Profits and Ownership

In Rare Albion, when it comes to capitalizing a business, stock corporations are used for the most part. Because parliament raises its income as sales rather than taxation, there is no for-profit/not-for-profit distinction here. When it is clear that a corporation has an inappropriate amount of reserves relative to its inherent operations, adjustments are made by way of net worth transfers, whereby capital is transferred from one entity or part of the economy to another. Because the overall culture and policy is to ensure one another’s viability, these transfers are made as a matter of course and as circumstances require. They are a matter for the parties immediately concerned and fulfil a crucial regulatory role, obviating the need for costly centralized regulation 

In Rare Albion we also distinguish between voting and pecuniary rights. We are fully entitled to pecuniary rights, but we cannot use our voting rights to control a company. These are always vested in some kind of public-spirited association, an arrangement that ensures that businesses respect all stakeholders and do not favour only some, namely, the shareholders. While individuals here own and invest capital, this is always undertaken in a custodial spirit, rather than one of possession. We experience capital ownership as an instrument of social responsibility rather than individual aggrandizement.

Then there is the question of profits. For some, of course, the idea, let alone the fact, of profit is a problem. They see it as an illness, rather than as the air necessary to healthy breathing. To be sure, one should not breathe in more air than one needs; but such critics focus on the problem as one of possession, rather than economic dysfunction.

One can also assess profit in terms of its origin and destination. Has it been ill or fairly gotten? How is it used? Above all, does its use contribute to a circulation of values or to their diversion or blocking? Businesses in Rare Albion are organized so that the profit is first identified as the difference between income and expenses before those items associated with land, labour and capital, namely, rent, remuneration and interest, are taken into account. These items are then paid for not as if they were goods bought, but as the financial counterpart of rights or entitlements. The amount left over after this second stage is considered the true profit, which we also refer to as surplus value. This extra, however, because it is not needed by any of the parties to the enterprise is then given away for social purposes generally.

To think in this way, one needs to look beyond the ownership of profits and net worth and see them in terms of their economic functions. In this area, while understandable, concern about ownership is often a red herring. Ownership is only a form of entitlement – so the question is really about why one person rather than another enjoys the entitlement. One can, of course, discuss whether the entitlement was fairly come by or is fairly enjoyed, and whether such things should only be allocated by price and to the highest bidder, which is the usual Anglo-Saxon approach, but discussing ownership as such can become a ‘false’ concern.

Moreover, it is often an illusion. No one owns a company, for example. People own shares and thus the right to vote. And by convention the majority shareholder is accorded the decision. But where decisions taken in this way disregard the concerns of others who are affected by them, they can become ‘Pyrrhic victories’ or poisoned chalices for those who take them. The disregarded or disaffected will soon contest such decisions, especially in an economy that has gone global and thereby become closed, a paradoxical circumstance in the minds of some but one which here in Rare Albion we take as read. 

Moreover, with decisions come responsibilities. Ownership is an exclusive right of use. In reality, therefore, it is enjoyed by consent of those thereby excluded. Rather than merely bemoan the fact of ownership, therefore – a complaint often admixed with envy – it is better to make conscious recognition of its true nature the basis of consent as to why one person should have the use of something rather than another.