The shareholders aren’t any more the most legitimate to govern companies

Source of data in the image: World Bank, stocks traded, turnover ratio of traded shares.

When asked about who should govern companies, the most obvious answer seems to be: the shareholders. And the reason: because they are the owners. Period. Debate closed. Recent discussions about the increased role of other stakeholders, be they the workers, representatives of external interests such as those of the environment or of suppliers, are seen like nice add-ons, little more than an inflexion to a generally valid rule.

I disagree, and believe that the role of the shareholders in the governance of companies should be radically reconsidered.

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The humiliations I suffered when learning my native language must have a meaning! The challenge of international communication

The Swiss translator and then psychotherapist Claude Piron spent his 20 years of activity at the Department of Psychology of the University of Geneva understanding the psychology of international linguistic communication, of which he had a direct experience by working for 17 years at the United Nations Organisation (UNO) and at the World Health Organisation (WHO). He summed up his reflections in a book (unfortunately only in French and in Portuguese), “the language challenge”, which he summarised in a very concise video and in several articles (check those in English).

Claude Piron argues that the existing mainstream systems for international linguistic communication don’t work, and that the (definitely not mainstream, but efficient) alternative, the international communication language Esperanto, is the purpose of neurotic resistance. His main arguments are the following.

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Why we need to manage the decline of the automotive industry – responsibly

The automobile is one of the main components of the unsustainable “Western” lifestyle. It has structured the urban planning of our cities, and is responsible for 12 to 28% of the total environmental impacts of human activities (depending on the nature of the impact: climate change, eutrophication, acidification…) in a developed area such as the European Union1. As such, automobile manufacturing and use is consistently among the top 3 sources of environmental impact (whatever the nature of the impact), together with food and housing. This means that the reduction in Greenhouse Gases Emissions by 80 to 95% compared to 1990 levels in the EU that we are collectively committed to in order to remain under the 2°C limit in global warming is only possible by achieving a very sharp decline in the automotive usage – and production.

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Collapse of cod fishing around Newfoundland (Canada): a metaphor for our unsustainable and over-confident societies?

(Picture: Total capture of North Atlantic cod, from 1950 to 2000, in thousands of tonnes. Graphic by Epipelagic — Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

For over 500 years, fishermen from Canada, but also from Europe (Spain, Portugal, France, Germany) had been fishing the abundant banks of North Atlantic cod around Newfoundland in Canada. Pierre Loti, in his novel “an Iceland fisherman” published in 1886, describes the “myriads upon myriads of fish, all alike, gliding slowly in the same direction”, which could be seen immediately below the surface of the sea, “plainly distinguished through the transparency”, and illustrates the fantastic plenty of these cod banks, where fishermen just needed to drop their lines, see the cod biting the hooks, haul the lines, take the cod off the hooks, and throw the lines over and over again. A fisherman’s dream, explaining why boats travelled from Europe, thousands of kilometres across the Ocean, to participate in this bounty.

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State of Union speech: time for trans-national democracy, at last?

In his “State of the Union” speech of 13 September 2017, President of the Commission Jean-Claude Juncker expressed his “sympathy” for the idea of trans-national lists in the elections to the European Parliament. This is a courageous move, knowing the reluctance – to say the least – of many nationally-elected politicians towards a proposal that would make them obsolete overnight.

I consider Jean-Claude Juncker to be fundamentally right. The only alternative to populism is trans-national democracy, not the global ploutocracy that we currently are heading towards.

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Equality – and social security – is better for everyone, and for a sustainable future

The Spirit Level: Why Equality is Better for Everyone was published in 2009. Written by [British epidemiologists and economists] Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson, the book highlights the “pernicious effects that inequality has on societies: eroding trust, increasing anxiety and illness, (and) encouraging excessive consumption“. It shows that for each of eleven different health and social problems: physical health, mental health, drug abuse, education, imprisonment, obesity, social mobility, trust and community life, violence, teenage pregnancies, and child well-being, outcomes are significantly worse in more unequal rich countries [than in equal rich countries]. (Excerpt from the Equality Trust website launched by the authors, with links to further details on each of the “health and social problems” listed).

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Why we need more regulation, not less

Everybody complains about regulation. Regulation is criticised as a restriction of one’s freedom, of one’s capacity to innovate and exploit new opportunities. This discourse is frequent among ordinary citizens. It is a leitmotiv of businesses of all sizes. The last avatar of this regulation-bashing trend is the REFIT programme of the European Union, based on the work of the “High Level Group on Administrative Burdens” chaired by former conservative (CSU) Bavarian Minister-President Edmund Stoiber (final report “Cutting red tape in Europe”, July 2014, available here).

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