For a Global Shareholder Society
Robert C. Hockett
Cornell University - Law School
September 10, 2008
Cornell Legal Studies Research Paper No. 08-026
With the American economy seemingly stalling, the global economy thereby imperiled, and another electoral campaign season well underway in the U.S., the "outsourcing" of jobs from the developed to the developing world is again on the public agenda. Latest figures indicate not only that layoffs and claims for joblessness benefits are up in the U.S., but also that the rate of American job-exportation has more than doubled since the last electoral cycle. This year's American political candidates have been quick to take note. In consequence, more than at any time since the early 1990s, continued American, and with it other developed economies', participation in the World Trade Organization and processes of global economic integration more generally appear to be up for grabs.
It is not clear, on reflection, how to regard these developments from a normative point of view. On the one hand, there seems no gainsaying the claim that the gradual removal of transnational trade and investment barriers have resulted in more rapid economic growth worldwide. And that growth appears to be lifting many once desperately poor persons out of their erstwhile penury. Yet on the other hand, there also would seem no denying that global trade and investment liberalization are wreaking losses at least as conspicuous as the gains. For many if not most of the victims of globalization are those who till recently occupied positions much like those that are coming to be occupied by globalization's more sympathetic beneficiaries, and who climbed out of them via precisely such legislated standards as offshoring firms now evade. Might we pay Peter without robbing Paul?
This Article proposes an ethically and intuitively attractive answer to that question rooted in financial engineering. The key is to channel a portion of the globalization-wrought gains reaped by outsourcing firms to the outsourced employees themselves. This way the latter are directly benefited by the very processes that currently harm them. The method proposed is to adapt the familiar Employee Stock Ownership Plan, or "ESOP," to spread firm-shares not simply to current labor, but to outsourced and otherwise harmed "shadow" labor as well. The Article also proposes means of diversifying the portfolio risk that will face "OutsourceSOP" participants, and maps the supporting role apt to be played by such globalization-constitutive financial institutions as the IMF and the World Bank. In the long run, the Article urges, we have here the makings of a grander ambition that all the world's inhabitants can jointly support - a "Global Shareholder Society."
Number of Pages in PDF File: 93
Date posted: September 12, 2008