Posts tagged UBI
Badiou notes that the positive programme of Inventing the Future is organised around three points — full automation, universal basic income, and a “post-work” society — and that the first two of these points are really dependent on the third (automation as the means, UBI as the necessary consequence). He therefore addresses his critique to this nexus of ideas
The fact is that capitalist societies already dedicate a large portion of their economic outputs to paying out money to people who have not worked for it. The UBI does not invent passive income. It merely doles it out evenly to everyone in society, rather than in very concentrated amounts to the richest people in society. The idea of capturing the 30% of national income that flows passively to capital every year and handing it out to everyone in society in equal chunks has been around since at least Oskar Lange wrote about it in the early parts of the last century. This is, to me, the best way to do a UBI, both practically and ideologically. Don’t tax labor to give money out to UBI loafers. Instead, snag society’s capital income, which is already paid out to people without regard to whether they work, and pay it out to everyone.
Certainly this crisis makes us ask: what comes after work? What would you do without your job as the external discipline that organises your waking life – as the social imperative that gets you up and on your way to the factory, the office, the store, the warehouse, the restaurant, wherever you work and, no matter how much you hate it, keeps you coming back? What would you do if you didn’t have to work to receive an income? And what would society and civilisation be like if we didn’t have to ‘earn’ a living – if leisure was not our choice but our lot? Would we hang out at the local Starbucks, laptops open? Or volunteer to teach children in less-developed places, such as Mississippi? Or smoke weed and watch reality TV all day? I’m not proposing a fancy thought experiment here. By now these are practical questions because there aren’t enough jobs. So it’s time we asked even more practical questions. How do you make a living without a job – can you receive income without working for it? Is it possible, to begin with and then, the hard part, is it ethical? If you were raised to believe that work is the index of your value to society – as most of us were – would it feel like cheating to get something for nothing?
So how should society be compensated? Taxation is the wrong answer. Corporations pay taxes in exchange for services the state provides them, not for capital injections that must yield dividends. There is thus a strong case that the commons have a right to a share of the capital stock, and associated dividends, reflecting society’s investment in corporations’ capital. And, because it is impossible to calculate the size of state and social capital crystalized in any firm, we can decide how much of its capital stock the public should own only by means of a political mechanism. A simple policy would be to enact legislation requiring that a percentage of capital stock (shares) from every initial public offering (IPO) be channeled into a Commons Capital Depository, with the associated dividends funding a universal basic dividend (UBD). This UBD should, and can be, entirely independent of welfare payments, unemployment insurance, and so forth, thus ameliorating the concern that it would replace the welfare state, which embodies the concept of reciprocity between waged workers and the unemployed. Fear of machines that can liberate us from drudgery is a symptom of a timid and divided society. The Luddites are among the most misunderstood historical actors. Their vandalism of machinery was a protest not against automation, but against social arrangements that deprived them of life prospects in the face of technological innovation. Our societies must embrace the rise of the machines, but ensure that they contribute to shared prosperity by granting every citizen property rights over them, yielding a UBD.
In a painstaking analysis, Gada drills down on the insight that economists have entirely missed a crucial feature of the modern world called “technological deflation”. While the concept is nuanced, the basic point of technological deflation is that technological things (like, say, iPhones) have the funny habit of becoming “almost free” very quickly. Remember that fancy new iPhone 6 you bought for $600 back in 2013? How much is it worth now? Well, today if you are so inclined, you can get a brand-new one for $150. One fourth the cost in three short years. Remember, we aren’t talking about buying a used iPhone 6, these are brand new. In another two years, you’d be hard pressed to give one of these away.
You don’t see this kind of price deflation everywhere. In fact, in our modern society, we tend to expect to see prices rise over time. Oranges, for example, cost more today than they cost in 2012. Same with milk. A new Eames Chair from Knoll costs a solid $5,000. The same chair brand new cost a mere $310 in 1956. And if you want to ask “how much is that in today’s dollars” you are hitting the point: we are so very used to inflation that we intuitively think of the money itself as different. And yet, a brand new iPhone 6 today costs only one fourth as much as the same phone three years ago. Technological things are, quite vigorously, swimming against the inflationary current.
I think a more open and participatory conversation on eradicating extreme poverty is critical in this day and age. Extreme poverty sits at the bottom of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and contributes to massive issues all the way up the pyramid; leading to widespread health epidemics, overpopulation, lack of education, lack of environmental and conservational awareness, increased violence and pollution. We’re all connected, and the more people who live in dignity, the better off we can all be. Do you think cash transfers are a terrible idea? Do you know of a better way?
The non-robots-take-all-the-jobs argument for universal basic income.
‘We hebben op ambtelijk niveau al gepolst of een experiment met een basisinkomen mogelijk is en hebben nog geen definitief 'njet’ gehoord. Bovendien heeft minister Plasterk van Binnenlandse Zaken, in het kader van de Agenda Stad (een stimulans voor de lokale democratie), aangekondigd dat gemeenten meer ruimte moeten krijgen om buiten de bestaande wet- en regelgeving te experimenteren. Wij vinden het basisinkomen hier heel geschikt voor.’