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Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Limited Liability: History's Greatest Scam


The concept of limited liability upon which corporations are based is perhaps the greatest scam in history. It's certainly the most widespread and successful. It is the financial equivalent of political plausible deniability and just as corrupt.

Limited liability separates the so-called "investor" from being responsible for the results of his or her investments – all the profit and none of the risk. It enables people with capital to gamble on stock values without actually investing in any meaningful way. The venture might be pure evil, but those who make it possible are not held responsible. Usually, not even the ones the shareholders hire to run the enterprise are held accountable.

There is no incentive to do more than temporarily park money, hope the bet will pay off quickly, and then move to a new gamble. Profit is the only motive. Ethics are at best irrelevant in the game of daily market numbers, but more often in the way and discouraged by the system. Fortunately no one's liable so the gamblers and their facilitators can do whatever it takes to succeed in their cocaine-fuelled sleight-of-hand.

If you truly want to invest in something, then you should be willing to share in the risks, the benefits, and the responsibility. That is becoming "invested”. Otherwise you're just placing bets at the track and trading tickets on the races. Investments should be locked in for a time when trading is prohibited, at least one fiscal year. Then you'd want to know what horse you're hitched to and maybe which way the jockey wants to ride, and if he's bricking the beast. And while part of a venture, all shareholders should be held accountable for the actions and results of their venture, perhaps to the degree in which they are invested if it comes down to fines and the like, and being considered accomplices to any crimes committed. Then we might see demands for ethical behaviour from corporations that have an effect.

Then you might see the financial system stabilize, or at least come more into balance, and we might see the return of visions for the future and long-term projects, rather than the rabid pursuit of immediate satisfaction and quick profit. We might actually start producing things and people that last, instead of being viewed as disposable.

We have to take the gambling out of the financial system. Expectation is trumping reality when we all know reality trumps expectation, and that craps comes up more often than jackpot.

The one world order we do need is an orderly financial system, one properly balanced between regulation and free market that's more stable and sustainable. We can't base an economic system on luck and greed; it needs to be based on accountability and need.

We need to stop limiting liability and become responsible for our choices and their results. There is no plausible deniability.

You're either part of the problem or part of the solution. Ignorance and apathy don't cut it. Silence is consent.