Kdo se (ne) boji delavskih kapitalistov?

Aktualen članek v The Economistu o porastu zahtev po delavskem lastništvu (delničarstvu) v kapitalističnem svetu. Pokaže na politično popularnost te teme, na koristi od delavskega (so)lastništva, ovrže dvome v uspešnost tega modela, hkrati pa posvari pred tozadevnim “populizmom” Sandersa in Warrenove.

Over a century on, P&G still grants about a tenth of its shares to its employees and retirees. Other well-known firms, such as Southwest Airlines, Starbucks and even Huawei of China, are part or wholly worker-owned. But today left-wing politicians are pushing capitalism for the masses perilously close to socialism. On June 5th Bernie Sanders, a senator and candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020, gatecrashed Walmart’s annual general meeting in Arkansas, demanding that the retail giant put a worker on its board. He has also unveiled a policy that would force big firms to give a portion of their stocks to a fund controlled by employees, which would pay them a regular dividend. This shares features of a proposal by Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party in Britain.

Employee ownership has many virtues. Its radicalism appeals to the left: it boosts workers’ wealth. Its conservatism pleases the right; workers gain a stake in capitalism’s future, which may improve their performance, and so that of the business. Not all schemes work, but studies show that on average employee-owned firms benefit from higher output per worker, a more stable workforce and higher returns on assets. According to a study in 2017 by Nancy Wiefek of the National Centre for Employee Ownership, an industry body, employee-owners enjoy significantly higher median income and job tenure than workers without ownership (though there may be other explanations for this).

Not everyone applauds the idea. As Joseph Blasi of Rutgers University observes, for decades critics warned that employee ownership is a risky substitute for pay, because it encourages workers to put too many eggs into one basket. If their firm goes bust they can lose everything—as happened with United Airlines in 2002. Policymakers have promoted diversified 401(k) pension plans instead. Other opponents say it encourages free-riding; if you expect others to do the heavy lifting to ensure their asset maintains value, you may be tempted to slack off.

Mr Blasi says such claims are mostly disproved. Employee ownership typically comes on top of pay, rather than substituting some of it (not at United, which explains that fiasco). Workers seldom hold more than 15% of their financial wealth in their own company, which is manageable. As for free-riding, Tarbell’s account illustrates that other workers will not tolerate loafers.

The best bet may be to rekindle a spirit of self-interest among businessmen. They enjoy a disproportionate share of capitalism’s rewards—and worry about its fate. Based on public-company filings, Mr Blasi estimates that big firms have shelled out at least 0.5% of their shares a year to their five most senior executives. Boards could do more to broaden ownership to the rank and file. The reckless remedies proposed by Mr Sanders, Mrs Warren and Mr Corbyn should not put firms off. Bringing capitalism to the masses has a rich history, dating back to Procter and bolstered in the Thatcher and Reagan years of the 1980s. It deserves a rich future. As Tarbell said, all it takes is “brains, freedom from isms, humanity and a large firm sense of responsibility”.

Vir: The Economist

 

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