Of the majority of the world's possessions, only a small number of people know who they really are. They are invisible wealth. Why is this allowed?
The differences in prosperity in a small-scale society such as a village are relatively small. The reason is simple. It is known of every villager what he owns and where that wealth comes from. So if a villager is very rich, the other villagers will more often ask the wealthy to take his responsibility. For example to sponsor poor villagers or a common project. By nature, people love equality. As a rich person, keeping all wealth to yourself makes you little loved by the rest. Hence, only when property becomes anonymous do the differences in prosperity become too great.
Often neoliberals see poor people as parasites, who contribute nothing net to the system. That's bullshit. If a cleaner and a garbage collector would earn ten times as much from their work as they do now, they would be “great contributors”. At least, according to the accountant, then. In the Covid-19 crisis we saw how important the work of the lowest paid workers is. Shelf fillers turned out to be indispensable. Bag fillers don't.
Where is the invisible wealth?
A well-known way of making wealth invisible is trust, in full: trust of foundation. The recipe is simple. The wealthy “trustor” transfers his assets to a foundation. And from that moment on, the wealth is invisible. In the meantime, this foundation is under the management of administrators, the trustees. The trustees manage the trustor's assets. This one has nothing to say officially. He does, however, enjoy the benefits of ownership. These trusts are common. Not only for private individuals, but also for multinationals.
The trust is just one example of a legal entity. A legal entity is an invention from the nineteenth century. The local supermarket is not owned by a person, but by a BV (bvba) or NV. If this BV goes bankrupt, the creditors can whistle for their money. A popular trick is to load one BV with debts. This BV subsequently goes bankrupt. And simsalabim, the debts are gone. In the meantime, the tax authorities have become wiser, but this type of fraud still occurs regularly.
Invisible wealth, power without control
Large companies are now owned by one worldwide web of investment firms and hedge funds. These funds often also have shares in each other. It has become an inextricable tangle. A money machine that extort a large part of the world and distribute the proceeds to a small group of the super rich. Nobody is responsible. They pay less and less tax, but can use the protections of the states where they operate for free.
For example, if someone disrupts the order in a StarBucks cafe, or comes to rob the place, the police will come. If you start a restaurant under the name "StarBucks", the police will come to the door for a violation of StarBucks trademark law. That costs the Dutch and Belgian state, and therefore us, money. Yet Starbuck pays hardly any tax, due to a sophisticated construction . That means the company is parasitizing the societies where they plug their expensive coffee full of unhealthy sugars.
StarBucks is not unique in this. Worldwide, companies such as Starbucks and Action societies and immensely enrich their owners. They cut wages and increase costs by charging ever-higher prices for their products and licenses. For example, Microsoft receives five to ten dollars for almost every Android phone sold . The reason: the package of software licenses, with which Microsoft threatens to sue smartphone makers. As a result, smartphones are becoming more and more expensive.
How can this invisible wealth be addressed?
Ownership is one negative law. Namely, it gives one person or group of people exclusive right to a certain item, for example the patent on a certain technology or country, to the exclusion of others. There are certain obligations against this right. For example, the duty to contribute to the land in which the property is recognized through the payment of tax. At this point, the owners are escaping this duty by hiding. They benefit from legal protection for their property, but do not pay for it. They violate the social contract.
Time, then, to get our share of it social contract also no longer to be met. If a homeless person in StarBucks makes a fuss, the police can stay home. If Warda and Joost “illegally” start a new Starbucks café without a license, have the mayor do the opening and wholeheartedly recommend it to the local fool.
Of course they are too patents of companies that do not pay tax are no longer valid. We invite smartphone manufacturers to start producing without royalties here in the Netherlands and Belgium. Bet these companies pray and beg to pay their taxes properly from now on?