The Absentee Landlord

A research  paper published  by Oxfam,  published to  coincide with the  World Economic Forum at Davos in late January  2015, shows that the richest 1 percent have seen their share of global wealth increase from 44 percent in 2009 to 48 percent in 2014, and at this rate will be more than 50 percent by  2016. Members of this global elite had an average wealth of $2.7 million per adult in 2014.

In my view, the issue is less  that the disparity between  the rich  “elite”‘ is widening, and more to  do with how that  rich “elite” use their power and influence.   Provided people have enough to  eat, good sanitation, clean water,  safe housing and  peaceful  living environments, the issue of disparate  incomes becomes less an  issue of need , and more of perception and unfairness. Why  should I be poor when you are rich, and you clearly have no  more r right to  those riches than I do, and certainly don’t use those riches  in  a way that benefits  anyone other than yourself and your immediate clique?

The concern  about the   majority of  the   wealth  and power and control   resting with  a minority of the word’s population is  therefore not  so  much  an issue of how the world’s “wealth”  is shared, but the quality of the decisions that  are now being made about our future world as a result of  the disenfranchisement of decision-making  from  those who  are connected to their local environment. That  wealthy elite make their decisions on the  property they own based  almost  exclusively on how much  profit can be accrued through its exploitation.

The history of absentee landlords in  Scotland and Ireland in the late 18th  and 19th  centuries is unequivocally clear on this, and a lesson for today ,  where more than  50%  of the world will soon be owned owned by absentee owners.. The welfare of  Scottish  and Irish rentees on the land was of absolutely no concern to the landlord in most instances. Neither was the environmental  destruction of the land  of any  concern, unless it impacted on profit or pleasure.

Those who  remain connected to  the land, particularly inter-generationally, have a much greater driver to  ensure it remains sustainable for the long-term. Bad short-term decisions can undoubtedly still be made that destroy natural habitats and species, by  those connected to the land, but  an algorithm  of exploitation based purely on  short-term monetary  gain, does not make sense to those who  will inherit that land in  the future.

As just one of so many examples, in New Zealand, the rise of  dairy absentee millionaires and  conglomerates who  buy up  large tracts of pasture land (which  was once dense bush  with a myriad of species  within it)  and then proceed to  destroy the land through  unsustainable exploitation of the water resources available  to them and the long-term contamination of the water table with  dairy foecal  and nitrate pollutants. Once the profits have gone from  the “business” and the land destroyed, those absentee landlords will  take their money  and move on to another more  profitable  exploitation option.

The rapid erosion of local  ownership   to land and property therefore is not simply and issue of equity or even poverty; but more importantly, just one more ingredient in that lethal recipe for environmental  global  disaster.



Richest 1% will own more than all the rest by 2016

Banks, Inequality and Citizens: Roberto Salvo


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