Sometimes the ways we call "old-fashioned" are actually the best ways.
That was certainly the case with American capitalism.
Younger Americans won't even remember when companies considered their customers and public interests right along with those of their shareholders. But it used to be that way, back in the nation's golden age.
It's a little early to argue that corporations may become the public's friends again, but there are signs the tide may be turning.
Details below the orange squiggly.
The most high-profile clue right now is the battle over the firing of Market Basket CEO Arthur T. Demoulas.
Why did the New England supermarket chain's board of directors fire Demoulas? Well, as Robert Reich put it in his blog:
"Mainly, his business model. He kept prices lower than his competitors, paid his employees more, and gave them and his managers more authority.
"Late last year, he offered customers an additional 4 percent discount, arguing they could use the money more than the shareholders."
Naturally, today's shareholders aren't used to being treated as equal to everybody else, and Demoulas got canned.
But ... now here's the rest of the story, as radio commentator Paul Harvey used to say.
Market Basket's managers, employees and customers are openly opposing the board of directors, and the result has "emptied most of the chain's 70 stores," according to Reich.
Who knows if anything will come of it? So far, Market Basket's directors are considering selling the chain rather than accept a social conscience, but Demoulas' philosophy is part of an almost-trend at the moment.
More than 500 companies in 60 industries have now been certified as "B-corporations," agreeing to make decisions that take into account the workers, community and environment along with the shareholders.
They have to agree to be monitored by a nonprofit entity known as B-Lab.
In Reich's words, "We may be witnessing the beginning of a return to a form of capitalism that was taken for granted in America 60 years ago."
If you want to label things, the old way was "stakeholder capitalism," while the way that's helped gut the U.S. economy is "shareholder capitalism," in which only the interests of one group count.
Reich again: "What changed? In the 1980s, corporate raiders began mounting unfriendly takeovers of companies that could deliver higher returns to their shareholders – if they abandoned their other stakeholders.
"The raiders figured profits would be higher if the companies fought unions, cut workers’ pay or fired them, automated as many jobs as possible or moved jobs abroad, shuttered factories, abandoned their communities, and squeezed their customers."
This gave birth to record-high executive salaries and soaring shareholder profits, but hasn't been kind to most of America.
We're all in this mess together. Market Basket's directors obviously want nothing to do with that reality, but hats off to Arthur T. Demoulas.