When you invest in a company, you're sometimes investing in a brand name. People buy Coke, McDonald's, Pepsi, because they know those companies -- they have a personal relationship with the brand and they figure that if they and all their neighbors use it, it will be successful and they'd like a part of that.
But investors also invest in personality. People bought shares in Martha Stewart Omnimedia because they believe in the savvy of Martha Stewart, they buy WWF based strongly on the omnipresent Vince McMahon (who isn't the CEO, his wife is) and so on.
Why bother with the company?
Why couldn't you just invest in Martha Stewart -- The Person?
Let's say Martha issues 1 million shares. Of that, she issues 10% to the public at large (100,000 shares). At the end of each calendar year, Martha distributes her earnings among all those shares in the form of dividends.
Now say I believe Martha has the potential to make millions over the next few years, so I want it now -- when it's cheap. And so do others. Demand outstrips supply, and people are willing to spend more for a piece of Martha. So the stock goes up, and up.
These shares now become currency for Martha. She can use this capital to sell and reap cash benefits, trade in exchange for material things, whatever. But she has an obligation to do something that will increase her net worth, for the good of herself and her "shareholders".
Now. Say there's an artist. He's got nothing like the cash flow of a Martha Stewart. But he makes really awesome stuff. So you buy his stock, you tell your friends to buy his stock -- and it takes off. Now he's able to have currency to live and make his art. Your dividend? The art.
Now I've only described a bull market, and haven't gone into the more sinister elements of a Human-based Stock Exchange. But I think it's something to think about, perhaps to implement...