The Modern Corporation Statement on Economics
8 Pages Posted: 5 Nov 2016
Date Written: November 4, 2016
From the early decades of the twentieth century, a dominant characteristic of the modern “capitalist” corporation, especially in the United States, was the separation of asset ownership in the form of publicly traded shares from allocative control over the corporation’s resources by salaried managers. By the 1950s some depicted managerial-controlled large enterprise as the “soulful” corporation in which the allocation of resources resulted in enhanced social welfare. In the 1960s, however, some conservative academics looked to market forces, dubbed the ‘market for corporate control’, to ensure that managers as employees would give primacy to shareholders in the allocation of corporate resources. This market for corporate control could enable hostile takeovers in which shareholders who accumulated large public equity stakes in a company could discipline managers to allocate resources in ways that “the market” deemed to be efficient. The notion that market allocation could control managerial organization was then developed theoretically based on the conceptualisation that the corporation (and indeed any firm) could be conceptualised as a ‘nexus of contracts’ or a ‘collection of assets’. Rather than view the corporation as a social organization with its unique history and competitive capabilities in which public shareholders had come to play a peripheral role, neoclassical economists conceptualised the corporation as a set of voluntary contracts among owners of resources and as a portfolio of assets with different market-determined rates of returns.
This conceptualisation of the corporation to fit with the dominant neoclassical theory of the market economy had implications. We provide this Summary of certain fundamentals of economics in an effort to help prevent analytical errors which can have severe and damaging effects on corporations.
Keywords: Economics, Corporate, Governance, Shareholder, Value, Executives, Tax, Inequality, Stakeholder
JEL Classification: A1, A11, A2, A20, B2, B26, D2, D20, D21, D6, G3, M1, M10, M2, M20, M21, P1
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation