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  1. #1

    Dhéanfadh mé mo chuile dhícheall chun a bheith ar meisce, go scanreoidh sé an saol mór
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    Universal Basic Income

    The concept of the Universal Basic Income, or UBI if I can call it that, has crept onto the political agenda in Ireland and I'd imagine there's been some discussion about its merits and demerits in the UK as well. A few years ago I'd have described the idea (free money in perpetuity) as impossibly utopian but today it doesn't seem so far-fetched. The basic principle is theoretically sound - ensure that people have enough money to cover their basic needs thus allowing them to pursue aims closer to their heart and generate revenue that way - but my inner cynic doubts whether that's viable long-term. Namely, where does all the money come from? A tax on robots is something that's been proposed (by Bill Gates, of all people) and would seem to make sense but how much research has been done in assessing the validity of this economic model? A Dutch author named Rutger Bregman has just released a book on the topic but Will Hutton thinks the idea is nonsense.

    Apart from the fact that human needs are infinite, so that today’s predictions of the end of work will prove as awry as those of previous centuries, a universal basic income is no more likely to succeed than communism. Behavioural psychology confirms what even the young Marx, a basic income-for-all sceptic, knew in his bones: we humans believe that reward should follow proportionate effort. It is our just desert. Trying to reconfigure our core hard wiring so we don’t object to anyone anywhere getting a guaranteed income for no better reason than they are alive could only be devised by a fifth columnist anxious to consign liberalism to oblivion. Bregman himself worries in the book – his candour is refreshing – that he could be wrong, but dismisses the anxiety. He was right to be worried.
    I'd love to hear OTF's opinion. Is there any historical precedent for something like this?

  2. #2
    Incandenza's Avatar
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    Universal Basic Income

    Matt Breunig writes a lot about this, and has pointed out that in the US, the top 1% already earn quite a lot of income without having to work for it at all, and the criticism of UBI as rewarding people for doing nothing and leading to dependency does not seem to have a problem with the current situation.

  3. #3

    Universal Basic Income

    I think one of the great things about the UBI is actually that it does reward effort, more than the current situation in fact. While it's generally a myth that people on benefits are better off than people on low incomes, there sometimes isn't a huge difference between them. With UBI, because the non-earning individual and the earning individual are getting identical levels of state support, everything that the earning individual earns will make them materially better.

  4. #4

    Universal Basic Income

    You can change that by reducing the clawbacks from work.

    I saw in Vox somebody talking about an experiment in a Kenyan village being the biggest yet. If that's indeed the case, McDonnell needs to stop wasting any time on it.

  5. #5

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    Universal Basic Income

    I can't comment on the theoretical side of things, but on the practical side it's currently under trial over here.

  6. #6

    Universal Basic Income

    No, you can't, Tubby. You can mitigate it, but if you are giving a decent level of benefits, then the only other way to guarantee that people who are earning (I'm trying very hard to avoid saying working/not working) are getting significantly more in income is to ensure that wages are high. Which seems more utopian in the current climate than UBI does.

    That we'd be the first to try it, so we shouldn't try it is a bit of a luddite response.

  7. #7

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    Universal Basic Income

    They've only free Universal healthcare in system we've got working is a Tregedar General Hospital. Better junk it Nye!

    What a sad response, Tubby. I can't decide what's worst; the appalling ignorance of how policy change is actually brought about, or the simple pessimism of the will as well as intellect.

  8. #8

    Universal Basic Income

    NHH wrote: They've only free Universal healthcare in system we've got working is a Tregedar General Hospital. Better junk it Nye!

    What a sad response, Tubby. I can't decide what's worst; the appalling ignorance of how policy change is actually brought about, or the simple pessimism of the will as well as intellect.
    My intellect would like to hear some credible plans for funding Tredegar Hospital for a start, instead of it all being a haze of "closing tax loopholes" and "investment" (which is supposed to be capital anyway, not regular items like running hospitals.

  9. #9

    Universal Basic Income

    [quote=Reginald Christ post=1303441]The concept of the Universal Basic Income, or UBI if I can call it that, has crept onto the political agenda in Ireland and I'd imagine there's been some discussion about its merits and demerits in the UK as well. A few years ago I'd have described the idea (free money in perpetuity) as impossibly utopian but today it doesn't seem so far-fetched. The basic principle is theoretically sound - ensure that people have enough money to cover their basic needs thus allowing them to pursue aims closer to their heart and generate revenue that way - but my inner cynic doubts whether that's viable long-term. Namely, where does all the money come from? A tax on robots is something that's been proposed (by Bill Gates, of all people) and would seem to make sense but how much research has been done in assessing the validity of this economic model? A Dutch author named Rutger Bregman has just released a book on the topic but Will Hutton thinks the idea is nonsense.

    Apart from the fact that human needs are infinite, so that today’s predictions of the end of work will prove as awry as those of previous centuries, a universal basic income is no more likely to succeed than communism. Behavioural psychology confirms what even the young Marx, a basic income-for-all sceptic, knew in his bones: we humans believe that reward should follow proportionate effort. It is our just desert. Trying to reconfigure our core hard wiring so we don’t object to anyone anywhere getting a guaranteed income for no better reason than they are alive could only be devised by a fifth columnist anxious to consign liberalism to oblivion. Bregman himself worries in the book – his candour is refreshing – that he could be wrong, but dismisses the anxiety. He was right to be worried.
    I can't see the 'independently rich' in much distress over free money.

  10. #10
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    Universal Basic Income

    A basic income was trialled in Canada in the 1970s and was quite successful.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mincome

  11. #11

    Universal Basic Income

    I must admit in the past year or so I have been thinking a lot about UBI and the Job Guarantee (JG), UBI’s alternative or complement and the extent to which they are political and economically feasible.

    I have major problems with UBI- the fact that it was promoted by Hayek, Friedman (negative income tax) and the libertarian right, the fact that it promotes the continuation of the strong state and passive citizen and the fact that it is inherently inflationary.

    Any policy promoted by the libertarian right instantly has alarm bells ringing in my head. Their version of UBI would simply see every citizen get the basic payment whilst privatising every single social and public service and function. The libertarian right exist to maximise profit through private property and their vision of the UBI would simply see the further diminution of the public in favour of the private.

    From the literature and articles I have read on the UBI and the JG, it is the latter option that appears by far the most appealing and workable from both an economic and social standpoint. There is a useful primer on both the problems inherent with UBI and the benefits of the JG here.

    There’s millions of jobs that can be done locally with an emphasis on the social, environmental and creative- from infrastructure to caring and all else in between. Any leftist should see that the job guarantee delivered properly presents a direct challenge to the fundamental class structure and power and is therefore preferable to the UBI. The JG would by its very structure involve all sections of society in its implementation, from consultation to undertaking the work itself. The socially useful work that can be done from the local to the national can only be limited by the imagination of the population itself.

    And in that lies the problem of the Job Guarantee ever being delivered.

    As the economist Michal Kalecki noted in his classic 1943 article Political Aspects Of Full Employment, the powers that be, the masters of the universe don’t much like the fundamental transfer of power into the hands of the working class that full employment gives.

    “The reasons for the opposition of the ‘industrial leaders’ to full employment achieved by government spending may be subdivided into three categories: (i) dislike of government interference in the problem of employment as such; (ii) dislike of the direction of government spending (public investment and subsidizing consumption); (iii) dislike of the social and political changes resulting from the maintenance of full employment. “
    Kalecki identifies that business finds governmental full employment policies anathema as it takes out of the capitalists hands a fundamental power over governmental policy- the withdrawal of capital investment and the unemployment which would arise threatening a government’s re-election chances. In addition:

    Under a regime of full employment, the ‘sack’ would cease to play its role as a disciplinary measure. The social position of the boss would be undermined, and the self-assurance and class-consciousness of the working class would grow. Strikes for wage increases and improvements in conditions of work would create political tension.

    It is true that profits would be higher under a regime of full employment than they are on the average under laissez-faire; and even the rise in wage rates resulting from the stronger bargaining power of workers is less likely to reduce profits than to increase prices, and thus adversely affects only the rentier interests. But ‘discipline in the factories’ and ‘political stability’ are more appreciated than profits by business leaders. Their class instinct tells them that lasting full employment is unsound from their point of view, and that unemployment is an integral part of the ‘normal’ capitalist system.
    The captains of industry of Kalecki’s time have by and large been replaced by another narrow, sectoral, supremely wealthy interest group- the captains of the FIRE sector, but the point still stands- the JG would present a direct challenge to the power of Wall Street, the banks and therefore the State, which in Marx’s famously trenchant comment “is but a committee for managing the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie.”

    It is this very point that I do not think the proponents of the JG have really considered- the revolutionary implications of the JG and the extraordinary opposition to the policy which would come from the politicians, the FIRE sector, the business leaders and media moguls. The job guarantee threatens them all.

    We live in a time when in the words of the late Mark Fisher, people can entertain the end of the world before they can conceive of the end of late capitalism. A significant section of the UK population believe shit written on the side of a bus rather than reasoned argument. There is also the fact that the 1945-1970’s welfare state and rapidly rising working and living conditions only arose after two catastrophic conflicts and the most destructive depression in economic history. If it took two world wars and a horrific depression before populations living in penury and hardship put their foot down, I can only look pessimistically upon the chances of any organised opposition to the current status quo. The JG and/or the UBI is forward thinking, positive, progressive and optimistic and benefits every sector of society and is therefore the complete opposite of how politics is delivered now- fear, envy, spite, threats and hate.

    Lenin’s timeless question still remains to be answered- What Is To Be Done? And I have in my own extremely limited way, been trying to get my head around what the Left has to do to transform politics and society in these absolutely dismal times. If the fractured, splintered Left can agree on one rallying point, one standard to gather around and one fundamental policy to fight and campaign upon in a spirit of solidarity, progress and conviction, I believe the Job Guarantee is that standard and rallying point.

  12. #12

    Universal Basic Income

    Is it still popular with the Libertarian Right?

    This bloke doesn't like it, for example.

    https://www.cato-unbound.org/2014/08/26/basic-income-guarantee-simplicity-what-cost

    Taking $10,000 dollars (which is obviously not enough), he reckons the cost of a UBI is 3 times US welfare spending (which isn't exactly generous).

    I always think I'm missing something. Surely it can't add up, whoever is proposing it?

  13. #13
    caja-dglh's Avatar
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    Universal Basic Income

    Depends how you think of the future and how it can be applied. If you start to contemplate that unemployment will hit 40% or higher as AI starts to eliminate the need for humans in production, you are probably going to find a way to make UBI work.

  14. #14
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    Universal Basic Income

    This. The big shock of automation won't be the reduction in manual jobs (this has been inexorable for decades) but the hollowing out of the professions. Journalism, Law, architects, so much of what requires people will soon be scripts, and whoever is still employed might find their salaries cut to ribbons as bots do the heavy lifting.

    Something has to give or it's the mob burning down the gated communities. A shitty economic system will survive everything except fucking over the upper middle classes. If little Jack and Sally have no prospects after their expensive education, then Something Must Be Done.

  15. #15
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    Universal Basic Income

    [IMG]https://d262ilb51hltx0.cloudfront.net/max/800/1*JxEUUQALHI5xlsPU3PBEXw.jpeg[/IMG]

  16. #16

    Universal Basic Income

    caja-dglh wrote: Depends how you think of the future and how it can be applied. If you start to contemplate that unemployment will hit 40% or higher as AI starts to eliminate the need for humans in production, you are probably going to find a way to make UBI work.
    Working age employment rate now in the UK is 75%, even with stupid fiscal policy. So I'm more worried about Tredegar Hospital.

  17. #17

    Universal Basic Income

    How many of those jobs are full time?

  18. #18
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    Universal Basic Income

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dS12p0Zqlt0

  19. #19

    Universal Basic Income

    Tubby Isaacs wrote: Is it still popular with the Libertarian Right?

    This bloke doesn't like it, for example.

    https://www.cato-unbound.org/2014/08/26/basic-income-guarantee-simplicity-what-cost

    Taking $10,000 dollars (which is obviously not enough), he reckons the cost of a UBI is 3 times US welfare spending (which isn't exactly generous).

    I always think I'm missing something. Surely it can't add up, whoever is proposing it?
    Charles Murray, one of the most high profile figures in the American libertarian right and a fellow of the American Enterprise Institute is a big fan of the BIG for the reasons I gave in my previous post.

    under a guaranteed basic income, he can no longer portray himself as a victim who’s helpless to do anything about it … The first rule is that the basic guaranteed income has to replace everything else — it’s not an add-on. So there’s no more food stamps; there’s no more Medicaid; you just go down the whole list. None of that’s left. The government gives money; other human needs are dealt with by other human beings in the neighborhood, in the community, in the organizations. I think that’s great.
    A BIG under libertarian principles is not an edifying prospect. Beware zoomers bearing gifts.

    The other comments on the thread really do touch on the fundamentals, automation and the question "what is work actually for?" In 1930 Keynes thought we would have the 15 hour working week within two generations and posed the salient question - how would we deal with our new found freedom from the 40 hour plus week?

    Thus for the first time since his creation man will be faced with his real, his permanent problem-how to use his freedom from pressing economic cares, how to occupy the leisure, which science and compound interest will have won for him, to live wisely and agreeably and well..... Yet there is no country and no people, I think, who can look forward to the age of leisure and of abundance without a dread. For we have been trained too long to strive and not to enjoy
    Keynes of course was premature in his predictions, not as I believe due to the fact it cannot be done, but because of timeless class struggle, the struggle that Keynes himself said he knew which side he would be on- that of the bourgeoisie. Sadly, for the greater part we still strive rather than enjoy. The question 'what is work for?' remains unanswered.

    The essence of the job guarantee would mean a complete rupture with the present political and economic way of doing things and would therefore face the most incredible challenges which only a popular, organised front of some kind would ever have a chance of delivering. And that's why it it is doomed..............I think.......

  20. #20
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    Universal Basic Income

    How many of those jobs are full time?
    Indeed. For all the scoffing now about the pensions triple lock protecting a lot of people who are comfortably off, the outlook for today's, say, 20-somethings and 30-somethings when they reach retirement age looks pretty fucking bleak. How many of them are going to build up decent occupational pensions? How many of them will have property nest eggs? How many of them will have any savings at all? The 'normal', even 'healthy', current unemployment figures mask an absolute crisis in long-term earnings and working conditions.

    I mean it's fine to say that maybe UBI or BIG may not be easily practically workable, but we have to start from the position that the current status quo is not workable either. It's completely fucked.

  21. #21
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    Universal Basic Income

    I agree very much with E10. Sure there are near term issues to deal with, but this is a long term structural problem. Hunting for an equivalency the only thing I can think of is climate change (and that obviously has massive flaws in equivalency) - the longer the can is kicked down the road the more horrible it is going to be when it comes to trying to sort this out and there are plenty of early signs.

  22. #22
    I'm going to a UBI policy discussion this evening. Any questions people think I should ask.
    Tubby - how is it going to be funded and from Geoffrey's link - what is going to be a price anchor are the two I've picked up from this thread so far.

  23. #23
    Hope it's good.

    Some points made here by Declan Gaffney, who is against.

    https://www.theguardian.com/commenti...ocial-security

  24. #24
    Gaffney links to this article as a "detailed demolition".

    https://www.johnkay.com/2017/04/05/basics-basic-income/

  25. #25
    Also, people sometimes overestimate what social security administration costs.

    I think it's what's called DEL on here.

    https://www.gov.uk/government/news/d...pending-review

    So about £6bn a year. Should be more, but be sceptical of anybody proposing to pay for loads of extra stuff by cutting administration costs.

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