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Anne Mayhew <[log in to unmask]>
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AFEEMAIL Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Mon, 1 Feb 1999 14:48:00 -0500
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If you got a partial message a few minutes ago please forgive.  I am trying
to sort out a new system.  Anyway, what I was writing was this:

I absolutely agree with Larry Shute's comment that  he does not think that
"the experience of TVA can justify the blanket statement that social
ownership -- nationalization -- cannot work."  Of course, social ownership
can work.  My point in my earlier message was that any kind of
ownership--single proprietorship, partnership, corporations owned by
pension funds, whatever--requires the same use of law and cultural norms to
ensure actions that are in the public interest.  The 19th century focus on
ownership as problem and solution seems to me inadequate in light of our
20th century experiences but this does not mean that public ownership is
necessarily bad or undesirable.  I would rather try to influence the
publically owned TVA than most privately owned operations.


Laurence Shute <[log in to unmask]> on 02/01/99 12:48:51 PM

Please respond to AFEEMAIL Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>

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 cc:      (bcc: Anne Mayhew/ArtSci/UTK)

 Subject: Re: Corporate ethics post by Anne Mayhew

With respect to Anne Mayhew's post forwarded by Geoff Schneider:

I have great regard for Anne's postings and commentary, but believe there
is a problem with this recent one on nationalization, etc.  (This has
nothing directly to do with Liebhafsky, whom I also admired even when
disagreeing with him at times.)

I don't see how the experience of TVA can justify the blanket statement
that social ownership -- nationalization -- cannot work.  One might as
easily argue that there was "pollution and other problems for the public
welfare" with capitalism and condemn it as well.  If Veblen was correct in
asserting that business enterprise sabotages the industrial system,  I
don't understand why the system of business enterprise must be retained at
all costs.   Shouldn't we be asking whether goods are more important or
people in the economic system?  Nor do I think that the recent Soviet
experience demonstrates the ultimate possibilities in social ownership,
though they in fact accomplished a great deal in spite of Stalin.

Antitrust is another matter.  It seems to me that, curiously enough, it
would take massive government interference and involvement to make a modern
business economy even nominally competitive.

Larry Shute

>Lieb would also have raised serious doubts about the efficacy of either
>nationalization or antitrust as, what  Bill D calls "the stronger
>sanctions."  National ownership may be desirable in some cases but it is
>not, in and of itself sufficient to ensure social responsibility.  Law and
>changing cultural norms are still required.   TVA in the region in which I
>live is a fine example of this; the goal of this public corporation came
>be cheap energy and that resulted in pollution and other problems for the
>public welfare.   Nor is antitrust a strong solution because it assumes
>that corporate behavior can be controlled by making corporations smaller
>and more "competitive."  Whatever else the dissoluton of Standard Oil may
>show, I don't think it was that.
>I do agree with Bill that both law and cultural norms are important
>approaches to control and they are interrelated.  However, I would also
>that John Adams had it just about right when he wrote that "welfare and
>regulation are collective functions and should not be left to firms" and,
>with John (and I think Lieb*) would further say that this proposition is
>"pretty deeply intrinsic to institutionalist thought."  (*I say "and I
>think Lieb" because one of the virtues of that great teacher was that he
>took contrarian views to make people think and to q uestion their own most
>valued beliefs.  While this irritated some and made it harder to know
>Lieb stood on various issues, it did serve to make people think.)