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.

  • Countermeasures_Dispenser

    “UBI supporters would counter that their system would free people to pursue self-improvement and to take risks.” Right… More like pursue porn, tittie bars, liquor and oxycodone.

    • Tooth&Claw

      People that are fat and happy don’t risk losing that.

  • Drunk by Noon ✓

    This is serfdom

    • Yep. And once you get a Universal Basic Income (UBI), then there will be a move toward a “Universal Maximum Income” (UMI). The argument will be that the poor are relegated to basic necessities while the “privileged” can make as much as they want. But “equality” will still not be achieved, so the final solution will be everybody must make the same income. In other words we’ll be Cuba — where Physicians make the same as taxi drivers.

  • andycanuck

    Not to defend UBI but what ticks me off is that the only way for this to work is that along with the UBI (and perhaps even allowing you to keep the UBI along with a limited minor income source) is that all or virtually all of the social welfare programmes that exist are supposed to be shut down and their civil servants permanently laid off. I know that the silk-stocking socialists of everywhere including Silicon Valley aren’t going to go along with that part that’s vital to any version of this working.

  • It’s an unworkable waste of money.

    • Surele Surele

      It will reduce, if not kill, any semblance of self drive, responsibility, invention and entrepreneurship, which potential UBI recipients might otherwise have to discover in their ‘inner-selves’ and employ.

      • It puts more pressure on those who do work.

        It’s another form of welfare.

  • lgeubank

    That ridiculous frat-boy Zuckerberg should count his blessings as a lucky dog (or thief, however you view him), and quit trying to make public policy.

  • Waffle

    This is an age-old fantasy, brought on by drinking too much of one’s own bathwater.

    Here in Ontariowe, our very own Polyester Princess has selected 3 lucky (?) communities to pilot test her own version of UBI.

    Meanwhile, Charlottesville . . .

  • Justan Oldfart

    What then you ask? Well next is the Maggy Sander express ticket to hell for losers!

  • Hard Little Machine

    You rarely hear political discussions in China. There are no politics. No vote. No rights per se but the government is aware, broadly of how far they can go in controlling people. Of course their Muslims and Christians are barely tolerated but the government has an ambivalent uncomfortable relationship with Buddhism and often builds massive statues to Buddha. Since this will be China’s century that will be the social and political model of the century. More people will live under the Chinese system than any other and the odds are very high that China will be the largest population of prosperous people in the world as the West falters and slides backwards. Eventually China will be forced to adopt a UBI-like system for hundreds of millions of people who can’t work. Of course they won’t have a vote or many rights. China, as would any other country, will find it convenient to have a tiered system of citizenship. People will need full time jobs to be full citizens. People on the dole, less so in different degrees.

  • Minicapt