WHY/HOW/WHAT UBI NOW?
The idea of Universal Basic Income is re-emerging on the global political landscape as a response to a range of concerns including increasing disparity, automation, climate change, pandemic etc… at this time it is important for members of civil society to respond to the structure and principles that UBI should abide by in order for it to fulfill its potential for equitable redistribution and cultural change.
Below are some links to whet your whistle on the what’s, how’s and why’s of UBI.
This is a basic summary list of the key resources now online. The list is by no means exhaustive (there are thousands of published papers, articles and reports) but provides a good introduction to some of the key areas being investigated by specialists around the world. (Edit: New links provided by others following original posting can be found along with all links at the end of this article).
- THE ECONOMICS
- WHY UBI (GENERALLY) & ESPECIALLY NOW
- UBI & BLOCKCHAIN
- UBI & GENDER EQUALITY
This list has been put together with the assistance of Nithya Iyer, fellow double agent at AgencyAgency in Melbourne, Australia. I am in the process of writing an article on Artists and the UBI: the creative case for a freed future and will be holding discussion groups and fora investigating the necessity for artists (ask me for a definition of who fits into this fabulously nebulous term, hint-hint – my definition is not market driven and hence very open!) to lead in the design and implementation of the future economy. This was initially compiled to accompany a performance lecture: Humans are Horses, first delivered in 2017.
- THE ECONOMICS
Our results are very clear: enacting a UBI and paying for it by increasing the federal debt would be expansionary, because it would increase aggregate demand. When the policy is first enacted, economic growth is higher than in the baseline as the economy converges to a larger size. Within eight years of enactment, growth returns to the same rate as in the baseline, with output at a permanently higher level.
Full Roosevelt report: http://rooseveltinstitute.org/modeling-macroeconomic-effects-ubi/
Report summary: https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2017/8/30/16220134/universal-basic-income-roosevelt-institute-economic-growth
Refuting “UBI is neoliberal” claim
Further Left (run to paradise)
Entitlement to a substantial universal grant will simultaneously push up the wage rate for unattractive, unrewarding work (which no one is now forced to accept in order to survive) and bring down the average wage rate for attractive, intrinsically rewarding work (because fundamental needs are covered anyway, people can now accept a high-quality job paid far below the guaranteed income level). Consequently, the capitalist logic of profit will, much more than previously, foster technical innovation and organizational change that improve the quality of work and thereby reduce the drudgery required per unit of product.
If you extrapolate this trend forward, you reach a situation where all wage labor is gradually eliminated. Undesirable work is fully automated, as employers feel increasing pressure to automate because labor is no longer too cheap. Meanwhile, the wage for desirable work eventually falls to zero, because people are both willing to do it for free, and able to do so due to the existence of a basic income to supply their essential needs. As Gorz puts it in a later work, certain activities “may be partially repatriated into the sphere of autonomous activities and reduce the demand for these things to be provided by external services, whether public or commercial.
http://wiki.p2pfoundation.net/Capitalist_Road_to_Communism R. van der Veen and P van Parijs, ‘A capitalist road to communism’, Theory and Society, 15(5), 1986, p. 636
Centre (this is good for capitalism)
Countering “The New Zero”, that UBI will cause inflation argument. Please excuse the horrendous narrator voice in the inflation-deflation video. The write of this article is also one convenor of the subreddit r/BasicIncome and has written copius articles on the subject for medium and other online spaces.
The money for a basic income guarantee would be already existing money circulated through the economic system. It would not be new money, just money shifted from one location to another. This means that the value of each dollar has not changed. The dollar itself has only changed hands.
It is also important to note the observation that even when money supply is vastly expanded, the effects on prices need not be extreme. For example, the Fed’s quantitative easing added over four trillion new dollars to the U.S. money supply, and the results were not enough inflation, as defined by the Fed.
Centrel-left (a social market economy perspective)
The UBI completely replaces today’s social insurance systems. At first glance, this may appear to be a dismantling of social rights and claims. On closer inspection, however, it becomes clear that such a judgement is based on a fallacy.
Using Germany as an example, the country’s current social insurance schemes are neither efficient, nor do they achieve their socio-political objectives with the required precision. Redistribution is a public good and therefore a (normative) political goal that should be financed by taxes. Insurance is a mathematical calculation. It would therefore be sufficient to ensure that insurance works efficiently and to concentrate on the efficient allocation and management of risks (and not to overload the capacities of insurance with redistribution issues). Fairness and goals of justice should be approached with specific instruments for redistribution – not with insurance. The negative income tax aspect of a UBI completely fulfils this basic requirement of the social market economy concept.
The UBI replaces the activating, controlling and thus paternalistic social policy of indirect aid with unconditional direct cash payments. However, this also explains why social bureaucracy and trade unions might oppose a UBI. They would lose influence and power in this new construction of the welfare state. The minimum wage would be replaced by a state-guaranteed minimum income, and the state would no longer have to worry about job creation or unemployment. Active public labour policies would become superfluous, which would save administrative costs.
Direct aid is more economically sensible and socially just than indirect actions, which are always associated with leakage in the form of bureaucracy and false incentives. Indirect interventions in the labour, education, health, insurance or housing markets are comparatively more expensive, imprecise and unjust.”
Australia (WTF, oh my it is so radical, probs not viable)
This comprehensive article overviews the argument from many angles and is imperative reading when discussing the issue especially in Australia.
While commentators often remark that UBI has support from both the left and the right, there is no single reform package based around a UBI that has such broad support. The current debate is more about vision and values than about concrete policy.
- WHY UBI (GENERALLY) & ESPECIALLY NOW
There are a million and one articles about neoliberal dysfunctions and the mechanisms of UBI. These are a few:
Yanis Varoufakis’ describes the moral case very clearly in this video. A very good retort against the concern of people being lost without work-identity supplied by the market or the state (end of video). Later, he articulates how he thinks it could be paid for (and justified economically: “the dividend concept” in this article:
Solid article covering the idea basics and some financial modelling:
This rightwing pedigree makes many on the left suspicious of UBI, and former union head Tim Lyons speaks for many when he says he is “deeply unconvinced by the push for a universal basic income.
What the left fear, not without some justification, is that instead of UBI being used as a supplement to other forms of service provision, it would be used to replace them. Citizens would then be forced to use their UBI to buy health, education and pension services from private providers. This sort of rightwing UBI would simply be a transfer of public wealth to private businesses, a further marketisation of democratic society.
Of course, a UBI needn’t work that way, but such concerns mean the design and implementation of a scheme – the politics – are as important as the economics.
Another argument against incremental implementation was raised in discussion of trials of UBI, such as the one currently under way in Finland. Karl Widerquist, former co-chair of the Basic Income Earth Network (BIEN), the world’s biggest advocacy group for a UBI, told the workshop that such trials were a “bad choice”.
He said the universal and unconditional aspects of a UBI are difficult to replicate at the level of a trial and that looking at how it works for a thousand people would be different to what would happen if everyone had it. He drew the comparison with the herd effects of immunisation, adding “you need everyone involved to gain the benefits and see the results”.
DEMAND BASIC INCOME, DEMAND AUTOMATION, DEMAND THE FUTURE!
In Inventing The Future (Book), Srinicek and Williams argue:
for UBI but link it to three other demands: collectively controlled automation, a reduction in the working week, and a diminution of the work ethic. Williams and Srnicek believe that without these other provisions, UBI could essentially act as an excuse to get rid of the welfare state.
Why unions should get behind UBI (a very important argument, only touched on in this book promotion interview with an ex union boss (USA):
- UBI & THE BLOCKCHAIN
For any of this to deliver on its promise, we have to want it to. We have to think systemically. We must recognize the social, economic, and spiritual dimensions of the polymorphous crises we currently face and commit to responding accordingly.
This will require embracing an idea that some may find counterintuitive: localization. We will not retreat back to the pre-globalization days, but we have to bring economics back to a more human and local level. We have to reinvigorate local communities. We have to stimulate and grow the informal economy upon which most of us rely in our daily lives: the caring and sharing that we automatically do with each other but which has no recognized value in the current economic paradigm because it doesn’t register as profit or loss.
When we talk about the possibility of environmentally responsible post-capitalism, this is the type of future we can envision. It won’t be anything like we have seen before. Falling back on dogmas like socialism or communism as our only off-the-shelf alternatives is entirely too reductive for our purposes, and undersells our potential as ingeniously inventive creatures. The digital renaissance is already giving some shape to the future. Our job is to help midwife it into full existence, before some less equitable, less safe alternative snatches it away from us. Our survival could very well depend on it.
https://www.fastcompany.com/40482312/can-basic-income-plus-the-blockchain-build-a-new-economic-system. Circles is a strong initiative, as is Mannacoin.
Futurist, Vinay Gupta on how blockchain tech can be used to test the effectiveness of UBI: https://www.reddit.com/r/CryptoUBI/comments/3suiid/vinay_gupta_on_ethereum_for_basic_income_best/
Entrepeneur, Federico Pistono on UBI plus a push for crypto as distributor and a strong lean towards ensuring some sort of land reform goes with it, ie. locking rental increases so they don’t just rise with the amount people are receiving in their digi wallet monthly: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A2aBKnr3Ep4
- UBI & GENDER EQUALITY
The feminist argument for UBI is as vocal as those against it. This is not my field but it is important see how the issue can divide, especially on the left (like most progressive issues).
Here is the issue in a nutsack, in an article by Judith Shulevitz from the NY Times:
I’d argue that this view of motherhood gets it exactly backward. Actually, it’s society that’s getting a free ride on women’s unrewarded contributions to the perpetuation of the human race. As Marx might have said had he deemed women’s work worth including in his labor theory of value (he didn’t), “reproductive labor” (as feminists call the creation and upkeep of families and homes) is the basis of the accumulation of human capital. I say it’s time for something like reparations. It’s an odd kind of reparations, you may object, that goes to fathers as well as mothers, the unattached as well as those with family responsibilities. But entertain this radical proposition: The universal basic income is a necessary condition for a just society, for it recognizes the fact that most of us — men, women, parents and nonparents — do a great deal of unpaid work to sustain the general well-being. If we’re not raising children, then we may be going to school, or volunteering around the neighborhood. Politically, the U.B.I. looks a lot more plausible than a subsidy aimed only at mothers, because, as Social Security and Medicare make clear, policies have more staying power when perceived as general entitlements rather than free cash for free riders. Critics on the right would dismiss a mothers’ annuity as a handout to welfare queens. Critics on the left might see it as enshrining traditional gender norms. A universal basic income would sidestep both of these objections. I do not want to create the impression that feminists dominate this debate. On the contrary: They’re an overlooked part of a much larger conversation that has been going on for centuries.
A small resource of articles and discussion covering UBI and feminism from Basic Income Earth Network, the portal for all advocates of UBI.
And finally, I found this fab comment on an article from Overland Journal:
I am aware that most of my links are from people outside Australia but this is not concern to me. UBI, like all other humanitarian policies, needs to be gifted to all. By all I hold to a cosmopolitical view of a borderless world. If capital can flow freely through globalised trade so should people be given inalienable rights to be citizens of the cosmos wherever they may physically be presiding at any given time. I may spend most of my time in Australia and having been birthed here I hold a passport, but I do not feel obliged to politicize for a nation built on stolen land AND that imprisons others who want to enter it. In my opinion Universal Basic Income must be universal – that means everywhere, and for everyone.
Here is a link to a performance lecture I presented on this and intersecting issues. From November 2017: https://apublicspacecraft.com/2018/01/16/humans-are-horses/
HAPPY REVOLUTION DAYS DARLINGS.
ALL LINKS. CONTINUOUSLY BEING UPDATED.If you would like to add a link to this list please place in a comment or email to: firstname.lastname@example.org
WHY, & WHY NOW?
UBI & BLOCKCHAIN