May 11, 2013

WE'VE GOTTA PROTECT OUR PHONEY BALONEY JOBS!:

The Most Viable Way to Give a Boost to Low-Income Workers (MATT BRUENIG, MAY 10, 2013, American Prospect)

If we are going to live in a society that shies away from after-the-fact redistribution, the only way we can hope to achieve greater economic equality is through "predistribution."

In 2011, Jacob Hacker wrote a ground-breaking paper in which he coined the phrase predistribution. Under Hacker's definition, predistribution refers to measures governments take to reduce or eliminate inequality in market incomes. This differs from redistribution, which Hacker uses to mean measures states take to reduce or eliminate inequality after market incomes have been distributed, for instance through taxes and government benefit programs.

As far I am concerned, there is no moral or political difference between the two. Predistributive institutions and redistributive institutions are both just institutions. What matters is achieving greater economic equality, not so much the precise institutional regime that we use to get there. If anything, I tend to find so-called redistributive institutions more attractive because they are easier to fine tune and strike me as more liberating.

But, as Hacker correctly points out, my view is almost certainly an outlying one. For cultural or other reasons, Americans tend to be more supportive of equality-producing measures that get baked into paychecks than they are of equality-producing measures that go through more overt government channels. As a result, the US has a very stingy welfare state and delivers much of its government spending through opaque, submerged mechanisms like tax credits.


On the other hand, two things Americans overwhelmingly support are fairness and family, so we could certainly predistribute funding to everyone via things like O'Neill Accounts, HSAs and the like.

Posted by at May 11, 2013 7:23 AM
  

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