Along with jeans and pizza, the ESOP has entered the Soviet lexicon. Two Soviet companies have recently installed that country's first employee stock ownership plans, according to the Industrial Cooperative Association and Employee Ownership Services Inc., which helped the Soviets develop an appropriate model.

Will ESOPs take off in the USSR? ICA/EOS thinks they might. That's because the Soviet government likes the fact that ESOPs bring market incentives to companies without requiring outside investors -- that is, capitalists. "You can present [the ESOP] as the evolution of capitalism, where everybody's an entrepreneur, or you can present it as the true evolution of socialism," notes EOS president David Ellerman. "It's an interesting common ground."

-- Martha E. Mangelsdorf