Fifteen Proposals for Social Justice
Inspired by Anthony Atkinson’s Programme for Action
It is my belief that the rise in inequality can in many cases be traced directly or indirectly to changes in the balance of power.
(Anthony B. Atkinson, Inequality, What Can Be Done? Harvard University Press, 2015, p.82-83)
In Italy, as elsewhere, increasing inequalities have generated widespread injustice. Fear, resentment, and anger have escalated among the more vulnerable sections of society, giving rise to an authoritarian dynamic. Following the lead of Anthony Atkinson, the Forum on Inequality and Diversity – a coalition between civil society organizations and researchers – believes that this state of affairs is not inevitable; it is, rather, the result of a U-turn in policy and culture that has taken place over the last 30 years. This turn must be reversed.
By putting together more than a hundred experts in different fields, and mobilizing the eight organizations that are members of the Forum, we have focused on wealth inequality because of its extraordinary rise in recent years and because of its influence on all other inequalities. Wealth inequality reduces the ability to react to unforeseen events, the capacity to refuse bad jobs, and to protect savings; it prevents people from implementing their entrepreneurial skills; it deters them from taking care of the environment. We have investigated three mechanisms of wealth formation – technological change, labour-capital relations, and inheritance – with the aim of designing a comprehensive strategy to reverse the current trend.
The Report (Fifteen Proposals for Social Justice) released on Monday, March 25 advances policy proposals that address these three mechanisms.
The proposals addressing technological change aim to reduce the concentration of knowledge in the hands of few mega corporations by means such as launching a renegotiation of the TRIPS Agreement; developing the existing network of public research infrastructures into technological hubs; introducing criteria of social justice (drawn up by the Forum) in the public financing of private research and in university evaluations; investing technological dividends through place-based development policies in places that are falling behind; pursuing environmental justice, i.e. taking the vulnerable sections of society into account when implementing energy transitions. Proposals aimed at tackling the issues related to the improper use of machine learning and personal data are also presented.
The proposals addressing labour-capital relations aim to rebalance the power of labour by extending to all workers the effect of contracts signed by the “most representative” unions; by introducing a minimum wage; by granting workers greater impact on firms’ strategic decisions through the creation of Labour and Citizens Councils (where both labour and environmental issues can be debated).
The proposals addressing inheritance aim to level the field for young people born in families with differing wealth. They pursue this objective by two means: by giving every child at the age of 18 a “universal inheritance” of 15,000 Euros which is not conditional either on economic or social context or on the way it is used; by reintroducing truly progressive “lifetime capital receipts tax”, as Atkinson puts it, which helps finance the universal inheritance.
An early copy of the Report was handed to the Italian President of the Republic on March 20. On March 25, the presentation of the Report was attended by all parties across the political spectrum. Twelve significant members of society, from the administrations of major municipalities, labour unions, business and culture have endorsed the project, committing themselves to promoting debate and, where possible, putting some of the proposals to the test.