Friday, 29 January 2016

Dividends. Lovely.

Dividends are good and lovely. We all rely on dividends. Profitable companies pay dividends to shareholders. And shareholders are people like our pension companies, who put our money into firms that pay dividends. There are other publicly 'good' institutions that 'invest' this way. Lovely, lovely dividends. Capitalism is really just a monetized socialism. It just keeps dishing out money in ways that benefit us all. That's why it's all working out so well.

Some dividends are paid out to people - not to 'funds' or 'institutions'. They're 'owners' of companies because they own 'shares' in companies. Anyone can do this who's got enough money to buy a share. This is monetised socialism too...or popular capitalism. Just buy a share and collect dividends. Done.

For some strange reason, though, something else seems to happen. Vast, eye-watering amounts of money end up in the hands of a tiny, tiny group of people. Most of this seems to be because these people's own companies (and other companies that they hold shares in) pay out dividends to them. In fact, in some mysterious way, no matter how often there are 'share flotations' for everybody and the whole country become shareholders, share-ownership seems to concentrate into fewer and fewer hands.

This huge sums of money are largely outside of any discussion when politicians talk about 'fairness' and the like. Great though all this talk about Google's taxes (er...non-taxes) is, it is in its own way a bit of a sideshow. Of course, we expect governments to get hold of the money it is legally bound to do. We trust them to do that. (ahem). But when they keep talking about how 'we' can't afford to this or that - take in refugees, say, what is the 'we'?

That seems to be a mix of: money from taxation (government spending), charities, and what people will personally afford out of their disposable income to provide for the refugees they meet, look after, or give money to through charities.

This other money, that comes through dividend pay-outs is invisible. It's outside of consideration. It's a private matter. It's not in the equation. It's due reward for being inventive and entrepreneurial.

Is it?