Friday, 10 June 2011

How can a nation grow and prosper when its companies are bought and sold like trading chips?

Writing in a recent article for The Scotsman William Davies asks:

How can a nation grow and prosper when its companies are bought and sold like trading chips?

Employee ownership offers a compelling solution. I started researching the subject two years ago at Demos, the independent think tank, and have become increasingly convinced of its role in building more sustainable economies built on long-term foundations.
Employee ownership embeds businesses in their communities by locking in ownership. The employees own the company's shares directly or through an employee benefit trust, so the shares can't be traded on the open market and can only be bought and sold by other employees
Now these are arguments that would have been very familiar to Liberals over most of the last century but sadly we have ceased to make the case for what is quintessentially a Liberal reform. For generations we have asserted that the interests of capital should not be paramount. We have promoted models of employee ownership and co-ownership throughout all that time and in the 1970/80 there was scarcely a Party Assembly when Richard Wainwright did not say that labour should hire capital. Now all is pretty quiet on this front. Nobody asked what Liberal democrat policy was would have at the top of their list employee ownership and yet as Will Hutton has written in an excellent article: We have the oddest and most regressive constitution for private ownership anywhere in western capitalism
It seems that the neo conservative/liberals who now dominate politics are simply not interested in this issue preferring to pretend that the free movement of capital is the chief driver when building a prosperous economy.

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