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Knaves & fools, concld
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come_to_think
It appears, from the limitation on the length of comments, that LJ is not designed for extensive debates in the style of a newsgroup or mailing lists.  Thus, from now on I will style followups as fresh postings rather than as replies to comments.

The balance sheets I mentioned are as follows:
http://finance.yahoo.com/q/bs?s=MSFT
http://finance.yahoo.com/q/bs?s=ibm&annual
http://finapps.forbes.com/finapps/jsp/finance/compinfo/FinancialIndustrial.jsp?tkr=S&period=qtr
http://finance.yahoo.com/q/bs?s=JBLU&annual

However, it turns out that the comment I made about them ("their stockholders' equity is of the same order of magnitude as their net worth") is nonsense.  I had naively supposed that net worth was assets minus liabilities, and that stockholders' equity was one line in the liabilities list, equal to the total of all sums paid to the company for its stock over the years.  In fact, as Tony Berno points out, "stockholders' equity" is a synonym of "net worth", and as Wikipedia reveals, the term for what I was hoping to find is "share capital" or "capital stock".  No such line appears in balance sheets, and so no evidence for or against Thurow's statement can be extracted from them.

That fact rather surprises me.  Again naively, I had supposed that when a company issues stock & gets cash for it, that transaction would have to appear on its income statement, and so, in order for that to jibe with successive balance sheets, there would have to be a line on them that showed an increase.  However, my only experience with accounting is in filling out, 30 years ago or so, the tax returns of the commune I belonged to, which did not have stock; and I do not see any obvious line for such accumulations in the examples given in Wikipedia s.v. income statement.  So I remain ignorant (and perhaps am intended to remain so).

Thurow's statement was, however, footnoted -- to the National Income and Product Accounts, which are now available on the Web.  The appropriate reference is probably
http://www.bea.gov/national/nipaweb/SelectTable.asp?Selected=N#S5
However, Thurow does not explain the arithmetic, and I do not know the jargon & cannot figure out what table & lines to use.  So it remains unclear whether Thurow's statement is correct, and if it is, how much the world has changed over the last three decades, for better or worse.

By "internally generated" Thurow, writing in 1976, was not referring to anything that has happened to transparency in the last generation.  He was referring to investments that were made out of profits rather than by issuing stock or borrowing from outside the company.  That is how *he* "thought companies raised capital before 1980" -- 99% of it, anyway.

In the denture metaphor, I was not proposing that the stock market be abolished.  I was proposing that economists consider, as an exercise, what effect that might have, so that I could grasp what the actual importance of the stock market is supposed to be.  In such modeling, various conceivable detailed mechanisms might indeed be explored -- on the death of the owner, the stock might revert to the corporation, or simply cease to exist, or be repurchased from the owner's estate at its original price, etc.