I’m kind of amazed that I feel I have to write this, when surrounded by so many people already in agreement with a moneyless world, yet who, for some reason, seem to think that a Universal Basic Income will somehow get us there. Personally, I can’t think of anything that would bring us further from a moneyless world – to the point where I am even having ‘conspiratorial’ suspicions as to the origins and impetus of this idea.
So, what’s the idea of Universal Basic Income? Simple, the Government pays everyone a minimum ‘salary’ just for being alive, so no-one has to suffer poverty. Seems like a good idea on the face of it, yet I seem to be one of a small few who can see a huge potential danger here. And it’s not just supported by freeworlders. UBI has become the hot topic of all ‘left’ radical conversation, and it doesn’t look like it’s going away soon. So, what’s my beef with it?
Where to begin…
Firstly, if we believe that the future of human society is an Open / Resource Based Economy without money or trade, that means at some stage we have to stop using money, right? Apart from the fact that I’ve yet to hear any credible argument that free money somehow helps you get away from money, a UBI would without question prolong our indentured servitude to this fictional construct.
We can’t make an Open Economy happen unless we ‘visionaries’ have the support of the masses. It needs everyone to jump on board for it to work, in the same way money works: it’s a common agreement. Getting those masses on board will be a hell of a lot easier when they are themselves feeling the pinch of the market system (as they are now). However, if we keep plying them with money’s sugary pacifier to stop their minds ‘wandering’, then that will put paid to those ideas for maybe another hundred years or so. (Time we don’t actually have at current environmental / population trends)
As my good friend Rafi succinctly put it; “how does more money get you to no money?”
Secondly, UBI does precisely nothing to address major global issues outside of poverty. Rampant consumerism, pollution, irresponsible resource extraction, bad education, bad healthcare and personal detachment. For example, do you think UBI would move us further away from using oil? No, precisely the opposite would happen. Industry and travel would undoubtedly increase against a market system fundamentally incompatible with the environment. Consumerism – you know that thing that is currently chomping your planet – would increase dramatically if everyone suddenly had more disposable cash.
Thirdly, UBI would undoubtedly herald the arrival of a new super-elite. As we move away from the labour market system, the world would gradually become divided into ‘money-takers’ and ‘money-givers’. Think Hunger Games here. And please don’t think for a minute that your UBI is going to be financed by some super-tax on the rich. Please. They will just print more of the stuff like they always do.
The social effect will be to create a population even more indentured than now, as they feel ‘thankful’ to the masters that endow them, amid the subconscious threat that those masters can cut off their supply at any time. In such a ‘nannyocracy’, people would be even further disempowered and incentivized to find their own solutions.
Fourthly, if you think inflation won’t take up the slack when everyone starts getting one or two thousand Euros / Dollars a month, you are seriously kidding yourself. I’m not saying that price rises will negate it, but it will come close after not too long. Don’t forget the ‘invisible hand’ of the market – retailers will charge what people are prepared to pay.
It seems the only vague rational defence of UBI is: ‘it will lift some out of poverty’. Well maybe it will, but I don’t think that’s a good enough reason to further postpone the solution that can end poverty forever, while continuing to destroy our shared home, do you?
Finally, let me leave you with the slightly chilling question:
If you were a smart member of a global elite and you foresaw trouble ahead with the collapse of the labour market and the people getting restless, what solution would you devise that could completely defuse that situation yet still maintain your position of privilege?