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Citizens' Stock Ownership Program

They broke 'em, we helped 'em, we bought 'em
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Rather than saying that we'll "nationalize" financially troubled banks and other companies, why not have a "Citizens' Stock Ownership Program" so that we all get a piece of the profits (dividend) if a bailed-out-with-tax-dollars company does well, and we also the right to vote in matters of corporate governance... it's not "worker ownership and control of the means of production" by any means - it might even be better1
smendler, Feb 23 2009

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       We already did the ownership thing. That didn't work out so well.   

       Until quite recently, we owned the actual money, but that didn't give us the power to prevent jerks from gambling with it, so now we don't own the money anymore. I'm not sure owning the banks will be any different. The guys in charge, who wrote those pages and pages of legalese we stock owners voted about, can still do whatever they want. All they have to do is tell us they're behaving legally, and we pretty much believe them.   

       I think the first thing we should do is enforce existing laws against, say, theft. Then, maybe, ownership will have some meaning.
colorclocks, Feb 24 2009
  

       What's the difference between this idea and what's actually happening right now? I mean plenty of financial institutions are now under majority public control, the idea being that when the current situation eases, and the share prices go back up, the govt. can sell back the banks into private hands and make a profit - which should equal reduced taxes (or virtual reduced taxes if the profits are used to pay off government debt)   

       So, what's the actual idea here, because I don't see anything other than a bit of spin.
zen_tom, Feb 24 2009
  

       I suspect it could be difficult to give out the shares fairly - is it one share per taxpayer, or per person, or given out based on how much tax you have paid. Could you sell your share? I also imagine the cost of giving every person in the country back £1 of the 50million profits could eat into those profits. Like zen_tom, I'd rather have the money used to pay off the debt the government has from bailing out the bank in the first place. I imagine that the right to vote bit would be very bad commercially, if before giving out a big loan the bank had to ask 50 million people for the ok, the customer would probably go elsewhere. I for one wouldn't have a clue about whether a risk was good or bad (though, to be fair, it seems that many bankers didn't either), or any of the other thousands of things these people have to think about, so why is it going to help if I can vote on it.
MadnessInMyMethod, Feb 24 2009
  

       I'm thinking in terms of some mechanism whereby we (i.e. the citizenry) benefit directly when business does well - seeing that business does what it can to externalize costs onto society wherever possible, at least we could get some of that value back...
smendler, Feb 25 2009
  

       This idea sounds close to both Thatcher's "privatisation" programmes that she implemented in the UK in the 80s and the Russian approach to sharing out national assets after the collapse of communism. Neither schemes really provided much benefit for citizens in the long-term.   

       You could acheive the same effect by taking your money out of the bank and using it to buy shares in that bank instead - assuming it was not completely nationalised.   

       Unfortunately any profit that comes from banks bought or bailed out by governments probably need to go back to those governments. The profit for the citizen is the considerable advantage of not having lost all your money due to your bank going bankrupt.
Aristotle, Feb 26 2009
  

       I agree in a way - that the public should hold on to ownership of banks. However, to really sort things out, you need to go further and change the articles of the bank to require it to do the most social good whilst not going bankrupt (again) rather than make the most money.   

       I may be the only one that thinks this, but a properly conceived financial services sector could be a real force for good, and in becoming such attract people who want to make a difference rather than people who want to make a mint.
vincevincevince, Feb 26 2009
  

       //banning all financial instruments// No!! Clever financial instruments are our friend - without the future, option and derivative, there would be no commercial agriculture, oil prices would fluctuate even more wildly than they do now, and companies across the world would become exposed to all manner of crazy shit.   

       People would starve, others would go out of business and the world could, quite possibly, end.   

       And the financial sector really isn't all full of complete bastards - there are some people who work in banks who are actually quite nice (though to be fair, not that many)
zen_tom, Feb 26 2009
  
      
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