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'A New Class Of Stakeholdership': James Felton Keith On Addressing Inequality With A Data Dividend

'A New Class Of Stakeholdership': James Felton Keith On Addressing Inequality With A Data Dividend

The evolution of technology and a new industrial revolution created by automation and artificial intelligence have brought issues like economic inequality and income insecurity to the forefront.

Some of the policy proposals that have been made in response to these issues include increases in Social Security and solutions like universal basic incomes, or UBIs. 

James Felton Keith, a UBI proponent, engineer, economist and entrepreneur, spoke with Benzinga about his mission and approach to solving today's distribution problems.

Keith is running for the 13th District U.S. House of Representatives seat in New York in the 2020 election as a Democrat. 

About James Felton Keith

Keith began his career in engineering before transitioning into finance. 

One of the many businesses with which Keith has been involved is, which produces predictive market analytics software. 

In 2010, Keith said he went through a period of enlightenment, realizing his work failed to address societal inequality.

“My career really transitioned into policy advocacy and politics more directly, because I realized that, while technology is awesome, we need to have a conversation about how valuable we are, and how our mutual interest can sustain life.”

Digital Human Rights

Keith looks at all problems as distribution problems, he told Benzinga. 

Presently, Keith is concerned with providing people ownership of their data via a proposed Data Bill of Rights.

The proposal has six key principles, he said:

  • The Right To Erasure, "like the right to be forgotten."
  • The Right to Portability, to move data.
  • The Right to Restrictive Processing, "which is like the right to say 'stop.'" 
  • The Right to Redress, which is the right to adequate settlement in any legal suit.
  • The Right to Education.
  • The Right to Ownership.

The Data Bill of Rights, in conjunction with cyber regulations and compliance policies, is the bedrock of this century’s marketization of inclusion, in Keith's view, providing citizens an ownership stake in the productive enterprises that derive value from their inputs.

Forget VATs 

Unlike Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang, Keith sees UBIs that are financed with value-added taxes as regressive and taking a larger percentage of income from lower earners. 

“There’s no more money in the system. Everyone thinks that they are due the sort of destitute life that they have been given, when there’s plenty of dough to go around,” he said.

Institutions and businesses should distribute a portion of the value derived from user data, Keith said. 

“Jeff Bezos knows what kind of shirt I wear. As a result, he'll only distribute those, and it makes his supply chain a lot cheaper than it would if he was trying to sell me stuff that I wouldn't wear. As a result, I'm an input to that productivity and I'm entitled to ... I am owed a piece of that.”

A Dividend On Corporate Activity?

A series of regional, state-by-state, sovereign wealth fund entities would increase market variance and efficiency in the collection and distribution of dividends from profitable, tax-paying institutions, Ketih said. 

“I think we start at the rate of about a $1,000. General consensus, globally, with the Basic Income Earth Network, is about $1,000 per month.”

Keith likens this dividend to the notion of inclusionism, or identifying as part of a community.

“The way I get old ladies in the projects to understand that they are owed more: I tell them, if I am prolific in my earning ability, if I am Beyonce, and all I am doing is displaying your culture —if I come from you — the question should be asked, what are you worth?”

The answer, he said, is that "you are worth at least housing, health care and education. You are worth at least clean water and air.”

That said, a corporation's productivity is measured by revenue, not profits.

If a company takes in $100 in revenue, it might spend 50% on expenses, another 20% on taxes — "and we know there are plenty of ways around that," Keith said — and 30% for shareholders, he said. 

“By giving people an ownership right over their input to productivity, I'm creating a new class of stakeholdership. Of that latter 30% that companies will pay out, half is for stakeholders.”

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Photo by Harvey Jackson.

Posted-In: Accrue Andrew YangFintech Politics Economics Exclusives Interview General Best of Benzinga


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