Peter Barnes’ new book, With Liberty and Dividends For All, completely changes the discussion about inequality. Barnes argues that capitalism itself is the root cause of inequality — and that the solution lies in making common wealth dividends a property right of every legal U.S. resident. Under Barnes’ proposal, money for these dividends would come not from taxes but from wealth we own together, such as our atmosphere and our financial system. It’s an enlarged version of the approach used by Alaska since 1980 and first proposed by Thomas Paine in 1797. If implemented at scale, it could pay dividends to all Americans (including children) of up to $5,000 a year.
The reason we need such dividends is that there aren’t now, and won’t be in the foreseeable future, enough good-paying jobs to sustain a large middle class. Globalization, automation and the decline of labor unions have seen to that. This means that, if we want a large middle class in America, we must distribute non-labor income to everyone.
As in Alaska, such dividends would not be welfare but legitimate property income. And as such, they would unite our country rather than divide it.
Robert Reich, Van Jones, Chuck Collins and many others have praised Barnes’ book.