In association with The Equality Trust, Demos have today published three pamphlets focusing on equality from the perspective of each of the main political parties. The Liberal Democrat one, A Wealth of Opportunity, is written by Julia Margo and William Bradley and has a foreword by David Laws MP.
A concern with inequality lies deep in liberal DNA. More than a century and a half ago, John Stuart Mill argued for a cap on inheritance so that wealth might be more fairly distributed in society. His views jarred with Victorian attitudes. Would they be more accepted now?
This pamphlet argues for a renewed liberal equality agenda, based on evidence of the divisive impact of inequality on society and recent findings of the central role that financial security and access to resource plays in life chances and child development.
The Liberal Democrats face a unique opportunity: concern for economic inequality has never been more fashionable or higher in the public mind than in this post- recession era and following the double-scandal of MPs expenses and bankers bonuses. In the wake of the Labour government’s failure to effectively tackle inequality, a radical agenda focused on redistributing resource, capitalising disadvantaged families and improving services would cement the reputation of the Liberal Democrats as the vanguard of the contemporary progressive left.
The book makes three main policy recommendations for the Liberal Democrats to adopt:
- Tax wealth via land value taxation and replacing inheritence tax with an acquisitions tax.
- Introduce a capabilities boost to benefits and services by increasing benefit and tax credit levels for the working poor, additional resources for early years education for children from disadvantaged backgrounds and focusing Sure Start on programmes with a proven impact on child well-being, capability development and parenting.
- Capitalise low income families by raising the minimum wage, entitling low income families to a £500 lump sum on the birth of a child, refocusing child benefit so that it is higher for younger children and encouraging people on low incomes to save via a system of matched funding.