In his new book, With Liberty and Dividends for All: How to Save Our Middle Class When Jobs Don’t Pay Enough, Peter Barnes continues the current discussion about wealth inequality. In his argument that the middle class will be unable to sustain their lifestyle on wages alone, he echoes the analysis of Thomas Piketty in Capital in the Twenty First Century, and more recently of Saskia Sassen in her book Expulsions: Brutality and Complexity in the Global Economy.
Globalization, automation, and winner-take-all capitalism have changed the economic landscape. During periods of growth in the past, such as the one following World War II, the effect of growth was to incorporate the disenfranchised as valued workers and consumers.
Economic growth is now increasingly achieved by accelerating levels of complex financial transactions and by extracting natural resources using sophisticated technology. Whereas an earlier economy depended on an expanding population to fill defined roles, this financialized economy does not need them. Workers are expelled. Communities are expelled. Classes are expelled. Earth, air, minerals, and water are expelled through degradation.
Barnes argues that to survive economically, wage earners require—and deserve—a supplementary source of non-labor income. To meet this need, Barnes proposes to give every American a share of the wealth we own together— starting with our air and financial infrastructure. These shares would pay dividends of several thousand dollars per year—money that wouldn’t be welfare or wealth redistribution but legitimate income based on our common wealth.
An author and entrepreneur, Barnes co-founded Working Assets (now Credo). With Liberty and Dividends for All is an evolution of Barnes’ thinking on the commons. His earlier books include Who Owns the Land?, The People’s Land: A reader on land reform in the United States, Who Owns the Sky? Our Common Assets and the Future of Capitalism, and Capitalism 3.0: A Guide to Reclaiming the Commons.
On Sunday, July 27th, at 7:30 pm Peter Barnes will deliver a Schumacher Center lecture titled “Economics for the Anthropocene” at the American Institute for Economic Research, 250 Division Street, Great Barrington, Massachusetts. Seating is limited so pre-registration is required. Cost is $5 or 5 BerkShares. BerkShares Preferred.
The event is co-hosted by Schumacher Center for a New Economics and American Institute for Economic Research. It is co-sponsored by Kosmos Journal, BerkShares, Inc., Community Land Trust in the Southern Berkshires, Greenhorns, Orion Magazine, and the Carrot Project.
For those who cannot join us on the 27th, the recorded lecture will be available online later this summer.