Mitch (founder of Lotus and the EFF, square that circle…) has seen some shit. Here’s his take.
This insulation from shareholder pressure has been criticized as arrogant and anti-democratic, but it is also prudent, I’m sad to say, since Google intends to run its business with an eye to risky, creative experiments that are poorly understood or tolerated by the public markets.
Even so, Google wants to have its cake and eat it too. …
…Google says: Give us your money and we’ll sell you a lottery ticket. We know what we’re doing, so it would be counter-productive for you to have any control over what we do. Sit in the back seat and enjoy the ride and don’t think too much about the odds.
The Public says: We’re willing to go along for the ride if it means we get to benefit from your money-making magic. We’re still in love with the fantasy of striking it rich; we miss the early days of the Dotcom boom. Can we get in? (Personally I think buying into the Google IPO is a sucker bet, but investing in public stocks isn’t how I made my money)….
…At least the Google guys want to do the right thing in terms of responsible corporate citizenship and for this they should get a lot of credit. What needs to change are the basic terms of the deal between public companies and the public. Business success needs to be measured not just by profit, but by social impact as well. In a world where that was the norm, absolute returns on stocks might be slightly lower, but absolutely everyone, would be better off.