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Following an example David Friedman used over 30 years ago when he wrote Machinery of Freedom, let’s ask the question of what it would take for all American workers to buy out the oppressive, exploitive, greedy firms that are keeping them down for the benefit of the 1%.

The market value of all stocks listed on the NYSE in January was roughly $13 trillion and if you add the NASDAQ we get up to around $17 trillion. The total wage and salary bill of all private industry in the fourth quarter of last year was $5.5 trillion. And state and federal income taxes amounted to about $1.4 trillion (via a couple of NIPA tables). Thus, the after-tax income of private workers was something on the order of $4.1 trillion. To purchase  a majority-share in all corporations in America would require them to spend about $8.5 trillion. Therefore, if these folks saved only one-quarter of their after-tax income for 8 years, they would be able to purchase a controlling interest in the entire private economy. If they decided to save half of their incomes, then after only 4 years, a single Presidential election term, they’d be able to purchase the majority share, and after two terms would purchase 100% of the shares from the current crop of “capitalists” (remember, your grandma is among these vile capitalists if she holds funds in a retirement account).

This leads us of course to the same question that Friedman asked way back when: if worker owned firms are such a great idea, then why don’t we see it? I don’t suspect folks want to argue that capitalists are so greedy that they would turn down payments that are equal to the market value of their current exploits, would you? That would be really awkward wouldn’t it? And continuing with Friedman’s observations, he reminds us that workers seem to think that they have the managerial talent and skill to run firms better than the current crop of capitalists – so they would not even need to pay for the full market value of all of the companies in the economy. After all, the full market value includes the value of experience, reputation and organization in addition to all of the physical assets of the firm. These are something on the order of $2 trillion (getting data …) which means that with one measly year of savings our workers could find the resources to purchase these assets.

Indeed, reflecting on what it would require to have workers join together to purchase these firms would seem to suggest that it is far less daunting a task than the elaborate tax, regulate and redistribute complex we have created for ourselves. So what say you “working class” people? And once you own those firms outright, would you still prefer a special committee in Congress be formed to make sure that your profits are reasonable?

One Response to “Worker Owned Firms: Go For It!”

  1. RIT_Rich says:

    When communism collapsed in Eastern Europe, a lot of state-owned companies were turned into “worker owned companies” (not necessarily through the Russian model). This experiment was extremely short lived.

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