How to Save Our Middle Class When Jobs Don’t Pay Enough

By Peter Barnes

Published by Berrett-Koehler (San Francisco, 2014)

argues that, because of globalization, automation and the decline of labor unions, there won’t be enough high-paying jobs in America to sustain a large middle class in the future.  Therefore, to survive economically, our middle class needs a supplementary source of non-labor income.

To meet this need, Barnes proposes to pay every American dividends from wealth we own together—our air, our financial system, and more.  These dividends wouldn’t be welfare; they’d be legitimate property income.  Over time, they could rise to about $5,000 per person per year.


Peter Barnes takes the national discussion on inequality to a new and important level. Enormously thoughtful, insightful and valuable.

    — Robert B. Reich, former Secretary of Labor

Peter Barnes offers a market-based way to support our lower and middle classes while protecting our planet at the same time.  Anyone tired of Wash­ington’s stale political clichés should read this book.

    — Van Jones, author, Rebuilding the Dream

Peter Barnes thinks more creatively than anyone I know about how to harness capitalism to better serve human beings.  Liberty and Dividends For All offers an ingenious solution to the decline of America’s middle class.  It’s a policy so shamelessly left-wing that Sarah Palin has championed an Alaska version of it, and so at odds with our nation’s founding ideals that Thomas Paine proposed it at the Republic’s dawn.

   — Timothy Noah, author, The Great Divergence: America’s Growing Inequality Crisis and What We Can Do About It

Writing from a free-market perspective, I have long been concerned about the radical transformation that is occurring in our society today.  With this book, Peter Barnes shows how a system of universal dividends can simultaneously undergird a broad middle class and make possible a thriving market economy.

    — Dwight D. Murphey, author, A Shared Market Economy

While Thomas Piketty proposes to tax private wealth, Peter Barnes’ vision is to pay everyone dividends from wealth we own together.  Both approaches should be taken very seriously.

    — James Boyce, professor of economics, University of Massachusetts

When you apply a brilliant business mind like Peter’s to the common good, you get great ideas like this one: dividends from wealth we own together.  Let’s do it.

— Marjorie Kelly, author, Owning Our Future

I loved this book.  It is clear, fast-paced, and offers a breathtakingly logical solution to widening inequality and ecological degradation.

    — Susan Witt, executive director, Schumacher Center for a New Economics

It takes wisdom to transcend seemingly irreconcilable tensions around inequal­ity.  Peter Barnes’ simple idea is grounded in such wisdom.

    — John Fullerton, president, Capital Institute

Elegant, powerful, pragmatic and hopeful.  This book will change the debate about what’s mine and what’s ours.

    — David Morris, co-founder, Institute for Local Self-Reliance

In this unprecedented time, Peter Barnes’ splash of common sense is just what’s needed to spark a movement.

     — Frances Moore Lappé, author, Democracy’s Edge