Politicians have enjoyed being paid to vote on legislation since the beginning of our government. Paid both by government and special interests. But our own ability to vote on who occupies these offices is very under valued. One way you can tell our voting is valuable, is in the fact they spend so much on campaigning to manipulate our votes.
It goes with out saying, that they are getting a really good deal, thanks to corporate mass media providing the voting public as a neat package for sale. The education of the people in general and on the issues is also reduced by people not having as much time in their life, and dependence on TV to tell them who to vote for.
Basic Income would be the end manifestation of our power to vote. It would give us time to understand the issues clearly and intellectually instead of as an emotional gut reaction that we get today.
An idea to give all Americans free money is gaining more support by the day. The policy is pretty simple. The government would send every working age, non-incarcerated American a check every month, no strings attached.
This post originally appeared in Business Insider. A simple idea for eliminating poverty is garnering greater attention in recent weeks: automatically have the government give every adult a basic income.
The world's 100 richest people earned a stunning total of $240 billion in 2012 – enough money to end extreme poverty worldwide four times over, Oxfam has revealed, adding that the global economic crisis is further enriching the super-rich.
‘Swiss to vote on 2,500 franc basic income for every adult.” Reuters, 4 October 2013 How much is that? It’s about £1,700 a month – over £20,000 a year. Payable to whom? Everybody, or at least, every adult citizen.
Khannea Suntzu's insight:
‘Swiss to vote on 2,500 franc basic income for every adult.” Reuters, 4 October 2013
How much is that?
It’s about £1,700 a month – over £20,000 a year.
Payable to whom?
Everybody, or at least, every adult citizen. It’s called a “basic income” and everyone gets it, no strings attached.
You have to be joking.
We’ll have to see whether the Swiss think it’s funny or not – they are holding a referendum, which is something they do quite a lot. But the idea of a basic income suddenly seems to be back on the radar after many years of being out of fashion. The New York Times announced recently that at the cocktail parties of Berlin there is talk of little else; US policy wonks are getting excited about it too.
This sounds like some communist plot. How can anyone take seriously the idea of paying people to sit around on their backsides?
The idea is endorsed not only by experts on inequality such as Oxford’s Sir Tony Atkinson, but by the late Milton Friedman, an unlikely communist. The idea of a basic income is one that unites many left- and rightwingers while commanding very little support in the mainstream.
What on earth did Friedman see in the idea?
He saw an alternative to the current welfare state. We pay money to certain people of working age, but often only on the condition that they’re not working. Then, in an attempt to overcome the obvious problem that we’re paying people not to work, we chivvy them to get a job. Our efforts are demeaning and bureaucratic without being particularly effective. A basic income goes to all, whether they work or not.
And nobody would.
Well, maybe. If the basic income was something more modest than the Swiss campaigners have in mind – say, £75 a week, roughly the level at which the UK’s Income Support is paid – then I think most people would want to supplement that. There wouldn’t be a sudden withdrawal of benefits, so seeking part- or full-time work would be straightforward. Some advocates of a basic income see the prospect of voting with your backside as an advantage of the proposal: it would encourage employers to make low-paid jobs less uncomfortable and degrading.
Your strategy appears to be “try it and hope”.
I’m not entirely convinced of the idea myself, but I do think it should be taken more seriously than it currently is in the UK. Unlike many utopian policies, this has been tried with a set of rigorous experiments in the US in the late 1960s and 1970s. It turns out that people do work less if offered a basic income – but the effect is not dramatic by any means.
This can’t be affordable.
That depends on whether people withdraw en masse from the labour force. If most people keep working, as I would expect, the idea is less expensive than it might seem. The basic income could replace all sorts of benefits, and would also presumably replace the personal allowance for income tax. In some ways the size of the state would have to rise: some tax, such as VAT, income tax, or both, would have to raise more money. In other ways the size of the state would shrink. This is what appeals to some conservatives: Friedman believed that with a reasonable basic income for all, the welfare state as we know it would wither.
What about special cases – people with severe and expensive disabilities?
Friedman argued in Free to Choose, a book published in 1980, that such cases would be few enough that private charities would deal with them. I am not sure the modern world would accept that answer. And this does point to a general concern about basic income schemes: they look efficient and neat on paper but in reality one suspects that the complexities of the modern welfare state would fail to disappear. We would probably have exemptions for immigrants, housing allowances for Londoners, and all the rest.
I still think we’d get a country full of layabouts.
That’s the risk, I suppose. There is an alternative way to look at all this: an increasing number of economists are beginning to worry that technological change may make large numbers of people completely unemployable. In short, the robots are coming to take our jobs. These concerns have been wrong before, but perhaps this time really is different. If so, we’ll need an economic system that can cope when lots of people have no way to making a living. I wonder if everyone has a basic income in Star Trek.
What if capitalists were not allowed to layoff whom they choose, but all workers were required to cut their hours for the benefit of the unemployed and underemployed, suggests economist Richard Wolff.
Khannea Suntzu's insight:
Capitalists make those decisions based on what is privately profitable for them, not on what is lost to society. And that loss is huge. A simple calculation based on the numbers above proves the point. We as a nation forego about 15 percent of extra output of goods and services because of unemployed people and idled tools, equipment, etc. That comes to roughly $2 trillion per year. Yes, you read that correctly. We could produce an annual extra output far greater than the government's budget deficit ever was. We could use that extra to reduce global poverty by more than what has been done by all advanced industrial nations for decades. In short, we have taken staggering losses for our planet from being entrapped within an economic system that permits employment decisions to be held hostage to capitalists' profit calculations.