The Case For Redistribution Of Wealth

I love Monopoly. It was my favorite game growing up. Capitalism 101. But there was another lesson I was learning as well- it's no fun to play when you own everything. The end of a Monopoly game is pretty boring. You are just taking turns waiting for your opponents to go bankrupt. So when I was winning I would often "loan" others money just to keep the game going. Yes, I was a tax and spend liberal at a young age.

Redistribution of wealth has gotten a bad rap. The Republican party has done an excellent job of demonizing it. To many observers this is deeply ironic since Republicans have also worked to create tax code (hello Bush tax cuts) that redistributes wealth towards the rich. Fox News recently tried to distract their viewers away from Romney's 47% percent comments with a decade old recording of Obama saying he believed in redistribution of wealth. It was presented as damning evidence- how dare he suggest the government redistribute wealth! In reality, that is one of government's core functions.

I believe that a healthy, diverse economy requires redistribution of wealth.  I also believe that government is the only institution in a position to do this redistribution. When companies and individuals amass huge amounts of wealth they need to be encouraged, or if necessary- forced, to put that money back in play. How this money re-enters the economy is another area where the government comes in. 

Government needs to pick winners and losers. Clean energy, technology, life sciences, local food- these are the future of our economy. Fossil fuels, housing booms, big farm subsidies, processed food- these are the past. Tax code must be written, and often revised, to encourage the industries that will build our future. Too often we see government incentivize mature industries that don't need it- oil being the most obvious example. This is often done in the name of "jobs" but that thinking is incredibly short sighted. The jobs these aging industries create may not survive the coming changes disruptive technologies will bring. So the investment will be lost along with the jobs we could have had from investing in new technologies.

Markets cannot be depended upon to protect our future. They aren't built for it. Our strategic direction, economic and otherwise, needs to come from government and non-profit institutions. Organizations that can step outside of the day to day and consider 5, 10 or 100 years out. Organizations with no other interest than the good of the country or the world. They need to help us answer: how do we prepare for the future? What investments do we need to make? And no matter how you answer that question, redistribution of wealth will be part of the equation.