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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 9/10/19

Universal Basic Income is a Totalitarian State's Dream Scheme

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Andrew Yang's small but solid polling in the Democratic Party's 2020 nomination race shows that "Universal Basic Income" has gone from a fringe idea to an idea with a foothold in the popular consciousness.

Supporters of a basic income span the political spectrum and the economic upheavals of the 21st century -- especially fears that automation will increasingly replace human workers -- are likely to fuel its journey to the center of policy discussions over the next few years.

A guaranteed income for the masses isn't here, but it may well be coming. That's a bad thing.

Let's assume that the problems a UBI seeks to address are real, vexing, and intractable: That this generation of automation, unlike past iterations, will destroy more jobs than it creates and lower rather than raise wages.

Let's also assume that a universal income guarantee at, say, the poverty line would cost less and address those problems more efficiently than expanded versions of existing welfare programs.

Those assumptions, correct or not, leave out one major problem that a UBI would create rather than solve. The problem, put simply, is that a Universal Basic Income would quickly turn into an iron-fisted tool of social and individual control by the entity writing those monthly checks (the government).

A Universal Basic Income wouldn't be "universal." Some exclusions (for example, prison inmates) would almost certainly be baked into it from the start. Others would quickly follow. Are you a FORMER felon? Is your name on a sex offender registry or no-fly list? Are you behind on child support or late filing a tax return? Do you make "too much" money above the UBI? Did you fail a random drug test?

Suppose you don't fall into any of those categories. You're an upright citizen. The UBI hits your bank account reliably every month. You come to depend on it, even if you're otherwise employed. It takes the edge off poverty or covers the little extras you've become accustomed to.

Then your paymasters in Washington announce that unless Policy X is implemented, the UBI will regrettably have to be eliminated, or cut, or a cost-of-living increase skipped.

Policy X might be one of the exclusions mentioned above. Or it might be something seemingly only tenuously, if at all, related to the UBI itself. A trade war, even a shooting war, premised on an economic downturn being another country's "fault." Another housing crash, necessitating another bailout of banks and investment houses with cockamamie trading policies. You name it, politicians will figure out a way to weaponize an income guarantee to get you on their side of it.

So, do you Support Policy X and the politicians advocating for it, or risk that monthly income guarantee to support what you really think is right?

Maybe you're a person of principle. Maybe you'll stand up for what's right even if it costs you. But will your neighbors?

The cost of a UBI would be total state power. And that would be a terrible deal to take.

 

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Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.


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5 people are discussing this page, with 10 comments  Post Comment


Paul Kinzelman

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I don't find any of Tom's arguments compelling. The issues are details that need to be worked out. He could make the same case against Social Security and we know how well that works to keep seniors off the street, and would do a better job once we get some form of Medicare for All done.

Seems to me UBI solves a lot of problems and would greatly enhance the 'general welfare' as the Constitution encourages.

Submitted on Tuesday, Sep 10, 2019 at 6:58:36 PM

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Thomas Knapp

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"He could make the same case against Social Security and we know how well that works to keep seniors off the street"


I STIPULATED to the arguments for UBI as a good thing.

Submitted on Tuesday, Sep 10, 2019 at 7:34:41 PM

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I would propose a robot tax. Tax the productivity as income and the place where the robot "lives" as property tax. I pay both as I make money for the company in which I toil.

Submitted on Tuesday, Sep 10, 2019 at 7:10:39 PM

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The column is not about how to fund a UBI. The column is about how the UBI could (would) be used to suppress dissent and punish the pariah of the moment.

Submitted on Tuesday, Sep 10, 2019 at 7:36:04 PM

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I realize that. UBI was brought up elsewhere as a remedy to automation replacing real workers. I was thinking of that with my comment.

Submitted on Tuesday, Sep 10, 2019 at 8:17:33 PM

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Are you trying to suppress my dissent? haha

Submitted on Tuesday, Sep 10, 2019 at 8:18:36 PM

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Devil's Advocate

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I agree, as nice an idea as it is, I can't escape how it will be used as weapon against public in the end.

It would make everyone more reliant on the government, while automation takes away everyone's relevance to the labour market (and therefore what's left of your power).

Caitlin has a pretty good take on why...

Here


Submitted on Tuesday, Sep 10, 2019 at 8:20:07 PM

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Derryl Hermanutz

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Unless you have your own farm and water supply and produce all of your daily necessities of life for yourself, you are already totally at the mercy of the transnational corporations who produce all the stuff you buy, and pay for with money. How does giving people money so they can pay for the stuff they need make people worse off than they already are in the corporate-owned economy? As long as you depend on "the system" to provide your necessities of life, you are a slave to the owners of the system. Freedom does not mean "having jobs" working for corporations. It means being free of the global system of giant transnational corporations monopolizing ownership of the economic production system.

Submitted on Tuesday, Sep 10, 2019 at 9:34:50 PM

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Yes, most of what you're saying is true. But, this isn't all about the "slave factor" you're describing. It's more about power and control.

As a worker, you have some value to "the system" you refer to, as it needs you, to some degree (even if less now than ever before). As automation takes over, you will have less relevance to that "system". You lose your value, and your bargaining power.

Should UBI become a "salary replacement" for that scenario, you will be a complete slave to your only support mechanism (government), and subject to the abuse that comes with that.

That is where the concern lies.

Submitted on Tuesday, Sep 10, 2019 at 9:57:53 PM

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Unless you have your own farm and water supply and produce all of your daily necessities of life for yourself, you are already totally at the mercy of the transnational corporations who produce all the stuff you buy, and pay for with money. How does giving people money so they can pay for the stuff they need make people worse off than they already are in the corporate-owned economy? As long as you depend on "the system" to provide your necessities of life, you are a slave to the owners of the system. Freedom does not mean "having jobs" working for corporations. It means being free of the global system of giant transnational corporations monopolizing ownership of the economic production system.

Submitted on Tuesday, Sep 17, 2019 at 10:18:01 PM

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