Profit Shares as Virtual Equity: Short-Run Isomorphism of Share & Wage Systems

  •  Vikram Kumar    


An important argument in favor of public policy to promote profit-sharing arrangements – and one that distinguishes it from the canonical wage system – is that it creates a macroeconomic externality in the form of short-run excess demand for labor. In this paper we provide insights new in the literature to show that the two systems are isomorphic. We consider the most plausible basis for the distribution of the profits between labor and capital to be one that is conceptually consistent with the functional role of labor as a residual claimant. We postulate a sharing rule that is based on the recognition that in a profit-sharing system a portion of labor’s contribution is a form of equity – virtual equity – analogous to shareholder equity. With this interpretation, if the share parameter of worker pay is endogenously determined then we show that, eschewing any independent productivity effects, a profit-sharing system is not consistent with said macroeconomic externality. This analysis provides a framework to assess recent public policy initiatives and legislative proposals on both sides of the Atlantic, arguing that their advocation can be based on distributive but not efficiency grounds.

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