If we are serious about creating a more sustainable and equitable economy in the future, we must face the question of disparity in income and wealth. In its report “The Great Transition”, the New Economics Foundation have outlined an approach that they call “The Great Redistribution”:
In the Great Redistribution, we show how a redistribution of both income and wealth would create value as resources are moved from those who do not need them to those who do. We propose the creation of Citizens’ Endowments of up to £25,000 for all people on reaching the age of 21 to enable them to invest in their future, as well as Community Endowments to provide commonly owned assets to invest in our local neighborhoods. Both would be funded by a proposed increase in inheritance tax on all estates to 67%. As well as material factors, however, we also need to redistribute time. By sharing working hours and tasks more equally, everyone would be able to undertake more meaningful work, and by shortening the working week to four days we could create a better balance between paid work and the vital ‘core economy’ of family, friends and community life. We also propose a redistribution of ownership to create a form of ‘economic democracy’, where company shares are progressively transferred to employees in a resurgence of mutual and co-operative ownership forms. More equal societies are happier societies. By focusing on fairness we reap both social and economic benefits, as we no longer have to pay such a high price for the social ‘ills’ associated with high levels of inequality.
The sections of the report include: the Great Revaluing, the Great Redistribution, the Great Rebalancing, the Great Localization and Engagement, the Great Reskilling, the Great Economic Irrigation, and the Great Interdependence. We will focus on each element separately in future eNewsletters. Read the full report here.
The Schumacher Center for a New Economics is working closely with NEF to develop the practical details of how to stage such a redistribution. The US is different from Britain, different from Europe, with its own distinct culture and legal system. The solutions to addressing the problem of redistribution will likewise be distinct.
We have only an outline of a Great Redistribution, and one that will change as social, political, and environmental conditions change. It will take much public good will and much careful policy work to initiate. However, an undertaking along the lines outlined is essential, for humanitarian reasons, for economic reasons, and in order to meet our highest ideals as conscious beings on a fragile and interconnected planet.