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.  


More on

Friday, November 24, 2017

UBI and Economics

 GDP is ultimately people buying goods and services from other people. Somebody has to flip those burgers the basic income recipients are buying.

 Since low income people spend locally and buy from people they know (not robots) the income from outside the local economy stays in the local economy and all are better off.  The multiplier effect of the basic income dollar for a relatively closed local economy without box stores or Franchises to siphon off money is nearly 3 times.  The burger flipper in a local lunchroom is paid a competitive if relatively low wage in addition to the basic income or hesh wouldn't work.  Hesh spends most of herm income including UBI on local goods and services employing other local workers, creating more local demand for those goods and services and more workers to produce and vend them. 

  Assuming UBI and Medicare for All, now dead ex-urban and rural suburbs will become vibrant villages of local commerce and art most of which will generate excess funds for local amenities. UBI is an external source of resources for the community which will be subject to the economic multiplier by those providing services to the UBI recipients.  Dispersal would solve the "BMR" housing issue as only those needing to be close to cities would compete for high end suburbs and high density city housing.  Note that minimum wage jobs in high density areas would no longer be attractive to distant UBI recipients.  There are many things they could do with the costs in time and money of a multi-hour commute.

 UBI should be an EFT deposit into a local bank or credit union.  National Banks should not be permitted to accept UBI transfers.  Local banks and credit unions could invest in housing and business loans for residents of the local area.  Large metro areas could be divided into historical and/or ethnic communities for the purpose of defining "Local" for this restriction. 

 The car based infrastructure will once again become a valuable resource for infrequent visits to friends and relatives and occasional visits to urban centers for shopping and entertainment.  The car will remain as the personal status symbol for rich and poor alike.  Although it will be autonomous and electric it will still use the roads and freeways unclogged by commuter traffic.  That racing striped Camaro shell will be on a Spark chassis, but hesh will be as devoted to it as before with the big Hemi.

 Some basic income recipients will use their time to pursue a dream of artisan goods production; a local service like a band, restaurant, or performance venue; or a mercantile service.  Some will succeed and become tourist magnets generating outside dollars for the community.

 Assuming an income tax the multiplier will be reduced a bit from a pure subsistence economy, but if the tax rate is progressive the reduction in the multiplier should be minimal for in-community services as these services will be provided on narrow margins as the providers will be recipients of UBI as well.

Art and Artists

   If you cannot evaluate art without evaluating the artist you don't understand art.  I specifically avoid, indeed shun, biographical data about artists.  If their art is expiation for their monstrous private lives perhaps it is expiation for the monstrous private lives of all of us.  Their art is their legacy.  Their private lives should be buried with them and never discussed while they are alive. 
  An artist and herm art are two entirely separate and distinct entities in all cultures.  The art may live and be meaningful long after the artist has returned to dust.  While it is fun to argue about which composers of famous religious music were atheists, the fact remains that the music they composed is sung and revered by believers in any culture affected by the religion depicted in the composition.  

A "critic" is a man who creates nothing and thereby feels qualified to judge the work of creative men. There is a logic in this; he is unbiased - he hates all creative people equally.  Lazarus Long, Time Enough For Love,  Robert A Heinlein, 1973.
 The easiest thing a lazy critic can focus on is some private life peccadillo (or worse) to avoid entirely herm work as a critic of evaluating the art to help the rest of us sort out the good from the bad.   

 The current trend even extends to Jefferson's "all men are created equal" as written by a slave holder who even had children by a favored slave.  He had no choice in his culture. That he could transcend his culture to create a better world where all are equal (even though we are not there yet after 200+ years) speaks volumes about his character not to mention the character of his critics who do not even aspire to the all humans are equal standard. 

D.H. Lawrence —Never trust the teller, trust the tale. The proper function of a critic is to save the tale from the artist who created it.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Determinism, Randomness, and Free Will

 Random with sophisticated feedback can produce quite meaningful results. Think random error in gene duplication with the feedback of selection and one gets a meaningful result of a new successful species, or a meaningful result of a lethal mutation.

 Cause and effect have very little to do with mind/brain function. Essentially the sensory stimulus is random or at least so voluminous that the first cut by the mind can be thought of as eliminating data points that do not conform to an existing pattern in the nerve cells feeding data to the brain, in other words eliminating worthless random stimuli. Apparently the first cut in the retina is an edge. The first feedback loop is that an edge might be useful and the brain 'requests' data from around the edge. If the data around the edge form the capital 'I' the mind says 'Pay attention this is critical data!' Another feedback loop may say forget it it is just a bridge girder, and the mind moves on, and the cause bridge girder resembling an 'I' has no lasting effect.

The important functions of the brain/mind are these feedback loops that correlate fresh input with existing data to reinforce or weaken the data points. Trying to identify cause and effect is an endless chase through the feedback loops unless one reasonably shortstops the process as the mind does and says this stimulus reproducibly is associated with this response and is a cause and effect relationship.

 Random is not an either/or condition. In fact rationality might be defined as reasonable responses to random events that occur both internally to the brain and externally as in spilled cumin in the curry. (Should I eat it or spit it out?) The brain has sophisticated feedback that evaluates odd inputs either internal or external to see if it is important to current events in the mind.  Many millions of years of separating out dangerous random signals from similar random signals that are normal patterns in the environment make dealing with the randomness of the environment a critical survival trait.

The brain's internal random juxtapositions of thought patterns is the essence of human creativity and free will. A vaguely remembered dream of a snake biting its tail juxtaposed to a vexing structural chemical problem may be responsible for modern organic chemistry. One can play the determinism game all night long and say August KekulĂ© had the dream because of a logical train of subconscious thought on his problem, but the waking correlation of the dream to the problem at hand seems to be deterministically improbable to the point of ridiculousness. The mind might be envisioned as random thought processes that reinforce to produce meaningful and useful concepts that can be used to manage one's gestalt of self and manage one's living purposefully.  Thought processes that do not fit into that matrix are either rejected outright or if deemed to be possibly significant by the mind are relegated to the memory for future use as needed, (don't ask me how the mind knows they are useful I am not that smart.) But I do know that the mind is extremely versatile in processing that endless stream of data. In the western world any activity that takes one out of the mainstream of living, a walk in the woods, creating a poem, or a haiku, artistic activities, thoughtful writing, etc. all have the effect of freeing the mind from managing a purposeful life. 

 Free will is simply sampling those thought processes that do not immediately fit into the matrix, figuring out why they seemed to be important and see if somehow they can modify the matrix to make it more robust and/or useful.  This is the purpose of meditative techniques that take one out of the life that the matrix controls, in effect setting it aside and trying to construct an alternative from the stored data. The Buddhists have this process as a main focus of their religion and by focusing on an essentially meaningless existence temporarily let all these meaningful and useful concepts jumble around to see if a more useful gestalt can be constructed.

  The downside of this feedback is that the current events in the mind can be conditioned to reject odd inputs that contradict certain thought patterns that may control behavior. This conditioning is started by caregivers in children to enable them to behave correctly in their principle social milieu. "All I really need to know I learned in Kindergarten" Robert Fulghum.  As kindergartens are embedded in the society of the child's parents it merely continues the conditioning started by the parents.  This early conditioning is almost impossible to ignore, but fortunately human teens and young adults are open to other social structures and tend to question their early conditioning and some can pick and choose which behaviors are useful and which might be modified.  Much of this exploration is done through reading and visual media, which is why those with a vested interest in the childhood conditioning like churches discourage undirected reading and manage visual media for their own ends.

In many social situations the conditioning becomes so strong, that random inputs that are contrary to the conditioning are rejected before they can even make into the consciousness.  Both political beliefs and religious beliefs can fall into this category.   

 I am quite comfortable with the randomness of living.  I think causality is the exception rather than the rule.  In my view free will is expressed by how we react to the random events that color our lives including that huge one of our inevitable death. Our lives began with the random meeting of gametes, and random events like finding and losing friends, and lovers define how we choose to live. I live my life intentionally, in that I choose which random events I wish to react to and how I do so. Free will is not even an issue; there is no compulsion to do anything I choose not to do. Although things may happen that I must choose to react to. But there is always a choice. When the green car came flying over the center barrier into my lane, I could choose to do nothing and experience the fun of a high speed head on, or I could choose to steer as close to the barrier as I could. One might say the choice was forced, but it was still a choice. Making good choices is the essence of living in a random world.

Saturday, September 16, 2017


 Monogamy is not a description of a relationship. It is a description of a reproductive strategy. 

 Polyamory is default for prepubescent children and non-adults and should be encouraged with the usual precautions for STDs.   In societies where women breed shortly after puberty other standards apply but given modern contraception strategies for men and women polyamory should be the rule until parenting is contemplated.  I am not talking hetero only here especially prepubescent and early teen sexuality.  Sow your wild oats to your hearts content on any infertile ground of either gender to determine what kind of sexuality makes sense for ones settled years which may end up to be childless polyamory.  

 If no children are planned monoamory may well be toxic. My generation gave the world the conceopt of going steady as early as high school, that is, dating only a single partner as long as the relationship lasts. The strain this puts on relationship building is overwhelming as sexuality, having fun on a date, and commitment to a single other who initially you may not know well does not work well.  Even more pressure is on the relationship if pregnancy before marriage is a violation of the norm as it was when contraception was limited to condoms.  Even with reliable contraception for women trying to combine sexuality, companionship, fun, and mental stimulation into a single relationship seems to put too much strain on both partners.   

 Most people contemplating children hetero or homo are monogamous as a tried and proven stable environment for raising children. It is not the only way. Polygamy as usually practiced one male several females seems to work in some cultures as the women share the child raising with the male as a resource provider and impregnator.  Single parenting is outrageously difficult, but possible.  An absent partner providing resources does help. 

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Autonomous Cars and the Future of Cities

(Mary Sperling) claimed her car from the robopark, guided it up the ramp and set the controls for the North Shore. The car waited for a break in the traffic, then dived into the high-speed stream and hurried north. Mary settled back for a nap….awakened by the jangle of the emergency alarm and by the speedster slowing to a stop… “All cars resume local control….” Methuselah's Children, Robert A Heinlein, (1941) or 1958.  
 With autonomous or even semi-autonomous cars in 120mph+ pelotons on existing freeways and Musk 120mph skates in tunnels in LA, whole metro areas are sprawlsville.  The American life style will not be changed to urban living.  Ford, General Motors, and all the rest will still be around in 2100 promoting sprawl. 

 The car is the most important surviving public status symbol, and Americans at least are not going to give that up.  They will drive less especially locally but providing rides between urban nodes will still be an important status indicator.  Cities, especially new cities, will evolve out of the suburbs with high density urban nodes around regional amenities with complete urban services, restaurants, service establishments and high density housing at all price points for those who choose to live and possibly work in an urban node.  

 The majority of the population will still be economically and ethnically segregated in single family homes and low density apartments in the suburbs, exurbs and now dead rural towns. The current pattern for office commercial segregated in suburban campuses will continue for the foreseeable future. Even working class cars will be high speed semi-autonomous and urban nodes will still require high density autonomous parking for residents and visitors.     

 Freeways will evolve to narrower lanes restricted to autonomous vehicles, with high speed lanes running in pelotons for efficiency and throughput.  Current freeways of three lanes or more with a breakdown lane in the center will in the near future convert to two or more high speed lanes, one transition lane and leave one wide lane with a breakdown lane for non-autonomous cars at existing speed limits and entrance and exit. 

 Autonomous cars will park in high density parking lots on floors limited to small SUVs by floor spacing, served by elevators.  Garages for autonomous vehicles only will be constructed over a major intersection with an existing freeway which is already served by transit and close to developed commercial or urban centers.  The garage may be built over the freeway.  Pedestrian and bicycle access is over the existing sidewalk space on the cross street and transit access over a lane of the cross street.  Cars will enter from freeway access ramps to car lanes inside the garage next to the pedestrian/bikeway.  Driverless autonomous cabs would be available at the freeway nodes for those needing them. 

 See also