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The Stakeholder Society Paperback – May, 2000
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The main obstacle that many young people face in building their future is a lack of initial resources. Now here's a radical idea--what if every United States citizen with a high school diploma was guaranteed, on their 21st birthday, $80,000, no strings attached? Bruce Ackerman and Anne Alstott believe it's a doable scheme to ensure that every American will get "a fair share of the nation's resources as they accept the full responsibilities of adult life." The Stakeholder Society lays out the basic principles of their plan and rebuts potential objections. No, it's not a gift--you have to pay it back, if you can, towards the end of your life. Yes, some people will use their stake unwisely--but the authors argue that freedom is better served by having the opportunity to make mistakes than by never getting a chance to move forward. They are also careful to point out that, ultimately, the stakeholder system is not so much a full frontal assault on poverty as it is a citizen-building program, helping people feel like a valued part of U.S. society and making it easier for them to contribute to that society's success. "If America drifts away from the promise of equal opportunity," the authors warn, "it is not because practical steps are unavailable, but because we have lost our way." Whether The Stakeholder Society contains those "practical steps" is a matter that should be considered very attentively by policymakers and all citizens concerned with the fate of the United States in the 21st century. --Ron Hogan --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Do Americans truly believe in equal opportunity? This provocative book outlines an ambitious proposal to put our collective money where our rhetoric is: give every American a one-time grant of $80,000 when he or she reaches early adulthood. The money would be funded by an annual 2% tax on the nation's wealth, to be paid for by the wealthiest 41% of the country. The funds could be used for anything: education, home purchase, business investment. The authors, both professors at Yale Law School (Ackerman's books include The Future of Liberal Revolution), may be liberals, but their proposal is informed by libertarianism: they want people to make their own decisions. But, unlike libertarians, they argue that Americans don't begin from a "fair starting point." The authors speculate on intriguing possible effects: the grant might foster patience rather than instant gratification, cause colleges to compete more and give child-rearing women new independence. Thus, they suggest that stakeholding would serve more as a citizenship program than an antipoverty program. While there may not be the political will to establish such a stakeholder society, Ackerman and Alstott's proposal is an interesting alternative to the similarly dramatic and simple plans for a flat tax currently being put forward.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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A few ants of the drone caste heard what the worker said and were morally outraged. They convinced their brother drones to force the colony to share its grain with the cicada and all its relatives. "From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs," they said. For several years the drones ran the colony in the new, moral, way. The cicadas and the ants all nearly starved to death. Equally.
The drones of another colony, who agreed with the moral claim of the cicadas, pondered the sad fate of first colony. "The worker was right; the cicada made its own choices and had no moral claim on the ants' store of grain," they said. "But not everyone gets a fair start. To fix this, we will give everyone a share of the grain at the beginning of the summer, not at the end. Then at the end of the summer everyone will pay back the share he or she got at the beginning, plus interest. And those who do well and have extra grain will pay back extra to make up for those who don't have enough."
The cicadas thought this was a great idea. The workers weren't so sure. All that summer, the cicadas sang sweetly, the workers gathered grain (but not too much since they knew they'd have to give away any extra), and the drones watched. That winter they all nearly starved to death. Equally.
A reviewer of it suggested "The Stakeholder Society" as an
alternative drastic change. I recommend both books to anyone
that considers reading either.
At the risk of oversimplifying, here are the proposals.
"The Stakeholder Society" recommends a one time cash payment
of $80,000 as citizens turn 21, financed by a wealth tax.
"In Our Hands" recommends an annual cash payment to all adult
citizens financed by the elimination of all other transfer
Both books have lots of detail to explain how and why to
implement their proposal. Both admit that some details will
have to be worked out based on experience, and both identify
some potential weaknesses of their proposal.
The biggest problem with "The Stakeholder Society" is the
observation that leads to the proposal. Since there is an
unequal distribution of wealth, there must be an unequal
opportunity to accumulate wealth. If the stake increases
the disparity in wealth, the same arguments can be used to
increase the stake and the corresponding wealth tax. If the
stake decreases the disparity, but does not eliminate it,
the same arguments can be used to increase the stake and the
corresponding wealth tax.
Those that favor equal outcomes will favor "The Stakeholder
Society." Those that think there is a large degree of
opportunity for most will favor "In Our Hands." Both books
are worth considering carefully, but not worth worrying about.
The authors of both admit there is no chance of either scheme
being implemented any time soon.
Most ratings of books with political implications are based
on agreement or disagreement with the conclusion. This one
is based on the presentation of the arguments.