Drew Field
Direct Public Offerings

A Piece of the Action:  A Plan to Provide Every Family with a $100,000 Stake in the Economy, by Stuart M. Speiser.  Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1977


Despite the title, this book is a biography of Lou Kelso and a study of his programs.  The author later published Superstock, Everest House, 1982; The USOP Handbook:  A Guide to Designing Universal Share Ownership Plans for the United States and Great Britain, Council on International and Public Affairs 1986; Mainstreet Capitalism:  Essays on Broadening Share Ownership in America and Britain, New Horizons Press, 1988; Ethical Economics and the Faith Community:  How We Can Have Work and Ownership for All, 1989 and Socializing Capitalism, New Horizons Press, 1991.


A Piece of the Action is mostly a chronological telling of Lou Kelso’s efforts to get his programs adopted by governments and to gather allies from business and politics. (Academia dismissed the whole concept.  Nobel Prize winner economist Paul Samuelson called Lou Kelso “an amateur crank.”)  From the account of big-name endorsements through the book’s 1977 publication, it seems unlikely that the ideas would have become obscure 30 years later.


The book was published before Lou’s efforts to get his program adopted in Alaska, but it includes a very detailed story of the near miss in Puerto Rico.  There are many other political cliff hangers described, along with the successful ESOP legislation sponsored by Senator Russell Long. 


Stuart Speiser believed that Lou Kelso had made two big mistakes.  One was concentrating on the ESOP, with all its limitations, rather than on the broader financed-capitalist plan.  The other was publishing his third book, Two Factor Theory, which was misinterpreted by many as taking away from the working class to enrich the capital-owning class.


The book concludes with descriptions of programs proposed by others for broadening the ownership of capital.  He even quotes from John MayNard Keynes, who died in 1946, to suggest that he would have become a proponent of capital ownership diffusion plans.  Stuart Speiser has his own program, basically an adaptation of Lou’s financed-capitalist plan.  He suggests a goal of $100,000 [as of 1977] in capital ownership for each American family, achieved over ten to twenty years.


After A Piece of the Action, Stuart Speiser published his program through a novel, Superstock.  The Los Angeles Times staff writer who reviewed the book on February 13, 1983, called the program “a financial scheme to give [the hero’s] fellow Americans a vested interest in capitalism – whether they want it or not – by providing each with $100,000 worth of stock in a monster mutual fund composed of the top 2,000 U.S. corporations.”  The review gives this summary of the program:


            SuperStock, a cure author Speiser has seriously proposed for the

            real world, would rescue our stagflated economy by democratizing

            capitalism.  Major companies would be forced each year to raise

            their new capital not by borrowing most of it, as they do, but by

            issuing new stock that could only be bought by the 95% of us who

            don’t already hold fat stock portfolios.  Corporations also would

            be required to pay out all annual profits in dividends.


Meanwhile, the federal government would be dishing out long-term, low-interest credit so everyone would buy $100,000 of stock.  At first, the dividends would be used to pay off the loans, but then they’d provide SuperStockholders with an annual income of about $10,000, thereby supplanting the federal battery of transfer payments.


The review concludes that the novel’s program would mean “further massive government interventions, and a great deal of coercion to implement.  What’s worse, its day-to-day administration would fall to Congress, the trustee of our ailing Social Security system.”