One of the things I appreciate as an investor is proportional representation. Every share I own isn’t just part of an ownership stake in a company, it’s a vote. And should I end up owning 50.01 percent of a company’s shares, I could get my way on a lot of issues.
At least, in theory. That’s because management still holds a lot of power. And where management doesn’t hold power, a company’s board of directors does. But they’re usually a buddy-buddy group who have each other’s back.
That’s why, when you get your annual report and voting circulation data, your voting options are limited to a few items. The day to day business is still up to management. Most investors get to vote on board members, compensation, which accounting firm reviews the books, and maybe one or two shareholder propositions.
So the democratic process is limited. That’s fine. After all, it’s just like how our country is a republic with some set rules, some direct voting, and some voting made by representatives.
But when management decides to buy a competitor at an outrageous premium, or embark on a debt-fueled share buyback binge, your options as a shareholder are to either file a lawsuit, deal with it, or find more shareholder-friendly firms to invest in.
That’s why good management is key. If they can avoid acting like tyrants over the shareholder’s company and instead act like good managers, you’ll do well as an investor over time.
America faces the same broad challenges. Today, we’re seeing a tremendous growth in laws, rules, and regulations. They tend to come from agencies, and they tend to enter our lives at the corporate level. Today’s corporations must navigate laws set by organizations like the EPA, to say nothing of the SEC or other financial regulatory agencies.
There are also unstated laws—more like personal preferences—that unelected officials follow. For instance, Attorney General Loretta Lynch will release the 911 calls from the Orlando shooting, but only after references to Islamic terrorism are scrubbed out. I doubt she’ll be punished. Try scrubbing out income from your tax returns and see what happens to you.
The problem is clear. These agencies are unelected and unaccountable. It’s not necessarily easy to get your local congressman replaced, but you know the process: make sure the other candidate gets more votes. There’s no such mechanism to hold bureaucrats accountable.
That’s the rub with a lot of issues today. Would emotions run so high on the issue of abortion if it hadn’t been decided by the Supreme Court in 1973? What if the pre-1973 trend of state and local laws, set by accountable politicians, had continued? You might not like all the outcomes, and things might have turned out the same nationwide eventually, but at least it wouldn’t have come down like a decision from on high. When the courts settle things, the political process—with all its public glory—is circumnavigated.
In my home state of California, the large turnout among African-American voters in 2008 for Barack Obama also ended up voting largely against Prop 8, the proposed gay marriage law. Despite that being the will of the people, court injunctions were immediately filed and the issue remained contentious, even with a later Supreme Court ruling making it legal throughout the land. What’s the point of a vote, exactly, if your will is going to be ignored?
At least as a shareholder you can sell and move on, possibly taking a profit in the process.
Not so with political democracy.
This problem isn’t just an American phenomenon. The rise of so-called far-right political parties in Europe (right and left being a very relative and vague term), reflect a growing discontentment over the European Union’s top-down, democratic-light structure.
This issue isn’t over, even with this week’s EU Brexit vote. And without an outlet for the will of the people, we could see further unrest and even violence as a result.
The US presidential election, if it’s close, will undoubtedly leave many wondering if the vote actually went the other way but things got mixed up. And once the legitimacy of government comes into question, things can go downhill fast, no matter how stable we think they are now.
I continue to think there’s a Civil Cold War in America. On one hand are those who are willing to leave it to the will of the voters; on the others are those who will accept a vote that they win, but will go to the courts to get their way otherwise. Or throw a tantrum on the floor of the House of Representatives to shut things down when they don’t get their way.
Caution, both from an investment standpoint, and from a personal safety standpoint, is the order of the day.
As an investor, it’s clear to see that money goes where it’s treated best. Sometimes that means places where there’s still a solid rule of law and the opportunity for the people to weigh in on the issues that affect them the most. The problem is that, despite the façade of democracy throughout Western Civilization, we’re in the age of the unelected and unaccountable bureaucrats and judges.
is a Senior Financial Editor with Newsmax Media. He currently writes the Insider Hotline investment advisory, serves as investment director for the Financial Braintrust, and is managing editor of Financial Intelligence Report. To read more of his work, GO HERE NOW.
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