Rudolf Meidner, one of the architects of the Swedish welfare state – a pretty impressive thing to have on your CV – wanted to go a step further than simply taxing corporations. He proposed that companies issue new shares every year to the value of 20% of their profits. This share levy would be passed over to regionally-based ‘wage earner funds’, which could be used to fund everything from pensions to socially beneficial research.

This share levy was never implemented, probably because Sweden’s corporate owners squealed too loudly. One of the effects of it would have been to gradually pass more control over the corporations to the wage earner funds. I guess it would have been a bit like the private pensions system but hopefully with a lot more democratic control – though the degree of democracy would have depended on how the funds were structured.

The scheme would almost certainly have resulted in a more equitable distribution of wealth. Another interesting side effect would have been undermining the difference between wage earners and share owners. With that division no longer so deep, I wonder if a broad social solidarity would have taken hold, or whether other social fissures would have become more important over time? It seems to me that, for instance, it would make the environmental battle lines quite interesting, with the majority of society dependent on ever-greater environmental exploitation.

Judging by the price of his book “Employee Investment Funds: An Approach to Collective Capital Formation” on Alibris, his ideas aren’t exactly popular right now in the English-speaking world. Indeed I can’t even find a review of the book online. But I suspect that reflects more on the current narrowness of public political debate (see recent celebrity debates on REVOLUTION versus VOTING) than on the quality of the idea.