Do you ever ask yourself: what if? How things might be if we took a different approach. Maybe changed our priorities. Set new goals. See what the world might look like from one particular perspective or another if we altered our point of view.
There are certain things we believe to be true that are established in our mind as immutable. They are not going to change. Never. We accept them as life’s inevitabilities. We might be wrong.
How a healthy society is ordered. How its economy works. How public well-being is defined. How it is accomplished. These subjects are codified and deeply entrenched. Dug in like mighty oaks rooted far into the earth. Not easily moved. Dogmatic to the nth degree.
It may be healthy to question those absolutes. When we venture into those seldom seen places, we sometimes catch a glimpse of how elastic our reality can be when we have the courage to stretch it a little.
What if we taxed assets instead of income? What if we reinvested half of all profits in the society from which the wealth derives? What if we guaranteed a basic income to everyone with assets below a given baseline, and only taxed an increase in assets above that baseline? What if?
And what if we champion free enterprise specifically for the prosperity it can grow and share? What would that look like? Who would benefit and who would be harmed?
If you doubt the need to rethink taxation, the ability of the rich to avoid paying anything even close to a fair share can be seen HERE. If you wonder what they do with all those untaxed assets, read HERE. And if you haven’t thought about the underlying fragility of an economy with so much wealth inequity, read HERE.
It is what it is. But it doesn’t have to go unchanged. Keep what you’ve got, but share half of the amount it increases from now on. Many would benefit from that redirection of wealth, and although they would howl long and loud in protest, the wealthy would suffer not at all. In fact, they might well benefit, too.
Capitalism. Free Enterprise. Individual Freedom. The Pursuit of Happiness. Mighty oaks, indeed!
Those are the tenets in question here. What if we looked at them differently?
What if we agreed capitalism has been so successful at generating wealth that we now can think about ways to repurpose it? We’re not talking about pursuing utopia here. Not a world of perfect equity. Just a better way to use the economy without encumbering those who are so successful at exploiting it.
We recognize that life is unfair, that equality is an aspiration rather than a reality, that some of us alway will be better off than others. That’s just the way it is. In fact, even knowing that others are left behind, we champion the right of individuals to reach their highest potential.
We want to cheer them on, those paragons of capitalism: Go Jeff! Go Elon! Go all you who are bettering your financial position! We support your success. On a share and share alike basis. Grow your assets. Harvest the juicy fruits of free enterprise. Reinvest half of that increase in the social contract.
Here’s why. We don’t want to limit the ceiling. We do want to raise the floor. To give the least of our citizens a boost in their pursuit of happiness. We may not be able to solve the inequity of wealth distribution, but we can strengthen the social safety net and simultaneously stimulate the economy. Tax the increase in wealth and use it to provide basic income.
People who need it for necessities will spend it. They won’t hoard it. The money will circulate, which is the single best way to stimulate the economy. And the same titans of capitalism will capture that spent money anyhow. They’ve proven themselves better at the game. The only difference is they will annually reinvest half their profits in basic income for the less fortunate. Which in turn will boost the economy so they can make even more. And share it again.
There are many demonstrable benefits of Basic Income, and numerous canards about its deleterious effect that are disproven, in the few examples that have been instituted. They are small samples but worth examining HERE and HERE and HERE and HERE.
Another dogmatic statement is the inherent dignity of work. What that might mean but often doesn’t is pride in what one does rather than what it pays. Read some current thinking about work and dignity HERE. The pandemic has demonstrated many of the most valuable and most endangered workers were also among the lowest paid. Employment in a service economy has many reconsidering what dignity and value their jobs provide. How Basic Income might impact that thinking is considered HERE.
These are subjects worth discussing. Politics being what it is today, it is unimaginable that serious consideration might be given these issues. As Anand Giriharadas says HERE, politicians talk around the “thing” rather than about it. So, we need to zero in on the thing that is and the thing that could be if we want to seriously explore What If?
We’ve talked about two policy positions we believe should be considered. Taxing growth in assets instead of income. And providing basic income until a certain level of assets are achieved. Stop taxing labor and start taxing assets. Use taxes to provide the basic necessities of public well-being. Strengthen free enterprise to strengthen the safety net. And vice versa. They go hand in hand.