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Friday, May 27, 2016

Basic Income

There's this interesting idea that we should do away with all the welfare and aid programs and give absolutely everyone enough money to cover their basic needs.

It's not as crazy as it sounds. There's not going to be enough jobs at living wages to go around. We've reached the point where it's economical to replace fast food workers with robots. Tests are underway. Even China, with some of the cheapest labor in the world, is replacing people with machines.

Back in the '60s and '70s it was a Science Fiction dream. Drudge labor would be automated freeing mankind to follow other pursuits. Technically, we are getting there. Socially, we have much further to go. What the Science Fictions writers forgot was that those who own the machines want to have all the money.

Early adopters are being rewarded. Companies that can successfully automate their businesses benefit. They have a cost advantage over their competitors. Just as importantly there are still plenty of people with real paying jobs that can afford their products or services.

Over time, fewer and fewer people will be able to purchase even low cost items. All those nice shiny robot factors won't have any customers to sell things to. There are only a few solutions. One is to provide basic income to everyone. That way people will have the funds to keep the consumer economy going. The other solution is to ban automation and create a lot of make work jobs.

Those make work jobs aren't very satisfying to those who have to work them. Not too many people really want to spend their days doing pointless work. It's already bad. In a recent survey 30% of UK workers thought their jobs were BS. Is your job one of those?

We are quietly moving towards a Basic Income solution but nobody is calling it that. Remember those statistics about the number of households without gainfully employed people? One thing that's happening is a lot of people are ending up on the SS rolls. People who used to do blue collar factory jobs are getting doctors to sign them up for benefits.

Take a blue collar worker with a bad shoulder. He can't do the type of work he was once trained to do. If they'd been a lawyer or the CEO of a company nobody would care that he can't lift his arm over his head anymore. The only reason the guy is on SS is because he can't be trained in a job where his physical limitations won't be a problem. Even if those guys could be trained, there aren't enough of those jobs around. I personally know people who are on disability for jobs that no longer exist.

One of the big fears is that people on basic income will just hang around all day smoking weed and watching TV. Yep, that could certainly happen. So what? They aren't hurting anyone but themselves. It's ambitious people you have to watch out for.

A lot of people would spend more time raising their own kids, pursuing artistic passions and doing volunteer work.

There would still be some jobs out there for people who want them. Of course, there would be no need to spend 40 – 60 hours a week slaving away at them. Maybe 20 hours would be enough work to keep them happy.

There's nothing sacred about working hard. Ever notice that those who promote the idea of hard work tend to be in positions to benefit from the work of others? If hunter gather societies could provide for all their basic needs with an hour or two of work, why should modern man do so much worse?

I don't have a “real” job and there doesn't seem to be enough hours in the day. Some folks say I'm the busiest lazy person they know.



  1. Basic income sounds good but it wouldn't work. I would like to see the CCC or similar public work restarted. our nation is crumbling and people need real skill training.

    1. Focusing on rebuilding infrastructure could put a lot of people to work.

  2. What was that example of make work at the Hungarian zoo ? One guy sold you the ticket. You walked over the 2nd guy who tore the ticket in half. He handed the pieces to another, who threw the pieces away. Three people - one job.

    Great point you made on the downsides of automation. If no one has any money, how do they buy the product ?

    Its really getting to the point of the person choosing what they enjoy doing, rather than what makes them wealthy. The wealthy are becoming targeted for their success and will be taxed to where it really wasn't worth the effort to work that hard to get there.

    A real shame, being penalized for being successful.

    1. It seems all of India runs like that Hungarian zoo.

      The people working those "jobs" must know they really are not needed.

  3. If you are the busiest lazy person in the world, then I guess I am just a lazy person, although that keeps me as busy as I want to be.

  4. I believe that Helen and Scott Nearing said that hunter/gatherer societies live on about four hours work a day, the rest is spent on whatever they choose. As for too many people and not enough jobs, that's why the powers-that-be want to kill a lot of us off, especially us old folks.

    1. I'm going to linger on for years and years just to annoy the powers that be.

  5. We are just sheep to be sheared.
    Always have been always will be.

  6. If Switzerland can give each citizen a couple of thousand dollars every month, then so can the U.S. Alaskans get that much from the oil fund to people who have lived there at least one year. We're spending trillions on wars in the Middle East. Imagine if every American would get some of those trillions. We could fix this country and so many of our problems. But it means denying the war hawks & profiteers their money. It means saying that the Middle East is not worth the trouble. It's not worth American lives or taxpayer money.

    1. That's exactly the way I feel about it.

      As for the middle east, there's nothing there worth the life of a single serviceman or woman.