Want a More Equal Society? Universal Basic Income Might Not Be the Policy You Are Looking For

By Darren Bxter, a researcher at IPPR. Originally published at

The case for a Universal Basic Income (UBI) has rapidly become part of mainstream political debate. The Labour Party is actively considering the policy, in the US it was revealed Hillary Clinton almost included it as a manifesto pledge. Trials have recently begun across the world, including close to home in Scotland.

The policy is again in the news as the Finnish government chose not to fund an extension to their two-year basic income trial. This led to much speculation as to what this means for the policy, . In reality, . But this provides a useful chance for reflection on the idea of Universal Basic Income, its aims and the debate that surrounds it.

The idea of Universal Basic Income, or Citizens Income, is superficially quite simple. A monthly payment made to every adult and/or child in the population, of equal value and with no conditions attached. No need to search for or be in work, no means testing, just a condition of citizenship.

For its proponents, UBI has several benefits. It would remove bureaucracy, and therefore cost, from the system through eliminating means testing, and protects workers in an increasingly insecure labour market. This latter point is particularly important in an age where many are concerned about the impact that automation and AI might have on our working lives, and the resultant power balances between capital and labour.

These benefits, and a perceived coalition of support from both left and right, have led many to view UBI as a potentially revolutionary policy which could bring about positive change to a welfare state battered by years of austerity and ideologically driven reforms.

However, the superficial simplicity of a Universal Basic Income belies a multiplicity of versions, and raises several questions. At what level should a UBI be paid? How does it factor in children? How will it support those with disabilities or who are out of work? Will it sit alongside or replace existing social security arrangements? And most importantly, what are the economic arrangements which govern how a UBI would be paid for?

In reality, those who advocate Universal Basic Income have varied motivations for doing so, and there are also multiple versions of what a UBI could look like in practice. For instance, there is a drastic rift between those for whom UBI is about transforming the economy and those for whom it is about papering over its cracks. This acknowledgement is often lacking from the UBI debate, but should be of primary interest.

Those who seek a radical departure from capitalism see UBI as part of a radical platform to move away from a world in which work is central to our lives, identities and economies. In their book  Alex Williams and Nick Srnicek argue that UBI is a fundamental part of delivering a new economy in which citizens have much greater freedom over when and if they work.

To do this, Williams and Srnicek acknowledge that UBI “must provide a sufficient amount of income to live on” so that people can refuse employment, thereby freeing them to engage in more meaningful labour, whether paid or unpaid. This is often picked on to claim that a UBI would simply be unaffordable. There is truth in this. While Williams and Srnickek have not proposed a specific payment level, modelling conducted by IPPR shows that were a UBI paid at a high enough level to meet the (a measure of what the public think people need for an acceptable minimum standard of living), it would cost around £1.7 trillion a year – .

What this shows is that for UBI to be a viable proposition at these levels, there would need to be a fundamental transformation in the ownership of the economy. Williams and Srnicek acknowledge this, arguing that UBI will only work in combination with large scale and collectively owned automation, a reduction in the working week and a shift in social attitudes around the value of the ‘work ethic’.

It is this level of transformation which sets the ‘post-workists’ against many other proponents of the policy. Those who argue for a basic income from a post-work platform have little in common with the tech entrepreneurs of Silicon Valley who are funding trials of UBI in the US. For this group, the appeal of Here, rather than using technology to facilitate a radical platform, UBI is a capitulation to the rise of inequality in the age of the robot and AI.

This critique has been central to the argument forwarded by left wing opponents to UBI who argue that it is an individualistic policy that accepts a status quo in which capital exploits labour. These criticisms recognise that as an indiscriminate policy UBI is blind to structural inequalities in a way the labour market isn’t. As Anna Cootes notes, UBI fails “.

That there are radically different visions for Universal Basic Income is somewhat lost in a policy debate, which often presents UBI as a catch all policy which can offer both cost-effective efficiency and radical emancipation for those on low incomes. Worryingly this tension, and the myth of a coalition of support between left and right which underpins it, might see policymakers sleep walking into a position that suits very few.

In Scotland for example, the Green Party has proposed a model of UBI which could get close to being fiscally neutral. In this scenario, personal allowances would be removed and combined tax and NI rates increased for all.

Citing security in the labour market as a key reason for the policy proposal, this model has been welcomed by proponents of UBI. However, at £400 a month for adults while also removing almost all the welfare state, it is unlikely to buy much economic freedom for those on low incomes or insecure and exploitative employment contracts. In reality some would see their incomes drop. For instance, in Scotland lone parents would see their monthly earnings fall by around £300 a month.

What’s more, a model of UBI paid at this level would also have notable impacts on rates of relative poverty. Were this model introduced in the UK as a whole, it would also raise relative child poverty by 17%, placing a further 750,000 children into households who earn below 60% of the median income. This is because while it would raise the incomes of those earning the least, it would also raise incomes for all but the highest income decile, lifting the poverty line higher.

. The introduction of a UBI, according to their modelling, could see the number of children in poverty rise by up to 60%.

Increasing the incomes of those at the bottom of the distribution is imperative. This is demonstrated clearly by the rise of food banks deprivation and income crisis in the UK since 2010, which is a direct result of government policy choices. However, using a UBI to achieve this, at the expense of say increases or reforms to Universal Credit and a more generous and less conditional unemployment benefit, comes at the cost of addressing, and in fact exacerbating, relative poverty.

Action on relative poverty is important, and inequality is not cost free. As Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson show in their book ‘The Spirit Level’, countries with higher rates of inequality perform worse against a range of social outcomes – physical health, mental health, drug abuse, education, imprisonment, obesity, social mobility, trust and community life.

The pursuit of a fiscally neutral UBI has led to a series of proposals which, if implemented, would do little to raise the material circumstance of those in poverty nor provide sufficient additional power in the labour market. In light of this, can it be really said that such proposals meaningfully fit with a progressive, radical vision for the welfare state?

The need to act in delivering a better vision for the welfare state is clear. In 2016, 22% per cent of adults and 30% of children were living in poverty. By 2019/20 the number of children in poverty could increase by 500,000. This is driven by political choices, the consequence of welfare reform and austerity. As such, it is welcome that as a society we are discussing more ambitious plans for the collectivisation of income and wealth and how it can be best deployed to support the needs of all in society.

However, unless we are to engage in a radical economic transformation which drastically increases common ownership of economy, it is unlikely that Universal Basic Income on its own will do more than lock us into our current predicament. In the meantime, we need to look for equally radical policies which make a much more material difference to the lives of those on low incomes and who suffer from structural inequalities. Proponents of UBI need to go big or go home.

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75 comments

  1. Left in Wisconsin

    What this shows is that for UBI to be a viable proposition at these levels, there would need to be a fundamental transformation in the ownership of the economy.

    I agree with this. And since we would need the fundamental transformation of ownership first, we could then come up with better options than the UBI.

    Separately, while I missed the conversation the other day, I did want to weigh in on the concerns about productivity and make-work with the job guarantee, basically to argue that concern with measured productivity in any kind of employment scheme is misplaced. We now have an economy that pays pre-school teachers about what fast-food workers make, with the measured productivity in the fast-food sector actually higher than in the pre-school sector, while obviously in terms of real productive contribution to society, child care has a much greater positive impact. If the JG were focused on the work that needs most to be done – especially looking after each other – the productivity will take care of itself. The critical issue, as noted the other day, is that the implementers of the scheme have to want it to work.

    Many proponents of the UBI claim it would allow more people to do care work (family, elder, disabled) that they currently cannot afford to do – but see above. On the other hand, if as part of a JG we simply paid people a living wage to take care of family members (including children), it would be understood as the real work it is without requiring the fundamental transformation first.

    In this regard I think the MMT JG proposal has problems – it defers to the private economy by not providing a guaranteed job unless you can’t find one in the private sector and not offerring a living wage, so it doesn’t allow us to prioritize the most important work. And it suggests that care work can be provided haphazardly by underpaid temp workers – which, if you or a loved one have needed care, you know is not a recipe for good care.

    Reply
    1. jrs

      From a worker’s perspective make-work isn’t going to be on the top of anyone’s list of worries (however if stigma becomes attached to JG jobs that way OR one is unable to escape their role and wants to then it might). I’ve held make-work jobs in capitalist private sector America and it’s never been what I wanted, but one deals, I loyally showed up and warmed my seat every day anyway – I needed that income then understand. It is bad jobs that I’d fear much more than make-work jobs.

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    2. kramer

      it defers to the private economy by not providing a guaranteed job unless you can’t find one in the private sector and not offerring a living wage, so it doesn’t allow us to prioritize the most important work.

      Providing a job to anyone and paying a living wage have been foundational aspects of every JG proposal by the MMT advocates that I’ve read.

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    3. Lambert Strether

      JG puts a baseline for the workplace under democratic control. In what sense is that not a fundamental transformation of ownership? Certainly more fundamental than UBI, which, by definition, is all about consumption, i.e. about no locus of power that matters. Bread and circuses worked very well for a reason…

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      1. vlade

        “JG puts a baseline for the workplace under democratic control.”

        Because democratic control worked that well for lot of other things, like starting wars, or say oversight of the money in CalPERS.

        Am trying to avoid these discussions, but a point I believe worth making is that neither JG nor UBI are self-saving, that both very much depend on implementation and the society they operate in. If the society (and that means most the society’s actual members) is willing to put in the hard work, either can work I believe. If not, either will fail.

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        1. Yves Smith Post author

          JG proponents propose an analogy to that great American socialist Richard Nixon;s revenue sharing: have a most if not all of the JG implementation at the local level. That makes it more accountable to local needs, And I’ve seen some JG advocates argue for having charities be eligible to provide JG jobs.

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          1. vlade

            Unfortunately, corruption and clientelism (both on who gets what job, and who gets to benefit from the jobs) exists even on local level.

            I’m not arguing for UBI (IMO, UBI would work, but it would have to be UBI in the Startrek, or better yet, “The Culture” level, which is fantasy at the moment), but there are real problems with JG that are non-trivial, and I haven’t seen many schemes that would try to deal with the them (corruption and clientelism being the most visible IMO).

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          2. Henry Moon Pie

            Thanks for this focus on the UBI/JG discussion. I think it would be fun to have a guest post from Williams and Srnicek with comments from Lambert and you.

            Reply
          3. nihil obstet

            There are over 89,000 local governments in the U.S. They did well with revenue sharing, but then money is fungible — you can use it to pave streets or collect garbage or support a child care center. People coming in for a job are not fungible — everyone can’t be sent to run an asphalt mixer or jump on and off a truck doing heavy lifting all day or put in charge of the helpless. When government programs involve the locals doing something with federal money, consulting firms spring up to provide the service for the locals; Jawbs-R-Us, Inc., would contract with the locals to meet the federal requirements regarding citizen participation, labor laws, environmental requirements, non-discrimination and the like. Allowable administrative fees of 20% are normal — otherwise, running the program is an unfunded mandate. The consultants usually have less commitment to democracy than to profit.

            With sufficient work, local democracy can be very good, maybe even the best form of government. But I haven’t seen many situations that played out as well as JG advocates envision, whether it’s local governments (and I’ve been to enough small town and rural county public hearings to last three lifetimes), school boards, HOAs, or non-profits. Remember that Kim Davis, who refused to offer marriage licenses to gay couple, was a democratically elected county clerk. This is not the kind of outcome that I find reassuring.

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          4. anon y'mouse

            And what exactly is to stop this local government control from doing exactly what public school systems across the country have done. Admittedly, school boards probably will not be managed exactly the same as the local Job Bank, or however that will look.

            Instead of constant harping against UBI, I want to know how job guaranteeists won’t fall victim to the same kinds of things that have occurred in school districts these last 45 years.

            If we, as a society, can’t manage to give everyone a fair and free quality public education, do you think we will manage to give everyone a dignified living-wage job? Won’t local interests just make that untenable in certain places? Some states managed to exempt themselves from the Medicaid expansion rollout. Why wouldn’t that happen here?

            Where I am now, public schools are extremely poor and everyone who can manage sends their kids to private. This is obviously because of racial discrimination down here (in the South’s Black Belt). Oddly enough, the same kind of degradation of public ed. I endured growing up in the “liberal bastion” of California. Possibly for similar reasons (“the underclass are sadsack losers, and I can afford to make sure at least -mychild- will have an education good enough to make sure they don’t become one of them!”).

            I don’t see why the same kinds of problems that we have with everything else that needs doing will be solved this way. Who sits on the committee to determine what jobs “worth doing” will be funded and which won’t? Or will this look more like a prison workforce, doing work for private employer profits while being effectively “paid” to hire us substandard, defective employees.

            If this begins to look anything like a certain large not-for-profit (not the same as a non-profit) which I won’t name, but takes public donations and sells them, under the guise of “helping the unemployable become job worthy” in various ways (while also getting gov. subsidies for that), then gives their management layer 600k salaries and all of the corporate perks, then I don’t see this as a for anyone involved.

            Reply
  2. kimyo

    Those who seek a radical departure from capitalism

    does anyone really believe that what we have today is capitalism?

    either we claw back the trillions looted by the banksters or we provide the victims of the thievery with suitable recompense. the interest rate swaps, cdo’s, mbs’s, all that fraudulently obtained cash came out of the pockets of innocent americans.

    the preferred solution is obviously to restore capitalism, and the rule of law, starting by putting bill black into a position wherein he can prosecute the top level banksters for control fraud.

    however, if that’s not to be, then what in the world is the problem with ubi? if you choose to pretend that what we have is working/viable you might as well pretend a bit more and alleviate some suffering. i drove to ithaca and back over the weekend, past literally hundreds of thousands of new yorkers in despair, roofs patched with blue tarps, saggy mobile homes left and right, probably quite a few just one step away from obamacare-induced bankruptcy. what we have is not working, obviously.

    Reply
    1. Left in Wisconsin

      Why is it wrong to call this thing capitalism? Private property, capital hires labor, property rights determine allocation of profit – seems to tick all of the major boxes for me.

      You seem to be suggesting that thievery is alien to capitalism. I would disagree.

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    2. kramer

      Capitalist’s investments in government have paid off pretty well. I don’t think we need a return to capitalism, but I do think we should try out democracy.

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    3. saurabh

      This – the runaway inequality, consolidation of market power, increasing labor insecurity – all happened before in the Guilded Age. It took a century of labor struggle to beat it back. Then we rested on our laurels, the capitalists worked hard to undo our gains, and now we are back to square one.

      This is capitalism – a select few private citizens own everything. Until that fundamental absurdity is resolved, all of the rest of this – UBI, JG – will come to naught.

      Reply
  3. Sandwichman

    UBI, JG or SWT? Only one of those three is affiliated with the word “strike.” What is strike leverage? In collective bargaining, strike leverage is the difference between winning and losing.

    What does SWT stand for? Why do we hear so much about Universal Basic Income and Job Guarantee that they are becoming household-word acronyms?

    Reply
    1. Isotope_C14

      They are becoming household acronyms because the current austerity/monopsony conditions require action, or a revolution is likely.

      People are trying to “fix” a system with a variety of ideas. The problem with all of the fixes, is that they come with a bias from the value structure of those with the idea.

      The FJG seems to be very popular with those that have a particular “people must work, because I am” work-ethic, while I think the UBI proponents tend to be more creative, and less able to work within an authoritarian structure, like myself.

      I see problems with both systems, but the way I look at it, at least old ladies in an Iowa trailer park could have a bump in their income so they don’t have to eat cat food under UBI.

      Now you can go the next step after these well-intentioned, but essentially pointless attempts to fix a system that is legally designed now to only benefit corporations and learn about fundamental shifts away from a market based economy to a resource based one, like the Zeitgeist movement. Just search Peter Joseph and you can find all kinds of interesting ideas regarding this topic.

      Of course, if we have an ice-free arctic this year or next, it may not matter at all.

      Reply
      1. Yves Smith Post author

        Your argument is a straw man. If you had bothered to read the literature on a JG, it is rooted in Randy Wray’s observation that rather than having the government set the price of money (which means on an ongoing basis deliberately creating unemployment among those who want to work, as in government-inflicted misery) but to fix the price of labor by having a job guarantee set a floor on pay levels and benefits. It has absolutely nada with the supposed virtues of work. But it happens to be true that many people would rather be working than sitting at home alone in front of a TV.

        The second major argument for a JG is that UBI at anything even approaching a living wage is hugely inflationary. A UBI is guaranteed to be either too meager to serve as anything other that a small income supplement, or to be well short of universal. Take your pick.

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        1. Isotope_C14

          I’ve read some of the literature on it, I just don’t believe it will work. Probably have read more about UBI, and Bregman/Santens has had some very strong points.

          I think the government essentially is staffed by idiots and kleptocrats and would make zillions of busy-work jobs. I’ve worked with USDA people before, so I’ve seen this first-hand. Everyone says “oh, we *can* have socially useful jobs” – but I would be shocked if the jobs weren’t used to pamper already rich people.

          What happens to people who don’t want to be coerced into governmental wage-slavery, instead of private corporate wage-slavery? Are we saying that you either work, or starve and be homeless?

          Now if we had a resource based economy, instead of a market based one, couldn’t we simply skip the hypotheticals on these topics and make an economy that works for everyone globally?

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          1. Henry Moon Pie

            “Are we saying that you either work, or starve and be homeless?”

            This is the key point for me. If we argue that some humans (e.g. children, elderly, disabled) are not fit for a “job” as defined by this society, but that all humans are entitled to the basic necessities of life and we are responsible as a society to provide those basic necessities, then we will have taken a substantial step toward a better world.

            JG advocates criticize what they perceive as the “atomism,” “individualism,” and consumer focus of UBI. Fair enough, but I see UBI’s concrete benefits as freeing up people’s time, and that this would allow self-organization at the household and neighborhood level to build little pockets of a new world. JG will require organization efforts as well because if those newly employed workers don’t organize, they will be completely at the mercy of bureaucrats and politicians.

            We have to learn to live on less. More accurately, we have to learn to do more with less. Growing some of your own food, preferably in cooperation with friends and neighbors, caring for family and neighbors in need of assistance, repairing rather than replacing broken buildings and tools, shrinking our need for the fossil fuels used in commuting, consuming and agriculture, these are the things we must be doing. I believe that the UBI concept, done right, does a more direct job of moving us in that direction as well.

            Finally, as many commenters here have pointed out, after decades of effective propaganda aimed at burying our communalist impulses, we have all but lost our ability to self-organize to achieve common goals. Neither UBI nor JG does anything to treat that malady in and of themselves, but I do think that the locus of the necessary organizing is definitely different for each. For JG, organization will need to take place in the federally funded workplace. For UBI, the neighborhood will probably be the focus. My feeling is that the 21st century favors the latter because of the clever way that the plutocrats have transformed the workplace and the dual spectres of automation and outsourcing that hang over every “job.”

            So UBI potentially does three things well:

            1) smashing the Calvinist connection between work and survival; and

            2) giving us an opportunity to end the mad obsession with growth and replace it with a focus on doing more with less; and

            3) focusing us on neighborhoods as the place to organize.

            Reply
            1. UserFriendly

              This is more of a general reply to all the UBI boosters on this post.

              Everyone here I see arguing for UBI likes it because they think it means less people will need to work and it will somehow decouple work and pay. For that to be true either we need to be living in the techno utopian fantasy where robots take all our jobs or it will do nothing but create inflation.

              If we make UBI enough to live on lets say 1% of the workforce says great and quits to go home and watch TV and eat cornflakes. We are now giving everyone more money so the demand for cornflakes will go up. Unfortunately General Mills is now understaffed and they can’t make more Cornflakes without hiring more people. Presumably some people are fine switching to Cherio’s or pancakes but those companies are also understaffed and face the same problem. So with UBI we have decreased production and increased demand. General Mills will offer higher pay to get workers back, it will have to raise prices to do that. That is inflation. The same thing plays out in every sector. The price of goods goes up so that firms can afford to pay their workers a little more. This ends up being a reinforcing cycle. If you increase the UBI you increase the incentive not to work which increases the pay and price hikes. The only thing that changes is that the price of everything has gone up and the people who aren’t working can’t afford the basics even with the UBI.

              It’s nice that you want us to live in a fantasy land where no work needs to get done, unfortunately that isn’t reality. A JG would have a slight bump in inflation because the people that are currently getting paid below a living wage will have the ability to negotiate better wages and the goods they produce will necessarily go up in price. But once that works out it will anchor inflation.

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              1. Grebo

                I would add the rarely stated but obvious point: if everyone gets more money today, rents will be raised by the same amount tomorrow.
                Given that everything else would also be going up poor people will end up worse off with UBI.

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              2. Felix_47

                The defense department is a model of a small jobs guarantee system. People serve for 20 years and then work as civilians for the defense department or are preferentially hired by the defense companies. Pay is generally good with benefits and all protections regarding sexual, racial and other discrimination. The work, in the big picture, is digging holes and refilling them. So in a sense we have kind of an experiment in jobs guarantees.

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        1. Amfortas the Hippie

          yes. This.
          the way things have shaken out over the last 40 years, means that the regulations, and the “industry standards”, are skewed to the very, very large in such a way that when I had my cafe, I could be penalised for buying my tomatoes from the grandmother down the street(“not an approved source”), and all but forced to get them from Chile or Mexico or somewhere(lower quality,and including many hard to monetise/quantify things like labor and environmental practices, as well as being plugged in to the casino/parasite).
          For all the hollering about “Free Markets”, it’s really hard to find one.
          the other thing, mentioned above, regarding Make Work/seat warming as an issue with FJG: with netflix, I watched a lot of British shows for a time….and a phrase they apparently use over there is “look after one another”.
          That is totally absent where I have lived. Here, at best, it’s “look after our own”, which is subtly different…a consequence of delimiting the ideal of Us/We(“there’s no such thing as society”)

          Reply
      2. Lambert Strether

        > while I think the UBI proponents tend to be more creative, and less able to work within an authoritarian structure, like myself.

        Well, thank you very much! Clearly, you know how to sell your proposal…

        Reply
        1. voteforno6

          It takes a lot of discipline to be able to make a living at a creative endeavor. For that matter, a lot of creative people were able to exist in an authoritarian environment – just look at the films of Sergei Eisenstein and Andrei Tarkovsky from the Soviet era. Or, for that matter, the movies that came out of Hollywood while the production code was in effect.

          On the other hand, you have the hangers-on who like to talk about being creative, without actually producing anything noteworthy.

          Reply
          1. Isotope_C14

            I’m not trying to make a dig at anyone.

            Just pointing out that there are a whole spectrum of people out there, with a variety of different talents.

            Do you have to produce something tangible to be noteworthy? I enjoy inspiring outside-the-box thinking. Can’t really say that is noteworthy.

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            1. tegnost

              I think this particular problem is solved by re funding the National Endowment for the Arts, and for the “difficult” people I say we just reset back to pre reagan disability rules where marginal citizens who don’t need to be insitutionalized, but have problems that inhibit their contributions get out patient care and have a place to live that is not under the freeway

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              1. Isotope_C14

                We could give people a few bucks so they could live somewhere besides a tent or under a bridge, wait, no, that’s inflationary.

                Capitalism is such a good idea.

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                1. James Trigg

                  If I live in a tent and you give me money why would I spend on shelter? I already have shelter. I would spend it on cigars and booze that is so expensive because of taxes.

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                  1. Isotope_C14

                    Yes, and the poor are poor because they are defective people and 100% of them are addicts.

                    Those stupid homeless children need to learn how to innovate and become entrepreneurs by age 5, because that is exactly how the children of the rich kids do it.

                    If only those kids couldn’t get cigars and alcohol in 3rd grade, everything would be fine!

                    I’ve been homeless before. Try it out sometime, it’s quite enlightening, and creates empathy wiring you didn’t even know existed.

                    But see, I was homeless due to my own fault, for not picking a job in finance or bomb-engineering. I’m a dumb microbiologist, and that doesn’t make wall street rich.

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                    1. James Trigg

                      If you are a microbiologist you should not have been homeless unless you had some terrible misfortune. If children are homeless in America it is because their parents are irresponsible. ( If there was a grave misfortune that is different but that is not the point. ) I am all for raising SSI but to do so would not help getting people off the streets.
                      If you need to build homeless shelters then lets do so but mental illness and drug addiction are serious. The article is about how Capitalist are bad and Socialist are good and that is wrong. Capitalist do not want unemployment. Maybe a bad or evil businessman wants poor people but that is because a jerk is a jerk. What you socialist do not understand is if you do not appreciate hard work people will not work hard.

    2. jrs

      You might want to tell people here what SWT means. I am somewhat familiar the Sandwichman’s writings online so I guessed eventually, it’s work sharing right? Shorter work time (SWT)? At first all I came up with with SWT and strike is a strike at South West Trains (SWT) though.

      Shorter work time is closer to what most people would do really well with rather than contrasts between sitting in a room at home alone watching t.v. all day and sitting in an office alone staring at a computer 8 hours a day that we are given as choices (and that actually pretty much describes much of modern office work – it too is often at a machine alone for much of the day – but it is generally task oriented of course. So don’t tell me it wouldn’t exist in a JG world). Now I’d take UBI over forced labor under unknown conditions especially if either one would replace the existing paltry safety net to any degree, but shorter work time is an ideal to work for now.

      Reply
      1. Amfortas the Hippie

        not having some say in a JG world is what most Right leaning folks I know(who are aware of all this) fear.
        It bothers me, too…petty bureaucrats become petty tyrants of whatever small knoll they are put in charge of.
        what needs doing? and how should it be done?
        we can say “infrastructure” and “caring”, but I’ll warrant that those mean different things to someone like me, than to most of the folks around me.
        To more or less nail those questions down would require a bunch of folks with very large toes to pull them in a bit…and refrain from getting all hysterical….and sit down and actually talk about it. Somehow, I don’t really see that happening,lol.
        even with my local pool of relatively sane right wingers(the other 4499 people out here)(*see below)
        You’d hafta spend an inordinate and likely acrimonious amount of time merely on definitions.
        if there must be a choice between JG and UBI, a few pilots of UBI(big enough) would sell themselves, I think, since it would be Universal…no more pointing at Lazy” POC and whining, because the usual whiners are getting theirs, too.

        *However:
        Ive got a hellova anecdote that I think is germane to this:
        In my tiny county, in the only actual city(3500 souls), an incumbent city councilwoman(all around RWNJ) is running on a platform that explicitly calls for a city owned solar/wind farm, built by local people, with grant money and tax money….and eventual “free” electricity for all.
        she makes a good case…all over the little local paper.
        She’s being opposed by another RWNJ who hates the idea for the usual reasons(“soshulism!!!”).

        In contrast,a few years ago, a corp wanted to put in a few of those giant windmills out here…already had landowners lined up($$$, per month)…and a campaign spung up from nowhere(Kock Brothers!) to oppose it, because of “Values”(!?).
        I was against it because all the power would be sent to Houston, and none of it would stay here.
        They wanted to “save our heritage”(!??)…so county intervened and it was scrapped.
        I mention this because the councilwoman’s agenda feels contrary to the earlier kerfuffle.
        I’ll keep my eye on it, and report back on these strange phenomena.

        Reply
  4. John

    If UBI is supposed to replace existing welfare schemes (add up the cost of all of them and divide it by the number of recipients), than what happens to people whose healthcare costs are higher than the allotted UBI amount?

    The whole point of existing welfare schemes is that they provide people with needs when they need them. UBI simply gives people cash to spend on whatever (which would create inflation), giving them money for things they don’t need (as well as giving money to a lot of people who don’t need it). I can’t imagine the general public would tolerate high taxes for very long if that’s what their money was being spent. There’d probably be a big debate about how the whole point of welfare is to only provide needs to people who need them, and then we’d go back to the system we had before UBI (but probably with reduced benefits).

    The other reason behind these existing welfare schemes is that private-sector actors are interested in profit rather than caring about providing the poor with what they need and, thus, are much more effective at the former rather than the latter. By providing services through the state, those on the receiving end are more likely to get better quality services for the cost of said services (paid for by the taxpayer): service is the goal and the fat cats profiting off the transaction have been cut out.

    Reply
    1. JEHR

      John, you have hit the nail on the head. If universal health care is not part of the society in which UBI is introduced, it will not work because health care costs are too high without, for example, single payer health care. I realized this when listening to a video of a that ran in Manitoba from 1974 to 1948.

      This economist, Evelyn Forget, analyzed the data from the experiment and also interviewed some of the participants to arrive at an analysis that gives many positive results including reduced hospitalization rates and young men finishing their high school education. In Canada at the time, single payer health care (Medicare), unemployment insurance and a universal pension plan had been introduced and were available.

      Forget also found that women did not stay home and have more children because of UBI and the divorce rate did not go up. Two points made against minimum income at the time.

      I can now see that the US will never be able to benefit from UBI because of their lack of universal health care. However, I feel as though UBI is being discarded for reasons other than that before it has been adequately evaluated.

      .

      Reply
  5. Andrew Dodds

    If we divide £1.7 trillion by the UK over-18 population we get something like £30,000 a person.

    No one is seriously pushing for a UBI at that level. It’s triple the MIG amount for a single person.

    If a person is going to make trivially falsifiable maths claims, the rest of their argument starts to look a bit suspect.

    Reply
  6. The Prescription Was Clear

    UBI would not actually be universal, it’s wellfare without strings attached, no work-programme participation required; that’s the point of the word “universal.”

    People with jobs and or wealth (though means-testing needs to be reduced as well) do NOT get it.

    As a consequence it would be no more inflationary as the current system, unless it would pay more tro the recipients.

    The point is merely in automatism (no money? we’ll fix that for you), removal of undignified growelling in front of govt. officers and an escape hatch from the horrors of the labour market (which massively reduces the strenght of the capital ovners).

    UBI cannot replace any other measure than baseline wellfare payments, it does not replace public healthcare, public school system, public housing, disability benefits, employment program benefits, etc., etc.

    (And it does not remove the necesary fight for control over political and industrial capacitiy, that’s coming up one way or another.)

    Reply
    1. anon y'mouse

      It would actually make much more sense to make it universal, and the tax it back from the wealthier in various ways. Maybe not the entirety, until one reaches a very high level.

      Universal means just that. But to prevent a multi-thousand dollar bump in income from allowing those who really do not need it to live on from bidding up the prices on necessities that those, like myself, would need to pay for using the UBI, calls for a variety of creative measures.

      The “ubi would cause inflation” thing is probably true, but very poorly explored in this recent round of NC job guarantee boosterism. They appear to be stating that we don’t have, or will not make, enough of the necessities to go around. I don’t know that to be true, the not having enough part. But I do know that whatever we need to buy will magically increase in price, by hook or crook.

      The private industry job (under my imaginary ideal world fantasy) should not just pay the same living wage (or more), but be forced to looking to how they can sell their work to us–benefits, work conditions, social environment, esteem from accomplishment. Why should I want to get off my behind for you, Corp? Especially if you are paying me to rob people while convincing them that I did something great for them.

      Reply
      1. jrs

        The inflation discussed is largely theoretical, what might happen, the inflation we actually experience now may be caused by insufficient goods but it is not because too few people are employed, but because the (plenty gamed) market is failing to produce sufficient supplies of what people actually need, stuff like sufficient housing in high rent areas. And that a failure of (admittedly manipulated) capitalism and not the UBI.

        “Especially if you are paying me to rob people while convincing them that I did something great for them.”

        yea the reality of job searching currently is some work will be morally dubious to put it mildly

        Reply
      2. kramer

        I could support a UBI designed around providing people with money to spend for non-necessities. For things like housing and healthcare, the prices seem to rise until many people can’t afford them. NC had an piece about Henry George that discussed this effect. Rents tend to eat up any income gains. We need programs that provide people with the things they need like Medicare for All. I see a well designed JG as one way of providing some of the necessities while giving people a means to earn an income.

        Reply
  7. Henry Moon Pie

    First of all, thanks to NC for posting all these articles relevant to the UBI/JG debate. While it may be the case that we’re discussing whether we should go to Venus or Mars first, I think it’s very worthwhile for people on the Left to be talking about this because it’s one way to contemplate just how we get from this human-crunching system to a better one.

    I found this article to be quite helpful in that regard despite the fact that I favor UBI. The summary of UBI proponents’ reasoning was fair, and the exposure of the myth that a “revenue neutral” UBI would do anything but make things worse is important to keep in mind. “Go big or go home.” Indeed. And what were Scottish Greens thinking? Maybe they were trying to appeal to suburban Republicans?

    The author’s valid criticism that a UBI does not fundamentally change the structure of the economy is just as applicable to JG. As many commenters have argued in the discussions here, there are a myriad of ways that our dear plutocrats can undermine or even ruin both proposals. Our explorations of these policies should perhaps focus on how effective UBI and JG are in getting us to a new world.

    For me, one sine qua non of getting to any better world is to smash the well embedded maxim that one must work to eat. I believe that UBI and the arguments for it work toward that while JG and the arguments for it reinforce our sinister Calvinist impulses. But the author of this piece has reminded me that UBI can be misused as well, and that those of us who favor it must guard against that.

    Reply
    1. nihil obstet

      I agree that this article is a fair contribution to the discussion. I also agree that we must break the link between individual productivity and individual worth in order to get a humane society. No parent should look at her two children and decide, “Jenny is pretty and good at school and wins athletic awards. Johnny has dyslexia and prefers to spend time alone. So Jenny gives me more cachet. Thus Jenny will get to pick out her clothes and choose what she will eat and go zip lining. Johnny doesn’t do that much for me, so he will wear clothes from sales and Goodwill, eat what’s healthy but easiest and cheapest for us to get, and entertain himself in the yard.” Nor should our social vision of ourselves rank people’s value and potential with their instrumental usefulness.

      We didn’t start our space program with a Mars or Venus shot. Let’s start our move towards a better society with modest programs. We should work for better labor law and support New Deal type projects, even though the New Deal was not universal. Similarly, we should start with income supplements as a start towards the UBI. Instead of raising the standard deduction on income taxes from $6,350 to $12,000, make a big deal out of sending everybody a $500/month “tax reduction” (hey, if George W. Bush could make hay out of a tax rebate, why not us?) While you’d get some right-wing howling over sending money to people who weren’t going to pay taxes anyway, for the most part if tied to “this is instead of a line on your tax form, only now instead of next year” my guess is that it might be very popular. This might not be a good idea, but the point is to start having ideas about how to get to a better society.

      Reply
  8. oaf

    No matter what form is tested or adopted-rents and other extractions will rise to the point where there can be no saving; and nothing left to pass on to heirs.Work, or don’t…does it make any difference? Maybe all should be guaranteed equitable shares of the Market???

    Reply
    1. jrs

      or make the necessities of life really cheap if not guarantee the necessities of life (that is food, shelter, utilities, healthcare – maybe public transit).

      Reply
    2. Amfortas the Hippie

      aren’t we all sort of shareholders in the civilisation?
      do i have a Right to Exist? or is it contingent on how “useful” I am?(and by what metric is that to be decided?)
      I’ve long had an earworm about having to pay to be allowed to exist on the planet I was born on.
      Call UBI a “dividend check”.

      Reply
  9. MaxFinger

    Our current war dept. is a FJG. What would happen if the US pulled out of all the occupations around the world? Where would people finds jobs stateside?
    We need a FJG that is not part of the war dept.

    Reply
  10. KPL

    15 MIN wage
    40 Hours/Week
    2400 Monthly
    28800 Yearly
    300 No. of people-millions
    8.64 Trillion $ required per annum for UBI

    Current Government Revenue in the US
    Fiscal Year Federal Revenue Total Revenue
    2016 $3.27 trillion $6.00 trillion
    2017 $3.32 trillion $6.12 trillion
    2018 $3.34 trillion $6.21 trillion
    2019 $3.42 trillion $6.38 trillion

    Will the maths work?

    Reply
    1. JEHR

      Well, a sovereign country can afford to pay for whatever it needs or wants in its own currency. Taxes do not pay for expenditures. The federal government spends first before it taxes.

      See .

      Reply
  11. Newton Finn

    By far, the most radical and egalitarian description of a UBI was given by Edward Bellamy in his now-forgotten late 19th Century works of utter genius: “Looking Backward” and “Equality.” How far and how fast humanity has fallen in its capacity to envision, in concrete and vivid detail, a new, much more beautiful world. Today we swim in dystopias and tepid proposals to address a tiny bit of our failure and pain. But not long ago, there were authors of substance on fire with the potential of the human spirit glimpsed from the mountain top. We would do well to read them… but who reads books that matter any more?

    Reply
  12. Alex

    Dear NC,

    I get it that you are biased against UBI based on past articles and continue to reprint articles that support your position.

    If trillions in tax cuts for the billionaires and corporations (under Bush & Trump) can be “justified”, UBI can be justified.

    If trillions can be “justified” for the ridiculous defense budget, UBI can be justified.

    If the US can “justify” destroying whole countries based on fake data, then UBI can be justified.

    Frankly, you’re just getting tiresome on this topic.

    Reply
    1. JEHR

      Alex, a country without universal health care will never be able to use UBI because the basic income would be far too expensive. See my response to John above.

      Reply
      1. Alex

        I’m glad you included a link to the Dauphin story. I a few years ago.

        NC conveniently ignores UBI success stories. and the 4/25 story they reprinted, as did Fox and the NYT, was inaccurate according to this:

        Yes, convenient indeed. Or as Nero Wolfe would say, .

        Everything is impossible, until it isn’t.

        Last year they pulled a story on Gov Rauner of IL for inaccuracies(?). I guess it’s a NC double standard where UBI is concerned. NC hits the mark on a lot of things, except UBI.

        UBI is part of a solution (let’s call it a ), like increasing minimum wage, Medicare for All, free education, a jobs guarantee, etc.

        For instance, I set a goal of $52K income per family. Set the workweek to 28 hrs for true work-life balance (a German union just won this issue), raise the Min Wage to $19.25/hr, and the UBI makes up the difference.

        How to pay this? Stop giving money to the lazy and idle rich (tax them at 79%) and cut the bloated military.

        Reply
  13. Tomonthebeach

    UBI fails “to tackle the underlying causes of poverty, unemployment and inequality”.

    That assertion begs the “So-what?” question. Unemployment often causes poverty; but not always. I am retired and thus unemployed. I enjoy a very high standard of living. However, most poor people have jobs – jobs that do not pay enough for essentials.

    Inequality is found at all economic levels and has little to do with poverty other than to define the lower end of the continuum. I have less wealth than Mr. Bloomberg – I am not poor. Like it or not, life is not fair. People are born with disabilities that obviate employment. People are also disabled by accidents and reckless behavior. Those disabilities often include both physical and mental limitations (including mental health – emotional functioning and self-control). Society is rather good at helping people with physical disabilities and low IQs, but US private and public health systems usually wind up failing people with cognitive-emotional problems that interfere with workforce participation. The consequence is a) the world’s largest – per capita incarceration and b) a noteworthy drug and alcohol addiction problem which the US government virtually ignores despite labeling addiction as epidemic.

    That leaves the underlying causes of poverty.” That challenge is as simple as it is complex. Poverty is caused by a lack of income. However, the causes for that lack of income are far more complex than unemployment and inequality. Unless American society can ensure universal healthcare and housing, job or income guarantees are unlikely to eliminate poverty.

    Reply
  14. akaPaul LaFargue

    I am not for a “more equal society” whatever that means, but for ending the Work Culture, which is what early advocates of UBI were about. That doesn’t mean that the society would run on autopilot and we humans spend our day in hammocks or cruise-control recliners a la “Wall-e” but that we, the people, decide what needs to be done for a harmonious society to exist and satisfy our (suppressed) desires for a full life–not the illusion of one that consumerism promulgates along with workaholism. I like the way this blogger approaches the topic:

    Reply
  15. schultzzz

    The whole JG-vs-UBI thing is too intellectual for me to understand. Especially since all big social engineering programs (whether implemented in good faith or as Trojan Horses) are going to have a lot of unforeseen consequences.

    My main problem with JG is the environment: not only are we running out of resources . . .we’re wasting those resources on millions of ‘bullshit jobs’ that don’t even have to be done in the first place. I’d only support a jobs guarantee if someone explains how it saves resources.

    Sure, some of the new jobs would be ‘environmental’ . . .but I don’t see how a jobs guarantee is going to get currently-employed people to quit their ‘bullshit jobs’. Which i think needs to happen, if we want to avoid climate death.

    My problem with UBI is, if we give most people a UBI check so they can quit working their bullshit jobs, how do we convince the farmers, construction workers, sewer workers, and nurses to keep working THEIR jobs? I mean, it’s super unfair.

    I want a society with low productivity and high unemployment, because it means people who currently spend most of their days being yelled at by managers and customers, and spend another couple hours in hellish commutes . . .these people would instead get to chill. Maybe we’d have to share stuff. I dunno.

    Has anyone studied, like. . . if the Walton family spent their entire fortune paying their employees their current salary to stay home and relax . . . how long they could do it until they all went bankrupt?

    Reply
    1. JEHR

      You may be interested in my response to John above and there are links to a UBI experiment in Canada in 1974 to 1978. If you read what has already been analyzed regarding an actual instance of UBI, it may be clearer to you.

      Reply
  16. Blue Pilgrim

    UBI and other social programs are not mutually exclusive. There is enough wealth to do both if massive war spending and other nonsense is eliminated, and a few people can refrain from being billionaires.
    We just bombed Syria with some $200 million worth of missiles almost as a joke, with trillions more spent on imperialism, but refuse to take care of people’s basic needs.

    This FJG sounds to me like little more than Cliinton’s ‘workfare’, and more manipulation by the so-called liberals (such as George Soros, who is one of the funders of Open Democracy) to make people conform to their own ideas of what society should be, and force people into tightly controlled work situations and meaningless jobs and games, and jump through more hoops and paperwork.

    Personally speaking, all the times people have said I was ‘lazy’ was really saying I refused to be forced into doing what THEY wanted me to do and think like THEY wanted me to (especially so when I was in school, which I dropped out of as soon as I could because it was all authoritarian , fascistic, dehumanizing nonsense).

    “Open Democracy” … oh, yeah — I’ve seen what so called democracy in the West is all about, although fortunately not under the colonialism and bombs it rains down on people, and the ensuing slavery and exploitation.

    I’d rather starve or die from exposure than give in to and be assimilated by the neoliberal ideologues. Resistance in NOT futile. If the country is willing to freely give me some if its vast resources I shall gratefully accept, but if it wants to keep trying to force or mold me into it’s elitist agenda then forget about it. If it can’t create an economy where there is sufficient demand and useful, meaning work, and circumstances and education for people to be able to do that work, then that is what it needs to be concerned with — not making more wars and destroying other nations to steal them and exploit the people and resources there, or coming up with more cockamamie schemes to bamboozle, control, and exploit citizens, while making the rich even richer.

    Sorry if I rant a bit, but after 70 years of being on the short end of their sticks, I see what is behind this ‘job guarantee’ rhetoric and I’m a bit fed up with it all.

    Reply
  17. Jamie

    The idea of Universal Basic Income, or Citizens Income, is superficially quite simple. A monthly payment made to every adult and/or child in the population, of equal value and with no conditions attached. No need to search for or be in work, no means testing, just a condition of citizenship.

    This “definition” of UBI makes it clear that the idea of a guaranteed standard of living has been co-opted. Under this definition, a stipend of $10/month would be a UBI. The heart and soul of any UBI worth considering is in the term ‘basic’. That ‘basic’ is there to indicate “an amount sufficient to cover the basic necessities of life”. It is not just “a monthly payment”. It is a guarantee of a basic (baseline) standard of living, delivered through a cash subsidy which could as well be annual or weekly as monthly.

    The way the general concept of a guaranteed standard of living is being shoehorned into one particular type of proposal divorced from the very idea of a guaranteed standard of living reminds me very much of the way the term ‘sustainable’ was co-opted and reversed to allow people to talk about “sustainable growth” divorced from the concept of limits to growth implicit in the original term.

    As many people have pointed out, including many proponents of a basic income guarantee, simply sending a check to everyone does nothing to ensure a decent standard of living for everyone. The original concept, that of providing everyone in society with a relatively decent life, has been stripped out of proposals that focus only on the ‘universal’ and ‘unconditional’ aspects of UBI. In fact, to guarantee a “universal” minimum standard of living does not require that wealthy people also be given the same subsidy. To guarantee a universal basic standard of living would be truly socially transformative because it represents a redistribution of wealth. The kind of “UBI” being talked about here leaves everything exactly the same in society… all the hierarchy, all the stratification, all the wealth inequality, would remain precisely as it is, untouched by such a distribution.

    What we see happening here is the emphasis being shifted from an understanding of “universal minimum standard of living” as everyone in society gets a decent house, clothes and food, to an understanding of “universal” as everyone gets the same handout from the government whether they need it or not. A “universal minimum standard of living” is a description of the condition of society. A “universal” handout is a description of a type of government program, like equality under the law. These are not at all the same things, but by a confusion of language, some people are promoting a bait and switch on a venerable desiderata of the left.

    The pointlessness of this non-transformative handout ought to be obvious to everyone, and especially to proponents of what used to be called BIG… basic income guarantee, who still understand that to mean everyone gets a decent life.

    Reply
  18. Henry

    But it’s seems like even the job guarantee proposals so far don’t provide a good enough pay to shock the private sector into improving pay. Are there any analyses that look into how labour markets would respond for different income levels to an introduction of a federal job guarantee? I doubt programmers would go into it but out of work manual laborers would.

    Reply
  19. Blue Pilgrim

    UBI and other social programs are not mutually exclusive. There is enough wealth to do both if massive war spending and other nonsense is eliminated, and a few people can refrain from being billionaires.
    We just bombed Syria with some $200 million worth of missiles almost as a joke, with trillions more spent on imperialism, but refuse to take care of people’s basic needs.

    This FJG sounds to me like little more than Clinton’s ‘workfare’, and more manipulation by the so-called liberals (such as George Soros, who is one of the funders of Open Democracy) to make people conform to their own ideas of what society should be, and force people into tightly controlled work situations and meaningless jobs and games, and jump through more hoops and paperwork.

    Personally speaking, all the times people have said I was ‘lazy’ was really saying I refused to be forced into doing what THEY wanted me to do and think like THEY wanted me to (especially so when I was in school, which I dropped out of as soon as I could because it was all authoritarian , fascistic, dehumanizing nonsense).

    “Open Democracy” … oh, yeah — I’ve seen what so called democracy in the West is all about, although fortunately not under the colonialism and bombs it rains down on people, and the ensuing slavery and exploitation.

    I’d rather starve or die from exposure than give in to and be assimilated by the neoliberal ideologues. Resistance in NOT futile. If the country is willing to freely give me some if its vast resources I shall gratefully accept, but if it wants to keep trying to force or mold me into it’s elitist agenda then forget about it. If it can’t create an economy where there is sufficient demand and useful, meaning work, and circumstances and education for people to be able to do that work, then that is what it needs to be concerned with — not making more wars and destroying other nations to steal them and exploit the people and resources there, or coming up with more cockamamie schemes to bamboozle, control, and exploit citizens, while making the rich even richer.

    Sorry if I rant a bit, but after 70 years of being on the short end of their sticks, I see what is behind this ‘job guarantee’ rhetoric and I’m a bit fed up with it all.

    Reply
  20. Jamie

    When I hit the “Post Comment” button my post disappeared. So I apologize if this turns out to be a second post of the same material.

    The idea of Universal Basic Income, or Citizens Income, is superficially quite simple. A monthly payment made to every adult and/or child in the population, of equal value and with no conditions attached. No need to search for or be in work, no means testing, just a condition of citizenship.

    This definition of UBI focuses on the ‘U’ and pretty much ignores the ‘B”. The heart and soul of any UBI worth talking about is the implicit guarantee of an income sufficient to meet basic needs. It is the word ‘basic’ that distinguishes the idea from simple universal alms. Under the definition given, a stipend of $10 or less would be an UBI. The whole point of UBI is to guarantee a minimum standard of living. This is true even for those who think the point is to dismantle “work culture”. The way to dismantle work culture is to guarantee that people who don’t work won’t starve or freeze etc. The point is a guaranteed standard of living, albeit a basic one.

    But to achieve a “universal” minimum standard of living does not require that everyone be given the same stipend. By interpreting ‘universal’ to mean “everyone receives the same”, the proponents of this plan shift the emphasis away from the idea that everyone lives in at least decent conditions. A universal minimum standard of living describes the conditions of society. A universal government handout merely describes a type of government program.

    A “universal” government handout leaves all the hierarchy and stratification in society untouched. As there is no redistribution of wealth, there is no change in the relative conditions of people living in society. The rich remain rich and the poor remain poor. No matter how large the initial distribution is, it won’t be enough to guarantee a decent standard of living for those at the bottom. It won’t dismantle work culture because it won’t guarantee a standard of living above subsistence. The more cash flows into society the higher rents will go. People who can’t afford to live without the subsidy won’t be able to afford to live with it either.

    I used to write in favor of UBI. But I always understood that to be just a different name for BIG, basic income guarantee. Clearly these people have something else, entirely, in mind. If we are to understand UBI as characterized here, then we must reject it as an absurd notion. It’s not even worth talking about. We can still talk about a basic income guarantee, however. We can still hold out the idea that everyone in society deserves at least a minimum standard of living some degree above subsistence. And we might agree that what is considered basic depends on the overall wealth of the society. As Western developed nations are disproportionately wealthy, the basic standard of living for the poorest among us ought to be considerably above subsistence. So that living a life above subsistence is not per se evidence that the poor have too much or should not be given more.

    And we might also agree that the standard of living and the quality of life are not completely contained or described by some arbitrary dollar amount. The way we organize our social relations is at least as important as how much money we allow people. The way political power is shared is at least as important as what someone’s income is. To guarantee a minimum standard of living means a lot more than the government sending out checks periodically.

    Reply
    1. Jake

      Yup! That’s why it’s very suspicious when it’s supported by the likes of Milton Friedman and Silicon Valley man-children. It’s basically a handout to keep people in their places without shaking things up for any meaningful positive change. Otherwise why aim it to replace healthcare?

      Reply
  21. JustAnIdeaFromTheEther

    However, unless we are to engage in a radical economic transformation which drastically increases common ownership of economy, it is unlikely that Universal Basic Income on its own will do more than lock us into our current predicament.

    To expand on this sentiment, ownership of economy is open to all, and as time progresses the tools of economy become accessible to a wider populace. Economy comes from thrift and new, intelligent ways of doing things. As long as rules and regulations don’t prevent those with less, to apply pressure to those with more, (a little bit of “churn”), the ownership of economy is naturally available to anyone that comes up with a better, more effective way of doing work. I think the threat of automation is overstated as robots are tools, not AI. (AI as it exists today is science fiction and marketing). In the future more people will be able to afford these tools, in the same way computers and software are dirt cheap now. In fact, I’d support trashing the idea of UBI forever and instead give sophisticated machines and software to people who are interested in economy, because let’s face it, there are plenty of people completely uninterested in economy, which brings into question the entire project of equality. Perhaps some day we can seek “churn” instead of “equality”.

    Reply
  22. JTFaraday

    To me, the worst part of life and much political discourse in the US is the way that everyone tries to force fit everything, both material and intellectual/conceptual, through the employment frame.

    It’s like living in some kind of cult.

    Reply
    1. Amfortas the Hippie

      I had to quit working, about 12 years ago, due to crazy pain from a car wreck 20 years before.
      almost 7 years later, I got my new hip, and 2 years after that, I started in on this house( gonzo construction as physical therapy).
      I’m still in constant pain, but manage to work around the house/shop/farm, as much as six hours at a stretch, sometimes…but I still couldn’t promise you I’d be able to move at all tomorrow.
      Ergo…I have some insight into “Work” as a value, in and of itself,lol.
      most of my life I cooked. I loved it, free food, sense of accomplishment after successful lunch rush. what I hated was usually the boss….
      and having to be there when I had other things I wanted/needed to do.
      all and all, I don’t miss having a Job in the least bit.(heresy!)
      Sure, I miss the crappy income(we all do), but I find ways to be useful to mine own. We live pretty well, all things considered.
      It’s the societal stigma of not slaving for somebody else…especially with a relatively invisible illness such as mine(when I can’t move, no one sees me)
      In Texas, it’s helpful to assume that everyone you meet is a Republican of some kind…so when I’m asked “what do you do?”…I say “Retired” just to get past this social ritual.
      I “Do” all manner of things, but none of it is summed up in a job description that ordinary folks can grasp.Without the catchall of “retired”, I’d be a non-person.As it stands, people seem to think I’m rich, somehow.( it’s a crazy world)
      I’m a secret Apostate to the Cult you speak of, by virtue of being a cripple.
      I wonder about the assumption, even here, in this enlightened space, that with a UBI, folks would sit on the couch and veg out in front of the Xbox.
      I am forced to do that plenty…pain is boring as hell,lol.
      I wonder if that assumption/behaviour wouldn’t wear off after a while…that maybe initially, it would be a kind of continental rebound after the glacier of having to “work” melts away…lay around for a year, because you never got to lay around before…then get bored and go find something to do?

      Reply
      1. anon y'mouse

        Your comment is enlightening; humbling even.

        What would people do without work? That depends on both the individual and the society. If we had a culture of extended ties, neighborhoods, taking care of each other? Maybe volunteer more. Maybe become more politically active? Maybe sit on the couch and pick our noses?

        Perhaps we should be asking if we want to impose someone who would do the last on their fellow employees/volunteers/co-op owners?

        Breaking the between slaving-to-survive, survivingtoslave and having value to oneself, one’s community might open another whole culture to us. Imagine saying of someone “that therapist (of anykind)works there because she likes to help people improve. She values that work, and we value her for doing it, and THAT is why she comes here every week” and have it not be the lip service it so often is.

        Reply
  23. Alternate Delegate

    FJG criticism: nobody needs more people for productive labor. Therefore FJG jobs will be mostly guard labor, not productive labor. Stop thinking in terms of New Deal murals. These will jobs sitting in a chair doing spying and surveillance.

    This will fit in very well with authoritarian micromanaged control of anyone who gets one of these jobs. New patronage system. Local corruption, waste, and lying about everything. Eligibility and ineligibility based on Republican ideas of morality. Ranting and raving about blame and fault.

    Contrast that with UBI: nobody gets between you and your UNIVERSAL check. This demolishes the whole sick idea that government decides who is “deserving” or who should be “punished”. It’s Universal. And the system continues to work as we go forward into a more and more automated future.

    This is all about the use and taxation of shared resources, NOT about productivity.

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  24. Scott1

    I’m retired & get SS which is about what I could call a Guaranteed income. Before my tools break I can write some books & I have a CD out. Making instruments & music is work I guaranteed myself till I won’t be able to do but write.
    How did FDR & the Legislators of the day then make the CCC Work? What we all want is FDR’s America. Kennedy brought it back with the “Space Race”.
    The Conservation Corp was visible and represented a sort of a default job.
    It’s been but the Armed Forces now for a good while. The American way is desperation.
    For more than one reason the Federal Jobs Guarantee is more workable.
    Systems Engineers may be the best default civilian employment to emphasis.

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