Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Guaranteed Basic Income

The justification for a basic income is pretty simple and even obvious after you know about it.

There's only so much land on the Earth. Nobody is making any more and nobody made what's already there. So who should have it? Well the only just answer is that the land should be divided up each and every year into equal shares and these shares split up equally.

So from the fact you were born you have a human right to 1/(humanity's size) of all the land on Earth. And while we're at it, also all the oceans, all the fish, all the petrol in the ground, all the coal, all the forests, all the ... well you get the idea.

Now if we're sophisticated then we're going to allow people to sell off their rightful annual share of the natural resources on the Earth to the highest bidder. And that my boy, is the guaranteed basic income.

There's another argument that the basic income should be augmented with the share of the labour rent in the economy. Labour rent is the extra value you derive from having a job which some unemployed person can't derive because there aren't enough jobs to go around.

But this argument is iffy to say the least because the economy is bounded by resources. So the reason jobs are scarce is because natural resources are scarce, and we're already providing a basic income due to the scarcity of natural resources. So providing one for the scarcity of jobs would be double-counting. Maybe.

Anyways, when natural resources are so plentiful that everyone can grab as much as they want, then the price of untouched natural resources falls to zero and the guaranteed basic income falls to zero. But in *our modern world* where natural resources are very, VERY scarce, the price of untouched natural resources is extremely high and should be high enough to ensure someone's survival.

This is not the only argument for supporting people in financial straits by the way. There is also the argument from economic efficiency. There are many, many situations where it's best to charge everyone the same fee regardless of how much of a resource they use. This happens when keeping track of everyone's usage is going to cost more than the resources themselves.

Well as it happens you can invert the argument to talk about people's un-renumerated contributions to society. For example, raising your children has economic value to society. Raising them well has even higher economic value to society. These are benefits.

So is writing novels and publishing them online for free distribution. So is dispensing knowledge online. So is volunteering to sustain a community like all the people who run those Craigslist forums do.

The point is, all of those things provide net economic benefits to society as a whole. Should the people who provide them be left to starve to death? Should they be called chumps and laughed at? If you think these people should be rewarded then you've got a problem.

How do you measure people's contribution to society? Even better, how do you measure it without destroying it? Because it's a documented fact that when you start putting a price to people's un-priced voluntary contributions then their motivation disappears.

The answer is that just like charging everyone for oxygen or municipal water or sewers, it's not possible. The measuring apparatus would cost more money than it would save by preventing fraud. So you know what's the solution? The most efficient solution that's not totally unjust? Cut everyone a check and have done with it.


Alrenous said...

Recipe for hilarious and immediate economic catastrophe.

But if you'll fight to the death for my freedom to opt out, I'll fight to the death for your freedom to try it out.

Richard Kulisz said...

I don't fight for anyone, let alone "to the death". What a ridiculous notion and conceit. What the fuck is wrong with your brain that you think this makes sense?