A Few Comments About “Basic Income: Money For Nothing?”

Not so long ago, I watched a good panel about basic income called “Basic Income: Money For Nothing?” (Festival of Debate 2016) *1, and I would like to say few things about it.

Unfortunately, I often forget that people generally do not know as much as someone who studies the subject. Also, I tend to misjudge how small chances are that someone has gone to my blog and read all the texts on the related topics, so, although it can be boring, it is necessary to constantly repeat the same things we already said before.

The first thing I would like to point out is that, at the time we implement Basic Income, if we do not do it soon, we may completely miss all of the good and positive effects that Basic Income can bring us.

I personally see Basic Income along with Basic Tax Control as temporary solutions that should help us to bridge the economic and political turbulence of the next 20-30 years. Afterward, we will have a very different society. That is, of course, if we, as a species, survive that long, keeping in mind global warming and the alarming increase of drums beating toward a new World War. Therefore, the only question we need to answer is, “What is that future going to be: a dying world, a dystopia, or some type of good future for all of us?”

The usual issue of any debate, not just about Basic Income, is the limitation of our own minds. The maximum amount of items we can store in our conscious mind, in what is called our working memory, according to one study, is limited to three or four.*2 Having that in mind, the usual issue of a debate is that people simply tend to forget all of the cons and pros, frequently attacking the main idea with false or bogus arguments.

This effect can be compared with a failed code execution, because a programmer has not envisioned all the branches that were necessary for the code to run properly.

Let me show you an example: at 45 min 25 sec of the debate, Dr. Kitty Stewart first doubtfully says that in the future there will be no jobs, saying that high-tech companies will take away all money, and continues with asking, “Couldn’t we use that money (“government money”) to create jobs for people?”

Now, the first issue is that, in many debates about Basic Income, people forget or simply have issues believing that, in the not-so-distant future, there won’t be any jobs.

It is true that we may create those useless jobs we will invent just for the sake of saying that someone has a job, but, with the current state of capitalism, that won’t hold for long. If the only goal of capitalism is to maximise profit by optimising processes, owners will not want those useless jobs for very long.

Here, you have to abandon any illusion that technological unemployment won’t happen, as it is already happening in front of our eyes, and there are a huge number of examples. In the future, machines will simply get better than humans at any job we could possibly imagine.

Therefore, the only questions are how much time do we have, and what are we going to do about it?

Now, we need to summarize that paragraph and say in the next 20 to 40 years, there will be 0 (zero) jobs.

Having that in mind, we can say that Dr. Kitty’s sentence will not make any sense after, let’s say, 30 years for the majority of people. Also, we cannot expect that a majority of people will suddenly start working jobs for which they will need a very high education, and, because of the issue with demand and supply, we can certainly say that there won’t be any “good, quality jobs.” But, if we use that as a temporary statement, we can ask the question, “Can we create jobs that will transform our society into something else, like it was envisioned, with the system of Basic Tax Control, which gradually implements Basic Income and transforms ownership to the general population?” In that case, the above sentence sounds more meaningful.

Regardless of what I just said, someone will still ask the infamous question, “But what are we going to do in the future?”

It seems that the prospect of not having any job we need to do for a wage is so scary for many people that they simply cannot grasp the entire concept of “I am sorry, folks, but there is nothing else you can do right now.”

A lady from the public hits the spot at 45 min 50 sec by saying, “We have to get away from the idea that the only useful thing is going to work and earning money.”

When people ask me what will be job or work of the future, I tend to answer that it is a “genie manager.” By genie, I mean powerful, super-smart AI that will work with us and think with us, help us with our daily chores, and fulfil our needs.

The second important job we will all have is to be explorers. We will explore our own mind and the universe beyond our own planet. And exploring is not just travelling; exploring also means exploring art, literature, music, dance, design, acting... It also means exploring your physical and psychological limits, testing your strengths, and exploring your feelings — not just in pursuit of happiness but in pursuit of becoming a better self.

That was the point all along: to live adventurously, to live more, and to experience more.

So, imagine — imagine how much more we could explore, if we weren’t hindered by basic survival, fulfilling our basic needs, or chasing the false security of our own greed.

The end goal was always freedom to express and to explore, which is the basis for direct democracy (rule by the people — demos kratos). What we have now is not a democracy; it is an illusion. Representative democracy, simply put, is not demos kratos. Representative democracy is not just an oxymoron, it is a completely false and misleading statement. What we have now is not a democracy; it is an elective aristocracy.

When we say “democracy,” it is very much like saying blue-red-colour.
Mary: “Hey, Jon, why have you brought me blue colour napkins, I asked you to bring me the red ones?”
Jon: “Mary, those are the red ones! The blue colour will represent the red one this week. They told me so in the shop!”

Simon Duffy, at 1 hrs 6 min and 27 sec of the debate, mentions that, in ancient Athens, in order to involve people in the democratic process, they gave them money (Citizen income), as they felt that people needed to be free, so they could be involved in politics. By giving people Basic Income, exactly this is achieved. With Basic Tax Control, by giving people control over a small portion of the government’s money, direct democracy is established by giving them responsibility and direct control — giving people the ability to be directly involved in one of the basic ways states are governed. Simon also adds that the change in ancient Athens came from “demos,” as it threatened the elite and demanded power. Direct democracy and wealth distribution are tied together, and now, like never before in history, we have the appropriate technology that can help us make this happen.

At the end, my last comment is about Laura Bannister showing how just a little amount of money can make a significant difference in different corners of the world (time: 1h 27min 3sec).

Showing the effect of $10 on a society is a bit misleading. From the perspective of a developed country, $10 can look like a small amount of money, but, for an undeveloped country, that amount can have a similar burden like paying £70 a week in the UK for instance. Of course, it is very unlikely that some developed country (UK, US, Germany...), in that sense, would ever pay Basic Income for some third-world country — except, maybe, for the purpose of the test pilot Basic Income programs.

Also, a frequent misconception is that the level of the Basic Income should be the same in every country, but the truth is that it should be adjusted to the level of one’s country’s economic, technological, and civilisation development.

With the increase of the development level in the country, there should also be a gradual increase in the Basic Income level. People should be allowed enough time to adjust to a new level of technological development, and they shouldn’t be pushed to jump from the Stone Age to an industrial age. The reason is simple: sometimes, cultural shock of the change can be so big (because of the expectations we put on people to adjust to a more advanced society) that by pushing them to do something (they are not prepared to do), they will actually resist and fight back the change that is otherwise good for them.

Like with many things, change takes time. It is not an event; it is a process.

Notes & References:

1. Basic Income: Money For Nothing?” (Festival of Debate 2016)


2. Mind's Limit Found: 4 Things at Once