Don’t call me “stakeholder”

Mickey Kaus Columnist
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I decide who’s a ‘stakeholder’ around here, buddy! President Obama held a big immigration meeting this afternoon with “senior administration figures and stakeholders” to plot how to revive the drive for amnesty “pathway for legal status” drive for amnesty. This was not a big tent meeting. I guess low-wage American workers (who have to compete with unskilled immigrants) aren’t “stakeholders.” Or maybe they were represented by Michael Bloomberg. … P.S.: If you were going to compile a lexicon of corporatism, “stakeholders” would be a key entry. In a normal open market economy you have businesses, and customers, and competitors, and unions, and government regulators, and citizens. Businesses negotiate with unions and then compete for customers on the playing field created by the elected government. Those customers exercise their market power. Some businesses survive. Others don’t. Transparent and relatively simple.  In a corporatist economy you have “stakeholders,” which roughly translates into “interest groups we leaders may want to protect even if their claims are rejected by both customers in the market and voters in democratic elections.”  So a big bank or manufacturer acquires “stakeholders” who’d be hurt by its demise and becomes “too big to fail.” (The new firms who could take its place don’t exist yet and therefore aren’t “stakeholders.”) A union–the UAW–helps drive one of those too-big-to-fail firms into a government bailout–and of course the UAW is then a “stakeholder” to be protected by the government in some amorphous and opaque deal-making process.  The democracy of both the market and of  the ballot gets frustrated wherever possible by a cozy web of reified loyalties!  … Maybe I’m exaggerating. But “stakeholders” is a very annoying word. …

Mickey Kaus