In the recent history of management ideas, few have had a more profound — or pernicious — effect than the one that says corporations should be run in a manner that “maximizes shareholder value.”
Indeed, you could argue that much of what Americans perceive to be wrong with the economy these days — the slow growth and rising inequality; the recurring scandals; the wild swings from boom to bust; the inadequate investment in R&D, worker training and public goods — has its roots in this ideology.
The funny thing is that this supposed imperative to “maximize” a company’s share price has no foundation in history or in law. Nor is there any empirical evidence that it makes the economy or the society better off. What began in the 1970s and ’80s as a useful corrective to self-satisfied managerial mediocrity has become a corrupting, self-interested dogma peddled by finance professors, money managers and over-compensated corporate executives.
Thursday, September 12, 2013
Readings: The cult of shareholder satisfaction
Steven Pearlstein, at WaPo's Wonkblog, confirms a long-held conviction of mine: Most bad ideas started out in life as the remedy for a bad idea: