Activists are now using corporate shareholder votes to push an agenda favoring “universal” health care. According to the May 27, 2008 New York Times, these activists are attempting get corporate boards to make explicit statements of principle supporting “universal health care” as a goal for all society (as opposed to simply asking that it be an employee benefit for that specific company). These activists include a mixture of religious and labor groups:

Employers frequently complain about the cost of health benefits for employees and retirees. The shareholder proposal would not require companies to provide health benefits for employees, but asks top corporate executives to view the issue in a broader context, as a question of social policy.

“We are doing what we can as shareholders,” said the Rev. Michael H. Crosby, a 68-year-old Capuchin priest who has had discussions with nine companies on behalf of 20 Roman Catholic orders this year. “We come out of a religious tradition, but we are not engaged in a messianic enterprise. We are one voice among many seeking equitable access to health care for all.”

Despite the fact that many have argued that these sorts of statements have no place in shareholder debates, the Securities and Exchange Commission has ruled that these resolutions must be included on the ballot.

I thought there were two noteworthy points:

First, the convergence of interests between religious activists and causes favored by the secular left previously described in this earlier New York Times article from October 28, 2007 is accelerating.

Second, the trend towards inappropriate shareholder activism is also accelerating. Yaron Brook discussed this issue in more detail in his excellent course, “The Corporation” given at the 2007 OCON Conference.

As Dr. Brook notes in a related article:

…What motivates these activists is not the wellbeing–i.e., the wealth–of fellow shareholders, but an anti-profit, anti-capitalist social agenda. It is they who call for corporate “social responsibility”–the idea that executives and shareholders should sacrifice money-making for the sake of sundry “stakeholders.” This is incompatible with the purpose of business and with the responsibility of corporate leaders to maximize shareholder wealth.

…But far from fighting government controls, shareholder “activists” fight to hand control over American corporations to government–or to organizations controlled indirectly by politicians, such as public pension plans. Indeed, this is already beginning, prompting many businesses to flee to the relative safety of private ownership–i.e., being owned and run by professionals–so that they can continue to maximize their wealth.

These activists are using the leverage and power of productive men and women running corporations to force them to advocate for government policies that will strangle the ability of such individuals to keep producing. I don’t think we’ll be seeing the last of this particular tactic.

It also means that whenever issues like this arise, pro-capitalism stockholders of corporations should make sure that their voices are also heard when it comes time for a shareholder vote.

Suffusion theme by Sayontan Sinha