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Help me understand how we can have a universally owned corporation, where everyone receives dividends, and everyone can manage.

Corporations are with us. They are the great movers in politics, in wealth-creation, environmental issues, product delivery, research... in almost everything larger than a neighborhood.

Corp'ns are often villainized and rightly so. The main objection is that they have a pure greed motivation writ in law, and that they create wealth for the wealthy.

How could we create a corporation (or many) that grants non-transferable shares to every person on the planet, distributing dividends and voting rights equally?

I think an institution of that nature might be very positive, and move us in the right direction, because we do need to work together on a large scale, but we should all share the decisions and the benefits. When someone buys an SUV today, most of the world receives no compensation for the harm it causes them and their children/parents, and has little input into the decision process to make or price the product.

1. What is your general response to this concept?
2. How could it be governed? I think we need to use something other than a representative democracy, but I don't know enough about decision making in groups (some TED lectures relate to this, but not specifically).

(Please don't focus too much on the legal issues.)

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    Gail .

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    Jul 17 2012: You might want to explore "The Venus Project" that suggest an alternative. We can't get there without a profound change in our economic model, but it's one that is being proposed. I personally prefer the gift economy as an economic model. But that too requires a fundamental shift - not only in our concept of money but in our attitudes.

    As to ethical standards, there is one that is being taken up by more and more these days. It's based on the idea that we do, in fact, create our own realities. Those that do this already know this to be true - having seen so much proof. Within that purview, we know that as we treat others, we are treated. Preferring to live full, abundant, and satisfying lives, we avoid those thoughts and emotions that are not satisfying. Fear - with its parts that we call anger, hate, greed, etc., are painful things to endure. You won't find those who are deliberate manifestos lingering there.

    Science is now providing evidence for how this can possibly be. The same discoveries that suggest that if there is a God, it is no more than deist in nature (having no power over the individual) - because it is an energy field. (being as opposed to "a" being). We who deliberately manifest our realities take advantage of this energy field. We know that we can provide for ourselves - including our safety.

    My idea for transitioning away from the current corrupt economic model that is causing so many problems - not just plundering the earth, but it actually requires poverty, hunger, illness, war, crime & violence, diseducation, and other social ills just to survive: If all start learning how to manifest their realities - and it is free to learn - then we can provide for ourselves when the economy fails - as it is mathematically guaranteed to do - sooner rather than later. What American call an economic model (often falsely called capitalism) is a huge Ponzi scheme held in place by corruption in politics and banking that has bought governments.
  • Jul 17 2012: Pat, thank you again for your interest in my master plan. You're certainly right that it's craziness is what makes it interesting! I appreciate the encouragement, and the advice - I'll work on presenting the economic model and my delivery, to get over that primary hurdle of getting people to listen. Cheers!
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    Gail .

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    Jul 16 2012: This still wouldn't fix the problem, and it will increase the ill effects.

    Corporations exist to create profits for the shareholders, while paying big salaries for the executives. BY LAW, public corporations are mandated to do this. (Private corps and businesses are not) Public Corps are not mandated to protect the environment. In fact, because of government subsidies and favored legislation, they are mandated to plunder the environment - the human nest. Because of government subsidies in the form of dishonest and inadequate educations falsely identified as education - public corporations are motivated to plunder human potential.

    If everyone is receiving a small share of profits but there is still a wealth-class sytem that leads - in a hierarchical system, what is bad will only get worse.

    Self-education by all is the only avenue of escape. When we are adequately educated, the answer that you really want to see will be obvious - and I do not say that lightly.
    • Jul 17 2012: Very interesting comments, Gail. I'll have to think about this more. Regarding the legal issues, it appears that there has been a major shift in the corporate profit mandate, requiring exec's to weigh external issues in their decisions... also, it might be possible to incorporate in a nation that allows more flexibility.

      I agree it won't fix the problem, but I do not believe that such a universally-owned corp would make our situation worse.

      I agree that Education is the most important investment and responsibility we have... including moral and emotional education. The only moral obligations taught to us by schools or the gov't seem to be the obligation to vote and to support the military. There MUST be some other ethical standards that our society could hold in common.
  • Jul 8 2012: What you're asking for is impossible because it assumes that the corporation will always make smart business decisions. The reality is the corporations are wrong more often than they're right.

    Investment means giving up your money in hopes of a future return on investment. When you force everyone to make such an investment, you insure that the money will be used foolishly, not wisely. After all, if the money is guaranteed to be there, what incentive do the managers have to use it wisely? The answer, of course, is none.
    • Jul 17 2012: Thank you, Walt.

      I actually don't think we could ask for investment from everyone... it wouldn't even be possible, economically, for a huge percentage of the population to do that.

      I think that incentives could be designed which motivated sound profit-oriented decisions, or that executives might be unnecessary, if an effective communal decision-making process could be designed.

      I also agree that most corporations are wrong more often than right - and yet they manage to grow. Maybe it could be done better.

      I appreciate your comment!
      • Jul 17 2012: Sure. all Corporations use incentives all the time. That doesn't mean they consistently work out. Very often, they don't. See, for example, the banking system that has some of the largest corporations in the world.

        Also, the corporations that grow are the ones that we see at the top of the heap. They are the exception, not the rule. More corporations do not grow than grow if you factor out inflation.

        One of the most damaging aspects of elastic money supplies is that they make corporations look more successful than they actually are. Elastic money funds corporations and creates overall increases in nominal earnings, but the value of the currency declines as a result of the monetary expansion. So the earnings growth is an illusion.

        That's what we have today economy-wide. Leading economists argue that the massive monetary expansion by the Federal Reserve since 2008 has saved the U.S. economy, but it isn't true. What it really has done is to save the banks at everyone else's expense. Factor out inflation from GDP numbers, and the U.S. economy has been in recession, not just since 2008 but since late 2004. That's 12 years of unreported recession!

        Similarly, most of Europe has also been in recession with inflation factored out, even at the artificially low inflation rates governments report these days. Even China's huge growth numbers are likely exaggerated by monetary policy, although it's harder to tell because of the way the Chinese government hides most such information.

        In the U.S., if we still measured inflation the way it was measured in 1979-1980, the last time we experienced high inflation in this country, we'd see inflation rates in the 6-12% range, not the 1-3% range being reported. This is very likely also true in other countries, although the information available to check this is usually much harder to get.

        Monetary expansion is what funds a huge portion of corporations. Take it away, and corporations would look a whole lot less attractive to you
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    Jun 22 2012: I really think its possible!
    Organizing the specific structure will be challenging. Sometimes the hardest part of any endeavor is taking the first step.
    We are here at the threshold of a new and exciting paradigm. Contribution based reward, and the encouragement of collaboration could really help bring people and ideas together. Im in!

    Envision a system of material organization that would operate as a publicly owned and governed library of conceptual ideas. Wherein peoples contributory adaptations and intellectual properties would be protected and shared in such a manner that security is in disclosure, and participation.
    • Jul 17 2012: Thank you, John.

      I agree. We are at the threshold. "The times, they are a changing..." I am excited to be here to see the economic system already changing in many ways. So much talk is of collaboration and sharing, and it has already established a foothold. What comes now?
  • Jun 20 2012: All that is needed is the seed money. There is nothing to stop this from happening. The practical problems are considerable, like setting up a global voting apparatus. Once the board of directors is elected, it could be run like any other corporation, from the top down. I would not be surprised if one of the philanthropic organizations tries to do this one day.

    I am not sure it would have a very positive effect. It would be just one more profit seeking corporation, and the dividends would be spread so thinly that it would have to make huge profits to justify the cost of sending out dividends. How much do you think it would cost to send a check to every person in the world?
    • Jul 17 2012: The problems are considerable. Certainly.

      What if we didn't send a check? We could partner with national banks to hold funds until withdrawn by the recipient (any unique person would qualify, I guess).

      Also, it might not just be another profit seeking corporation - if we could find a means of diffused yet wise communal decision making. Also, there would be no stock-price, which I think is a major distraction to good practice for executives.

      Thank you, Barry!
      • Jul 17 2012: I really like your thinking.

        Developing a "diffused yet wise communal decision making" process could be revolutionary.

        I suggest that would be a good starting point. All the other challenges are relatively minor.
        Scale might be a problem. Starting with small groups and working upward might not work.

        Good Luck with this.
        • Jul 17 2012: Hi, Barry. Sorry to bother you again.

          Do you know of any sources for exploring group decision-theory or practical examples?

          A quick note would suffice, I can find any references that you might suggest.

          Thank you for your kind reply.
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    Jun 19 2012: I have thought of ideas like this as well. In theory I love the idea of fighting corporate privatization with public privatization in theory. I also had the idea of class action lawsuits as investment vehicles, so that the public could pool resources to eliminate the financial barriers to litigation. It could be a good investment.

    In practice, ugh. It will all probably end up with all of the money being sopped up by attorneys and endless political infighting for control of the overall organization. People are so conditioned now to reject all forms of idealism, that it's hard to imagine any graceful solution that has to be voluntarily supported gaining traction. Unfortunately it seems like the only thing that might help is some technology that will make it possible for people to comfortably live independently of civilization.
    • Jul 17 2012: Interesting idea, with the corporate lawsuit investment vehicle. Throwing wrenches in the machinery would probably benefit us simply by slowing everything down a bit.

      I do think we have to work within the system, that we can make something better... I'm not sure I'd like to live the "short and brutish" life outside civilization, I just hope we can improve it!

      Thank you, Craig!
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        Jul 17 2012: "I'm not sure I'd like to live the "short and brutish" life outside civilization,"

        Yes, especially when it is being made all the more brutish by global privatization. Here is another idea I was thinking of - start a corporation that goes around to banks and threatens to either

        1) buy off a bunch of their mortgages at once (thereby dropping future revenues and potentially spooking investors) and/or

        2) have an entire neighborhood default at once on their underwater mortgages, and/or

        3) move in hundreds of homeless people

        This gives the bank an incentive to either negotiate a special low rate for the entire neighborhood (and pay a fee to the company), or panic and try to aggressively sell whatever they can, sending the property values down. In that case, you buy up everything you can at the lowest point, giving the original tenants the change to get back in at a much lower rate, and then organize a campaign to improve and clean up the neighborhood to raise the property value back up at which point the company can sell a couple of houses to make a profit on the whole thing if they need to.

        Once you establish a history of success with the banks and with homeborrowers, it would become even easier to put together larger deals in more expensive neighborhoods - closer to where the CEOs of the banks themselves might live.
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    Jun 19 2012: In America, this concept already exists. It exists in two forms: the Public Commons and Open Source Patents. We have intellectual property laws that give inventors a temporary monopoly on what they create so they can regain the money they lost in developing a new technology, and a small profit to create incentives for inventing new technologies. But we design those laws to have time limits. After those limits expire, the inventions become owned by the people, which is when it becomes part of the Public Commons.

    With closed patents, one person or corporation owns the intellectual property rights until they expire. With open patents, the inventor holds onto the monopoly only to prevent other people from creating a patent on what he/she just invented, but otherwise he/she allows everyone to use the invention for free. It is a little more complex than that but it gives you the basic concept. You may be familiar with Wikipedia, Linux Ubuntu, or Open Source Ecology, which are both open source technologies.

    The same is also true for land. Most land here is owned by individuals or corporations. But there is also land that is held in trust (banking definition) on behalf of the people. We call those lands our public parks and forests. In small communities, a group of houses may come together and share a farm.

    Unlike communism or socialism, knowledge and technology that exists in the public commons isn't centrally managed by any group. It is owned and controlled by everyone. It's even more egalitarian than communism.
    • Jul 17 2012: Thank you, Philip. This is excellent information.

      I think there are a couple differences between a universal-egalitarian corporation and the shared resources you have mentioned.

      First, the items you have mentioned, like the technology provided by the non-profit Wikipedia, do not distribute profits or even compete in a traditional sense, being primarily supported by altruism. Noble, but not likely to take on Microsoft or B.P. for some time.

      Second, shared resources like the Public Commons are just shared resources, not agents of action - we can't build a Pyramid or a new telecom network using the Public Commons.

      Thank you so much for taking an interest and providing food for thought. I have to consider this from some different angles.
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    Jun 18 2012: Non Sequitar

    Why would anyone invest in an operation that nets them nothing, no one is that altruistic.
    • Jul 17 2012: I don't believe investment is the major hurdle, but thank you, Mr. Gilbert.
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        Jul 17 2012: I guess what I'm saying is that your idea is crap and demonstrates a childish understanding of the economy. I do agree that investment is not the major hurdle the major hurdle will be to get anyone to listen to your idea.
        • Jul 17 2012: Thank you again, Pat, for your encouragement. I see that the idea is childishly innocent, and I will try to emphasize that more in order to get over the major hurdle of a receptive audience. Great advice! Also, I will provide basic risk/reward and supply/demand lingo, to try and satisfy proponents of the Nietche/"No handouts to beggars"/Chicago Schools of Economics (as I assume you were parodying in your initial comment). I am hopeful that with support and advice from people like yourself that we can get this off the ground together! Cheers!