Dirk Knemeyer

Basic Income & The Future of Society

Basic Income & The Future of Society, September 15, 2016

People who have been listening to me for a number of years, and for me this goes back to 1993, know that I think the core problem is capitalism. We’re having all of this churn and angst around worker rights and the conflicts of the gig economy, yada, yada, yada. That’s not the problem. The problem is that we have a very lightly regulated free market that incentivizes people to act selfishly and allows the creation of these sociopathic corporations that act destructively, and those are the underpinnings of the system. We shouldn’t be at all surprised that there’s all kinds of waste and human pain and loss coming out of that.

Every citizen in the country should be provided some baseline existence that they don’t have to be part of an ongoing 40 hour, 60 hour week cycle to have, right? I wrote about this a number of years ago, but the idea for the model is, if you’re a citizen and we’re in the United States, let’s call it the United States, if you’re a citizen in the United States there’s a minimum baseline that you should have, and you should need to work for it. That minimum baseline would be something like a certain level of modest housing, a certain level of modest food and beverage. I would have electricity and internet access be part of that baseline. To create all of the things needed in the baseline, that’s quantifiable, like the amount of human effort and human capital required to provide for everyone can be tracked. We should be tracking that, and we should have people having to work their fair share of providing for everyone.

Now, that might sound like just a different type of capitalism, but the trick is to provide this modest baseline for everyone wouldn’t have people working 40 hours a week. It would have people working 8 hours a week or 12 hours a week, right, in order to work their fair share. They would have the rest of their lives to decide for themselves. The example I like to use is the truffles example. If you really want truffles go ahead out there and gather truffles. Start a “business” around gathering truffles. Then other people who want truffles, you can work with them to get other things in a free market structure, but that free market structure needs to be put on top of the baseline, right? So, bring that back into the conversation we’re having now, the problem is right now there’s no baseline. It’s like if you don’t scrape and claw within this capitalist, largely unregulated free market, find some job for you to do, you’re going to be on the street. You’re going to be eating shit, and we have abundance.

We have the ability that if people are contributing a fair share to it, to provide a baseline for everyone. If we did that, all of these problems go away. They all go away, because people don’t need it. It’s not live or die. It’s not on the street or in something that’s comfortable and humane. It’s humane for all, and then building on top of that. I mean, that’s a very specific and prescribed solution for the problem, but I roll it out to really put the spotlight on the issue. Like, it’s just rubbish that we’re talking about, oh, Uber is this service that it makes sense from a convenience perspective, it makes sense from an environmental perspective, it is making the system of transportation smarter. It may not still be perfect, but it represents improvement. Now there’s all this teeth gnashing about it, because it’s costing humans jobs. There’s now the fear of with all of the AI and robotic solutions coming in, the fear of what are going to happen to more and more human jobs. It really shouldn’t matter. Like, these should be conversations about can you have truffles or not. They shouldn’t be conversations about can I have food and shelter or not. Food and shelter should be givens, assuming you’re contributing your modest fair share to your country as a citizen, as a participant in that entity.

There’s two problems with basic income. One is people don’t have to contribute to make it happen. It’s just money from heaven, right? Part of being healthy humans as well as being healthy societies is participation. It’s participating and having some reciprocity there going both ways. The second thing with the basic income is at the end of the day, people can spend it on whatever the hell that they want, and we know enough about the human animal to know that some non-significant percentage of those people are going to spend it on things that result in their, again, being on the outside without proper food and shelter. To have a healthy society, to build a productive civilization, we need to have people with food and shelter and some other basic things, I think, bottom line, brass tacks, no matter what. I think the basic income misses on a few key implementation points, although I do applaud it philosophically.

 

 

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