Table of Contents
What is Economic Justice?
Economic justice refers to the practice of building a financial system where every person has ample opportunity to establish the material foundations necessary to live a dignified and productive life. In turn, the prosperity enjoyed by all results in a stronger workforce and thus a more fruitful economic system.
Economists and lawmakers have proposed and implemented a number of different methods (and combinations of methods) to achieve economic justice. Just think about the federal minimum wage. It’s supposed to ensure workers do not compete amongst each other to the point where they must offer their services for pennies, while their employers receive extremely cheap, debatably exploitative labor. Whether the current minimum is actually a liveable wage presents a different, though related question.
In essence, economic justice comes down to the belief that the economy is most productive when individuals can maximize their talents and receive the ‘fruits of their labor.’
We at the Zero Theft Movement are dedicated to achieving economic justice so that Americans can thrive. In our view, this can be achieved only when we have at least eradicated the rigged parts of the economy. But first, we will explain how economic justice works and cover some of its prominent strategies/methods economists and politicians have proposed.
The Generational Benefits of Economic Justice
To specific individuals and communities
Paying low-income workers more would obviously help them address whatever debts and monthly expenses they have. Just think about how economic justice could, for example, help the single mother who has to work multiple jobs to provide for her kid(s). She would have more time to actually be present in her kids’ lives and support them in myriad ways—academically, emotionally, mentally, and so on.
Granted, this assumes citizens use their money responsibly. Economic justice can (and likely should) come with educational programs to teach lower-income earners how to properly save and invest their money, as well as improve their job prospects.
The potential generational benefits, along with immediate ones, make sense, and perhaps the moral/ethical justifications appear self-evident.
But why would, or how could, economic justice boost economic productivity?
To the economy
It’s probably common to find many citizens in the U.S. and all around the world who make less because they have not gotten the opportunity to develop or demonstrate their abilities. In other words, they could provide more value and would receive more if they had a legitimate chance to do so.
When more citizens can properly provide for themselves and maintain stable discretionary income, they tend to spend more on various goods and services. Research has shown that the availability of discretionary income is the number one factor determining consumer spending.
Since workers are not making as much as they potentially could, that means they won’t have as much discretionary income to put back into the economy. Whether that’s in investments, luxuries, or essential goods/services. This creates an inefficiency in the economy as workers cannot maximize their potential earnings and, therefore, maximize their economic participation.
Let’s say that countless citizens do not have the opportunities to make better use of their talents, creating significant economic inefficiency. With reduced spending, demand dips. Economic growth in effect slows down, produces much less than it could. That reduces the returns for all.
Remember, some citizens do not find the profession that will bring out the best in them. To little or no fault of their own, or the system itself. Others simply do not want to do more than the bare minimum. It’s potentially misleading to think that economic injustice occurs only due to systemic issues working against a particular group.
Economic Justice Examples
As mentioned in the introduction, economists and politicians have proposed different methods to achieve economic justice. Establishing a minimum wage, again, serves as one example currently in practice in the U.S.
Remember: these methods do not necessarily clash, meaning one can combine them to achieve a synergistic effect.
Let’s take a look at some other approaches.
Progressive taxation refers to a tax system where the percent of taxes owed scales based on income. In other words, the more you earn, the more taxes you have to pay. It functions as one-way governments can combat income inequality and redistribute wealth.
The U.S., as well as most countries with market-based economies, use some form of progressive taxation system. The government then uses its taxes to fund and improve public services (e.g. public education, infrastructure, financial aid, etc.) that can benefit disadvantaged groups and often the citizens of a city or state as a whole.
Some have criticized that progressive taxation disproportionately empowers the middle and lower classes. Very few people are extremely wealthy (the 1%, or the 1% of the 1%), but they paid 40.1% of the U.S.’s total income taxes for FY 2020. Based on population, they have little apparent power to have their voice heard or needs met in democratic elections despite the considerable taxes they pay.
Furthermore, governments must spend those taxes efficiently and effectively, otherwise, the tax money simply goes to waste. With the serious concerns of wasteful spending in U.S. politics, including pork barrel legislation, earmarks, and contracting, progressive taxation won’t necessarily result in economic justice and prudent programming.
Universal basic income
Universal basic income (UBI), first proposed in the 16th century by English philosopher Thomas More, refers to a government program regularly providing every adult citizen with a set amount of money. The rationale behind this approach is to reduce poverty and eliminate other need-based social programs that potentially cost more time and money.
UBI returned to popular discourse when former presidential candidate Andrew Yang proposed the ‘Freedom Dividend.’ If Yang had won the presidency and the Freedom Dividend had passed through Congress, every citizen would have received $1,000 every month from the government on top of their monthly paychecks.
Critics have raised two concerns with UBI:
- The cost
- Discourages citizens from working
As it pertains to Yang’s Freedom Dividend, the nonprofit organization Tax Foundation estimated the program would cost $2.8 trillion each year (minus any offsets from the consolidation or elimination of other social programs).
Yang defended the Freedom Dividend by pointing to the planned reductions in social programs, as well as a 10% value-added tax (VAT) on businesses. He also claimed that most citizens would still have to work as they likely could not solely live off of $12,000 a year ($1000 each month).
Depending on the particulars of the UBI program proposed (amount, plans for social programs, taxation), the above concerns might be more or less justified.
Another key part of economic justice is diversity inclusion. It admittedly does not count as a method per say, but more as a part of ensuring everyone receives fair opportunities to live a healthy and stable life.
Socioeconomic oppression against people of color and women throughout U.S. history has set back generations. Many believe that, while potentially less prominent and extreme currently, gender and racial wage gaps continue to persist.
Diversity inclusion entails organizing and providing additional opportunities for those who come from disadvantaged backgrounds. This can include supplementary education, targeted career preparation, and addressing salary gaps within organizations.
The Technology CEO Council, formed by chief executives from Motorola, Dell, and Intel, published a report in October 2010 on inefficiencies in government contracting supply chains. The council estimated potential savings over ten years could exceed $700 billion, given the streamlining of the supply chain and the elimination of fraud.
If the government does not put in an effort to streamline their contracting supply chains, are they ripping off the public?
The Oft-Ignored Piece of Economic Justice
We at the Zero Theft Movement believe that one massive obstacle preventing the U.S. from achieving economic justice is the rigged parts of the economy. That’s what has potentially contributed to the wage stagnation that started all the way back to the 1970s.
Corrupt individuals and corporations can rip off the public by committing outright white-collar crimes or by hiring lobbyists to influence rent-seeking lawmakers. Have you ever wondered why any of the following might be the case?
- U.S. drug prices, even for some off-patent antibiotics, are reportedly on average 256% more than drug prices in other countries
- Only one investor went to jail for the 2008 financial crisis, which allegedly involved mass predatory, high-risk lending and cost taxpayers billions, if not trillions, in major bailouts of ‘too big to fail’ industries and the recession
- The Panama and Paradise Papers showed documentation suggesting many wealthy individuals have potentially executed tax fraud schemes by using tax havens, money laundering, and shell companies
The above represent just a few of the potential problem areas plaguing the U.S. economy. For years we’ve collectively allowed plutocrats and corrupt corporations to potentially hoard trillions. But you might be thinking that the problem’s too big for you to fix. And that’s true. We need as many citizens as possible working together to identify, debate, and democratically decide through a vote what parts of the economy are rigged.
Enter the Zero Theft Movement.
How the Zero Theft Movement Fights for Economic Justice
That’s why the Zero Theft Movement, along with our growing community, works to calculate the best estimate for the monetary costs of corruption in the U.S. Corporate, political, and everything in between.
We have built a safe and independent voting platform where you and your fellow citizens collaborate to thoroughly investigate potentially rigged areas across the economy. Everyone votes on whether (1) theft is or isn’t occurring in a specific area of the economy, and (2) how much is being stolen or possibly saved. Through direct democracy, we can collectively decide where the problem areas are and start working on addressing them systematically.
Only through hard evidence can we prove where the rigged parts of the economy exist and force Congress to hold the bad actors accountable. We can achieve economic justice, a financial system that allows the many good businesses (big, medium, and small) and good individuals (regardless of their socioeconomic status) to thrive.
The Zero Theft Movement does not have any interest in partisan politics/competition or attacking/defending one side. We seek to eradicate theft from the U.S economy. In other words, how the wealthy and powerful rig the system to steal money from us, the everyday citizen. We need to collectively fight against crony capitalism in order for us to all profit from an ethical economy.
Terms like ‘steal,’ ‘theft,’ and ‘crime’ will frequently appear throughout the article. Zero Theft will NOT adhere strictly to the legal definitions of these terms (since congress sells out). We have broadly and openly defined terms like ‘steal’ and ‘theft’ to refer to the rigged economy and other debated unethical acts that can cause citizens to lose out on money they deserve to keep.