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Oliver Hartwich says we need to be much less restrictive in welcoming foreign direct investment. We are missing large broad gains they say in a new Report

Oliver Hartwich says we need to be much less restrictive in welcoming foreign direct investment. We are missing large broad gains they say in a new Report
The NZ Initiative says we should be more welcoming of foreign direct investment. Your view? Image sourced from Shutterstock.com

By Oliver Hartwich*

New Zealand affords itself the luxury of treating overseas investment as a privilege rather than as a necessary and desirable means of better integrating ourselves with the world, so as to make the most of what it has to offer.

That blinkered attitude permeates our regulatory regime, which the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development assesses to be more restrictive than the regimes of 47 other countries out of a total of 53 countries.

Before international investors can deploy their capital they must find out if their planned investment concerns assets deemed sensitive.

Prior approval is required for such investments and the definition of a sensitive asset is very broad indeed.

For example, every parcel of non-urban land greater than 5 hectares is deemed to be sensitive, no matter how swampy, erosion prone, or barren, and perhaps 99% of New Zealand’s land cover is non-urban.

If their planned investment is deemed to be in a sensitive asset we absurdly subject foreign investors to tests of character, relevant business experience and acumen and financial commitment.

These are not tests that politicians are known for applying to themselves when investing taxpayers’ money, and neither are they tests that apply to local investors.

Regardless, one would have thought that the intention to invest real money buying the asset in question was in itself proof of financial commitment.

As the Treasury has repeatedly pointed out, if the concern is with how the asset might be used, then this is a use question, not an ownership question, and all overseas investors must comply with exactly the same rules and regulations that apply to any asset use in New Zealand anyway.

Harming New Zealand

Our regime is at its most absurd when the investment is in so-called sensitive land and the investor does not intend to live in New Zealand indefinitely. In this case, the law requires the relevant minister or ministers to be satisfied that the overseas investment will benefit New Zealand. The catch is that the primary benefit – the sale proceeds to a New Zealand vendor, are not counted as a benefit. Yet, if securing that benefit was not the prime reason for selling, what was?

This regime is not only bureaucratic overkill; it actually harms New Zealand.

The world’s best companies and innovators do not have to invest in New Zealand. If we put hurdles in their way, they can simply shrug their shoulders and invest elsewhere. That makes our international links weaker, our assets worth less, and our country more of a global backwater. This is the core message of our newly released report Open for Business – Removing the barriers to international investment.

In very limited, particular cases there may be good reasons to be careful about foreign investment, but reasons based on emotional, anti-foreigner sentiment do not make the cut.

After all, most New Zealanders are the descendants of immigrants.

National security issues are widely regarded internationally as a good reason, yet New Zealand’s regulatory regime has little or nothing to do with national security.

Reciprocity is a further reason for why the Overseas Investment Act needs to be reformed. Few would want to see New Zealanders treated unfairly when trying to buy a property or business overseas, so why do the same at home?

We are hypocritically applying double-standards when we believe we should be freely able to invest overseas, yet put obstacles in foreign investors’ ways.

As we highlighted in our previous report Capital Doldrums, New Zealand also stands out unfavourably internationally for the slump in its ranking for investment attractiveness.

A threat to living standards

A regime that is hostile to investment is a threat to New Zealanders’ future living standards.

Our standard of living depends on being competitive in world markets for goods and capital. We can exploit economies of scale through world trade, and we can maintain competitiveness and improve productivity if we continually tap into the technology and expertise of the world’s best firms. If we do that well, New Zealanders can enjoy the best the world has to offer and great job prospects – without emigrating.

Certainly, there is no case for gloom. We rank very highly on some measures of international competitiveness, and we are still attracting overseas investors. A Treasury working paper has estimated that imported capital between 1996 and 2006 cumulatively raised our incomes by $2,600 per worker and wealth per capita by $14,000 in 2007 prices.

Nevertheless, we need to excel in policy settings across the board if we are to offset the disadvantages of size and distance.

In our new report, we examine New Zealand’s regime in considerable depth, drawing heavily on Treasury’s far-ranging review of the regime’s shortcomings and policy options in 2009–10. The picture that emerges from their and our research is a disturbing anti-investment bias in our legislation – without actually offering any good public policy reasons for its main features.

Clearer criteria

After more than two years of research on this issue, our conclusion is this: New Zealand’s regime represents a muddled, overly bureaucratic response to an ill-identified problem.

We believe that the starting presumption for a fit-for-purpose regime should be that asset transactions between a willing buyer and a willing seller should proceed unless there is a good public interest reason otherwise.

If an otherwise legitimate transaction is to be stopped for the benefit of the public at large, the costs of achieving that benefit should not fall unfairly or unduly on the asset owner. This means respecting the would-be vendor’s property rights and addressing the issue of compensation, if appropriate.

We believe that the onus of proof for keeping our highly regulated FDI regime is on those who want to keep it.

If other countries can do well with much lower levels of regulation, we are also capable of doing the same.

This means that we should be treating domestic and foreign direct investors the same – and we should be treating foreign investors in the same way we wish to be treated as investors abroad.

New Zealand should be open for business. We need to remove the barriers to foreign investors. We have nothing to lose from such openness but much to gain.

------------------------------------------------------

Dr Oliver Hartwich is the Executive Director of The New Zealand Initiative. The Initiative’s new report Open for Business – Removing the barriers to international investment is available at www.nzinitiative.org.nz.

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61 Comments

We believe that the starting presumption for a fit-for-purpose regime should be that asset transactions between a willing buyer and a willing seller should proceed unless there is a good public interest reason otherwise.
 
There is the problem. Public interst is longer term use of the land for the country versus immediate short term gain for the seller.
We should not be giving away our assetts of any kind to all that want them. If they are important to the furure of NZ (and land is very important, as is power) then that is the reason for not selling. Far too short sighted thinking in this article.

Why do you assume that "we" will lose control over the "long term use of land for the country" if the land is owned by foreigners?  Are you under the impression that the use of land owned by foreigners is not subject to the same NZ laws on planning, conservation, environmental protection etc as is land owned by NZers?  

MdM - you have proven to be not entirely stupid, so we have to assume that your effort is knowing spin. On behalf of which vested interest, pray tell?
 
There are ways - and ways - of 'owning'
 
http://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=11206582
 
And when the land-owners have the mass or the money (think Shirtcliffe re MMP) they are a force for their - and therefore not for other's - good.
 
Don't even go there about 'jobs' or 'investment', there's a good wee idealogue. Spare us that one, OK? If we 'own', were 'richer. End of story.
 
 
 

If a foreigner pays a New Zealander money for some land, then the foreigner has the land (although it's still subject to NZ laws and regulations) and the New Zealander has the money.  Both are richer as a result of the transaction. 
 

MDM - you are only looking at one side of the equation......the assets value.......and not the assets value potenital to generate income for the NZ income tax system.
You seem to be forgetting about the tax treaties?
 
E.G. (1)  NZer sells asset to NZer for $1million.....that asset generates income tax of $100k paid to NZ IRD.
(2) NZer sells asset to Off-shore investor for $1million.....that asset generates no income tax for NZ because a tax treaty exists in the off-shore investors country of residence so no $100k contributed to NZ.
 

Not so, the land has intrinsic value, ie it still produces a good (food) the paper money from the Fed isnt under-written, it gives the elusion of being of value but really it isnt a good.
regards

Great - so you'll give me three million dollars for my little patch of land?

Except selling the land means have then lost the profit stream from the produce that the land produces. In a future where food is seeming likely to be more valuable than fiat dollars, this seem very very shortsighted.

Once the land is sold, that's it. A smart foreign buyer would hold it permanently. Meanwhile the population of NZ suffers as produce is exported abroad for other people to consume (and profits go to the foreign owner, not a Kiwi).

As an aside (take it as you will), a colleague of mine whose family is Chinese believes that once the land is sold New Zealanders will never own it again. His view is that the Chinese culture values ownership far more than we do, especially ownership of something as important as land (which we seemingly take for granted). If we ever needed that land again in a time of crisis then that would be an open invitation for military intervention.

The future profit stream would be taken into account in the price paid for the land in the first place.
 
You think the land is worth more than foreigners are willing to pay for it - Why don't you buy it then?
 
 

...because most of us earn money in NZ and it's relativley low wage high cost society.  We cannot compete with a foreigner who pays a serf .50 a day, operates without any pollution or work regs and then comes here with their ill gotten zillions.  Allowing foreigners to purchase is not a level playing field for locals.

So your argument is not with foreigners, it is with rich people being able to afford more than poor people.
 
Why then would you want to keep New Zealanders poor, by not allowing them to relieve the rich people of their money?

Because the only way the Kiwis can get the money is by selling the golden goose.

Its just a takeover by the elites.  We in the middle classes stand and watch while ownership of farms and houses is taken away from us. While those like you sprout on about some higher moral right, that the playing field is even,that we all pay taxes, if you work hard you can make it too, crap.
 I cannot buy the land because the earnings are not there. Wealthy elites don't need the earning potential, its the destruction of the landowning middle classes and it dangerous, very dangerous.

You miss politics rather vthan vested interests. Some such as MdM have an extremist political viewpoint to advance.
You cant argue with a fanatic.
regards

When a one time asset is consumed for the short term profit of overseas "investors" (maybe use the term exploiters instead)  and maybe a short term gain of a few NZers then yes we have thrown away long term  control. 
So for me we dont need to sell NZ assets to a foreign corporation, our own ppl (may well be future generations) in due course will wish to access them.
regards
 

What "control" do you think "we" have over a farm owned by a New Zealander that "we" don't have over a farm owned by a foreigner?
 
Why will "our own ppl (future generations)" be any less able to buy New Zealand land from foreigners than they are able to buy New Zealand land from other New Zealanders?

Why do you assume we won't? 

Because the land is still subject to NZ environmental, planning, conservation etc laws.

Agree

Remember OH / NZ Initiative is the Roundtable death-warmed-up .
The only investment allowed should be on the basis of contracted long term benefit to New Zealand and as such be constrained by a defined sell out if targets are not met within the contract period.
 

oh and on soooo many levels...
but one: We are hypocritically applying double-standards when we believe we should be freely able to invest overseas, yet put obstacles in foreign investors’ ways.
look at real case by case examples:
buying land in China, Brazil Switzerland and Singapore. + +.
We do not suggest that Govt. policy should be set on terms we [who we] believe should be in action in other countries [when fact of matter shows otherwise].
 
i.e. please do not use as a basis for policy the description of a world that does not exist.
 

Oliver, we dont want to sell ourselves into slavery for beads of coloured glass, no matter how sparkly they look now.  go away.

How exactly do you become a slave as a result of foreigners buying land in New Zealand?  Are you in any way a slave of New Zealanders who own land in New Zealand?

I guess we are in that a lot of asset prices are so high, many Kiwis cannot afford them.

yes, and since you never get the ante to take a seat at the table, you must live on the scraps thrown by those who do

I am on a moderately level playing field with my NZ neighbour.

I am nowhere near a level trading or playing field with screened foreign big money looking for strategic resource control.  it's completely David's baby brother vs Goliath (multiple Goliaths in this case) arrangement.  And my NZ neighbour is pretty much in the same boat.   

And the foreign investor may go elsewhere but my and my neighbour cannot.

And the next generation (and the elderly) are even worse off unless they get "in" and serve the foreign masters for favours...which results in them being slaves to the system with no say or options.

MDM - Government is the biggest cost to any NZer.....think of the income taxation system......you sell to many NZ assets off then the means of producing income tax are significantly reduced.
If the assets are owned by a NZer for income tax purposes then the income tax base is quite simply wider.

So in return, can we draft a law to stop NZ companies (Fonterra) buying land in other countries, mainly South America???

sounds decent idea to me.

no reason if NZ companies want foreign assets that they shouldn't fully fund business operation in that country, including setting up ownership through locals...after all they must be having same social issues we do!

Fonterra isn't  developing farms in South America like it is in China.  Though it does have 3 farms - 2 in Chile which were set up around 20years ago, and one in Brasil - a more recent development.  Just curious - Why are you against farms in Sth America? Only Fonterra banned from owning farms offshore or kiwi corporate farmers as well?
Fonterra also has two farms in Chile - one of which Turnbull took the Prime Minister to visit in Puerto Montt.
The Chile farms were originally set up about 20 years ago to increase the supply of safe, good quality milk for Soprole factories to use.
It is also developing a pilot farm in Brazil which has 1000 cows born from embryos exported to Brazil from New Zealand. It will eventually have 2500.
http://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=1087...

I am not against farms in Sth America, I am questioning the principles behind this idea.

This is wrong on so many levels it is hard to know where to start. How about you build an economy by selling something you produce, not by selling the means of production. If foreigners want to come here and produce something then why is it necessary to own the land, we can rent it to them.
 
Why is there a presumption that a foreigner can utilise the land better than a New Zealander? I for one would prefer to see the foreign capital invested in things the New Zealand can't supply, like high end manufacturing equipment.
 
I really hope this Oliver guy isn't being paid for this, or his research in general. But if he is then it would go a long way to explaining whey New Zealand does perform poorly.
 
 

I beg your pardon Oliver "A regime that is hostile to investment is a threat to New Zealanders’ future living standards".
Please provide evidence to back up this statement ! Living standards have been declining.
"A Treasury working paper has estimated that imported capital between 1996 and 2006 cumulatively raised our incomes by $2,600 per worker and wealth per capita by $14,000 in 2007 prices".
 
Maybe have a look at inflation over the period 1996 to 2006.......
 
Personally I have no problem with Foreign investment.......IF.......the playing field is level.....BUT......the playing field is not level.......due to tax treaties and other major anomolies....but.....you don't mention those problems.......WHY?
 
Hows Foreign investment worked out for countries in Africa?.......the citizens are really wealthy.....not.
 
How many hectares of land have been sold to foreign/off-shore interests? And what is the annual income tax return to NZ from these assets?
 
 

and how do you know that it will be the "The world’s best companies and innovators do not have to invest in New Zealand. If we put hurdles in their way,"
and not the usual US corporation scum bucket?
"inovate" and Why do we even need them to "invest"?  ie Why cant NZers do the inovation?
All I can see happening is foreign companies come in and then using monopoly power/position extract rentier levels of $s off NZers, and/or extract our non-renewable wealth for the benefit of themselves. 
Frankly Im getting sick of watching NZers and NZ screwed over by some NZers wanting to make a fast buck by selling NZ to the highest overseas bidder.
regards

good point, refer Telecom.
 
Xero, folk here, raising funds from away to make business away.
 
Another issue is cost of equity for folk focused here.
beta aside, the additional risk premium for place/distance, market size and rules (nzx etc) size (invesments less than 1 bn$ & float size).
all mean that unless you show growth (eg free cash flow to equity) of 5%, 10% then equity costs say 10%. (the believed future growth rate is deducted from cost of equity rate - this drives valuation......
 
without the commercial growth,
1. ppl pay cash out in dividends and act like a yield play v cash rate
2. ppl look to finance structure to increase equity return i.e. gear up, means less cash for growth and take on commercial risk to increase returns. act like rent seekers....
3 ppl act as a yield play AND gear up...
 
think of it as a failure of market for funding enterprises.
banks address the failure by lending with a registered first mortgage over landed property....
 
example: when the supermarkets act up, the growth goes from goodman, - the maths shows the equity value wiped out.
with limits on discharge, therefore production the same applies down on the farm for those unable to regigg process/procedures successfully (its case by case).
 

Doesn't seem to be a problem for international investors. Carter Holt Harvey's pulp, paper and packaging sale to the Japanese a case in point.
The only major players left in the sector will be the Scandinavian companies Norske Skog, which makes pulp and paper on the Kawerau site where CHH's Tasman kraft pulp and paper mill also operates, and SCA, which makes tissue papers, also on the Tasman site.
http://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=1124...

Looks to me like Hartwich is yet ANOTHER one who is mistaking ownership for investment. How do these people get to be listened to

To be fair , New Zealanders dont want to be parochial or sectarian  , but we have a problem with being exploited by outsiders when some things can be done by us, or where there is a sense of unfair play .
We also have a problem with dividned flows , some of which have been excessive.
Paddocks should be as level as possible for all the players
For example :- 

  • Our natural  resources like oil and gas should be developed for us by us in JV partnerships  so we all benefit
  • Our financial services industry players should all have joint lisitngs on both the NZX and the stock market of the parent company's country.
  • FDI should be open to reciprocity , so if a Chinese government owned business wants to buy farmland , Kiwis should have the same rights in China  

 

You mean foreign investment of the likes of Donghua Liu. Promised to spend $70 million redeveloping the Carlton Gore Bowling Club in 2011 in return for citizenship.
http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11224055
I wonder how many homes around Auckland he has bought instead of going through wtih his proposed development????

One thing stands out above all else .. Dr Oliver's entire article devotes a lot of words to the un-defined illusory benefits of "Foreign Investment", "Foreign Investors", and "Foreign Capital" which are repeated throughout the article

But not one example is given of what he would deem satisfactory applications or uses of such capital

Sadly, nothing more than a propagandist press release that doesn't even define the positive case let alone deal with the negative case
 
As Raegun asks above, if it's simply a change of ownership, what's the point?
 
More importantly, what are the downside risks? Dr Oliver would have you believe there are none.

Perhaps it takes a true capitalist to explain the risks of just throwing away your sovereignty to benifit elite interests. An amazingly prescient interview with Sir James Goldsmith:
 
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4PQrz8F0dBI

Yes ! Dr Oliver Hartwich should watch that interview and report back with some answers. There is more meat in that one interview, than Olivers tome which is bereft of any detail

But how does selling things to foreigners equate to throwing away sovereignty?  What sovereignty do we have over a farm (for example) that is owned by a New Zealander, that we do not have over a farm that is owned by a foreigner?

New Zealand is fortunate in that we are one of the least densely populated countries in the world. Most of the foodstuffs produced here are already exported to be consumed offshore whether or not foreigners own the land. Its of far more material importance to inhabitants in Africa, South America, and Eastern Europe, who's corrupt elites are selling off their lands to foreign interests and essentially taking the food from their children's mouths.
 
It's little wonder though that its an emotional subject given how land ownership is so crucial to people's welfare and sense of security. For me of far more importance is that Foreign Direct Investment  comes with costs, principally a flow of profits, interest payments, and dividends going offshore which only increases the country's reliance on external capital for investment, especially considering the New Zealand government, the principal agent in the New Zealand that is capable of large scale capital formation, is committed to scaling back bond issuance and retiring debt. When the government pay is suppliers it creates a credit to the bank account of its suppliers and vendors, providing a revenue stream for the companies which flows up and down the supply chain and throughout the economy. Its no different from any other agent in the economy aside from scale and creditworthinesst. Well at least in a relatively well functioning social democracy such as New Zealand.
"As the New Zealand Government scales back bond issuance, overseas appetite for the New Zealand dollar is driving a record year for the Kauri market, where foreign entities offer bonds denominated in the New Zealand currency.
"Two deals in Kiwi dollars last week lifted this year's record total of so-called Kauri bonds to more than double the amount raised in all 2012."
http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/market-data/9092146/Demand-for-NZ-bonds-...
 

going to the source
http://nzinitiative.org.nz/site/nzinitiative/files/publications/Open%20f...
 
based on research such as
The quality of FDI policy matters.  A report by the Milken Institute, an
independent economic think tank based in California, states that “poor governance
and regulatory practices, along with the lack of information on which countries
are more open to foreign investment, inhibit the flow of capital"
 
thats Mike the ex junk bond dealer
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milken_Institute
http://www.milkeninstitute.org/about/about.taf?cat=faq
A nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank, the Milken Institute believes in the power of capital markets to solve urgent social and economic challenges. We explore the intersection of finance, business, philanthropy and policy to determine how public and private investment can drive progress. We produce rigorous, data-driven research — and turn ideas into action by convening senior decision-makers who can make a difference in the marketplace and around the world.
 
the whole thing seems madness
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ul_Kotlqi3k
 

All in all, I think we should be reading a headline saying "We should be much MORE restrictive in "welcoming" overseas "investment" aka ownership"

Hard to believe I used to agree with the capitalist free market bull, that's until I realised it was dogma, being pushed by those who stood to gain most, that it was just transferring wealth to the top. Now I'm like a reformed smoker.

 Those at the top don't talk about their goals, they just indoctrinate others who do the talking for them. Groupies who believe they can get in on the game if they impress the right people.

 Brazil in 2002, was one of the most unequal societies in the World. When social democrat Ignacio Lula da Silva got to power,he supported a variety of programs that shrunk the gap between rich and poor, over the next 7 years the rich  became %11 richer while the poor increased their earnings by %72.

 National is supporting a plutocracy.  I don't consider myself a socialist, but I'm highly aware of the dangers of a take over by the elite.

 They get their children into good schools, preferably state funded, then they pay for their children to go through university,no student debt for them, they already have the right contacts from the elite schools.

 They then sell the even playing field card, the meritocracy is only fair, after all we are only smarter.

 Its all a lie, we need to take it off them and help those at the bottom, that's why I believe we will see taxes on capital but of course the elite will all be in the Caymans by then leaving us with a hollowed out shell of a society, and the tax burden will fall on the upper middle classes.

 We built our democracy on a land owning middle class, free schools, hospitals and such leveled the playing field, National party policy is tilting the field and the money is filling the pockets of the plutocracy. 

Absolutely.
Getting this self-serving dogma established throughout society as a generally accepted background belief is one of the most successful propaganda campaigns ever.

Andrewj - I fear you are falling into the trap set by the Cultural Marxists of blaming "Capitalism" and "free markets" for the mess we are now in. Friedrich von Hayek - in "The Road to Serfdom" - pointed out in 1944 that there were few people alive then who could remember a genuinely capitalist society. How much more acute is that situation today?
 
There was a Titanic battle of ideas unfolding in the 19th century between the expedient Germanic socialism of Chancellor Bismarck and the Anglo-Saxon concept of free markets. It is a war we Poms lost - and slowly but inexorably Europe has sunk into socialism's end point - which is fascism. Study the EU! Have people ever stopped to think why Hitler named the most formidable warship-ship the world had ever seen "Bismarck". I would suggest it is because without that benign well-meaning socialism of the 19th century the fascism of the 20th century would not have been possible.
 
Study the work of Sir Hebert Maxwell Bart MP (published in 1897) and you will see the astonishing rise in working and middle class incomes that occurred in the sixty years from 1837. Of course it was off a low base - but families like mine were able to participate in the great development of a vibrant and increasingly well-educated middle class. It was a time of sound money and genuine capitalism albeit with socialism beginning to cast its destructive shadow.
 
Look at every socialist state and what do you see - a wealthy "Nomenklatura" at the top and the rest left struggling, tossesd a bit of bread and circus to keep them in line. This is the very "plutocracy" you describe. Cicero famously warned us: "beware the traitor that cometh with accent familiar". Whenever I hear the National Party, or ACT, sprouting their nonsense about free-markets the Roman Legate's words ring in my ears. New Zealand is increasingly a fascist country where the power of the state is co-opted by powerful and well-connected interests. The antidote is genuine free-market capitalism where business is subject to the discipline of moral hazard. 

No, Im on your side.
 However in the years up to 1837 the UK had %46 deflation in twenty years, setting the country up for a long period of solid growth.

I think in focusing on the the rise of the British middle class in the 60 years after 1837, you are missing that the British Empire had no real competition from anyone else in this period so Britian was being bouyed up by massive resource extraction. It is totally wrong to look at Britian as an isolated system in this period.

You fail to explain why Britain - a small Island on the fringe of Europe - was able to rise to such pre-emimence. It was because we developed such advanced ideas on things like property rights and the deployment of capital. It is because we pursued the formula for success to the extent that we wound up holding more patents than the rest of the world put together. Massive resource extraction was equally available to others - but it was ideas that made the difference. Look at many countries with massive resource extraction today (Australia springs to mind). Its books are awash with red-ink. Britain was not an isolated system any more than ancient Rome was. The ideas that made her great made us great. The ideas that made her fall made us fall. History may not repeat but as Mark Twain pointed out in sure rhymes.

Uh no I dont agree with you on the capitalist / property rights bit.
On others, oh lets see
1) A huge established global empire where it could suck in resources and plunder  wealth from aross the globe.  Think exploitation of millions, all with God's approval.  That wasnt really advanced property rights, it was I have the gunboats, that is might not right, not something to be proud of IMHO.
2) Welsh and Yorkshire steam coal to power ships, trains and industry.  though that peaked in 1913 and declined during WW1 despite their best endevours to reverse it. Now its gone and UK oil peaked in 1999 and is going down hill fast.
3) A large endowment of the essential raw materials; iron, tin, copper and the cheap energy to refine it.
4) The world's largest, and most advanced navy and had been so since Henry VIII. 
5) Pre-eminent engineers like Brunel.
6) Political will to dominate and use its navy as a political tool...
7) Long established and stable central Government.
8) Limited voting rights, no women and not a great % of the poor either.
Lets look at Europe, Germany had the resources  and know how but didnt really have the stable central Government til late 1800s, when it did off it went, but too late for a global empire, no resourecs to suk in.  France, great property rights, went um no where. 
USA, huge natural resources, and especially oil. Eventually when they had the political wll and want to look outward they could dominate, until that time, no.  Look where the US is now, no resources left, and its buggered, UK oil peaked in 1999 and its also in decline.
So I'd suggest there is multiple factors at play and cheap resources is the dominant one. Sure capitalism may well have allowed fast extraction of resources for 100~150 years but now that spurt is exhausted and capitalism is eating itself hollow.
The common theme here for 150 years is cheap and bountiful fossil energy and resources. That era has ended so to then will the system(s) that relies on it, hopefully not democracy.
regards
 
 
 
 
 

Not to mention the United States and the colonies as well as the military, provided convenient relief valve  for thousands of unemployed workers when Britain went through periodic economic crises, most especially the depression caused by the Panic of 1837.

Its not so simple Conservative Thinker, The British and earlier European nations displaced an already thriving mercantile and commercial culture, that of the Muslim Arabs, through force of arms
 
 Its quite a hilarious presumption by modern Europeans to suggest that their culture that invented the notions of private property and commercial institutions and instruments when the Renaissance merchants copied the practices of the Arabs, including arithmatic and accounting from Arab merchants they came in contact with through business.  Europeans have been amazing at copying and adapting knowledge and practices from abroad but not so good at providing credit when its due.
 
http://adamsmithslostlegacy.blogspot.co.nz/2008/11/early-islamic-scholar...
 
http://books.google.co.nz/books?id=7fZEuiZGyZMC&pg=PA13&lpg=PA13&dq=al+G...

You forgot to mention the one million or so European Slaves ruthlessly exploited by those Muslim Arabs - and about which Thomas Pellow gave a most marvellous account. (He was siezed with his Uncle off the Cornish coast in the 1700s) and ultimately made it back to Britain. An incovenient truth!
 
All you point to is the cyclic nature of things - hedgemony comes and hedgemony goes. If the Arab was so inherently superior then why, on his own soil, did he falter? Moreover, go tell someone from Iran (Persia) that Arabs invented everything civillised. I'm sure you will find a much earlier and very tolerant civillisation to discuss. In any event, European notions of property rights go way back to the 10 commandments and "not coveting thy neigbours ox". It was on those ideas that Alfred the Great based his law code - not that long after Islam got going.
 
The problem with the left, as always, is the failure to recognise the universal nature of man - and their absurd proposition that somehow Europeans are responsible for all the world's ills reminds us of this.

Conservative Thinker - you are correct on the antidote.....and even Andrewj knows the antidote.....BUT.....there is no will to apply the antidote..........no political party standing on the merits of the antidote.......this is a very frustrating period in time......and it is easy to become disillusioned as time ticks by....many of us just want an end to this hideous system that has evolved.
 
Honest and honourable people have become a rarity.........the middle people (the people who receive no State help) are jambed between the fascists and the poor........and maybe Cicero had that worked out too.
 
“Six mistakes mankind keeps making century after century:
Believing that personal gain is made by crushing others;
Worrying about things that cannot be changed or corrected;
Insisting that a thing is impossible because we cannot accomplish it;
Refusing to set aside trivial preferences;
Neglecting development and refinement of the mind;
Attempting to compel others to believe and live as we do.” Cicero
 
The Bill Of Rights 1688 was meant to guarantee there would be no more bullying of the people when it granted back the Ancient Rights. Well the sad side is that the joke is on the people as they didn't ensure their elected Governments maintainted those ancient rights.....the greedy buggers at the bottom are as bad as the greedy buggers at the top.

 Elizabeth Warren attended a dinner with Mr. Summers who at the time was the director of the National Economic Council and a top economic adviser to President Obama. This is what transpired:

 

 

After dinner, “Larry leaned back in his chair and offered me some advice,” Ms. Warren writes. “I had a choice. I could be an insider or I could be an outsider. Outsiders can say whatever they want. But people on the inside don’t listen to them. Insiders, however, get lots of access and a chance to push their ideas. People — powerful people — listen to what they have to say. But insiders also understand one unbreakable rule: They don’t criticize other insiders.

What is so incredible about the quote above is that it essentially proves correct everything I and many others have been saying about how “things work” in America these days. The statements above describe a petty, childish oligarchy of arrogant fools. This small club of people call all the shots and do not listen to “outside” ideas whatsoever. This is why nothing changes. This is why the same people are recycled through positions of power over and over again no matter how badly they screw up and how many millions of lives they ruin. This is why there is a two-tiered justice system in which the rich and connected never go to jail, while the average citizen can have his home raided by police for a parody Twitter account. This is why the 0.01% have been able to loot all of the nation’s wealth while median inflation adjusted wages have been declining for 40 years.
 
 
http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2014-04-29/quote-day-larry-summers-elizabe...

Too bad Elizabeth Warren took Larry Summer's advice to heart.
 
"In an earlier book, “The Two Income Trap,” published in 2003 when she was a Harvard law professor, Warren told a longer version of the story. She then took Hillary Clinton to task for later changing her mind and supporting the legislation when it came back and Clinton served in the Senate.
“Big banks were now part of Senator Clinton’s constituency,” Warren wrote in 2003. “She wanted their support, and they wanted hers -- including a vote in favor of ’that awful bill.’”
http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-04-22/warren-book-hits-republicans-wh...

This is how they do it,
 

Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, billionaire investor George Soros and activist hedge fund Third Point were among the 16 investors given preferential treament in the controversial Royal Mail privatisation.

The Government on Wednesday released details of these preferred investment firms, who saw the shares they had bought rise 38pc on the first day of trading, while thousands of small private investors missed out after the Government imposed a cap of £10,000 on them.
 
Twelve of the 16 so-called long-term investors made a killing worth hundreds of millions of pounds within weeks
 
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/royal-mail/10798852/Abu-Dhabi-and...