We should do away with the absolutely specious notion that everybody has to earn a living. It is a fact today that one in ten thousand of us can make a technological breakthrough capable of supporting all the rest. The youth of today are absolutely right in recognizing this nonsense of earning a living. We keep inventing jobs because of this false idea that everybody has to be employed at some kind of drudgery because, according to Malthusian Darwinian theory he must justify his right to exist. So we have inspectors of inspectors and people making instruments for inspectors to inspect inspectors. The true business of people should be to go back to school and think about whatever it was they were thinking about before somebody came along and told them they had to earn a living.
– R. Buckminster Fuller
Poverty could be eliminated
by an outlay of 1% of the
Gross World Product.
– World Watch magazine
I’ve done some research on the idea of implementing a Universal Basic Income. It’s NOT a new idea. It’s been around for at least a century and a half … (and in SOME form – for about 5 centuries!)
A number of countries have tried out the idea … but mainly the experiments have been quite small. In 2016 the people of Switzerland voted on a referendum (they actually DO that in that country) – on whether to adopt a Universal Basic Income (UBI). It did not pass.
As far as I know, this referendum is the ONLY one to have occurred so far on this (fallen) planet.
Now … TO THEIR CREDIT, the Swiss are still exploring this idea. They will TEST it in – Rheinau – a village near the German border. Here is a 2-minute video about it:
It is RATIONAL … to test the program. You know – ‘TRY it … and SEE WHAT HAPPENS’!
In MY view … the MAIN thing we need to understand (regarding this UBI issue) … is that the human beings on THIS planet … are (mainly) NOT RATIONAL.
It will, I think, HELP us if we can see that … because it will put us in a better position to begin BEHAVING RATIONALLY.
We can make Better Choices.
Kierkegaard pointed out – that
We can observe life only by looking backward, but
We must live it forward.
It’s a problem, isn’t it?
At times we must all make decisions based on less than full knowledge of our current situation (or less than a complete appreciation of our alternatives for action) … and so our predictions (of the various outcomes) are imperfect. (and our comprehension of Human Nature may also be imperfect)
Robert McNamara complained about the “Fog of War” (that war is too complex to keep up with, or maybe even to comprehend at all) … but I do not think this is a legitimate complaint. Well … maybe it IS legitimate … but it is not peculiar to WAR.
It’s a Human Problem. It’s just how Human Life is.
However … while I think such (basic) problems should be acknowledged … this is NOT my complaint. (it’s NOT why I say that we are not rational)
As I look over the thinking of the people who have (for quite some time) been proponents of (somehow) solving the (considerable) problems caused by poverty (e.g. – by implementing a Universal Basic Income) … I am struck by how much emotional baggage (and moral baggage) we carry … even as we try our best to think of ways to relieve human suffering … or even just improve our quality of life.
Even the rejection by the Swiss people – of having a UBI (for everyone in the country) was based NOT on rationality (that is … on data) but on (what should we call it?) …IDEOLOGY.
Now … here’s what I mean when I say that.
We learn how to be nationalistic … from going to high school Pep Rallies … learning (and singing) our School Fight Song … from cheering for our team to win (and so on) Mmm?
… and then we never learn a better way of being loyal to our country … or our team (or, seldom do we, anyway)
Also … we have illusionary notions regarding (little things like) – ‘who we are’ … or – ‘Where does wealth come from?’
Most of us labor under the misconception that Wealth is Money … and (of course) it is NOT.
True Wealth is (really) : Good Food … Good Friends … a Loving Family … a Healthy Body … a Friendly & Safe Community … a Good Education … Good Music … Clean Water … Clean Air … a Clean Heart … Peace … Justice … Freedom … [and of course – clothes … shoes that fit … shelter (for warmth & security) … a dependable car (or bicycle) … good roads … electricity … the phone system … the world wide web (etc.)]
Money is a medium of exchange (making direct barter unnecessary) … it’s a legal invention … and it’s good to have some …
But it (certainly) is NOT wealth.
A (brief) review of the thinking (of the historical proponents for a UBI) … brings me to regard it (the thinking) as (mainly) arrogant and morals-burdened … and, it seems infused with a (false) sense of self-sufficiency (that is – they imagine that they are able to come to a sound conclusion based [merely] on their own thinking … and their ‘deep understanding’ of human nature). In other words – while their proposals may be (actually) good … I still don’t trust their thinking.
And for the BULK of us? (e.g. – the people of Switzerland, who voted NOT to implement a UBI in 2016) … I am afraid we are “thinking” about this issue … the same way we ‘learned to “think” about (other) Social Issues (like – ‘Who should win this football game?’ or ‘What is the nature of True Patriotism?’) when we first started going to High School Pep Rallies, and cheering during a game for ‘Our Team to win’.
I would LIKE to say something here that is NOT unkind … but still apt and true. Mmm? (It’s a problem, you see)
I think we should conclude that such ‘thinking” is not (really) thinking at all; it’s a substitute for thinking.
Instead of a (rational & effective) process … we have only Ideology … we have only
– a position !
It’s uneducated, unenlightened, and debilitating.
Many of the proponents of having a UBI (free money for everyone) are able to see – that most of the wealth that we now enjoy … comes to us from (both) the Work … and the Thought … of (not only our contemporaries) but people who have come before us. We are all (already) the beneficiaries of other people’s (well-coordinated) labor …and their (brilliant) inventions.
Have you ever seen the face of the person who made the shoes … or the shirt you are now wearing? or the people who built your house? or your car?
What if I had to build and maintain the roads that I drive on? I would NOT be able to do it. Mmm?
Already we (continually) receive Social Dividends … merely by belonging to a society … to our culture & economy.
So … to implement (also) a UBI … would merely be to add yet another form of Social Dividend.
Besides … what if it (free money for all) could eliminate poverty?
This would NOT be Trivial!
For one thing – Poverty is ALREADY expensive!
(from Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_programs_in_the_United_States ):
2.3 Trillion Dollar Total of Social Security, Medicare and Means Tested Welfare is low since latest 2013 means tested data not available but 2013, the “real” TOTAL will be higher.
Which begs the question – ‘Is this the best we can do?’
Is this the most effective way we can think of to solve the (associated) problems?
I would recommend to you the following videos –
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zY8E3NO05mU (Case for Universal Basic Income – Charles Eisenstein)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aIL_Y9g7Tg0 (Why we should give everyone a basic income – Rutger Bregman)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A2aBKnr3Ep4 (Basic income and other ways to fix capitalism | Federico Pistono)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sp0gsyr-LBE (Swiss village tests future … UBI
[universal basic income])
(If you only have time for one … I would suggest the third one by – Pistono)
In this presentation Federico Pistono points out that we need: MORE EXPERIMENTS … and BETTER experiments.
So far, he says, that (of the 200 countries in the world) 14 have done some experimentation … but only two of these involved more than 1,000 people.
In a 5-year study in Canada (1974-’79) about 10,000 people were given $500/month. They wanted to find out if people would stop working. What they found was … “not really”. There were 2 groups who worked less: women, who took longer maternity leave … and young boys. But the high-school Completion Rates increased … and Hospitalization Rates fell by 8.5%
There was another experiment done in India (2011-2013) in which 6,000 people received $4/month (about 40% of Subsistence for people in rural India).
(There was also a control group of 6,000 … who received nothing)
Here’s what they found:
An increase in (both) Food Sufficiency and in Nutrition
An increase in Livestock
No increase in Alcohol Use/Drug Use
School Attendance increased, especially among girls (females tend to be marginalized)
People were 3 times more likely to Start their Own Business.
All these findings are promising … but the studies are too small to be conclusive.
Here’s what scares me – We may LACK THE CAPABILITY … to CONSIDER THE ISSUE … and MAKE A CHOICE.
Koch Family Foundations have spent some $127,000,000 directly financing 92 groups that have attacked climate change science and policy solutions, from 1997-2017.
And the hell of it is – that their efforts have been effective!
I’m afraid that this country (the United States) is an education wasteland.
We know how to take a position and argue for it; but we do not know how to pursue the truth and move closer to it (making use even of ideas and experiences of those we disagree with).
What evidence is there that we are capable of having a Real Discussion about (say) a possible UBI (free money for everyone) … (or about ANYTHING AT ALL, for that matter) when we behave the way we do over the issue of Climate Change?
We need to have Real Discussions !
Do more experiments … then
(actually) DISCUSS THE FINDINGS !
www.econlib.org/library/Essays/rdPncl1.html (I Pencil)
[This is an essay that can help us appreciate the phenomenon of Emergence … and the (enormous) extent to which we have (already) learned to cooperate]
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
“I once happened to be dining with the Cardinal when a certain English lawyer was there. I forgot how the subject came up, but he was speaking with great enthusiasm about the stern measures that were then being taken against thieves. ‘We’re hanging them all over the place’, he said. ‘I’ve seen as many as twenty on a single gallows. And that’s what I find so odd. Considering how few of them get away with it, how come we are still plagued with so many robbers?’
‘What’s odd about it?’, I asked – for I never hesitated to speak freely in front of the Cardinal. ‘This method of dealing with thieves is both unjust and undesirable. As a punishment, it’s too severe, and as a deterrent, it’s quite ineffective. Petty larceny isn’t bad enough to deserve the death penalty. And no penalty on earth will stop people from stealing, if it’s their only way of getting food. In this respect, you English, like most other nations, remind me of these incompetent schoolmasters, who prefer caning their pupils to teaching them. Instead of inflicting these horrible punishments, it would be far more to the point to provide everyone with some means of livelihood, so that nobody’s under the frightful necessity of becoming, first a thief, and then a corpse.”
– Raphael Nonsenso (of Portugal)
prior to 1516