Thursday, August 16, 2018

Everything Conservatives Don't Like Is Socialism, Part 8,742

Elizabeth Warren has proposed legislation. Kevin Williamson has opinions about it, which he memorializes in a piece called Elizabeth Warren’s Batty Plan to Nationalize . . . Everything:
Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts has one-upped socialists Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: She proposes to nationalize every major business in the United States of America.
Whoa, that sounds pretty extreme. What is the substance of the proposal?
Warren’s proposal is dishonestly called the “Accountable Capitalism Act.” Accountable to whom? you might ask. That’s a reasonable question. The answer is — as it always is — accountable to politicians, who desire to put the assets and productivity of private businesses under political discipline for their own selfish ends.
Okay, again, that description sounds like it could be bad, but it really depends on the details. So what is the plan?
Under Senator Warren’s proposal, no business with more than $1 billion in revenue would be permitted to legally operate without permission from the federal government. The federal government would then dictate to these businesses the composition of their boards, the details of internal corporate governance, compensation practices, personnel policies, and much more.
You know, maybe someone should tell poor Kevin about the SEC, the NLRB, and the EEOC. On second thought, that's a bad idea. Anyway, how about those details?

In a shocking plot twist, it turns out Kevin never actually says what the bill does. I sure didn't see that coming.

So let's see what Vox has to say about it:
Warren wants to create an Office of United States Corporations inside the Department of Commerce and require any corporation with revenue over $1 billion — only a few thousand companies, but a large share of overall employment and economic activity — to obtain a federal charter of corporate citizenship.

The charter tells company directors to consider the interests of all relevant stakeholders — shareholders, but also customers, employees, and the communities in which the company operates — when making decisions. That could concretely shift the outcome of some shareholder lawsuits but is aimed more broadly at shifting American business culture out of its current shareholders-first framework and back toward something more like the broad ethic of social responsibility that took hold during WWII and continued for several decades....

More concretely, United States Corporations would be required to allow their workers to elect 40 percent of the membership of their board of directors.

Warren also tacks on a couple of more modest ideas. One is to limit corporate executives’ ability to sell shares of stock that they receive as pay — requiring that such shares be held for at least five years after they were received, and at least three years after a share buyback. The aim is to disincentivize stock-based compensation in general as well as the use of share buybacks as a tactic for executives to maximize their one pay.

The other proposal is to require corporate political activity to be authorized specifically by both 75 percent of shareholders and 75 percent of board members (many of whom would be worker representatives under the full bill), to ensure that corporate political activity truly represents a consensus among stakeholders, rather than C-suite class solidarity.
So apparently her plan doesn't "nationalize everything". In fact, the Vox article is headlined "Elizabeth Warren has a plan to save capitalism". And once you look at the substance of the plan, as opposed to vague handwaving about it, it seems to me like some pretty good ideas designed to address some pretty enormous problems. And by the way, it also seems to me that conservatives' reflexive attempts to paint this sort of thing as "socialism"--when it is, in fact, an effort to make capitalism more humane--are the primary reason the word has been de-stigmatized among younger generations.

But Williamson does have one parting shot:
Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Hugo Chávez, Huey Long: The rogues’ gallery of those who sought to fortify their political power by bullying businesses is long, and it is sickening.
Does it seem to you like someone is missing from that list? Anyone? Anyone at all?

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