who owns the world book coverReviewed by Caleb Shadis

Who Owns the World was not exactly what I was expecting. I thought the book would be a narrated almanac or a list of facts followed by the author’s interpretations of the stats given about land ownership across the world. Instead, we are presented with the author’s poorly disguised agenda.

If you skip Part I 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. However, if you actually read the first section, Cahill has a grand view of ‘what is wrong with the world’. Namely, too much land in the hands of too few. He starts off with a tirade about the U.S. Government owning approximately 33% of the country and takes pot shots at people like Ted Turner for personally owning 1.8 million acres.

Cahill later 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.

Cahill seems to believe 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.

So to sum up Who Owns the World, land equals wealth and the poor are poor because they don’t have any, and by reallocating the land we will make everyone richer. Of course, Cahill ignores the fact that not all land is equal (he estimated that Canada was worth about $5,000 an acre on average across 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 were interesting), he was rather ignorant of the real landscape. While I agree with his assessment for the very narrow list of countries in Africa and Asia, his general disdain is rather ignorant in my opinion.

Caleb is a software engineer and amature woodworker living in southern Minnesota. He has more hobbies than he has time or money for, and enjoys his quiet time reading.

This book was provided free of any obligation by Hachette Book Group. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.