Lester Thurow essay on income redistribution policies

Lester Thurow

Famous economist Lester C. Thurow worldwide known for his books and articles about economic and globalisation trends once laid his views about redistribution policies in an academic paper (The Political Economy of Income Redistribution Policies) published in 1973.

It is of utmost interest to know the continued policies of past United States administrations pursuing wars on poverty. Thurow describes the efforts made by president Kennedy compelled to act because the intense competition of the Soviet Union.

President Johnson and president Nixon both faced intense political pressure to act upon the egalitarian compromise that since then political beliefs maintain high in public opinion. But the author describes the difficult compromise between designing distribution policies and the political costs arising from them. He states the main public concern is the justice involved in its application. No one approves losing positions, money or perceived rights in favor of another one. And one hard reality of most of the redistributive plans is that a dollar given to one individual means a dollar taken from someone else.

No matter how excellent political propaganda is set up, the public in the short or long run, will become aware of the intrinsic logic behind redistributive plans. And so the political pressure againts will rise to unsustainable levels.

Ambitious programs involving skill investment for the poor or minorty groups are too much costly and the fruits to show in the very long run. This alone, leaving aside the justly application of them, breaks today democracy logic. Politicians right now seek to show immediate results, not to manage public investments which the next officers will reap for their benefit.

The Future of Capitalism: How Today’s Economic Forces Shape Tomorrow’s World is one of the most influential works of Lester C. Thurow.


Thurow, Lester C. 1973. “The Political Economy of Income Redistribution Policies” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 409