The symptoms of this crisis of the American spirit are all around us. For the first time in the history of our country a majority of our people believe that the next five years will be worse than the past five years. Two-thirds of our people do not even vote. The productivity of American workers is actually dropping, and the willingness of Americans to save for the future has fallen below that of all other people in the Western world.
As you know, there is a growing disrespect for government and for churches and for schools, the news media, and other institutions. This is not a message of happiness or reassurance, but it is the truth and it is a warning.
Everything he listed has gotten worse, not better. Both local communities and our institutions have fragmented, crumbled, or turned, at least in part, cynically exploitative (see: degree mills, asset forfeiture, Creflo Dollar, myriad regulations enabling rent-seeking and hindering free enterprise).
Because HN and tech world chatter is my background noise, I think about Universal Basic Income, though I don't know much more about it than a definition. It seems to me the "winners" in the current game can provide assistance and some level of comfort in a more expansive and efficient way than the degrading system in place today. But they can't provide meaning. Neither can the institutions Carter listed, alone. At minimum, an earned trust in all or most of them is a foundation on which secure footing can be had to build a life, a family, a community. But I don't know how we get there from here. It sure doesn't seem that either party is steering that way, or that our current media is capable of engaging with the situation without driving 10 different outrage-optimized wedges through it.
The civic and moral fabric of the nation is not an election-winning topic, as Carter found out.
Not productivity. It's roughly doubled. http://www.bls.gov/opub/btn/volume-3/what-can-labor-producti...
This means lots of free time. The question is, how do we allocate it? There are only 2 ways to do it: have everyone work less, or have less people work at all. Really, this is a no-brainer. Yet somehow, we're still opting for unemployment (have less people work at all).
We can do better.
Training, communication, organization, and a dozen other things are per-worker costs which incentivize employing fewer people full-time. The only exceptions are regulatory distortions that incentivize part-time labor to avoid paying benefits. And those jobs only exist at the bottom of the pay scale (where flat healthcare costs dominate scaling efficiency costs), which is where full-time work is required to survive. It's not just foolishness, the current system is more efficient while being more devastating.
We can absolutely do better, but it's going to take a serious realignment.
Unemployment through lack of demand is another issue and can happen with or without productivity changes. See for example Singapore with 2% unemployment and high productivity and say Mozambique with 60% unemployment and low productivity (figures from Wikipedia).
Don't worry, there is someone here who promises to "Make America Great Again"
That's it right there. We just don't need that many people to do all the stuff. Some of that is imports, but not all, or even most, of it.
Get behind the $15 minimum wage. Then the 8 hour day and 40 hour week.
Overtime is coming back to America, on December 1, 2016. The threshold below which overtime must be paid rises from $455 to $913 per week. This affects about 4 million US workers. Goldman Sachs says this will add 100,000 jobs, as employers try to avoid paying time and a half for overtime.
> ... no matter how tenuous, the precariat had jobs. The new dying Americans, the ones killing themselves on purpose or with drugs, don’t. Don’t, won’t, and know it.
Overtime and wage increases are not going to help people who don't have jobs, and can't be trained for high paying jobs. UBI might help them, but might have some other unbeneficial social effects. And maybe if we invent Soma we could give people a safe way to escape a crushing reality.
But the gist here is that for a certain underclass, things are not improving, and no solutions are being offered. No one even cares that these people are dying, no community is organized around helping them. Nothing. It's bad enough to make one want to take heroin.
So vote Trump! If you can't save the world, better to watch it burn. Fire walk with me.
A higher minimum wage will most likely hurt the unnecessariat. One way to think of a $15 minimum wage is a prohibition on anyone who's labor is worth less than $15/hr from working. Not only will it make the current unecessariat's situation worse, it will likely expand it's ranks.
I wouldn't advocate a jump straight to a $15 minimum wage because for sufficiently large MW jumps the elasticity has to start heading for -1 (and beyond -- that's just the break even point) and we only have good information for small changes. But for small changes the evidence is unambiguous. The traditional narrative taught in Econ 101 is an oversimplification.
It's not hard to figure out why: markets set the actual price of labor between the producer price (minimum people will work for) and consumer price (value to the employer) based on bargaining power. If employers are winning at the bargaining power game, wages will be close to the minimum. If employees are winning, wages will be close to the maximum. Only those earning wages already close to the maximum will be affected by a minimum wage increase. Since the unskilled labor market is flooded, approximately everyone is on the "minimum" side of the spectrum. Both theory and evidence say that small MW increases are boons to laborers under these conditions.
As machines advance and begin push humans out of the market, the maximum side of the spectrum will begin to drift downwards and impinge on all the people crunched up against the minimum side, squeezing them out of the market and into "unnecessariat" status. Minimum wage will become an ineffective tool at that point, just as you say. But we aren't there yet.
The cited blog is by the CEPR, a leftist/progressive think-tank, this doesn't make their conclusion wrong, however, my reading of the graph present on the blog looks more like there is a negative elasticity, with respect to the demand for labor at higher wages, indicated by the meta-study. The graph looks like it might be as large as -0.1, suggesting that doubling of the minimum wage could have a noticeable negative impact on employment. Not all studies show that happening, but a greater number do.
Also: GP makes an excellent point, which I should have thought of myself.
Another model is UBI and government as employer of last resort (or a equivalent strong labour movement). If there is an employer who can absorb all applicants at a minimum wage, then the market floor is pushed up.
Remember, a living wage is the minimum all-in cost of labour. If you're operating a business which cannot afford to pay a worker what they need to survive, you're not operating a business, you're operating a charity supported by your workforce (or social welfare systems).
If you can and fail to, you're simply pocketing profits from the public purse.
This is straight-up Adam Smith: "A man must always live by his work, and his wages must at least be sufficient to maintain him. They must even upon most occasions be somewhat more, otherwise it would be impossible for him to bring up a family, and the race of such workmen could not last beyond the first generation."
Exactly. It's amazing to me that people claim there just isn't enough work. There is more than enough work -- there's always some way to make the world a better place. And in the USA there are fairly obvious things, from social services (in the broadest sense) to mundane upkeep to large infrastructure improvements.
The problem is that there isn't enough work that's motivated by profit motive in the near-term.
Likewise, if you are a working-age individual who is only capable of creating value at a rate less the minimum wage, you aren't looking for a job, you're looking for charity dressed up like a job. (That's fine as a social policy, but when that charity is expected to come private sources, it's a very unstable employer/employee relationship. The minute affordable automation comes along or the business revenues take a dip, such charity cases will be the first to be let go or have their hours cut, because they're fundamentally unprofitable in the normal condition.)
I'd also inquire as to:
1. Who or what the economy is supposed to be for, anyway.
2. What the situation is when it's not trivially possible to create increased value through exploitation of labour. That speaks to some problems with the production function.
3. The possibility of positive externalities and/or public goods (also of negative externalities and rent-seeking).
4. The relationships between wealth and political or negotiating power.
I'll give you a hint on that last. "Wealth, as Mr Hobbes says, is power." Smith again.
I am speaking on a micro-scale. Individual people with low skills and no capital. It's not at all clear to me that minimum wage laws and social safety nets with sharp claw-backs or cliffs (where money earned doesn't help at all or not much) help this class as a whole. Sure, minimum wage laws probably prop up many in the class who have jobs but harms those in the class who don't.
For me, I've run two small businesses and now am a happy employee. It's amazingly aggravating to deal with having employees and it's perfectly proper to me that my employer makes more profit on my labor than I take home. They should: they take all the risk that I'm a lemon employee and provide the structure whereby I can concentrate on where I can add vale and all the stuff I couldn't care less about (HR, Finance, Legal structure, IP, etc) they handle.
If I start a third company, it probably won't have any low-skill workers at all, certainly not if there's a min wage law that makes it uneconomical to hire them. On a micro scale, I'm deciding what's best for my company, not for the economy or for society.
Edit: I should also clarify that in my GP post that I was referring to the payment of minimum wage at a rate higher than the value creation as a form of "charity", not that all low-skilled work (paid at free market wages) is charity. One of the appealing aspects of most UBI proposals is the "U" in that they don't scale back benefits as punishment for gainful employment.
Also I think you can survive on minimum wage, but surviving just means not dying. A surviving wage would only have to be high enough to afford the worker a 9 squarefoot of decently heated dry room to sleep in, two sets of adequate but not nice or new clothing, a winter coat and sufficient caloric intake not to starve, as well as access to a place to urinate/deficate and, probably, the occasional shower. I don't think that is that costly, actually, but it is possible to survive at this level.
So personally I think we should aim a little bit higher than survival. I am not concerned with the differences between the poor and the rich - no person was ever fed because his neighbor is also poor, but with how the poorest are living.
He's adamantly clear that the survival wage criterion is an absolute minimum. He also lays out what the story is, for the economy as a whole when this isn't met (his prolonged discussion of China).
He addresses (mostly in chapter 10) additional considerations which raise the value of some work. Something technical workers and contractors would do well to read.
Smith discusses the matter of elements which had been considered luxuries but which are, by the custom of a nation, essentials. That would include, in most developed countries, electricity, running water, sewage, residential gas (possibly), phone and Internet service, a fixed postal address, reliable transportation, and the like.
What Smith doesn't mention (excusably) nor Robert Gordon (in The Rise and Fall of American Growth) somewhat less so, is Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. You'll frequently see (including sadly here on HN) arguments that the existence or ownership of a cellphone or smartphone somehow indicates someone isn't poor. While Gordon does* correctly point out that predictability and reliability of income is crucial to a middle-class existence, he fails to note that Maslow's pyramid cannot be built from the top down. Providing for safety and security, food, clothing, and shelter are the minimum.
I've explored Smith and Maslow more at my subreddit / Lair of the Id, you might enjoy reading articles there: https://dredmorbius.reddit.com
Did you miss this bit, or do you not believe it?
>> Goldman Sachs says this will add 100,000 jobs, as employers try to avoid paying time and a half for overtime.
TL;DR yes, I don't believe it.
It will increase wealth because the companies will still be paying more than they are today - if two 40-hour workers were cheaper than one 80-hour worker today, they'd be hiring the two 40-hour workers already.
Additionally going from one unemployed person and one person with an 80-hour job to two people with 40-hour jobs is probably a win, even if there were no extra money.
They can get those through welfare, after all. /s
Yes we do. There is so much work to be done. The problem is the poverty of the public sphere, brought on by specific, ideologically motivated decisions.
"But it's not fair to demand that the hard working robot owners pay more in taxes to help the people too lazy to own their own robots."
It's part of the foundation of every sovereign country. They formed a new government to get better representation because they felt the old one was robbing them and not providing enough services.
I don't think the next revolution is around the corner. But, this election cycle, evidence of the widening wealth gap is more apparent.
* People should keep their money, they worked hard for it!
Then Bruenig points out that there is capital income, which does not come from work. Capital will keep "working" for you even if you stole it or inherited. It's extra obvious in the case of owning fully autonomous robots that could do anything a human could, but it's true for much simpler forms of capital, too.
Then they retreat to voluntarism:
* OK, so capital owners didn't work to get that money, but it was all voluntary. I'm just against force and for voluntarism.
Then he points out that property rights are enforced through violence too - the only reason you will make those "voluntary" trades for food and shelter, is that men with guns will come and arrest you if you just take it.
Then libertarians retreat to common-goodism:
* OK, we could imagine a society where people could just take as they please, so property rights are in a sense man-made. And they do require violence to enforce. But not having them would lead to the tragedy of the commons. Without property rights, we would all be miserably poor!
And this is certainly true, but if the common good is what we target, why not have a proper welfare state, a solid UBI funded by high taxes etc.?
Usually at that point they go back to the first step.
Well, taxation is theft, so that is the easy answer to that.
But to dig a little deeper... a UBI is an interesting concept, and especially so when one considers a future where most, or even all, human labor becomes unneeded. In a world of 100% technological unemployment, it does seem that we're going to require a different system than what we have now. But I don't think just saying "have an UBI" is much of an answer, because - IMO - the entire fundamental basis of the economy will be so radically different that we can't even imagine how the UBI will be funded and how the economy will work.
I keep running through scenarios, trying to come up with a scenario that makes sense, even hand-waving around the "initiation of force" issue temporarily, and it always seems to come out looking like a Ponzi scheme in the end.
Luckily, I think we're still quite a ways away from the total obviation of need for human labor, so we have some time to figure it out. Well, hopefully anyway.
Here's what you do:
1) Tax the monetary gains made by corporations from greater automation, not enough to disincentivize R&D, but enough to counteract inflation from step #2.
2) Institute an unconditional basic income, like Alaska already does for natural resources. Everyone gets a check in the mail.
You balance #1 and #2 so there is no net inflation. The more corporations lay people off in the aggregate, the more wages will be replaced by UBI.
I believe that an individual should be allowed to save the results of their work and consume the benefits later. I believe that they should be allowed to gift (or share) these savings with someone of their choosing. I don't believe that these allowances should be voided by death.
From that, I conclude that if my wife and I die with $2MM estate and give $1MM to each of our children, that they are entitled to the income from that capital, but it doesn't change the fact that that income originated from (my wife's and my) work.
And the problem with that is that it really relies on a "facts on the ground" view on property entitlements. If our laws about property are man-made and supported with force, why shouldn't we change how they can be transferred (or possibly voided in case of death?). You can disagree, and you certainly can fight it, but you can't really morally condemn anyone for trying to take it from you.
You can disagree, you can certainly fight it, but you can't really morally condemn me for sharing my earnings with my family.
But you're, as I said, not justifying it with desert now.
You think you deserve to be able to do as you wish with your money. But why do you deserve that? It can't be because you worked for it, because in giving money to people who didn't work for it (e.g. your kids), you acknowledge that having worked for it isn't important to you. And I guess you think that your kids, too, should be allowed to use the money you give them as they see fit.
Apparently, having the money ("facts on the ground") is sufficient for you to think you should be allowed to do with it as you please. That sounds like might makes right to me...
I'm not condemning you for "sharing your earnings with your family", but I'm certainly condemning your deficient justification for it.
If I have property rights over a steak or a measure of rice, I can cook it and share it with my family. Likewise with my house, car, or abstract medium of exchange (money). I don't see that as "might makes right", but rather as "that's inherently what property rights are".
But let's use your dictionary where property rights are always unconditional. In that case, we have never had property rights and it doesn't seem like a good idea to get them!
Libertarians do not say "people should keep their money because they worked hard for it." They say that "people should keep their money." No qualifier.
Libertarians are not "against force and for voluntarism." Libertarians are fully in favor of force, particularly when it comes to the defense of personal property. Some libertarians are in favor of voluntarYism (the y matters) but that's a totally different thing than whatever Bruenig trying to reference here.
It's partisan screed that oversimplifies concepts and twists words to appeal to people who don't actually know enough about libertarians to spot the bullshit.
There are three possible answers to that:
* Desert: It's mine because I deserve it, having worked hard for it.
* Contractualism/Voluntarism/VoluntarYism or whatever you want to call it, the idea that the arrangement is fair because it was all voluntary from the involved parties.
* Tradition: It's mine because however I got it, now I have it, and you can't take it from me. I call this the "facts on the ground" argument. It's not really a moral argument, so if you take this approach you can't morally condemn people who challenge the status quo (want to take it from you). If you leave out a justification for property claims, you're really here by default.
These three answers are not compatible, for reasons explained at length.
It's not bullshit, because it's a clear argument that I can follow. Whether it applies to "real" libertarians is another matter - as far as I can see it does, though.
I will refer the following article to show how tragedy of the commons did not happen in common land in the last couple of centuries:
---- begin quote ----
The Remissness of our People in Paying Taxes is highly blameable; the Unwillingness to pay them is still more so. I see, in some Resolutions of Town Meetings, a Remonstrance against giving Congress a Power to take, as they call it, the People's Money out of their Pockets, tho' only to pay the Interest and Principal of Debts duly contracted. They seem to mistake the Point. Money, justly due from the People, is their Creditors' Money, and no longer the Money of the People, who, if they withold it, should be compell'd to pay by some Law.
All Property, indeed, except the Savage's temporary Cabin, his Bow, his Matchcoat, and other little Acquisitions, absolutely necessary for his Subsistence, seems to me to be the Creature of public Convention. Hence the Public has the Right of Regulating Descents, and all other Conveyances of Property, and even of limiting the Quantity and the Uses of it. All the Property that is necessary to a Man, for the Conservation of the Individual and the Propagation of the Species, is his natural Right, which none can justly deprive him of: But all Property superfluous to such purposes is the Property of the Publick, who, by their Laws, have created it, and who may therefore by other Laws dispose of it, whenever the Welfare of the Publick shall demand such Disposition. He that does not like civil Society on these Terms, let him retire and live among Savages. He can have no right to the benefits of Society, who will not pay his Club towards the Support of it.
---- end quote ----
Every system uses force or the threat of force, to enforce the rules. A co-op or mall charging rent is not much different than a city or state charging taxes. "Men with guns" will come evict you if you don't pay your rent. But in the majority of cases what usually happens is that your taxes get withheld by the employer from your wages and no guns are involved.
For defense, not offense. I thought that would be clear, but apparently that needed to be called out explicitly. My bad.
A co-op or mall charging rent is not much different than a city or state charging taxes. "Men with guns" will come evict you if you don't pay your rent.
It's not even remotely the same thing. In the mall case you very explicitly entered into a contract with the mall owner, with clearly defined terms regarding the rights and responsibilities on both side. Taxation, on the other hand, is done by agencies which presume the authority to tax anybody within an area defined by lines drawn on a map by men who are long dead. As Thomas Paine put it (paraphrasing a bit) "by what principle can the dead bind the living?"
"Defense" of your property claims, not self-defense. Again, Matt Bruenig has been over this. What if we both claim something as property, are we both acting "defensively" in trying to kill each other over it? One man's defensive claim is an offensive claim to another man, and there's no objective standard by which you can decide who's right.
Sure, one may have the backing of a state, but surely that's just more effective violence. You're not in favour of might makes right, do you? And tradition is no good, because claims have to start somewhere.
To achieve higher aggregate utility, by redistributing some of the money to those who would get higher marginal utility from it. Objecting to it based on freedom is backwards, because freedom is just one component of utility.
The key is in "taking something": there is a baseline state of the world against we're comparing the current status quo.
For point (1), there is clearly a historical baseline in which no land was owned by anybody, and all land was equally accessible to all. Then people started to make claims that some part of land was theirs, and that they had the right to exclude others from it - if necessary by force. They took something from others by (threat of) force - hence committing theft according to your definition, and this theft is enshrined by modern property law.
For point (2), consider the way income taxes work in many (most?) countries. Instead of money being paid by / taken from the employee, the money is instead withheld. The money that is "paid as income tax" is in reality never the employee's to begin with, so it is not taken away from the employee - hence no force is involved.
You might argue that the money is taken from the employer, but nobody forced the employer to employ someone.
For point (3), consider what happens when person A owns some widget, but person B enters their house at night and takes it from them - without force, because person A was asleep. Note first that, that is not theft according to your definition! Later on, person B is tracked down by police, who arrest him or her by force to return the widget to person A. The police have just engaged in theft - which is totally absurd use of language, but a necessary consequence of how you want to define theft.
Points (2) and (3) highlight something important: what belongs to whom is always a social construction. Social convention (encoded into law) says that land ownership is possible, and therefore land ownership is not actually theft. Social convention says that police are allowed to take stolen goods back to their original owner, and therefore those actions aren't theft. And whether you like it or not, social convention also includes taxes, and that is why taxes aren't theft. Because at the end of the day, the useful definition of theft has nothing to do with force - the useful definition of theft is "taking something against the established rules of society".
That is not my definition of theft. Theft by force (or threat of force) is a subset of theft in the more general sense.
If no land was owned by anyone, then taking a chunk of land is not taking it from "others". Its taking something which was previously unowned.
The origin and nature of property rights IS an interesting discussion, but it's really a red herring here. Consider this: You live in the proto-world with no land ownership. You select a piece of land that is unoccupied and unowned, and you build a home on it and start a garden. Later, somebody else comes along and says "I want your home and your garden for myself". Would you argue that you have no right to say "bugger off" to that person? Are you saying you have no right to defend that home and garden, that you worked on, toiled, and cultivated?
If not, how do you propose mitigating this conflict?
In the proto-world, unoccupied land is generally regarded as held in the commons, free for use by hunters, fishers, herders, gatherers, migrations, ceremonies, scattering seeds of herbs and plants you like, and whatever else. There is basically no unclaimed land.
> Would you argue that you have no right to say "bugger off" to that person
You have no inherent right to do so, but it would absolutely be in your interest to do so. And indeed, while it took many thousands of years to settle the question, the settler-agricultural types did finally crush the more nomadic peoples in the last couple centuries and assert an absolute claim to formerly common property, so the question is moot: your property rights were established by thousands of years of violence and genocide by people tired of nomadic peoples asserting their traditional rights.
Fair enough, but how do you reconcile that with my point (3)? Police returning an item as in the given example means the police are thieves according to your definition.
In the same way as it is done today. Note that I'm not the one who is saying that land ownership is theft - you are, because you are trying so say "taking by (threat of) force is theft".
In reality, what is and isn't theft is defined by social convention. So land ownership, police returning items, and tax aren't theft, even though they all involve (the threat of) force. Taking an item from somebody else's home is theft, even when no force between humans is is involved at all.
I'm not saying that land ownership is theft. I don't advocate taking someone else's land by force, but I do claim that (at least in "proto-world") taking unclaimed land is acceptable exactly because it is unclaimed.
That whole discussion does lead to some other interesting points though... for example, if I abandon the home and garden I build on unclaimed land in proto-world, and move 8,000 miles away, does that land remain "mine" or does it return to its unclaimed state? It turns out that in the modern world, "we" decided that once you own a piece of land, it is yours forever, unless you sell it, trade it way, etc. I'm not actually convinced that is right. On this, I may be closer to the position of some left-anarchist types who hold that land ownership is temporary and only based in actual use/occupancy. I'm not entirely convinced one way or the other on this point though.
Inheritance is another interesting issue, although you can kinda sorta hand-wave around that by saying that "if you can transfer something to a new owner, then doing so a split second before you die is effectively the same thing as allowing inheritance".
In reality, what is and isn't theft is defined by social convention. So land ownership, police returning items, and tax aren't theft, even though they all involve (the threat of) force.
Sure, the social convention is what it is. What I'm arguing is that the social convention is wrong and needs to be updated. It's not like these things are chiseled into stone tablets and made immutable for all time.
I'll also point out that I'm far from alone on the "taxation is theft" thing. It may be a minority viewpoint, but it's hardly some fringe idea held by just two or three crackpots. There's at least five or six of us. :-)
The salient point here is that everything done with force is theft, but we depend on mild, egalitarian theft to keep society functioning. The primary issue with private theft is its asymmetry (every security system that doesn't deter a theft is a waste of money), while governmental theft is roughly symmetric and underlies even the institutions libertarians care about.
If you'd like that night watchman state to keep your neighbor from killing you and taking your canned beans, realize that you're asking for property reassignment through force. Not just taxation-theft to fund that government, the actual behavior you want is ownership determined by force. You haven't invented a grand claim against taxes, you've rediscovered the observation that somewhere down the line force (or the lack of it) is a consideration in every exchange.
Why is taxation theft?
Because you're taking something you have no right to take possession of. And you're right, "theft" is a broader category of actions, but I don't consider that distinction relevant here. Eg, the State doesn't (yet, AFAIK) sneak into you home and take your property without your knowledge, in the name of taxation. Although they DO do some other pretty sneaky things, like civil asset forfeiture, but that's a separate issue, IMO.
The thing with what we call "paying your taxes" in the popular vernacular is clearly a case where the State wants something you have (the spoils of your labor, if we limit this to Income Tax for the time being) and if you aren't inclined to give it to them, they use force to take it. If you were willing to pay it without the need for coercion, then it wouldn't be theft.
And here's the rub, that makes this all so ironic: I expect most people would "pay their taxes" to at least some extent, even without the need for coercion. This is especially so IF the agency requesting said payment is actually demonstrating its value clearly.
They tried it in France -- nothing really changed. The law says you can go home but you still stay and work; the company culture doesn't change.
In theory, the best economic answer, I think we can all agree, is UBI.
Those policies don't seem well targeted to help the permanently unemployed.
My comment was addressed to the $15 minimum wage, not the 40-hour week. The Goldman link does not address that at all that I could see.
Why will the $15 minimum wage eliminate jobs? Basic supply-and-demand economics. When the price of something goes up, the usage goes down. (Unless you can make labor a Veblen good, where the high price increases demand. But that depends on status signalling. You could think about trying to make that apply to labor, but I think it would be rare to have cases where that worked.)
No. But we need that many people to buy the stuff.
Inequality has increased so much that the bottom 50% don't really own anything, they have no wealth to speak of. Their income, combined, pales to the top 1%. If they stopped buying and renting tomorrow, there was be a hiccup, to be sure, but not more than that. And that's new too.
40 hour week? Try 32 (4 days a week). Active workers in the US industry are hardly working more than 30 hours on average anyway (lots of part time workers).
Of course, the minimum wage should be raised accordingly.
Better yet, get behind eliminating minimum wage altogether. It's an unnecessary and immoral restriction on free and voluntary trade. If I want to offer up my time for $6.00 an hour, I have that right damnit. Especially if the alternative is doing nothing and netting $0.00 an hour.
Pushed little bit further, this could even re-introduce slavery: just give this little bit of "freedom": the right to renounce all freedoms. Surely that's better than starvation, right?
Altman says the same thing . It doesn't resonate with me.
This is the 21st century's version of the "let them eat cake" attitude 
People need more than food or money to survive. They need challenge and a way to be creative. People who don't have these things either (1) blame themselves and fall into depression despite having plenty of money, or (2) band together against those who tell them they're useless.
There will always be a need for people to do work: people need people.
The case for BI is hurt by the argument that some people are worthless. Some would say techies do not fully understand the needs of the poor , and that this alienates would-be supporters of BI.
One example: The author observes that the unnecessariat is having lots of economic value extracted from them, e.g. from required, high cost healthcare plans. She implies things were better when there was no requirement (and thus no coverage). I think that's a common sentiment among conservatives, which is why they have voted continually against Obamacare. But as she points out, these are people for whom even moderate healthcare costs can be devastating financially. So why didn't they all vote for Obamacare and for the public option, subsidized by higher taxes? And why didn't she consider that a reasonable enough future to even mention it?
I worry the answer is that they've given up on using (representative) democracy to improve their lives.
Did it come up for a national popular vote where you got five options and you picked the one you liked best? I don't remember it happening this way.
And let's just say that it did. If everyone didn't vote for that option, well, that's not what gets enacted and you're SOL. Government isn't pick-and-choose, it's all-or-nothing.
That makes the question you asked rather disingenuous.
You get to do a bit more than that, though few ever do.
Making full use of representative democracy means continuously contacting your representative, not leaving them alone until you're convinced they'll act in your interests, and not leaving your friends/family/community alone until you've got as many other people as you can badgering your representative just as much. It's very time consuming and won't work at all if there aren't enough people with the same problem but, in the case of the author of this article, the relevant problem is quite widespread.
If you get a bunch of people with the same concern to form an ”organization“, and then you spend weeks making repeated requests for your congressman to meet with your group, they'll eventually do it. You can write a op-eds and publish content on the internet to try to generate political will. You need to convince your rep that (to go with the example from the article) thousands of their constituants think that the ACA is a terrible idea and that they would enthusiastically support this other policy in its place. If there is a sensible policy that a large fraction of the country would support that hasn't been proposed in a bill yet then they might consider trying to look good by being the one to propose it.
I'm not saying it's easy or that it's guaranteed to work. I'm just saying that most people's civic engagement is about 0.001% of what it should be if they really want a voice in the government.
Picking a candidate for President (a position which isn't even in the legislature) is not the most effective way for you to drive policy.
I wonder why it is, that normal citizens with jobs and kids and mortgages, aren't able to effectively lobby the way full time paid lobbyists (with expense accounts!) are?
And at least half of your advocacy will consist of writing and research and recruiting other citizens to your cause - all of which can be done just as easily outside of normal business hours.
In substantial quantities, they did. That's what Obama in the general election (and with slight variations, he, Clinton and Edwards in the Democratic primaries) campaigned on.
But they didn't get it, because by the time the health care bill got through Congress it had no public option, because while it was in the version passed by the House, it was killed in the Senate. Killed, that is, by a minority in the Senate -- it was the threat of filibuster, not losing an up-or-down vote, that did it in.
California has 53 representatives for 38.8 million people or 1 per 730,000 people. Wyoming has 1 representative for 584,000 people. So Wyoming is over-represented in the House as well.
If you start from that vantage point, you can try and operate from a opinion of "help me now today" which almost always comes back to "tax me less now."
In the same way that most uber drivers don't understand that buying a new car to drive uber is simply trading away future profit for cash today, many of the disempowered do not have the tools to think about money, voting, or political movements in terms of a long term future.
Because there was nobody to vote for who offered that. McCain's proposal was to deny that the problem existed. Obama's proposal was Obamacare without an individual mandate. Clinton's proposal was Obamacare with an individual mandate. Those were the only entrees on the proverbial menu. No candidate ran on a public option, so you couldn't vote for that even if you desperately wanted to.
Ironically, one of the first moves of the candidate who got the most votes, Obama, was to decide that Hillary Clinton had been right after all and include an individual mandate. So if you voted for him over her because you opposed that idea, you were officially SOL.
I'm not sure how much more to the story there is than that, but for reference, see: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/film/obamasdeal/
Actually, all of Obama, Clinton, and Edwards ran on a public option. They differed on other points (as you note, during the primary Obama opposed and Clinton supported an individual mandate, and there were various other differences between the three plans, but largely Clinton and Obama cribbed their plans from the same place Edwards did first, so they all looked pretty similar.)
See here for an evaluation of Obama on the issue: http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2009/dec/... It was included in his platform, but as an "also, too" kind of thing. And if you took your evaluation of his position from what he said on the stump, you'd never have known it was in his platform at all.
(I'm omitting Edwards from this discussion because he flamed out so early.)
For most people, things are were better for them before required, high-cost health plans. Most people don't get seriously sick in a given year; that's why health insurance works at all.
And for those with required health insurance, it doesn't really help.
Take me as an example: I'm 29 in NY and the healthcare plans I have available to me basically fall into a spectrum ranging from $170ish/mo with a $6000ish deductible to $600ish/mo with no deductible. At the low end of that range, health insurance does nothing to prevent a person making $15K/year from going bankrupt; $6K in medical costs is more than enough to bankrupt such a person and you don't get extra credit for going bankrupt by $6K instead of $50K. And at the other end of the spectrum, $600/mo is enough to drive many people bankrupt in itself. The plans in the middle don't strike a good balance; they just cost enough that a poor person can't build up savings so they'll go bankrupt if something does happen to them.
I'm lucky enough to have a job that pays much more than $15K, and I can actually afford my health insurance with relative ease. But for most, it's better to just take the risk and not pay for health insurance, because it's not going to prevent you from going bankrupt anyway. Except, now you can't.
And yeah, they can vote for Obamacare, but keep in mind that when you're living paycheck-to-paycheck, it's very hard to look at anything other than proximate causes of your problems. You see the tax coming out of your paycheck, you don't see the pointless military equipment it's spent on or the "privatize profits, socialize losses" companies that your taxes could regulate. And all the help the government promises you comes to nothing most of the time. You don't read the newspaper and spend mental energy on that because you're watching junk television to recover from your day, or just plain going directly to bed. You also don't have a ton of education (which doesn't mean you aren't intelligent). So you vote for the guy who promises to take less of your money in taxes and do less that you don't see.
All of this isn't finding ways to rationalize acting against their own self-interest (although that does happen too). It's a rational understanding of what's in your self-interest given the information you have, the time you have to research, and the experience you're allowed.
And when using democracy to improve your life doesn't work for decades, can you blame them for giving up on using democracy to improve their lives?
Depends on your state. Where I live, you can't get medicaid, regardless of income, unless you're elderly or disabled (not sure if low-income parents qualify). Thanks, Republicans.
I grew up in a poor neighborhood, and the only reason I'm not poor is my parents were both educated and made sure I was too. But I know a lot of people who were poor and uneducated.
You might be able to take time off between the hours of 9AM and 5PM to apply for programs in person, or have time to fill out a lot of forms, or know what programs are available, or speak/read the language that's on the forms fluently, but a lot of people don't.
With first hand account of a family member that would benefit from Obamacare but didn't vote for Obama, it was a matter of disagreeing with many other policies. E.g. You wouldn't vote for a politician promoting the elimination of the Jews if he/she promised a thousand dollar bonus for everyone remaining.
I don't know about that. You can be completely self-interested, wealthy, and still vote liberal/progressive Democrat if you think the alternative is a Reign of Terror or Red October. Or, to dial it back a bit from that, if you think progressive policies will grow the economy of the nation in the long term (and, by extension, your own wealth) as opposed to looting it.
The same logic applies the other direction. A party is promising free health care, but in their view that comes at a cost of a massive government that oversees every aspect of their life. Either that or they think it's fundamentally unsustainable and will lead to massive losses elsewhere.
Basically if you think people vote against their self interest, you don't understand the perspective from which they are voting. To be baffled by it is to fail to recognize your own ignorance.
Didn't you just write that people can be motivated by ideology instead of self-interest?
Yes, you can be altruistic (essentially the opposite of self-interested) and decide not to support universal health care, or basic income, or whatever, because you believe it will be a net loss for society. This line of reasoning is pretty common in conservative circles, in fact, and I didn't consider it worth mentioning.
I suspect you are working with a definition of "self-interest" that is so broad as to lose most of it's meaning. I take it to mean the opposite of altruism: working to help others at the expense of your own material well-being (or, perhaps, just without seeing any personal gain). My point is that you need not be altruistic to support these policies (though it does seem to help), if you think enacting them will improve or defend your well-being.
Forgive me for my ignorance, but was there actually a general vote about it? Weren't the elected representatives actually voting? If so, one could argue that the agents of the voters made a poor decision, but then one could hardly blame an common citizen for actions of the politician they voted for.
Is that rammed through?
The press statements made about the Supreme Court confirmation needed right now are a nice illustration of how stupid the process complaints are. Pretty much every person that has made a public statement about what respecting the process means had previously made a public statement taking the opposite of the position that they have taken now.
Strongly twist arms? Absolutely. Google "Louisiana purchase" for one example; there were several.
Now, to some degree, that's just normal politics. But I've never seen it done that hard, for that long, on a bill that passed by such razor-thin margins.
On another note, it must be depressing to live there.
UBI and related proposals like Negative Income Tax minimize economic distortion. As you make more money, there's a smooth transition from receiving money from the gov't to paying net money as your taxes increase.
When you're on disability, you are generally not allowed to work. Any "substantial gainful activity" beyond roughly $1k / month ends your benefits .
So you might have a choice between $13k/year working 0 hours a week, or he could make $15k/year working 40 hours a week doing something menial and unpleasant.
If you tried to design a system to incentivize the working poor to drop out and accept a lifetime of poverty and gov't dependence, it's hard to see how you could do more. The fact that the program also incentivizes states to convert welfare recipients into disability is just icing.
I think America needs sweeping entitlement reform. Not "entitlement reform" in the euphemistic Republican sense of cutting benefits, but reform done with empathy for the poor and guided by competent economists. IMO the goals should be to simplify and combine the many ways we have of giving money to poor people, and to reduce the perverse incentives that those programs create.
In the writeup, there is a county where one doctor considers whether a person he is talking too would be able to get a sit down job when he decides if he thinks they are disabled or not.
Throwing money at the problem of poverty, ironically, is actually being treated as a serious answer by international NGOs these days, where for ages people tried everything else on the assumption that the feckless poor would spend it on drink. Build infrastructure for them, food aid, subsidized goods, food stamps, workfare, every which way but "here have some cash". But when they actually tried the cash, it worked. That's one reason I'm optimistic about a basic income. Another, is that I feel that a whole lot of creativity has been stomped flat by, basically, living one paycheck from the street. With an inflation-pegged basic income that's enough to subsist on, and protected against creditors, effectively that fear would be gone. Bad news for employers wanting cheap poor people to do awful jobs. Good news, for all those individual people. I have a feeling they'd rebuild their local economy. I have a feeling, too, a lot of people stuck in the city by the necessity of the next paycheck, would move out and join them.
What can we do? There is no stopping the train of automation.
Soon truck driving will be automated. This will eliminate millions of jobs. We need to figure out a system that supports people regardless of employment. We need to figure it out by yesterday.
I'm a firm believer that basic income is that system and that automation should fund it.
Moreover, a lot of those people we're automating away are our friends and family members. Who do you think will they turn to for support? I'm already preparing myself for the possibility of supporting some tech-illiterates in my family in the future.
Removing the incentive gradient of capitalism doesn't create paradise, it just creates a new incentive gradient that can be even more perverse and horrifying than the last.
I don't think there's a coherent "ideology" that would be better (nor do I generally think accepting ideologies wholesale is a good idea), but UBI feels like a part of the right solution.
Power and money are largely interchangeable in a free market world where there's always a way to get what you want. At least money can be measured, and that makes it honest, sort of.
The point is that OP's belief that criticizing capitalism is somehow taboo in the US is factually wrong.
Sanders indisputably roundly and frequently criticizes capitalism to anyone who will listen, and he's quite popular as a presidential candidate for exactly that reason.
A lot of leftists, particularly non-American leftists, seem to imagine the US is some sort of Ayn Randian fantasyland where everyone is rabidly pro-capitalist and any views to the contrary are self-censored as a taboo. Sanders' candidacy (among many other data points) amply falsifies this misconception.
Socialism favors social ownership of the means of production; different branches of socialism prefer different mechanisms for this. These can broadly be split into top-down models (planned economy/state ownership models) and bottom-up models (council communism, etc.) It also includes models which are somewhere in between, like economic democracy (which tends to include elements of top-down ownership by the public through the state, by recognizing broader class of public stakeholders in firms whose interests must be served in addition to private shareholders, as well as elements of bottom-up socialism in empowering employees as represented stakeholders in firms as well.)
The latter seems to be the dominant (though not exclusive -- the group is diverse) focus of modern democratic socialists; Sanders seems to fit in this group as a reformist rather than revolutionary  proponent of democratic socialism pursuing (as is common among reformist democratic socialism) social democracy as a incremental step on the road to socialism in the economic democracy form.
> Americans (and pretty much all Westerners) are generally uniformly pro-capitalist.
Americans and most Westerners are generally supporters of the modern mixed economy, which is as much a reaction against the 19th century system for which the term "capitalism" was coined as anything else. That said, its a reaction which superficially retains the large-scale structures of capitalist relations while greatly altering the scope and nature of the property rights which are the defining feature of capitalism.
There are proponents of capitalism in America and the West; they are economic reactionaries.
> Regulated capitalism is a fait accompli and no one is challenging it because it works.
Plenty of people are, in fact, challenging the modern mixed economy (what you call "regulated capitalism") -- from both the laissez-faire capitalist perspective and a variety of different socialist perspectives, among others.
 in economic structure terms, if not necessarily in terms of the structure of electoral politics and their relation to private business, the latter of which is the focus of the "political revolution" Sanders often refers to.
Yes. But the point of this whole discussion is limited to whether or not Sanders is misusing the term. Even though there are all of these different socialisms that all satisfy the "social ownership" requirement, is Sanders advocating even a single one of them? I do not think that he is.
Part of the problem with socialism is that every particular faction thinks their own pet definition of "socialism" is the One True Correct Socialism, and all others are merely ignorant heretics.
My definition of "socialist" derives from original usage, is concise, and distinct from any definition of capitalist economy (regulated or otherwise). It's the right usage because of its historical correctness and its current utility.
Sure, you can redefine "socialism". You can redefine any word you want. But if you then apply that term in its historical context, e.g. "criticism of capitalism is now mainstream", then you're committing a fallacy of false equivalency.
It may "derive" from the original usage, but it both more restrictive than the original usage and more restrictive than the term has been used by large bodies of self-described socialists since the 19th Century.
> and distinct from any definition of capitalist economy (regulated or otherwise).
Your use of "regulated capitalism" to refer to the modern mixed economy is, BTW, inconsistent with original definition of the term.
> It's the right usage because of its historical correctness and its current utility.
No, its the wrong use, because of its historical incorrectness, and then fact that, insofar as there is utility in having a label for the category you want to apply the label to, there is already are broadly accepted terms for that group that don't require your ahistoric narrowing of "socialism" ("state socialism", "planned economy").
> Sure, you can redefine "socialism". But if you then apply that term in its historical context, e.g. "criticism of capitalism is now mainstream", then you're committing a fallacy of false equivalency.
Using terms in their correct, historical way (which your use of "socialism" doesn't, though that's somewhat tangential to the example you offer here, which doesn't even use "socialism", "criticism of capitalism" is decidedly mainstream in the US today, where the status quo is a mixed economy, and both social democracy as a stepping stone to socialism (on the left) and a return to capitalism (on the right) are among the alternatives with some mainstream traction (along with other tweaks to the mixed economy that neither move substantially to social democracy nor substantially back to capitalism.)
Of course, there'll always be room for islands of capitalism (imagine New York or San Francisco as a free city), and a modern neo-feudal system will allow social mobility more readily than the original; but still.
I'm not trolling, by the way. The usual assumption is "if not capitalism then communism," but there are older, more interesting systems out there.
(There are also younger, scarier systems out there. The far right is getting disconcertingly strong in Europe, and indeed in the US; I think that if we don't explicitly choose some sort of neo-feudalism, we're going to get neo-fascism instead, or possibly just the original kind of fascism.)
(Disclaimer: neo-feudalism does not mean the revival of torture and oppression. One, "revival" implies that they aren't currently with us. Two, I think that a king, who answers only to God, assassins, his own conscience, and his hopes for his heirs, is less likely to turn lawless or pander to bloodthirsty mobs than a president is.)
This post is a good reminder that capitalists are the radical liberal utopians of an earlier age, and what the realistic alternative is: social engineering and control of ordinary people by elites who think they know better, in the best case.
Count me out. I'll die fighting before I become a serf.
(edit: Also, it's just not true that the elite in capitalism are mostly permanent and hereditary. There are over two million Cuban-Americans who either came to this country with nothing to their name, or are the descendants of those who did. Today, they've found their way to the middle and upper classes in about the same proportions as non-hispanic white people who have been here for much longer.)
As for semi-permanent elites, I think I've been reading too many books on old money lately. You're right: people who start poor easily become rich, and people who start rich easily become poor. "Shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations" is a human universal...
And, now that I think of it, "shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations" was just as true under feudalism as in any other system: the average noble house was extinct in three generations.
So much for that...
Hearing this is both heartening and depressing: heartening because a neo-feudal system already exists; depressing because it's precisely the neo-feudal part of the world that has a neo-fascism problem...
Here's what should concern you more: the 20th century was the age of strong states, from the active citizenry of the imperial United States, to the Communist dominance of society in the equally imperial Soviet Union.
The 21st century is the age of the corporation. This forum salivates at a man whose goal in life is to retire on Mars, presumably in a society of his own creation and ownership. Everything in this age is available at a price, even control of society.
My instinctive rejoinder to "the age of the corporation" is to ask how many bayonets the corporation has, but the answer is increasingly "not zero."
This also causes me to notice something else: what if neo-fascism and its Asian counterparts are becoming popular precisely as a way to coerce corporations -- because nothing less than that can bring them under control?
This sounds very plausible, and it's not a pleasant thought. You'd think that the international business class would know what _noblesse oblige_ means, and would realize that they need to not antagonize the planet, but that would be giving them more credit than they deserve; I've read books that casually, in passing, praise the merits of tax havens and condemn all social-welfare programs...
Think about it: we can spend our lives at home, work, and the grocery store. Except they deliver. And so do restaurants. And so does Amazon, so that's everything. Can't deliver love but you can download and swipe, good luck.
When do we interact with government? For the most part, when we: pay taxes; get a ticket; go to the DMV. Some of us even vote.
Then again Australians have to vote and they get proportional voting so their desires scale with support, and it all seems to work out rather well.
That's not a problem with democracy and capitalism. That's how people learn. We learn something and form an opinion about it.
The opposite is censorship, and we know that doesn't make people happy
In a democracy, society chooses where they're comfortable making sacrifices. We have free speech and also decided that libel and impersonation are punishable.
Even corporations have checks and balances that aren't codified. Every year, corporations find that the public cares about some new transgression that wasn't a problem the previous year. Bad press isn't good for oil companies, Apple, Goldman Sachs, etc, and the populace seeks to elect people who will be tougher on these businesses going forward. Failing that, the companies themselves realize they aren't all powerful.
The system is not perfect and was never supposed to be. Things are always changing. The trick is to give everyone their due attention despite their racial or economic background. I think the US does a good job of it compared to other nations. We can do better, and we may learn during this election cycle that we haven't paid enough attention to a widening wealth gap.
Traditionally feudal lords have aimed mostly spend the minimal amount possible on welfare for their serfs - staving off social unrest but keeping for themselves as much as possible of the GDP subject to that constraint. Are you suggesting that neofeudalism will somehow do better in this respect? Or simply that that would be better than what we have now?
> is less likely to turn lawless
What's meant by this? It might true in the tautological sense that the despot acts within the law by definition, whatever he does. But I sense that's not what you mean.
I think that what I'm groping towards by saying "neo-feudalism" is the existing European social model with the optional addition of ermine capes, as someone else commented below... This discussion has actually taught me a few things, and I don't have a pre-existing opinion here.
> Kings and lawlessness
A president's timeframe is likely to be "until the end of my term in office," at least if the behaviors of the last few presidents are any indication; a king's timeframe is, at least, "until the end of my life", more likely "forever" since he's handing off the kingdom to his children. (Or she to her children in a queen's case.) This should make it easier to resist panic and opinion polls, and make decisions that pay off in the long term -- like remaining a good country to surrender to.
On the other hand, when a king goes wrong it's hard to stop him -- especially in a context where the king has most of the country's military power. (And decentralized military power creates its own problems; the French religious wars, for example, lasted 80 years and ended in autocracy.)
A tyrannical elected leader (like Hitler) could secure power just as solidly as a tyrannical king could, so elections are no protection there, but what about an incompetent king versus an incompetent elected leader? Get a president with bad judgement, it'll be over in four or eight years; get a king with bad judgement and your country might be permanently wrecked.
So, I'll revise my previous statement: the world needs the European social model, but should probably stay about as democratic as Europe probably is now.
But I stand my position that "capitalism is the problem" means that there are multiple other choices that can be looked at, not just communism. Problems with communism don't mean that capitalism is flawless; and problems with capitalism don't mean that we should abolish private property.
Or maybe what I'm groping towards is this: if people behave responsibly, things will probably be all right, but if they don't, things will go badly. But that's what Confucius said, and his system ended up as a cloak for autocracy...
Someone on HN previously pointed me towards this: https://mason.gmu.edu/~rhanson/futarchy.html
"Elected representatives would formally define and manage an after-the-fact measurement of national welfare, while market speculators would say which policies they expect to raise national welfare."
Going forward in history, that's why the Carlists in 19th-century Spain were both pro-autocracy and fighting for their liberties: they preferred a king who was the absolute monarch of a half-dozen countries (Castile, Leon, Navarre, Galicia, Aragon, and Andalusia), instead of a centralized federal government in which none of the kingdoms had special privileges (note that Carlism was strongest in the northern parts of Spain) and all kingdoms' subjects were administered impartially from Madrid.
(Even back in the Middle Ages, though, serfs had property rights; they were sharecroppers, legally bound to their land but entitled to keep a proportion of their harvests. In the late Middle Ages, the obligation to give their lords a portion of their harvests was turned into the obligation to pay a certain amount of money -- which was not indexed for inflation, with interesting long-term consequences.)
Why capitalism is cited is that it exacerbates the problem. If you look at Switzerland or Sweden, you don't have the same issues that you're having in the US. There are protections. Health care is provided, universities are free.
Monks choose to live that way. Most people need more than money to survive. They need challenge and creativity, too.
> Some country is going to implement basic income and force us to talk about these ideas that successful people feel we can keep pushing away because it doesn't affect us yet.
Scandinavian countries have had better social programs for years. It's why the wealthy in the US fear discussion of things like basic income. They don't want to pay the tax rates of those countries.
In my opinion, some people want to work. They want to contribute to society and receive validation in the form of a variable salary that can go up or down according to their contribution. Others don't. Both are fine.
Calling people "useless" is not a great selling point for basic income. It strikes a nerve with some people , and while I think the post I just cited went over the top, I see what they're getting at.
Useless is subjective. I wouldn't call monks or anyone else useless. Yet, this is one of Altman's reasons for supporting basic income . I don't think he intended his statement to be interpreted that way. It is what it is.
Of course, if we really cared about reducing poverty and inequality, we'd just skip the EITC and open our borders - but obviously the massive amounts of inequality between an American and an Indian are far less important than the relatively small amounts of inequality between two Americans.
Another solution is a basic job - basically a basic income, but you need to work for it (e.g., fixing our crumbling infrastructure and providing free child care for working mothers).
So you want to nationalize the construction and child care industries?
This is radically more communist than any basic income scheme i've ever heard of.
All I propose is putting people on welfare to work on all the left wing's favorite projects. This will save money (we can reuse the existing pool of welfare money rather than finding new money to pay Davis-Bacon wages) and reduce work disincentives (either do a sucky government job or go be a maid).
Thats nationalization of an industry
Step 2: ???
Step 3: Everyone is homeless?
Could you fill in step 2 for me? I'm not following your logic.
(Work provides a way to fill the time, have social interactions, and a sense of purpose and accomplishment, in addition to the financial aspect.)
(And keep the borders closed - poor brown people don't even count for 3/5.)
Also, you seem to be imagining that if landlords of poor people would rather get $0/month in rent (with houses going vacant) than reduce rents. When did landlords become so non-greedy?
I once worked on a product that did a guy's 40-hour-a-week job completely. He had spent every working hour compiling a series of reports by hand. Then he spent none, because we did it for him. He was our happiest customer.
Spend a year or two teaching people to program. It'll give your brain a nice rest
It won't solve the world's problems but that's something you can do as an individual.
Or you can read about your local politicians and start a Facebook page to support the ones whose views you share.
Job functions have been changing since the cracking of coconuts with rocks. There is no need to stop this train. Teaching helps society advance. If we spend some time teaching programming, whether formally or informally, I think that counts for a lot.
Not really. It began to appear in German books in 2005 (https://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?content=Prekariat&year...) and searches took off in the end of 2006 https://www.google.com/trends/explore#q=Prekariat%2C%20preca... The German version of the word is still more common.
It actually really surprised me that the word is so young, as I think the word is pretty much common knowledge in German.
I think the bigger issue is that most people don't have resources to pursue training to tackle this kind of work.
There are so many problems left to solve in the world it's a joke to say "there isn't work to be done"
There is a lot of work to be done, and there will be in the conceivable future - but it doesn't mean there's profitable work to be done by humans. a) machines keep replacing us doing more work and doing it better than us, and b) capitalism doesn't optimize for useful work, it optimizes for profitable work - so even if there's a lot of world problems to solve that could be tackled by the poor and uneducated, they're still screwed if they can't feed themselves from that work.
I would recommend Gordon's book as an objective overview of the astonishing growth in economic and quality of life terms from 1870-1970. It's not as thoroughly researched as I expected it to be, and the prose is somewhat clunky, but it's a good lesson in the history of technology that we take for granted nonetheless.
Steinbeck's tale of the banks/landowners displacing poor, rural farming families is also extremely pertinent in light of this post. Car dealers extract value from the fleeing, unnecessariat farmers in "Grapes", while insurance companies/debtors prisons extract value from the unnecessariat rural poor chronicled in this post. The promised land of "Grapes" (California) continues to be successful today, with the coasts accreting a large portion of the nation's wealth. It's also just a beautifully written and thoroughly considered (to the point of seeming spontaneous) piece of art.
I am waiting for the next paradigm shifting technology with bated breath.
1. His history of change 1870 - 2015 is good. Some weaknesses, but solid, and he makes his case for dramatic changes. A mention of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs would improve the discussion, but his point even without stating that is of drastic changes (and improvements) to basic food, shelter, clothing, and security needs.
2. He misses some infrastructure with his focus on consumer impacts. Less so with early work than in his discussion of information and communications infrastructure, in which I think there might be some weaknesses to his argument (and a possible out for the optimists).
3. You'll find the meat of his theory in the third section of the book. Chapters 15-17 IIRC. Focus your critical eye there.
I've got many quibbles with his economics arguments, though most of the errors actually bolster his overall argument -- I feel actual recent trends are worse than Gordon states.
Steinbeck's Grapes is a true classic. Reading that as a story of an epic animal migration (as Steinbeck begins it) is humbling.
You're not unnecessary.
Have you read your local candidates' views? Have you identified the ones with whom you agree? Have you ever run a voter registration drive to help elect them? Or suggested to friends who share your views that they run for local office?
You're capable of making change. Putting so much energy into saying you're unnecessary shows you have the time.
It doesn't take that long to write a blog post, particularly not a blog post about something you clearly think about a lot and feel passionate about.
I'm not convinced that "you had some time to write a blog post" equates to "you have enough time to thoroughly research your local politicians, network with all your neighbours, and if necessary run an entire political campaign."
I'm not attacking the author. I understand the feeling of worthlessness and its effect on your desire to do things. My point is she has the ability to do these things. And, nobody can bestow confidence upon you to act.
Our system is grounded on the requirement for growth, and somehow that has to change. There is nothing wrong with businesses that don't grow and pay decent wages and serve their communities, but our economic regime heavily discounts companies that are not growing.
"For much of the 80’s, AIDS was killing thousands of people every year, and the official government response seemed to be: Who cares? Let the fags die."
I was around during the 80s, too, and I remember a tremendous national effort to address the problem. From 1982 on, there were crash research projects all over the US and Europe to figure out what AIDS was, and find ways to treat it.
I also remember the ACT UP group and especially the reports of them invading medical conferences and screaming verbal abuse and threats at the researchers.
You could have written a similar kind of "What about us?" article in 1935, when fully 25% of Americans were out of work and no prospects. Or in 1905, when the Progressive movement arose in response to the grim abuse of factory workers (as per Sinclair's "The Jungle"). Or in 1890 when the robber barons were riding roughshod over small farmers and other businesses and American society was riven by vast injustice and income disparity. Or in 1875 when Blacks, freed from slavery, were disenfranchised, refused education, and put down violently all across the South. One could go on and on.
Things are not now, nor will they ever be, perfect. It's always possible to find fault with the system. It's important to keep trying to improve things.
Yet, I have to believe that the blogger who wrote this article has a roof over her head, not in danger of freezing to death for lack of utility payment, owns a computer, probably also a smartphone, probably also a car, and gets three square meals a day despite feeling underemployed or overlooked. In short, the poor and the victims of the vast economic changes that have convulsed our society are better off today than ever before.
At the same time, huge debts and vast regulatory structures have choked off the kind of small and medium businesses that at one time employed much of the middle class. We have a lot of work ahead of us to restructure our society and level the economic field once again. I think it's possible.
New disruptive industries will arise that will afford fresh opportunities for young people. 3-D printing might be bringing manufacturing back to the U.S., for example. The energy sector, currently in a bit of a slump, nonetheless has a bright future between fracking and solar/wind alternatives. The chemical industries are moving back to the U.S. thanks to rock bottom natural gas prices. There's a lot to be hopeful for, actually.
Just my 2c.
The problem seems to be rooted in automation replacing jobs faster than it creates new ones. The solution, then, may be to limit automation so that we have close to full employment.
The best (economically) way to limit automation is to tax it. You set the level of the tax, and basic economics does the rest. The jobs that are more economically done by humans (after the tax on automation) get done by humans. If there are still too many people unemployed, raise the tax. If the job market gets tight, lower it.
What could go wrong? Plenty:
The tax might not cover all forms of automation.
The tax might be set at levels that are politically determined, rather than for the effect on employment.
Raising and lowering this tax could react in unfortunate ways with the business cycle.
Foreign countries using automation could eat our lunch. We could to some degree handle that with tariffs, but they might respond with tariffs of their own and kill our exports.
I'm sure there are more possible problems that I haven't thought of. Never the less, in theory, this might be a decent solution.
If a hundred people can be replaced by one skilled worker and some robots, that will always be the better deal due to costs like insurance, work speed, management overhead, lawsuit potential, and so on. So simple jobs that these people used to do simply do not exist. And while everyone can be a programmer, not everyone can be a competent one.
So yes, the standard of living for the labor class has decreased relative to others, but is still high. It's still high enough they get access to addictive drugs. Which is a problem, but also a symptom. I feel like the root cause is that we really do not have a great economic theory to handle the case where labor cannot produce sufficient value to capitalists. (IANAEconomist, though.)
Note that they're still human beings and we still have some duty of care to them as a society. Fixing consumption is not going to stop these people from killing themselves.
"Bessen argues that during times of technological innovation, it often takes years before workers see higher wages from productivity increases. Bessen stresses the importance of the standardization of education on the job as workers adapt to new technology."
James Bessen on Learning by Doing
I'm not saying the percentages aren't relevant to the larger discussion, but the membership in a community point is also relevant, and doesn't require the percentages to be a valid point that stands on its own.
We detached this subthread from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=11767172 and marked it off-topic.
Well ... the big socialist experiments were not that successful in the last century. And the real growth of prosperity post WWII was due to a couple of hard to replicate factors. I guess it could be possible to mandate that no person could own more than 1/X of the national income. But won't pass unless after revolution.