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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 9/8/19

Universal Basic Income + Automation + Plutocracy = Dystopia

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Americans are discussing the possibility of a universal basic income (UBI) more seriously than ever before, largely due to the surprisingly popular campaign of Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang. Yang has made UBI the central issue of his platform, promising a "Freedom Dividend" paid for by a Value Added Tax on businesses which would give every American between the ages of 18 and 64 an unconditional $1,000 a month to help offset the looming crisis of automation replacing US jobs.

"In the next 12 years, 1 out of 3 American workers are at risk of losing their jobs to new technologies -- and unlike with previous waves of automation, this time new jobs will not appear quickly enough in large enough numbers to make up for it," Yang's campaign site argues. "To avoid an unprecedented crisis, we're going to have to find a new solution, unlike anything we've done before. It all begins with the Freedom Dividend, a universal basic income for all American adults, no strings attached a foundation on which a stable, prosperous, and just society can be built."

Yang is absolutely correct that automation is going to be replacing the jobs of many people in the very near future, and he is absolutely correct that new solutions unlike anything ever tried before are going to be necessary to help address this problem. But his plan, and indeed all the most publicized plans which involve the implementation of a universal basic income, will necessarily lead to an oppressive oligarchic dystopia unlike anything we've ever seen before.

Jeff Bezos is in favor of a universal basic income. https://t.co/ohsW00PNKS

Matt Stoller (@matthewstoller) September 24, 2017

Do you know who supports the implementation of a UBI besides Andrew Yang? Billionaires. Lots of billionaires, especially the new money tech billionaires who are positioning themselves to inherit the earth in the transition to a new paradigm dominated by automation and artificial intelligence. Billionaires like Jeff Bezos, Pierre Omidyar, Mark Zuckerberg, Jack Dorsey, Elon Musk, Richard Branson, Bill Gross, Tim Draper, and more moderately Bill Gates, have all been seen advocating for a policy that is now being popularized as one which would level the economic playing field and take power away from the billionaire class.

Now why would that be? Why would a group of people who've clawed their way up to positions of immense wealth control, enabling them to live as modern-day kings, be so eager to suddenly give away that power? Why would they break with the trend we've consistently observed in rulers since the dawn of recorded history and voluntarily relinquish the power they fought to claim without a fight? Are billionaires just naturally good people inherently predisposed to compassionate action and wealth redistribution? Have we been wrong about Jeff Bezos being a real-life super-villain this entire time?

Of course not. This increasingly powerful class of new money tech plutocrats are not pushing to give power away, they're pushing to secure more. As Jimmy Stewart's character says in It's A Wonderful Life, Potter isn't selling, Potter's buying.

I am not arguing against the general principle of universal basic income here. If humanity is to learn to collaborate in a healthy way with the ecosystem in which we evolved, a lot more of us are going to have to start doing a lot less. We're going to have to stop using up energy driving to jobs the world doesn't need to produce crap you have to propagandize people into believing they want so they'll spend money on it and then throw it in the landfill. That's obviously an insane way for an increasingly technologically advanced species to continue to function, and one way or another we are going to have to start doing a lot more nothing quite soon.

But imagine what will happen with a system of the kind Yang and the tech billionaires are proposing. Imagine what will happen in a society where people are no longer necessary and have nothing the powerful need. Imagine what will happen when people become dependent on a subsistence UBI set up by the already plutocrat-controlled government to sustain them when plutocrat-owned technologies render their labor completely moot. Imagine a world where a few increasingly consolidated automation firms produce more and more of the goods and services once provided by human labor and re-collect all taxes they have to pay into the UBI from a public forced by their subsistence wages to buy automation-made products and services.

That would be total oligarchic control. Not what we're seeing now; what we're seeing now is not total oligarchic control. Our current predicament pales in comparison to how bad it could get.

Think about what would happen in that situation if people decided they weren't being treated fairly by the existing system. What recourse would they have? They can't organize labor strikes if they have no labor. They can't boycott if everything is made by the same corrupt system. Mass demonstrations and civil disobedience would go unnoticed by a power structure that needs nothing from its populace. Violent revolution would be an unwinnable game as security systems protecting the infrastructure of the powerful would also become automated. People would cease to be active participants in their society, and would instead be merely along for the ride at the whims of the oligarchs, for as long as the oligarchs deemed them not too inconvenient to keep around.

Because our last bargaining chips would have been taken away from us.

Think about how such a paradigm would dance with the current populist movements we're seeing in the world today as people grow upset with their already oppressive living conditions. The left will be neutered far more definitively than it has been by anything that government agencies have ever been able to engineer; the workers can't unite if there are no workers. Yellow Vests-type demonstrations would have no effect on a power structure that doesn't require law and order outside its automation complexes. Attempts to vote the problem away will be laughed off by a political system that is even more oligarch-controlled than it already is.

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Caitlin Johnstone Social Media Pages: Facebook page url on login Profile not filled in       Twitter page url on login Profile not filled in       Linkedin page url on login Profile not filled in       Instagram page url on login Profile not filled in

Caitlin Johnstone is a brave journalist, political junkie, relentless feminist, champion of the 99 percent. And a powerful counter-propaganda tactician. Rogue journalist, poet, illustrator, utopia prepper, and proudly 100 percent reader-funded through Patreon (more...)
 

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8 people are discussing this page, with 12 comments  Post Comment


Aleksandar Sarovic

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Universal basic income is just one theme the rich has invented to deceive the poor. After 10 years of talk, the rich will conclude that UBI is a good idea but it cannot be realized. Then the rich will find a new theme for the poor so that they will have something to talk about. The point is nothing will change in the foreseeable future because the rich do not want to change anything.

There is an escape from all of the problems of capitalism in shorter work hours. It will raise the demand for workers which will increase their salaries on free-market. But this is something the rich will never put into the agenda and the poor are so indoctrinated by the propaganda of the rich that cannot see it. Here it the explanation: https://www.opednews.com/articles/Full-employment-is-a-turni-by-Aleksandar-Sarovic-Conspiracy_Economy_Employers_Exploitation-190814-944.html

Submitted on Sunday, Sep 8, 2019 at 10:28:17 PM

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Chuck Nafziger

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I doubt that humans have the ability to foresee the impact of AI and out of control robots. This is one of the places where the rich will make messes that the proles usually are stuck cleaning up, but this one will bite everyone with no cleanup possible. Climate would have gotten us anyway. G'day Mate!

Submitted on Sunday, Sep 8, 2019 at 10:37:36 PM

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Daniel Geery

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Though Mark Twain was in theory incorrect, I imagine he will remain correct for as long as we're around. "Work is something you have to do."

Then again, it's will remain correct by definition, as he obviously meant it to be.

Submitted on Monday, Sep 9, 2019 at 3:01:19 PM

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Lee Beacham

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Why not strengthen the reliance on our Constitutional precepts, Capitalism and ban/ignore the push from the left towards Socialism. It's what got us here. Here is pretty good. Planning a national future will surely make things worse, not better. Evolution come from bottom up. We'll evolve, but slower id better. Solving the future is a ruse to avoid solving the present problems we have. Id put the efforts is forcing out Government to back down to basics (read the complete Constitution for clues. A smaller less intrusive Federal government is one that can operate on the taxes citizens agree to send. Reverse the trend that has robbed power and responsibility of our States will pay dividends for the future we are worrying about. Stop trying to perfect life on Earth forever. It's not going to last that long. Earth is for the living currently. The future belongs to God.

Submitted on Monday, Sep 9, 2019 at 3:11:53 PM

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nelswight

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Hi, Lee, I'm glad you've had a fortunate life, but the same things don't work that way today.

Submitted on Monday, Sep 9, 2019 at 3:35:19 PM

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Dennis Kaiser

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Just how far would we go without socialism? I guess subsidies to the fossil fuel corporations and agribusiness corporations isn't socialism. I suppose the military isn't socialism. I suppose bailing out corporations that fail isn't socialism. This winter when your roads are plowed thank socialism. There's more.

Submitted on Monday, Sep 9, 2019 at 9:47:00 PM

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Lee Beacham

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You left out welfare. I'm not surprised. That's the real Socialism. Over a trillion dollars now spent on welfare annually. Direct payments of cash, free food and free healthcare. Of the 3 categories, Medicaid is the biggest. Is it interesting that our welfare expense is near equal to our annual deficit? Is it interesting that the Congress never debates spending budgets anymore, not for years. I'm not against all welfare. But if we (taxpayers) had to pony up the Federal spending each year, many categories in the budget would be lower. I'm not a proponent for a forced level budget. I borrow when needed, but I pay debt down. I've never borrowed from on source to pay a monthly payment. The US debt goes up much faster than inflation or GDP. The Debt is our Socialism. More Socialism means more debt. If this article is planning an economy with less working, I didn't see a word about servicing our national debt. This should be more fearful for our future. But thinking too far in the future and worrying about it is against God's will. I fuss occasionally about America's future and the weather. But less and less. God doesn't want us to worry about the future.

Submitted on Tuesday, Sep 10, 2019 at 12:47:22 AM

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I agree there are too many taxpayer dollars being paid to those who do not need it. That is why I propose stopping all subsidies to the fossil fuel industry and the agribusiness industry. Right there you save close to a $Trillion annually. Going further cut the Defense budget by 15-20% as annually it is reported they cannot account for that amount, meaning they didn't need it as if it was needed they would know where it went. If one is really concerned about the debt why not roll back these tax cuts to the wealthy and corporations? Is there a sound reason why corporations like Amazon and others should not be paying a single penny in taxes?

All of the things mentioned above, if discontinued, would have nobody physically suffer or even die whereas those areas called "welfare" are being cut and people are suffering and dying.

I believe Capitalism and Socialism can coexist, but social programs should be afforded to citizens in need and not corporate interests. A big fallacy is a drain on tax dollars called "privatization". These are in large part "social" programs for "private" entities where tax dollars are being taken, robbed if you will, from say our public schools, to subsidize a corporation running a school in that district.

Submitted on Tuesday, Sep 10, 2019 at 12:21:21 PM

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Fossil fuel and agri subsidies together are under 40 billion per year. You're just wrong in your facts. But we do agree that we could and should be operating our government with a goal of a balanced budget. At least have debates and hearings on spending annually. Deficit spending should be temporary followed by repayment. We now do not even debate spending.

Government spending is easy to look up.

Submitted on Wednesday, Sep 11, 2019 at 1:09:07 PM

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My concern is this UBI plan would not be good for the retired as the UBI would apply to those 18-64. In our unregulated capitalism businesses, knowing people have more money in their pocket, except those retirees, prices would go up accordingly, thus costing more to live.

Submitted on Monday, Sep 9, 2019 at 5:10:43 PM

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Jonathan Dickau

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It's not a simple issue...

Other steps need to be taken first, in order to make any attempt at a UBI realistic. I think one of the things we need most is higher education for all those who want it, and to as advanced a level as they can reasonably master. I ended up taking differential equations three times, when I was in College, because I thought it would be essential to excellence in Physics, and yet I feel like my learning of the essentials was cut short long before I was ready to stop, because of expenses.

As it turns out; I actually got to discuss this question on two occasions with Tech billionaire Leo KoGuan, and in his view free education for all for life is the cornerstone, and the only realistic way one can actually implement a UBI. He explained that more educated people tend to be more creative and productive, so there is a greater human resource to work with. Plus the individual becomes more valuable to society over time.

Failing this; it is very difficult to go on to universal health care or a universal minimum income. He thought that a big problem there is that the Law does not always encourage right action, but instead guides people toward avoiding guilt and blame. Apparently this is even worse in China because blame is assessed by percentage to all involved. So unless Education is put first UBI falls apart.

And quite definitely; a lot of the proposals on the table for a UBI would be unsustainable, and the collapse of the attempt would simply consolidate more power in the hands of the oligarchs. Talking with Leo convinced me, however, that not all the Tech billionaires are looking for the oligarchy to win total power, because even they would be hemmed in. Instead; many in that club would rather see a free society prosper, because it unties their hands too.

Regards,

Jonathan

Submitted on Monday, Sep 9, 2019 at 9:10:19 PM

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Caitlin and you guys have got it all wrong. Do watch this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ViywrpAyVdY




Submitted on Tuesday, Sep 10, 2019 at 12:07:57 AM

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