The $30,000 Solution, by Robert R. Schutz, Ph.D.
Santa Barbara, California: Fithian Press, 1996. Paperbound, 160 pages, $12.95. Available from the publisher at P.O. Box 1525, Santa Barbara, CA 93102 USA.
Get ready for an eye-opening experience. The $30,000 Solution can start you thinking about economics, the environment, and your own personal income, in utterly new ways -- ones that you have not considered before. But Robert R. Schutz is not merely offering some abstract new theory -- he is proposing an actual implementation of a new economy.
We are all familiar with the battle between socialism and capitalism, a battle that both combatants appear to be losing. Schutz points out a third approach and calmly proceeds, step by step, to trace out its implications.
Very briefly, Schutz proposes that most of what is today considered "earned income" is actually not individually earned at all, but due rather to nature and the presence, history and activities of human society. Since this portion of income is unearned, no person has a better claim upon it than any other. Therefore, the fair way to allocate the unearned value is in equal shares to everyone. Schutz details how this can be calculated for the United States, and comes up with a total that would allow $30,000 per year for every adult (smaller amounts for children) in this country. Nothing stops you from working to produce earned income as well, of course, but your share of the total unearned income is yours simply in virtue of your existence.
This is a mighty big idea, and at this point most readers would, I suspect, come up with a number of objections or problems that would face this economic overhaul. But Schutz does a splendid job of anticipating these, and in his calm writing style takes care to consider a wide range of theoretical, practical, social and political difficulties that the $30,000 plan will face. The result is a book that has nothing to hide.
There are plenty of particular points on which one can disagree with Schutz. For instance, I would claim that he overemphasizes the impact of population growth, and underestimates the magnitude of "economic rent" (location values) in our economy. Other readers will find their own points for disagreement. But this merely underscores the central value of this book. The $30,000 Solution starts us on a debate that Americans, and indeed all the world's people, desperately need to have. A debate that goes far deeper than "tax the other guy but don't tax me," and way beyond "devil take the hindmost." It's time for a serious debate about what is earned and what isn't; how to have an economy that recognizes natural resources as the concern of us all; and how we can act to improve everyone's opportunities to lead fulfilling lives.
If more people read and talk about the ideas in The $30,000 Solution, we will stop going around in frustrating circles and start to draw close to some principled, fundamental, enduring answers. Highly recommended.
reviewed by Hanno T. Beck
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