In a climate of savage cuts to welfare and public services it would hardly seem the time to propose giving every adult in the country a £1,700 cheque every month for doing absolutely nothing. But the Swiss will soon vote on whether to do just that. Activists have secured sufficient support[...]
"I propose that unemployment is not a disease, but the natural, healthy functioning of an advanced technological society." - Robert Anton Wilson “We should do away with the absolutely specious notion...
"It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it." - Upton Sinclair So, there are...
Khannea Suntzu's insight:
Why the rich won't allow Basic Income (x-post from /r/BasicIncome)
"It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it." - Upton Sinclair
So, there are several realities that seem to be understood by BI advocates:
Advancing technology and automation are eliminating the need for human labor at an increasing rate, which is diminishing worker bargaining power and wagesAdvancing technology should be improving the economic and social wellbeing of the average person, not diminishing it by having all the gains from productivity only going to a few wealthy oligarchsThe practical solution to ensure that human economies and societies actually take care of their people (which is the whole point of having and obeying economic/social rules) is to implement a citizen's dividend.
However, several realities that seem to be ignored by BI advocates are:
Resources are distributed in an economy/society on the basis of leverage. Not reason, not fairness, not morality, not sound public policy: leverage. That's it, actually.A basic income isn't a small thing to ask for. It's a fundamental re-ordering of the social contract, that the benefits from advancing knowledge and technology and capital and productivity should go to everyone and not just a few plutocrats.If you want to re-write the social contract in favor of everyone and not just a few oligarchs, then you need a lot more leverage than the people who benefit from the status quo.
Two historical analogies regarding the re-writing of the social contract: the abolition of slavery and the labor movement.
Suppose you were a slave living 215 years ago, and you told your master, "excuse me, I would like to be paid for my work, it's a reasonable request, and I would like weekends off as well." Your master would laugh at you and probably have you beaten and killed, because you would not have the leverage to make such a demand. And in fact, if you were a slave, it would have been illegal for you to even run away.
It took a war to end the power of slave-owners, yet to this day descendants of those slave-owners insist that black people are inferior and that slavery is moral for that reason.
Or suppose you were a worker in the early industrial era, and you wanted more than subsistence wages, or basic workplace safety rules, or a weekend. If you asked your boss for those things, you would probably be fired or beaten or killed, because the owners of capital wanted to keep all the profits for themselves. It was only after collective bargaining and the labor movement forced capitalists to implement a weekend and worker protections and a minimum wage that workers started being paid more fairly for their labor. It was only when workers banded together that they had the leverage to create better legal rules and a better society for everyone. Otherwise, we'd still be living without a weekend or basic worker protections.
Human nature has not fundamentally changed, and we face similar bullying/exploitation now, it's just subtler and more sophisticated.
"Take now... some hard-headed business man, who has no theories, but knows how to make money. Say to him: "Here is a little village; in ten years it will be a great city-in ten years the railroad will have taken the place of the stage coach, the electric light of the candle; it will abound with all the machinery and improvements that so enormously multiply the effective power of labor. Will in ten years, interest be any higher?" He will tell you, "No!" "Will the wages of the common labor be any higher...?" He will tell you, "No the wages of common labor will not be any higher..." "What, then, will be higher?" "Rent, the value of land. Go, get yourself a piece of ground, and hold possession." And if, under such circumstances, you take his advice, you need do nothing more. You may sit down and smoke your pipe; you may lie around like the lazzaroni of Naples or the leperos of Mexico; you may go up in a balloon or down a hole in the ground; and without doing one stroke of work, without adding one iota of wealth to the community, in ten years you will be rich! In the new city you may have a luxurious mansion, but among its public buildings will be an almshouse." - Henry George, Progress and Poverty
Just as with slavery and the early industrial era, right now a few rich parasites have the institutional leverage (and masses of people have been brainwashed into endlessly parroting right wing economic ideology, which is a big part of that) to extract all of the nation/world's resources for themselves by increasing rents.
Do you need healthcare, education, housing, a job? That is where the modern rich are able to extract the most value from everyone else, because they have the institutional leverage to do so.
Why do we not have universal healthcare like a sane industrialized country? Why is education less affordable as technology has been getting better and better? Why does the rent for housing in the places with the best jobs always skyrocket? Why is the rat race getting longer and harder as technology has been getting better and better?
The major part of the answer is that control over critical resources gives rich people the leverage to extract/exploit tremendous amounts of value from everyone else. That's the entire basis of our economy and society.
So in our sick society, the poorer and worse off and less educated and more desperate that you are, then the more leverage the rich have over you, and so the better off they are. If you do not need what they have, then they have no power over you and so they can't extract rents/value from you.
Their wealth and power comes from having what people need, which means they want to keep people in need in order to maintain their wealth and power.
So long as our Wall Street oligarchs benefit from the status quo, they will insist, to their dying breaths, that they are not parasites and that our legal and economic system they depend upon aren't exploitative.
Automation, technology, morality, reason, the social contract - they do not mean a damn thing to our oligarchs, so long as it remains profitable to ignore and continue exploiting workers and the rest of the societies they're parasitic upon.
If our oligarchs think they can get away with slavery/not paying workers fairly/not implementing a Basic Income, and they're right, then the status quo will remain in place indefinitely.
Until we change the calculation of our oligarchs such that the status quo is no longer tenable/profitable, then all of the sound reasons for a basic income will fall on willfully deaf ears.
Advocating for basic income means changing that calculation.
If a basic income / citizen's dividend is ever going to be more than a pipe dream, then we will have to go to war with our oligarchs in the same way that our forefathers went to war against slave-owners and against industrialist exploitation.
They want to keep you in need, because that is the source of their power and wealth.
And just like with slavery and industrial era exploitation, if you want a citizen's dividend / Basic Income, you're going to have to fight the rich for it, because they will never ever ever hand it to you until they're forced to do so.
In 2014, serious voices from Pope Francis to Thomas Piketty, in his book Capital in the 21st Century, have lamented ever-widening inequality. Others have expressed concern that "the second machine age" of digital technologies will entail th...
An aerial view of the city of Dauphin, Manitoba. Forty years ago, a groundbreaking experiment provided checks to Dauphin’s poorest to raise their incomes to a livable wage. (Photo: Dauphin Economic Development/Facebook)