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25 of 37 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The book reads like a serialization in The Guardian, 10 July 2007
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This review is from: Who Owns the World: The Hidden Facts Behind Landownership (Hardcover)
Anyone with a left-of-center ideology will find much to comfort their beliefs.

In the introduction the author goes into why, in his opinion, the measure "acre per person" is far better than "people per square mile". Mathematically the two are the same, but of course the psychology is very different.
In his example: 8.2 acres person person in the USA, or 77 people per square mile. But who get his 8.2 acres in the Death Valley dessert and who gets his in Manhattan? This the author does not go into.

Repeatedly the author makes statements to the effect of the plentifully available land. Conveniently ignoring the transportation, and subsequent energy nightmare, a full use of all this land would entail.
The author admits that the books should have been written 100 years ago and it would no doubt have been more relevant then. As it is now, actual prosperity for most people in the advanced economies is very marginally affected by ownership of land. Agriculture and land tied activities like mining is a much more modest fraction of GDP these days. Businesses have increasingly found it useful to dispense with owning landed property at all, as an unnecessary economic encumbrance; just renting as and were required. Likewise people. Investment is the source of wealth. In securely owned assets. You own personal dwelling is an obvious choice for investment but not the only one, and frequently not the best one either.

Those with a modicum of schooling in economics will find much to be mystified about. My personal favorite is the assertion that distribution of land will end poverty (p.29). The author de facto admits that this is nonsense by using UK current land distribution (69% own their own dwelling) as an example of a prosperous population. Yet elsewhere call those same people feudal serfs. He specifically site the Swiss as an example of land ownership (the Swiss mostly rent) not being the source of wealth in the bulk of the population.

It takes more than a small leap of faith (ideology?) to assert that the Duke of-so-and-so owning 100 000 acres of rural Scotland has much to do with the un-affordability of houses in London.

On one score there is agreement between the author and conventional economics. Agricultural subsidies. The author seems to be offended that the already rich receives money from the taxpayer, without mentioning that the bulk of the moneys paid out in subsidies goes to the small owners. An economist would be equally offended by both, considering one pound paid out uselessly, just as bad as another.

Cahill refers to the Queens ownership of all land as "trivial piece feudal nonsense" yet expend many pages on how significant this really is. Which is it: A piece of feudal nonsense or hugely significant ?

The author throws the word "illegal" around quite a bit. Then he contradicts himself by stating that the perpetrators change the law to suit themselves. Legal is whatever the law says it is. The author appears to mean "immoral" when he uses the term "illegal".

So the work is deeply ideologically addled and not shy about it. Which is perhaps inevitable in someone willing to undertake the thankless task of compiling a book about land ownership. We should be thankful that someone is willing to undertake it at all.

A sober reader will not have any great difficulty filtering out the ideological slant. But this bias may compromise the integrity of book. Note the differing treatment of UK and Ireland. The author makes much of the fact that the Queen is the legal owner of all land in the UK, all others "hold" land in the country. In the Irish chapter the Irish state took over the legal right of the queen. Yet the author keeps referring to Irish people individually "owning" land in Ireland (p.169) This mixing and matching of terms persists through out the work.

The book reads like a serialization in The Guardian - there is a lot of repetition and invective against the landed rich. Repetition is fine for a series of newspaper articles published over a period of time, but in a book it becomes a nuisance.
A bit of editing would not have been out of place.

Cahill writes a crisp, lucid prose and manage to inject some excitement into the subject. His thoroughness does him credit and is the greatest strength of the work.

I would certainly recommend this work to anyone with an interest in economic history. Appart from the obvious groups of readers like those with a strong sense of envy or afflicted with some other sort of left-of-center ideology.

Enjoy the strengths, ignore ideological nonsense.

3 stars
1 taken away for inconsistent and inaccurate use of terms
1 taken away for poor editing
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Showing 1-6 of 6 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 6 Dec 2008 18:35:24 GMT
Last edited by the author on 6 Dec 2008 18:38:43 GMT
Mr. R. Smith says:
Anyone with a right-of-center ideology will find much to comfort their beliefs in this review. The writer talks as a follower of neo-classical dogma. Those who wish to see a free market economy and equal rights for all should read this review to understand where the key roadblocks to reform exist in our economy. Then immediately read Progress & Poverty by Henry George, a book free from dogma and undisputed after 129 years

Posted on 6 Dec 2008 18:51:44 GMT
Mr. R. Smith says:
Anyone with a right-of-center ideology will find much to comfort their beliefs in this review. The writer fails to understand basic economics, a common approach among latent followers of neo-classical dogma. Those who wish to see a free market economy and equal rights for all should read this review first to understand where the key roadblocks to reform exist in our economy. Then immediately read Progress & Poverty by Henry George. It sold a million copies 129 years ago. The logic is all there, no dogma, just facts delivered from the natural order of things rather than dogmatic politics.

Posted on 25 May 2009 13:13:08 BDT
S. Metcalfe says:
I found this to be a ridiculous attempt at a review, riddled with annoying spelling mistakes and grammatical errors. Please don't take seriously anyone who thinks the word "desert" should be written as "dessert" (as in "Death Valley dessert" in the second paragraph above).

Kevin Cahill's book is one that should be standard reading for anyone who feels a need to get to the truth of what lies behind "historically objective" documentation and media smokescreen. Read the book and more like it. Please don't be put off by "reviews" like the above.

Posted on 4 Jul 2010 00:40:06 BDT
Mark Golding says:
Having read Who Owns Britain I am familiar with the comments made by this reader. Kevin is not a macroeconomist but then he never claimed to be. What he has done though is show the perfiduous nature of political power behind its inextricable link with the exponential rent value of large tracts of land being kept 'in the family' for hundreds (even thousands of years) based on filial links with the most earliest of settlers and invaders who keep it so by awarding themselves superfluous regal titles of authority and by retaining defunct ones and re-creating new ones to keep the political machinery of the State tied to their interests. Land is always rented to someobody and if a very tiny sector of the population technically and legally own a large chunk of a rentier economy , no matter what advances are made in production and distribution, in balancing the State's accounts through fiscal adjustments, the same minority are able to capitalise on their rental incomel by creating new or buying into industries and markets that use buildings, facilities and services that pay rent to them as landowners. The Industrial Revolution was funded by those who owned the land on which the new science of invention grew. Their initial investments evolved into another rentier economy euphemistically called franchising and so on. Big Landowners in the UK don't just own land, but own/have vested interest in the industries that have evolved on THEIR land because of the incestuous relationship between the rentable value of their land and the infrastructure i.e. roads, canals, railways, necessary to make economic growth expand into an Empire.
European history is all about dynastic warfare using troops like sanitary towels to mop up the blood. Kevin is spot on with his disapproval of the ancien regime mentality of a modern State. His thorough research will pay off when land ownership in the future becomes as discursive and as urgent an issue as homosexuality is now.

In reply to an earlier post on 6 Oct 2010 18:58:29 BDT
misuc says:
Well said!

Posted on 2 May 2012 15:06:40 BDT
you appear to not know the difference between legal and lawful, or maybe you do, in that immoral = illegal. there are only 3 laws you must obey. 1, do not cause harm to another, 2, do not defraud another, 3, do not damage or steal property of another. We are all born equal and NO ONE has the right to order anything of anyone. We volunteer to pay taxes, when read your rights the police will then say, Do You Understand? Answer is: No i do not stand under your authority. It is known as Legalese, a way to trick you into a contract where you agree to represent a corporation in your name. Because a corporation cannot ask you, the human, to pay anything or order anything of you. In fact 'Person' is a legal term that defines the fiction you agree to represent.

We truly are free, always have been, unfortunately most people have been decieved for many many years.

find the yourstrawman website..... become enlightened and take responsibility for yourself, you are not a child in need of permission, you are a free human being.
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