Citizen Capitalism

How a Universal Fund Can Provide Income and Influence to All

Lynn Stout (Author) | Sergio Alberto Gramitto (Author) | Tamara Belinfanti (Author)

Forthcoming: 01/29/2019

Citizen Capitalism
Corporations have a huge influence on the life of every citizen—this book offers a visionary but practical plan to give every citizen a say in how corporations are run while also gaining some supplemental income. It lays out a clear approach that uses the mechanisms of the private market to hold corporations accountable to the public.

This would happen through the creation of what the authors call the Universal Fund, a kind of national, democratic, mega mutual fund. Every American over eighteen would be entitled to a share and would participate in directing its share voting choices. Corporations and wealthy individuals would donate stocks, bonds, cash, or other assets to the fund just like they do to other philanthropic ventures now. The fund would pay out dividends to its citizen-shareholders that would grow as the fund grows.

The Universal Fund is undoubtedly a big idea, but it is also eminently practical: it uses the tools of capitalism, not government, to give all citizens a
direct influence on corporate actions. It would be a major institutional investor beholden not to a small elite group of stockholders pushing for short-term gain but to everyone. The fund would reward corporations that made sure their actions didn't harm people, communities, and the environment, and it would enable them to invest in innovations that would take more than a few months to pay off. Which is another reason corporations would donate to the fund—they could be freed from the constant pressure to maximize their quarterly share price and would essentially be subsidized for doing good.

The authors demonstrate that our current economic rules force corporations to be shortsighted and even destructive because for most large investors, nothing matters but share price. The Universal Fund is designed to be a powerful positive balancing force, making the world a better place and the United States a better nation.

Read more and meet author below



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Overview

Corporations have a huge influence on the life of every citizen—this book offers a visionary but practical plan to give every citizen a say in how corporations are run while also gaining some supplemental income. It lays out a clear approach that uses the mechanisms of the private market to hold corporations accountable to the public.

This would happen through the creation of what the authors call the Universal Fund, a kind of national, democratic, mega mutual fund. Every American over eighteen would be entitled to a share and would participate in directing its share voting choices. Corporations and wealthy individuals would donate stocks, bonds, cash, or other assets to the fund just like they do to other philanthropic ventures now. The fund would pay out dividends to its citizen-shareholders that would grow as the fund grows.

The Universal Fund is undoubtedly a big idea, but it is also eminently practical: it uses the tools of capitalism, not government, to give all citizens a
direct influence on corporate actions. It would be a major institutional investor beholden not to a small elite group of stockholders pushing for short-term gain but to everyone. The fund would reward corporations that made sure their actions didn't harm people, communities, and the environment, and it would enable them to invest in innovations that would take more than a few months to pay off. Which is another reason corporations would donate to the fund—they could be freed from the constant pressure to maximize their quarterly share price and would essentially be subsidized for doing good.

The authors demonstrate that our current economic rules force corporations to be shortsighted and even destructive because for most large investors, nothing matters but share price. The Universal Fund is designed to be a powerful positive balancing force, making the world a better place and the United States a better nation.

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Meet the Authors


Visit Author Page - Lynn Stout



Lynn Stout is Distinguished Professor of Corporate and Business Law at the Jack G. Clarke Business Law Institute at Cornell Law School. Professor Stout is an internationally recognized expert in the fields of corporate governance, securities regulation, financial derivatives, law and economics, and moral behavior. She is the author of numerous articles and books on these topics and lectures widely. Her most recent book is Cultivating Conscience: How Good Laws Make Good People (Princeton University Press, 2011).

Professor Stout also serves as an Independent Trustee and as Chair of the Governance Committee for the Eaton Vance family of mutual funds; as a member of the Board of Advisors for the Aspen Institute’s Business & Society Program; and as a Research Fellow for the Gruter Institute for Law and Behavioral Research. She has also served as Principal Investigator for the UCLA-Sloan Foundation Research Program on Business Organizations; as a member of the Board of Directors of the American Law and Economics Association; as Chair of the American Association of Law Schools Section on Law and Economics; and as Chair of the American Association of Law Schools Section on Business Associations. Professor Stout has also taught at Harvard Law School, NYU Law School, Georgetown University Law School, and the George Washington University National Law Center, and served as a Guest Scholar at the Brookings Institution in Washington, DC. She holds a B.A. summa cum laude and a Masters in Public Affairs from Princeton University and a J.D. from the Yale Law School.


Visit Author Page - Sergio Alberto Gramitto
Sergio Gramitto is a Visiting Assistant Professor at Cornell Law School, where he also serves as the Assistant Director of the Clarke Program on Corporations and Society.

Visit Author Page - Tamara Belinfanti
Tamara Belinfanti is a Professor of Law at New York Law School. Along with Lynn Stout, she co-founded the Ethical Shareholder Initiative, a nonprofit that seeks to revolutionize share voting to create a more sustainable corporate system.

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