Berlin, 2016-09-16

Let's try the Unconditional Basic Outcome

On 2016-08-08, my friend the Telekommunist Dmytri Kleiner wrote an alarming piece regarding UBI: Universal Basic Income is a Neoliberal Plot to Make You Poorer.

Basic Income is often promoted as an idea that will solve inequality and make people less dependent on capitalist employment. However, it will instead aggravate inequality and reduce social programs that benefit the majority of people.

There are dozens of successful ways to implement a cumulative unconditional basic income, and thousands of ways to mess it up really bad. It's tempting to write articles about any of those messed up scenarios and then conclude that all UBI schemes are bad. In this case Dmytri is describing how a UBI would look like, if you let the neoliberals plot it.

It is fundamental that it is the right people designing the reforms for an Unconditional Basic Income. Those, that do not back away from facing the necessary redistribution of wealth. Those that are resistant to corruption.

Since most humans are corruptible in some way or another we basically need to have an incorruptible decision-making mechanism before we can produce reasonable UBI legislation. We need liquid democracy first. But that's another story.

"Savings in health, justice, education and social welfare as well as the building of self-reliant, taxpaying citizens more than offset the investment.”

The idea that humans are self-reliant should have been understood to be fallacious by now. Therefore I don't see how a real UBI, like a cumulative UBI for example, can produce significant savings in any of health, justice or education. The only welfare system that makes sense to re-organize and de-bureaucratize is the social welfare system. The previous article providing some hints in that direction.

Dmytri goes on to dismantle neoliberal basic income ideologists such as Milton Friedman. Criticism I can only share. Humankind should be equal, but not all human conditions are equal, so a government can't just ignore special needs of disabled persons, just because they get a slice of UBI, to name one example. Very careful examination needs to be taken to find out which parts of the welfare system can be reorganized, and certainly it is totally anachronistic to still bet on privatization.

Friedman also spends a few paragraphs worrying whether people who depend on "Basic Income" should have the right to vote.


Charles Murray, another prominent libertarian promoter of UBI, shares Friedman's views. In an interview with PBS, he said: "America’s always been very good at providing help to people in need. It hasn’t been perfect, but they’ve been very good at it. Those relationships have been undercut in recent years by a welfare state that has, in my view, denuded the civic culture."

Private welfare systems are never just, neither on the side of those that contribute to it, nor on the side of those who should have a right to receive from them. When private welfare systems thrive it is a sign that government welfare is not functioning properly. But of course the super-rich have an interest in running the country on private welfare, because it means that the middle class will be helping out the poor rather than them.

The options being considered by Finland are constrained to limiting the amount of the basic income to the savings from the programs it would replace.

That can't work. You need to address the problem of extreme inequality the planet is in. 62 people owning half of the planet is not a viable scheme.

Minsky conclusively shows that such a program would "be inflationary even if budgets are balanced" and that the "rise in prices will erode the real value of benefits to the poor ... and may impose unintended real costs upon families with modest incomes." This means that any improved spending power afforded to citizens through an instrument such as UBI will be completely absorbed by higher prices for necessities.

One of the principles that need to be respected for a UBI to make sense is to hand out a constitutional guarantee that the monetary sum is sufficient to achieve the intended goal. In Germany even regular welfare such as Hartz-IV is anchored to the constitution and gets annual upgrades. Should the government refuse to increase the value of the subsidies, the courts would force it to.

This way, money is not the actual definition of the income, and its financing is in fact oriented on the economic well-being of the nation body as a whole. As long as creation of wealth doesn't end in the pockets of the few or is taken abroad into off-shore havens or bitcoin wallets, there is no reason to assume the economic body would run out of wealth to distribute. There is no reason to assume the population would suddenly stop producing, consuming and keep the engines running.

Frequently in spontaneous interviews people express the doubt that the majority of people would suddenly turn lazy, given no impertinent reason to work for survival. Ironically when those people are returned the question, whether they would continue working even if their basic human needs were taken care of, the answer turns out to be something like "Sure, I love my job."

As a side note, Caleb J. DeLisle writes on the issue:
I think the main "problem" with UBI in the end is that spending surplusses on anything other than the pursuit of geopolitical superiority will eventually lead a state to its demise.

What is not known is whether the increase in GDP brought by UBI does actually result in increased available surplusses. If so then the 21st century will belong to those who adopt it.

That is a very interesting challenge in the design of a UBI, the fact that world economies are in a global competition and the race to the bottom is always lurking.

By the calculations we made in the Italian Pirate Party it should be possible to tune the complex architecture of new taxations (mostly ecological), reduction of taxation of labor and measures for redistribution to the point that the nation becomes a more competitive labor marketplace compared to others – especially in all areas of production of ethical goods.

Consider also that a nation with less inequality is also a nation with a more flourishing economy. So for once the race could turn out to be to the top of prosperity and happiness rather than to the bottom of misery. But careful, don't let the wrong people try to do this.

There Is No Possibility of Another Kind of “Basic Income”

After a thorough and convincing analysis and destruction of the neo-liberal bogus UBI model, Dmytri dares to claim that there cannot be a workable model. That is a bit like saying there cannot be enough atoms in the universe, but let's see what his points are.

Proposing UBI in addition to existing program mistakes, a general consensus for replacing social programs with a guaranteed income for a broad base of support for increasing social programs.

Political consensus changes over time and depends a lot on the solidity of the proposal, so let's not gamble on that. The way technology is evolving it may not even leave humanity with any other option than to redistribute – and by the time we introduce that, a different generation might have to come up with the necessary democratic consensus.

The conflict between the worker and the capitalist, or between the rich and the poor, can not be sidestepped simply by giving people money, if capitalists are allowed to continue to monopolize the supply of goods.

Exactly why the monopoly must fall.

Business leaders fight tooth and nail against any increase of social benefits for workers. Under their dominion, only one kind of UBI is possible: the one supported by Friedman and Murray, the Canadian Liberal Party, and all others who want to subject workers to bosses.

That's why we need real democracy. We will soon no longer be able to afford the unchallenged leadership of the bosses and their lobbyists. In a world of automation and mass unemployment it doesn't scale. So if the bosses don't want to be confronted with pitchforks, they should better let us have democracy.

To truly address inequality we need adequate social provisioning. If we want to reduce means testing and dependency on capitalist employment, we can do so with capacity planning. Our political demands should mandate sufficient housing, healthcare, education, childcare and all basic human necessities for all. Rather than a basic income, we need to demand and fight for a basic outcome — for the right to life and justice, not just the right to spend.

Fine, so let's call it a Cumulative Unconditional Basic Outcome. The CUBO!

To me it seems that Pirates like us have simply been speaking of something that Dmytri would like to give a new name to.


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