Thursday, 27 August 2015

The unconditional basic income

New technologies at work have the potential to liberate us:
Futures Forum: Artificial Intelligence: 'complements labor and increase its productivity'

Or not:
Futures Forum: Technological unemployment and the Luddite fallacy

During the holiday period, though, perhaps we should be celebrating not thinking about work too much:
Futures Forum: Saint Monday: in defence of skiving

There is a lot to be said for working less:
Futures Forum: "A shorter working week would make us healthier, give us more fulfilling and sustainable lives and be better for the environment..."
Futures Forum: The 21-hour week: 'The British have solved unemployment'

However, some would caution against the notion:
Futures Forum: "We should work less"... "But it's for part-time work, and it's all about the illusion of there being more jobs"
Futures Forum: The 3-day week: "Is this a charitable proposal wrapped in a business opportunity?"

And yet there are deeply philosophical issues involved:
Futures Forum: In Praise of Idleness: "If Hadza nomads get by on 14 hours’ work a week, why can’t we?"

The French daily 'Liberation' has looked at these issues before:
Futures Forum: "Another economy is possible" >>> 'orthodox' vs 'heterodox' economics

This piece is from a week ago, during the height of the French holiday season:

Tout non-travail mérite salaire


Extrait des séries du photographe Alain Bernardini, «Les Allongés», dans l'imprimerie Yvert à Amiens. (Photo Alain Bernardini)

L’idée du revenu universel refait surface dans plusieurs pays comme une réponse au chômage de masse, mais aussi comme philosophie de vie.

Un revenu d’existence versé à tous, sans conditions ni contreparties ? L’idée n’est pas neuve. Elle date du XVIIIe siècle. Mais dans des sociétés contemporaines frappées par un sous-emploi permanent, elle fait son grand retour. Un peu partout en Europe, et sous diverses appellations (allocation universelle, revenu d’existence, revenu social garanti…), des pays se disent prêts à expérimenter un nouveau pacte social, dont l’une des premières étapes serait celle d’un revenu de base. En Espagne, Podemos (gauche radicale) l’a inscrit sur la plateforme de son programme électoral. Aux Pays-Bas, la ville d’Utrecht ...

Tout non-travail mérite salaire - Libération

Liberation interviewed the Dutch academic pushing the idea of the 'basic income':
Philippe Van Parijs - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
UCL - Philippe Van Parijs

With an extended interview from a couple of years ago:
E&M recently conducted a survey called "Social Justice in Europe - the Unconditional Basic Income (UBI) as a model of the future?", aiming to find out young European's opinions on the idea. Certainly, the results are quite polarised and the topic remains controversial. Hence, we decided to talk to Belgium philosopher and political economist Philippe Van Parijs, who has been a strong defender of the idea of an Unconditional Basic Income. He believes that an Unconditional Basic Income is not only the way to solve the Eurocrisis and the issue of unpaid internships, but also to develop Europe's human capital.


Philosopher, Political Economist and the main defender of Unconditional Basic Income. Professor at Université catholique de Louvain. He is also the founder of the Basic Income European Network (BIEN)
Date of birth: 23.05.1951
Nationality: Belgium
: Francqui Prize, Belgium's most generous scientific prize, in 2001
E&M: So, you would buy me a free lunch?
Van Parijs: In the sense that I would take you out for lunch today?

E&M: No, not just today, every month.
Why not, yeah.

E&M: You in fact argue that the state should provide something like a free lunch, an unconditional basic income – for everybody every month.
But that is a wrong way of framing it. There is, of course, no such thing as a free lunch in the sense that the fact that you consume it means that other people can't consume it. The current situation is precisely that some get huge privileges, in a way that is not deserved.

E&M: What do you mean?
Take for example my salary, or much higher salaries. But not just the salaries, also the quality of the job or the standard of living you have.
If I compare the amount of energy I spend on my job with the drudgery and the hard work some other people have to do, then you realise that what I already get is not just a free lunch but a huge, huge magnificent feast; a huge expensive party that I absorb, incorporated in my wage.
The American Nobel laureate in economics, Herbert Simon, wrote that to be optimistic we deserve 10% of our standard of living. And the rest is a free gift, something for which we have done nothing.
And so the question is not why you should give someone a free lunch, it is just the question: how should we share in a more fair way than what we now receive, for which we haven't done anything?

E&M: So there is an imbalance between effort and reward. But that was not the only thing that brought you to the idea of Basic Income.
What took me to [the idea of] Basic Income in fact is the convergence of two things in the 80s.
On the one hand there was a high level of unemployment. And the standard response to unemployment was - and still is to some extent now - growth. However, productivity is increasing constantly. So in order not to increase unemployment the growth must be higher than the gain in productivity. But given the physical limits of the planet that is just crazy! I mean, even faster growth! This is a small planet. So, we needed a solution to that problem of unemployment with some reduction in working time.
"We deserve 10% of our standard of living. And the rest is a free gift."
Photo: Johannes Himmelreich
Can unconditional basic income make unpaid internship worthwhile and attractive?
E&M: How would that work?
The idea is: give everyone this unconditional basic income. This will enable some people who work too much to work less, and some people who don't have access to employment to work more.
Giving the basic income not to the employers but to the potential workers themselves gives them the possibility to say yes and to say no.
Therefore the supply of jobs will be different. If the next best option for you is to have nothing, then you go for the bad jobs. And there is a great supply of bad jobs, which keep people in this situation. And that makes it difficult for a society to build up its human capital.

E&M: Do you have an example?
For example, the people who get these unpaid internships now are privileged people because they have the support of their parents. But if you say "look we give you an income unconditionally," then people who have parents that cannot pay for them could then also have internships.
So there would be an effect on the dynamics of the human capital: our countries rely on the inventiveness of the people. So you need to devise a system that prevents exclusion and that does not say "here is a hand-out and now we don't want to see you anymore."

E&M: So we would still have unpaid internships but everybody could afford to do them.
The campaign against unpaid internships is not the way. If you say internships need to be paid there will be fewer of them. So you exclude more people from having these possibilities.
So the best way is to democratise access to internships and enable some people to follow their calling who don't have the opportunity now because they don't have the backing of their parents.

E&M: So there are all these influences on the labour market and on the development of human capital. But what was the second thing that led you to the idea of an Unconditional Basic Income?
It was that even before the fall of the Berlin Wall, people were aware of the fact that socialism couldn't be an attractive future for capitalism.

E&M: Like today…
I think we still have dissatisfaction with capitalism as it is. We need the decentralised aspect of the capitalist economy and we need this worldwide division of labour in order to survive on the planet.
But at the same time there are all these awful aspects of capitalism: the inequalities it generates; also the instabilities it generates. You need to organise this capitalism in a different way.
What we need to do is use this tremendous power of capitalism in order to gradually move towards a society in which people would receive according to their needs and contribute voluntarily according to their capacities.

E&M: What are the chances of a Basic Income in Europe?
My view is that Basic Income has become more relevant than ever in the crisis of the Eurozone.

E&M: I would have thought that the crisis made it less likely because solidarity within Europe seems to be under stress already.
But it is under stress because European solidarity was never very generous. However, it needs to be more generous.
Photo: Semaines sociales de France
"If we want to keep the euro we have to have a Basic Income," Philippe Van Parijs told E&M

E&M: OK, but why is a basic income now more likely?
Some states of the US have collapsed far worse than Greece today - Michigan for example. But in the US we have two very powerful buffer mechanisms. One is migration; interstate migration in the US is seven times higher than in the EU. And the second mechanism is even more important: no single state in the United States has its own welfare state.

E&M: So we need a welfare state as a buffer for the Euro?
With a Basic Income, if unemployment is rising in one particular state the situation does not get worse for the people [in other states]. The state doesn't have to pay more for the unemployed and doesn't have to start raising taxes.
In the United States, what happens is an increase in the transfers from the rest of the Union. So with the idea that the welfare system is being organised at a federal level, you have these automatic massive buffer mechanisms.

E&M: Why would that work?
Greece won't be able to pay its unemployment benefits but it is also not politically possible to stop paying them. So the rating agencies get worried and the rate of interest increases and the budget deficit increases. You get into this spiral.
With Basic Income you know with absolute certainty that the buffer will be there and that it's not dependent on an emergency meeting in Brussels.
"The campaign against unpaid internships is not the way."
E&M: So the Unconditional Basic Income as a European welfare system would save the euro?
This is what is going to save the euro, if we don't want to rely on mass migration, in which all these Greeks will flock into Bavaria. Also, we won't ever have as much interstate migration as the US. Then we need more redistribution to make the euro survive.
It's not like the euro is a luxury good. If we want to keep it, we have to have a basic income.

E&M: How would we finance that?
Most obviously would be to have it financed as a part of the VAT but it could be combined with a Tobin-type [transaction] tax, which could already fund a small basic income. And it could be combined with a carbon tax, which makes most sense on a European level. You can use these three components and you could also use the rest of the European budget.

E&M: That's not going to work.
Now of course we are far from its political feasibility but what is necessary must be made politically feasible. 
Basic Income on a European level is a utopia. But so was the single currency and so was the European Union.
We need to realise this utopia to make the utopia we've already realised survive.

Europe & Me - No Conditions Attached

Things are happening in Europe:
BIEN | Basic Income Earth Network

One place featured in the Liberation piece is Utrecht:

30 Dutch Municipalities show Interest in Experimenting with Basic Income
Dutch city of Utrecht to experiment with a universal, unconditional 'basic income' - Europe - World - The Independent
This Dutch City Plans to Give Residents a Universal ‘Basic Income’ | TIME
Utrecht city council to begin experiments with a basic income - DutchNews.nl

The idea has some history:
Two arguments for Basic Income: Thomas Paine (1737-1809) and Thomas Spence (1750-1814) | John Marangos - Academia.edu

A nice little summary from Wikipedia shows hos the idea cuts across political lines:

Basic income has been promoted by people associated with political views that are generally opposed to the public provision of welfare services, such as right-libertarianism, economic liberalism, and anarcho-capitalism. These people support basic income as a strategy to reduce the amount of bureaucratic administration that is prevalent in many contemporary welfare systems, as well as acting as a form of compensation for fiat currency inflation. Notable libertarian-capitalist proponents of basic income include Milton Friedman(in the form of negative income tax),[35] Gary Johnson (In the form of the fair tax "prebate") and Charles Murray.[36]

This is the American campaign group:

And this is the argument against:

Basic Income Guarantee - Guaranteed to Destroy America
David Risselada January 6, 2014

J.D. Longstreet at Save America Foundation wrote an excellent article. J.D. has been in the business a longtime and adds a personal flare to his material that makes you feel as if you have known him your life. He is a dedicated patriot and in many instances, his writing has made me feel my own material had better have its own flare in order appear on the same page as him. The topic of discussion for J.D., today, is the upcoming political debates that will be preceding the 2014 elections.

There is no doubt in the minds of American patriots that conservative minded politicians must retake the senate and hold the house if there is any chance of "saving America." J.D. alludes to a topic that this author was going to tackle at some point, but he beat me to it. Such is the way I suppose. The topic is the main talking point of the Democrat Party, and it is already taking shape while becoming categorically prioritized in the minds of the Democrat constituency through the minimum wage debate. Thinking Americans know that forcing a higher minimum wage will cost more jobs, but we also know many Americans are simply not thinking these days, they are merely reacting to emotional cues set by the liberal narrative. The topic of the Democrat talking points for the election is going to revolve around their cherished theme of income inequality, and something that J.D. has identified as B.I.G. which as he points out means Basic Income Guarantee. The Democrats want their base to believe that they can provide a guaranteed income for them without them ever having to lift a finger. I would certainly hope that after watching the Obamacare soap opera that Americans will be able to realize the fallacy in this as well. Sadly, we won't know for sure the mind set of those who have been betrayed by their dear leader, Comrade Obama, until after the election. In which case, if the Democrats retain the senate, then those who voted for them get exactly what they have coming; more disappointment and lies.

Where does this idea of a guaranteed income for all Americans come from? Most people realize that individual wealth grows with an economy that is producing goods and creating jobs. Basic education used to include economics, which taught the fundamentals of a supply and demand economy. Companies produced products, if people wanted these products they bought them, company grows, creates more jobs and the money earned is used to pay employees among other things. The employees were free to stay with this company or invest their earnings and perhaps start their own business. This was once referred to as… What was it called again? Oh yeah, THE AMERICAN DREAM! This system has all but been destroyed because somewhere along the line someone didn't think it was "fair." Who were these people? Communists mostly, or else people educated by communists. I was people like Richard Cloward and Frances Fox Piven, a husband and wife team of dedicated social engineers, pursuing their fanatical dream of a Utopian paradise by teaching communism at Columbia University. While Richard Cloward is no longer among the living, Piven is still (to the best of my knowledge) a professor of social work at Columbia. In the 1960's Cloward and Piven, as this dynamic duo has become best known, wrote a scholarly article which was published in "Psychology" journal. The article was called "The Weight of the Poor: A Strategy to end Poverty." This is where the idea of a guaranteed income came from as this article called for the creation of a welfare state designed with the explicit purpose of destroying America's capitalist system; which would in turn force the government to provide a guaranteed income.

Their idea entailed creating a system where everyone qualified for some type of welfare. This is likely where terms like corporate welfare originated from (I'm speculating here) as their intent was literally overloading the system so it would inevitably crash. There is only one little problem, and I don't think these two socialists gave it so much thought. Where will the wealth to give everybody a guaranteed income come from if the system that creates wealth in the first place is destroyed? I will address this question again in a moment.

Did you notice that Piven is a professor of social work? I majored in social work, and I can assure you that the anti-capitalist pro "social justice" (wealth redistribution, government control) is the attitude prevalent among the vast majority of social work professors. In fact, not only was I told I wasn't fit for the profession because of my position opposing social justice and white privilege, it is admitted by many professors that a belief in social justice is necessary to be in the field to ensure equality and that everyone is entitled their fair share of societies resources. Seeing as though Piven has been very influential in social advocacy, having been involved in Students for a Democratic Society, ACORN, Occupy Wall Street and has had been tied to many other communist front groups; it is safe to say that she still, from her bully pulpit at Columbia, wields tremendous influence over social work education. The professors in the field of social work truly believe in the leftist's cause of wealth redistribution, and it is safe to say that social work is actually the profession of advocating socialism. It never ceased to amaze me how asking such simple questions about where the money would come from could generate such hostility from a group of people. The mindset of liberalism is one where they believe there ideas are so obviously the solution to the problems we face there cannot possibly be another explanation. They believe that redistributing wealth will, without a doubt, lift everyone out of poverty to the extent that the fail to take into account how our system creates wealth in the first place. This is because people like Piven have conditioned the minds of these young socialists to view our system as a poison that favors the lucky or the rich and leaves everyone in the cold. It can be compared to the gun control debate to the extent that liberals think that removing guns from the hands of the law abiding will "Obviously reduce gun violence because there will be fewer guns." It doesn't matter what the evidence says.

Another thing I can tell you for sure America is this, and I know this from my own experience which I have shared with you through my writing. The education system is training people to be social activists for the left. There have been many indications which suggest the college crowd may be turning on Obama because of Obamacare, you better hope so. These people have already been beaten down so much with lies about wealth inequality that jumping on the "Basic Income Guarantee" choo choo train could very well be the ticket to distract these young people away from Obamacare's failures. If the Democrats are successful at this, then the only ones we have to blame would be ourselves. We have to be involved with these young people and show them the fallacy of liberal logic. They have to see that, by forcing this deranged version of equality upon us, they are simply guaranteeing a system where the middle class has all, but been destroyed, and two classes exist, the elite and the serfs. This is what many of these young people believe they are protesting in an effort to prevent from happening. They believe their dedication to the Democrat party and the leftist cause is one that will create a world where there is no suffering, and everything is fair. They don't understand that total equality has historically proven that everyone will be equally poor. Perhaps that's what they think will be fair. Maybe they are so full of hate towards those who have achieved something that they would just as soon see them poor as they would try to do that for themselves.

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