The Global Architecture of Wealth Extraction
By Joe Brewer /

Wealth inequality has reached truly epic proportions — with 62 individuals amassing the same aggregate wealth as 3.7 billion. Most of us intuitively sense that this outcome was rigged by design by a global elite.

Here in the United States we know about things like Citizens United (those with money can influence elections) and the Koch Brothers (part of the cabal that purchased this little piece of legislation). We get that the bankers who collapsed the financial system made out like bandits, quite literally. Those unlucky enough to be born anyplace where the tornado of colonialism touched down have been taught that “our people” should blame themselves for the personal character flaw of being on the receiving end of conquest and pillage.

What we’ve been lacking is a name for this integrated system of tax havens, corporate handouts, gutted governments, privatized lands held in common, and so forth. I use the phrase global architecture of wealth extraction and want to describe here how it makes up the core of political systems around the world.

Last year, I worked with a talented graphic designer by the name of Zoe Lowney to help tell this story as a timeline for modern history. This is what she came up with:

We intuitively get that the game has been rigged for some time. But most of us don’t know the details of how things came to be this way. As this graphic demonstrates, the architecture of wealth extraction had to be carefully built up in waves of creative destruction over the span of several hundred years.

In the earliest days, a suite of business innovations (double-entry accounting, the joint-stock company, etc.) were combined with a systematic policy of kicking people off commonly managed lands so that a system of “rent seeking” could be built up for wealthy people to extract money from the working poor. This was done in 16th and 17th Century Britain in what is known as the Enclosure Movement. And it laid the groundwork for a massive colonial empire to grow as the British and other imperial powers spread this logic of wealth extraction across the globe.

The first wave of mass poverty in modern times was the British and French peasantry. When these societies overthrew corrupt leaders and established democracies, the elites had to find more subtle ways to keep syphoning off wealth (thus growing social inequality) that didn’t conclude with rolling heads at the guillotine. So they invaded foreign lands and did their rent-seeking there.

This was how the mass poverty of India and many African nations sprang into being. Accompanied by systems of racial inequality and other “social control” mechanisms at home, they pitted the working classes of their own nations against each other as they took their model of wealth hoarding to new levels in “developing markets” like those of the spice trade and later with oil, coal, and other natural resources.

Flash forward to the 20th Century and you see the high art of wealth hoarding in digital accounting systems, structural debt-repayment programs, “free trade” agreements that privatized public lands, the invention of personal lines of credit to keep people enslaved to mortgages and consumer purchases, and later the so-called austerity programs that gut public coffers to feed private financiers after they orchestrated the deregulation and collapse of financial markets.

Said another way, the seeming lack of choice among political parties has less to do with politicalideology and much more to do with the economic ideology that forms the core logic of this planetary-scale system. To really get a sense of just how big it is, consider this:

If we were to tax a mere 10% of the money hoarded away in tax havens, we would have at least $2,000,000,000,000 that could be used to fund (1) universal basic income; (2) universal healthcare for more than 7 billion people; (3) free public and university education for everyone on Earth; (4) fund basic scientific research for all major problems humanity must confront; and (5) make the transition to ecologically-based energy systems and urban design that staves off the potential for collapse of our highly unsustainable civilization.

Think about that for a moment. Let it sink in

The architecture of wealth extraction is a cancer on this planet. It continually corrupts our governments, poisons the natural environment, and pits us against each other in a “race to the bottom” that has only one logical outcome — the wholesale destruction of life-giving capacities for the only home planet we’ll ever have.

I have written elsewhere about systemic corruption, the cognitive science of how we fail to see it, howwealth is really created, and what we might do with that $2 trillion dollars that constitutes a small part of the money squirreled away by sociopaths and those who idolize them.

It is time to systematically dismantle this wealth hoarding system. Now that we know what it is and how it was built, we can tear it apart piece by piece and replace it with something better.

Now THAT is change I can believe in.

Onward, fellow humans.

4.4 ·
What's Next
Trending Today
Noam Chomsky Has 'Never Seen Anything Like This'
Chris Hedges · 18,941 views today · Noam Chomsky is America’s greatest intellectual. His massive body of work, which includes nearly 100 books, has for decades deflated and exposed the lies of the power elite...
For Those Who Don't Want to Vote for the Lesser of Two Evils
Peter White · 13,346 views today · Ranked-choice voting is catching on, and Maine might become the first state to help citizens vote for candidates they actually want.
Your Lifestyle Has Already Been Designed (The Real Reason For The Forty-Hour Workweek)
David Cain · 10,530 views today · Well I’m in the working world again. I’ve found myself a well-paying gig in the engineering industry, and life finally feels like it’s returning to normal after my nine months...
Donald Trump Is the Mirror and Hillary Clinton Is the Mask
Chris Agnos · 9,527 views today · Disclaimer: I do not support Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton for president. I think the scope of the political debate is far too narrow for the kinds of actions that need to...
Anarchists - What We Stand For
unknown · 8,541 views today · Anarchism : The word “anarchy” comes from Greek and means “no rulers”. As a political philosophy, anarchism is based on the idea that organization does not require rulers—that...
Gil Scott-Heron Deconstructs Colonialism and Black History in His Own Unique Style
3 min · 6,134 views today · His-Story: I was wondering about our yesterdays, and starting searching through the rubble and to say the very least, somebody went to a hell of a lot of trouble to make sure...
10 Quotes From an Oglala Lakota Chief That Will Make You Question Everything About Our Society
Wisdom Pills · 5,056 views today · Luther Standing Bear was an Oglala Lakota Sioux Chief who, among a few rare others such as Charles Eastman, Black Elk and Gertrude Bonnin occupied the rift between the way of...
HyperNormalisation (2016)
161 min · 4,288 views today · We live in a time of great uncertainty and confusion. Events keep happening that seem inexplicable and out of control. Donald Trump, Brexit, the War in Syria, the endless...
Donald and Hobbes Is Genius
Various · 4,152 views today · Some clever folk have been replacing precocious 6-year-old Calvin, from the Calvin and Hobbes comic strips, with Donald Trump and the results are, well, take a look...
Today I Rise: This Beautiful Short Film Is Like a Love Poem For Your Heart and Soul
4 min · 1,782 views today · "The world is missing what I am ready to give: My Wisdom, My Sweetness, My Love and My hunger for Peace." "Where are you? Where are you, little girl with broken wings but full...
Our Obsession With 'Good Immigrants' Breeds Intolerance
2 min · 1,729 views today · Society sets the bar so high to become a 'good immigrant', argues writer Nikesh Shukla, that normal immigrants are demonised. He says non-Brits in the public eye have a simple...
My Cuba - An Intimate Look at the Pleasures and Struggles of 6 Different People's Cuba
150 min · 1,670 views today · Cuba - diverse, vibrant and complex - is undergoing immense change. But what does it mean to be Cuban in this time of change? Six people. Six films. From the comedy and ballet...
Lessons in the Calais Jungle: Teaching Life Stories and Learning About Humanity
Aura Lounasmaa · 1,644 views today · I am part of a team of academics teaching a course to residents in the Calais Jungle, a camp for migrants and refugees outside the French city. Life Stories in the Jungle has...
Planet Earth II Could Be Best Nature Doc Ever Made
3 min · 985 views today · 10 years ago Planet Earth changed our view of the world. Now we take you closer than ever before. This is life in all its wonder. This is Planet Earth II. A decade ago, the...
Bird Watching on Lesvos Island - A Poetic Call to Stand With Refugees
3 min · 883 views today · Born in Darfur, Sudan and raised in Philadelphia, Emi Mahmoud is the 2015 World Poetry Slam Champion and the Women of the World co-Champion of 2016. From a young age Emi...
What Makes Call-Out Culture So Toxic
Asam Ahmad · 843 views today · Call-out culture refers to the tendency among progressives, radicals, activists, and community organizers to publicly name instances or patterns of oppressive behaviour and...
The White Man in That Photo
Riccardo Gazzaniga · 663 views today · Sometimes photographs deceive. Take this one, for example. It represents John Carlos and Tommie Smith’s rebellious gesture the day they won medals for the 200 meters at the...
John Lennon's "Imagine," Made Into a Comic Strip
John Lennon. Art by Pablo Stanley · 576 views today · This is easily the best comic strip ever made.  Pabl
The Important Difference Between Love and Being Loved
2 min · 506 views today · We talk of love as if it were just one thing: in fact, it’s two very different moves, Loving and Being Loved. You start to grow up when you stop focusing on the latter and get...
Alliance of 600,000 British Doctors Calls for 'Imperative' Coal Phase-Out
Nadia Prupis · 473 views today · Doing so would constitute 'double win for tackling the twin health threats of air pollution and climate change,' report states
Load More
Like us on Facebook?
The Global Architecture of Wealth Extraction