Concentrated wealth/power in the hands of a few at the expense of the many undermines any legitimate claim of democracy (i.e. a government of the people, by the people, for the people). And the problem of billionaires buying government access/influence has become a major political issue ever since Bernie Standers made it the centerpiece of his 2016 Presidential run.
In recent days progressive Presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren has been pounding the table over the possibility of breaking up (diluting the wealth/power) of big tech firms such as Amazon, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Apple. But exactly how that break up should occur is still a matter of conjecture.
A Simple Solution
In that light I offer a simple solution to the complex problem of monopolistic monstrosities concentrating more and more wealth and power in the hands of a few at the expense of the many. Instead of breaking them up into smaller, less monopolistic pieces, why not encourage Amazon (who paid $0 in 2018 Federal taxes*) with its 613,300 employees, to become employee owned?
After all, there are currently over 10,000 employee owned companies in the US today. And generally speaking they are uniquely efficient, productive, and resilient in hard times because their financial incentives are situated in such a way that it literally pays everyone to pull together at the same time, in the same direction, towards the same goal.
Moreover, when an employee owned company wins, EVERYONE WINS, not just those fortunate few at the top. And when an employee owned company loses, EVERYONE LOSES, not just those unfortunate many at the bottom. In the process the conventional, antagonistic, counterproductive labor vs management problems are systematically eliminated.
So, How Do Employees Pay for Their Stock?
You might wonder how Amazon employees, many of whom have little to no savings or home equity, would be able to pay for stock in the company they work for. The answer is, if they use a strategy known as an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (an ESOPs) employees are allowed to collateralize their stock purchase using the companies’ future earnings (in investment circles this is known as a leveraged buyout/LBO) instead of digging into savings or putting a second mortgage on the family home.
Furthermore, in an ESOP stock purchases are made with PRE-TAX DOLLARS which speeds up the purchasing process, as well as the road to ownership dramatically. And with employees maintaining their wage or salary while generating a second (or a retirement) income via their new found stock ownership, it expands the tax base for all levels of government. That is to say, more people will be able to pay taxes.
Finally employee ownership stabilizes the community. Just ask the owners of the Green Bay Packers, the only NFL team that is community owned and will never leave Green Bay, WI.
Who Would Object?
So who would object to this simple solution? Surely not Republicans (including Ronald Reagan), all of whom favor grass roots, free market, private ownership solutions over government dominated, public ownership solutions to any problem. And surely not Democrats (including Bernie Sanders) all of whom favor democratizing the workplace and spreading (decentralizing) the wealth into the hands of the many. And surely not independents, all of whom are sick and tired of the partisan bickering between two parties who can’t seem to agree on anything.
Even Amazon owner Jeff Bezos would almost have to agree. I mean he already has more money than he can possibly count. And why would he want to go to his grave known as a greedy, monopolistic, 21st century skin flint who helped to demolish American democracy?
And once Amazon is on board we should have similar conversations with Facebook (36,000 employees), Microsoft (135,000 employees), Google (99,000 employees), Apple (132,000 employees), Wal-Mart (2.1 million employees), and McDonalds (1.9 million employees), Goldman Sachs (36,600 employees), Citi Bank (204,000 employees), Wells Fargo (258,700 employees) just to mention a few.