Saturday, November 25, 2017

Universal Basic Income

 Once again a guest post to get started.

July 19, 2015 at 4:43am

The biggest reason I support UBI (Universal Basic Income) has nothing to do with our possible automated future, as labor becomes less essential, or at least as we need much less of it, though that's a great reason to support it. It's not even about eliminating poverty or making the unemployment rate a non-issue, though those are very good reasons too.

The reason I want a UBI is to make work at least -technically- optional. I want this because so long as work is not optional, so long as it is mandatory, it is coercive. I want UBI so that every low wage worker whose boss screws them on hours, who reprimands them for taking sick days, who asks them to work too fast in unsafe conditions (see the current fast-food lawsuit), every young employee whose boss secretly grabs their ass while no one is looking, who's constantly making lewd comments, or racist comments, or any other sort of hateful bullshit... So that every employee who finds themselves trapped in the fiefdom of some petty little tyrant of a boss, which is actually The Majority Of Low End Workers, so that they can say:


So that they can really, truly, meaningfully walk the fuck away. And not have it mean they end up on the streets or their kids starve or they find themselves turning tricks to keep the water running and the lights on. Or for that matter just ending up in yet another job with a slightly different petty tyrant. And they can do this, deal with this, without having to deal with lawyers or Union Reps, who though are better than -not- having them it'd be nicer to just be able to do it ourselves. Because if -enough- of them (us) say 'NO' to this petty fucking bullshit, then firms will be forced to stop letting the petty bullshit happen (those who fail to will simply not get workers), and work in general will end up less awful for everyone.

Because the ability to say 'NO' to someone who's actively abusing you... that should be pretty high on the list of 'Liberties' worth defending. In my mind.
 Almost as important is what a mentor at Pan Am called "Fuck You Money" that puts you in a position to as he put it "To do your job right."  If you are dependent on your job for your day to day lifestyle, you can't afford to disagree meaningfully with your bosses to do what is right instead of what is expedient. UBI gives you the safety net along with your Fuck You money you saved from your productive work to get the next job to use your skills properly.  

 The economic argument for a UBI is that it is "outside" money to low income people who spend locally for necessities provided by mainly other low income people. The bodega proprietor, (there would be food trucks on every corner) and other neighborhood business would thrive and economic benefits would trickle UP to landlords, food truck lessors, food truck builders, etc. They might even buy a solar food truck with a Powerwall 2 from Tesla if they are really successful. 

 Entry level jobs and indeed all jobs would be supplemental to UBI and under conventional income tax theory would be taxed progressively.  The big difference would be that entry level jobs would be optional so wages and working conditions must be attractive enough that people would want to work.  Most people would rather be productive, whether as an artisan, an entrepeneur, or as a service worker as long as they feel that they are being useful to their community but they won't do it without reasonable compensation with the UBI as a backup. 

 Creativity is a fundamental drive for humans once they get beyond subsistence.  Cave people drew on the walls of the cave, ordinary pots and pans became works of art in ancient and indigenous cultures.  The key to success for an artisan or an entrepreneur is being able to fail without consequences to one's family.  A trust fund is the traditional back up for them, but that limits the pool of creative and risk taking to rich people.  Imagine the creative surge if anyone with a dream could pursue it.  While there are many couch potatoes passively consuming entertainment, due to the economic fact that they can afford nothing else, how many would be freed up for more creative expressions if most of their life was not spent dealing with subsistence needs.  

 People work. Even if it is only knitting at a boring meeting, and some of it will rise to saleable art. Unpaid volunteer workers now could choose to be idle but work anyway. Also most people I know in the class of comfortable retired people are still working hard at something paid or otherwise. Why would that not become a way of life for those with no saleable skills?  Some people living on UBI might need TLC, companionship, shopping, and other services not covered by UBI that neighbors not forced to work long hours could easily supply. Note the win-win here, volunteer caregivers might well need some of that TLC and companionship as well.

 The few couch potatoes living off the stipend are probably just as well off the streets and not making trouble to survive. They still are consumers. They eat, buy couches, TVs, and pay rent.  If we make the "idle" comfortable enough to live a decent, if not easy, life what they do with their life is of no consequence to society. 

  Optional work made possible by UBI for supplemental income (taxed) is chosen in a competitive market where skills are rewarded.  People will work at something meaningful to them whether it is needlework, carving, artisans of all kinds, even coders and inventors. If the work is saleable they get extra income to support the local economy and the Government. If not they can try harder or learn to do something else. 

  Those who want to work will have plenty of opportunities under UBI. There are many jobs that require human input. But a job, which is working for someone else will be only one option, and an option at that. Employers will have to compete on working conditions as well as pay to attract those who wish to work. If a restaurant owner or retailer needs people, hesh will have to make the job more attractive than opening a lunchroom or storefront shop.

 Job availability will exceed demand, given the "Be your own boss" drive most people have. If a tradesperson with a truck can supplement UBI working for herm neighbors the job premium would have to be very attractive to drag herm across town instead.

 Economically any income above UBI is disposable income.  People normally spend disposable income locally in the less affluent segment of the society.  So both UBI which typically will be spent in its entirety locally and any supplemental income will have a large economic multiplier for the community which will generate more marginal jobs and disposable income.  


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