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Could “Social Wealth Funds” Be the Solution to Inequality?


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At The Intercept, Rachel M. Cohen explores the notion of “social wealth funds” as a solution to the radical inequality that plagues many advanced capitalist nations. The basic idea behind the funds is that the government invests in the stock market or real estate and distributes the profits to its citizens. The experiment has been tried in Sweden in the past, and the US state of Alaska has operated such a fund for decades. Unsurprisingly, it’s very popular with Alaska residents. Check out an excerpt from Cohen’s article:

The Alaska Permanent Fund is what’s known as a “social wealth fund” — also sometimes called a “sovereign wealth fund” or a “citizens’ wealth fund.” There are more than 70 such funds across the world, in countries like Australia, Japan, New Zealand, Qatar, and Norway. The number of social wealth funds has risen considerably since 2000, and a new report produced by Matt Bruenig, founder of the crowd-funded socialist think tank the People’s Policy Project, advocates for expanding Alaska’s model to create a national social wealth fund in the United States. Doing so, Bruenig argues, may be the best shot Americans have to stop a decades-long trend of accelerating inequality.

Bruenig dubs his idea the “American Solidarity Fund.” The government would gradually accumulate assets such as stocks, bonds, and real estate, and as the value of the publicly managed assets increases, the value of the shares would also rise. Citizens would receive a “universal basic dividend” every year from the income earned from the fund’s investments.

While Alaska’s Permanent Fund was built around a rich natural resource, Bruenig points to Sweden’s short-lived experiment with a social wealth fund in the 1980s, where Swedes used taxes on corporate profits to fill it up. (Conservative legislators ended Sweden’s fund in 1991.)

Image via The Intercept.