Top-to-bottom wealth redistribution

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Top-to-bottom wealth redistribution (TBWR) is a particular methodology of wealth redistribution in which policies are designed to redistribute wealth preferentially from the wealthiest (the "top") to the poorest (the "bottom") in order to reduce economic disparity to acceptable levels. Any particular TBWR policy may not accomplish this exactly, but that is the goal of such policies.

Where funds are limited, TBWR also generally seeks to apply them in ways that will do the most good, which may include helping those near the bottom from "falling off the cliff" into a cycle of poverty – even though this is not strictly redistributing "to the (very) bottom" – if more poverty would be prevented that way.

TBWR is similar to, and in much the same spirit as, the saying "From each according to his ability" (aka from each/to each, or FE2E) popularized by Karl Marx, but different in that FE2E implies complete redistribution, i.e. zero economic disparity, while TBWR merely seeks to reduce disparity to levels that do not cause specific problems, including oligarchy, involuntary homelessness, and excessive poverty.


The "from the top" part of TBWR is most commonly implemented through progressive taxation policies (aka taxing the rich), while the "to the bottom" part is most commonly implemented via social welfare programs.

Minimum wage is also a policy which helps with TBWR, as the wealthiest members of society increasingly own businesses that pay their employees the least, but it is a loss-reduction measure at best.

Alternatives include:

Political Context

Both taxation (especially the progressive variety) and social welfare programs are opposed by anarcho-capitalists (more or less known in the US as libertarians), who generally favor "small government" and believe that:

  • progressive taxation creates "big government"
  • government "hand-outs" create dependency on government (rather than merely reducing extremes of poverty) by causing people to reduce job-seeking efforts; welfare thus creates unemployment

There is a reasonable case to be made that social welfare which is tied to being unemployed does, in fact, create government-dependency in that people who find jobs may be cut off from certain welfare programs which they need in order to survive, while the job may not provide adequate income to replace those programs. This is one of many reasons why ubiquitous income, possibly in the form of a citizen dividend, might be preferable to existing need-based programs.