If Steve Jobs really wants to help his stockholders, there’s something much simpler he could unveil later this month instead.

A dividend.

Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) is sitting on billions of dollars in stockholders’ money. The chief executive should stop the miser routine and hand it back to its rightful owners.

Oh God, this is too rich. This is from a Marketwatch editorial in Jan. 2010, arguing that instead of sitting on a ton of cash to invest in stupid ideas like the iPad, Apple ought to just give the money to its shareholders as dividend payments. See, this is why I talk about our current situation being increasingly dominated by rentier capitalism. Companies that used to be run by the management for the good of the company itself, are now beholden to the narrow interests of the shareholder class (Steve Jobs was clearly in a position of more power relative to the shareholders than most CEOs, and could do whatever the fuck he wanted with Apple).

As the portion of corporate profits diverted towards the shareholders has increased, the portion available to be reinvested has naturally decreased. Capitalism doesn’t even work on its own terms if the shareholders convince Apple to pay the profits out to them, rather than spend it on developing a wildly successful product like the iPad. The decline in profits to be reinvested is what Paul Mattick, echoing Marx in Capital, Vol. 3, blames for the current economic crisis, in his book Business as Usual (discussed by me yesterday). He seems to take the view that this is due to a decline in profitability overall, while it looks to me like the diversion of a large chunk of profits directly into the pockets of shareholders since about 1980 must also play a significant role.

These are the sorts of problems we aren’t going to have once the workers seize control of the means of production and we don’t have a capitalist class to exploit us.


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