Utopia, dystopia and Basic Income
Forward: This is a thread I enjoyed from user @AprilSpectrum on Twitter. Compiled and published with permission.
The driving idea behind #basicincome is a pretty simple but remarkably controversial one.
“All humans deserve to live.”
(I anticipate a troll jumping in and saying “blah blah liberals blah blah abortion blah” at that.)
To further make sense of that statement, we have to define what is meant by “all humans deserve to live.”
All humans: EVERYONE. Boys girls and enbys. Blacks. Whites. All races. Trans. Cis. Het. Gay. Bi. Disabled. Abled. Religious. Non religious.
This is a shockingly controversial thing to say. There are a lot of people who think that some humans have more or less right to live.
We call these people “capitalists”.
Capitalism is a system which is based on the idea that a person’s life should depend on their ability to procure capital. Not how they do it.
Now, in a capitalist system, money is considered to be a fixed variable, meaning there is only x amount, to be divided between people
So, these people must compete to prove worthiness, and secure money. People do this through having jobs.
Person A takes prepackaged food items, heats them, and provides them to other humans. Person B counts the money other people have accrued.
Which person has proved higher worthiness? Currently, capitalism rewards Person B higher than Person A. Which I find odd.
Person A has provided sustainable that many people have partaken in, extending their lives. Person B has scribbled on paper.
Yet, Person B is awarded 60 units of pay per hour, and Person A is awarded with 8.
If humans are made to fight over resources, certain humans have an advantage over others.
I am more clever, perhaps, than someone else. My mate is 10–12 times stronger than I am. My sister is very fast.
In this way, a hierarchy forms based on which humans are able to secure resources and which are not. Capitalism calls this “meritocracy”.
The flaw to capitalism is twofold. Firstly, as I mentioned, it considers resources to be a fixed variable. This is not accurate to reality.
Second, it considers forcing humans to compete for resources to be a humane method of distribution. This is horribly cruel instead.
To add perspective, the latest research shows that our planet produces five times the food needed to sustain human life.
This is a 400% excess in resources beyond the artificial fixed variable assumed by capitalism.
So, when someone tells you “we can’t afford” to pay x person a living wage, that is a lie.
There is an estimated 40% housing surplus in my area. I believe nation wide it is even higher. So if they say “we can’t” it is lies again.
So, now comes this idea of a basic income.
Basic Income is that is an unconditional income that is sufficient to meet a person’s basic needs (at or above the poverty line), is called full basic income, while if it is less than that amount, it is called a partial basic income.
How much money is that? How much is “enough”?
This idea is not new, actually. Roosevelt established minimum wage as a basic living income during the Great Depression.
Many capitalists become angry when this is brought up, and say it extended the Great Depression, made it longer.
Perhaps this is true, but it also saves millions of lives, which is far more important than raising the GDP of a Nation.
According to Roosevelt, minimum wage was created to ensure people were paid enough to live on. It was intended to rise with cost of living.
So, what is cost of living? How is it calculated? Who decides it?
Cost of living factors in the cost of housing, food, transportation, and “miscellaneous” to get an idea of what people need.
It is not exact, but it forms a decent index. Some areas cost more, others less.
Iowa, for example, cost about 56% of the US average. While places like New York cost closer to 130%.
In my state, cost of living was estimated to be $23 per hour, for a person working 40 hours per week. Yet, minimum wage is $9.90!
In order to live, a minimum wage work must work 93 hours per week!
Clearly this is not sustainable. And it is talking because it is unnecessary. *galling*
So, what is the solution?
The idea of basic income is the idea of providing a living wage. It gets push back for many reasons, beyond the ableist flaws of capitalism.
One of these reasons is choice. People will argue “what if I want to live in a big house?” as if this negates basic income.
“What if I want to have nice things like jewelry?” “What if I want a dog?” “What if I don’t want to work 40 hours a week I only want 30?”
OK. No one has said you would not be allowed these things. All anyone has offered is to be guaranteed a bed, food, clothes, and a roof.
Does being handed a t shirt mean you cannot also wear a jacket? No that is ridiculous.
Another thing people say is “I don’t want to have to pay for someone else to get X” This is also an incredibly bad argument.
As established, Earth has a massive surplus of resources. It is not necessary to take anything away from anyone in order to provide for all.
Basic income is the idea of discontinuing the practice of throwing away “surplus” and instead distributing it to people based on need.
My personal income need is about $36,000 per year. I make $22,000 before taxes. That is a 14,000 deficit.
My boyfriend’s personal income need is also about $36,000, but he makes $40,000 which is a $4,000 surplus.
Which looking at that is a bit scary because I see we have only survived this year because of money I had left from school.
But, my point was that he does not horde his $4,000 in the bank and tell me I deserve to starve for choosing a worse job.
We also have a three bedroom house. We have only one roommate, and so have advertised the other room. This is an example of shared excess.
Having no need of the space, we are donating it for another person to use. A person with no room can then be housed.
This room will cost less than a full apartment, so they save money, while we gain money.
Shared excess eliminates poverty.
Then comes the argument that capitalists love best. “Some people cost too much.”
Hi. Hello. I am a disabled person. I am autistic, I have a thyroid disorder, I have many allergies and counting! I have anxiety, PTSD, etc.
I have specific dietary needs — like I can’t eat corn, or soy, and I cant eat processed foods. I’m lactose intolerant.
I have sensitivities to many detergents, and have very poor vision. My lenses cost $300 because they are too strong to make from normal material.
Should I die?
I mean, if you do not want to pay for me to be able to see, should I just be blind? Should I lose my job? My home? Should I die over this?
Oh, but, remember, YOU are not paying for this. The 400% worldwide surplus is paying. So, I don’t have to die for you to enjoy poker night.
Another issue capitalists raise is how basic income would be managed. “Who gets to dole out the cash?”
Right now, we trust millions of private and state employers to do this, people we know have the ulterior motive of making a profit.
So, I don’t really understand why this is suddenly a fear.
“What if they sneak money for themselves?” There are already systems in place to counter this.
“What if they give someone too much money?” Again, system’s in place. Also, we have a 400% surplus! It will be OK!
“How do we know they won’t use this to bring down an Orwellian dystopia!?!”
We are already living in an Orwellian dystopia.
We are already living in a place where people are denied medical care because they have the wrong insurance company, or the wrong conditions.
A boy with pneumonia was denied care because he had smoked pot before — in a state where pot is legal.
A woman I know personally was denied medical care during pregnancy because she wasn’t married to her rapist.
My boyfriend bought a coat and meal for a man who was homeless, only to find him dead on the street from cold that month.
Hell is here already. So, do not try to say it will be worse with us helping each other than it is today!
What other objections do people have? Oh yes, “but it will encourage people to be lazy”.
This is one that especially chafes me. See, I have had to go long periods with no job.
Once, after a very bad health issue, I went 8 months. I couldn’t handle it! Humans naturally despise idleness.
More than that, the point of work is not to avoid laziness, nor is it to procure resources — those are a corruption caused by capitalism
The point of work is to be able to do good for others and create something of value.
These are both innate human drives. There are studies to prove this.
In fact, civilization was created by these drives. Humans survived 45 million years as cave people, hunting and gathering food.
Anyways, I think I’ve addressed all of the main arguments.