Basic Income – The High Cost of Dithering

Opposition to a Guaranteed Income System (GIS) is so bizarre. People talk about it being too expensive as if the alternative weren’t ten times worse. They say it will kill the incentive to work as if there are going to be jobs in the future.

Let’s talk about that second point before we get into any details. While worst case scenarios are, by their nature, extreme cases — those extreme cases need to be understood in order to get a handle on the moderate cases. So let’s look at the disaster scenario. We’ll qualify it shortly.

What are you going to do when all the jobs are gone — all work done by machines? You’ll have no income. The owners of the machines will have all the money. Where will you get money to eat?

From the government? Where will the government get the money? No jobs, no income tax revenue.

OK, they’ll get tax revenue from the machine owners, right?. Not likely. Industry already hides its profits from the taxman in offshore accounts — and lobbies governments everywhere to reduce taxes down to  pocket change. When they have all the money, their lobbyists will hold all the cards. Nope, no revenue source there.

But then who’ll buy all their stuff? That was Karl Marx’s question. But they’ve outsmarted even Marx. They won’t need to make stuff for you any more. They won’t need to build factories to employ you any more. They’ve perfected the art of making money off money. They call them derivatives markets nowadays — spinning money to make more money.

But who’s going to make all the luxury goods they want to consume? Are you kidding? They’ve got machines to do that. And they own the machines. Catch 22. What goes around comes around — in a casino where the player is the dealer, and the dealer always wins.

So you’re left out. They don’t need wage slaves any more. They got machine slaves. If you’ve got no job and nothing to eat, that’s your problem. Go away and shut up.

Alright, that certainly qualifies as a worst-case scenario. And it’s never going to get that bad, right? But what if it gets too close? What if it  eliminates only 65% of the jobs? Will we have some system in place to provide alternative sources of incomes when jobs are scarce?

The real-life problem is, it’s going in a jobless direction. In transportation,  dispatching jobs are already lost to computers, and driverless vehicles are fast becoming reality. What will truck and taxi-drivers do? The media will still blame them for their own predicament — saying they’re not sufficiently committed to finding new jobs or they’re refusing to re-educate themselves to become transport engineers. But the core problem is the transfer of jobs from humans to machines.

As far as the vehicles are concerned, they’re already largely produced by robots, and even the robots are reproducing themselves.

Candidate Trump promised to return coal mining jobs to the US. But those jobs haven’t been lost to Chinese coolies, they’ve been lost to machines — like in the rest of the rust-belt.

Medical professionals will still be required, but in vastly reduced numbers when computers give more accurate diagnoses and intelligent scalpels make less mistakes. Teachers will become assistants to iPads, so less education personnel and smaller numbers of them will be  required. Cute robots are already calming seniors in nursing homes.

A comprehensive list would fill a book, best compiled by a computer. That’s not to say all jobs will disappear, but maybe most of them. Well no, let’s be moderate — let’s say only two-thirds of jobs will disappear.

Even that will be a total catastrophe. We have no realistic alternative in place to the work-for-income system.  Existing Welfare programmes will be starved of funds as two-thirds of income tax revenues will disappear. Hungry people get angry.

I’ll say little about food riots and demagogic political movements. You can figure those out for yourselves. History (and current events) will inform you.

But we’re not quite there yet. We still have a reasonably civil society, and we at least pay lip-service to fairness. Research has been done on GIS, and it scores well on cost-effectiveness grounds (certainly far better than existing Welfare programmes).

Plus it’s already in place. That is, the income taxation algorithm is already functioning efficiently, and GIS is just a negative income tax. Just tweak the parameters, and we’re good to go.

We’re still civilized enough at this point that GIS is a realistic goal politically, if we can get it in place before they can take the money and run.

The only real obstacle is conservative (and Conservative) political campaigns that effectively portray GIS to the public as an expensive way of pandering to lazy deadbeats — even thought its actually the least expensive possible way of averting an impending chaos.

There’s more. Research shows that the freedom of GIS tends on average to encourage people to find new and creative ways to make themselves useful to society.  The only deadbeats are those using their ownership of job-killing machinery to siphon all the money out of individual and government coffers.

Join the bandwagon.



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