Right to Own

Most major companies in this country are owned by capital unions whose members are called shareholders. The members of the capital unions cast votes in elections in order to guide the direction of the companies. Among other things, the members of each particular capital union help to select a Board of Directors, which is then responsible for selecting a Chief Executive Officer. The CEO serves as the capital union’s president.

Some capital union presidents opt to use the union’s resources to influence politics, e.g. through lobbying and campaign contributions. If the majority of the union members (weighted by equity) want to prevent this kind of spending, they theoretically can do so. Through shareholder proposals and other corporate governance mechanisms, the union’s members can influence the union president or even oust them altogether with enough effort. In practice, U.S. corporate governance laws make this a very difficult thing for capital union members to accomplish. In some capital unions, the majority of union members (weighted by equity) may even support the political spending, which has the effect of forcing the minority members to contribute to the political spending as well.

To protect these minority members (or in some cases majority members), it’s important that we pass a Right-to-Own law. Under this law, capital union presidents may only spend a member’s money on political spending if that member has voluntarily decided to permit it. Citizens should have the right to own stock equity without being forced by a capital union to pay dues towards political lobbying and campaigns that they don’t support.

A Right-to-Own law could be implemented elegantly. A company would be required to add up all of its political spending each quarter. Then, that total amount would be distributed across the capital union members who have opted in to the political spending dues. The dividends going to those opted-in shares would be reduced proportionately by an amount equal to the political spending. Where there is no dividend, those who opted in would be required to forfeit to the company a number of shares equal in value to the political spending amount (which has the same distributive effect, including for the other shareholders).

All of those committed to the abstract procedural justice principle of the Right to Own must support the Right-to-Own law.