Universal basic income as a calamity

From Dan Nidess at Wall Street Journal

Why a Universal Basic Income Would Be a Calamity

How long before the elites decide the unemployed underclass shouldn’t have the right to vote? Reality check: Not long.

Leading voices in the tech industry—from Mark Zuckerberg to Sam Altman —are warning that increased automation risks leaving an unprecedented number of Americans permanently unemployed. In response, many concerned Silicon Valley luminaries have called for a universal basic income, or UBI. Guaranteed income from the government may seem like the easiest way to address long-term unemployment, but UBI fixes only the narrowest and most quantifiable problem joblessness causes: lack of a reliable income. It completely ignores, and may exacerbate, the larger complications of mass unemployment.

He also notes that Finland’s world-famous experiment involves only 2000 peole which is basically nothing in world demographic terms. Saudi Arabia, he suggests, is a better example because after decades of oil-fed welfare, it is hard to get the population interested in work.

But perhaps the critical question is, are there going to be very many jobs in the future that under skilled, under-motivated people can do? There may be a relationship between Saudi Arabia’s absence of civil liberties and the fact that the population does not reallyfund the government.

The reality is that in a highly automated society, only strongly motivated, smart people stand a chance of a job. That does not create mass unemployment in itself because many needs go unfilled in any society, simply because no one is available to do the job.

For example, before writing and arithmetic were invented, no one needed schoolteachers… Automation will bring with it similar opportunities – for the skilled, talented, and motivated. Not necessarily for angry, depressed people looking for someone to blame.

The main reason punitive make-them-work schemes never took off in the past is that we assumed that unemployed people could in fact be employed. And thus make money for themselves and the government to spend. Arguments centred on who to blame for unemployment, why, and what to do to fix it…

But future structural unemployment due to automation may turn citizens into inmates. The high tech companies are making their authoritarian bent quite clear. Best to advocate for our civil liberties while we can still justify them.

See also: Ex-Google engineer Damore is an emblem of the liberal crackup Note: Crackdown, not crackup.