Growing up in a political family, Tessa joined her first political party at 14. Her interest in progressive politics & economics continues.
Wealth and poverty; work and no work
The number one objection to paying everybody a sum sufficient to live on, regardless of whether they work or not, is that someone has to pay for it. I maintain that no one has to pay to ensure that everybody has a basic income, and that a universal income is the only way forward.
Many people have come to realize (except politicians who are talking about creating jobs) that we are living on borrowed time and that four years from now many jobs will have become obsolete as a result of robots, advanced computerisation and Artificial Intelligence. Some don’t believe that their jobs are at risk. They are. It doesn’t matter whether they are a lawyer, a doctor, a better lawyer, a novelist, a servant, or a salesman, all of these jobs can be replaced to one degree or another by robotics. That’s the degree of sophistication robotics has reached. So while currently, there is only work (i.e. paid a living wage) for 73% of the population in the UK and 74% for people in the USA, somewhere between four years and nine years from now, there will only be work for half the population.
In any event, because all people should be able to live with dignity and have a life of well-being, and because capitalism only permits the winners to have this, it’s necessary to change the economic system anyway. Here’s why everybody can have a universal income and nobody needs to pay for it!
The current economic system
All economic systems are systems of production and distribution. This means that someone produces goods and someone distributes goods. Sometimes it’s the same people who produce and distribute and sometimes it’s not. Trade, whether it be under a capitalistic, feudal, mercantilistic system uses currency to assist the process. So one person is paid for goods produced while another person is paid to sell the goods (distribution). In old days, they used barter, but the economy is still about production and distribution and a way of getting these goods out there and enabling people to benefit from their labour.
The biggest idea in the 21st century
Around about the 60s, we reached a point where all needs were met through production. After that, we were in the same situation that brought about the Great Depression – too many goods produced and nobody wanted them. However, as Edward Bernays showed, it’s easy to get people to buy something even when they don’t want or don’t need the goods. Just brainwash or indoctrinate them by repeating the message over and over again, aka advertising or commercial propaganda. And we have all been living with that model for the past 90 or so years.
It's a myth that having a job makes you superior
While Calvinism has created a perspective that people who don’t work are to be scorned and people who do work are to be admired, the real truth is that no animal in the animal kingdom (and we are animals) works more than twenty hours per week to supply their own needs – food and shelter. Until the Industrial Revolution, humanity didn’t either. The elite, however, in order to fulfill their purposes have let it be known that if you don’t work, you’re the scum of the earth. This gives those some people who do work a sense of superiority over those who do work and creates a society in which welfare programs are endangered. It is this group of employed people who think that they will be stuck with the bill for a universal basic income. If they work, they reason, they want all the rewards for themselves. They resent anyone who isn’t working getting something for nothing.
When work has no further purpose because all our needs and greeds are being met
We have finally after 300 years of modernisation reached a point where humanity does not need to work. While think tanks and people like Bill Gates have said that half of humanity will not have work within the next four to nine years, few appear to have made the next deduction. The next deduction is that ten years after that three quarters of people will be out of work, and a decade of that only two or three percent of human beings would be needed to work full time.
So where does the Universal Basic Income come from, and how is it paid?
Getting back to the basics of production and distribution
The bugbear for those who ‘have to work’ is that most human beings don’t want to work that hard. We never evolved that way, and until three hundred years ago, this exhaustion and sickness and death resulting from exhaustion was not endemic. So now we have the chance not to work and to spend our time being creative, becoming educated, cleaning up our world, inventing, and exploring our universe. What’s not to like, and why would anyone not want this?
It’s very simple a problem of who will do the labour and how will the goods be shared.
If there are 8 billion people on earth and 4 billion man hours per day are required to produce everything that is both desired and required, then it’s a simple mathematical deduction. The answer could be one of many…
- Every person works half an hour per day.
- Every person works three and a half hours once a week.
- People only work once they have reached a certain age, i.e. twenty five, and they work a twenty hour week for four years, and then they’re done.
The goods are produced without the need for currency, and because the work of distributing also comes under the header of work, the goods are distributed without currency either.
Who gets the goods?
Everybody gets to share. As citizens they put in their particular hours, and there is no reason why they shouldn’t get what they desire and require. They simply need to go to the nearest collection point (via public transport) and collect.
What about innovation, creativity, invention, science?
There is a direct correlation between the degree of free time and discretionary income people have and the level of creativity, invention, and discovery in society. When people are stressed from excessive work and have no extra income, they don’t spend their time inventing. The people who spend their time inventing are the ones with the extra time and income to do so.
So with this system, there will be more innovation, more creativity, more invention, and more discovery.
Jobs to be replaced? Writers, Musicians, Lawyers, Doctors, and you and you and you
How do we get from here to there?
I think it was Wayne Dyer who once wrote that there are three types of people. The first group have problems piling on top of them and do nothing about them until they can’t carry on anymore, and then it’s often too late to resolve them. The second group notice when the problems arise and attend to them immediately The third group notice which problems will arise and take preventative action by sorting it out before it happens. Naturally, most people fall into the first group, fewer people fall into the second group, and very, very few fall into the last group. If you take a look at our politicians, they are all talking about job creation – as if it’s possible to create jobs.
If we allow the first option to happen, we will have a French Revolution style event on our hands. The rich will get slaughtered as the poor struggle to live. Fascism will come home to rule as authority beats down the peasants who simply want something to eat.
If we go with the second option, we’ll wait another five or six years until the riots in the street become so numerous that something will need to be done. Savvy leaders will begin to tax the wealthy, and some countries will give shelter to fleeing billionaires. There will be wars over food and water, and while there will be an easing of the struggle, most people will still be living in extreme poverty, but with enough food to still be alive. Some humane countries (generally Western Europe) will begin to institute a universal wage, essentially because the wealthy in these countries still grew up with something of a responsibility towards the masses. Globally this situation will continue until it burns itself out, and vast numbers of people have been killed as a result of wars.
If we want to take the third option, now is not too soon to act. It needs education of all people to understand what needs to be done, and to be able to convince the rich that there is no reason why they should not live the same way that the rest of us do. This will be the single most difficult thing to do. There is nothing as difficult as changing a culture of belief, and the only thing which changes it is continues indoctrination (yes, it can be used to do good things as well) by means of advertising (propaganda), education at college level (NOW), and people beginning to discuss this methodology on the web NOW.
What is a basic income?
It's not the love of money; it's the presence of money...
A new paradigm for humanity
We’ve spent 10,000 years living in systems which have increasingly led to a have and have-not society. This was not the state pre-agriculture, and it is not the natural state of mankind. Certainly there are leaders and followers. However, leaders are supposed to ensure the prosperity of the followers, not destroy the prosperity of their followers for the sake of their own ego, comfort, and status.
We need to work on a system that enables all of us to co-exist on this planet without destroying either our environment or each other. We have reached a point in the evolution of humanity that if we don’t, we will ultimately destroy ourselves through war (civil or otherwise) and through the destruction of our environment to such an extent that it can no longer produce for us.
© 2016 Tessa Schlesinger