Berlin, 2013-11-14

Options for a Cumulative Unconditional Basic Income

On Wed, Oct 30, 2013 at 07:56:28AM -0400, Richard Stallman wrote:
> I think the basic income might be a good thing — I just don't think
> it matters whether we consider it socialistic or not.

Yes, it doesn't matter, but — actually — that wording is inappropriate since "socialistic" implies that everyone gets to have a job and thus that there continues to be economic growth on planet earth as it has been all the time since mankind started trading. Both is unrealistic for the future and any political party that is defined on this basis has no long-term relevance (that is pretty much all).

Maybe "social-libertarian" is more appropriate, since a Cumulative Unconditional Basic Income (some call it a BIG, a Basic Income Guarantee, or an UBI, but I prefer to stress the notion of both Cumulative and Unconditional) gives you freedom to work how you think is right, takes care of your well-being and stops human society to grow itself to self destruction.

It can also be "liberal," but that depends A LOT on the details of the implementation and there is a serious risk of it losing its social aspects if too much attention is given to the liberal ones.

Some examples:

- The Götz Werner model, based on radically raising the consumption tax (VAT), is not recommendable IMHO as it redistributes wealth from middle class to lower class, leaving the 0.01% who own Planet Earth safe from lower class uproar - at least until 99% of the population is lower class and the system falls apart.

- This image shows a proposal by a German christian democrat (in black) compared to those of more reasonable political parties and the status quo (in blue). It illustrates how wrong a BIG scheme can be if done by the wrong people. Mr Althaus was promoting a scheme that would detract money from the poor and make wealthy people even wealthier.

- A model that finances itself out of a Robin-Hood-Tax redistributes from the 1% of wealthiest people and companies to the 99% of humanity. This to me seems to be a good model of what we currently need in order to achieve economic stability and regain some justice.

In recently updated simulations developed by the authors of "The Limits To Growth" they came to the conclusion that only in models where a solid redistribution of wealth was considered, humanity reached a condition of sustainability. Remember, those are the folks that got it right back in 1972. A recently released NASA-funded study from Maryland University seems to confirm these findings.

- A model that also increases taxes on all kinds of behaviours, resources and productions that aren't ecologically and economically sustainable helps stabilize humanity. A good example is heavy fuel oil: It is artificially keeping globalization afloat while polluting the environment irreparably. By increasing taxes on it we limit international shipping to only cargo that actually deserves worldwide shipment.

From the point of view of an "honest liberal," the market is unbalanced because it doesn't take ecology into account - so it desperately needs ecological taxing to function.

- The short-term side effects of CUBI can also be appetizing to liberal thinking: cost of labour going down, competitivity of the country that introduces CUBI going massively up. This gives an economic advantage to the early adopters and forces surrounding economies to follow suit.

But as the Althaus and Friedman/Werner models show, there are plenty of ways to get it fairly or completely wrong, therefore WE MUST AT ALL COSTS ensure that it is the right and reasonable people fleshing out the details of the deal. It is not sufficient to just ask for "some kind of guaranteed basic income" and then let the parliaments work out the details. It is quite likely a recipe for failure.

The "Pirate New Deal" must come from ourselves, fully detailed and mathematically solid. Forgive me if it doesn't fit into the few paragraphs of a blog post.

Update: The series on UBI continues.


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