cj#578> re: Exorcising Capitalism


Richard Moore

9/03/96, someone wrote (personal note):
>I'm always glad to see creative explorations of new possibilities for social
>reform such as the paper below.  One immediate question - I may have others
>later - is:  Your proposed program for economic reform seeks to use
>legislative means to restrict ownership of corporations - or their shares -
>to the direct employees, including managers, of the corporation.  What
>happens, however, when to secure such investment-for-shares a company simply
>calls its outside investors consultants or otherwise deems them as
>`employees'.  This is not a frivolous question, particularly in view of the
>practices of comtemporary venture capitalists, who when they buy shares in
>an enterprise typically are offered and take board positions in order to
>provide managerial or other expertise, and to generally safeguard their

        Agreed: there would be _many_ formidable problems to be solved and
obstacles to be overcome if "enfranchising" corporations were to be taken
on as a serious societal objective.

        The article deals with none of those problems, but makes the case
that the objective -- if it could somehow be accomplished -- holds the
promise to remove an extremely harmful element from the foundation of our
economic system.  The article provides, perhaps, motivation to go on and
identify the problems and obstacles and figure out how they might be

        The situation, unfortunately, is a bit like finding a fault in the
foundation of a building: in order to repair the foundation, one must first
raise the entire building up on stilts -- no easy task if the building is a
skyscraper.  One could expect vast political and econmic empires to totter
precariously as the "equity cornerstone" was being replaced by a
"debt-instrument cornerstone".

        There's a bridge here in Wexford (across the Slaney river) whose
foundations are rusting away.  The decision has been taken to replace the
foundation.  There will be a monumental traffic problem during the
refurbishment, and no one believes the work will be completed on schedule,
but the necessity is understood and the work will soon commence.

        In the case of capitalism, unfortunately, the necessity of
replacing it is not generally agreed.  But an unbounded appetite in a
finite world is simply not a sustainable situation.  Marx was right about
that, even if his predictive ability was imperfect, as regards the
unfolding of "the internal contradictions of capitalism".  He assumed that
in the clash between capitalism and its host/humanity, capitalism must
eventually die -- he didn't (want to?) entertain the possibility that the
host could die first.

        He's being proven wrong, as our rainforests and ozone layer are
being destroyed, agribusiness washes away our soil resources, all sea life
hangs under the guillotine of rusting plutonium containers, (etc.), and
capitalism continues to tighten its global grip over media and political

        His call for "workers of the world" to rise up and "seize the means
of production" was in many ways identical to "corporations expropriating
their own stock".  But there are important differences.

        Marx thought in terms of class conflict.  He envisioned that the
"class" of "workers" was to seize power from "class" of "capitalists".
This set up an "us vs. them" scenario, and created an opposition that had
no alternative but to fight for its survival.

        "Exorcising Capitalism" proposes a business transaction instead of
a class revolution.   Investors may not like their part of the transaction,
but they're not being threatened with extinction, nor poverty, nor being
outcast by society.

        Marx's analysis also led to a general rejection of private
commerce, leading to over-centralized, unwieldy, state operations.
"Exorcising Capitalism" proposes that private corporations continue to
operate, with even greater decentralization of decision making, and
increased ability to respond to changing market conditions.


    Posted by Richard K. Moore  -  •••@••.•••  -  Wexford, Ireland
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