Here's an interesting interview about UBI and Switzerland with John Schmitt of the Center for Economic and Policy Research. The neoliberal austerity idea was and is a smashing failure in Europe, and that's a big reason why many groups are becoming interested in the UBI. Do we want Greece in our streets? I don't think so. As for Unistat, Schmitt points out that fascists (my word, not his) shut down the government because we were going to make sure every citizen had health coverage, while in Europe, far-right groups are extremely angry because austerity economics has cut into their health services, and so there's an immigrant backlash. I guess I'd trade Europe's fascists over ours, but now I'm scraping the bottom of the barrel, aren't I? Indeed, Schmitt talks about the history of "welfare" in Unistat and how much of it is coded racism, which I think is true, and I think this pending debate will be won or lost on the fields of metaphors...
Speaking of which: George Lakoff has long said that capturing the "freedom" metaphor is one of the major games in Unistat politics. And perhaps the major thinker in the world on UBI is Philippe Van Parijs, who started thinking about the idea in the 1980s in Belgium, when he witnessed high unemployment accompanied by fast productive growth in the economy. As a Green he began playing with the idea among other sociological colleagues, and after awhile they began to realize it wasn't such a crazy idea after all, and began systematic work on it. He's often asked in interviews about the reception of the idea: technical aspects, administrative topics, and how to fund the idea. But he answers that the main objection people have when they first hear about it are moral ones, and demand a good answer. And I find him seductive when he talks about the idea of freedom and the UBI, which is, for him, the main reason why it should be done.
Van Parijs says that "the main moral objection was that basic income would be giving people something for nothing, and that it amounted to systematic legitimation of free riding on the part of the idlers at the expense of the hard workers. And so that forced me to spell out why, fundamentally, I thought this was such a good and fair idea." He calls on the concepts of "formal freedom" and "real freedom." Formal freedom, basically, says you have the right to do as you might wish. Real freedom includes formal freedom as a subset, but addresses the means that are required for you to do what you wish to do. If you find yourself daydreaming often that you'd really like to do this rather than that, but you can't afford to...you're probably a wage slave. You have much more formal freedom than real freedom. Obviously, other life conditions mitigate the argument that, say, even though you were an orphan till age 14 then ran away to the circus and never learned to read, that you want to own your own casino in Las Vegas and so you should be given enough guaranteed to do that. We need to stay in "reality" here, folks. Think of some real freedom ideas that seem within the realm of possibility for you; this is what Philippe Van Parijs wants. And so do you.
But right now you might be mired in formal freedom and not real freedom.
And doesn't that sorta just piss you off, especially when you look at the careers of people like these CEOs?
If you'd like to be able to quit your job and take care of a sick relative but can't afford it because you'd fall into poverty...you'd be able to if there was a UBI. And not only caring for others (which is real work, if unpaid), but you could afford to gain better training or retraining for your job with a UBI (if your current bosses don't fund your education, which in Unistat they are less and less likely to do). You can become more socially and politically active with a UBI. Young people will be less likely to leave their families for a job elsewhere if they had UBI. It's a boon to artists, would-be entrepreneurs, and other creative types. It's a massive boon to the ever-increasing precariate class.
In Van Parijs's and most of the pro-UBI thinkers I've studied, the income is unconditional. Bill Gates would get a check every month. So would that guy sleeping behind a dumpster at the liquor store. The libertarian Unistatian thinker Charles Murray - who hates welfare - is for it. He's thought about it and wants to end poverty for Unistatians by giving $10,000 to every fellow Unistatian over 21 who is a citizen and not in prison.
Back to Philippe Van Parijs: besides real freedom he was moved to pursue his UBI lines of thought by "A grand reflection about the fate of mankind and the way mankind should be heading." He also saw it in the spirit of socialism, but not by doing that whole takeover of the means of production stuff. In this, he saw UBI as an "attractive alternative to socialism."
Here are two videos by major world thinkers in UBI, the first an interview with Guy Standing. It's about 8 minutes long. He mentions the term "social dividend" which reminded me of some thinkers that influenced Ezra Pound and Robert Anton Wilson, particularly the engineer and economic thinker C.H. Douglas. We should receive a UBI, says Standing, due to the "social dividend from all the investments that previous generations have made." Standing also mentions Thomas Paine, who had this idea in the 18th century. Standing also talks about experiments and successes with UBI in selected areas of India, Africa, and Latin America, and mentions Lula's Brazil and the Bolsa Familia: 60 million on a version of UBI and a smashing success: increased work and productivity!:
And here's Philippe Van Parijs from what looks like earlier this year. It's 6 and a half minutes, and my favorite part takes off at 4:00, when he gets the question about "parasites" that would sit around and live off other people's work. Basically, 1.) you might not have a job but be doing useful work, like housekeeping or taking care of children, etc; 2.) some paid work is not useful, as for example making weapons; 3.) many highly paid jobs are being done by "free riders"! Wha? Yep: it's incorporated in their jobs: they've received massive gifts "from nature," they benefit from rapid technological advances that they themselves are not responsible for achieving, and they benefit from a highly organized society. This last reason reminds me of the spirit of the "social dividend." Van Parijs has spoken at length about this in other interviews.
We create reality by talking about it.
March 1997 interview with Philippe Van Parijs
July 2002 interview with Philippe Van Parijs
I'd previously spewed blog on the Universal Basic Income HERE and HERE.