Monday, June 12, 2017

Thought Experiment

I am a benevolent alien. I have just come to Earth and informed the people and political leaders of the United States of America that I can offer them a technology that will do the following:

1) for the next 10 years provide real GDP growth of 6% annually (more than double what an optimistic prediction would be, even absent any recession)

2) The bottom 80% of the income distribution would receive all of the gain from this income growth.

3) In addition, the top 20% would see their incomes decline by 5% per year, with all of that income going to additional gains for the bottom 80% (this is not redistribution, this is just what the magic technology box I am offering will do to the economy and income distribution).

So we have a technological change which vastly improves growth, but impacts the income the distribution which decreases both the share of and absolute incomes at the top, and increases them at the bottom. No one doubts the sincerity of my offer or its results, not even Alex Jones. No one thinks my plan "to serve man" is something other than what I claim.

How do people react to this? What does the WSJ editorial page say? The Washington Post editorial page? Tom Friedman? David Brooks? Leading economists? A Republican president (not Trump, a generic one)? A Democratic president?

Congress must pass a law to accept this technology. Does a Republican Congress pass it? Does a Democratic Congress pass it?

Does the Supreme Court declare accepting this technology to be unconstitutional, perhaps because it is an unlawful uncompensated taking from rich people?

I'm genuinely curious.

The subtext is that economists always cheer on GDP gains and get pissy about distributional questions when hippies bring them up. Here is a technology which will unambiguously bring about significant increased economic growth, just with the distributional impacts we aren't accustomed to these days. Will they still cheer it on? (of course some would, #notalleconomistsarethesame). Will the cries of "class warfare" be shouted loudly from on high?