Document Type



Published in: Southern California Law Review, vol. 79, no. 1 (November 2005).


This article, the second in a trilogy, interprets American ownership-spreading programs past and present under the aspect of a comprehensive theory of "the American ownership society" (OS) developed in its predecessor article, titled Whose Ownership? Which Society? It also identifies what appears to be a significant gap in our efforts to become a comprehensive OS thus far.

By early in the 20th century, we had developed and implemented a number of highly innovative and successful programs dedicated to the task of spreading human and nonhuman capital (in the form of arable land in particular) quite broadly. Since about the 1930s, however, small-parceled land has receded in importance as a form of nonhuman capital such as can underwrite productive autonomy; and we now lack the land to dole out in that fashion in any event. To complete our OS in the manner that we began to do seriously in the late 19th century, we must turn to the prospect of spreading the ownership of business firms. Our home-spreading and education-spreading programs have modernized over the course of the later 20th and early 21st centuries in tandem with the modernization of finance technologies. Our share-spreading programs have not.

The article accordingly surveys and preliminarily assesses some early proposals to spread shares in firms by means analogous to those employed to spread homes and educations. In doing so it also looks ahead to its sequel, which is devoted to updating those early proposals in a manner more sober than that of the earlier proposers.

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