Part of Roosevelt’s “brain trust” writing on where the rights of shareholders emanate from:
“Stockholders toil not, neither do they spin, to earn [dividends and share price increases]. They are beneficiaries by position only. Justification for their inheritance… can be founded only upon social grounds… that justification turns on the distribution as well as the existence of wealth. Its force exists only in direct ratio to the number of individuals who hold such wealth. Justification for the stockholder’s existence thus depends on increasing distribution within the American population. Ideally the stockholder’s position will be impregnable only when every American family has its fragment of that position and of the wealth by which the opportunity to develop individuality becomes fully actualized.”
These are the kinds of questions that no one much wonders about anymore. “How is this thing yours?” would not find a much more compelling answer than “because it is” from most people today, even highly educated ones. My Microeconomics TA gamely attempted a discussion on the problem of inductive thinking yesterday and his useful and germane example, about whether and how we KNOW the sun will rise tomorrow, was greeted by a barrage of jokes or just befuddlement by the entire class.
Such is the danger of diminishing the role of the history of philosophy and economic thought. All anyone is left knowing is that “this is the way it is” which just so happens to serve the primary beneficiaries of that particular way very well.