For somebody who has a dedicated speaking gig at Davos every year, Ray Dalio is sure is starting to sound a lot like a socialist (the technical term is champagne socialist, we think). For a little over a year now, Dalio has been warning any journalist who will listen that the looming market crash and economic downturn, which always seems to be between a year or two years away, will stress the fraying fabric of our disintegrating capitalist system to the point where it simply breaks apart. Central banks, already out of ammo from their pre-crisis stimulus programs will be powerless to pull us back from the precipice, and with our federal debt burden already so heavy, Congress will have little wiggle room to spend us out of the mess (that is, unless they finally cave to the MMTers).
But in his latest 18-page treatise entitled “Why and How Capitalism Needs To Be Reformed (Part 1)”, published – as per usual – on LinkedIn, Dalio kicks his fearmongering approach up to ’11’, surpassing redistributive rhetoric of Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and going straight for Vladimir Lenin.
According to Dalio, the flaws in the American capitalist system are breeding such horrific inequality between the wealthy and the poor that at some point in the not-too-distant future, the only sensible recourse for the unwashed masses will be a bloody revolution.
To support this theory, Dalio points to statistics showing that the bottom 60% of Americans are lagging further and further behind the top 40% in the areas of education, social mobility, assets, income and – crucially – health. American men earning the least will likely die ten years earlier than those making the most.
In previous essays, Dalio has warned about the threat of economic populism (the anti-establishment trend that helped deliver both Brexit and President Trump’s stunning upset victory over Hillary Clinton). Now, he’s apparently identifying with populists of a different stripe (namely, those on the left).
All of these sources of inequality, Dalio argues, represent an “existential threat” to the American economy, that will only be exacerbated by falling competitiveness relative to other nations and the “high risk of bad conflict.”
“Disparity in wealth, especially when accompanied by disparity in values, leads to increasing conflict and, in the government, that manifests itself in the form of populism of the left and populism of the right and often in revolutions of one sort or another,” Dalio writes.
Here are some highlights from the essay, courtesy of Bloomberg:
Wages for most Americans have been stagnant for decades, those who grow up in the middle class increasingly earn less than their parents and the income gap between the richest and poorest is as wide as ever.
Wealth increasingly determines the quality of education kids receive and systemic failings at schools in poor neighborhoods are “the equivalent of child abuse.”
Americans who earn less being in worse health and dying earlier has direct consequences for the economy.
Conveniently absolving himself and his fellow billionaires of any blame for this sad state of affairs, Dalio claimed that the cause of this sad state of affairs was simply a poorly designed system that can, with a little effort, be corrected.
“These unacceptable outcomes aren’t due to either a) evil rich people doing bad things to poor people or b) lazy poor people and bureaucratic inefficiencies, as much as they are due to how the capitalist system is now working,” Dalio said.
At this point, Dalio starts to sound more like his fellow Wall Street titan Jamie Dimon, who slammed socialism in his annual shareholder letter and insisted instead that a program of practical bipartisan reforms to solve some of the worst excesses of inequality could be achieved. Though to be sure, Dalios policy prescriptions go beyond “raise taxes on the wealthy.”
Instead, Dalio recommends treating the wealth and income gap as a national emergency, forming a bipartisan commission to re-engineer the economic system, pass laws to create more accountability in government and institute minimum standards for health care and education. Sounding a bit liker an MMTer (which we wouldn’t be surprised to learn is actually the case), Dalio also recommended more coordination between monetary and fiscal policy.
Then again, with his more than $15 billion net worth amassed from running the world’s largest and arguably most successful hedge fund, if Dalio thinks a radical redistribution of wealth will save our society, and he really wants to win over the hearts and minds, he could start with leading by example.
Read the full essay here.