Well that's true, where they don't add value. What's the difference between the case of getting movie tickets and your waiter at a fancy restaurant? One of them is practically a useless annoyance, and the other one is part of the experience.
Someone in a movie box isn't going to tell you about the movie, or have a conversation about it with you. They are there to take the most basic info (movie, time) and money, and give you a ticket. It's also always done thru a thick bit of glass that makes communication sometimes difficult if not painful.
On the other hand, the fancy waiter will make recommendations. Will tell you about other things, and is generally part of the ambiance and experience of eating out.
Honestly, do we really like interacting with the people with minimum wage jobs? Not really. Most people seem to prefer the automated checkout, ordering on their phone, etc. While sometimes the person doing the job can be interesting, or friendly, even if the person is amazing, generally these jobs are pretty repetitive, and could be done easier, faster, and cheaper with automation. Not only for the employer, but the customer. Most of these people also are not thrilled about their jobs and be lazy, or do a bad job (I can't blame them really, you get what you pay for). The only thing keeping employees around was that automation was more expensive (and more unreliable). Now it's the flip - labor is much more expensive and unreliable than automation. Now people in those jobs have to prove where they add value, if it's only to watch over the machines.
I honestly think the whole demise of customer service is the result of this. People feel in a double bind because they aren't allowed and aren't supposed to help customers. Or if they can, they aren't rewarded for it and take a greater risk by doing it. People can do much greater things, be more helpful, be more friendly, and generally add value - if their employer would allow and reward it. But most are just looking at profit, and speed from entry to exit, and a lot of customers are too.
If you play was "we can provide a worse service for less" then yes, you're going to get steamrolled by automation. If your business is run around adding value (like informative parent of yore in the ticket booth), then your value is going to increase until strong AI (if that ever happens).
Assuming people like talking to humans. Sometimes I wonder about the HN crowd...
Some people like talking to humans, some don't. It often changes as well. But for incredibly basic mundane transactions, I'd lean on the "I don't like talking to humans." But it's also slower to talk to humans, and generally there is a line, making it again slower. If I have to add travel time in there, that's a factor. So if the person at the end doesn't add at least some positive value (other than just doing what I need done), I'd rather go the faster way.
Also, if a company is squeezing the workers and not the market, that probably means that company is having trouble no matter what the workers are doing.
The point being that lots of independent and service focused restaurants have died, and automation, consistency and efficiency has decimated the alternative.
Imho, McD and the first wave of franchisee stores leveraged price and consistency as their advantage. Their logistic chains were more efficient, and they could standardize their operation (benefit to efficiency and customer).
The market did decide that their prices (which were nationally set afaik) and consistency won over the qualities independent chains brought to the picture.
However, I think in the intervening years there have been a few developments.
Firstly, Sysco and the national food suppliers as intermediaries. So aside from volume discounts, everyone's sitting on the same logistics backing now.
Secondly, consistency as a commodity. Whereas before this was a competitive advantage (because it distinguished them from Local Dairy Freeze 283), now it's the market average.
I see it as, as you noted, McD's and the like put everyone else out of business... but we're now in the future past that where they have become the model that's ripe for disruption.
Maybe that looks like Chipotle and Five Guys (limited menu, better product, slightly higher price), or maybe it looks like a return to local service, now backed by automation and turnkey logistics chains.
I can't see a future with McD's where it isn't a fully-automated, human-less burger factory though. Unless they basically toss out their existing business model.
So it's true now, then.
> If you've lost sight of the value of basic human interaction with anyone not baked into your caste, I pity you, even if you are in the majority.
This seems a bit extreme. I assume you don't use ATMs, auto-bill pay, or automatic check deposit then either? Because you clearly value human interaction at all possible avenues?
Perhaps people's "need" for interaction as they go about their day is somewhere in the middle.
If that's a service that makes sense to have theaters can always keep it. One staffed line for people that want to chit chat and automated kiosks for people like me who just want to buy a ticket.
For what it's worth, I didn't infer any value judgement about caste in the comment.
Yeah I do like interacting with people. Even "minimum wage workers" who last time I checked were still people.
Some people (myself included) appreciate minimum wage workers as humans and still want the efficiency that comes with automation. It's a mixed bag. When I'm at CVS I would rather have actual cashiers. At a movie theater I'd rather have a ticket machine.
Survivorship bias. They always have been.
Movies today are much more likely to be high budget, rehashed/sequels, most common denominator, etc.
TV, on the other hand, has been in a golden era for the past decade. Netflix/HBO/etc. has allowed lots of interesting more niche pieces to get produced.
No, there are periods that are artistically more fruitful and interesting that others, and the history of art knows and documents several of them.
Sure, but the claim was just that there have always been bad movies.
Here's a test: If there's some year you know of where bad movies were exceptionally rare, let us know. Then we'll see if we can provide counterexamples.
But really, how do you quantify good? Taste is subjective. The original Transformers move is a great example. I didn't like it. but i believe 14 year old me would have absolutely loved it.
It's similar to the statistics about Word users only use 5% of the functionality of Word. But everybody uses a different 5%.
I guess if you want to go by money, i'm going to pick 1939. I'd guess about $18,000,000 in production expenses, and about $240,000,000 in box.  (arbitrarily assigning 1,000,000 to the unlisted numbers, but keeping the box at $0 for unlisted numbers) Seems like a pretty good ROI. (although i think of, Gone with the wind, Mr Smith goes to washington, and the Wizard of Oz as subjectively good. 25% is a pretty good percentage)
Kind of a fun exercise poking through the years. 1997 was a standout, but everything i looked at had memorable and fun movies. I don't think any year would hit that 25% mark though.
> I guess if you want to go by money, i'm going to pick 1939.
You listed several great films, but I'm not disputing there were years with several great films, that's a completely separate point.
> But really, how do you quantify good? Taste is subjective.
I will concede that if we adopt a radical skepticism towards all aesthetic values then the claim "every year has bad films" collapses.
However, if we agree to make that move... the original claim that "everything in the theater now is terrible" is also false. Or "there's something special (and bad) about the quality of film at this very moment" also collapses.
So I'm good with this move. I accept the gambit.
That's why I don't use random individual tastes as a measure, but informed (from decades of studying movies and moviemaking) and argued critiques (by movie critics, other directors, and everyone with similar expertise).
The same way most will agree that Citizen Kane is a great movie, even if 16 year old John, from Buffalo, Indiana finds it "boring and gay".
That said, I also don't believe that just because something is fuzzy (like "what's a good work of art") and can't be defined with numerical precision, it's also impossible to reason about at all. So, in that sense, I'm satisfied with a general "expert consensus" on whether a movie's great and don't expect to have some absolute quantification of that.
So, to agree with my opinion, one should probably also be OK with fuzzy, not totally quantified inquiries (incidentally the inverse is something the climate deniers use for their advantage: they say that because the scientific community can explicitly give a specific number on the impact of human activity on the climate, it is bogus: http://blog.dilbert.com/post/157823678756/tucker-carlson-ind... ).
It used to take a lot more resources and know how to make a movie. Today, any hack can do so. Gawd.
Which makes filtering all the more critical.
Herbert Simon. Alvin Toffler. James Gleick. Ted Sturgeon.
Your smartphone gives you all of these answers now.
I'm not sure how I can learn to interpret something that's been manipulated by people with vested interest to promote their product or put down a competitor's.
The value from these sites stem from actual consumer ratings, not bots or the services themselves changing ratings.
Many movies are polarizing. In aggregate, they're OK. Talking to a single person whose opinion I trust is much more helpful than getting an average from 1,000s. Look at Yelp ratings - everything is pretty good by now, and the recommendations are mostly meaningless. They don't fit my needs, if my needs go beyond "I need edible food in a certain price category".
It turns out experts trump the crowd when it comes to opinions, because the opinion of a crowd is almost always indifferent.
> Talking to a single person whose opinion I trust
Why should we trust the person at the ticket counter?
They have no special knowledge or insight. It seems likely to me they will have below average insight otherwise they wouldn't be working an easy to automate job.
I can't calibrate for the averaged-together soup of opinions on online forums. Because everything is average, nothing matters.
If a consideration in employing someone at the ticket counter is that they have well-founded opinions or suggestions to offer on films, then, by way of their expert status, you've cause to believe them.
Otherwise, this collapses to a general critique of the upstream assertion: that "low-value" positions, such as box-office worker, see no labour value add, whilst simultaneously a certain set of positions, say, white-linens restaurant waiter and/or somnlier, do.
I don't see both arguments being valid simultaneously.
Their opinions as to what constitutes a good movie are almost certainly wildly at variance with my own.
That said, Yelp-type reviews aren't much better.
About the best you can do is find a professional movie or restaurant reviewer whose opinions match yours and go with that.
That doesn't address the case where the condition is satisfied.
"If a consideration in employing someone at the ticket counter is that they have well-founded opinions or suggestions to offer on films, then, by way of their expert status, you've cause to believe them."
I'm disregarding it because it's observably not true.
People are employed at theatre ticket offices because they are teens who are willing to work nights and weekends for minimum wage, not because they're film experts.
Expecting a ticket booth employee to be Roger Ebert is about as reasonable as expecting a Radio Shack employee to be a qualified electrical engineer.
The person behind the counter, for example, has likely seen the movie given the folks I've known who work these jobs. As well, they might tell you something like "the people leaving the movie are always talking animatedly" or some other insight that a random movie-goer likely couldn't assert themselves.
I was just pointing out that people have different preferences and that there are many reasons one might trust a single person behind the ticket counter over whatever information they might derive from their smartphone.
That this is so controversial is amusing to me.
You argument is much stronger as "Why trust the waiter over meaningful online reviews?"
That argument is much stronger and I can only attack in niche markets like very high end restaurants.
Talk to some locals and you'll quickly learn the atmospheres of various locations, times to go, where to avoid, etc. As long as their preferences are fairly similar to your own the suggestions will always trump what a generic review site will offer. This also sidesteps the problem of paid reviews and the like.
That dive down the road may not be as terrible as it seems. Provided you're looking for a specific type of experience. Avoid the food, stay for the local brew, sweaty 20 somethings and stumbling down alleys with some new friends.
>Worked in the restaurant industry for a few years
Could be both
So that theory that people will get new opportunities which are as good, or they can transition into is not valid.
Now if the service sector jobs go too?
50% of minimum wage workers are under the age of 24
25% of minimum wage workers are under the age of 19
* being on time
* attention to detail
* how to work with others
* how to follow instructions ...
High minimum wages price many entry level workers right out of the market making it difficult for them to gain these entry level skills which are important for subsequent jobs.
As a rule, the only skill entry level jobs teach anymore that apply to future jobs is how to eat shit and keep going. Every single habit you would learn would need to be unlearned to be valuable in skilled labor. You need to be independent and able to think of novel solutions to provide value at higher skilled jobs. Entry level jobs will grind you up and fire you under some made up offense so you can't even get unemployment. You succeed by being as close to a robot as possible.
Eh, I've had this experience at well-salaried jobs too. It's a job thing, not a minimum wage thing.
1. Workers whose contributions are undervalued.
2. Workers who cannot be trained or educated to provide high-value labour.
These are both issues.
(There are other categories: parents, caregivers, the disabled, sick, or handicapped, etc. But the two classifications above represent a major part of systemic failure of labour markets.)
If you think the class gaps and problems of lack of cross-socioeconomic empathy are an issue now, wait until a middle class worker can go 24 hours without ever having to interact with anyone making less than them.
"Raise taxes to fund foodstamps? Crazy! I hear the poor are doing just fine eating their insect protein cubes. I saw a report about it on the TV last night!"
Hell is other people.
The incompassioante charge made by the gp is still fair, I think: Saying these workers provide "no value" is too business-focused and incompassioante. Yes, these workers provide little value in terms of profit to the business, but looking at societal value at a larger scales, these jobs do have value (to the workers, to their families, to the local businesses and landlords they can now make business with using their wages, to homelessness, crime, hunger, etc.). Simply replacing these workers with technology is a net negative for society if we don't do what you suggested.
The free market thinking that the poor deserve to be fired because their skills are no longer competitive, can be, I think, a privileged and incompassioante position.
By creating the minimum wage floor the government enforces the notion of value creation. With hypothetical example of minimum wage set at $10 an hour everyone producing $10.01 worth of value within a 60-minute period gets to stay, everyone producing $9.99 and below gets to leave.
Compare that to Asian societies where some companies have an [usually older] tea and coffee lady in the break room. The pay is usually next to non-existent - the lady is usually retired and has a variety of savings and a safety net. She doesn't do it for a paycheck, but she craves human contact, so helping out with tea and coffee while chatting to younger employees is fulfilling her social (but never financial) needs at that age.
Such a position is impossible in US corporate environment within the current framework of labor laws, so we deny older people gigs with simple communication opportunities. Not necessarily because US companies are generally more evil and stingy.
When I used to live in Singapore I saw a lot of miserable looking hunchbacked old ladies and men cleaning food courts and they were for sure doing it for financial reasons:
The worst part is the excuse - the country is staggeringly wealthy, vastly unequal and yet excuses itself with "we can't afford these pensions any more" because "we have fewer children and higher life expectancy", presuming that GDP growth has obviously been zero for the last 40 years and we just haven't noticed that the money actually is there.
We could be talking about automation or outsourcing, and it would be the same - labor (especially unskilled) is generally getting cheaper. For outsourcing, there is different labor than us that is benefiting, and that's good. That allows them to prosper and buy food and have a life. We also have robots, which are basically virtual slaves that only benefit their owners.
Overall, you could say that there would be an overabundance of labor then. And we hit this before, with the industrial revolution, and new waves of technology in general. What about all the human telephone operators? Or the candle makers? Maybe it really is different this time. Maybe it's not. Nobody really knows for sure.
It sounds uncompassionate, but these are the same forces that drive down prices so everyone can shop happy at walmart (which I do too). Providing cheaper living is great for everyone as well, and nobody remembers that when talking about fewer people working.
So you want an order of magnitude more competition for your own job?
Maybe we should be doing what we did in the 1930s when there was a similar 'surplus of labor' - creating jobs which create valuable public works like LaGuardia or the Lincoln Tunnel instead of pretending that if aggregate demand is weak, it's because everybody already has everything that they need.
I visit the great places created by CCC, WPA type efforts and value them, even in their often current state of disrepair.
More please. Worth it.
That said, they can pay someone $1+ mil a year to let the people under him do all the work. Give executives raises. Pay for meetings in expensive hotels that could happen over the phone. Buy lavish furnishings for their buildings. So on and so forth. Don't buy into the idea that most of these companies are ultra-rational actors investing only what they need for the benefit of the company. Lots of politics, gaming the numbers, and people on top trying to move more money their way in most of them.
B) them would never compete with those that were on an "educated" job at an earlier age and can bring years experience to a company
C) will drive fields to regulation and red taping because noone likes a massive influx of lower waged competition
It's sad how this socially destructive mindset has washed first over the US and then over the rest of the globe. The money religion has won.
I'm lucky to live in the French countryside, where solidarity is still a guiding principle for social interaction. The cinema in the closest town is run by a not-for-profit organisation, and the people who work there are volunteers (and tickets cost 3€ for adults). Likewise, our village feasts, meant to raise money for our small primary school, are organised by volunteers. Everyone contributes according to their abilities for the common good.
I'm not French and have only recently moved here, and I'm really impressed with the way people here take matters in their own hands and create social and economic value by volunteering.
If not, you're wondering why the starving don't eat cake.
This may not be substantive enough for HN guidelines, but you know what? Ewwwww!
I don't see the distinction. With all due respect to waitstaff (it's a tough job), the function is just begging for automation. An order-and-payment-taking tablet embedded into the table would be so much more efficient:
1. No need to wait for staff to come by, and then do the whole "drinks then wait, then food then wait" dance. Instead, just present a full page description of the food plus a picture, and an "order" button that you tap. You can even order more later if you'd like, without having to summon a waiter. Done.
2. No need to wait for staff to notice you're done eating and need the check. The total is right on the tablet, and it has a card reader.
That would be great. Would probably cut the entire time suck that is restaurant dining by at least 1/2.
Pei-wei is another example. These are all the rage because of the efficiency (less wait staff) but still good food and a sit down environment.
The distinction is in expectation. Certain places you expect a waiter, to be seated, brought everything ("fine dining"). The difference between casual dining is mostly the atmosphere (usually better furniture, tablecloth, cutlery, etc) and a waiter (who may or may not be formally dressed).
The fancy waiter is adding value in the second case, because you're looking for that fine dining atmosphere. If it wasn't, they'd probably be going toward iPads too. Instead they have dress codes.
The difference is the waiter doesn't add much to an everyday meal. The waiter could be terrible though. So in terms of a business cost, that's something casual places can skimp on. For a more "fine dining" feel, you need great waitstaff, so that's harder to automate.
Having a wine expert or a unique expert chef as part of the experience is part of high end dining. Consider one of those mid to high end Japanese steak houses where there they throw shrimp across the room into someone's mouth. Or a more midwestern steakhouse where you can talk with a person who butchered the steak. Or one of the new microbreweries where can can talk with the brewer about some new experiment has has and look at the brewing equipment right there. None of these make sense to automate, until we get strong AI.
The "expert" is there to sell you a story. Not that there's anything wrong with that - the story is a part of the experience that many people like - but let's not pretend it's a technical problem that's difficult to solve.
I know a bunch of people who work in that buisines (my brother is a chef, gradeschool friend as well, ex. is a restaurant waiter, met a bunch of their co-workers, all worked in Michelin star restaurants etc.) what actually goes on vs what the customer hears ...
Then why do Spotify and Netflix et al persist in identifying artists and songs I've heard of (because of obvious similarities to stuff I like) but have actively ignored (because of any of a number of reasons that don't boil down well into an algorithm), over and over and over again?
I still don't want to watch The Office, Netflix. I won't in another six months, either.
But I could tell a person why not, and they could factor that into their recommendations. It's like the difference between trusting Waze and trusting a local that says "even though the app says go another half mile then turn right, turning right here is way easier, since if you wait you'll have to then quickly make your way across three lanes of traffic in a hundred yards to make your left, and making the right here gives you more time to get over."
Though, as someone who has had a credit card stolen via gas pump several times, I'm really hesitant to use a card at one of these devices. They're probably not very secure to begin with and then you couple that with the fact that anyone can sit with one of them for an hour or so with no scrutiny, it's just ripe for exploit.
You order entirely on the iPad. You do have to pay at the desk on your way out, but they just type in your table number you pay with Square. No tipping allowed so it feels so smooth and simple.
Often it is too hard to get a waiters attention to make multiple small additions after they have been around to take orders. With the tablet there is no barrier to you adding an extra drink or side.
Is it rough when (for example) shipping crates put a bunch of longshoremen out of a job, when they are in their 50s and too old to easily retrain? Sure. But how many people now not only enjoy (as customers) the benefits that Amazon provides, but also enjoy the employment benefits of a massively expanded global market?
On the other hand, the alternatives are harsher: as the population grows and people resist the very innovation that could create new markets, unemployment will grow. For all the problems we have in the US, providing low unemployment is not one.
Those newly opened industries have less people in them than the industries they replace. Mostly because our consumption doesn't increase as much as our efficiency does.
Funny you mention Amazon. We enjoy their services, and they enjoy that expanded global market. And they do this by killing local businesses with their ruthless efficiency. (Remember we're supposed to be competitive. There will be winners and there will be losers.) They don't create nearly enough jobs to compensate for the unemployment they cause.
There's also the problem of skill. For instance, in 20 years, truck drivers will be gone. Instead, we'll have an operator managing a fleet of 50 trucks from some control centre. The rest will have to find something else. But what exactly? The low skill jobs will be even scarcer than they are now, and the high skill jobs will be taken up by people who enjoyed a higher education in the first place, as they are now. You could still raise the level of education, but that will be too late for those drivers.
Keep this up to its logical (and absurd) conclusion, and half the population will starve to death in the streets. They're useless, why the market would support them? Of course, we'll have cleaner robots wipe it all away, cleansing the stench of death —those who still have value will be able to enjoy their walk in the park undisturbed.
More realistically though, we'll have a revolution before we get to this point. Or, the rich and powerful will see it coming, and start giving bread and games to the people. Come to think of it, they already do it to some extent.
I'm not saying that people who are displaced will easily be able to retrain to a new job. They will have a rough time, and that's something we need to address as a society.
But assuming that number of "jobs" for humans will decrease to zero is a big stretch. I think that even if we had robots that could take care of all our needs for us, humans would come up with jobs to occupy their time.
It seems to me the amount of available work is steadily decreasing right now. Perhaps not towards zero, but we don't have to lose that much to need substantial reform. Once you reach over 30% unemployment, you have a big problem already.
There's an easy way to increase the number of jobs though: share the existing ones by reducing the work-week. We could start by shaving off a few hours, perhaps as much as a full day (for a 4 day work-week). Then decrease it further to match progress in automation. Of course, we should keep the salaries at the same levels, lest machine owners will just get a bigger and bigger share of the pie, just because they had starting capital the other workers didn't.
We've already essentially phased out the useful work that people under IQ 70 can do. It's likely that it's creeped up to 75 or 80, even. As these are automated, let's creep it up to 90.
It also takes out those who are poor and have no branch on which to gain experience for their first job. If we have eliminated the first jobs for all but the most talented and those with connections, what does a somewhat bright poor student do?
Well, it used to be they got a job, proved themselves, and worked their way up. Now, what do they do when they don't have the social capital to get to the point where they can work up?
What are these newly opened industries that will work with these people?
As far as I can tell, it's "magic future ones" and the evidence for these statements is "because I hope that's what happens".
If that really is the best answer then it's time to invest in guillotine manufacturers.
The scary part is it looks like wealth will be increasingly concentrated, and more and more people will fall to a level where what we consider basic needs in modern society (food, shelter, education and health care) will no longer be attainable. As the author points out, "it will be messy": Those societies usually don't end well.
A diminishing pool of people to pay for stuff, not only hurts businesses profits, but also diminishes the pool of rich people (who make their money off of selling products, houses, services, etc to the masses).
The fancy waiter will recommend whatever the owner of the restaurant wants him to recommend, because that is his actual job. He is employed to maximize the dollar value of food and liquor sold.
Now, there are limits to this. A good restauranteur isn't going to sell you inedible crap, and a good waiter isn't going to recommend it, because that will hurt the restaurant's long-term profitability (and in the short term, probably result in a bad tip for the waiter).
Nonetheless, it's wise to keep in mind that the waiter is working for the restaurant, not you.
If you have any friends who've worked in fancy restaurants, ask them about some of the strategies waiters use to encourage a large bill (and thus, a large tip).
This is a limited way of looking at the value of a waiter — I think this is a common misconception. A good waiter knows to listen to what you want and make recommendations based on that. Anytime a waiter recommends mostly or only the most expensive things, I trust them less and they lose the potential to be a great waiter even if the service is otherwise good.
The waiter is not really working for the restaurant because the amount of their pay that comes from the restaurant directly is very low. In a restaurant with tips that comprises most of the waiter's income, and since the amount you tip is voluntary, really the server is working for the customer to earn a good tip.
I only need the waiter to tell me this because I have no idea what the food with end up looking like. Just put pictures of items on the menu. Problem solved. Now it get to order what looks best.
To put it another way, when you walked into the restaurant you committed to paying a premium for one sensory experience or another. Why not the visual?
This has not been my experience at all. People who work at theaters get discounted, if not free, tickets to movies and have often watched the featured movies themselves. They get to see how often people walk out, ask for a refund or praise a film. They can relate to your tastes and make recommendations based off of them. They can tell you if a movie isn't a great date flick and suggest another.
> Honestly, do we really like interacting with the people with minimum wage jobs? Not really. Most people seem to prefer the automated checkout, ordering on their phone, etc.
Speak for yourself. There is nothing more aggravating to me than self-checkout, it is slow, it is often buggy and I don't like having to scan, punch in codes and bag things myself. I hate having to wait for a manager's approval to apply a coupon or finish checkout because the machine decided I did something wrong and won't let me fix it.
Hell is having $20 a machine won't accept.
I prefer being able to speak with the people who are going to submit or prepare my order, because I can ask questions or customize what I want. I cannot do that with an app or touch screen menu.
> Most of these people also are not thrilled about their jobs and be lazy, or do a bad job
Again, speak for your own experiences.
Oh, man. I never use the self-checkout. It's part of the invisible work movement--stuff someone used to be paid to do for you, now you do yourself. Same thing with pumping your own gas. I miss Oregon, for how there was always someone to pump your gas for you. Is gas cheaper here in Washington, where you have to do it yourself? Nope. Invisible work. Screw that.
The only reason I'm a Co-op member? Customer service. They pump my gas, are helpful in store, the workers are paid fairly and members of my community, managers understanding even do grocery delivery at a loss. Hell my buddy can manage a store and provide for his family as opposed to scraping by.
Kind of tangential to OPs post, but I'm getting disillusioned and sick of watching community funds get transferred away to accounts somewhere else. Fuck that, I'll pay the slight premium.
FWIW it matches my experience. I can't think of a time I've gone to the cinema not already knowing which film I'm there to see, so it wouldn't cross my mind to ask for recommendations.
Most cashiers can't be bothered to puts things like eggs anywhere except directly under gallons of juice. I am not trying to beat them up, most are clearly hard working and decent people. But they are people who are being replaced by more efficient, cheaper an more reliable machines. Except for the part where I have to bag my own eggs, but I won't crush them, because I paid for them.
Obviously not everybody will be like that (I suspect I'm turning into one of those "old people" for whom they manage to keep the bank teller windows open for a few hours a day...) But I just want to point out that this isn't as straight forward as it seems. And, if my suspicion is true, with an ageing population society may actually swing in the direction where they prefer more human contact than less in their every day lives.
You're naive if you think this will only impact minimum wage jobs. Paying humans is usually about 30-50% of a companies operating expenses. With less humans you can shave even more percentages off by reducing office space or insurance premiums of applicable.
This might be starting with robot barista arms manipulating coffee machines, but it's really quickly going to make it to lab workers manipulating samples. Where it goes from there depends more on the software than the hardware, but it's really not a stretch to assume that shortly after we replace truckers, we're going to replace pilots and sea captains as well.
We're racing towards a decision. We can allow the automated cargo ships that will soon manage all global trade to be owned by a small cabal, or we can nationalize these systems and use the value they create to support our most disadvantaged populations.
You make an interesting point, and I want to remark to it - this is why I don't think the problem is just automation, but in fact social inequality. You can always employ people to take care of a small, privileged class of people.
The extent to which society does this is completely cultural choice. I heard of comparison, in Brazil, several procents of households have a maid (or multiple), where in Sweden, less than half percent of households have one.
My problem with UBI is that all tests to date look great, but have only been done on a micro level. The fundamental issue I would like addressed is the macro scale inflation you would expect when redistributing trillions of dollars without commensurate economic value being created directly.
Money is a complicated subject, but essentially it represents a transfer of a future scarce resource. For commodities, the cost is essentially the sum of labor to generate it (either to mine the raw resources, build the factory, etc).
If no economic resource is being added to the economy, then you are just devaluing money. That is usually very regressive, and in this case could be made worse by people slightly reducing their economic labor because of the extra income stream. I could see this leading to a bad cycle, where any economic gains due to increasing UBI are later undermined.
Anyway, it would be nice if it worked, but I've seen no evidence that it will in a large system. Comments appreciated.
If we're moving money from rich people to poor people, perhaps we'll see the prices of stuff rich people buy go down and the prices of stuff poor people buy go up.
The vast majority of stuff poor people buy is demand limited, not supply limited, so if poor people start buying more PS4's, Sony will just make more.
I'll also assert that food is demand limited, we have lots more capacity to increase production than people think. It doesn't matter though; the problem with poor people in the United States is that they eat too much, not that they eat too little.
The only thing that might see price movement is housing. That's definitely supply limited in many places. But maybe UBI will encourage people to move from high cost areas where UBI isn't sufficient to live on to low cost areas where it is. And movement will only happen in the margins -- most of the poor in the States already have a place to live, so demand shouldn't increase that much.
Friedman assumes the velocity of money is constant (good assumption), so really the only why you can cause inflation is to increase the supply of money, M. UBI increases the velocity of money by moving money from low-consumption, high-investment rich people to high-consumption, low-investment poor-to-middle-class people. Increase money velocity, and you'll see price inflation to compensate.
Distance is effort, both in energy and time.
Space is already constrained by historical distributional of 'valuable' lands, and restrictions on new ones. There's nowhere left to go out and just settle that someone else doesn't already claim somehow. (Yes, if you go out of the solar system you might claim that... but that's literally how bad the issue is.)
The real solution is increasing supply. Yes, UBI will help individuals, but society must actively balance to ensure that there is enough supply in the markets to maintain liquidity. Otherwise (as we see with housing) flow seizes and prices dramatically rise.
Time: If you are unemployed and on UBI, you have more free time. If prices spike for food, then you can always grow your own. If prices spike for gasoline, then ride a bike.
Space: With UBI, you no longer need to cram into a handful of high-growth economic areas. You can move to cheaper areas, grow your own food, and ride a bike everywhere. People with a lot of free time, and not a lot of money, will be a lot more price sensitive than in our current environment (where time = money). If prices rise due to inflation, they will either do without, or find/create a substitute.
I'm not very educated in this, so correct me if I'm wrong, but my understanding was that while UBI doesn't create money, but it can move money from people with a lower ratio of money-spent to money-made, to people with a higher ratio. If that's the case, the money that's actively being used should increase.
Globalisation is ending at the right time for a UBI to emerge, but so long as the first priority is ensuring globalisation is never dented, UBI can't get to the starting line. There are two hundred mice; they can all see the bit of cheese that looks like the solution to many of their problems in the trap; but nobody's going first.
Otherwise, the costs add up fast, but the impact does not. eg, even picking a smaller country than the US -- the UK has 70 million people; giving them £14 per year would be a £1bn item in the budget but £14 would not have visible impact to society-as-a-whole, and would be cancelled quickly as an unaffordable indulgence.
It's happened before recently -- eg, the UK's Child Trust Fund policy gave every child born a one-off £250 investment gift (a relatively small sum but with a multiplier effect as it would grow over time and prompt relatives to add to the account). The £250 from the government was cancelled within six years as unaffordable. As the benefits only get seen later (when the children grow up), there's a valley of death for the policy where the cost of it kills it.
Curiously, Iain Duncan Smith's "universal credit" seems about the closest governments have come to a national scheme headed towards being a basic income (or at least a negative income tax), with the idea of at least first eliminating the benefits eligibility cliffs that existed in the system. But it's not been plain sailing, and again started being taken apart before it could be rolled out or "got right". (Any government can be expected to get it wrong first, you just hope they'll get it right later.) So has comparatively little likelihood of growing to be a universal basic income or negative income tax.
In the simplest possible term demand for money is created through taxes and loans because people need it at a future date to meet these obligations. Spending money does not remove these obligations so it does not devalue money.
Outside of the $100+ trillion bond market the examples are indeed hard to come by.
UBI can change that by making it feasible for underemployed people to live in those cheaper areas. If there's no economic reason (good for society) to have them work at all, then there's no economic reason for them to live in the scarce housing in the economically most active areas - and they will revitalize the cheaper areas by bringing their spending there.
If UBI transfer payments are paid out of a consumption or income tax, then landholders and mortgage companies will simply be able to charge all residents higher rent. If residents experience an increase in housing costs associated with savings which must be put away for purchases, rent, and mortgage payments that is in proportion to the increase income they receive via UBI, then UBI will not have made them better off. UBI will only have redistributed money from workers and entrepreneurs to landholders and banks invested in mortgages.
Under a land value tax, landholders cannot charge higher rent due to an increase in land values brought on by public spending on public services. If they want to increase their profits, they have to invest in real property improvements, such as by expanding the stock of available housing. If UBI is paid out of taxes on labor rather than taxes on land, they will be able to charge higher rent.
It seems like a viable contribution to the discussion.
Markets work best when lightly regulated, when there's corrective action to smooth out the ups and downs of overshoot and collapse tendencies. Something I see lacking is the will to ensure sufficient supply so that demand can have choice, instead of captivity and vulnerability.
Detroit or Baltimore are pretty affordable already, and some counties will give away free land if one agrees to settle there.
That did not seem to spur much economic development.
UBI would mean that the underemployed people could move to Detroit if they wanted to. That would effect a transfer of money towards Detroit - as money would be taxed elsewhere, flow through these people and get spent in Detroit, spurring economic development.
Widespread remote work could achieve a similar result, having people live and spend in Detroit but earn money elsewhere; but currently it is not widespread and so doesn't make a meaningful impact.
Healthcare, yeah, that also needs addressing, regardless of the UBI decisions.
And there's plenty of housing, just not really in places that are convenient to jobs. If you didn't need a job, that becomes less of a problem. So giving people enough money for a secure housing and food situation--somewhere, anywhere--strictly decreases suffering.
However, the reason UBI works is because it allows people to spend their life doing things that are valuable but wouldn't make a living wage.
The US is incredibly sparsely populated, there would be billions of residents if we were as dense as Western Europe.
We do have limited supply of housing in artificially low dense cities that have good jobs, but that's politics and not economics.
I'll give you housing though. One of the reasons housing is expensive, though, is because it is closely tied to job opportunities.
Public spending on infrastructure and services raises land values, as parks, police, and fire departments make locations more attractive to live in. This subsidizes landholders and allows them to charge higher rent whenever these services are paid for by a tax on labor rather than a tax on land.
With a land value tax, landholders have to privately invest in improving the private property on their land, such as expanding the supply of housing units, in order to increase their profits. Without a land value tax, landholders can earn greater rent and profit without actually privately investing in improving their property. They simply have to lobby for higher public spending paid for via taxes on income or consumption and then they can raise rents without competing to improve their supply.
This sounds like how the property tax works today.
At municipal level, where a property tax bill is comprised of (a) land value, (b) improvements and (c) special assessments, which are voter-approved voluntary taxes to pay for things such as new tram line or a pump for the water district.
The land value periodically gets reassessed to account for improvements, public services, and general real estate prices in the area.
How does your system differ from the property tax status quo?
There would be no sales, earnings, payroll, income, excise, personal property, tariffs,state, or federal taxes for residents. Residents in land tax counties would only pay the single land value tax to the county assessor. The county would then pay negotatiated state taxes on behalf of its residents, and ideally the state would also pay negotiated federal taxes on behalf of its counties.
There isn't some sinister cabal of teachers, that restricts supply, for the purposes of keeping their wages high. There isn't a grotesque system of receipts payable, and the user not paying the real price of service, and hidden, unitemizable fees at my local high school (Two of those do, however, start appearing when you go to university.)
There is more then enough education to go around. The problem is that it's not evenly distributed. I'm not talking about sending every kid to Harvard, here.
Healthcare certainly has people restricting its supply, but also has the exact same problem. We have the budgets for it, we have the doctors, and nurses to provide it - but we don't provide it very evenly.
If UBI is funded via taxes on labor and capital rather than taxes on land, it will subsidize landowners and banks and allow them to charge higher rent and make more from mortgages. If the price which a family pays for shelter, rent, and mortagages increases in proportion to the rate which their income increases from UBI, then will not actually be any wealthier.
Society will actually be much poorer, as we would be redistributing money from productive workers and entrepreneurs to unproductive landholders and lenders who were able to capture the increased public spending through higher land prices and rent.
Private healthcare is extremely expensive.
So that "somehow" already has a known solution.
The net result is that you don't need to fund UBI payments for nearly the entire population.
What tax rate are you proposing will genenerate $5.3 Trillion off of taxing the rich?
They already do http://www.oshpd.ca.gov/Chargemaster/
> ban insurance companies
So lose the negotiating advantage and be forced to haggle on prices on a case-by-case basis?
I could see a future where people use UBI to bootstrap an education. Move to a low cost of living area, take some online courses and work on some projects. Once they have built up a small portfolio, attempt to re-enter the workforce etc...
I can guarantee that there will be inflation in areas of the market that cater to poorer people. There is a pretty basic economics law that says when demand for goods go up (aka more money chasing a good) it's price will tend to go up relative to to the "price elasticity" for the good.
Things like basic food stuffs will get more expensive, because there will be more money chasing it. Rents will go up, since disproportionately more poor people rent. Hopefully much of this will be offset by people being free to move to cheaper cities, since they no longer need to worry about work income as much. Alcohol and tobacco will likely get more expensive as well.
You're right, in that eventually production will ramp up to meet increased demand, but it's usually not 1 to 1 increase, which means you'll still have higher prices in the long term (though it does happen occasionally where increased demand leads to lower prices because the volume allows for economies of scale in production).
UBI isn't likely to be the silver bullet that many think it will be. All the experiments have been short term, and inflationary pressures can be small and can take time to take effect. Also the UBI experiments have been in smaller countries, where social aspects may be coming into play.
I'd really like UBI to work, since I dream of having enough basic money to sustain me so I can work on some of the science and engineering that interest me but might not have short term value, but my economics background give me an intuition that it can't be as successful as people think it will be. It'll likely be a beast that will require constantly increasing benefits as price levels rise to adjust to the new equilibriums, with ever fewer reasons to do the work necessary to fuel the costs. Maybe we're approaching a post scarcity world, but economics says no such thing is possible, that there is always something that is scarce that people will compete for.
Why would demand go up? Do you think these people are currently not eating and living in the streets?
So why haven't we seen a massive exodus to Detroit or Mississippi? Outside of coastal areas US already tends to be affordable and accessible.
In the modern economy an increased demand for goods benefits very select entities - mainly a Chinese manufacturer, a Danish shipper, and Seattle-based Amazon.com. There's some job creation to the effect that a UPS guy needs to be hired to deliver those goods, but middlemen are likely to be squeezed on margins, while the value creation is taking place abroad.
Very few people are actively starving. A lot of people have food stamps already, and UBI eliminates them. With a UBI, and the hopeful cultural normalization of utilizing resources over being "poor", you can better optimize the use of excess foodstuffs that end up in food trucks and banks that not enough people can use all the time.
Food prices are always in a balancing act. Premium goods like beef and lobster fluctuate based both on the amount of money in the market for them, that can spur investment in increasing supply, or in the amount available, that can vary significantly depending on seasonal yield (moreso in lobster than cows). If a UBI increases the food spending budgets of the poor, they start buying more lobster and sirloin, and the prices go up. Then the market is up on those goods and more will be produced because the cost of manufacture probably didn't go up - the poor weren't suddenly demanding tractors or rural farmland or grain feed - meaning you still have the same net cost to manufacture, so the supply side pressure is there to increase the supply to meet the demand. Prices normalize again as a result of that, and they would not be dramatically higher. It depends on the total sum of social desire for these products relative to their competitors. If people start eating more beef, the price of chicken might drop in response and pressure people into maintaining the natural balances and optimizations around what the market can best provide at the cheapest prices.
> Rents will go up... about work income as much.
Housing is in balance now between rural and urban, and it would be after UBI. If rents get too high in cities (or just more generally, wherever the poor want to be) there is a cost ceiling where they will start inhabiting the dirt cheap rural towns that have been abandoned for decades because it is infeasible to live there without an income. Overnight, millions of unoccupied and unlivable houses become usable again.
> Alcohol and tobacco will likely get more expensive as well.
Luxury goods go up in price. The world isn't hurt at all for this.
> you'll still have higher prices in the long term
UBI has an economic effect you can see in food stamps now. The market treats food stamps as a price floor - they know that the worst their customers can be is on food stamps, so they price accordingly because the amount of money in the food stamps system is huge. As long as they can make any profit at the prices food stamp recipients can afford, they will compete in the market for their money.
The exact same would happen with UBI. Suddenly even the poorest person has a market voice, and there are still enough poor people - the median US income right now is only about 4k a year over the poverty line - to influence markets with their size, if not their density of money per person.
Inflation is not magic. The inflation in the US right now is from expanding the monetary base. If the federal reserve stopped printing money entirely, inflation would slow or stop. You would certainly see inflation immediately after instituting UBI - because suddenly billions of dollars effectively frozen in the stock market and trading in economic circles outside of the general consumer market are moved back into it - but it would not cause sustained inflation if you are just moving around funds in the economy that already had velocity. And even then, it would not be a severe jolt - billionaires don't just hoard benjamins under their mattresses. They invest them in companies that spend the money. Unless you are Apple or hoard billions overseas, but those are generally the exception to the standard rule of money in your pocket is money lost. The velocity would go up, but not tremendously, in ways that can destabilize an economy.
And that price floor that UBI sets puts tremendous pressure on businesses to meet demand at the price level. Properties would be built and refurbished to accommodate that income bracket. Food production would insure that food is available at that bracket. And of course vice and luxury will try to price themselves into that bracket. Because it would be billions of dollars of demand - you can't just ignore it - but because the UBI income puts an effective ceiling on costs that people can pay if they have no other income, that pressure fixes prices to that income threshold. It wouldn't respond instantaneously - you could and would see examples of people not being able to afford living off UBI in isolated years - but those are from market variability. The prices will either drop to get their money, or they will move where they can. And the US is big enough that we won't have a shortage of places to go, like we do right now where the limiter is a drying up pool of job offers.
If UBI is funded via taxes on labor and its products (income and consumption taxes) then one should expect further inflation in housing prices, and ultimately the transfer of money from productive workers and entrepeneurs to unproductive landholders and mortgage lenders.
If you don't want this transfer to occur, then you need to fund it via a land value tax, which does not allow landholders to charge higher rent in proportion to increased public spending.
If you are funding UBI via increased taxes on income and consumption rather than land, then you run the risk of making the majority of people poorer if housing, rent, and mortgage costs increase faster than their UBI transfer payments increase.
That seems pretty cool if you're US, but what about Chad or Tajikistan where there are no rich people of the Forbes 1,000 variety and primary employment happens to be in government services?
The closest examples we have are resource-rich USSR and Venezuela, both of which did not do well inflation-wise. The jury is still out on Norway or Saudi Arabia.
Therefore, after UBI is introduced on mass scale we might see a slow but steady decline in economic activity: fewer new companies started, fewer investments made, riches focusing on tax evasion and moving their business abroad instead of just running and developing it, resulting in recession.
Of course you can go with nuclear option and forfeit all their properties at once, in the name of social justice (does that ring a bell?) but you can only do it once, and eventually will run out of the money seized this way.
Sure, most founders want to get rich, but I'd assert most would be just as happy to end up in the 8 figure range ($10's of millions) as they would in the 9-10 figure range. (And such a reduction would require taxes on a scale far beyond what UBI would require)
Few people are going to consider starting a company and then sit down, calculate their tax burden as a billionaire and decide that it isn't worth starting Apple, Facebook or Google.
The other thing that becomes blindingly clear when you live somewhere like Silicon Valley is that wealth is logarithmic. If you take home a million dollars a year here, you're still living in a 2000 sq foot home in a town with a half-decent school district. If you want a house walkable to downtown Palo Alto, you'd better be making $5 - $10 million (those homes go for $4 - 5 million). And if you want a real mansion, you'll need $20-30 mil. You want your own jet? $100 mil. There's always someone making MUCH more money than you, unless your name is Gates or Bezos. In that environment, a 3x increase in pay is still a meaningful difference in take-home.
I really think people do. Two years ago I had to work 250 hours in December to get a 25k bonus. At ~40% taxation, I felt it was worth it. I probably wouldn't at 65%. That is a pretty extreme case, but well off people turn down work if it isn't lucrative enough.
Plus, if you are taxing investments, then it all matters because of risk. Tax factors into the expected value of an investment. It's not worth investing money if 70% of the proceeds get taken away. This is why world wide, capital is taxed fairly lightly.
Yes it is. As long as the 30% of the proceeds are higher than the proceeds of the best alternative use of your money.
> This is why world wide, capital is taxed fairly lightly.
This is wrong. It is taxed fairly lightly because it is mobile. Tax it too much and it just moves abroad.
You aren't guaranteed proceeds. You can model investment as a probability function of profit. You should only invest when the expected value of the investing is greater than 0. But tax rates factor into the expected value.
Would you bet on a 50/50 coin flip with 3:1 odds? Of course. How about if you were taxed 90% on proceeds?
Tax is absolutely a huge part of the decision making for any substantial wealth management. Whether you buy property, bonds, or do something more creative is heavily influenced by the taxes you'll have to pay.
Say I could spend 30 hrs/week running a small business at moderate efficiency, and make $100k/year in profits, or 60 hrs/week running a much larger, more efficient business for $10m/year in profits.
My motivation to put in the extra 30 hrs/week is going to depend greatly on the absolute value of the difference, after taxes. If taxes are such that I take home $90k vs $7million, I'm probably going to work the 60-hour strategy. If taxes are such that I take home $89k vs $500k, I may or may not consider that worth the extra hours.
Commonly stated, but any real data to support it?
I think what kills the economy more is when the barrier to entry is high. This impacts mostly non-wealthy folks. In the US, it is ridiculously trivial to set up a "company". I've heard in some countries, you need to apply for a license, which could be expensive (say $2000). And along with that a lot of regulation that is quite affordable to big companies, but not to the average Jane.
The rich easily absorb all these costs, and it barely hurts their motivation. Poorer people trying to make a living and grow their wealth somewhat are most impacted.
Once you get past a certain wealth level, money actually STOPS being a motivator, at least in the ways that it is for poorer people. Instead, it becomes more like a scorecard, to demonstrate to others your success. That desire to demonstrate your success will always be there, whether you tax the money or not.
And even if they did, you think the banks just sit on it? No, they loan it out.
People are on a continuum between "extremely lazy" and "extremely hard-working". I know that I would stop working if I had ten million dollars, even though I love programming, because I would prefer to read books all day long. Elon Musk, on the other hand, would probably not stop working even with ten billion dollars, because he is obsessed with creating stuff.
This suggests that most people will generally settle where they are content with what they're making. I know this is true for me (it would be easy for me to make twice what I'm making now, and ten times is achievable but would take a lot more effort than I'm willing to put in); from what I can tell, it's true for all the people I know.
Also, you're equivocating on the "giving money" expression. Giving $10 to a homeless person and to Elon Musk would probably not motivate either of them.
1) Assuming the "riches' motivation" is something that would be bad to undermine
2) This probably isn't true
To tax the rich is not the same as disincentivizing investment! Investment matters to the economy, not capital.
Yes you need capital in order to invest. You need the right amount of capital in the right places! Rich hoarders are not the best investors.
If you want to tax the rich without taxing capital or labor, then you want to tax land. Unlike capital, there is only a finite supply of land and it cannot be moved overseas. Wealthy individuals like owning land in areas with high land values in stable countries with high public spending, and with a land value tax they directly pay for it.
I'm not convinced that the sum total of all these benefits plus the current infrastructure that is needed to maintain, dispense and detect/punish abuse on them is significantly larger than the total expenditure on UBI.
Of course, all the people that you let go from the benefits departments initially will end up on UBI, so that's not really a big win. But eventually they will find employment elsewhere, hopefully.
Most western social democracies publish the data on costs of running departments and numbers of working age people in employment or receiving each type of subsidy, so we know that the admin costs are negligible compared with the cost of paying a living subsidy to an enormous number of working age people who aren't claiming disability or unemployment benefits, generally because they don't need the money enough to take the steps necessary to claim it.
A better way is to use UBI which a portion earmarked only to purchase health insurance. Instant universal coverage with consumer choice and market forces stay intact.
Also, if I already own a house privately, I would pay the commons rent on what I already own? This seems to pervert the notion of ownership.
The point is that because it is a grant from the commons there is no natural law that says that that grant cannot be handled in a different way than it is now.
If society as a whole decides that this grant is no longer to be regarded as absolute then there is no barrier to taxing the occupier of the land.
So long as interest rates are > 0%, I think that's going to be a pretty rare situation.
And you can therefore consider financing UBI by virtue of the time saved by automating these tasks. You take that time saved and hand it back as dollars instead of translating it into additional profit.
I think the best solution is instead of handing out liquid cash that can be used/abused in any way (and contribute to inflation as you say), the better option is to provide basic accommodations for every citizen in a given country. This means, basic housing / basic education / basic means of transportation (either car or ride sharing credits) / basic forms of entertainment / basic access to some vacation spots. That way no one needs to work anymore but you could keep the general citizen's happiness to a stable level.
The only problem with this solution is that the government has to pay for this by either borrowing money from private creditors or to tax the rich heavily. The rich are only rich because they're good at keeping their money, so it's a good solution, but incredibly hard to pull off.
So health care savings, the ability to quit your job and go back to school (or other kinds of re-training, generally a diversified workforce is a beneficial one), reducing the need for shelters, etc.
This is aside from the fact that a reduced engagement in the workforce doesn't have to be a negative thing - plenty of money is being made, it's just not being distributed very well :) UBI just intends to right that inequality in a productive way.
There needs to be a radical shift in how we look at our economic systems and culture in the medium term. However, if the currently proposed health care replacement is evidence of current thinking, U I is a pipe dream.
I don't usually make predictions, but it is going to get very ugly in the next 10 years if nothing changes.
At the moment if you handed everyone more cash without an increase in output you would get inflation.
If you took the money from the rich and gave it to the poor you might get some inflation in basic goods as the poor tend to spend their money while the rich invest it. Also possibly deflation in luxury condos. This probably isn't going to happen in a hurry due to politics.
If robots start producing a lot of goods and services then giving more money to people would not necessarily be inflationary and there would be more money spent but more goods and services also. Your hairdresser would have twice the customers but employ robo-haircutters rather than raise prices as it were. I could see something along these lines being gradually rolled out with the amount of basic income increasing as human labour became less necessary.
work is not some thing apart from ourselves. work is not something apart from play or recreation or relaxation or any such things. we move and create and change and destroy all the same. we value these things as part of our social fabric of keeping a community of us humans alive. money lets us abstract away the need to trade immediate goods for that purpose, but it also lets us abstract out the fairness of it all. those who seem to contribute more to the general welfare might deserve a little more in return, whether it be in goods or esteem or respect. but we're all expected to put in along with taking out.
UBI would tear up that implicit social contract and unmoor us from our democratic underpinnings. while well-intended, UBI suffers from the same idealism as libertarianism by failing to grasp even a basic modicum of the human condition.
despite automation, people will create ways to make a living. lives are literally depending on it. that's not to advocate long-term suffering, but our social responsibility should be focused on using our natural craftiness to help others help themselves (and leveling the playing field), not providing handouts.
Government handaouts are not why a head of lettuce in a small town in Nunavut can cost ~$15.
The thing is though, most people who would benefit from UBI are not currently generating enough economic value to live, or barely so, and many are probably not capable of doing so for any number of reasons. We can do this because:
> Money is a complicated subject, but essentially it represents a transfer of a future scarce resource. For commodities, the cost is essentially the sum of labor to generate it (either to mine the raw resources, build the factory, etc).
...the costs of all of these things are plummeting due previously to outsourcing, and now to automation. As manufacturing becomes more and more automated and the costs of these items continues to drop, you start seeing volume sales/renewing subscriptions being the only possible way to make money on some products.
> If no economic resource is being added to the economy, then you are just devaluing money. That is usually very regressive, and in this case could be made worse by people slightly reducing their economic labor because of the extra income stream. I could see this leading to a bad cycle, where any economic gains due to increasing UBI are later undermined.
This is my one beef with UBI and the one thing that does make me worry about it, but the way I see it is that whatever effect this does have the overall value of the currency cannot possibly approach the effects that the results of borrowing and printing currency to fund things like the outrageous defense budget (of the US) do, the economic benefits of which are muddy at best.
For me this is both an issue of economics -and- of people. To me, in a country as rich as mine it's embarrassing that we still have such vast areas of the country that look more like the slums of Brazil than the cities they're usually parked next to. It's also the simple fact that if you continue to displace more and more people, as we've done, who are too old/not smart enough to change careers, eventually something is going to give. Frankly I pitch UBI as how we avoid the second Civil War, where instead of North vs South, we have Urban vs Rural when the much larger (and better armed) population gets tired of the cities and their nonchalant attitude towards their plight.
These are legit questions and I hope we get better answers than mine (I'm no economist), but speaking as someone on the higher end of the income brackets who would never see a dime from UBI, I really don't think continuing to pretend that the rich can keep on getting richer and the poor poorer is a good plan. When it comes right down to it, there are more of the poor than the rich, and the cash won't save you when they break down your door with pitchforks.
If you are concerned with progressive income tax as a means of financing it. Consider the possibility to implement UBI based on land rent instead, like the Alaska oil fund but the rent from all kinds of natural resources that really should be shared fairly anyway.
Regarding the issue that people would work less:
- Perhaps that's not a big problem. Just think of all the people in telemarketing that could just stop contributing to that particular problem.
Or perhaps some other truly evil industry, like tobacco, would people with an UBI be more inclined to not work in unethical industries?
- Perhaps more people would dare to start their own business. Trying truly weird stuff that no one would invest in otherwise.
- Perhaps it contributes enough stress reduction in people to have significant effect on healthcare costs
- Given the safety net of an UBI, a lot of laws and institutions surrounding employment could perhaps be relaxed and more dynamic.
In my mind the potential benefits to the economy and could be quite interesting
I wouldn't see a dime because I make far, far more than the people who need it. I don't need help.
(I still support it, and your arguments for why it must be universal are congruent with my own thinking.)
That is, with any such NIT, you can add a fixed amount to the tax laibility so that the amount is never negative, and add a UBI of equal amount, and get exactly the same net results, and with a UBI you can subtract the UBI amount from everyone's tax liability, delete the separate UBI, and have an NIT with the exact same net financial effect. They are basically interchangeable.
Administratively, they are different, in that the UBI payments are effectively an advance against the potentially negative income tax that those above the point with 0% marginal tax have to pay some or all of back at tax time. But that's the only difference.
Well, the slums of Brazil also do not look anything like the cities they're parked next to.
With the increasing economical disparity, less and less reliable government services (and laws), anti-intellectual culture and many other trends visible on the media, it looks the US is getting more and more of the "features" Brazil is working hard to exterminate. That's concerning.
In most western countries unemployment does equal lack of food or housing... due to a large number of welfare programs.