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Money, assets are tightly controlled in the hands of the few; it’s time to revisit that philosophy

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06.10.2017

Since its founding, the United States has faced a continuing dilemma around the distribution of wealth. On the one hand, allowing some concentration of capital in the hands of a few leads to investment and economic growth. On the other hand, spreading some of the wealth helps maintain a cohesive and functioning democracy.

As early as 1785, Thomas Jefferson described this dilemma in a letter to James Madison: “The property of this country is absolutely concentrated in a very few hands … I am conscious that an equal division of property is impracticable. But it is not too soon to provide by every possible means that as few as possible shall be without a little portion of land. The small landholders are the most precious part of a state.”

Today, we feel this dilemma acutely, and it is urgent that we restore the balance between wealth accumulation and distribution, between economic growth and economic equity. The Institute for the Future’s framework of universal basic assets (UBA) offers an approach for doing so. UBA identifies a fundamental set of “resources,” or assets, we believe are essential to having sustainable livelihoods. Such assets include everything from money to education, health coverage, and housing – things that people can use and leverage to generate greater economic prosperity for themselves and their families. We focus on three broad classes of assets: private – things like money, land, and housing; public – infrastructure and services like education, health, public utilities, etc.; and open – or a growing category of mostly digital assets that are communally created and open to everyone – think Wikipedia and other open-source resources.

The point of UBA is not........

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