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May 08, 2012

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Icarus Daedalus

Jodi, I just find this a bit too good to be true. A couple of thoughts from the sceptic:

- "The multinational decided to close it down instead, probably for reasons of class-consciousness." My guess is that there was nothing ideological about their reasoning, they were probably just trying to protect their intangible property (pure pragmatism). You know how it works when you do high-tech manufacturing...one day a Chinese comes over, buys a prototype and next thing you know they are making the same product in China for 1/10 of your cost (and all your R&D costs just went down the drain). The multinational was what it should be in a capitalist economy - being responsible to its shareholders.

- Talking about shareholders. I am wondering how it helps when in your hypothetical example the company would really be bought by the workers. What would they do with their shares? Assume a situation where all shares are equal at the beginning, what would happen next? Well, there would be smart and dumb workers. Dumb ones would just sell their shares and fritter away the money. The smart ones would work hard and buy out the remaining shares. In the end you would have a perfect copy of the previous situation with all the shares concentrated in the hands of the few. Sure you could prevent the unequal share distribution by putting in place controls (such as no worker can sell their share without leaving the company) but what would that mean in reality - all shares bearing equal dividend the lazy workers would thrive off the work of the smart workers. Sooner or later the smart workers would probably just leave, get together and copy the technology in their own start-up company. Unless you prevented them by putting in place yet more controls (such as a ban on setting up solely owned companies). In the end the level of control would be such that you would reach an equilibrium without any capitalist excesses of unequal wealth distribution but at the cost of total apathy of the workforce (this is exactly what happened to the communist economies in 70s and 80s in Europe).

- Does this sound like a too down-to-earth, superficial speculation with no theoretical underpinning (I certainly don't have a Chomsky up my sleeve)? Absolutely. But my point is that instead of just theorizing about workers taking over businesses it's worth thinking through the practical consequences of what would actually happen.

The Mathmos

Aristotle coined a phrase in reference to what you call "thinking through the practical consequences of what would actually happen", ID. He termed it "begging the question".

Don't waste your time and ours pointing out the theoretical ills of private property and read up on the actual practices of workers management and self-management.

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