A Pathway to Complete Economic Equality

though what it might look like is yet to be determined

Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

This piece began life as Reply to “There is an Alternative: Socialism for Essentials and Capitalism for Nonessentials” (published in Medium by Ryan Gosha on September 16, 2022). I agree completely with the basic premise in that article, that a step-by-step approach to social evolution is the only reasonable option. It occurred to me that several European nations have already achieved the goal of providing the essentials for all members of society without ‘canceling’ capitalism.

To me, the problem with that approach to the next step is sustainability. Such an approach depends on the growth-based economic model that has created the environmental crisis we now face. It alters the outcomes for society from that model, but it does not address the underlying problem: the need for ever more ‘growth’, i.e., ever more total output, to sustain the functioning of the economic system, which must always be expanding to keep it from imploding.

Regarding the goal of providing the essentials for all members of society, the fundamental problem with the existing economic system is that total income is a function of total output. Whether that income gets appropriated by individuals or the community as a whole (via taxation), the only source of income is economic activity: the production and acquisition of goods and services.

I have developed an alternative to that model. In it there is an income for which any citizen could become eligible that would be sufficient to provide the essentials for a decent life (i.e., based on the current median or perhaps average income), which income would not depend on economic activity for its existence. It would be created as needed. The total of that income would be the supply of money (as currency) for the economy. It can be thought of as a kind of permanent ‘quantitative easing’ for ‘the people’, but with built-in protections against inflation. (Linked article is here in Medium, but not behind the paywall; it is a “4 min read,” with links for more information about the idea.)

The same process could be used to fund all government, without taxes/public debt, based on the population of the nation. In that way total output would be governed, passively but effectively, by demographics. There would be no unemployment or poverty at any level of total output; the existence of that supply of money qua income would prevent the economy contracting (though prices could still fall, meaning that income would be growing in value) while the built-in protections would prevent inflation. It would all be fully self-regulating. [How to spend the money provided for government would still be the chief concern of the political process at all levels of government.]

That income would not be a UBI, but it would be a guaranteed minimum income. It could, as a further step, be expanded to include everyone employed in any business or government. Differing in-kind benefits could still be allowed, to preserve the familiar system of incentivization. Beyond that, further steps towards economic equality could be taken within this paradigm — perhaps steps none of us can envision at this point in time.

In short, this is a pathway for a step-by-step approach to complete economic equality. It begins with eliminating unemployment, poverty, taxes, and public debt while making the existing economy fully self-regulating and increasing sustainability. Is that not a damned good start?

This idea does need advocates.

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Stephen Yearwood

unaffiliated, non-ideological, unpaid: M.A. in political economy (where philosophy and economics intersect) with a focus in money/distributive justice