'Predistribution' and the living standards crisis

Wednesday, June 12, 2013 - 18:00

Policy Network and the Institute for Government host an event with US academic and political commentator Jacob Hacker of Yale University. Jacob Hacker is interviewed for the BBC Radio 4 programme, Analysis, by Edward Stourton, followed by a recorded question and answer session with the audience.

Twelve months ago, the word ‘predistribution’ entered the political lexicon and immediately divided political and economic opinion

‘Predistribution’ has been repeatedly cited by Ed Miliband as a cornerstone of his responsible capitalism agenda, but mocked by David Cameron in a prime minister’s questions session

Jacob Hacker, who introduced the concept to Ed Miliband and other European leaders at a Policy Network conference in Oslo in 2009,is interviewed by Edward Stourton to explain the concept. They will discuss what ‘predistribution’ would mean for the US and how it could apply to the UK. How far does it have the potential to help address concerns about falling living standards and rising inequality at a time when developed country governments across the world are reining back budgets to cut deficits?

Even if it is a good idea in principle, could it be implemented in practice in a globalised world economy without doing serious damage to competitiveness? What does he make of the mixed reaction so far to the term and concept in the UK?

Professor Hacker draws on his most recent book ‘Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer--and Turned Its Back on the Middle Class’. It argues that since the late 1970s the American middle classes have fallen further and further behind economically due to policy changes in government and organisational “drift”. He maintains that excessive reliance on redistribution fosters backlash, making taxes more salient and feeding into the conservative critique, therefore reformers need to focus on market reforms that encourage a more equal distribution of economic power and rewards even before government collects taxes or pays out benefits.

This is part of the Institute for Government's continuing 'Big Thinkers' series.