Too much leftist thinking relies on an outmoded Marxist framework where the most significant economic dynamic is a fundamental clash between the owners of capital and the owners of labor. But things have changed in the 140 years since Das Kapital was written, including a shift in business structure to shareholder-owned corporations. The result has been a complete dissolution of the distinction so crucial to much leftist ideology. Consider, for example:
- According to research sponsored by the Centre for Economic Policy Research, as of 2006 roughly half of all stock issued by US corporations was owned by workers, primarily through pension funds and 401(k) plans. This is more than a ten-fold increase since 1945.
- CALPERS, the pension system for California state public employees, has a $200 billion investment portfolio, bigger than Berkshire Hathaway's market capitalization, by comparison, and is broadly recognized as "a recognized global leader in the investment industry, and "one of America's most powerful shareholder bodies."
- Pension funds are major investors in the sort of private equity and hedge fund vehicles that some make hay out of vilifying as job destroyers and market manipulators. It's hard to get data on these assets, but consider that the membership of the ILPA, a private equity investor advocacy group that boasts of representing over $1 trillion in private assets, is over 60% pension funds and university endowments.