UNISONActive is an unofficial blog produced by UNISON activists for UNISON activists. Bringing news, briefings and events from a progressive left perspective.

Saturday, 21 January 2012

We are the shareowners of Capitalism...and we must make it responsible to us!

At last a debate has begun about the future of capitalism...many on the left consider it a pointless debate given that they consider it something to be torn down. But what most workers and their leaders fail to grasp is they are capitalism...! The largest capital funds in the world are pension funds and many dwarf the GDP of countries.

Of the 40 largest pension funds in the world 36 are public sector pension funds...and what is a pension fund? It is simply the store of worker's savings, invested to deliver pensions. Around half of these savings are invested in company shares..this makes you and I capitalists..we are the beneficial owners of company shares.

We are not shareholders...we are shareowners there is a difference...shareholders are the investment managers who hold our shares and invest our money for financial gain they charge us for that privilege. Until we wake up and realise that the economy belongs to us and not some bunch of top hatted toffs we will always be cutting our own throats with our own money.

Yesterday Jon Cruddas raised his voice on our behalf in the House of Commons..."Making companies more accountable to shareholders will not be enough to tackle 'crony capitalism'. Shareholders themselves must also become more accountable to the ordinary savers whose capital they invest, this means much greater transparency about what is being done with our money. It also means clarification of investors’ duties. We cannot have responsible capitalism if the capitalists think the law prohibits them from acting responsibly."

Responsible capitalism does not go far enough we need a responsible economy...one designed for everyone..for those without pension funds. It is no good just seeking a return on investments we must develop a whole economy outlook for our funds own a slice of everything..shares, government debt, corporate debt, property, infrastructure.

A starting point in developing a “whole economy” approach is to recognize that our fund's assets only earn income because of the labour they employ or draw on. We are the senior parties in the chain of governance that ultimately controls the deployment of labour in the private sector. Company boards make employment and investment decisions in the name of the shareowners first.
So in influencing the deployment of labour, what are funds seeking from the economy for the retirement provision for beneficiaries, and their wider social and family benefit? It sounds trite, but perhaps the clearest answer is expressed in rather simple practical terms:

· A decent quality of domestic life – food, warmth and shelter, and enough income to enjoy some travel and entertainment.

· A thriving community to live in – with full employment, social amenities and health care

If the economy is to meet these basic requirements for beneficiaries as the retired live longer, as well as cope with climate change, world poverty and widening income inequality, it is surely inevitable that more labour must be oriented to these tasks, both in creating new technologies and in applying them.

However, recognising that we are Capitalism is the first step on the road to finding the solutions we and our planet so desperately need.