Sunday, June 24, 2007

Communism, Employee Stock Ownership Plans and the Chicago Tribune

It is all connected

Communism is when the workers own the means of production. Socialism is when the state does. It should be obvious to Workers which this blog prefers.

What we are getting (and as recommended / predicted by John Stuart Mill) is the people who work at a company owning that company, through ESOPs. The latest making big news is the conversion of the Chicago Tribune to an ESOP ownership scheme. Like most things in life there is no guarantee of success - no teleological or positivist outcome in the historical narrative - but kudos to Samuel Zell for his creativity in this deal. Eventhough he sold the beloved Cubbies.

It is well known that traditional media; viz newspapers, are ailing with internet advances; ads and circulation are down. However only time will tell if indeed papers are a relic of the past, is there some aesthetic value which translates into some kind of bottom line (I hope so) to having the print in your hands and being able to read it as a physical sensation, empiricism if you will, with the name of your home town printed on the page, or will the future indeed be disembodied spirits relating to each other through the ether (as Marx – No Gods No Masters perhaps wanted and William Gibson the sci-fi writer meant by being “jacked-in”) ?

The ESOP movement is also positive for those seeking human liberty. Owning the means of production means owning the right to your labor. It removes the perceived capitalist-worker dialectic in historical materialism and gives those seeking redistribution through state power less of a leg to stand on. This means more individual (or in the case of ESOPs, voluntarily collective) power in relation to the state. This can only be a positive thing in that only the state has the legal right to force. Just ask the millions of people in the last hundred years who have been a victim of state-coercion, I won’t resort to jingoism or insult the reader by delineating all the examples.