(T)he debate about being an independent, self-reliant individual is moot.  It’s not about morality, it’s about reality.  Most Americans really have no choice.  Since government has become so large, it’s almost impossible to live an entire life without collecting some form of government assistance.  This reality has been forced upon you by a short-sighted and ignorant electorate.  But ignorant as they may be, this is a democracy…and this is the new reality you get to live in.  You can decide to take advantage of it or be taken advantage of.

Thus, to truly enjoy the decline you must take as much government money as possible.

Enjoy the Decline: Accepting and Living with the Death of the United States by Aaron Clarey

On an earlier post, I flirted with the idea of government providing a guaranteed income to people who are both out-of-work and who have few prospects of ever finding work due to automation and the inevitable termination of entire career fields.

Mind you, this isn’t something I favor or am advocating.  I’m not even saying that there is certainly a time in the future at which it might become a good idea.  Instead, I think it’s an interesting proposition that’s at least worth exploring.

We know that about 1/3, maybe more, jobs in the US are expected to be eliminated due to the Rise of the Machines.  Honestly, I’m less worried about the robots.  I’m worried about the people who control the robots, but maybe that’s a topic for a different time.

I’m sure there are plenty of jobs that robots or software won’t be able to do for a long, long time if ever.  Even then, however, we can only fill so many of those jobs with so many people in our growing population.  Maybe some of you believe that new technology will result in new career opportunities.  It’s possible.  I don’t think my job even existed in 1997 (thankfully, it’s also resistant to automation).  Who’s to say what 2037 might look like?

If you’re like me, you think that stupid humans have no chance of keeping up with the robots and that it’s inevitable that employers will gleefully push us out of the workforce wherever they can.   Your plastic pal who’s fun to be with doesn’t need health insurance, doesn’t take vacation, doesn’t have any need for meeting with OSHA or EEOC requirements, and doesn’t talk back or call off of work.  What’s not to love?

Given this reality, we have to entertain the possibility that the future involves millions of idle, unemployed people who are going to get restless as they get hungry.  The argument becomes whether or not we should carry out the largest wealth redistribution in history, from the Bot Lords to the Fleshy Slobs.  Pay what used to be the working and middle classes enough to subsist and keep the Internet turned on.

I would suggest that there’s a tipping point at which it’s not so much a moral imperative as it is a matter of survival for the ruling class.  Unless they decide to use the robots to “cull the herd.”  That’s a possibility too, I guess.  Hopefully, they’ll be more open to paying us off.

For my part, I find Clarey’s point above to be very seductive.  Whether or not we like to admit it, the direction of the US is toward socialism.  We only really hate the word, but nobody refuses any entitlements ever.  I really wonder why we shouldn’t take everything we can get.  It’s not like the government money ever has to be paid back or covered with tax dollars.

Shouldn’t we all be allowed to join in on the free ride?

This is a Discourses post and that means we’re free to examine issues and ideas from a non-ideological viewpoint. There aren’t any right or wrong answers.  It’s just an opportunity to look at a topic from a different perspective.  So let’s begin.

You don’t have to answer any of these questions to participate in the discussion.  Some people might find them useful as a jumping off point.  Up to you.

  1. If you’re opposed to the idea of a guaranteed basic income, what is your opinion of Social Security?  Is it really any different?
  2. When do you believe a basic income would become necessary?  Would you base it off of labor force participation rate, unemployment rate, or what?  Or should we start entertaining the idea right now?
  3. What career fields would you recommend to kids today to avoid being cucked out of a job by a droid?  What is likely to be a growing field either in spite of or because of the increase in automation, besides Robot Ass Polisher (I suspect robots will polish other robots’ asses though)?
  4. How do you think a universal basic income would affect individual rights and liberty?  At this point, aren’t we all just wards of the state?
  5. What would you consider to be fair for a basic income?  Do you apply a means test or is it universal?  Do we just allow enough for food and necessities or should it be enough to ensure everyone can have the latest iPhone?
  6. If you had the option of going on the dole and it was almost sufficient for you to maintain your current lifestyle, would you do it if it meant that you wouldn’t be allowed to work ever again or start your own business?  You’d be taken care of for life, but never have the opportunity to better your circumstances or become rich.  Would you do it?

That should work for starters.

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kevinmkr

I have a hard time, nowadays, really coalescing my opinions on entitlements. This is going to meander a bit, as a result, and it gets a tad personal, but it represents the struggle that I have in trying to make sense of it all. There was a time, if I was debating entitlements, I would *begin* from a (nonfactual, as far as I know) position that 7 out of 10 people receiving assistance were taking advantage of it and that I was fine with that because of the other 3 people. Mostly, this was a tool used in order to… Read more »

Zurvan

If you’re opposed to the idea of a guaranteed basic income, what is your opinion of Social Security? Is it really any different? Social Security is a terrible idea. But at least (most) of those who draw from it paid into it at one time. I would donate every cent I’ve ever paid into SS as a goodwill gift to the nation if they would let me take every cent from now until I retire, and invest it for retirement. I would come out so far ahead, it is maddening that the government forces me into this stupid program. When… Read more »

kevinmkr

Anyone who would accept the above might as well cease to exist.

Are you in favor of actively or passively allowing that to happen? It needs to be addressed as it’s probably the biggest elephant in the room.

Judge dredd, pro se

Universal income might have a net positive effect on entrepreneurialism. In the nations it’s been implemented the catch is that it’s s basic income you get come hell or high water. At least in Finland, the government hasn’t said that it turns off when you’re dutifully employed so there is still a motivating factor to make more money if you want. Being able to take risks on more entrepreneurial careers has also been an early benefit to the program, which has taken people from dead end careers destined for automation and produced an environment to be creative and innovate. America… Read more »

Zurvan

We can dispense with the liberty and molon labe bullshit.

Some of us don’t consider it bullshit. You can move to Finland if you wish.

santino

At least in Finland, the government hasn’t said that it turns off when you’re dutifully employed so there is still a motivating factor to make more money if you want.

I always argue that socialism is a lot easier to manage for smaller populations. Finland has about 5.5 million people. Trying to introduce this on an economy and population on the scale of the US would be a nightmare.

Other than changing the law so that humans will still have an advantage, I really haven’t seen what those opposed to what amounts to an unemployment income due to robots have as an alternative. There will simply be too many people and not enough jobs to go around, and the competition for remaining jobs will be fierce as people try to market their skills. More people may be self-employed at home or work as contractors, but the vast majority of people will not be that creative or ambitious. So, if you want a free market society where businesses can hire… Read more »

PS Social Security is intended for the elderly who are retired or can’t work anymore; it’s not exactly the same as welfare or a basic income. And a lot of retirees do have their own money.

mashav

“Marge, I agree with you, in theory. In theory, communism works.” From personal experience, I have formed the belief that we are (hopefully) evolving toward some sort of socialism. The reason socialism is so hard for Americans is because it’s almost incompatible with the rugged individualism that’s worshiped here. For an extreme case, take something like a kibbutz in Israel. You only have enough money to send one kid to college per year. Everyone has to shove their pride aside and decide that their neighbor’s kid is more deserving than their own kid. That’s not the level of evolution that… Read more »

mashav

The problem is how do you decide who can be trusted.
Like Social Security. Sure, I can save for myself now and can demonstrate that I can be trusted. But if I develop an illness or an addiction tomorrow and blow though my savings, what do I live on in retirement?

Zurvan

You cannot help people permanently by doing for them, what they could and should do for themselves.

mashav

Assuming there are not enough jobs to go around after the robots come, what do you propose?

mashav

“Zurvan’s Modest Proposal”

Judge dredd, pro se

If it helps you sleep at night, by all means, scream it from the mountain tops. It won’t ever change the cold hard fact that America is not a free or even capitalist economy and hasn’t been for decades: I vote strictly quid pro quo when it comes to politics. If I get something out of the deal you might have my vote. And why not? It’s the exact same motivation for the wealthy to intervene in politics so why can’t I? If I don’t get it I’m most certainly paying taxes for someone else to. Sometimes I spend a… Read more »

Judge dredd, pro se

We already have a wonderful socialist system. Unfortunately for the average American it comes in the form of corporate welfare, subsidizing losses and privatizations by profits.

It could very easily be transferred to the public for a fraction of the cost, of say, the socialized and subsidized military contract system.

kevinmkr

I think I remember that period of time. You and I were in friendly communication at that point (either via the VO or Facebook, I would assume?). I’ve never been unemployed but am sure that I’d give myself a couple of months to be depressed, a couple more to bum around and tackle some personal goals, and then, finally, devote myself to applying for work. I don’t know, though. It’s really easy to assume things when you haven’t been in that situation. I do know you to be a proud man, however, and I’m sure that the logical part of… Read more »

Basic income is an interesting, but I think ultimately fundamentally flawed idea. It’s basically throwing in the towel on the idea of personal responsibility, which itself is already possibly gravely wounded. Humanity has struggled against nature for its entire existence, warding off poverty and death through the initiative of those motivated to survive and thrive. Civilization has socialized this to a large degree, but still pays homage to this fundamental struggle by requiring people to actually work in some way to survive, and generate sufficient surplus for those unable to do so. A UBI fundamentally severs that in a way… Read more »

I don’t want to be too harsh, but I think your attitude is the precise result of the spiritual and moral degradation that results from severing the link between work and survival. Trust is destroyed, and incentives to productive and cooperative behavior are abolished. People become cynical and self-centered, and ironically a sort of survival instinct kicks in where people retreat from society to protect themselves. Talk about throwing in the towel. Civilization requires people to cooperatively work to maintain it. Remove the incentive to contribute to civilization, and perversely introduce incentives to drain it of its resources, and we.… Read more »

kevinmkr

It’s basically throwing in the towel on the idea of personal responsibility

My biggest issue with the concept, historically.

which itself is already possibly gravely wounded

The only reason I’m considering it. If people are getting the money already and we have a more efficient way to get it to them, I think I have to at least listen to the argument.

santino

We already have a wonderful socialist system. Unfortunately for the average American it comes in the form of corporate welfare, subsidizing losses and privatizations by profits.

I don’t see that going away with a UBI. If anything, the government will be more involved in your daily lives (i.e. who gets to work, how much income you are entitled to etc.) which means they’ll be more ripe for corruption. You’d have more concentrated industries with heavier influence on the governing class.

mashav

I was unemployed for a stretch circa 2003. I chose not to collect benefits and just live off my savings because I was mostly bumming around, travelling a lot and not going out of my way to job search. It felt dishonest. I was in London when I phone rang with for the job I have now and I felt more resentful about the long distance charges than relieved. I am sure the situation would have been very different if I had dependents at the time. There are degrees of ‘getting everything out of the system.’ Back in 2011, when… Read more »

Zurvan

Sometimes I spend a minute and wonder what life must be like in your trump wallpapered bubble.

Thank you for proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that you are not worth having a conversation with…ever.

Zurvan

However, incremental moves, like free health care and education are possible, even in fairly large countries.

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mashav

I think the attitude on the right, that not everyone deserves food, water and healthcare is much more cynical, self-centered and survivalist than the idea of a basic income.
Why is work spiritual and moral? Why not art or child rearing? Why do only the workers deserve to survive?

Zurvan

You have two false premises. One that this is the Government’s job to “fix” through some form of welfare or wealth redistribution model. It’s not, nor should it be. Second that there are a finite number of jobs, or things for humans to do in the world. Aristotle first put it in words that with sufficiently advanced machines, man’s labor wouldn’t be needed. Some 2,400 years later, and man is still working. I’m also doing a job that didn’t exist 20 years ago, but it’s also a job that a machine couldn’t do. And my son will probably have a… Read more »

mashav

I understand exactly what it means – free to the recipient, paid for by my taxes.
These countries are taxed at rates similar to ours, but, instead of spending a large portion of that money on defense, they choose to spend it on social welfare and do so efficiently
I am on the record as being willing to pay more in taxes, if it means my money goes to better education, better healthcare, etc.
The problem is, we already spend more than most countries on, say healthcare. We just don’t utilize that spend efficiently.
http://www.businessinsider.com/2-charts-show-the-biggest-problem-with-us-healthcare-2017-4
Not everything can be reduced to a meme.

Zurvan

I think the attitude on the right, that not everyone deserves food, water and healthcare is much more cynical, self-centered and survivalist than the idea of a basic income.

I think everyone deserves food, and water, (and healthcare to a certain extent). I don’t think it’s the Government’s job to take my food and water and give it to someone else.

Zurvan

These countries are taxed at rates similar to ours, but, instead of spending a large portion of that money on defense, they choose to spend it on social welfare and do so efficiently

Hmmm…

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Not everything can be reduced to a meme.

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mashav

So your picture for ‘socialism’ is taken in New York City, the capitol of capitalism in 1932.
Do you see any irony in that?

mashav

Dorothea Lange 1932, New York City.
“Unemployed men stand in line to get a free dinner at New York’s municipal lodging house.”

Zurvan

Finland, was it?

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Source.

And they’ve only managed to find a basic income for 2,000 people. I wonder what it will look like when that jumps to 48% (the percentage of people in the US already not paying taxes that would most likely eventually be a target for your “free” money).

mashav

http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-0318-doyle-finnish-schools-20160318-story.html
I am happy to pay an extra 15% in taxes if it gets us the top educational system in the world.
Because I know how math works, I know I’d save money on prisons, unemployment, etc. in the long run.

Judge dredd, pro se

Yes, because the old “why don’t you just move there” argument when someone points out an example really sets the table for a discussion.

The feeling couldn’t be more mutual.

Judge dredd, pro se

It’s a go-to overly simplistic catch phrase that is supposed to paper over complex and new problems we face. “The economy will provide” is an article of faith that sometimes has worked, but it’s impossible for it to have worked without the cooperation of government. I think that the people who espouse this view are confused. On the one hand they consider themselves advocates of smaller government but in the very same breath they’ve advocated an elected a president that pretty much ran a campaign of promising government intervention in a global “free” economy to tip the scales of trade… Read more »

You can’t just say “wrong” and throw a total garbage link at me that doesn’t really address the point I made anyway. Are you letting a socialist rag make your arguments for you now?

Zurvan

Goalposts successfully moved.

Zurvan

That’s amazing. It so thoroughly disproves my points in the post, as to be a game changing “drop the mic” moment. Well done.

I am happy to pay an extra 15% in taxes if it gets us the top educational system in the world.

It won’t. We throw money hand over fist at schools with no measurable correlation between spending and student achievement. I know how math works too.

[…] Discourses post “Let’s All Go on the Dole” featured a wide-ranging discussion centered around the concept of a Universal Basic Income. […]

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