OWNERSHIP, CONTROL AND THE LAW - STRANGE PARADOXES.
Seismic changes are happening in the world of business.
Amongst the most important are the rise of knowledge enterprises and the decline of traditional industry. These important changes are challenging traditional axioms about ownership - it is possible for distant investors to own physical assets, but how can they 'own' human creativity and knowledge?
Such manifestations have been signalled by wise observers for some time:
....But to turn shareholders needs into a purpose is to be guilty of a logical confusion, to mistake a necessary condition for a sufficient one. We need to eat to live; food is a necessary condition for life. But if we lived mainly to eat, making food a sufficient or sole purpose of life, we would become gross.
The purpose of business, in other words, is not to make a profit, full stop. It is to make a profit so that the business can do something more or better. That 'something' becomes the real justification for the business. Owners know this. Investors needn't care.
Here is the most urgent challenge ever offered to statesman or jurist. The human association which in fact produces and distributes wealth, the association of workmen, managers, technicians and directors, is not an association recognised by law.
The association that the law does recognise - the association of shareholders, creditors and directors - is incapable of production or distribution and is not expected by law to perform these functions. We have to give law to the real association and to withdraw meaningless privileges from the imaginary one.
LORD EUSTACE PERCY, 1944.
Rich men rule the law.
OLIVER GOLDSMITH, 1760
If the law supposes that, said Mr. Bumble, the law is a ass - a idiot.
THE 'DEMOCRATIC DENIAL' PARADOX.
Charles Handy and others have commented on a strange Paradox:
How is it that the USA and Britain, the two countries that most loudly trumpet the virtues of democracy - invading other countries to bestow its benefits - so strenuously deny rights to widespread involvement of employees in the control and direction of business at home??