Americans often have favored government policies that encourage markets in which there is widespread asset ownership over policies that simply redistribute income. The transition from an agrarian economy to an industrial economy made universal social insurance programs as well as means-tested public assistance programs necessary. But even in 21st century America, redistribution remains a regrettable necessity, to be pursued only when the first choice of public policy—increasing access to income-producing assets—is inadequate.
In promoting the goal of a property-owning democracy, United States public policy has sought to encourage access to ownership of small farms, small businesses, and single-family homes. Through programs such as deposit insurance, tax-favored savings accounts and pensions, the federal government has also encouraged the widespread ownership of financial assets. Economic access policies sometimes require active government intervention to break harmful monopolies in order to create a market system that favors hard-working, upwardly mobile Americans.