their near-monopoly possession of land. The elite European landowners get at least 59% of the European Union subsidy for “farming” each year, which amounts to $28,000 million. It is an extraordinary situation. The richest people in Europe not only clip their tenants for rent but the taxpayer as well. Two bites of the cherry and no tax—most of Europe’s agricultural land is untaxed.

They are also paid to own and keep extremely valuable economic assets within a badly run business, which is agriculture. They are paid a fortune to keep the most critical economic asset in the capitalist system, land, off the market. Indeed, one can go further and say that they are paid a fortune to ensure that a proper market in land never develops.

Renting is becoming economic history. Of course, there will always be a role, everywhere, for rented accommodation. But its central role, as a source of rents for the privileged few, is over—as is its role as a significant factor in any modern economic model. The many in the developed countries are where human rights and human welfare say they should be: in their own shelter, which they own or hold in freehold possession and do not rent. They are exercising their deepest right, after life itself, which is to secure shelter. And, at the same time, they are where all future economic development is going to be focused: around the privately owned dwelling-place.

The Largest Landowners on Earth

The 35 monarchies, including the papacy, currently in place around the world, together rule over a third of the earth’s surface. Monarchical rule exists in 51 fully constituted states, and in 36 colonies and dependencies of the world’s 197 states. Together, 26 of those kings—it is mostly kings, emirs or sultans, rather than the female of the species—claim personal, legal ownership of about 20% of the surface of the planet, out of 36,933,896,500 acres.

And it is the claim by the 26 key monarchies to overall, feudal ownership of all land under their rule that gives away the game. The purpose of monarchical rule is the monarch obtaining supreme power, or something as close as possible to it, in any given state. Historically, this was done by force, with the successful bandit or criminal asserting suzerainty over all the land that he and his outlaws could control, and as much else as would yield to his blackmail.

The purpose of grabbing all the land in sight and beyond was simple. In earlier times, land was the source of almost everything, including, most importantly from the would-be monarchical point of view, rents. Claim all the land and all the rents were yours, and surplus land was an asset with which to bribe your followers.

But existing monarchs don’t live in the same era that we do. They remain ensnared in the past and are largely as they always have been: avaricious and wholly concerned with maintaining what power they have, irrespective of the cost to others.

And they have, to an extraordinary degree, done so by hanging on to this concept of royal or monarchical ownership of the ultimate freehold of all land over which they reign. The word “extraordinary” is used because, in a world where 5,500 million people own nothing at all, we have 26 leftovers from history getting away with a claim to own one-fifth of the planet.

But their capacity to sell an outdated shibboleth, that of private ownership of whole states, even to those who destroyed their ancestors, is unique and uniquely damaging in the modern age. The Russians who overthrew the Tsar in 1917, far from abolishing the core defect in the Tsar’s rule, which was the concept of the royal ownership of all Russian land, instituted a new and even more regressive form in the subsequent Soviet state. The Soviet state in fact became the Tsar reborn and ultimately collapsed because corporate or collective ownership can never replace widespread private and personal ownership of land. The Soviet Union collapsed because the United States, as the renowned historian and author Paul Kennedy showed, outgunned the Soviet Union economically, and it did so, according to Tom Bethell in The Noblest Triumph, because of widespread private landownership.

There are many reasons for the economic superiority of the United States, but the most commonly agreed factor amongst economists was, and is, the widespread private ownership of land in the United States. This will be dealt with in more detail later. For now, let us look at how the world is divided up, having discovered who the primary owners are.

This distribution of land amongst the 26 monarchies makes them richer by far than anyone on the Forbes list of the world’s billionaires. It establishes four of them as trillionaires. This is a very rare accomplishment on planet earth, even on a comparative basis with, say, the Roman emperors.

10 Largest US Cities

1      New York City      8,363,710      8,274,527      8,250,567     

2      Los Angeles      3,833,995      3,834,340      3,823,508     

3      Chicago      2,853,114      2,836,658      2,828,586     

4      Houston      2,242,193      2,208,180      2,169,248     

5      Phoenix      1,552,259      1,552,259      1,517,318     

6      Philadelphia      1,447,395      1,449,634      1,453,212     

7      San Antonio      1,351,305      1,328,984      1,296,304     

8      Dallas      1,279,901      1,240,499      1,227,894     

9      San Diego      1,279,329      1,266,731      1,258,603     

10      San Jose      948,279      936,899      924,888     

Source: US Census Bureau     

Population Estimates for 2008, 2007, 2006 Rank City 2008 2007 2006

The 26 Largest Individual Landowners on Earth

1      Queen Elizabeth II of the UK, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and 28 other countries and territories      UK and all of its territories and dependencies: $5,000 per acre      6,698,146,531      $33,490,732,655,000     

2      King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia      Saudi Arabia: $5,000 per acre      580,000,000      $2,900,000,000,000     

3      The Pope      Vatican City plus church      177,000,000      $1,700,000,000,000     

4      King Mohammed VI of Morocco      Morocco: $15,000 per acre      110,000,000      $1,650,000,000,000     

5      King Bhumibol      Thailand: $10,000 per acre      126,000,000      $1,266,000,000,000     

6      King Abdullah      Jordan: $15,000 per acre      24,000,000      $360,000,000,000     

7      Sultan Qaboos      Oman: $5,000 per acre      52,000,000      $260,000,000,000     

8      Sheikh Zaid      Abu Dhabi: $5,000 per acre      16,635,000      $83,175,000,000     

9      Emir Jabir      Kuwait: $15,000 per acre      4,400,000      $66,000,000,000     

10      Grand Duke Jean      Luxembourg: $100,000 per acre      638,742      $63,000,000,000     

      (Bill Gates)      By way of wealth      Comparison      $50,000,000,000     

11      King Gyanendra of Nepal      Nepal: $1,000 per acre      36,300,000      $36,000,000,000     

12      Sultan of Brunei      Brunei: $25,000 per acre      1,400,000      $35,000,000,000     

13      King Wangchuck      Bhutan: $2,500 per acre      11,000,000      $27,500,000,000     

14      King Letsie      Lesotho: $2,500 per acre      7,000,000      $17,500,000,000     

15      Sheikh Hamad      Qatar: $5,000 per acre      2,700,000      $13,500,000,000     

16      King Mswati      Swaziland: $2,500 per acre      4,200,000      $10,500,000,000     

17      Sheikh Maktoum      Dubai: $5,000 per acre      963,300      $4,816,000,000     

18      Prince Hans Adams      Liechtenstein: $100,000 per acre      39,520      $3,952,000,000     

19      Sheikh Sultan bin Mohhamed Al-Qasimi      Sharjah: $5,000 per acre      642,200      $3,211,000,000     

20      Sheikh Hamad al Khalifa      Bahrain: $15,000      171,418      $2,571,000,000     

21      Sheikh Saqr bin Mohammed      Ras al-Khaimah: $5,000 per acre      419,000      $2,095,000,000     

22      Sheikh Hamad bin Mohammed      Fujairah: $5,000 per acre      284,050      $1,420,000,000     

23      Sheikh Rashid bin Ahmad al Mu’alla      Umm al-Qaiwain: $5,000 per acre      185,250      $926,000,000     

24      Prince Albert      Monaco: $2,000,000 per acre      247      $494,000,000     

25      King Tupou      Tonga: $2,500 per acre      184,509      $461,000,000     

26      Sheikh Humaid bin Rashid      Ajman: $5,000 per acre      61,750      $308,750,000     

      Total (excl. Bill Gates)            7,854,371,517      $42,049,162,405,000     

Name Country Legal claim on land in acres Approx. value

Landownership in history through time and across the planet

History, seen from the perspective of the mass of the landless, is a record solely of those who “owned,” in whatever form, all land. These were mostly emperors, kings, queens and aristocrats, constituting less than 3% of the earth’s population at any one time and often a much smaller percentage than this.

For about 9,800 years of known history, humanity on the planet’s surface was divided into those claiming ownership of land—a figure of between 0.2% and 3% of the planetary population—and the remaining 97–99% of humanity, which owned nothing. The function of humanity itself—was threefold: to grow produce and generate tax for the owners, to pay loyalty to those owners, and to be cannon fodder for those owners. Beginning with the American Revolution, the relationship between the masses and the owners began to change. In 2007, about 16% of the planetary population have a fingerhold on land, by way of a domestic dwelling. Recalling that, historically, the assets of the owners were in fact the entire sum of assets on the planet, and that the assets of the rest of humanity were zero, or near it, this is actually the most profound economic change ever to occur.


Excerpted from Who Owns the World by Cahill, Kevin Copyright © 2010 by Cahill, Kevin. Excerpted by permission.
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Table of Contents

Editor's Note vii

Disclaimer ix

Introduction xi

Part 1 Overview and Analysis

1 Of Wealth and Poverty, of Kings and Queens, of Power and Land, of the Planet and the Race 3

2 The Largest Landowner on Earth-By Far 16

3 The World's Next Largest Landowners 25

4 The Four Major Landholding Religions of the World 37

Part 2 Details of the Ownership of All the World's Land

Notes on All Figures and Sources 57

Table of All the World's Countries 61

1 The Land of America (USA) 81

A Portrait of the United States Through the Lens of Landownership 81

Notes on American Figures and Sources 102

Table of the United States of America 105

Details of All 50 States 106

2 The Lands of Queen Elizabeth II 167

3 The Land of Africa 203

4 The Land of the Americas (Non-USA) 256

5 The Land of Antarctica 278

6 The Land of Asia 280

7 The Land of Europe 319

8 The Land of Oceania 361

Acknowledgments 368

About the Authors 370

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Who Owns the World: The Surprising Truth about Every Piece of Land on the Planet 3.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 11 reviews.
JaneLC More than 1 year ago
My Thoughts: I suppose this book would accurately be categorized as a research book. But I'm here to tell you that it is also fascinating reading. From experience, I have one caution for you. Don't drive the people in the room with you crazy by relating every fascinating detail you come across. After about 50 such interjections, they're likely to leave the room. This book is a real eye-opener in many categories. I enjoyed the 'Background' sections, lots of great little-known material in those sections. With the wealth of information on each of the U. S. states, it's easy to make comparison from one state to the next. And one outstanding fact that just blew me away, was how much actual land in this country the Federal Government owns. WOW! Information doesn't stop with the U.S., many other world nations are covered also. Another great point about this book is that the information is given in an easy to follow format, including detailed descriptions and easy to read charts, making it easy to make mental notes. Teaser Snippet; ~ What this book seeks to do is simple but also unprecedented. ~This distribution of land amongst the 26 monarchies makes them richer by far than anyone on the Forbes list of the world's billionaires. A complimentary review copy of this book was provided by the author.
JNSelko on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
My goodness, what an amazing book! Chock full of information from stem to stern, it is an enormously revealing compilation of everything from individuals of great wealth to the vast anonymous and powerless poorest of the poor which make up half of the worlds population. Of special interest was the various hoops that citizens of various nations have to go through to get their property properly deeded and registered in the proper governmental offices. In northern Europe, it is quite (surprisingly) expensive but quick, efficient and backed by the force of law (enforceable law, that is) This is a book for stat-heads, geography junkies, closet historians, astrologer/economists, sociologists of any stripe and a should-read for anyone who desires to be literate on the state of the world and the power that wealth affords those in possession of it and the power that Power gives over the poor and uneducated.
branadain on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Well, this one is somewhat interesting, but a bit of a mess. It's sort of an almanac, and does contain interesting trivia about many of the countries, but I have to question the veracity of much of the information, particularly the statistics which are really supposed to be the core of the book. The author seems to either be intentional selective about how he defines "ownership" of land, or else he is inexperienced with statistical analysis. Either way, there is clear confirmation bias for his thesis that too much land is in the hands of too small a minority of people. His claims that the Queen of England OWNS the entirety of the UK and all British protectorates stands out in particular. While it may be technically true that the Crown owns all the land it rules, the Queen Herself doesn't own it, nor in practice does this equate to a single owner. It's largely an antiquated formality, and would be an interesting curiosity as a side note, but distracts from the reality of modern practice.Worth flipping through, but don't risk citing it for research.
knittingmomof3 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An excellent , well laid out reference book on every land mass in the world, a brief history of each piece of land and who owns it.
Nickelini on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I¿m a geography geek, so I was thrilled to get an ER copy of Who Owns the World¿a question I have pondered often in my travels. Chapter one, ¿Of Wealth and Poverty,¿ although not very well written, is an interesting and thought-provoking essay on the important relationship between poverty and land ownership. Unfortunately, this chapter was the only worthwhile part of the book. I¿d really like those hours back that I spent with this one. Who really does own the world? I¿ll save you the frustration of reading the book and just tell you: according to this book, it is highly probable that wherever you are, the land is somehow in some form, ultimately owned by the state. Not very useful, I know, but there you have it. For example, Cahill says that Queen Elizabeth II is the largest single landowner on the planet. The first problem with that is that he uses her name as a synonym for the British monarchy or crown, which it is not. The second¿bigger¿problem with this is that he includes her property to include every inch of the UK, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and a whole bunch of other countries. Maybe that¿s technically true on some level, but it is simplistic and meaningless. It gives zero information on the reality of everyday life for the people connected to that land. Furthermore, in the case of Canada, he doesn¿t even mention that Quebec is legally a ¿distinct society¿ has its own system of law based on the French system, and he fails to mention Indigenous land claims. He doesn¿t come right out and say it, but the implications of his statements are that, if she wanted to, Queen Elizabeth could, say, kick everyone out of the province of Prince Edward Island because she wants to retire there on her own private sheep farm. This is absolute nonsense.The structure of the book is terrible. First, there is not one single map. Not one. How do you have a geography book without maps? Two, instead of logically dividing the world into its physical landforms, he discusses first ¿The Land of America,¿ by which he means only the United States, and utterly ignoring all the other countries that are part of America (the Caribbean, Central America, Canada, South America). This is just one example of how the author is sloppy in his use of language. He may think that America = USA, but many people in this world strongly do not. Along the same lines, he states that Columbus ¿discovered America.¿ Why would he choose that term when it has been widely deemed offensive and inaccurate for at least the past 25 years? He could so easily have selected historically correct and neutral words. It¿s not just with language that he is imprecise. He does not value precision of fact either. According to Cahill, Canada (which he categorizes not as part of North America, but as a ¿Land of Queen Elizabeth II¿) is a ¿federation of 13 provinces.¿ Uh, no it¿s not. There are ten provinces and three territories. Similarly, he claims that Australia is ¿a federation of six states, including Tasmania, the Australian Capital Territory and Jarvis Bay Territory.¿ That one isn¿t even close to correct. It¿s not like these details about Canada and Australia are obscure or confusing. I had this info down by the time I was nine years old. And it¿s easy to verify. So why would he blunder so? And if he gets this simple information wrong, what else has he messed up? Why would you bother to read a book by an author with no credibility?Okay, maybe I¿m being too nit-picky, and I need to look at the larger picture. Unfortunately, as a whole, the book doesn¿t get any better. Many sentences are ambiguous, and Cahill constantly drops facts into paragraphs without explaining the implications of what it means. The organization is a mess¿entirely inconsistent. He throws in trivial tidbits intermittently that have nothing to do with landownership, but then doesn¿t give basic information in other places. (I really could go on and on and on and on about how poorly organized this boo
vpfluke on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is an intersting book, and the more I pore through it the more I like it. I was a little put off by the idea that the Brisith crown (Queen Elizabeth) is the real owner of most of the land in the British Commonwealth (¿ of the world's land surface), and the people who we might deem as landowners are, in fact, only "holding" the land. The book is very thorough, attempting to size up the land ownership just about everywhere in the world. I was amazed to find that in some of the former Iron Curtain countries that the old aristocracy is reclaiming its ownership. This book is nice addition to my reference collection.
hyperpat on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The premise for this work is good: of all the world's land surface, who really owns all the various bits of it? Clearly land ownership is not equitably distributed; some own much more than others. This book presents reams of statistics about land ownership in just about every country and territory in the world, and most of these numbers have been well researched and are as good a set of numbers as you are likely to see, given that some countries have almost zero real data collection processes about these matters, and many more are in such a state of inner turmoil that determining who 'owns' what is a frustrating and near-meaningless endeavor. But this book is marred by a major flaw, that of trying to impose the author's particular feelings on how land ownership should be dealt with, rather than investigating the reasons and history of how it is currently set up, and just how the world economies are very dependent on such distribution. In the first chapter, the author continuously points out that there is plenty of land for everybody, several acres for every man, woman, and child on the planet, and that if only such a equal distribution could be achieved, all the worlds troubles would go away. While it is certainly true that many of the world's wars have been over ownership of particular pieces of land, what this author misses are several facts: 1.Large portions of the world's surface, while technically marginally habitable, in reality will not support any type of heavy-density human presence. Areas such as the Australian outback, the huge Artic tundra areas, large tracts of land around and in the Sahara desert, the many heavily mountainous regions of the world should all be subtracted from the available land area that is available for divvying up amongst the world's population. There are very good reasons why so much of the world's population is concentrated in relative small areas of the planet, but this book does not delve into those reasons. 2.Many areas of the world can be farmed, but the most efficient, greatest yield-producing methods for many of these areas cannot be done in small plots, but rather require large tracts that lend themselves to mechanized farming methods, or have so little vegetation that their only viable use is grazing land at many acres per cow. 3.The best pieces of land are relatively small in comparison to all the rest, and like any item in short supply, there is strong competition for such pieces. Once someone has managed to gain control of such areas, they will normally do all they can to maintain that control. As the author presents no concrete plan for just how his 'equitable' distribution of land could be achieved, his harping about just how much of the world is controlled by so few comes across as a very irritating whine.This same author viewpoint leads him to make some claims, that while they are 'technically' true, are absurd on their face, such as the claim that Queen Elizabeth II personally holds close to a sixth of world's land. Most of this is actually claimed by the British Crown, not the Queen personally, and if the Crown ever tried to actually invoke that claim (such as all of Australia) and kick all the current inhabitants out, there would be instant and massive opposition. Of much more interest was the author's detailing of what the Queen actually holds in her own name (not the Crown's), and this list is quite impressive, truly showing her to actually be one of largest landholders in the world. If all of this book had been like this one area, it would have truly been a very useful and enlightening look at who really owns the world. As it is, the only really useful items here are the statistics he has compiled on all the various countries listing area, population, and general form of land ownership, as this data is not easily findable all collected in one place. Note also that this is not a book for casual reading; other than the first chapter the balance is composed of data listings
libri_amor on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
"Who Owns the World" is clearly not a book to be read cover to cover while in front of a warm fireplace unless, your idea of a good read is an almanac!Notwithstanding this caution, the book does offer its share of interesting tidbits of information and a myriad of statistics. The book does also live up to its subtitle "Surprising truth about every piece of land on the planet" even with the nod to the hyperbole. For example, who is the world's largest individual land owner? Or, what are the land ownership provisions for Canada and Australia?The majority of the book is indexed by region and country of the world. For the US, it is state by state. Each entry describes key statistical data on population and land area. There is also a brief narrative (approximately 1/2 page) describing the country (or state) and provisions of land ownership. Of course, with any book of this type the accuracy of the statistics is time dependent and varies with each country. The author clearly acknowledges these limits in the front piece disclaimer. In this age of Google any use of the book's statistics should be throughly checked.In summary, this is an interesting reference book for your library but probably isn't on anyone's must have reference list.
DashHouse on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Who Owns the World is a fascinating book that explores who owns land in every country and territory in the world. A fun book to flip through. It turns out that Queen Elizabeth II owns a sixth of the entire land surface on Earth ¿ but that¿s because she technically owns all of Canada and Australia. This book is more than fun facts. Only 15% of the world¿s population lays claim to land. Could too much land in the hands of too few people be a leading cause of poverty?
readafew on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Not exactly what I was expecting, I thought it would be a narrated almanac or a list of facts and the authors interpretations of the stats given. What we are given is an irate person who has an agenda he is poorly trying to push. If you skip Part 1 Overview and Analysis the rest of the book is an interesting almanac with lots of information and usually a quick piece of trivia about each country. You also will most likely not notice the little sniping and snarking for what they are. However if you actually read the first section the author has a grand view of 'what is wrong with the world'. Namely, too much land in the hands of too few. He starts on a tirade about the US Government owning ~%33 of the country and takes pot shots at people like Ted Turner for personally owning 1.8 Million acres. Then later he makes a big deal about the Queen of England owning 1/6 of the land surface of the entire planet. He starts by blurring the 'Crown' with the 'Queen' and then claims she owns all of Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Britain and several other smaller countries as well as %60 of Antarctica. While the Queen is one of the richest land owners on the planet, it comes from her personal wealth not 'owning' entire countries. The author seems to think that the world is in the trouble it is in because too many people do not have land of their own and that something should be done about this. He never gives any suggestions on what should be done or how he thinks this utopia should come about, but that doesn't deter him from whining. Apparently in one country, the ruling king gives every male at the age of 18 a home in the city and one in the country and the author seemed to think this was an excellent idea to be carried out, only expanding it to include women as well. Even though to do this lies in direct contradiction too few controling too much, since who will decide who gets what land and when? So to sum up, Land is wealth and the poor are poor because they don't have any, and by reallocating the land we will make everyone richer. Of course he ignores the fact that not all land is equal (he estimated that Canada was worth about $5,000 an acre on average for the entire country), and many uses of land for cost effectiveness and efficiency require larger tracts of land. Which would produce more wheat a 500 acre field or 100-5 acre plots with houses and paths for travel? You'd be lucky to graze 2 cows on a 5 acre lot in many of the Western states, but where would you get your water? Overall while the author had a book of facts (which was interesting) he was rather ignorant of the real land scape. While I agree with his assessment for very narrow list of countries in Africa and Asia, his general disdain is rather ignorant in my opinion.
crnfva on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a book for reference, and not to be read like a novel or an essay. It's full of interesting information, many of which are usually overlooked in newspapers and tv news. It can help to have a more clear background on what really happens in the world