So we’re hurdling fast towards making human beings obsolete with all this Artificial Intelligence development. Someone along the way thought, “Oh, snap! How are people going to earn a living if there are no more jobs?” So all these smarty pants tech guys thought they were being cute inventing self-driving vehicles, self-service kiosks, super smart algorithms that write their own algorithms and NOBODY thought about how many GAJILLIONS of people they were going to put out of work.
So the idea behind Universal Basic Income is that you receive a basic living income from some public organization (government etc.) and then you earn whatever you want on top of that. For United Statesians (a lot of people in the western hemisphere get annoyed when we call ourselves “Americans,” Mexicans, Canadians et al. technically they are all Americans as well.) that means a huge expansion of Social Security and sounds suspiciously like Socialism. Now this concept gets a lot more traction in Europe where there are lots of Socialists walking around unafraid to speak their minds, but you say Socialism in the Red States of America and you are very likely to find yourself run over by a pick-up truck.
That’s because in a capitalist system, these schemes would be funded by taxation. Now, the rich of the U.S., though they love paying taxes, generally try to avoid it. See exhibit one:
So in the U.S. it is unlikely to work. In fact, I would boldly point out that we have an incredibly long history of greed-based capitalism. There really isn’t much room or sympathy for antelopes that can’t run with the heard. So getting a “Universal Basic Income,” with the option of doing nothing but watching Netflix and eating pizza, sets up recipients to be perfect punching bags for political conservatives.
Currently, welfare recipients are in a double bind, they have to maintain a certain level of poverty to keep receiving benefits. Aspiring to a better work situation can work against you. The job market rife with instability providing either low-wage or soon to be automated jobs, becomes more tenuous as our current billionaire regime dismantles labor regulations.
There are those economists like Erik Olin Wright that believe that UBI would empower labor. Right now, labor is controlled by capital. Essentially, the fact that Steve Jobs had the money to move manufacturing to China, put American jobs at risk. The same goes for car manufacturers and all the other industries that chase cheap labor around the globe. I don’t see how labor has more bargaining potential in this situation with UBI, but that is what they believe.
Then there are economists like Harry Shutt that assert that enterprises should be more collective rather than private, making the UBI a basic component of their operation. I love these academics who operate outside reality. With all the proposed free time gained from not being a “wage slave” there will certainly be a lot of creativity. In practice though, there are going to be a lot of bums. There will be people who are empowered in their entitlement and have a lot of free time, not to create and invent, but to ruminate about all the stuff they covet, all the petty nonsense they currently think about that results in endless hours of reality T.V., gossip magazines and other inane human activity. Add to this the prospect of being taxed in the ball park of 45% on all your income over and above your UBI and who would want to expend the effort?
My guess is the first countries to institute a UBI will be in Scandinavia and Canada, not Africa and United States. The likely outcome is that poorer people, fleeing economic oppression will likely flood into these economic oases. UBI sounds a lot like Marxism 2.0. If 100 years of a crappy Russian economics isn’t enough to convince people that the experiment didn’t work then I guess these “experts” will be disappointed that the rest of us don’t join their movement. It’s been discovered that greed can’t be bred out of human beings. In the meantime, Canada, if you’re listening, and decide to institute the UBI, expect a flood of United Statesians. There’s room up there for us, right?