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Securing Assets for All

Securing Assets for All

About this Workstream

The past 30 years has seen the deepening concentration of ownership and a widening disparity of outcomes in the UK. Today, the country is divided between the few who are assetrich and receive exorbitant returns, and the many that have been denied access to meaningful assets while the relative worth of their wages has steadily declined. Recent analysis has put this divide into sharp perspective: the richest 1 per cent own as much in property, pensions and financial assets as the poorest 55 per cent, while this difference is further exacerbated by the ever-widening chasm in income levels. Unjustified by merit and result, but owing all to the leverage that built-in market advantage delivers, we are rapidly creating an economic serfdom that we thought long abolished.

The majority of people are by comparison both underpaid and asset-poor, without adequate savings and pensions to provide financial security, they struggle to enter and maintain a place in the housing market. Such double disparity in income and ownership is detrimental to society, entrenching longterm poverty and welfare dependency, and leading many to disengage with the political process and civic engagement. If people are denied a stake in both economy and society, then understandably they will soon disclaim responsibility even for their own destiny.

Against the typical logic of both left and right, we need to recognise that individual responsibility and social solidarity run in tandem. By moving beyond state or market-led solutions we can encourage an ownership-based economy, in which everyone has an economically underwritten place in their community and nation. Bringing this about requires new models of ownership and exchange from where we own in degrees, out-rightly personally, and for ourselves as well as in common and with others. This would be a genuinely ‘free market’, as all would own and all could trade with something in addition to their labour. We therefore need a fairer sharing of risk and reward in every financial process. All lenders of money, from banks to building societies must be regarded as investors in the processes they enable: as part-liable for the risks incurred by borrowers, but on the other hand, as co-partners and advisors in the enterprises of ownership and entrepreneurship which borrowers undertake. Whatever the loss of economic autonomy for an individual owner of capital, it is balanced by greater shared economic security and lowered risk that this delivers. Heightened rights to a stake in the success of the bank to which one belongs, may well act as a platform for personal wealth to be invested in things other than residential property and an increase of influence about the shape of the built environment and the nature of the city or locality one operates in would help encourage the kind of mass ‘at scale’ investment that small business and social enterprises need.

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