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RE: Does the World Need a Universal Basic Income? Could Steem Power It?

in #economics6 years ago

I like the idea of Universal Basic Income as an interstice between capitalism and communism. My thoughts are fairly close to this Jacobin article from January.

https://www.jacobinmag.com/2016/01/universal-basic-income-switzerland-finland-milton-friedman-kathi-weeks/

All of this, however, rests on one condition: that the level of basic income is high enough to eliminate the need to work for a wage. Otherwise, people would still be forced to labor under a boss, and most of the features that make it potentially emancipatory would disappear. A parsimonious basic income could even depress wages since workers would require less pay to subsist.

Considering the fundamentally different political implications, a basic income above and below the level of a livable income should be treated as different proposals. We could call them a livable basic income (LBI) and a non-livable basic income (NLBI).

Some specific proposals are mentioned...

The fundamental dilemma of a basic income is that the more achievable version — in which basic needs go unmet without supplementary paid employment — leaves out what makes it potentially emancipatory in the first place. Indeed, many commentaries cite basic income experiments to argue it does not significantly reduce work incentives.

This contradiction is directly tied to the fact that a basic income only addresses the question of distribution, while ignoring that of production. The kind of freedom from work — or freedom through work, which becomes “life’s prime want” — that an LBI envisions is, in all likelihood, not compatible with capitalism’s requirements of profitability.

The dramatic strengthening of working-class power under a robust LBI would sooner or later lead to capital disinvestment and flight, since capital can only make profits through exploitation and won’t invest unless it can make a profit. But slowing production would undermine the material basis of an LBI.

The only way out is to continue producing even if one can’t make a profit. Thus, an LBI would sooner or later force onto the stage the age-old question of the ownership of means of production.

Of course, as with any state program, it has the potential to prove disastrous to the working class... I agree with you that Steem, or something like it, might be a good vehicle to help provide for us all.

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I'm hesitant to read the article because I already disagree pretty strongly with the assumptions made here:

people would still be forced to labor under a boss

"Forced" how? Via a gun? I work for myself as do many others and I think many more will as well. The idea of "laboring under a boss" is, to me, an anachronistic one. The global economy has no borders.

capital can only make profits through exploitation

That, to me, is just silly. They should watch some lectures from Yaron Brook on YouTube. Or maybe start with this interview on the Ruben Report (which is a great show): Ayn Rand: Philosophy, Objectivism, Self Interest (full interview with Yaron Brook)

I think production is going to handled via automation.

"Forced" how? Via a gun? I work for myself as do many others and I think many more will as well. The idea of "laboring under a boss" is, to me, an anachronistic one. The global economy has no borders.

Forced by what Max Weber called the whip of hunger.

Rational capitalistic calculation is possible only on the basis of free labor; only where in consequence of the exitence of workers who in the formal sense voluntarily, but actually under the compulsion of the whip of hunger, offer themselves, the costs of products may be unambiguously determined by agreement in advance.

If the choice is between selling one's labor and homelessness or starvation, one is forced in a sense every bit as meaningful as if he were held at gunpoint. He has no choice in the matter.

Which is why Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs is so important. If we're talking about life and death situations (war, extreme poverty, starvation, etc), then morality has different standards, IMO. To argue "human beings should be free to exist without providing any value to anyone else" is, to me, a silly concept because human beings need food, shelter, clothing, etc. I lean towards materialistic determinism which implies none of us have a "choice" in some sense. To me, what works, is giving someone many different choices as to how to provide value to others (what you call "selling one's labor"). If one boss is a dick, there are many other options in the Internet world today (including being your own boss). If your skills aren't valued by the market, that means they aren't valued by other human beings enough to exchange tokens of value they worked to earn.

To me, many of the anarcho-communist ideas sound like people upset at having to provide value to others instead of just taking value all the time.

To argue "human beings should be free to exist without providing any value to anyone else"

This is a pretty egregious straw man.

If one boss is a dick, there are many other options in the Internet world today (including being your own boss).

This sounds nice, and it is very convincing to people who have an abundance of options and the resources to pursue a wide range of opportunities. That's simply not the case for the majority of humanity.

If your skills aren't valued by the market, that means they aren't valued by other human beings enough to exchange tokens of value they worked to earn.

This glosses over the fact that "the market" is dominated by concentrated wealth. You're framing the interests of money as the interests of people, when it couldn't be further from the truth. The majority of humanity has no measurable wealth to influence the conditions of the market.

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