Shared Capitalism

Part 8 of 10 Part Series: Economic Sanity and Alternative Economic Systems

Jeff Gates wrote a book jam packed with ideas about what he calls “shared capitalism for the twenty-first century.” ((Gates, JR. The Ownership Solution: Toward A Shared Capitalism for the 21st Century, 1998.)) His is a decidedly populist view, not surprising since he was counsel to the U.S. Senate Finance Committee (1980-87), working with Senator Russell Long of Louisiana, son of populist governor and U.S. Senator Huey P. Long. In this role, Gates crafted federal law on employee stock ownership plans (ESOPs) and pension plans.

Capitalism creates financial capital, not capitalists, he notes. Moreover, most financial capital is held by institutional investors, the absentee owners of public corporations. This, he says, creates a “detached and disconnected capitalism largely on automatic” with investment decisions devoid of longer-term concerns, including the costs of externalization.

Unshared capitalism, while made to order by the corpocracy, is totally unfit for a democracy. His solution is to make widespread ownership a specific goal of national economic policy. His opinion that people take responsibility for what they own resonates with me, having watched for two decades party-going renters misbehave and scar property in an ocean-side condominium where my wife and I owned and never rented a unit.

Achieving inclusive ownership on a national scale will take, he believes, a political era like the progressives and populists of the 1930s and a leader like FDR, or like President Obama possibly. Gates identifies six strategic initiatives: a public opinion poll that asks the right questions about inclusive ownership and informs politicians about the public will, which he believes would support populist capitalism; a government declaration of widespread ownership as a national economic goal; a bipartisan commission on economic empowerment, which he believes will conclude the desirability of widespread prosperity; a government office of asset ownership; a regular assessment of what the impact of inclusive ownership has been; and an annual ownership survey to determine who owns what.

In Closing

Who among advocates of more responsible forms of capitalism can disagree with Gate’s solution to make widespread ownership a specific goal of national economic policy?

• Part 1 here; Part 2 here; Part 3 here; Part 4 here; Part 5 here; Part 6 here; Part 7 here;

Gary Brumback, PhD, is a retired psychologist and Fellow of both the American Psychological Association and the Association for Psychological Science. Read other articles by Gary.