NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Europe's New "People's Capitalism"

May 9, 2000

Increasingly, Europeans are becoming corporate stockholders and looking to investments for retirement income. In the U.S., a similar trend has seen nearly half of Americans enter into equity ownership.

  • Germany gained half-a-million new shareholders last year and even the leftist Green Party there is encouraging equity investments by pension funds as a way to cope with a future retirement-financing crisis.
  • While the movement is strongest in Germany, it is being replicated to some degree throughout Europe.
  • Eventually, stockholders are expected to seek ways to reduce stock transaction costs, which are 10 times higher in Europe than in the U.S.

Observers report that the movement is already changing the politics of Western Europe -- which since World War II has been under the heavy influence of democratic socialism. In the past, corporations were regarded by Europe's political elite as "national champions" -- to be regulated in such a way as to serve primarily the interests of the state.

One result was burdensome labor laws, popular with powerful labor unions but harmful to global competitiveness. But as European companies get broader public ownership, their managers increasingly resist such pressures on grounds that their primary duty is to shareholders.

Source: George Melloan, "Europe's New Shareholder Culture Spurs Big Changes," Wall Street Journal, May 9, 2000.


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