A Piece of the Action: A Plan to Provide Every
Family with a $100,000 Stake in the Economy, by Stuart M. Speiser.
Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1977
Despite the title, this book is a biography of Lou
Kelso and a study of his programs. The author later published
Superstock, Everest House, 1982; The USOP Handbook: A Guide to
Designing Universal Share Ownership Plans for the United States and
Great Britain, Council on International and Public Affairs 1986;
Mainstreet Capitalism: Essays on Broadening Share Ownership in America
and Britain, New Horizons Press, 1988; Ethical Economics and the
Faith Community: How We Can Have Work and Ownership for All, 1989
and Socializing Capitalism, New Horizons Press, 1991.
A Piece of the Action is mostly a
chronological telling of Lou Kelso’s efforts to get his programs adopted
by governments and to gather allies from business and politics.
(Academia dismissed the whole concept. Nobel Prize winner economist
Paul Samuelson called Lou Kelso “an amateur crank.”) From the account
of big-name endorsements through the book’s 1977 publication, it seems
unlikely that the ideas would have become obscure 30 years later.
The book was published before Lou’s efforts to get
his program adopted in Alaska, but it includes a very detailed story of
the near miss in Puerto Rico. There are many other political cliff
hangers described, along with the successful ESOP legislation sponsored
by Senator Russell Long.
Stuart Speiser believed that Lou Kelso had made two
big mistakes. One was concentrating on the ESOP, with all its
limitations, rather than on the broader financed-capitalist plan. The
other was publishing his third book, Two Factor Theory, which was
misinterpreted by many as taking away from the working class to enrich
the capital-owning class.
The book concludes with descriptions of programs
proposed by others for broadening the ownership of capital. He even
quotes from John MayNard Keynes, who died in 1946, to suggest that he
would have become a proponent of capital ownership diffusion plans.
Stuart Speiser has his own program, basically an adaptation of Lou’s
financed-capitalist plan. He suggests a goal of $100,000 [as of 1977]
in capital ownership for each American family, achieved over ten to
After A Piece of the Action, Stuart Speiser
published his program through a novel, Superstock. The Los
Angeles Times staff writer who reviewed the book on February 13, 1983,
called the program “a financial scheme to give [the hero’s] fellow
Americans a vested interest in capitalism – whether they want it or not
– by providing each with $100,000 worth of stock in a monster mutual
fund composed of the top 2,000 U.S. corporations.” The review gives
this summary of the program:
SuperStock, a cure author Speiser has
seriously proposed for the
real world, would rescue our stagflated economy by democratizing
capitalism. Major companies would be forced each year to raise
their new capital not by borrowing most of it, as they do, but by
issuing new stock that could only be bought by the 95% of us who
don’t already hold fat stock portfolios. Corporations also would
be required to pay out all annual profits in dividends.
Meanwhile, the federal
government would be dishing out long-term, low-interest credit so
everyone would buy $100,000 of stock. At first, the dividends would be
used to pay off the loans, but then they’d provide SuperStockholders
with an annual income of about $10,000, thereby supplanting the federal
battery of transfer payments.
The review concludes that the novel’s program would
mean “further massive government interventions, and a great deal of
coercion to implement. What’s worse, its day-to-day administration
would fall to Congress, the trustee of our ailing Social Security