Home > Economics - General > Workless, or working less?

Workless, or working less?

February 1st, 2017

That’s the title of my review of Tim Dunlop’s excellent new book, Why the Future Is Workless, published at Inside Story. It’s over the fold.

Donald Trump’s election to the US presidency has brought to the fore issues that have been simmering for some time. Despite his manifest unfitness, nearly half of American voters supported a candidate who promised to “make America great again,” most obviously by bringing back good jobs. As Trump’s dystopian inauguration speech made clear, good jobs are part of a past to which many Americans aspire.

These hopes raise the obvious question: will jobs of any kind survive in the future? This is the issue addressed by Tim Dunlop in Why the Future Is Workless.

The future (or lack of a future) of work is well-trodden ground. Dunlop surveys the wide variety of views to emerge in recent years and also, more importantly, challenges assumptions about work, labour and jobs that are taken for granted most of the time. As he points out, “jobs” as we understand them didn’t exist in significant numbers before the middle of the nineteenth century. When American politicians were drawing up the US constitution in the late eighteenth century, he writes, they “envisioned a nation of independent yeoman farmers and other forms of self-employed workers, not one of wage slaves who worked for someone else.”

Good jobs – secure and well-paid enough to support a family in reasonable comfort ­– only became a standard expectation in the middle of the twentieth century, and it is these jobs, rather than the facts of work and labour, that are now disappearing.

Dunlop draws heavily on philosopher Hannah Arendt’s distinction between “work” and “labour,” which she saw as crucial to understanding the thinking of the ancient Greeks. For them, according to Arendt, labour consisted of the repetitive drudgery necessary to maintain life, and was therefore fit only for women or slaves, while “work” was undertaken only by free (male) citizens, in the public sphere, and involved the creation of a shared world in which achievements are durable and socially meaningful.

This distinction between “work” and “labour” has been erased in modern society. All work is judged by whether it produces outputs of marketable value (whatever their usefulness or lack of it), making it “labour” according to Arendt’s distinction. Under such conditions, jobs are essential to our wellbeing and self-respect. The unceasing claims of politicians of all stripes to be the bringers of “jobs, jobs, jobs” responds to, and reinforces, this understanding of ourselves.

Yet it is increasingly unclear whether our economy can continue to generate jobs, or at least enough jobs paying wages sufficient to maintain our current pattern of social organisation. The past few decades have been bad for workers, particularly in the leading industrial economy, the United States. Wages have stagnated and the ratio of employment to population has fallen, particularly for men but more recently for women, too.

More generally, the whole social structure built around the idea of a “job” or “career” has been eroding for decades and is now approaching collapse. While perceptions of short-term job security fluctuate with the business cycle, the idea that anyone can reliably plan a course through his or her working life has essentially disappeared. Any job, anywhere, can disappear because of changes in trade patterns, or budget cuts, or simply because cutting it will boost next quarter’s profits.

In these circumstances, the claim implicit in Dunlop’s title has a lot of intuitive appeal. The interesting question is: what can and should be done about this? But before we get there, we need an explanation of why things seem to be turning out this way.

Much of the time, the discussion about the future of work is posed as a debate between two competing stories. In the first, the blame is placed on globalisation, usually interpreted narrowly to mean reductions in barriers to trade in goods. This free-market globalisation is blamed for the loss of “good” jobs, commonly understood as those in the manufacturing sector.

The alternative story can be summed up in a single word, “robots.” The associated claim, put in the strongest form by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee in their recent book, The Second Machine Age, is that advances in information technology have rendered more and more jobs susceptible to automation. The obvious cases include manufacturing and routine clerical jobs, but the claim is that jobs of all kinds will soon be vulnerable. The failure of much-touted “expert systems” in the 1990s casts some doubt on strong versions of this claim, but there is no denying the amazing progress of artificial intelligence, manifested in such wonders as self-driving cars.

Dunlop rejects the dichotomy between globalisation and robots. He begins with a broader view, in which free-market globalisation – known to Australians as “economic rationalism” but more commonly called “neoliberalism” – is merely part of the dominant ideological framework of the past thirty years. The most obvious features of neoliberalism have been policy shifts such as privatisation and the explosive growth of the financial sector produced by “deregulation” (a misnomer, since the financial sector, more than any other, relies on government for its very existence).

Equally important, but more subtle, has been the relentless focus on work and the production of marketable goods and services as the measure of all things. Dunlop quotes some particularly egregious statements from Julia Gillard, whose exhortation to workers to “set the alarm clock early” contrasted sharply with more than a century of union struggle against excessive working hours. But Gillard was merely echoing the assumptions that saturate the entire political class and have seeped into the thinking of just about everyone to a greater or lesser extent. The idea that one could live a good life without a central role for paid work has become just about unthinkable.

Yet, at least since the global financial crisis, the neoliberal economy has been in a state of crisis. It is still delivering huge benefits to the very rich, but it is failing everyone else. And this is why technological progress, which has mostly benefited society, is having such disruptive and negative effects today.

What, if anything, can be done about this? Or will the market economy take care of it? The latter is certainly the view of proponents of the “sharing economy,” such as the young American philosopher Cory Massimino, who welcomes a new, liberated economy that is slowly but surely transcending government shackles.

Dunlop is appropriately scathing about this idea. Drawing on the work of Harvard scholar Yochai Benkler, he explains how the free ride-sharing and house-minding practices that emerged in the early days of the internet have been thoroughly commercialised – under the label of the “sharing economy” – by the likes of Uber and Airbnb.

We don’t need a new term here. The practice of sharing our vehicles and houses for money has been around since the dawn of civilisation. It’s called renting, hiring or leasing. The only difference today is that the internet enables Uber and Airbnb to get around licensing requirements and other restrictions faced by traditional taxi companies and hoteliers. That has both good and bad effects. Mostly, though, it’s part of the general reshaping of the regulatory state to serve corporate interests at the core of neoliberalism.

This is most obvious in apps like TaskRabbit and Mechanical Turk, which enable people to bid competitively for small jobs. Again, apart from the use of the internet, the markets here are no different from practices in the past – the way workers were hired on the waterfront in the 1930s or, for that matter, are still hired on the street corners of American cities where casual (often undocumented) workers wait to see if they will be picked out for labouring and construction jobs. And once the legal obstacles can be negotiated, that kind of hiring will presumably go online as well.

As Dunlop says, a better description of these developments is the “on-demand economy,” a term that encapsulates the “flexibility” Australia’s economic reformers have been pushing for decades. “Flexibility” sounds very nice, but workers figured out long ago that flexibility is, most of the time, a zero-sum good. The more flexibility employers have in calling workers in and sending them home, the less flexibility those workers have in managing their own lives.

If the on-demand version of the workless future is dystopian, what is the alternative? Dunlop puts forward two linked ideas: reductions in working hours and a universal basic income. Both imply that the benefits of technological progress would be taken increasingly in the form of greater leisure and less through increased (and more unequal) consumption of goods and services.

Although a reduction in working hours seems radical, in Australia, as in most developed economies, it would represent nothing more than a return to the historical norm. For more than a century, beginning with the achievement of the eight-hour day (or forty-eight hours a week over six days) by Victorian stonemasons in 1856, workers have struggled to claim more leisure, and that claim has consistently been resisted by employers.

For much of the time since then, the workers had the best of it. The standard working week of forty-eight hours, universal in Australia by the early twentieth century, was reduced to forty-four, to forty, and finally, in 1983, to thirty-eight hours. Along with sick leave and long-service leave, annual leave became a standard condition, and by 1973 had been expanded to four weeks a year. Maternity leave for public servants was introduced at the same time, and had been extended on an unpaid basis to the entire workforce by 1979.

Since the rise of neoliberalism in the early 1980s, the movement has gone entirely in the other direction. Standard working hours have remained unchanged in most respects, but the majority of full-time workers have ended up working additional (often unpaid) hours. The trend towards earlier retirement, which persisted into the 1990s, has been reversed, to the extent that workers in their forties today can expect that they will be seventy or older before they become eligible for the pension.

Critics of the case for increased leisure claim that long working hours reflect the insatiability of human demands for goods and services. But the history described above tells a different story. Even more than paying higher wages, employers resent and resist paying the same wage for fewer hours of work. As long as unions were powerful, employers had no choice but to do so. But ever since they regained the upper hand in the 1980s, employers have pushed relentlessly for longer hours and harder work.

The second and more radical part of Dunlop’s proposal is a universal basic income, or UBI. The general idea is to provide an unconditional income, sufficient to live on, to everyone, regardless of employment status. By removing the necessity to work, a UBI would pull society in the direction of both greater leisure and more enjoyable and satisfying work.

Proposals for a UBI raise quite a few technical problems, particularly in the purist form proposed by Dunlop, according to which the minimum income is paid even to those whose income is already high. Although there are ways to resolve these problems, Dunlop tends to understate their significance by implying that a UBI could be achieved in the short term and with relatively modest adjustments to taxing and spending.

The fiscal obstacles to the implementation of a UBI are, in fact, substantial. The scheme would require substantial increases in the effective marginal tax rate faced by middle- and high-income earners, whether this was achieved through the income tax schedule or through means testing. The political obstacles are even more substantial. The whole thrust of policy for decades has been to increase the intensity of work testing for benefits of all kinds. And, unlike much of the neoliberal agenda, measures like “work for the dole” have plenty of public support, despite the largely spurious nature of the work that these can involve.

But the difficulty of the proposal is precisely the point. A UBI represents both a long-term challenge to the entire organisation of work and labour and, in the short term, a rallying point for a rejection of one of the central themes of neoliberalism, the critical importance of (paid) work. As the collapse of the neoliberal order accelerates under pressure from the political right, this mixture of utopian vision and immediate resistance is exactly what the left needs to offer.

Technological change has been rendering old skills obsolete ever since the invention of the spinning jenny in the eighteenth century, and will doubtless continue to do so. The real problems we face today are not technological but social and economic. Like it or not, a radical reorganisation of work is under way. The question is whether we can shape it to benefit the world as a whole, or whether it will continue to enrich the few at the expense of the many. As Dunlop concludes, “We have been told that when it comes to work, there is no alternative. What these new technologies suggest is that maybe there is.” •

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  1. derrida derider
    February 1st, 2017 at 14:20 | #1

    “The [UBI] scheme would require substantial increases in the effective marginal tax rate faced by middle- and high-income earners”

    Actually it would raise EMTRs and ATRs for middle to upper middle income earners but a true BI/FT scheme would lower the marginal (but not average) rate at the top. If that is considered undesirable you need extra wealth taxes, not income or consumption ones.

    As a very long term proponent of the idea I believe a pure UBI will never happen – greed and downward envy are just too politically strong (or, if you prefer, paying other people something for nothing violates fundamental moral intuitions among a large part of the electorate). And a highly conditional “targeted” Basic Income would have most of the downsides of the present system (especially in fostering alienation) with few of the upsides.

    On the wider questions about working hours, alienation and immiseration due to technology, this is of course a line we have all heard continuously since Ricardo’s day. That doesn’t mean it hasn’t or won’t happen, but it means that we need a really solid story about why this time really is different.

  2. John Quiggin
    February 1st, 2017 at 14:34 | #2

    Actually it would raise EMTRs and ATRs for middle to upper middle income earners but a true BI/FT scheme would lower the marginal (but not average) rate at the top.

    Can you spell this out? It seems to me that this is a policy choice variable.

    1. A “pure” UBI could be funded by any tax scale that yields enough revenue, including one that is more steeply progressive than the existing one.

    2. Then, you can work back to a GMI scheme with the same EMTRs and net fiscal impact by matching each increase in clawbacks with a reduction in marginal income tax rates applied to the same people.

  3. John Quiggin
    February 1st, 2017 at 14:35 | #3

    On the wider questions about working hours, alienation and immiseration due to technology, this is of course a line we have all heard continuously since Ricardo’s day.

    And, sometimes it’s been correct. This appears to be one of those times.

  4. Ikonoclast
    February 1st, 2017 at 14:40 | #4

    Under late stage capitalism, people are workless, working less and working for less.

  5. Smith
    February 1st, 2017 at 15:17 | #5

    A UBI would be politically acceptable in principle only if there is sufficient degree of social solidarity such that the idea that ‘we are all in this together and so we will all give each other a UBI’ would fly. But it’s hard to think of a time in Australian history when there was less social solidarity than now. The zeitgeist is I’m all right Jack and you can go to buggery.

    And it’s not just the politics of downward envy that is a show stopper. A UBI means Gina Rinehart and James Packer would get it too.

    Everybody from the Greens to Hanson would be lined up against a UBI.

    The political agenda of using technological advance as a pretext for resisting neoliberalism and distributing income gains away from the rich, the capitalists etc won’t work because it is a pretext.

    If you want to tax the 1% and send the money to the poor, knock yourself out. Likewise if you want to increase workers’ power against bosses, and also if you want increase labour’s share of national income. But don’t conflate these objectives with what’s happening with technology.

    Would a UBI really cost a lot? Presumably it would replace some or all of the pensions, benefits and allowances that are paid now. What would be the net increase?

    As for the downwards envy problem, well yes, but don’t sleep on the problem of seeing Gina Reinhart and James Packer getting their UBI.

  6. Smith
    February 1st, 2017 at 15:23 | #6


    Apologies for the unedited messy post.

  7. John Quiggin
    February 1st, 2017 at 15:54 | #7


    I’m planning a post/paper covering all this. My short answer is that it would ultimately cost a large, though feasible amount, but that we could work towards it by gradually expanding existing means-tested benefits, then shifting from means tests to taxes as described.

  8. bjb
    February 1st, 2017 at 17:32 | #8

    For those interested, a good critique of the “Uber Economy” is Steven Hill’s “Raw Deal – How the Uber Economy and Runaway Capitalism Are Screwing American Workers”

  9. john
    February 1st, 2017 at 17:43 | #9

    here is a copy and past from the Prime Minister today into my email box.

    They include tax cuts that will put more money back in the hands of workers
    and enable small businesses to invest more.

    Actually that was explaining how cutting tax to large business was going to enable more low payed workers to be employed.
    In actual fact what is happening is that jobs are being given to workhire companies the conditions are simple no holiday pay no sick pay look after your own super take it or leave it.
    Flat level pay from $28 to about $38 and hour
    No the unions have no ability to go into this area because they lost any power about 15 years ago.

  10. john
    February 1st, 2017 at 17:46 | #10

    I am not joking Malcome sent me an email saying how great it is going to be.
    Meanwhile i see people being put on flat rate contracts which equate on a 12 hour shift 24 7 of about 18 dollars an hour.

  11. Ikonoclast
    February 1st, 2017 at 18:03 | #11

    Well, since my bon mot elicited no response, and I even wrinkled my brow like Bilibin, I am reduced to a serious comment.

    That’s a good article by J.Q., in my opinion, and it puts the matters very well.

    The UBI would be no problem if people – meaning our political class and everyone else – understood a modicum about economics. I mean real economics not this farcical dribble from the neoliberals. With a correct view of matters it becomes clear that a UBI is straightforward, sensible and affordable. There are no obstacles except a set of inapplicable ideological shibboleths.

    We have a UBI by default now, albeit not a very good one. It goes by all sorts of names and it is granted at all sorts of rates after all sorts of arbitrary and absurd conditions are met. It’s called the pension-invalidity-sickness-widowed-low-income-unemployed-got-dependents benefit. Let’s roll that into one payment at one rate (per adult) with one set of consistent conditions. Then, let us go a few step further. Integrate tax and welfare scales such that it is explicit and operative that tax is negative welfare and welfare is negative tax. Pay the UBI to every adult. No claims process needed other than basic proof of identity and age and then no need for applications and transfers to other benefits for the rest of your life.

    Everyone gets welfare / pays taxes on a sliding scale that makes it all work, both for individuals and for national finances. Gina R. gets the UBI? Who cares? When the figures are done she will be paying more tax than now by an amount considerably greater than the UBI.

    Problem solved. Too easy. Like so many problems in our society, this one (in the sense of preferring a messy, complex, unfair welfare and charity system to the simplest, fairest and most straightforward universal income system imaginable) is due to ideology, specifically capitalist ideology, making people think and act like total (expletive deleted) idiots.

  12. rog
    February 1st, 2017 at 18:10 | #12

    A negative income tax may have more appeal than a UBI, which sounds a bit like Big Brother.

    However, it would be going where angels fear to tread, so to speak.

  13. February 1st, 2017 at 21:26 | #13

    We have certainly seen a substantial regression to the atomisation of work and the gig economy of short-term hiring. How much further can this go? In the 60s, cheerleaders of left and right welcomed or feared the dissolution of marriage into a sexual free-for-all. It didn’t happen. We have new patterns and norms of sexual partnership, not flux. Perhaps the same is happening to work.

    I miss discussion of efficiency wages, offering a powerful theory why employers prefer to pay overtime to the best workers they have rather than take a chance on a cheaper new hire. Information asymmetry also works the other wsy, inciting workers to stick with the devil they know And didn’t Coase worry why firms exist at all, rather than atomistic contracts?

    I miss

  14. February 1st, 2017 at 21:28 | #14

    @James Wimberley
    What I also miss is comment editing for us poor gig commenters.

  15. Jordan from Croatia
    February 1st, 2017 at 23:46 | #15

    I totaly reject the premisse that it is natural forces that shaped the world of today. Neither globalization nor robots are destroying “good” jobs, which is presented as a natural force of developement, since the goodness of a job is mainly in less drudgery and desirable pay for it which is completely missed in this post of yours, it is management that are destroying good jobs.
    It is those that took the benefits of increased productivity for themselves and not sharing the profits with those previously good jobs, management is that which is destroying good jobs.

    In mid section you really nicely described how the reduction of working hour was achieved: by political decision. That is how it is removed from the system, also. Political decisions gave the power to mangement to take it from good jobs to themselves, nothing else describes the power of neoliberalizm as good as that.

    It was political decisions that created the system where working hours were reduced and more benefits flowed to good jobs and also it was political decisions that reversed it. There were no economic conditions that helped it, but such political decisions created economic conditions that in the end made it succesfull and gave it sustainability. Political decisions of helping people against free market forces/ corporations created succesful economic conditions that payed for it.

    Talking against UBI in terms of economic sustainability is just ignorant given that such political decision creates conditions to become sustainable. It is as talking about changing the rules but pretending that such change will not create change in economic sustainability for it.
    Did economic conditions change once the federal pension system is introduced durring the worst economic conditions? yet it completely dissproved those that were clamoring against it claiming the colapse of federal finances if introduced.

    The same can be said about work hour reduction.
    The same can be said about financial problems for UBI, there is no financial reasons not to implement it. There are other reasons against it. It would allow for more abuse of UBI by corporations if not properly implemented.
    UBI must be coupled with Job Guarantee in order to prevent abuse and to give more options for those that want to work. And UBI should be means tested, but not a necessary requierment.
    UBI and JG must be implemented together in order to be beneficial and not abused by neoliberal forces of present.

    Future of work used to be and it is and will be determined by political decisions not by natural forces. Full Stop.

  16. derrida derider
    February 2nd, 2017 at 08:46 | #16

    Spelling it out, a pure BI/FT scheme has a fixed EMTR at all levels of income – that’s what the “FT” means. Highly progressive (as ATRs rise with income) yet administratively massively simpler (and far less rortable too) than either the present day welfare or the present day income tax system.

    But for feasible and adequate schemes that EMTR would be somewhere roughly around 40 cents in the dollar. That’s lower than the EMTRS typically faced by the top end in developed countries (at least for those in that bracket who don’t avoid it). BTW don’t forget in a proper EMTR calculation you have to take into account VATs (usually by assuming dC=dY, at least over a lifetime).

  17. derrida derider
    February 2nd, 2017 at 09:09 | #17

    The difference between a flat income tax system with a fixed and large refundable tax credit, and a negative income tax scheme, is purely labelling. The difference between such a scheme and a pure BI/FT is partly labelling (“Gina doesn’t get money from the government – she just pays slightly less tax because she has a minor – for her – tax lurk”) and partly administrative (when and how everyone is assessed and paid). The distributional results over a tax year are the same.

  18. Smith
    February 2nd, 2017 at 10:23 | #18

    @John Quiggin

    If no current recipient of some kind of welfare payment is going to be made worse off, which will be necessary for it to fly politically, then the BI will have to be (at least) the maximum of all the welfare payments. This would appear expensive. And that’s before giving the BI to people who currently welfare payments.

    How will it be paid for ? According to Derrida Derider, the EMTR for high income earners will fall from about 50 cents where it is now to around 40 cents. Presumably their tax rates will be higher somewhere along the way, such is in the income range where they are now paying 32 cents. But that means middle income earners are going to be paying more too. Inevitably the GST is going to have to be broadened and its rate increased to pay for it all.

    In other words, it’s a Scandinavian tax and transfer system. Desirable? Maybe. A hard sell? Definitely. Like I said up the thread, the zeitgeist isn’t one of social solidarity right now, and Australia hasn’t been in a social democratic mood since early in Gough Whitlam’s day.

    If I were trying to sell the idea, I would emphasise all Centrelink administration savings (which will actually be trivial in the scheme of things, but perceptions are everything.) It will also put out of a job all those micro simulation people who make a living analysing the insanely complex interaction of the tax and transfer systems, which will be tough luck for them.

  19. derrida derider
    February 2nd, 2017 at 11:03 | #19

    Scandinavian tax system, yes (lots of VAT, a relatively flat income tax scale that taxes the bottom more heavily than we do). Not a Scandinavian transfer system – no earnings-related social insurance.

  20. derrida derider
    February 2nd, 2017 at 11:10 | #20

    On the microsimulations I’ve always been acutely aware that my advocacy of a UBI could make me redundant. I can only plead my innate nobility of soul as an excuse for such obviously economically irrational behaviour …

  21. Smith
    February 2nd, 2017 at 11:47 | #21

    @derrida derider

    By the time it happens, if it ever happens, you’ll probably be long retired if not dead. And, who knows, in the wash up your after-tax retirement income miight be higher than under the current system. So your behaviour is not irrational, but neither is your soul noble. 🙂

  22. Ernestine Gross
    February 2nd, 2017 at 13:01 | #22

    A universal basic income (UBI) seems to me to be a road to enshrining a class society, converging over time to subsistance existence for a growing proportion of the population.

    Initially, a UBI might well be aligned to the currently maximum income replacement (‘welfare’) payment. As was so vividly illustrated during Joe Hockey’s time as treasurer, a UBI (previously a portfolio of welfare payments) becomes linguistically transformed into an ‘entitlement’ and the era of ‘entitlements’ is decreed as over (except for those who decree it). Furthermore, as indicated by some comments above, UBI does not provide an incentive for actual and potential employers (including governments) to regularly re-evaluate capital (physical)-labour ratios for financial sustainability but proceed on the belief that substituting ‘capital’ for ‘labour’ will result in improved productivity and this word has the status of some deity.

    UBI will not reduce significant wealth concentration.
    UBI will not reduce environmental problems
    UBI will not increase financial stability

    It fails to contribute to any of the major policy problems of our time. I understand the above list of policy priorities are in line with JQ’s assessment.

    It is all very nice to talk about wishing to improve ‘the world’. It is however an empirically rather tricky issue, irrespective of the best intentions. How can a population group (defined by similarly of preferences – an economists way to representing ‘culture’ – and endowments) with a stable or declining reproduction rate have any chance of improving ‘the world’ if another population group has different preferences and endowments such that its reproduction rate increases steadily even though its per capita endowment of say water declines rapidly?

  23. Ikonoclast
    February 2nd, 2017 at 13:22 | #23

    @Ernestine Gross

    “UBI will not reduce significant wealth concentration.
    UBI will not reduce environmental problems
    UBI will not increase financial stability”

    You say a UBI won’t fix things it’s got nothing to do with. Well, of course it won’t. Where has anyone said that “the UBI will fix every economic, social and environmental problem”?

    I have, or rather had, a welfare system working background. I can tell you it would fix a great bundle of absurdities in that arena.

  24. Ernestine Gross
    February 2nd, 2017 at 17:24 | #24


    UBI addresses a problem known in some economic literature as ‘survival constraint’. If this is all you are concerned with, besides a managerial fix aspect of UBI based on your past work experience, then I find it difficult to take the content of most if not all of your past posts serious at any level.

  25. John Quiggin
    February 2nd, 2017 at 17:26 | #25

    @derrida derider (also relevant o
    @Smith )

    OK, I see what you are saying now, but since I didn’t mention flat taxes and don’t consider them part of the policy I’m talking about, I paid no attention to the “FT” in your comment.

    My very preliminary estimate is that the EMTR at the top will be around 60 per cent, which is still below the top marginal rate of income tax prevailing as recently as the 1980s.

  26. Joe Blow
    February 2nd, 2017 at 17:54 | #26

    I think this guys take on a UBI is really interesting and worth a read. It’s long and detailed but the basic idea is that a UBI should start small and be entirely financed by just ‘printing’ money. Eventually, after maybe 20 – 30 years, all government spending would be paid for this way and all taxes and welfare benefits would have been phased out. The UBI by this time will have grown to a large sum as well, much larger than any current pension. No tax forms to fill in or welfare ‘traps’ to fall into and 75% of government programs ( transfer payments ) abolished, along with the necessary bureaucracy.
    He claims that ‘technological deflation’ is increasing at such a rate that this is all perfectly feasible and that it will be essential for governments to print money at an accelerating rate to prevent a deflationary collapse.
    5 years ago I would have been highly skeptical of a plan like this but now I’m not so sure.

  27. Ikonoclast
    February 2nd, 2017 at 18:23 | #27

    @Ernestine Gross

    For goodness sake, Ernestine, that is a misrepresentation. It is clearly not all I am interested in. That’s like saying a dentist’s work is not worth taking seriously because he is only interested in teeth when he is at work. As a person who was involved with welfare systems, I am still interested in seeing an efficient and effective delivery of welfare under a mixed economy as we have at present and for the foreseeable future. It is quite clear, to me at least, that even a future economy of mostly socialist worker cooperatives (if it ever happened) would need a public sector and public welfare (albeit much less of the latter than our current system). Not everyone can be a worker for various reasons from invalidity, to age, to lack of skills, to lack of capacity to lack of work as J.Q. points out.

    The UBI viewed correctly is simply an efficient and effective way of rationalizing the welfare system given that a welfare system is now considered necessary, correctly in my view, under a great many conceivable mixes of a mixed economy. Absolutely “True Socialism” might cause the need for a UBI to wither away just as it might cause the need for the state to wither away. However, I am skeptical that that degree of “true socialism” will ever occur. So I consider there will always be a place for a UBI to some extent. It could be re-envisaged if that makes people feel better. It could be called a “National Share”. Everyone is entitled to a “National Share” in the national prosperity.

    It’s not a benefit, it’s a share! Don’t they (the neoliberals) claim they want all of us to own shares! Well here is the national, inalienable share due to each person as his or her fair share in our society. Let’s re-badge it as well as re-working it. UBI is an ugly name. “Share” is a cool market-savvy name. Let’s call it a share. 🙂

  28. Tim Macknay
    February 2nd, 2017 at 19:01 | #28


    That’s like saying a dentist’s work is not worth taking seriously because he is only interested in teeth when he is at work.

    My dentist, when he’s at work, is sometimes inordinately interested in the threat posed by homosexuals and Muslims, and on those occasions I really wish he’d rather just focus on my teeth (He’s an old family friend, and does a lot of valuable work with the homeless, so I’m obliged to let the occasional bigotries slide. Also, my mouth is usually full of dental equipment at the time, so it’s difficult to say anything about it).

    /side comment

  29. February 2nd, 2017 at 21:59 | #29

    Nota Bene Editorial:
    The Guardian view on basic income: a worthwhile debate, not yet a policy …

    Coda: The Dying Days of Liberalism

  30. February 2nd, 2017 at 22:09 | #30

    A Thoughtful footnote for the potential Green Paper

    The Case for Universal Basic Income

    Being Careful what thoughtless socialists are wishing for …

  31. Ernestine Gross
    February 2nd, 2017 at 22:39 | #31


    1. A share paying “0” is also a share. A share of work (the ‘working less’ proposal), each unit being paid $x, does not result in a “0” share.

    2. You seem to accept the three policy objectives I have listed (no objection). Given these objectives, then any policy change, no matter how seemingly small or attractive on some other criterion, needs to be evaluated with respect to its contribution toward achieving these objectives. This approach avoids being side tracked into policies that result in ‘unanticipated negative consequences’ such as an extreme form of institutionalised income class system.

    3. I don’t misrepresent you. I am telling you my conclusion. You are free to ignore it.

  32. Ikonoclast
    February 3rd, 2017 at 11:18 | #32

    @Ernestine Gross

    Your three criteria seem central to your evaluation of any economic or social policy. I agree they are central issues. I am not sure everything else is a complete non-issue but it is also wrong to infer that you mean that. So, how would one;

    1. Reduce significant wealth concentration?
    2. Reduce environmental problems?
    3. Increase financial stability?

    I might recommend policies A, B and C. You might recommend policies X, Y and Z. Let us assume all these policies are comprehensive and well thought out, at least in their own terms. Let us also assume you are more persuasive and influential than I, that your policies are better designed and that you have or build the social and political platform to get them implemented. Let us further assume that you were substantially right and your policies work well. Wealth concentration is reduced, inequality is reduced and financial stability increased.

    Is every problem of economics and society thus solved? Well, not likely. and I am sure neither of us would expect that. One of the problems very likely remaining still would be the issue of people without income. “Reduction of significant wealth concentrations” certainly does not imply “absolute removal of all pockets of poverty and/or zero income. The wealth (re-)distribution could move to the middle, for example, and scarcely touch, if help at all, the bottom 10 per cent.

    In that case, what policies do you follow? Is there never a need for a universal welfare payment to reach those not reached by the other policies? I mean where there is not enough paying work as Tim Dunlop and J.Q. posit and where – as seems likely if any form of mixed economy like the current one continues to exist – there are work-less people with no shares in income or with shares of some sort which pay a zero income?

  33. Ernestine Gross
    February 3rd, 2017 at 14:02 | #33


    To illustrate my approach, based as it is in training in math econ theory, let us look at conditions under which I would fully concur with a UBI in principle. Roughly speaking, or course.

    a) The empirically observable income distribution in the relevant juristiction is such that the minimum wealth condition in GE models is approximately fulfilled (corresponding to a rather but not totally flat income distribution; say a specialist medical practitioner’s income is 1.8 times that of a GP and a GP’s income is 1.6 times that of a highly skilled and experienced nurse and the income of a highly skilled and experienced nurse is 1.5 times that of junior nurse and the income of a junior nurse is 1.4 times that of a hospital cleaner. The income (wages, bonuses banned) of a bank CEO is 1.8 times that of the bank’s chief IT specialist, the income of the chief IT specialist in the bank is 1.4 times that of a professor in IT, etc, etc. The idea is there is enough inequality to provide some monetary incentive for both education and effort. The numbers I have used are indicative only.
    b) The taxation system is mildly progressive and does not favour investment in financial and physical capital over investment in education (negative gearing and capital gains tax concessions are obviously ruled out for example). No GST. A mildly progressive and small inheritance tax levied on beneficiaries. The idea is the taxation system assists in keeping the income and wealth distribution roughly in line with the theoretical optimum.
    c) The society in question has similar preferences over marketable (goods and services) and non-marketable (natural environment) things. (eg they prefer small fuel efficient cars, of which there may be many different suppliers, and agree public transport is useful and so is solar and wind power in energy production; almost all eat cheese but not necessarily the same type and not necessarily without trying out different types over time, etc etc)
    d) All members in the society are strictly risk averse (difficult to test empirically) or borrowing and lending (debt) is quantitatively restricted by a central monetary authority.
    e) There is universal health insurance, centrally organised by agreement of the members of the society (similar preferences again; this time for the institutional environment), financed via the taxation system.
    f) There is a universal education system, centrally organised by agreement of the members of the society, financed via the taxation system. There is choice among education providers with income brackets akin to what I have illustrated wrt medical practitioners.
    g) The members of the society have similar preferences over the number of children per family of whatever type such that environmental sustainability is achieved as far as humanly possible, given contemporary scientific knowledge.
    h) Since g is difficult to test empirically, child endowment could be made dependent on the number of children.
    i) All members of the society acknowledge that, for no fault of their own, some people have health problems (broadly defined) which prevents them from making living through selling their skills.
    j) There is universal legal services insurance, centrally organised by agreement of the members of society, and paid for via the taxation system for individuals but not corporations, such that the choice of legal practitioners is from a set of specialists and generalists with fixed price (income) brackets akin to what I have illustrated wrt medical practitioners.
    k) There is enough time series data available to underpin the assumption that the behaviour of the variables in question is unlikely to change (structurally) in the near future except for one, which I have totally left out: the speed of technological change (robots and other IT applications which will reduce the number of jobs in one way or another).

    Under conditions as roughly outlined above I would agree with UBI because it would provide some lower bound on everybody’s income, leaving them free to pursue their ambitions, including being ‘innovative’, without risking losing their shirt and ending up in the proverbial gutter. Furthermore, since all prices are interrelated (not as neatly as in GE models of the Arrow-Debreu type, but nevertheless empirically observable), the rather but not totally flat income (and wealth) distribution) and the restrictions on debt would exclude asset bubbles, curtail financial risk in business but leaving business risk financed via equity.

    But under such conditions, one could also suggest a universal unemployment insurance, centrally organised by agreement, which pays say 60% of the last x periods income, together with invalid insurance and child endowment. Not much more complex than UBI but keeping a bit more incentive for education and effort.

    You may be right in saying for managerial reasons a UBI is preferred but, I would suggest, not unconditionally. I would suggest 40 years ago a UBI would have made more sense than now – for relatively small juristictions – because so-called neoliberalism (the return to the 19th century or earlier) was not well established in many relatively small juristictions (eg Scandinavian countries, the then Fed Rep. of (West) Germany, France, Australia).

  34. Ikonoclast
    February 3rd, 2017 at 15:29 | #34

    @Ernestine Gross

    If any leader and party would take that to the polls, win the election (with my vote playing its little part) and actually implement all those points as policies, I would be over the moon with hope, happiness and optimism. And believe me that would something. I am usually one of the grimmest pessimists you could ever hope to not meet. 🙂

  35. Ernestine Gross
    February 3rd, 2017 at 17:18 | #35


    I am happy to note I’ve written something you like. Must disappoint you, though. I didn’t write a list of preferred policies but rather empirical conditions (observables) under which the adoption of UBI would make sense to me.

    The empirical conditions we do observe for quite some time are different. They are such that I would fear (believe with a high subjective probability) that my point 1 would apply (road to economic class structure with increasing income and wealth inequality, at best no effect to reduce environmental degradation and, at best no effect on financial instability). Therefore I would not be in favour of UBI under contemporary conditions.

  36. February 3rd, 2017 at 18:14 | #36

    Since hard work alone without saving anything for reserves and useful (profitable) investment – i.e. successful capitalism – leaves you as poor a “have nothing” after your effort as you were before it – would not most what is hoped to be achieved through the UBI as a share of “national wealth” actually be achieved through working towards the “Ownership Society” concept, defined by systematically moving (through the taxation system) towards at least a minimally meaningful level of personal (retirement) wealth ownership by all citizens eventually ?

    As has been done in Singapore.

    This would reduce, eliminate and prevent poverty before long, and reverse the intensification of socio-economic polarization into “haves” and “have-nots” under unrestrained free market “neo-liberalism” – and re-energize the social democratic welfare state in danger of stagnation and unsustainability because of widening instead of diminishing demands and reliance on welfare.

  37. Ikonoclast
    February 4th, 2017 at 06:26 | #37

    @Ernestine Gross

    I think it’s not a coincidence that “the empirical conditions (observables) under which the adoption of UBI would make sense to me ” are conditions of considerably more socialism.

    You discipline (I think) seeks to understand the conditions which maximize the combined efficiency of cooperating agents. The compound or summed goal sought is the maximization of the greatest amounts of “goods” in total, be those material or other “goods” like environmental protection, while doing this in a market and institutional setting. It apparently comes up with answers which indicate that decidedly socialist (cooperativist) settings are what go the furthest to achieving that maximization. That makes sense to me and it is not a surprise to me.

  38. Jordan from Croatia
    February 4th, 2017 at 10:30 | #38

    “road to economic class structure with increasing income and wealth inequality,”

    That sounds like we are not on a such road. Australia a bit less so, but rest of the world has been on such road for quite some time. Depending on set levels of UBI and inflation anchored protection there is no reason to think that UBI would be different then minimum wage or minimum welfare. Levels of welfare and minimum wage are set by politicians that are of given mentality against it. Same applys to UBI.
    But again i would not allow UBI be implemented without Job Guarantee.

    Considering finacial stability, what is the cause of financial instability? people getting fired and loosing the income to pay for old loans. (Financial fraud is another thing completely). But debtors having permanent income no matter employment is sure to generate financial stability. People that can always pay their monthly service is what is financial stability.
    Inflation that over time reduces debt burden while wages grow is also what generates finacial stability. Inflation does not destroy value of assets held at banks, it increases their value. Personal bankruptcy that allows for erasing bank and debtor liabilities when debtor stops paying is another generator of financial stability.

    It is weird to read that permanent income of debtors would not increase financial stability.

  39. Ernestine Gross
    February 4th, 2017 at 18:13 | #39

    @Jordan from Croatia

    You have misquoted me.

  40. Vegetarian
    February 4th, 2017 at 20:22 | #40

    As an avid reader of 19th century literature, I used to wonder how the mainly middle to upper class characters in them seemed to have meaningful lives without doing any paid work. I don’t think it’s just a matter of having an adequate income, or a UBI. Maybe it comes down to being educated. Anyway, people now who have no work, even if they’re well off, often seem rather morose. We’re used to seeing our work as our identity, and it will take a lot to change that.

  41. derrida derider
    February 5th, 2017 at 19:22 | #41

    Funny you should say that Vegetarian – your (sharp) insight has been anticipated.

    When Samuel Brittan coined the the term “the permissive society” (by which he meant a society that permits a wide variety of lifestyles) in the late 60s, it was in the context of arguing for a UBI that would enable this. In support he pointed to the freedom of characters in Victorian literature who had “a modest competence” as against those bound by harsher economic realities (a common theme, of course, in many Victorian novels, though there it was often framed in John’s distinction between banausic labour and meaningful work).

    Yea, verily, there is nothing new under the sun.

  42. February 5th, 2017 at 19:27 | #42

    If a substantially higher rate of profitable capital investments is needed to deliver the increased productivity and taxation revenue to keep a reasonable rate of UBI (Universal Basic Income) sustainable –

    then would it not be fair and desirable to initiate the move towards a UBI with a systematic personal and national capital wealth ownership increasing savings and investment rate through direct participation in the effort by all ?

  43. Wylie Bradford
    February 5th, 2017 at 21:11 | #43

    UBI is a hardy perennial of an issue that goes back quite a way (Social Credit, for example) and has ‘Left’ and ‘Right’ versions (Social Credit again) and is firmly opposed both from the ‘Left’ (e.g. Rawls) and the ‘Right’ (many instances). Often the opposition is couched not in terms of whether or not it would or could be implemented (or whether it would ‘work’) but because it is asserted that it breaks the link between income and work. That is, UBI means that people can get money for nothing, and that is unacceptable. That isn’t really an accurate rendition of what a UBI is meant to be, but it is a common line of attack (or perhaps an emotional response).

    I was a colleague of Bill Mitchell and Martin Watts at Newcastle so I used to go back up for their CofFEE conferences organised around arguments for a Job Guarantee. Two things used to incite them particularly. One was saying that the JG was just work-for-the-dole. The other was saying that it was just UBI by another name. They were adamant that it was not, and Martin actually published an explicit argument to that effect, in which the need for work to underpin income was put forward implicitly on moral grounds and explicitly on the paternalistic grounds that work was good for people and necessary for self-esteem. [Somewhat ironically, in an earlier iteration of the JG Bill had argued that it required a post-capitalist conception of ‘work’, so that people could be paid to go surfing. ‘Why surfers should be fed’ was the main title of one of Van Parijs’s papers on the UBI from 1991, with the surfer reference being to an anti-UBI argument by Rawls in which surfers were invoked 🙂 ]

  44. Ikonoclast
    February 6th, 2017 at 06:34 | #44

    @Wylie Bradford

    “That is, UBI means that people can get money for nothing, and that is unacceptable. That isn’t really an accurate rendition of what a UBI is meant to be, but it is a common line of attack (or perhaps an emotional response).”

    I am always amused by this line that people shouldn’t get money for nothing. It’s usually advanced by people who get money for nothing through share ownership or rental property. All income from capital is “money for nothing”. The person receiving this money does no work for it. Currently, in our society, capitalists and rentiers get money for nothing, pensioners get money for nothing, superannuants on defined benefit (like me) get money for nothing, superannuants on market linked super get money for nothing, widows, invalids and children get money for nothing; or in the case of children they get money in kind (food, board and lodging, care and education) for nothing. A kept wife or a kept husband gets money for nothing in standard economic terms, and yet performs unpaid work and other services for it if you look at it in another light.

    Then suddenly, the “no money for nothing” mantra is invoked for just one group. The subset of working age people, especially young people, who have no independent means, that is to say no capital or property that can bring in money for nothing. It made sense once, albeit still in a unfair classist manner, when a class had to labour or die because the society as a whole mostly had to labour or die. Matters are different now.

    Actually, UBI is not the hardy perennial. The hardy perennial, always green, always flourishing, is the notion, promoted by capitalism, that only the owners of money capital, share capital, real estate capital should get money for nothing, along with the “aristocrats of retirement”, the grey-heads who are bought off with a stipend (like me) to give votes for this system (not like me). This is the tangled perennial jungle of hypocrisy at the heart of capitalism.

  45. Ernestine Gross
    February 6th, 2017 at 07:37 | #45


    “are conditions of considerably more socialism”. This is the point where we diverge, Ikon. I don’t know the unit of measurement for ‘socialism’ and therefore I don’t know what it means to have more or less of it.

    This is not meant to be a cheap shot at you but an easy way to illustrate why I don’t like ‘ism’ words.

  46. Ikonoclast
    February 6th, 2017 at 09:50 | #46

    @Ernestine Gross

    Metrics can be devised. Of course, one can always argue about the validity of the metrics devised or chosen. I assume you consider that the word “democracy” has some content. When I argued that the EU had a democratic deficit you argued, IIRC, that it did not have a democratic deficit. I do not recall you saying that “democracy” was a content-less word without a unit of measurement for “democratic-ness” and therefore that it was meaningless for me to even talk about or invoke “democracy” as a point of debate or argument.

    Metrics for democracy can be and are devised. How well they reflect a complex reality is always a point with finely gradated arguments. But we implicitly use metrics for democracy all the time. Universal adult suffrage is such a metric. For a start, we (Westerners) would now consider that a democratic deficit existed where there was not universal adult suffrage; say where there was only suffrage for men or only for persons of net worth over $500,000. This is a metric (to state the obvious). We can count these things and set a benchmark.

    In like manner, metrics for socialism can be devised to generate a socialism score just as we generate, say, a GINI coefficient. I am sorry but I don’t buy for one minute this very odd (to me) argument that we could not measure socialism. We can. We first define it, then define the metrics, then measure it. This method in applied detail is open to criticism and debate BUT NO MORE than any other method like a GINI or a democracy metric. So sorry, I don’t accept your arguments which by accretion imply among other things that democracy is a word with content but socialism is word without content.

    Forgive me for being blunt but I regard this as a mistaken maneuver in logic and debate on your part; to selectively grant content to some words and revoke or deny the content of other words on inconsistent standards rather than on any consistent logical basis.

  47. February 6th, 2017 at 19:02 | #47

    Ernestine Gross, Ikonoclast – herewith some clarification that should settle your divergence of opinions:
    1. Obviously, is not a UBI paid to the huge proportion of people with adequate incomes “money for nothing”, not even for insurance, as insurance sets in only when a loss has occurred ?

    2. On democracy, is it not it quite clear, that 1 free vote per adult citizen for 1 option between a theoretically unlimited number of them is politically as fair as it can be ?

    3. But on the economic level our free democracy is still “handicapped” or suffering under the split into “haves” and “have-nots” with mutually antagonistic interests, potentially, because the “have-nots” are economically “underprivileged”, and usually have less prosperity and choice of opportunities than the haves, even under a UBI which might actually encourage even more people to drift into capital-less “have nothing” poverty ?

    4. Income from capital is not “money for nothing”, but reward for services rendered or risks taken for the effort of saving capital for reserves, trading and employing potential, and useful (i.e. profitable) investment – without which we would be still hunters and gatherers living in caves. (If in doubt about that, please bring an example of anything done without capitalism.)

    5. While most of us are still misled by the misleading Marxist legacy that capitalism is just private enterprise while socialism/communism is based on “working for needs”(?), the economic truth is that on the material level socialism – state monopoly capitalism – is still subject to exactly the same laws of physics as private enterprise capitalism.(Explanation and debate welcome if required.)

    6. While of course there are many investment needs better looked after by the state (e.g. roads etc.), private enterprise capitalism is more democratic than state monopoly capitalism because the economic power, initiative and responsibilities of capitalism are more widespread among the “demos” (people) than under a state monopoly.

    7. The degree of Socialism could be measured and classified by the proportion of private capitalism permitted – from 100% of Socialism under state monopoly capitalism to watered down and more democratic versions, like say lately in Cuba ?

    8. Would not the most democratic version in the most egalitarian and enlightened way be a mixed economy with all citizens systematically helped towards at least a minimally meaningful level of personal (retirement) capital ownership eventually, and for an increasing proportion of people in the future inheriting it already from birth, with no restrictions to becoming more wealthy and a higher rate taxpayer ?

  48. Ernestine Gross
    February 7th, 2017 at 07:43 | #48

    Jens, I don’t like -ism words (socialism, capitalism, feminism, trumpism, …..) – I have little or no use for them (they say too much and too little at the same time, IMHO) and I avoid them as much as possible. Ikon and others use these words a lot. This is fine with me as long as I am allowed to not participate in conversations where -ism words are central.

  49. Jim Rose
    February 7th, 2017 at 11:10 | #49

    The market coped with the majority of the workforce previously working in agriculture and then in manufacturing are now in services.

    As a kid, I used to read Encyclopaedia Britannica. The Japanese entry pointed out that 40% of Japanese workers were agricultural in 1960. Within what 2 decades most of these were in manufacturing and they are now in service. Rapid economic development is much more disruptive than the robots are coming but the market coped

  50. Tim
    February 7th, 2017 at 13:37 | #50

    @Joe Blow

    That link you provided was amazing. It addresses basic income, as fixes a number of gnarly social, economic, and political problems in one fell swoop!

  51. Iknoclast
    February 7th, 2017 at 14:32 | #51

    @Ernestine Gross

    What about “cracy” words like “democracy, theocracy, aristocracy, bureaucracy,

  52. Ikonoclast
    February 7th, 2017 at 15:28 | #52

    Oops mis-post, I will try again.


    What about “cracy” words like “democracy, theocracy, aristocracy, bureaucracy, meritocracy and so on? I guess I have made it clear that I fundamentally disagree with your method of ruling out of court all words and ideas which you don’t want to discuss and doing so by “banning”, from discussions with you, the words necessary for such discourse. That’s fine and your right of course. But IMO it is not supportable on logical and philosophical grounds. Indeed, I hold it to be a form of sophistry. Not that anyone gives two figs for my opinion of course. But I still give it. I always do.

    There certainly would be no consistency in accepting “democracy” as a word with content and rejecting “socialism” as a word without content. Each word can be adequately defined. There may be multiple possible definitions and gradations of meaning but that again does not mean such words are content-less. Rather they have multiple, contextual contents and more nearly-accurate definitions, less nearly-accurate definitions, debatable definitions and clearly incorrect definitions. Intelligent, educated educated people ought to have no trouble understanding complex concepts with multiple, contextual meanings.

    Many other besides yourself on this blog basically declare their belief that words like “socialism” and “capitalism” mean nothing. It appears these words have have become “unconcepts”, and “unwords” in modern discourse. They have been thoroughly 1984-ed. This had led to a diminution in intellectual discourse and a diminution in the range of concepts which can be envisaged by modern or perhaps I should say post-modern minds. So much the worse for all us. We will pay the price soon enough. Such is the effectiveness of late stage capitalist brainwashing into false consciousness. I stand somewhat in awe of its effectiveness. Nevertheless, I stand outside it, conceptually at least, and will continue to do so. Materially, I cannot stand or exist outside capitalism. It has become all-encompassing, all-dominating in the material sense. No-one can escape it now unless by mass revolution or its collapse. There are terminal conditions (to use the medical analogy) where escape or cure or attempted cure all lead simply to a more rapid demise. The capitalist system may well be in that state now. In that case, we are both committed to staying in it for short to mid-term survival and committed BY it to eventual extinction.

  53. February 7th, 2017 at 16:42 | #53

    Ernestine – are you not withdrawing from rational conversation by not able or willing to agree on the meanings of such basic concepts as saving for reserves, trading, and useful investment as capitalism, and the original political meaning of Socialism as state monopoly capitalism ?

    And Ikonoclast – can you imagine and describe a way of life without capitalism, apart from living an isolated life “hand-to-mouth” in a warm and humid climate, because for survival in a long winter, even hibernating animals have to build up “capital” in the form of fat for survival.

  54. John Quiggin
    February 7th, 2017 at 16:47 | #54

    The discussion of capitalism should go to the sandpits. In fact, it should have started there.

    Ikonoklast, in future, if you wish to make the generic point “problem X won’t be fixed unless we abolish capitalism, please take it to sandpits. If you think there is some specific feature of problem X, the subject of the OP, that makes capitalism particularly relevant, make the point once, and then steer anyone who responds to the sandpits.

  55. Nicholas
    February 7th, 2017 at 19:56 | #55

    If currency-issuing governments target full employment, we can widen our concept of what counts as a paid job and ensure that everyone who wants a paid job at a living wage gets one. With full employment policies in place, the impact of automation is to enable people to do less dangerous, less boring, and more social and creative jobs. Neoliberal economic policies interfere with this process by failing to create sufficient quantities and quality of jobs to replace the jobs taken over by machines.
    Unemployed and under-employed people by definition want paid jobs, not a meagre stipend for being alive. They want to experience the belonging, connection, esteem, capacity development, mastery, and income security of doing a job that provides an adequate material standard of living and is interesting and meaningful for them. People should not be reduced to consumption entities, which is what a UBI would do.
    Full employment policies increase the quality of private sector jobs because employers have to compete for workers. The fact that many jobs that exist today are unsatisfactory is not a reason to resort to a UBI. The correct response is to widen our imagination of what a paid job can be and improve the quality of jobs available to people.

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