Who owns "Big Business" in America?

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This post was inspired by an earlier one about "the rich" and "rich business owners." I thought it might be interesting to talk a bit about who the actual owners of big business in America actually are.

Generally speaking, I think when most people think of big business and the owners thereof, they tend to picture older white men in business suits around a conference table. While that may not be a totally inaccurate depiction of many corporate boards of directors, it's not the ownership of the companies.

I know television and movies would have have you think that was true. They tend to promote the "us vs. them" mentality by painting business as evil profit-mongers with no thoughts to propriety. Most of us have at one time or another heard or read something about "making business pay for (whatever)" or "they ought to take care of (whatever)." It sounds good. Like government, business certainly has the appearance of an entity we ought to go to in order to cure our ills. There is another similarity between business and government we need to consider, however. It's who they actually are.

Years ago Walt Kelley's cartoon strip character 'Pogo' uttered the immortal line, "We have met the enemy, and he is us." No better analogy can be made about our government or about big business in America. It's easy to see it with the government as we elect "of, by and for the people."

With big business it's a little harder to see, but just as true. If I were to ask, "Who are the two largest groups of stockholders in American corporations?" I'm sure I'd get a lot of different answers. It would be a tough question because it's hard to define "groups" in that context, too.

The answer may surprise a lot of people. Neither group is the Japanese or British or Saudi oil money. Columbian drug cartels are not involved. It's not foreign interests at all. The two largest groups which own American big business are widows and pension funds.

Those aren't exactly the same people you had pictured in your mind, are they?

With some notable exceptions, American big business is publicly held companies and those are the two largest groups of stockholders. It's our Mothers who outlived our Dads. It's the pension fund that's taking care of our seniors in their retirement years. Those are the owners of American big business. If you have a 401K plan where you work, it's you, too. If you own shares in a mutual fund, it's you, too. It's us, our parents, our children, our neighbors, our co-workers and our friends.

I thought this might be something to keep in mind the next time you hear (or say) something about how big business is evil. Just remember, "We have met the enemy, and he is us." ;o)

-- Gary in Indiana (gk6854@aol.com), October 22, 2001


While it is true that many Americans own a small piece of the pie, the actual day to day running of businesses is still maninly done by a very small group of people.

I have absolutly nothing against businesses making money. If a company offers a product or service at a fair price, does what they say they will do, and is responsible in their dealings with the public and with the various environmental impacts they may have, then let them profit!

BUT, shortsighted management often pushes through products and ideas way before they have been properly studied or even against the prevailing scientific ,all in the name of profit. If they know a product will do harm, but offer it anyways, then they should be made to give restitution for the damages they do.

It is about responsibility and caring about people before money.

Just tonight at the supper table I mentioned that quote, however I mis-quoted it as The enemy is among us. So thanks for that!

Interesting post, Gary.

-- Melissa (cmnorris@1st.net), October 22, 2001.

that line should have said- prevailing scientific research... Sorry.

-- Melissa (cmnorris@1st.net), October 22, 2001.

I used to work for Sprint in Kansas City. I have a real problem with the CEO, Bill Esrey, earning approximately $125 million per year, while they're laying off 6,000 workers! There's something wrong there.

-- Cheryl in KS (cherylmccoy@rocketmail.com), October 22, 2001.

Cheryl, again, Sprint is a publicly held company in which the stockholders elect a board of directors who hire a CEO and negotiate his compensation package. His responsibility, in turn, is to those shareholders. What they want to see is a profit for Sprint and rising stock prices so they might enjoy a good return on their investment.

-- Gary in Indiana (gk6854@aol.com), October 22, 2001.


Sounds right to me.

People own businesses, not the CEO's It is iunfortunate that most people in this country have no idea of how business really works. All they want to do is regulate,tax and sue them to death. (Remember the lady who sued Mc Donalds for burning herself after putting a hot cup of coffee between her legs.) Should companies be sued because of the lack of intelligence (common sense) of their customers. Aparently many think so. Well maybe we should sue all the school districts that turn out illiterate students. Oh that's right we can't sue anything the government has its fingers in. How convenient.

The tobacco fiasco is another example of incredible greed. First the tobacco companies, now the government. The government will not outlaw tobacco or they will lose their precious taxes from this product, yet they want to have tobacco run adds against the product. I can not believe that this ever was allowed to happen. All greed.

When, if ever, will people learn that money does not just appear out of nowhere when we go to court. It has to be earned or created in the case of business. (Or printed in the case of the government)

Talk to you later.


-- Bob in WI (bjwick@hotmail.com), October 22, 2001.

Right Bob! People shouldn't sue becasue they lack common sense. Just look at some of the warning labels on products today. sometimes I laugh out loud! Unfortunately there will always be those who try to get rich at the expense of another. One of our main principles in life is "Don't gain at the expense of another".

-- Melissa (me@home.net), October 23, 2001.

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