Blog Credo

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

H.L. Mencken

Thursday, November 24, 2016

The Future

When I first heard of Universal Basic Income, I was incredulous.  But the more I read about it, the more it seems the way out of our current economic predicament.

As Thomas Piketty discovered, wealth inequality is the historical norm.  What changed is that for a few decades, it was possible to have a middle class existence and real material comfort from a working class job.  Recently, the pace of automation and globalization have destroyed that ability.  While most people in the US have what they need, they are constantly a lost paycheck away from real problems.

Work is no longer a guarantee of a decent quality of life.

That single fact is the most important fact in politics today.  What's more, it will only get worse.  Stern, in the above interview, makes the point I've been making about self-driving trucks: they will decimate the working class.  The fact that no one cares about this, the drive for progress for progress's sake, is what drives the anxiety of working class voters.  And Trump isn't going to help.

The other issues Stern notes are also important.  First, conservative intellectuals like the UBI. It gets rid of the need for an elaborate welfare state.  Everyone gets a $30,000 stipend and then the markets can function.  You want more?  Earn more.

Second, and more critically, moving to UBI will require us to re-evaluate how we think of work.  I am my job.  I take pride in my work.  What would UBI do for that?

Essentially, UBI would require an entirely new form of economics.  The thing is, our current economics are broken.

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