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Saturday, 7 March 2015

"Universal Basic Income" Should be a Rallying-cry... of the RIGHT.

Over the past couple of years I have heard quite a lot (mostly on Facebook, blogs, and G+), and more importantly a growing number of people calling for a "universal basic income", that is the idea that the government should provide a basic salary for every citizen.  Virtually all of those I've heard calling for it have been people on the political left and the heaviest criticisms of the idea I've seen have come from the right.

The leftists who push for it are usually arguing "it will mean every citizen will be taken care of" while of course what they secretly mean is "I personally won't have to work at my shitty retail job while I 'work on' that novel I'll never actually finish".

The right-wingers who argue against it usually talk about "economic non-viability", that its impossible, that its intrusive big government etc. while of course what many of them really mean is "you fucking hippies and unwed moms shouldn't get to live for free off my hard-earned money the government steals from me".

In fact, I think they've got it totally backward.  Well, in particular, the Right have it backward.  "UBI" should be a rallying-cry of conservatives everywhere.  The ones who should potentially be afraid of it are big-government leftists who want a bloated government with lots of public offices and public jobs.

The realistic issue that right now, we don't have pure proper capitalism.  We have this ridiculously complex welfare state. The model we've build up slowly, through significant leftist intervention, over the past 80+ years, is of having dozens or hundreds of different often redundant departments, all of which cost money; of having legions and legions of social workers to govern the different cases and manage the extremely complex paperwork and bureaucracy, lots of expensive offices and infrastructure to handle all the processes for application, etc.   In other words, massive massive government bloat.


IF we could actually have the political will, I could see UBI very much as a libertarian-leaning issue.  I would say that IF we could get rid of all the separate, redundant and pointless social welfare departments governments have today, all the added red tape and byzantine bureaucracy, all the regulations, and a sizable chunk of public employees, in a massive slimdown where we just had fixed rates of a decent basic income for all adults (and a different rate for children paid to the legal parents or guardians of the same); the amount of hassle that would be spared would make it one of the greatest victories in recent history in terms of slimming down needless government waste and the culture it creates.

(and the best thing would be, they wouldn't even be able to make a humanitarian argument for keeping their useless positions, because they would all be eligible for UBI!)





If we closed all those different departments (welfare, social security, disability, unemployment insurance, child subsidies, etc etc.), fired all those extra and mostly useless civil servants (that alone should make it worth the price of admission!), removed all the needless regulation and bureaucratic loops and turned it in a single office, and a single streamlined system that wasn't full of conditions and exemptions, we would be radically changing efficiency.

(government telling you how to live is bullshit, regardless of the circumstances)


So yes, given that we're never going to switch to a situation where the poorest people or the weakest or most helpless people or the oldest people, etc etc. won't be supported by the government, I think that the best situation would be if there was a single, universal, unconditional basic income that was easy to administer and apportion because we wouldn't have to have a separate department for each class of recipient, or a separate social worker deciding each case.  If UBI was a REPLACEMENT for all the different bloated social programs right now, it would actually be capable of saving taxpayer money compared to what's being paid for at this time.

Of course, that would depend on the government doing it right.  The real opponents of this would probably be the left, if the right understood the point of it; because the left would be the ones realizing that this would mean you could drastically reduce the size of government, red tape, and regulations. The biggest flaw/risk in the plan is the government itself.  But that's the thing: imagine if instead of the left, it was the Right who took on this cause.  Imagine if the Right said "we're going to give EVERYONE a fair basic income, regardless of what you earn, as your dividend for being part of this government; and in so doing we're going to cut billions and billions of dollars of needless waste and red tape. It will be enough for everyone to be able to afford some basic housing and decent food and all other necessities if they don't blow it all on crack.  For the middle class, it will be extra money which can be considered a kind of automatic tax rebate.  No one will have to prove their poverty or infirmity to a social worker anymore, no one will have to be watched or monitored by a government employee who thinks they know what's best for you, everyone will just get a check every month in a single, super-efficient social welfare program... and after that no one will have any excuses except themselves for how they live."

Its a CONSERVATIVE cause, not a liberal one. And if the conservatives were the ones to push it (as expressed above) it would be the best chance of inoculating against leftists fucking it all up.

RPGPundit

Currently Smoking: Davidoff 400 series Apple + C&D's Pirate Kake

(originally posted February 5, 2014)

47 comments:

  1. I like the idea. It will never happen in a million years though. It would be viciously opposed by anyone in left who figured out what it actually meant, and a large majority of the right would dismiss it it out of hand and refuse to listen to the logic of it. To say nothing of the government itself which would fight it tooth and nail from both the right and the left leaders who stand to lose any kind of power over people from it.

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    1. Sooner or later, however, something will have to happen. Because we're at the point where very soon there literally will not be jobs for most of the people looking for them. Mechanization already got rid of a lot of the good blue-collar jobs, but now advanced mechanization (and computers) will be wiping out jobs that no one even imagined would be wiped out. Pretty soon there will literally not be enough jobs available for most people.

      So you have one of three possibilities: either you just decide that some people will need to starve to death (or more likely become desperate violent revolutionaries agianst a system that's killing them), or you decide to create a gigantic big-government make-work program where you spend insane amounts of tax dollars to manage an entire bloated infrastructure to pay people for doing utterly pointless work, or you create some kind of universal income system, and start to re-think having a job as an optional choice people will undertake to earn more than a subsistence level of income (rather than what you need to do to just to earn a subsistence level)

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    2. I certainly agree. It's just that of those three options you suggest, the first two seem far more likely to ever come about given what most people with a significant amount of money or power seem to actually want.

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  2. I am baffled of how strawmany and willingly ingorant you must be to think of all the people on the left as pot smoking hippies who don't want to do shit. Dear god.That's stereotyping at it's worst.If you don't want the right to be stereotyped as extremist christian ignorant numbfucks (as you try to do in your articles), you shouldn't be attacking the other side of the fence in the same way.

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    1. Where did anyone say anything about "pot smoking hippies"? I'm not sure where you're getting that?

      I did say that the left is full of useless public-employee bureaucrats who desperately want to be able to control how you live your life and want to use other people's money to do it.
      That's why I would support a universal and UNCONDITIONAL UBI. Because it would stop both the Leftists Nanny-Staters and the Right-wing Religious Theocrats dead in terms of trying to use welfare as a way to force other people live the way they think is best for them.

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    2. The "Universal" part would be important to, so that the leftists couldn't make up any conditions for getting it, and so that it wouldn't become an identity-politics thing of trying to favor or cater to specific groups with it based on class, race or gender.

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    3. I've got to agree with Daniel G above. You talk about the left as if government bureaucracy is their end goal, and social welfare programs are just a means to get there. That's a straw man that doesn't line up with left-wing rhetoric, or with the bills they put forward. The left is all about unconditional aid; left wingers talk about food/housing/education/healthcare as human rights.

      Inefficiency is never the goal. It's a by-product. In the case of social policy, it's generally the right that introduces inefficiency to laws, which the left accepts for the sake of political expediency. For example, the right wing has been pushing drug tests and work requirements on welfare for decades.

      You'll also note that UBI is a plank in the platform of the far-left Green party. They don't get into the specifics of its implementation, but they do talk about how innovation is necessary in the welfare system.
      http://www.gp.org/platform/

      On the other hand, when it's brought up by self-proclaimed Libertarians, they get shouted down by their peers in the comments section. I believe I got this particular link from you, in fact!
      http://www.cato-unbound.org/2014/08/04/matt-zwolinski/pragmatic-libertarian-case-basic-income-guarantee

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    4. Left wingers desperately believe that aid should go hand in hand with ideological indoctrination and social engineering. They believe that certain demographics should be shown favoritism when it comes to receiving aid, and that the aid should either match social circumstances they approve of or be tied to obeying social rules they want to impose.
      All of this adds up to requiring a hugely bloated infrastructure, and that is ALSO THE GOAL.

      The left despises the idea of private enterprise. Their final goal, in socialism, is the creation of a situation where the state owns all the means of production, right? Now, I'm not saying every single individual leftist wants to create full-bore communism, obviously that's not true. But the movement itself is oriented ideologically to that idea: making money is wrong, especially profit, and individual moneymakers hiring others is expoitation. So the only employer that cannot, in their mind, exploit you is the state.

      The mentality, INTENTIONALLY OR NOT, creates a way of thinking that encourages wanting as much as possible of the working population to be employed directly or indirectly BY THE STATE.

      So yes, it is part of their goal to have as bloated a size of government as possible.

      Yes, UBI is praised by the extreme left, it is part of that populist idea. No doubt the UBI that the left would want would not actually be fair, equal, and universal: instead it would only go to certain demographics (you'd have to prove you're x amount of poor to "qualify"), it would have ridiculously complex ways of calculating how much each person gets based on their demographic worthiness, and it would require an enormous new department with unprecedented amounts of public employees to implement it; and would not involve the abolition of any of the rest of the welfare state. Or the expectation that the state must take care of you forever, "cradle to grave"; so that the piece of human garbage who blows his UBI check on meth in the first three days of the month can come back to the government on day four begging for more money and he'll get it.

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    5. Have you ever tried reading the ideas of left-libertarians and left-anarchists? I don't think the State figures much into them, at least as something positive. In many cases the State is considered to be the very reason for poverty and economic exploitation.

      Some examples of left-wing thought which will probably surprise you:

      http://www.filmsforaction.org/takeaction/five-leftlibertarian-reforms-millennials-should-be-fighting-for/

      http://www.filmsforaction.org/articles/who-owns-the-benefit-the-free-market-as-full-communism/

      Also usually the people I hear calling for all sorts of hoops for welfare recipients to jump through are not on the Left but rather on the conservative Right, who consider the typical welfare recipient to be a lazy drug-user who must have strict state controls on his expenditures (drug tests, food stamps rather than cash benefits, and other sorts of close monitoring).

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    6. I don't accept the distinction exists, there can't really be a "left-libertarianism" or "right-libertarianism".

      There can be:
      a) Reactionary conservatives claiming they're "libertarians" but they're not.
      b) Collectivist leftists claiming they're "libertarians" but they're not.
      c) Libertarians; some of which might care more about defending the free-market, others of which might care more about the liberty of personal action and choice in non-economic areas.

      I don't think that there's anything inherent in Libertianism that forbids an individual from caring about poverty and economic exploitation. Eliminating both of those should be goals of libertarianism, in fact.

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    7. "Their final goal, in socialism, is the creation of a situation where the state owns all the means of production, right?"

      Wrong.

      On the left, Sweden is often held up as an example of socialism done right. They have high taxes, free education, and universal healthcare. However, 90% of resources and companies are privately owned. Forbes ranks it as number one in Entrepreneurship and Opportunity.

      The left doesn't think that making money is wrong; in fact, they depend on a healthy private sector. They just believe that the government deserves a cut. This is in payment for building infrastructure, educating workers, providing emergency services, etc.

      They furthermore believe that government balances out the private sector. Capitalism concentrates wealth at the top through the winner-take-all effect. The government redistributes wealth through progressive taxation and social programs -- not necessarily handing out cash, but providing education, healthcare, food, etc, even to those without the means to pay for them.

      This might reasonably be framed as the government investing in the next generation of entrepreneurs, or providing a safety net to encourage risky startups, or just as feeding hungry kids. It is factually inaccurate to characterize this as a government takeover of the private sector.

      "the aid should ... be tied to obeying social rules they want to impose. "

      You make this claim often, and very loudly, but I have yet to see you back it up with any evidence.

      So called "nanny state" social policies are the purview of the right. Republicans are the ones who drug test welfare recipients. They're the ones trying to ban porn. They're the ones who want to babysit welfare recipients to make sure they're looking for jobs. They're the ones incrementally banning abortions and sex education. They're the ones passing fast food and soda bans -- Bloomberg left the Democrats in 2001, and his soda ban was struck down by a Democrat judge.

      I challenge you to provide examples of Democratic "ideological indoctrination" laws that come close to what the Republicans put forward.

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    8. I agree that factions of the right do all those things, and I disagree with all of them. Though really to call bloomberg right-wing is quite a stretch.

      here's one leftist rule: if you try to work, you will stop getting government money. If you don't work, you will continue to get government money. If you have more children, you will get MORE government money. They are encouraging a creation of a permanent underclass raised to believe they must be perpetually dependent on the government teat to survive. And people of certain minorities, or genders, are especially preferential to belonging to these government-dependent underclass groups, because that allows the leftists to keep promoting themselves as the champions of the very people they're helping to keep helpless. "you have to be off drugs to get your welfare check" is to me a stupid stupid concept, but it's a lot less criminal than the above.

      And regardless of what you say, the left in much of the world seems to never find a government institution they don't want to make more bloated. And public employees always skew decidedly leftist as a group, I wonder why? The entire roman empire was managed by about 10000 public servants (not counting the legions), why is it that you need like a dozen different departments just to handle social services?
      Please don't insult people's intelligence by trying to pretend that it isn't so, that the DMV is a wonderful and efficient organization, or that the Canadian passport office is a pleasure, and certainly don't try to bullshit me about the Uruguayan Civil Registry, where you have to go to five different buildings and seven different appointments with a total of 21 different people (because in each office there are always 3 public employees there: a single one that is attending people, a second one whose only job it is to give away the number to wait for seeing guy number 1, and a third guy who sits there and 'supervises'). And where office hours are from 11-4 (closed from 12:30-1:30 for lunch) and they have the gall to go on strike because of how "terrible" their conditions are of being guaranteed employment for life for an amount of actual work per year that a regular private industry employee would do in a day. Then these assholes have the gall to claim that business owners are evil "exploiters", these fucking parasites of the public breast, leeches of other people's money and work and effort, complaining about the guys who work 60 hours a week to try to build up a business they'll have to spend 40% of the profits to pay the public employees' wages with. FUCK THEM.

      That's why I want UBI. I don't only want UBI, I want the pleasure of being the one who goes to every last useless public employee and tells them "you're on UBI now, you'll never work again!"

      And I'd have to tell them, because about half probably wouldn't otherwise notice the difference, since they're getting paid a decent wage by the government to do nothing already.

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    9. Yes, there are awkward cliffs in government benefits. That's a bug, not a feature. One of the things that makes UBI attractive is that it would fix this problem!

      If you have evidence that welfare decreases social mobility, I'd love to see it. Such data would be invaluable for the purpose of assessing UBI as an alternative to our present system.

      At no point did I claim that the government was efficient; in many cases, it's not. I was correcting your fundamental misunderstanding about the core tenets of the left. The left does not believe that the government should do everything. The left does believe that there are things the government should do.

      The US government has far more civilian employees than Rome ever did. That comparison tells us little about their relative inefficiencies, however; the US government provides far more services than Rome's ever did, and the US population today is six times as large as that of the Roman Empire at its peak.

      It also bears noting that it is not only the leftists who grow the government. Check records of government employees per year. In the modern era, both military and civillian government size peaked at the end of Reagan's term.

      I understand that your motivation for pushing UBI doesn't line up with the left's motivation, but your end goal, on this issue, is the same. The Green party, in the clearest of terms, wants to replace welfare with UBI, just like you do. You might find that your ideas get more traction if you accept this common ground, rather than indiscriminately trash-talking the left -- many of whom would otherwise agree with you!

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    10. Strategically speaking, it doesn't matter: the left wants UBI regardless of whether I trash talk them or not. But you may have a point that I'll concede, which is that it is really Collectivists that are the problem, and there are collectivists on both the left and the right. The left just happens to be more enamoured with government-based Collectivism. But you're quite right that the right-wing political parties have generally done extremely little (in spite of their talk about it) to reduce the size of government, because in the end most of the "political class" are by definition Collectivists, and by definition big-government, whether they admit it or not. They have, after all, made a career out of living off government.

      There is such a thing as small-government leftists, I admit. But they're relatively few and far between.

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    11. This is actually a blog post I've got in the pipeline -- it'll get finished once I hit a lull in my real-life obligations. I don't know that I would say I'm a small government leftist, but I would definitely identify as an efficient-government leftist.

      I'm very interested in taking advantage of economies of scale -- for example, learning from the universal healthcare systems seen in other wealthy nations.

      I'm also interested in the corner cases where the free market fails. Monopolies are an obvious example. Trash collection, it turns out, is another: the road wear from multiple garbage truck driving the same roads is far more expensive than the cost of government inefficiency.

      I do believe that there are roles that the government should be playing... but that belief isn't worth anything unless it's backed up with numbers.

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    12. "the left wants UBI regardless of whether I trash talk them or not."

      Also, I didn't mean that the left will abandon UBI if you trash talk it. I meant that left-leaning readers might stop reading your blog, because you're trash talking them even on issues where they agree with you.

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  3. I;d like to see concrete financial calculations for the feasibility of this idea.

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    1. http://www.economonitor.com/dolanecon/2014/01/03/the-economic-case-for-a-universal-basic-income/

      This series is a decent take on it.

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  4. And when someone blows his UBI money and comes for handouts the cycle just begins anew because the Left loves it and the Right can't say no and be seen letting kids starve.

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    1. See but that's the part where Libertarians should be fighting. That's the linchpin. The ticket out. You agree to "give the progressives what they want" in terms of a UBI, but at the cost having a single office replace all the other welfare systems, and with the explicit rule that no further government aid goes to anyone beyond UBI.

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  5. Sadly in order to even make UBI work taxes would have to be raised. That wouldn't be an easy sell (especially here in the US) with taxes here being so high as they are. And more socialism isn't going to be an easy sell either.

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    1. My point is that UBI could be LESS socialism.

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  6. I can't see how giving everyone UBI is less socialism. It's more socialism. And UBI is a fantasy that will never happen for reasons I go into on my LiveJournal

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    1. If it involves a drastic reduction of the size of government, and a stripping away of the mentality of "the state will be responsible to care for you regardless of what you do" and simultaneously of that idea that "you have to jump through hoops determined by the state to be eligible for state-care", it is in many respects less socialist than the current welfare-state.

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  7. How is the government giving everyone a basic income just for being alive not the "Government taking care of people?" It is, it is socialism. I can't believe you don't see that

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    1. It is socialism, yes, but it is a minimum acceptable level of socialism given the reality that we are never going to go back to a society where we will allow people to starve to death. That is a crucial issue that has to be resolved, at least until we get to a post-scarcity society. A UBI is less socialist than a clunky big-government welfare state requiring a huge public-employee infrastructure and byzantine regulations.

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    2. We need to make capitalism work and fix what is broken, not revert to an even worse system. Socialism is bad and is not the way to go

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    3. The thing is, UBI is not a "worse system" than what's going on right now. The welfare state IS socialism, you already have socialism; so what you need to do is take a step that removes a lot of the worst problems associated with it (the bloating of government, inefficient red tape, too many public employees, and social engineering).

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    4. The problem is it won't work and it isn't a viable option. Plain and Simple. The cost would be higher than the money saved by shutting down a few wasteful government agencies. Looks good on paper, but that's the only place it looks good.

      When looking at information about UBI and where the funds will come from, the one thing I see get mentioned is taxes. Shutting down government agencies wont do it, taxes would have to be levied and raised in order to fund UBI and that would not go over well in a country like the US that is already overtaxed as it is.

      I am about to write an article on my blog outlining the cost and why it won't work

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    5. Tax reform would be necessary, but there are a variety of different ways that UBI would in fact be affordable, through a combination of altering the tax scheme and replacing the entire existing welfare state with UBI. Some very talented economists (are you an economist?) have outlined various ways in which this could be done without significant hikes in taxation.

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    6. Nor have the plans for how to implement UBI come only from big-government socialist economists. Milton Friedman, who you might know was pretty much the diametric opposite of a 'socialist', presented one such model.

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  8. I am assuming you haven't looked at my blog because (you can find it by clicking on the name next to my picture) UBI is something I have been talking about the last few days. But to answer your question I am not an economist I am a political science major (though I have taken economics).

    The problem is that even though you say the tax hikes will not be significant, people in the united states are already suffering from high taxes as it is. Any politician who suggests raising taxes (even for UBI) would be pulled from office so fast it would make your head spin. Hell, Governor Scott Walker was disliked for his policies and people tried to recall him (they failed, but of course he has big business backing him) but any governor or politician who tried to raise taxes would face a similar problem. And yes, I am familiar with who Milton Friedman is.

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    1. It bears noting that objections to Walker have nothing to do with tax hikes. They have far more to do with his union-busting, and his obsession with defunding public universities.

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    2. Again, if you looked at the various models proposed, most of them would actually convert to the vast majority of Americans playing less taxes than they do now.

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  10. Charles, please actually read what I said. I never said Walker's recall was about taxes, I said and I will quote "Hell, Governor Scott Walker was disliked for his policies and people tried to recall him". What I was pointing out that if people don't like what a politician likes him (Whether its taxes or something else) there can be hell to pay with the voters.

    So please argue about something I did say, not something I didn't say

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    1. You claimed that taxes cannot be raised, because any politician to suggest raising taxes would be pulled from office. Walker did not suggest raising taxes, and was not pulled from office. So why did you even bring him up?

      Note that while across-the-board tax increases are rare, incremental tax increases are quite common, and do not tend to result in recalls. Reagan increased the Social Security tax in 1983. Clinton raised the top tax rate from 36% to 39% in 1993. Obama raised the cigarette tax in 2009. All three were easily reelected after these tax increases went into effect.

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    2. And again, many of the right-wing models for UBI would pair it with a flat tax, where the rate could be as low as 20%, and in most cases with a deduction equal to the value of the UBI itself.

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  11. It's funny because you think tax reform might happen. Abandon hope and be happy! :D

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    1. Well, the hope is that, even though right now UBI is more of "thing that would be cool to do" rather than a necessity, the increasing mechanization and computerization of jobs will sooner or later MAKE it a necessity. Because the technological quantum leap we're in the process of making will soon result in a situation where there just literally won't be enough jobs for people; not even middle-class jobs, and that's where the whole system will need serious reform (not just the welfare state, but a whole bunch of other things, including the educational system, and including taxation), or face collapse.

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    2. I putting my bets on collapse. :O We'll have to wait till things get bad enough that it gets on the table. There is certainly a lot of faux UBI in the form of disability.

      I am pretty lucky as my job is sort of repression, recession and depression proof, Unless doctors want to start cleaning up the poop and barf themselves, people will always need nurses.

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    3. Maybe. The problem isn't repression, recession or depression. Its mechanization and computerization. I've gotten to the point where I think it's safer to bet that NO job is actually guaranteed to be immune to that. Jobs that involve mainly creativity or thinking-deep-thoughts in some regard (philosophy, political punditry, religion) might be the most secure, but I think that given enough time, a machine, robot or computer will probably end up being able to do almost everything we currently do to make money as human beings (and in time, to do it cheaper, which will be another big shifting point).

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  12. For your reading pleasure, I have crunched a few numbers on UBI:

    http://cookingwithcharles.blogspot.com/2015/03/crunching-some-numbers-on-universal.html

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    1. Very interesting! And this is without altering the tax system at all.

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    2. Well, mostly. I assumed that baseline income is tax exempt.

      I'll look at tax numbers in more detail in part 2.

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