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Pre-distribution and the crisis in living standards

Pre-distribution is the idea that the state should try to prevent inequalities from occurring in the first place, rather than using tax-and-spend redistribution to tackle inequalities after they have occurred.

The last 30 years has seen a dramatic increase in income inequality. Yet excessive reliance on redistribution fosters backlash, making taxes more salient and feeding into the conservative critique. Reformers must therefore also focus on market reforms that encourage a more equal distribution of economic power and rewards even before government collects taxes or pays out benefits.

As we move into an era of low growth, with demographic change and growing costs putting increasing strain on the traditional forms of the welfare state, pre-distribution is an attempt to establish new and inventive ways of restructuring the market economy to pre-emptively ensure long-term growth, and fairer outcomes for all.


The institutional foundations of middle-class democracy
The centre-left have allowed politics and public policy to "drift", leading to the accentuation of vast gaps between the middle-classes and very rich.
By Jacob Hacker

A Progressive Economic Strategy
A way of looking at the challenges for a progressive economic strategy is to see the complementarity among policies that: boost innovation; reduce inequality in assets and in market income; and foster the growth of good jobs in the labour-absorbing service sectors.
By Wendy Carlin

What is pre-distribution?
Pre-distribution may be a new word but it is a route into exploring some far older ideas that lie at the heart of progressive debate.
By Kitty Ussher

The promise of pre-distribution
Pre-distribution has the capacity to create an exciting and radical new agenda for social democracy. But the politics of pre-distribution cannot be innocuous or uncontroversial.
By Martin O’Neill & Thad Williamson

Pre-distribution as a new set of policy tools
Pre-distribution opens up new policy tools that could represent a profound challenge to the neo-liberal economic model.
By Paul Gregg

Fleshing out a pre-distribution agenda
Given fiscal constraints and demographic change, reforming Beveridge's welfare state is a must.
By James Plunkett

Making markets work: How effective regulation reduces reliance on taxation
The territory of market redesign is where social democrats need to reposition themselves if they are to make the idea of progress electorally viable once more.
Thomas Aubrey

The risk-reward nexus: Innovation, finance and inclusive growth
Central to the pre-distribution debate is an understanding of the tension between how value is created and how value is extracted in modern day capitalism. That is, who takes the risks and who gets the rewards?
William Lazonick & Mariana Mazzucato

Shared sacrifice: Pre-distribution as a new way of doing politics
The Left must be prepared to face up to sectional interests, to shift resources not only across the income distribution, but across generations and across regions.
By Patrick Diamond

Labour and the Unions: Towards a new settlement
The ‘predistribution’ agenda taking shape within the Labour party rests on trades unions adapting to new forms of workplace collectivism.
By David Coats


Pre-distribution, education and human capital

Rising inequality and lower earnings mobility are unlikely to be addressed without more effective intervention that boosts the relative position of children and young people from low income households.
By Patrick Diamond

The future of inequality
The distribution of income and wealth is one of today’s most controversial issues. The good news is that there are several possible futures. History tells us that there are powerful economic forces pushing in every direction. Which one will prevail depends on the institutions and policies that we will collectively adopt.
By Thomas Piketty

Correcting market inequality
Pre-distribution is about correcting market failures before they have even occurred. In that sense, the concept can be seen as returning market theory back to its roots.
By Deborah Boucoyannis


Pre-distribution and monetary policy
Central banks’ drive to stabilise inflation in an increasingly globalised world has distorted the distribution of income. It is time for monetary policy to become central to the political debate once more.
By Thomas Aubrey
 

The free market fantasy
Where organisations representing the broad concerns of citizens have more weight, markets as well governments deliver benefits that are more broadly shared.
By Jacob Hacker

BBC Radio 4 programme, Analysis
Policy Network and the Institute for Government also hosted an event with US academic and political commentator Jacob Hacker of Yale University. Hacker was interviewed about the concept of "pre-distribution" for the BBC Radio 4 programme, Analysis, by Edward Stourton, followed by a recorded question and answer session with the audience.