Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Screwing the Stockholder/Citizen

It was about 1955 that a wonderful British movie was released in America. It was called, I’m All Right, Jack and its star was an unknown actor named Peter Sellers. He went on to great fame from this first movie.

The story was about a factory in England that was not doing well. Its owner had given up. He was retiring and moving to a nudist colony on the beaches, somewhere. As he left, he had his nephew, a bright and enterprising industrial engineer, try to modernize the business.

It turned out that everyone in the business had his fingers in the revenue stream—that is what the “I’m all right, Jack” expression means (I’ve been taken care of). So from the humblest hourly employee to the union steward to the managers, everyone was quite comfortable. And they all fought the young man as he tried to make the business profitable. No one would admit what he was doing, though.

By the end of the movie, the enterprising young industrial engineer had given up and also retired to the nudist colony to join his uncle. The corrupt business was a metaphor for British industry and its moribund economy of the times.

As a long-time employee of General Electric with three years on its corporate staff, I have seen the same “I’m all right Jack” attitude in various G.E. operations. And in quiet moments spent alone with people in other companies I have found the story to be similar in their experiences.

Why isn’t it all right to be “All Right, Jack”? It is because there is a group left out of each population of comfortable people—the stockholders. The people who are “All Right” are systematically screwing the stockholders! There is no one in the business who is looking out for its owner.

Extreme examples are General Motors and Ford, whose management slowly gave away their business to labor unions. Employee benefits are so huge that these companies cannot compete with manufacturers from outside the U.S.

Screwing the stockholder has become a standard practice in America. And the practice did not stop with industry. It went on to Congress, where the American public has become the stockholders with Congress as managers and professional bureaucrats as hourly workers. Slowly but steadily Congress and its helpers are screwing us stockholders (citizens). And there is no one who is looking out for us. Certainly it is not the media. The media “is all right, Jack.”

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