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It Is Time For Basic Income (hawkins.ventures)
608 points by mchusma on Mar 21, 2014 | hide | past | web | favorite | 728 comments



I think if you could see close-up how these systems work now, you'd be convinced that it's completely not worth the cost in practice to try and figure out who "deserves" each of the many, many special benefits/allowances/exemptions available (plus it's incredibly difficult for potential recipients to figure out what they're eligible for, plus it imposes those costs on the people who aren't eligible, but end up having to jump through all the same hoops.)

This is just my experience after working for ~1000 hours on healthcare.gov w/other YC alumni (relatively nonideological-liberal-or-libertarian engineer bias), but I think it's become increasingly clear to all of us that the implementation of well-meaning policies intended to separate the deserving from the undeserving ends up adding an incredible amount of complexity and overhead, along with unintentional side effects, edge cases, and bad incentives.

(This isn't why healthcare.gov had major issues, it's just another problem.)

That said, there's no way politically a basic income is going to fly anytime soon. So since this is HN... is there any way to get to an MVP without having a sovereign state to experiment with? Or is this solely in the realm of public policy?


...it's become increasingly clear to all of us that the implementation of well-meaning policies intended to separate the deserving from the undeserving ends up adding an incredible amount of complexity and overhead,...

Unless the overhead is truly massive (read: 5x more than the actual benefits), it doesn't matter. It's still vastly cheaper to pay only a small set of deserving people than to pay everyone.

Consider a BI paying 300M people $20k. Cost is $6 trillion.

Consider a targeted program paying 50M people $20k, no overhead. Cost is $1 trillion.

You need an overhead cost of 500% of benefits for a basic income to be cost competitive.

Can any BI proponents provide even a back of the envelope calculation suggesting how BI could possibly be competitive?


It's not about the immediate cost. It's about the fact that conditional social support creates poverty traps, by imposing the steepest marginal tax rates (sometimes exceeding 100%) on the poorest people in society.

Listen to this investigation into Disability benefits.[1] Listen to how the people who receive these benefits genuinely need the stable income that they provide, but are then prohibited from working part-time, tutoring, even volunteering for their community, for fear of losing the only available form of security. Listen to how trapped they become by the system. For them, being trapped by a conditional benefits program is better than the alternative -- anything is better than starvation -- but it is still a dehumanising and self-perpetuating institution.

The flipside to making benefits conditional is that we require employers to provide social support (eg., via minimum wage, etc). By setting an expensive threshold below which employers cannot create jobs, we impose enormous costs on industry and minimize job creation. A basic income should go hand-in-hand with the elimination of minimum wage. By removing the requirement that jobs must provide base-level income support, we would enable the creation of more jobs.

Between eliminating the steep marginal tax rates on the poor, and removing the steep threshold to job creation due to minimum wage, we would eliminate the two biggest factors in chronic poverty traps. So if you want to do a real calculation on the costs of our current policies, be sure to include the cost to industry of the minimum wage, as well as the Net Present Value of the future costs of letting the current poverty-trap system continue to grow.

1: http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/490/t...


...conditional social support creates poverty traps, by imposing the steepest marginal tax rates (sometimes exceeding 100%) on the poorest people in society.

There are cheaper policies than BI which don't do this. One example is Basic Job - if you need a job real bad the government gives you a really bad job.

This has no poverty traps, and (unlike BI) has no disincentive for work. You also get to avoid spending money on people who don't need it, and additionally society can derive some marginal benefit from the work people do (e.g. public spaces can be cleaner).


Of course it has poverty traps. I live in the UK, where I get to see how the "workfare" programme creates poverty traps all the time.

If you want to get out of poverty, a good way to do that is by getting more education and practicing skills that are valuable to employers. A Basic Job often conflicts with that.

If you want to get out of poverty, a good way to do that is by taking part-time and piecemeal work to build up your experience. A Basic Job often conflicts with that.

A government study of workfare programmes in the UK, Canada, and US[1] concluded that: "There is little evidence that workfare increases the likelihood of finding work. It can even reduce employment chances by limiting the time available for job search and by failing to provide the skills and experience valued by employers."

Oftentimes the poor are those who most need to spend time taking care of children or the elderly -- types of work which are tremendously valuable to society despite not being part of the wage labour system. A basic job conflicts with that.

Furthermore, Basic Job programmes have vast bureaucratic overhead and are far more expensive to implement than Basic Incomes. What you consistently miss in your argument against Basic Income is that it is something which everybody receives. Most people contribute to it, but all people receive a benefit from it. The "cost" is not the total cost of the programme, but the difference between what you pay and what you receive.

1: http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20130128102031/htt...


I don't understand - how does a Basic Job prevent you from either going to school or taking part time work? No one is obligated to work a Basic Job. It's just what you do if you are unable to find anything better.

Basic Job programmes have vast bureaucratic overhead and are far more expensive to implement than Basic Incomes.

Back of the envelope calculation, please.

Incidentally, your study merely shows there is very little evidence of anything due to workfare being poorly implemented and rapidly abandoned. For example, NYC had only 2800 people on workfare in 2003. Additionally, it claims that about half of people on workfare don't actually work and merely loaf about the work site (but presumably continue receiving benefits).

Obviously a BJ won't work if you turn it into a de-facto BI or welfare system.


> I don't understand - how does a Basic Job prevent you from either going to school or taking part time work? No one is obligated to work a Basic Job. It's just what you do if you are unable to find anything better.

With this comment, it becomes difficult to see how you're arguing in good faith. If your Basic Job tells you to work at a particular time of day -- and classes and/or a part-time job are in the middle of this work schedule -- then they conflict. Sure, you can go to school and/or take the part-time job instead, but then you starve.

How is it that you're incapable of understanding that this creates a conflict?

> Back of the envelope calculation, please.

Okay, using your straw-man scenario, there are 50M people requiring $20k worth of income. That costs $1T upfront (same as if we provided the $20k Basic Income to all 300M people). Now with our Basic Job, we're basically asking people to do work that they don't want to do -- since as you point out, if they're not closely supervised then they won't do the work.

So let's assume we need a poorly-paid supervisor for every 12 basic-jobbers, a somewhat better-paid line manager for every 20 supervisors, a somewhat well-paid district manager for every 50 line managers, and an actually well-paid regional manager for every 100 district supervisors. Furthermore, lets assume that all these jobs come from the ranks of the currently-unemployed, so that they're not pure overhead but are providing support in and of themselves.

  Job description   $/year   No. of people   Total cost
  Basic Jobber      20k      45,973,453      919.5B
  Supervisor        30k      3,831,121       114.9B
  Line Manager      40k      191,556         7.7B
  District Manager  60k      3,831           0.2B
  Regional Manager  100k     383             -
...This would be an overhead of about 4.2%, compared to the effectively zero overhead which a Basic Income requires (all you need for BI is one-time-only verification of citizenship, and careful monitoring of when people die so that the payments stop. You don't need to employ millions of people to do that). So this would cost roughly $420M more than an equivalent Basic Income program, while simultaneously preventing 50M people from doing something more useful with their lives.


Going with your numbers, if a basic jobber costs $7.25/hour and they produce $0.30 worth of value, the Basic Job pays for it's own overhead. And of course, $1T < $6T.

I must commend you on actually thinking things through carefully and checking if, numerically, a policy is remotely plausible. It's so rare to see on threads like this.


> of course, $1T < $6T

Your $6T number is false. Even in your strawman, the cost of the Basic Income would be $1T: $6T less $5T as a "cash-back rebate", due to the fact that every single person paying for the BI is also receiving the BI. This has been explained to you many times on this thread, but you keep ignoring it.

> if a basic jobber costs $7.25/hour and they produce $0.30 worth of value, the Basic Job pays for it's own overhead.

But a Basic Income would have $0/hr worth of overhead -- and it can be assumed that a person who is able to seek work and education will produce more than $0.30/hr of value anyway.

> I must commend you on actually thinking things through carefully and checking if, numerically, a policy is remotely plausible.

Thank you. I have an MBA from Oxford and run two businesses. I am very comfortable with numbers.


But a Basic Income would have $0/hr worth of overhead

This doesn't sound plausible to me. People are devilishly clever when it comes to bilking large bureaucracies out of free money. It's going to take a bit of work to prevent that from happening. Organized Crime is going to get in on something like this.


You don't actually need all $6T, because most people will be paying taxes that equal or exceed what they receive from BI.

You mentioned earlier that BI disincentivizes work. How so? It seems to me that it would not, because the basic income doesn't disappear the instant you start working even a little bit.


This one is pretty straightforward. BI disincentivizes work because it stays with you if you stop working. On the common assumption that people are working for the money, not for the joy of showing up, this reduces the penalty for not working, which will cause a rise in... not working.


It's certainly true that BI will reduce incentives to work, 1) on paid projects, 2) first order, 3) amongst those who are not currently receiving assistance.

Regarding each of these caveats in turn:

1) There are plenty of projects that we individually may deem socially worthwhile that we don't pay for. Parents raising their children being probably the strongest example, but there are other places where value is simply hard to capture. Incentive to work on these is not decreased by BI.

2) Incentive to work depends on what people are willing to pay you for your labor. If BI ultimately means people are willing/able to pay for more things then the total incentive to work may rise. So far as I'm aware, this is not a settled question (it seems a probable second-order consequence but possibly drowned by inflation, &c...)

3) Anyone currently receiving disability or welfare payments is not merely being paid despite not working, they're effectively being paid not to work. Transitioning to unconditional support will clearly increase their incentive to work.

What all this does in aggregate is not at all clear to me.


The arguments for BI that I've read here on HN assert that this isn't a problem, because people who don't want to be working are a net drain on the systems in which they work, and/or they will be replaced by people who want to work a little bit but can't because they will lose disability.

The incentive to continue working even if you receive BI is that BI won't be enough to have a luxurious lifestyle, just enough to meet basic needs and educate oneself.


With BI it always is beneficial to work. Even if you only work for a couple of months a year (for instance picking strawberries) you will make more money than not doing anything.

So if anything BI incentives people to work even if only for once in a while.


All this shows is that BI doesn't entirely eliminate existing incentives to work. That's uncontroversial. It could still very well be that BI provides a disincentive relative to an identical system without BI.


No that is actually one of the major claims from opponents of BI and thus controversial. That it removes the incentive for someone to work.

But there is nothing that indicates this at all. In fact the Canadian experiment mincome although not conclusive did not show people in general stopping to work.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mincome


You think a major claim of BI opponents is that there is zero remaining incentive to work, as opposed to simply a substantially reduced incentive? Show me anyone (who understands that BI isn't lost when someone works) making that claim anywhere.

I agree with you that the evidence shows there is not even substantially reduced incentive. In the case of Mincome in particular, it did show a decrease in hours worked, which is consistent with the claim that you were objecting to - that BI reduces the incentives for work (relative to the same system with no BI). Asserting that the global disincentive is small and that conditional assistance provides far more disincentive would have been entirely appropriate. Asserting that there is zero disincentive - without an explanation for why we saw one in Mincome - is not, and your earlier comment was arguing that by asserting remaining incentive was not zero which just doesn't make sense as an argument.


I think you should read what I wrote again and perhaps you will realize that i did not make any claims about zero disincentive.

What I said was that it always will pay off to work and therefore incentives people to work.

Thats a very different argument than the one you are arguing against.


So your assertion is that you were making a true statement that was utterly unrelated to the subthread you were replying in?


I was replying to this:

"...This one is pretty straightforward. BI disincentivizes work because it stays with you if you stop working. On the common assumption that people are working for the money, not for the joy of showing up, this reduces the penalty for not working, which will cause a rise in... not working..."

More specifically this sentence:

"...On the common assumption that people are working for the money..."


I think you need to re-read what you wrote in response to that.


No you just need to understand what I am actually saying.


Then please clarify, because it still reads like you were arguing past the post entirely.

You said:

"With BI it always is beneficial to work."

As an aside, this is not quite true - if I value my time more than the wages offered, or if working has associated costs that exceed my wages, it might not be beneficial - but it is certainly the case that you don't wind up with less money because you worked because of BI.

However, more importantly, this doesn't disagree with thaumasiotes's comment and I don't see how it's relevant to the parent discussion.

"Even if you only work for a couple of months a year (for instance picking strawberries) you will make more money than not doing anything."

This is true, and a great advantage that BI has over conditional transfers or assistance. It's still not actually relevant to the parent's point. Absent BI, this is still the case, and the incentive will be higher.

"So if anything BI incentives people to work even if only for once in a while."

This seems entirely false, in terms of anything that was presented here. It is the case that people remain incentivized, but it is not the BI that 8provides* that incentive. The change due to introducing BI is that paid work is less incentivized, which is the same as saying "BI disincentivizes work."


You will cause entrepreneurs and job-creaters to leave the country. The U.S. isn't in a bubble. Why would someone making 6 or more figures want to be taxed 60%+ for their work?


Where's the calculation for how much it costs to give the $20K/person to the employed? Unless unemployment is above 96%, it will be more than the 4.2% overhead you hypothesize here.


You cant live from a job that the government doesnt already consider worhthy of paying a salary for.

It doesnt work and never have. Denmark tried this too it does nothing cause it doesnt solve the basic problem.

There is not enough jobs for all of us and will increasingly be so.

BI is the best solution we know of and we should try it.


Basic Job will likely leave you little time to train in an area where you could be more productive for society. Basic Pay is designed to provide you the time to do that. Sure there has to be a bit of trust that you're going to not just sit on your arse, but very few people actually want to do that (despite what a lot of people think), and it's psychologically healthy to want to make the most of your life.

A lot of the comments here also ignore a lot of the factors that Basic Pay would provide which aren't directly measurable- increases to areas such as science and the arts which, while not tied to anything concrete like GDP or a country's economy, are indisputedly important to society.


False.

BI would not provide increases to science nor art. It would dilute them. I get enough emails as it is from whacko's who think they've upturned Quantum Mechanics, Relativity, or created some perpetual motion machine. If society valued these people's output they would be financially rewarded already. There's already incentives in present society, called capitalism and competition! There's a reason why only a tiny fraction of actors, musicians, and artists earn a living. That living is what society thinks of their art.

Further, plenty of people on social programs are quite content with sitting on their ass. And some deservedly so, due to true disabilities. An able-bodied adult has no moral right to income which they did not earn. That is theft from the truly deserving individuals who either were born with extreme hardships, or became disabled.

Note: A few years ago I was a graduate student (24k/yr living) in Boston who made time to play drums. You can express your art (or science) without a handout.


>I get enough emails as it is from whacko's who think they've upturned Quantum Mechanics, Relativity, or created some perpetual motion machine. If society valued these people's output they would be financially rewarded already. There's already incentives in present society, called capitalism and competition!

If you can't differentiate between capitalism and scientific peer-review as separate processes for separating wheat and chaff, why should I take your word on the ethics underlying fundamental economics, ie: that "he who does not work deserves not to eat"?


Competition underlies capitalism.

Why do you think scientists want to publish in the best journals like science and nature? There is a healthy amount of competition in science too. It's what drives people to get into the academy, or get awards like the Nobel. It's what creates great science, but it also creates politics in research.

There's a number of parallels between capitalism and academic research.


So there has to be a requisite degree of suffering on the bottom-end to motivate the population to compete to better their station? Is that the society-scale version of "The beatings will continue until morale improves?"

Well, on a more serious note, it would be, "The subtle resource starvation will continue until you become more valuable and productive."

Would the "lower classes" in academia lacking health care result in more academic productivity? Actually, no one really disagrees about these things in an absolute sense. It's more where people want to draw the lines.


The lines are set by supply and demand. It's the reason why I got paid doing a STEM graduate degree, while someone in the arts or history would not.

"The subtle resource starvation will continue until you become more valuable and productive."

Yes, and this is the reason society improves over time. Drastically so.

In other words, it is little value to me if you decide to pursue art history because there are enough art historians in supply. You would need to out-compete ones with greater experience than you to make a living. It doesn't help society to add +1 to that pool. On the other hand, it is quite valuable to pursue a STEM degree because the skills, research, and knowledge you attain are in demand.

The system, works. Society improves over time, and everyone is rewarded. Everyone is(should be) thankful.


>The lines are set by supply and demand. It's the reason why I got paid doing a STEM graduate degree, while someone in the arts or history would not.

Bull. The funding for your "STEM" (come on, tell us what field you actually did) grad degree didn't come from supply and demand on an open market; it came from government research funding.

>"The subtle resource starvation will continue until you become more valuable and productive." > >Yes, and this is the reason society improves over time. Drastically so.

The fact that you have noticed an optimization process acting on society optimizes society is not a great insight. The fact that you failed to notice the current optimization process profoundly mismatches our values and intentions is a major misstep of yours.


>"The funding for your "STEM" (come on, tell us what field you actually did) grad degree didn't come from supply and demand on an open market; it came from government research funding."

Which is driven by the market. If art historians were all of a sudden extremely profitable then you bet your ass there will be a massive increase in gov't funding at their graduate level, due to market demands. Grant applications have to stress the importance of their research (and often times potential for profit) to society. The fact that you fail to see immense competition in gov't research funding shows how high your blinders are.

>"The fact that you have noticed an optimization process acting on society optimizes society is not a great insight. The fact that you failed to notice the current optimization process profoundly mismatches our values and intentions is a major misstep of yours."

Don't shove your values on me. Un-targeted welfare steals limited resources from those who truly need it. Swallow those values whole.


Funny, that $24k a year that allowed you to play drums (along side your graduate studies) is about in the range of what people generally propose for a basic income


Indeed, it's quite a bit more than I'd propose for a basic income.


But the reality is that we don't NEED everybody to work, or soon won't. The comforts of life will become a civil right. What then? Old Puritan work ethic becomes obsolete. Any thoughts on 'right behavior' in a post-work economy?


We're not anywhere close to this. For this to even happen we need everyone who can work, to work, right now. Implementing BI will delay your utopia.


Close in America. Its rapidly becoming obvious that big business doesn't want/need even a fraction of the available workers. Folks resort to entropic work, where they sort out fad and fashion for one another while producing no useful product. A way to keep everybody busy in pursuit of the fantasy of 'full employment'.


Not. Even. Close. Call me when shelter, food, and water costs are so low that any able person can attain each for minimal work. The fact that electricians and construction workers are still in high demand and get paid 80k+ shows how far away we are.


5 million Americans receive housing for free or substantially federally assisted right now :https://www.census.gov/hhes/povmeas/methodology/supplemental...

How can that be? What direction is this going? How soon until everybody is subsidized in some way? (There are 2000+ federal housing assistance programs right now).

Market value for construction workers is misleading when the market is skewed. Because we currently play a game where people who want houses, have to hand over green coupons to people who build houses, isn't the whole story. Consider that all this money-trading is by the 99%, who own a small fraction of the money. What if the 1% threw their money into the game? It would skew the prices and wages until some equilibrium was reached, maybe have no real effect on housing at all.

So the real question is, how do we motivate our workforce to create wealth (housing, food etc) for everyone? We have excess capacity to do this (Iowa creates enough food alone, to feed 2 USAs). Why aren't we doing it? Automation will make it not even take people at some point to accomplish it.

The money game will run out of steam at some point. Whether the robot overlords just give us all what we need, or let us starve, is up to our choices in the next couple of decades.

This is all tounge in cheek (sort of); but because today we use money to guide resource doesn't mean it will continue to be useful to do that.


I don't think you understand how money works. Remove money, and people will trade items for items. Money is the intermediate unit of your effort and time. "We" motivate our workforce in a natural way by choosing how we trade our (effort and time) for items they have. The value of those items changes as supply and demand changes anyways. The reason "we" are not letting Iowa feed us is because we don't want to eat 3 meals of corn all day every day. How would you "motivate" them to? Force? Which single entity would decide all these things? You, our new overlord? Sorry, I'll take my chances with the current, awesome, system ^_^


That misses the point of the discussion again. People trade for things because of scarcity. This new 'post-scarcity' economy won't/can't/shouldn't work like that, at least for the necessities of life. The whole question is what to do when folks DONT trade for things.


> Further, plenty of people on social programs are quite content with sitting on their ass. And some deservedly so, due to true disabilities. An able-bodied adult has no moral right to income which they did not earn. That is theft from the truly deserving individuals who either were born with extreme hardships, or became disabled.

Trust me when I say that the truly deserving individuals with true disabilities do not want to sit on their asses, deservedly or not.

The part where it's "psychologically healthy to want to make the most of your life" holds just as much for them as for everybody (and it's arguably even more important for them). It doesn't take a very long time of sitting on your ass to realize this, either.


Addition, it's too late to edit now, but reading back my comment, there should be scare quotes around the words "truly" and "true". I very clearly don't want to mean to imply I have the position to decide who is "truly deserving" or "truly disabled".

Just wanted to point out that a lot of people who can't work, generally want to, very badly.


Exactly so.

I don't understand why the 'Basic Job' idea doesn't get more traction. For all of the talk about a 'post work' world, I still see plenty of work that needs doing, every day.


Excellent! Give everyone a shovel. Half the people can dig the hole, the other half will fill it in again!

Seriously, make-work is a horrible idea and a gigantic waste of resources. Basic income frees people to live their lives and contribute to society in ways that are undervalued by the labour market such as writing, creating art and music or caring for children, the elderly or chronically ill.

How many people might choose to start a small business if they have the security of a basic income? It seems to me like a potentially staggering number of people.


Well, Basic Job is sort of by definition work that doesn't need doing. There's a fundamental conceptual problem with it:

Imagine I, for whatever reason, accept a Basic Job from the government. The job is, by design, bad. I'd rather not do it. So my dream scenario is that I officially hold a Basic Job and draw its meager salary, but instead of doing whatever work it supposedly entails I sit at home and watch TV.

This scenario isn't just an improvement in my life -- it's also an improvement for everyone handling me! The work doesn't need to get done; it's only there as a penalty for me, to encourage me not to draw the Basic Salary if I don't really, truly need it. So when I save myself some effort by not showing up for work, I also save my handlers effort that might have gone into overseeing me. Just as it's easier for me to stay home, it's easier for them to pretend I didn't than to track whether or not I did anything. So overseeing Basic Job is conceptually pretty difficult.

I don't claim that this is more or less difficult to deal with than the problems of any other welfare system, but it is an obvious and fundamental flaw in the concept, and might help explain why it's hard for Basic Job to get traction. On a shallower level, the concept of "pay someone to dig a hole today and fill it in tomorrow" (a.k.a. The Basic Job Concept), has been the go-to example for exactly what we don't want government to do for a long, long time. That can also make it difficult to get traction.


Basic Job is sort of by definition work that doesn't need doing.

This is a fundamental misunderstanding. BJ is work that is not worth doing at current market prices. I.e., picking up garbage in the park might be worth $4/hour, but minimum wage is $7.25/hour. If we spend $7.25 more and get $4.00 worth of value out of it, we lost $3.25.

If we are already spending $7.25 on welfare/BI and getting nothing in return, we are losing $7.25. If we demand that recipients work for their money we lose only $3.25. As long as the BJ workers are not destructive, we lose less money than we otherwise would with welfare or a BI.

Also, the jobs need not be "dig a hole and fill it in" - they can also be "walk around town and find potholes to fill tomorrow" or "there is garbage on the streets, go clean it up". It's not as if we have a shortage of things that would be beneficial if we did them. They just might not be worth doing at current prices.


This raises a pretty interesting question. Suppose I apply for a Basic Job at your institution, where all the work is sort of worthwhile, but not worthwhile enough to happen unsubsidized. What job do you assign to me? How do you choose it? I assume you're not choosing the "most worthwhile" of the jobs, because how would you know?

If the work is digging holes one day and undigging them the next, overhead here is low. If there's some other system behind what the jobs are and how they get filled, potential for corruption seems extremely high. Say I'm a Denny's and I'd rather not pay so much for my kitchen staff. Can I list all the positions with Basic Job and kick back to the administrator when he sends me someone?

Germany has no minimum wage and extremely low unemployment. What would their Basic Jobs be?


And how is that different than eliminating a minimum wage and providing a basic income, other that the basic job is much more complex?


I think the idea is that if you already have a basic income, then you probably would not be motivated to work for such low wages.


The basic income goes towards making sure the worthless jobs don't get done anyway. It's more like eliminating the minimum wage and then using the existing welfare state mechanisms to float everyone's consumption up to a floor of $20k / year as long as they have a job.


"Well, Basic Job is sort of by definition work that doesn't need doing."

Not at all. There are things that provide economic value that is hard to capture. Determining what those things are and how to value them is going to be messy, though.


This has been done in the German Democratic Republic. They had a "right to work" article in their constitution that was basically fully implemented. Almost everyone who could work except for older pupils and university students had a job. In fact, not working despite being able to do so was an offence punishable with up to two years in prison.

Arguably the only good thing that came of this was that equal pay for men and women was also assured by their constitution.


Basic Job is stupid because it leads to silliness like building bridges with hand labor instead of machines.


If labor is abundant and machines are scarce, why is this stupid?


Because it would be cheaper to use a machine to build the bridge, give the money you save to the people, and then let them add value to society in some other way.


But the economy doesn't want them, or is unable to utilize them under present conditions. Eating what you have in front of you is still more filling than waiting (or letting someone wait) for that next, bigger meal.

Of course, that also doesn't mean we shouldn't eliminate the incentives that contribute to inefficiencies being preferable. There are plenty of scenarios where people are employed to dig a proverbial hole and others are paid to fill it (patents and copyright enforcing intellectual poverty; interest on public debt, etc), even if each side spares no expense and might use the best tools available. If we were actually solving problems, prices would be going down and people would be happily unemployed (because there were less problems to resolve and less to need money to buy) at the same time as quality of life were going up. That is not what is happening.


He said "let them add value to society", not the economy. The two are not synonymous. If the economy is unable to make use of them under present conditions, then giving them a job is useless. Giving them a basic income lets them make non-economic contributions to society.


You're assuming the value of a person's time to themselves is zero. If it's positive, and if the economic value we're deriving from the make-work is less than it, then the make-work program is actually destroying value.


But the economy doesn't want them, or is unable to utilize them under present conditions.

Capitalist corporations don't want/are unable to utilize them. Don't confuse them with the economy which is far more grandiose and inclusive than that. There are millions of ways for humans to create value for other people, most of which would be unprofitable for capitalist corporations to pursue.


Exactly and better yet - don't take the money you ultimately "save" from the people in the first place.


So direct them to do that other thing for their Basic Job and use the machine for the bridge.


Sure. That other thing is self improvement, looking for normal employment and helping their family / community or whatever else they think is important. In other words it is a basic income for the unemployed...


Again you should really do some research with the countries who tried or is trying this. It helps no one and cost more than it helps.


Because people would rather pay a small fraction of their wages to buy a machine to do their job for them. And they should. Basic income basically allows that to happen - you're employer gets the extra profit from automating you away, but the money is taxed and given back.


Because it means it's harder for me to get a job building those machines, which is how we make genuine progress.


I think it's a sort of taboo idea because of Victorian work houses.


Can you be fired from your basic job? What happens then?


You are basically out of a job.


Actually, your math is entirely wrong.

Let's use the same numbers as you: 300M people, $20k each, only 50M people who actually "need" it.

In the BI scenario, 250M people are paying for the cost of program (since the 50M who actually "need" it presumably can't pay). That's $6B / 250m = $24,000 per person. However, each of those people is also receiving $20,000 worth of BI. Therefore, the cost to them is $24,000 - $20,000 = $4,000 per person. $4000 * 250M = $1B -- exactly the same as your conditional benefits program, except now there's vastly less overhead and no poverty trap.


How do you decide the "50M who actually 'need' it" with vastly less overhead? There is a cost to run the IRS and determine (correctly) peoples income.

Furthermore, a 4k tax on 250M of the U.S. could be crippling to a good chunk of them. If your true point is redistribution of wealth, our tax system already does that and can do it more. But that's a different discussion..


You don't decide. The point of Basic Income is that it's unconditional and universal. If somebody can prove they're a citizen, they get the BI, no need to determine their income.

As for a $4k tax being "crippling to a good chunk of them" -- no, you misunderstand the nature of BI. If we're paying $20k worth of BI in this scenario, then the mean income should be about $40k (since a good level for BI -- in basically any economy -- is about 50% of the mean). We could then support a flat $20k/person BI with a flat 50% earned-income tax. This means that the payments and receipts, per person would look like this:

  Income    Tax   +BI    Net    Effective tax rate
  $0       -$0    $20k   $20k   N/A
  $10k     -$5k   $20k   $15k   N/A
  $20k     -$10k  $20k   $10k   N/A
  $30k     -$15k  $20k   $5k    N/A
  $40k     -$20k  $20k   $0     N/A
  $50k     -$25k  $20k  -$5k    10%
  $60k     -$30k  $20k  -$10k   15%
  ...
  $100k    -$50k  $20k  -$30k   30%
  ...
  $1,000k  -$500k $20k  -$490k  49%
As you can see, people making the mean income or less would make nothing at all. People making moderately more than the mean income would pay a little bit, but no more than they currently pay to support benefits programs. The only people paying a lot would be the people who could afford it.


No.

Explain why after spending 10 years in school my tax burden should increase by 30k (making it an effective 60% rate not counting 10% sales tax in CA) to give to able bodied people who choose not to get off their ass. I guarantee you society is better off letting me keep what I earned rather than giving it to a completely untested individual. I didn't work my ass off for you.


It's called "paying it forward". Assuming, of course, that some form of BI would be in place, you would have spent those 10 years in school supported by a BI. So paying those taxes, you're making sure that people just like you can afford to spend 10 years in school and become great and awesome too.

PS: I hardly ever meet any of those "able bodied people who choose not to get off their ass" - they mostly show up in discussions like these - and I suspect they're a tiny minority. Let's not adjust policies to punish that tiny minority if, in the process, everybody else gets punished too.


Someone needs to turn this into an animated chart. It looks like you are taking away someones first dollar earned?


"It looks like you are taking away someones first dollar earned?"

I don't see where you're getting that. Presuming the numbers haven't changed since you commented, it looks to me like taking away half of every dollar earned.


I guess I don't understand what 'Net' is. Is it the cost of the government, so if I earn 20k on the open market, are given 20k and taxed 10k (I have 30k in my pocket, and the gov has spent 10k)?


Net here is the amount received by the individual in basic income, less the portion of their taxes going to pay for the basic income, assuming it is funded with a 50% flat tax. So yes, if you earn $20k, are given $20k, and are taxed (for the purposes of funding the BI) $10k, the net (direct) effect of the basic income program on your bottom line is $10k.


"(since a good level for BI -- in basically any economy -- is about 50% of the mean)."

How do you arrive at this?


How do you decide the "50M who actually 'need' it" with vastly less overhead?

We already do this with income tax forms.

Furthermore, a 4k tax on 250M of the U.S. could be crippling to a good chunk of them. If your true point is redistribution of wealth, our tax system already does that and can do it more. But that's a different discussion..

That's what this is. It's very similar to Milton Friedman's negative income tax bracket.


Naturally you have to "raise taxes" (in a nominal sense) at the same time you add a basic income, so that the added income is cancelled out for middle-class and wealthy people, and the net amount of redistribution stays more or less constant.

It's still a big win, since you've taken all of the various benefits agencies and collapsed their roles into that of the IRS or equivalent tax agency, which has to exist anyway to fund other government functions.


If it's really more efficient than the current system, it should be fundable from the existing entitlements. Just dismantle the programs, fire all the bureaucrats running them, and divert all these funds toward the basic income. If it requires another tax then it's not an alternative, it is an expansion of the welfare state.


No. It's not more net taxes. It's a change in the tax rate so the basic income is clawed back at the high end. Doesn't change tax out of pocket.


Its like applying plaster to an uneven wall. The dents gets filled with plaster but the bumps stays at the same level! Its much better than giving tax breaks since you need income to begin with.


Two things:

> Its much better than giving tax breaks since you need income to begin with.

1. There is a difference between refundable and non-refundable tax credits. A big misconception is that tax breaks only help those who already have income exceeding the size of the credit, which is not necessarily true.

Second,

> Its like applying plaster to an uneven wall. The dents gets filled with plaster but the bumps stays at the same level!

In this analogy, where is the plaster coming from? It can't just come from nowhere[0].

[0] ("Just print more" isn't the answer, because that increasing the money supply doesn't actually "create" money (in the colloquial sense) - it's just a redistribution method that redistributes by changing the relative value of outstanding debt.)


>>In this analogy, where is the plaster coming from? It can't just come from nowhere[0].

Moore's Law, AI , other technological advances. Some bumps are producing way too much paster thats oozing out of the wall boundaries and into the emerging market wall of other countries.

Imagine a time in future when everyone is replaced by robots and no one is "employable" in a traditional sense. What would you do then? The economy is directly linked to the productivity of nations in producing goods and services , it has nothing to do with human effort directly.


> A big misconception is that tax breaks only help those who already have income exceeding the size of the credit, which is not necessarily true.

Its actually always misleading, its just which way it is misleading varies.

For non-refundable credits, a credit only helps if your tax liability (not income) is greater than zero, and only provide full value if the tax liability is at least as big as the credit.

For a refundable credit, it gives full value all the time (well, independent of tax liability -- the eligibility criteria for the credit itself matter.)


Back of the envelope calculation please - that will clarify your vague words and reveal many arithmetic errors (if such are present).


"In 2013, the total Social Security expenditures were $1.3 trillion, 8.4% of the $16.3 trillion GNP (2013) and 37% of the Federal expenditures of $3.684 trillion" (Wikipedia). Medicare adds another half billion, rapidly increasing.

We could get between $6k and $7k annually per citizen by swapping those plans for a basic income. If children don't count, we could bump that to maybe $10k. Obviously, this change would need to be taken gradually to not cause too much disruption.

To hit that $20k number, we'd need to increase taxes. Increasing consumption taxes would be fair. Since the flat credits is very progressive, it's OK to pay for it with a regressive sales or value-added tax.


To hit that $20k number, we'd need to increase taxes.

I'm glad we are in agreement that a BI will cost a lot more than the current targeted welfare state. (Or alternately will require a drastic cut in benefits for the current crop of non-workers.)


It costs more on a nominal basis but if implemented right nobody will have less money in their pocket even after taxes.

If you didn't earn any money before you will get what was spend on you before + the saved overhead (+ a lot of wasted time and hassle). If you made a lot of money before you will still get a free handout but you also have to pay higher taxes so in the end you should have about the same amount. Obviously it will not be exactly the same for everybody but that doesn't mean it will be less fair.

Besides the saved overhead another major advantage of a bi would be to streamline incentive. Currently it can happen that if you start earning money you will lose a lot of benefits. This can lead to an implicit tax rate of > 50% for very poor people and therefore disincentives work.


Numbers, please. And see my other comments on the disincentive to work - in the pilot projects, BI was a massive work disincentive.


Thanks for hammering this nail yummyfajitas.

I'm completely open to the idea of basic incomes but it seems that if it is possible, it should be easy enough to demonstrate the basic outline. This isn't something that can be discussed without arithmetic.

Excluding dynamic effects (more/fewer people will work), political necessities (program X must be excluded from the chopping block) is OK for a start. Picking and choosing countries is OK for a start.

The first question I would like to see answered is how much it would cost to bring every net recipient's income up to par with the biggest recipients'. Presumably the basic income needs to be set somewhere near this line or we'll have a situation where many current recipients are worse off.



In this Canadian experiment [1], initial results indicated some disincentives, but a lot of data was not analyzed, until many years later. Some of the surprising results include a reduction in medical costs.

[1] http://www.dominionpaper.ca/articles/4100


Notice that work disincentive is a plus, not a minus, when there are millions of unemployed people.


Exactly how is it a plus? The goal isn't to make a nominal "unemployment" statistic go down; it's to create valuable things. Your comment makes me think "a receding tide lifts all boats".


People will create what they want to create. For some people growing a nice garden and working on cool stuff around their cheap house will mean more than creating something "more valuable" to society at large. Creation of value or productivity should not be the standard we measure societies by, but instead equity and happiness.


The market doesn't capture and represent all value created by labor. When I call a tow truck to jump start my car, that transaction is captured by the market, but when I call my friend with cables to do the same thing, it is not represented in the GDP. The same thing goes for a lot of "work" that is not done for compensation but adds a great deal of value to community. Basic income recognizes this fact that merely existing as part of a community you are providing some basic value even if you're not paid for that work. I think the critics are right that there are potential cultural problems around entitlement and an unwillingness to contribute in any form, but I'm more optimistic about human nature.


Why increase consumption taxes? Why add friction? Wouldn't it be better to tax the assets at rest -- real estate, property.


Aren't income taxes a logical fit here? You would still have graduated tax brackets, so you wouldn't have an enormous cliff once you started earning, but all tax brackets could be increased such that the middle class end up about the same, and the poor are better off. With the added efficiencies described by the parent comment, this should even be possible without reducing net income to those in the higher brackets, but it might be desirable to do that to some extent as well for greater redistribution.


It's arguably better to tax Ricardian rents - if you can.


You're assuming that the remaining $4trillion is lost. It's not. It goes to other people who will spend it on other things worth, in total, $4tril... even though some of them may need it less.

The benefit they derive from the increased flexibility that $20k could easily exceed $20k by itself - you've probably seen the research on how people make bad decisions when they are financially unstable. And all that benefit is raw positive.

For a BI to be bad from the perspective you're talking about it has to actively make people less productive. Simply giving them $20k doesn't count as a 'cost' in itself - it all comes full circle.


I don't understand. Can you provide a back of the envelope calculation to explain your thoughts?

For a BI to be bad from the perspective you're talking about it has to actively make people less productive.

You mean like a 10% reduction in work hours? https://decorrespondent.nl/541/why-we-should-give-free-money...


It’s the redistribution that you’re missing.

300M * $20k does equal $6 trillion but it is returned to the tax payer who stumped up the $6 trillion.

The 50M who aren’t contributing tax represent an actual cost of $1 trillion. The remaining $5 trillion is redistributed.

250M people contribute $20k. 300M people receive $16.6k.

300M * $20k - $6 trillion == $0


I'm sure you didn't mean this, but let's be clear the 6T is not returned to the tax payer that stumped it. Since this isn't generated wealth, just redistributed, it's a cost to someone. Someone's getting 20k, and someone's paying for it. And some people are going to be paying a lot more than 20k, and some people won't be paying in anything.


The money does go back to the tax payers.. Its redistributed amongst the tax payers. Its pretty much the core concept.

You thought that I thought they just sent the cheques back in the post? That would be bizarre indeed!

"250M people contribute $20k. 300M people receive $16.6k."


No, more work hours != more productivity. The very article you linked to illustrates that.


What does "competitive" mean? Against what? More realistically, figure $20k to 15 million - much less trouble. A mere $0.3T :) But it'll go close to 100% to the Metric Formerly Known as M3 and dissipate.

My framework and Maslow-hammer is the PPST framework from Tyler Cowan by way of Arnold Kling - Patterns of Sustainable Substitution and Trade. In this, the bulls get bigger and the china shops get smaller; people don't have jobs for the reason that employers can't or won't figure out how to hire because business is too hard now.

I think (from interviewing) there's a strong element of laziness, narcissism and incredulous cognitive dissonance to this, but whatever. If we hire and they're good, then the story we told ourselves about how special we were fails.

The U6 gap since 2007 is real now for seven years. It harder every day to call it a blip.

If you give dole money to people such that it does not drive them from doing something productive, the money flows back through the economy and doesn't harm anyone. The accounting, however, is horrendous. I don't have an answer for that.


"Competitive" means "against alternate policy proposals". For example, Basic Job/Employer of last resort, or the current welfare state.

...people don't have jobs for the reason that employers can't or won't figure out how to hire because business is too hard now.

People don't have jobs because they are unwilling to work at low wages. This is pretty well established empirically, is the foundation of Keynesian economics, and is even accepted by both Cowen and Kling.

Further evidence for this: US companies are still outsourcing and expanding overseas.

If you give dole money to people such that it does not drive them from doing something productive...

The little data we have about BI suggests it reduces productive work hours by about 10%. For comparison, the great recession resulted in a 1% drop. As usual in articles on this topic, original sources uncited.

https://decorrespondent.nl/541/why-we-should-give-free-money...


Agreed; sticky wages is also part of PSST, but the new thing is perceived fragility of potential hiring companies.

Overseas expansion could be any of a number of things besides wages, it's waning and it fails frequently. Something like the manufacturers aggregated through Alibaba seems different from setting up bespoke manufacturing overseas.

Thanks for the link.


Only about 200m people are over the age of 18 and 20k per person seems high. 200M at 10k per year is around 2 trillion. Seems doable if we are willing to scrap things like social security.


10k/year for 50m is 500b. Throw in 100% overhead and targeted welfare providing equivalent benefits is still half the price of BI.

Note that the current level of welfare is $20k/person so you are advocating a massive reduction of consumption for the welfare class. (I don't object, just pointing it out.)


It didn't say people on welfare get $20k/person. They don't get anywhere near that. That's how much the government spends to administrate giving them welfare (including managing means testing to prevent people from abusing it) as well as the welfare itself.

I'm pretty sure US welfare is somewhere around $500-900/mo, and if you get a job (thus, work towards becoming a 'productive member of society') you may lose it.


People on welfare (including section 8, food stamps, etc) do in fact get $20k/person.

http://johnhcochrane.blogspot.co.uk/2012/11/taxes-and-cliffs...

Consumption data agrees.

ftp://ftp.bls.gov/pub/special.requests/ce/standard/2009/income.txt


The number of deserving people isn't small, it's large. It is very nearly everyone.

Unemployed people get something, disabled people get something, old people get something, and working get salary, pay taxes on them, get deductions or lower tax brackets, etc. All of that would be replaced by BI.

It's not just about saving overhead costs, it's also about making sure people always get ahead by working. Suppose you're on wellfare, but you might be able to work part-time against minimum income. That added income gets deducted from your wellfare and if it doesn't work out, you might not get it back. So you stand nothing to gain, and a lot to lose. Why even try? With BI, every additional hour you work, increases your income.


You have to factor a multitude of other things in.

Such as capital gains, tax deductions, very low corporate taxes, the actual control etc.

The overhead is many times more than you seem to indicate when it comes to targeted programs.


That's not the cost of the program. The net cost of a BI is actually much lower than the net cost of the targeted program. The actual cost of the program is the expense of administration, how much resources are used by the government in running the program.


Consumer spending will increase and therefore also tax revenues. More importantly, we can cut other programs to recover the difference.

Edit: rough calculation in other comment


Exactly how does consumer spending increase if it's just redistribution? And assuming it does, why is that good? What about consumer savings being reduced due to less net income for the earners?

I'm having trouble seeing how this could work. If gross income generated, not redistributed, doesn't change (this doesn't create more work completed, it just moves income to someone else). then how is new wealth generated? It seems like spending would likely be the same, if not be reduced due to friction and overhead which would reduce net income across the board (wealth redistribution isn't free, so if new wealth isn't generated, then net income seems like it must go down, and aggregate spending would also go down).


I can't see any plausible way that these numbers will even approach the ballpark of $5 trillion. Back of the envelope calculation please.


There's something very striking (to me) about your back-of-the-envelope numbers here.

Are we really endorsing the idea that one person in six should be on welfare?


I'm not convinced that Basic income would necessarily deal with edge cases all that much better. A simple basic income implies that you provide everybody with the same minimum income and they cut back on public services etc to the minimum since in theory people can now buy what they want.

But there are problems in that not everyone can live off the same amount of money. This is especially true with disabled or very ill people who are the most likely to be unable to obtain employment. They also require more money to maintain the same living standard, often much more in the case of people who require full time care etc.


The government assistance for these situations is often not enough to live on as it is (at least where I live), so I'm not sure how moving to this would be a negative. Also consider how difficult it is for someone with a chronic illness to actually find and access the myriad of services that provide the support they need, and at the end of they day it's still usually not enough.

It would be a shame to not move to something better for those people simply because it isn't perfect.


Additionally, the cost of living varies widely, for example, in the US. Between climate differences (it costs more to stay warm in Alaska in the winter than it does in Florida), logistical differences (fuel costs more in Hawaii than it does in Texas), to real estate costs (housing is more expensive in SF, CA than in Norfolk, VA), to transportation costs (parking in NY is more expensive than in Jacksonville, FL), etc.

So the amount of income necessary to survive is going to vary by location, sometimes substantially. So a universal income wouldn't be tenable either, as one dollar doesn't buy the same things everywhere. How would you calculate what that should be without market forces?


Well so what? If you are going to consume more of the economy's resources to choose to live in a more expensive place, then you should have to pay for it.

Conversely, why should we give less to people who live in more affordable places?


I think the difference is it may be more expensive to live in a city but may still make sense because of the availability of jobs and higher income. With basic income the income aspect of choosing a place to live is weakened.


I suspect that if the US implemented basic income, people would still expect government-funding mandatory primary and high schools.

For the particular example of disabled or very ill people, universal government-sponsored health care might help, although that has its own side-effects that are perhaps undesirable. (I believe that people are more incentivized to do medical research in the US than in Canada, in part because Canada's nationalized health care encourages people to stick with existing, inexpensive treatments in most cases.)


> I suspect that if the US implemented basic income, people would still expect government-funding mandatory primary and high schools.

There's a local "maximum" in the policy evolution process here, due to the difficulty of changing umpteen things at once. I always vote against any new policy proposal that says "we're going to add this tax and remove this other one" unless both happen in the same bill, because otherwise the removal tends to not happen. (For instance, "replacing" an income tax with a sales tax in two steps can easily fail at step 2 and end up with both.)


In the mystical future world where a GBI has been implemented charity still exists, and much of the capital once dedicated to assisting those in poverty-absent-illness can now be directed to those who need help in addition to the GBI.


But if charity were reliable enough to rely on for livelihood wouldn't it make sense to remove any form of welfare or basic income?


I think the reliability of charity in this case would increase as the number of people who need it decrease. I don't think we can rely on charity to solve everyone's financial woes, else said woes would already be solved. But when the percentage of people in need of charity grows smaller, the impact of the same pool of charity increases for those left in need.


But isn't the point of BI that everyone has enough for their basic needs? It would seem unfair at that point to tell some people try and get charity funding (which might dry up at any point).


There are plenty of people whose basic needs are substantially larger than the average citizen. For instance, many people need expensive motorized wheel chairs, which would be difficult to purchase on BI. Currently, the state provides motorized wheel chairs to many, but there are many stories of this program being abused. It's quite possible that a charity could step in here to supplement BI to make chairs affordable, and could do better and more efficient needs testing than the state.


> It would seem unfair at that point to tell some people try and get charity funding (which might dry up at any point).

This is already the status quo. Less people being reliant on charity is a good thing.


According to Maslow's Hierarchy, at least as I interpret it, charity increases as an individual is able to meet their lower needs. How you go about getting more individuals to that level is a matter of debate that is difficult to give any definitive answers to.


And how many philanthropists practice charity by giving away money no questions asked?


That's not a philanthropist. That's a fool!


> A simple basic income implies that you provide everybody with the same minimum income and they cut back on public services etc to the minimum since in theory people can now buy what they want.

I haven't seen the reduction in services implied anywhere. It may, however, be a reality when implemented, but the intention isn't simply to change how government funds are spent on the poor. Generally, the aim is to redistribute wealth from the 'rich'.


I have only ever heard basic income proposed as the former implementation, never the latter.


The two formulations are similar. If you just print money to give to everybody, you cause inflation, which is a tax on liquid wealth. The wealthy have ways to hedge against inflation, so it's basically a tax on the middle class.


If the original argument proposes wealth distribution it would cause inflation and deflation at the same time. Inflation of lower end goods and services because the poor will have more money, and deflation in the higher end goods and services because the wealthy will have less. i.e., things get more expensive for the poor, and cheaper for the rich. ;)

If we are talking about printing money, it would be similar. The lower end goods and services would get more expensive and the higher end goods and services would stay about the same.


What are these magical ways to hedge against inflation that wealthy have access to and middle class don't? By definition, inflation equates to higher salaries for the middle class.


Commodities, stocks, options, derivatives, and real estate are the most common. But I think they aren't limited to the wealthy per say. The wealthy just know much more about them and have higher percentages of their net worth in these types of things.

You can make money if the market goes up, you can make money if the market goes down, and you can make money if the market doesn't go anywhere.


Inflation means higher salaries, which is highly correlated with middle class net worth.


It's definitely correlated but not 1 to 1. Wealthy people will use leverage though. Effectively their r-value is > 1.0. With middle class it might be around 0.6. The middle class still loses some as their salaries do go up but not as fast. Also, you usually need to quit and go to another job. The wealthy have more control and options.


Or you could raise taxes on the wealthy...


"Just print money" does not cause unconditional inflation. It depends on initial conditions.


> Generally, the aim is to redistribute wealth from the 'rich'.

What if they leave? Should people be punished for being rich?


They are welcome to leave. Yes, they should be punished because society needs a disincentive for gross personal hoarding.


Define hoarding.


Fair point. Obviously an easy definition would be one that's fuzzy and increases with distance above the mean... very much like we have now for income tax, but instead for assets held.


Do you realize that the more rich people leave, the fewer rich people there'll be left to plunder?

That, in turn, means that the remaining rich people would have to be taxed even harder to compensate for some of them leaving, which would then motivate even more of them to leave, and there you have a feedback loop that leads to the Basic Income party being over.


Basic income doesn't have to be all or nothing. You can supplement with targeted aid. Just should be able to get away with a lot less effort since you only need to cover the obvious extreme cases.


This basic premise(MVP) exists on American Indian reservations, quasi-sovereign states. The BIA and the Tribe distributes an equal share of funds from either the government or gaming to each tribal member. As long as you can prove you are a tribe member, you get the funds.

Feel free to visit any of these reservations and see the kind of lives they live. I grew up surrounded by them in Arizona and went to school with many Native Americans in both primary & high school. It's not a great way to live and the reason so many are leaving the reservations.


I suspect that situation has more variables involved than simply a minimum basic income.


In fairness, don't most situations in life?


Most situations do not involve genocide.


> Feel free to visit any of these reservations and see the kind of lives they live.

And is this squalor & dysfunctionality entirely absent in reservations without significant revenue to distribute?


I agree we would really benefit from a radical simplification our entitlements. Going through the simplified and unified but still arcane ACA application process personally brought this home for me, especially when I realized it is a system that can become a single entry point to multiple varied entitlement programs that formerly each had their own different qualification rules. Digging into it I saw that one of the goals behind it was to get more of the people who are entitled to Medicaid into Medicaid, the biggest barrier being that it takes a college degree and several days of dedicated work to navigate your way through the application process (I exaggerate, but not by much)

I also agree that we are decades away from sufficient public outrage to fuel the political machine to make these changes. Much like the flat tax, it makes sense to most people but will never happen due to the strong motivation of current rent-seekers to maintain the status quo.

While I would much prefer a basic income to an increase in the minimum wage, I am torn by the fear that it would turn us into the world of Neal Stephenson's Anathem or Mike Judge's Idiocracy. I support Voltaire's assertion that "Work saves us from three great evils: boredom, vice, and need"


> While I would much prefer a basic income to an increase in the minimum wage, I am torn by the fear that it would turn us into the world of Neal Stephenson's Anathem or Mike Judge's Idiocracy. I support Voltaire's assertion that "Work saves us from three great evils: boredom, vice, and need"

You could grant basic income only to people who are employed, similar to how the EITC is administered. This kills some of the administrative overhead advantages, but not all of it, as verification of employment is still less of an overhead than need verification (it's basically built into the income tax system by default). It's also more likely to fly politically.

Incidentally, this also suggests a feasible political path forward for implementing true basic income -- start with EITC expansion, then slowly roll back the employment verification.


okay, I have a pitch for an MVP.

It's an independent organization that functions as a voluntary tax collection. Everybody who believes in basic income signs up for it, and makes a monthly donation. At the end of each month, we divide the total pot of all donations by the number of users: if you need the money, you withdraw your portion. If you don't need it, you can leave it in, so that the next month's pot will be bigger.

That's the whole algorithm.

I think it's self-balancing - if I, as a software developer, have the opportunity to withdraw a small sum, I won't bother - I don't need an extra $5 or $50 or $500, really. But to someone in a lower income bracket, that might be a significant amount of money.


incomethax already mentioned that this is essentially supplemental insurance.

Basic Income is needed because while productivity increases the ownership of these productivity increases are centralizing in the hands of a few. Through system-effects these centralization are leading to further rent seeking than could have happened before.

To give an example. It is game theoretically highly likely that there can only be one centralized social network such as Facebook, simply because the cost of centralization is lower than that OF decentralization (think diaspora). However, the cost of switching to another service doesn't make sense to a single user, hence rent seeking becomes possible. Telcos are another good example. To change this paradime the cost of decentralization has to be significantly lower than the cost of centralization, even to each individual user.

So the real problem isn't that all people are not paying into such an insurance contract, rather that the rent seekers are able to seek out rent at increasing scale while contributing ever less to society. Any BI fund would logically need to be funded by taxing the rent seekers rather than normal people who's productivity gains normally don;t lead to rent seeking due to more liquid markets for employees.

Taxing land, monopolies, money (through demurrage rather than inflation) and adding all of those funds to BI would make a lot more sense. Think Norway Sovereign Fund or the Alaska Fund.


While I agree with you that rent-seekers have more concentrated wealth than us merely overpaid people, I don't know how to voluntarily separate those people from their money.


Tax wealth and capital rather than income. You want to tax gain in capital rather than direct income (just reverse the capital gains and income tax rates, and gains are realised when stock prices go up, rather than when you sell if your stock values are above a certain small number).


Sounds like 'vat' or something. Very European.

Tax codes don't make sense, because they get diddled every year to meet some Senator's (Lobbyist's) pet purpose. Stir and bake for 100 years, and we have the baroque mess we're in.

As somebody famous said, taxation is the art of 'getting the most feathers from the goose, with the least squawking'. Noting in there about making sense or being fair.

Taxing wealth is similar to the old idea of the property tax, used 100's of years ago to encourage working idle lands in the hands of useless absentee-landlord lords and ladies. Worked pretty good. Maybe its time to do the same for bank accounts, investments etc.


Land and money are most likely more efficiently taxable than almost anything else. Land doesn't move and property rights toward land are anyway only virtual claims within some sort of state ledger/database. Money as we know it exists only exclusively in the banking system which ultimately depends on central banking and centralized databases which can be taxed through demurrage. Demurrage has strong theoretical and practical support (1). So does Land value tax (2). Both have very positive anti-inflationary second order effects.

Other monopolies which can easily be taxed are natural resource extraction businesses.

Taxing modern monopolies such as Facebook or IP/Patent based businesses is a lot more tricky.

However, once you tax money, land, and monopolies, there is no sense in VAT, income tax, corporate tax or any of the other net-negative taxes. Minimum wage, to some extend even pregnancy leave would become obsolete. Laws protecting workers from getting fired could become more lose. This combined with some sort of UBI would extremely streamline the entire state apparatus and cut out the potential for power grabs by politicians. It would make business a lot more dynamic.

This scheme would also make business formation and entrepreneurship incredibly easy. Imagine 3 guys who have this great idea but can't just barricade themselves in a basement and built a product atm, with UBI they can. Once they have an actual company going they have easier access to capital because large capital holders have pressure to put it back into the economy and hold stocks rather than cash or land/property. Due to UBI more people have cash to actually buy their widget. The 3 founders could hire a lot easier because people can easily switch employers without the fear of red tape such as losing healthcare or some other nonsense. Hiring freelancers/consultants to help should also be a lot easier because there is going to be plenty of people out there who do it just for the projects and who don't have the pressure to get the next gig. Firing people would be easy because of the presumably easier employment laws. You might even be more competitive in the global marketplace because you just got rid of almost all taxes for the startup. You might only have to pay capital gains taxes on your stock gains, but you got a lot faster to that point without ANY risk. That's pretty much the wet dream of any VC, fast generation of companies, fast traction, access to further capital, easy hiring, super fast closure and multiples. Then the cycle begins again.

(1) http://www.lietaer.com/2010/03/the-worgl-experiment/ (2) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Land_value_tax


This is basically supplemental insurance (think Aflac) - the caveat with those insurance companies is that their incentive is to not pay anything out unless a very specific set of circumstances is met.


I like this idea, it certainly makes it fair. If you support the idea, you pay for it. I suspect this would likely fail though, if you didn't have some disincentive for withdrawals then it only takes a tipping point of free loaders to bankrupt the system.

Still, I love the idea of making it's voluntary. It certainly would allow the BI proponents to put their money where the mouth is. I suspect what makes BI unlikely to succeed is when it's proposed as mandatory wealth redistribution, since it's never as far as I know been done successfully and the consequences of failure are potentially massive, the risks would seem to outweigh the hypothetical rewards.

Would a voluntary pay in system, you could prove it works or doesn't work without forcing anyone else to take the risk. I wonder if a local community could do this for it's residents?


Is there any way to get to an MVP without having a sovereign state to experiment with?

My proposal is an e-currency with a time based demurrage (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demurrage_(currency)) fee. The demurrage fees would be paid out equally to all consumers. The demurrage fee pay outs would be equivalent to a basic income. Since it is an e-currency, it would be independent of governments.

Why would businesses accept such a currency? In the future wealth inequality will probably cause economic demand to shrink. By accepting these types of currencies, businesses could grow while remaining profitable.


There's an altcoin based on time-based demurrage fee called Freicoin[1].

[1] http://freico.in/


I did see this. However, with Freicoin the demurrage fee is only used to pay the miners. In my proposal the fees would be paid back to all consumers.


> ...is there any way to get to an MVP without having a sovereign state to experiment with? Or is this solely in the realm of public policy?

I don't know, but technology like http://ethereum.org may make it possible to move some things from the realm of states into software. For example, given data feeds of births/deaths/retirements, it might be possible to implement a software contract for voluntary social security that pays contributing participants an annuity from retirement until death.


This would need an extremely robust real world identity system. If this was left to governments somehow, then the identity system itself would become the single point of failure and the main way to game the system through corruption. This is already the case in developing countries where deaths are purposely not recorded in order for the relatives to collect pensions and other contributions.

Building such an identity system algorithmically on top of a social network also doesn't seem to make sense because this can be cheated too.

One solution that might work would be to prove that you are a conscious person to a system like ethereum through a "Ghost Key" like in Ghost in the Shell. Assuming that there is a way to "fingerprint" each person's ghost, such as creating a hash of something that doesn't change, that could be like e key to such funds. I highly doubt that there is something constant in the human connectome though.


> So since this is HN... is there any way to get to an MVP without having a sovereign state to experiment with? Or is this solely in the realm of public policy?

Scale it down? Seems pretty obvious to me. If you can make it happen in one city, you have a foothold.


> Scale it down? Seems pretty obvious to me. If you can make it happen in one city, you have a foothold.

It doesn't work scaled down, though. (I'd argue that it's a bug in existing policy voting and adoption frameworks that it can be enacted when scaled up, but that's a different argument.)

You can't sensibly enact a policy like this if it draws its funds from the taxes of people who aren't within the city in question (and it would be horribly unjust if you could). So you're talking about paying for a basic income within a city by adding a substantial tax to the residents of that city. That would result in a substantial motivation for any mobile business or person to relocate (and higher-income people are often more mobile), and for any new business to set up shop elsewhere.

Cities are small enough that it's entirely possible to relocate if your local government becomes too obtrusive. A policy like this only "works" if you have a scale large enough that the majority of people opposed to the policy are nonetheless forced into it by virtue of finding it less awful than moving.

The burden of moving to a new country is high enough to deter it for all but the most egregious issues; the degree of bad policy required to motivate leaving a country is far higher than the degree of bad policy required to motivate leaving a city or even a state. As a result, the average person will likely find themselves far less aligned with the policies of their country than their city or state.


But doesn't that also mean that the rich have more mobility to move to another country with much lower taxes or just hide them like they do now? Are there even any estimates on how much money is lost due to tax evasion? Let alone the costs of lobbying (which must be expensive) and the negative costs from the consequences of said lobbying(Iraq War). Not to mention the costs of lost productivity due to monopolies(Comcast).

I guess the more important question is does it even make a difference no matter what you do. The rich will find some way to break down the system sooner or later. This seems exactly what happened in the last 30-40 years.

The answer doesn't seem to be financial, it's social. And maybe it will take an entire generation to suffer(somewhat comparable to the Greatest Generation) to truly appreciate being poor and disenfranchised.


I can't answer the rest, but

> Are there even any estimates on how much money is lost due to tax evasion?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tax_evasion_in_the_United_State...

Googling also yields some results that ballpark in the same area.


Check out the Sea Steading Institute. They are pushing towards colonizing the ocean and allow groups to form their own nations. If we can form tons of new nations to test out new ideas of government we will quickly learn what works and what doesn't.


Mostly we'll learn what governments are better at taking over others.


"There are no governments. Only corporations." ;)


Or my favorite phrasing, "Any sufficiently dominant corporation is indistinguishable from a government."


I like that line. I'm stealing it.


So since this is HN... is there any way to get to an MVP without having a sovereign state to experiment with?

Generally, any communal institution either develops rules and mechanisms to prevent freeloading, or has an authority who acts to prevent such. Almost all of them succumb to a "Tragedy of the Commons" dynamic in terms of some aspect of quality of life.

That said, there are some institutions that are identified as being communal that last and even prosper somehow.

Many also cite things like the Cabrini Green projects as an example of how removing the stake someone has in society by guaranteeing their rent/income is somehow inherently dehumanizing. To fully address such a hypothesis, one would have to control for factors such as social class and social stigma attached to such benefits.


The Sea Steading Institute aims to lower the barrier of entry to creating your own sovereign nation. One of the core ideas is that if we have lots of small nations people can do these experiments and find out.


How close are they to a "demo version"?


> So since this is HN... is there any way to get to an MVP without having a sovereign state to experiment with?

Seasteading might be an answer to your question.


We could start be removing the complexity that is payouts and incentives from the government from taxation. The IRS should only be in charge of collecting taxes. Some other office, the Office of Government Payments would handle all monetary disbursements from the GOV. Getting money back for painting your garage white? Bought a solar powered riding lawn mower? All that stuff from the person to the biggest corporation would have to file the proper paperwork outlining why they deserve or qualify for a disbursement. As it currently stands taxation and disbursements / incentivization is conflated and thus hidden from view its breadth and complexity.


In Australia we have a single system, where the test for qualifying for welfare is almost entirely based on (1) total assets and (2) income. This disproves the theory that excessive complexity is inherent in welfare systems.


The closest example of something similar that I can think of are Nordic countries: there is very little verification on your claims (outside of records associated to a constantly used unique identifier) and the entitlements are significant. It works rather well there, but it generally comes with a pre-existing massive social pressure that prevents any abuse; Finland might be the exception to that social monitor (people really do anything and no one would care) but still has an administration with strong ‘socialist’ or equalitarian concerns. I’m embroiled myself in a weird administration imbroglio, and they have shined so far, but I’ll let you know.

More important than an isolated case in a jar, what you need to care about is immigration: any Southern European nationalist will decry your policy as a potential tsunami from Africa. The lack of tension between the oil-money-infused Norway and its neighbours are striking when you compare that to Irak and Kuwait; at best, they associate the higher-priced-better-quality Statoil gas station with Norwegian snobism (I didn’t notice any snobism).

The significant economic success of Finland seems to favor the model. It helps that their chosen field of specialty, video games, is a complex, creative endeavour where success is fleeting and hard to reproduce, revenues are spectacularly unbalanced and business models a constant struggle. This means that most of the ‘idle’ youngsters are actually creating something: playing and learning what makes games cool, or starting their own fan-art, mods, league, reprise… the stepping stones of creativity.

Same thing in more Southern countries: it seems to cost roughly the same to pay someone to stay at home and grow their garden rather than to pay an industrial conglomerate to stay and keep on hiring them. Job insurance is regularly described as the largest Angel fund.

The closest to an MVP you’ll get might be a small state, say Iceland, that has something similar already. The real issue is not product, but interoperability: what happens when you have migrants, double-nationals, and is it safe to end up with a generation that grew up not knowing anyone who works at all?

You might consider a different form of it, with some voluntary civil service to teach basic skills (say, open to elderly and handicapped, substitutable with pregnancy or child-rearing) and make that life revenue a retirement from service, or stipend.


The closest example of something similar that I can think of are Nordic countries: there is very little verification on your claims

Late last year I was in Denmark, where ATMs are rare and plastic is king. I was reliably informed that the government didn't like people using cash and that as a business owner if you used more than a few thousand kroner per year you were audited. Furthermore, when you put in tax returns the government would cross-reference it routinely with your mobile phone location .. without a warrant.

The upshot is this: sure, you can have a nanny-state utopia, but it means totalitarianism.


Use a few [hundred dollars] -- for what?


I dunno, something liberating and non government approved, like binge recreational drug consumption or anonymous object/service acquisition?


Oh, for unjustified expenses? I pass those as personal expenses, and get they out of my corporate accounts.

Sounds tight, but Denmark has a history of corporate corruption in the 70-80s they are trying to curb.

More importantly, not sure how that is related to individual benefits; on the contrary: seems like they are focusing on tax dodging.


It's related because if the price you pay for fuzzy utopian governance with near-total compliance is totalitarianism, it's not worth it. Further, if you're setting up paralegal business flows in corporations to avoid personal tracking, then it's but an illustration of the same.


It sounds like we agree to disagree.


Something like this could work:

http://urbanlegends.about.com/library/blmsaol.htm

Actually, it couldn't, except maybe for a small population. The trick is convincing a local government with major poverty issues to take a risk it probably doesn't think it can afford.


> a sovereign state to experiment with?

some scandinavian countries are close to this, in some respects. some oil countries too

some native peoples, within nations, also (tho other issues complicate it)


some MVPs:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mincome in Canada

http://www.socialjustice.ie/content/basic-income-schemes-28-... report on all kinds of experiments in Africa


I'm reading the comments, and surprised at what's missing. What happened to the business approach?

The US government is delivering a large number of products with wildly varying costs, efficiencies, and price points. e.g. unemployment, welfare, food stamps, etc. There is a proposal is to replace those products with only one.

The new product fills (mostly) the same need as the existing ones. It will do so at less cost, with more efficiency (less bureaucracy, administration, fraud, etc.). Previous market studies show that it works.

So... what's the problem?

As a non-US person, this looks a lot like previous discussions on health care. France pays about $10 per person per day for universal health care. The UK pays about $10. Japan pays about $10. Canada pays about $10.

The US (before Obomacare) ? About $20, for care that isn't universal.

You guys are getting ripped off. Yet the bulk of the population sticks their fingers in their ears, and complains about people who may not "deserve" it. Or they complain about fraud.

Who the hell cares about random welfare guy ripping off the system? If you're making over $40K per year, you're getting ripped of by the system. By your system, that you demand to keep in place.

You can get rid of the checks and balances, and just absorb the cost of fraud. And as a bonus, a simpler system is harder to game, which leads to more detectable fraud, and therefore less of it.

This won't happen in the US for a number of reasons. One of which is that the bureaucracy won't voluntarily reduce. Another (as seen here) an unwillingness to deal with these issues in a business-like manner.

Yes, I'm from a socialist country advocating for more capitalism. Not unfettered, but more.


> bureaucracy won't voluntarily reduce

I think that's one of the big ones. Bureaucracies tend to become living, breathing organisms who's sole purpose is to self-preserve and grow. A basic income in the US would threaten so many different agencies and organizations within (and without) the government, that the response would be fierce, assuming you could even get it anywhere near the government. With people's anti-communist attitude here, it's hard to get any ideas out there that don't fall in line with the current capitalist-imperialist system. Even if something isn't anywhere near communism, you get fox news calling it communism and in a few short minutes half the country hates it.

I think the only way this will ever happen in the US is if a bunch of other countries do it first, successfully. Then, after maybe 20 years, the US will implement a shittier, watered down version that accomplishes 1/10 of the original idea but with staggering overhead.


>>Who the hell cares about random welfare guy ripping off the system? If you're making over $40K per year, you're getting ripped of by the system. By your system, that you demand to keep in place.

The USA is a deeply individualistic society. For most people, the default mindset is "me vs. those other people," and your average American will do anything (including tolerating a grossly inefficient system) to make sure "those other people" don't steal from "me."


If anything many people are pushing harder in this direction. For instance, consider the push for mandatory drug testing for welfare recipients even though the places have tried it have discovered that:

1) Almost no one fails them 2) They cost more money than they save (in cancelled benefits)


Oddly, you've also just summed up the reasons behind many of our copyright and patent issues.


Let us not delude ourselves into thinking any healthcare system is self-contained and self-sustaining, equipped to deal with all the needs of its citizenry.

Most European nations ( and Canada, Australia & New Zealand ) are great at dispensing - what can be termed as - "subsistence medicine." Most ailments, procedures and surgeries are handled quite well, although - it has to be said - a tad frugally. ( It is not uncommon for the doctor to under-prescribe medications or opt for a less cost-prohibitive option over another even when the situation could be better dealt with, with a more exhaustive course of prophylaxis)

Plenty of Canadians including the Premier of New Foundland have opted and continue to opt for minimally invasive procedures ( as well as convoluted surgeries ) to be done in the United States, simply because the U.S. is better equipped with the resources and the doctors to deal with such cases.

  "This is my heart, it's my health, it's my choice."
  With these words, Newfoundland Premier Danny Williams
  defended his decision to hop the border and go under the 
  knife for heart surgery in Florida.
  The minimally invasive mitral valve surgery he needed is not 
  available in Newfoundland, he told his province's NTV News channel
  in the first part of an interview aired last night.[1]

  For instance, some Canadian patients who are tired of waiting 
  for procedures in their country's national health system come
  to Michigan hospitals. [2]
Even the richest of the rich pick the United States over say European destinations for their medical treatments.

  The king (Abdullah of Saudi Arabia), who is 86 years old, was in town
  for surgery at New York Presbyterian Hospital on Nov. 24.[3]
[1] http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/its-my-health-i...

[2] http://www.cbsnews.com/news/reverse-medical-tourism-points-u...

[3] http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/14/business/14road.html?_r=0


Having the best hospitals in the world doesn't matter if only a tiny subset of your population can actually use them.

The wait times for life threatening issues in Canada really isn't that bad as someone who spent last year with my mother going through Cancer treatments and has a few friends here going through the same at the moment. Less urgent procedures due tend to take a long time though.

So while Canadians may wait up to 6 weeks for non-essential/urgent surgeries, 45,000 americans die each year because they lack the insurance to pay for their medical treatments.


I think you need to see what Dr. Danielle Martin[1] a Canadian doctor had to say when she testified to the U.S. Senate defending the Canadian system.

The reference was to Newfoundland Premier Danny Williams’ controversial 2010 decision to undergo heart surgery at a Miami hospital.

“It’s actually interesting,” replied Dr. Martin, “because in fact the people who are the pioneers of that particular surgery … are in Toronto, at the Peter Munk Cardiac Center, just down the street from where I work.”

She then hinted that Mr. Williams was of the mistaken belief that simply paying more for something “necessarily makes it better.”[2]

[1] http://youtu.be/iYOf6hXGx6M?t=1m22s

[2] http://news.nationalpost.com/2014/03/12/toronto-doctor-smack...


As a Canadian in the healthcare field perhaps I can chime in as well.

When you talk about Canadian healthcare, it is a provincially run program (not federal) so let's talk about it at the provincial level. As I am an Ontario resident I'll be discussing this from an Ontario perspective, talking about all of the provinces and their differences would entail several posts.

Ontaio is currently going to institute (or plans to at least) pay freezes on physicians due to the rising cost of healthcare in a non-booming economy. However it is currently one of the best provinces in wait times. The provincial median is 6.7 weeks to see a specialist after being referred and another 7.1 weeks to being treated. This has increased 3 years compared to last year and about doubled from 20 years ago. For some specialties like orthopaedics the total duration is ~40 weeks. This is in contrast to the US where ~90% see the specialist within 4 weeks. Internationally we are considered to be amongst the worst nations when it comes to wait times.

Another big problem with the Ontario system is unemployment. 1/3 specialists, especially surgeons, are unemployed due to a lack of operating rooms and jobs available - even in rural areas. There is a definite need but with the single payer system we have, the aging population pyramid, and increasing healthcare costs we have there is no money left to pay physicians - who make less on average (at least in the surgical specialties) than the US physicians. So we're graduating surgeons who can't work and are forced to go the US to find jobs.

To address one of Dr. Martin's comments btw, someone jwo develops a surgery/technique/game isn't always the best person at solving it. Developing a mitral valve replacement survey using MIS techniques doesn't mean you're the best person to technically achieve it (you could be, but it's not a given as she phrases it). The US has a system that rewards exceptionalism and excellence, the Canadian system generally rewards mediocrity (this is even evidence in other fields such as law and even academia). The US is famous for having premier surgeons and state of the art equipment. A prominent example I know is in the field of limb lengthening, where until very recently there was not a single surgeon in Canada who could do internal limb lengthening, they all used the external fixator pioneered in the USSR. Even in medical education you are seeing prominent US schools teaching the use of hand held ultrasound devices which are supposed to one day replace stethoscopes. The US also has far more specialized medical fellowships focused on advanced techniques and tools such as using tne da Vinci robot system.

I can provide references if necessary (I typed this up on my phone) but most of these facts are readily google-able.

TLDR: Our system isn't as perfect as you might think and is actually teetering on financial instability at the moment with up to 1/3 new physicians unable to find a job in the country due to funding issues.


>The US has a system that rewards exceptionalism and excellence, the Canadian system generally rewards mediocrity (this is even evidence in other fields such as law and even academia).

That sounds like a Polandball-grade national stereotype, and I'd really prefer to hear some justification.


Interesting, how she did not have numbers, when asked, for Canadian fatalaties owing to protracted wait times and instead slyly diverted the discussion to the wait times at the security line to enter the Senate building. She seemed a tad petulant and more than a tad eager to please Sen. Sanders and offer a markedly animated and rosy account of her country's system than the rest of the representatives from Taiwan, Denmark and France.

Anyway here are some unvarnished facts about the share of things that plague the Canadian system.

  "In 2011, a significant number of Canadians—an estimated 
  46,159—received treatment outside of the country."
  ...
  "At the same time, the national median wait time for 
  treatment after consultation with a specialist increased from 
  9.3 weeks in 2010 to 9.5 weeks in 2011. Among the provinces, 
  wait times from consultation with a specialist to treatment 
  decreased in six provinces, rising only in Manitoba, Ontario, 
  New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia." 
  ...
  "In some cases, these patients needed to leave Canada due to 
  a lack of available resources or a lack of appropriate 
  procedure/technology. In others, their departure will have 
  been driven by a desire to return more quickly to their lives,
  to seek out superior quality care, or perhaps to save their 
  own lives or avoid the risk of disability. Clearly, the 
  number of Canadians who ultimately receive their
  medical care in other countries is not insignificant."[1]

  "Wait times for health care in Canada have stalled at historically
  high levels, in spite of current government strategies aimed at 
  improved timeliness. Canadians wait longer than citizens of many 
  other OECD countries with universal access health care systems, 
  from emergency room visits to physician consultations to elective
   surgeries, despite Canada’s relatively large health expenditures."
   ...
  "Failing to fix wait times has affected the economic well-being of 
   Canadians in a number of important ways. One estimate, from the  
   Centre for Spatial Economics assessing just four procedures – 
   total joint replacement surgery, cataract surgery, coronary 
   artery bypass graft surgery, and MRI scans – found that excessive
   waits were costing Canadians $14.8 billion, plus another $4.4 billion
  ($19.2 billion,together) in lost government revenues from reduced 
   economic activity."[2]
I dislike offering anecdotal evidence because it appeals to emotion and not reason.

All I can say is I'm acutely familiar with the Canadian system on more than one level.

All of this is not to put too fine a point on how single payer systems are terrible in their own way.

It is to indicate that no matter which system we side with we are confronted with a more or less equally (depending on who you ask) dreadful trade-off of horrors.

I'm not going to dump links here to the scores of Daily Mail reports, to offer as proof of how "efficiently", the British system under the auspices of the NHS, works. You can Google it yourself "NHS site:dailymail.co.uk" )

The point is that vested interests on either side always make the other option look barbaric.

Some prefer a system where every manner of medical malady can be treated skillfully and expediently, right here within our shores without extended wait times, by distinguished medical experts with a tremendous case experience in a given line of treatment, be it Hodgkin lymphoma or Parkinson's or Multiple Sclerosis.

Some prefer that everyone last person in the country has an "on-paper" access to free and need-based healthcare.

Some like David Goldhill want to entirely scrap the insurance model in favor of a radical direct pay model - where everyone pays out of pocket for most common procedures and office visits and thereby largely expunging the role of insurance companies. In 2007, David Goldhill's father was admitted to a New York City hospital with pneumonia, and five weeks later he died there from multiple hospital-acquired infections. [3]

Your outlook is shaped by how healthy you are or how diseased you are. How your family coped with various medical hardships in the past or how everyone you know has always been blessed with bountiful health. How a certain system excludes things that you think should be offered by any self-respecting medical system, for the well-being of its public.

At the end of the day, most sensible people anywhere in the world would want to pay for a system that they see some utility out of, without adverse consequences.

A sick person's utility is different from a hale one's.

A salaryman's utility (with his cautious life choices and lifestyle) is structurally different from a freewheeling thrill seeker's.

After all how is it fair that you are admitted into a ward for a routine fracture and contract some deadly MRSA bacterium from a guy who just returned from a safari in Belize? (This is quite a charitable example and is intentional. There are much worse examples that I could use, that will immediately invite censure and rebuke. Funny how just earlier today I was reading one of the comments to PG's "What You Can't Say" piece - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7443715 and how it strikes a resemblance to what I'm saying here.)

These are some - JUST A TINY TINY FRACTION - of the vast number of things that go UNSAID during a national debate concerning healthcare systems.

Because no politician, policy expert, insurance company executive, medical professional or even an electorate would want to be seen holding borderline prejudicial views, in this context.

Hence they find other ways to verbalize their opposition to a single-payer system, using societally acceptable narratives and scenarios.

[1] http://www.fraserinstitute.org/uploadedFiles/fraser-ca/Conte...

[2] http://www.fraserinstitute.org/research-news/news/display.as...

[3] http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2009/09/how-amer...

[4] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Methicillin-resistant_Staphyloc...


"I'm not going to dump links here to the scores of Daily Mail reports, to offer as proof of how "efficiently""

Good, because the Daily Mail is laughed at in the UK as being gutter press. It is our version of what the Americans have in TMZ, basically.


So let's charge these rich people coming over here for premium care a bit extra and redistribute subsistence care to those traditionally not covered.


This is so appalling. If your wife is in labor and needs to rush to the hospital, the cab driver ought to charge you outrageously because you're richer than him?


The cab driver is a really bad example because the cab driver isn't providing a service that people argue is a human right. In terms of healthcare I think that it's reasonable that those who can should pay more to cover for those who can only afford to be grateful. That is usually how the cost of public services is distributed using taxes.


Ok, so make the example "your wife is bleeding out". Should the can driver charge you outrageously because you are richer than he is?


If you read my post again I am sure that you will understand that the predicament of my wife is irrelevant to my argument. Economically rationally the taxi driver will charge according to the perceived value of his service, which in terms of money means more to a rich person. Of course other factors weigh into this equation, especially competition and the fact that people aren't economically rational.


Should the can driver charge you outrageously because you are richer than he is?

Only if you are outrageously rich and the driver did an excellent job of emergency transportation and only by billing you after the fact. The first priority should be on saving lives, then sort the logistics out later.


It's worth noting that Ontario spent a lot of money to introduce photo health ID, because of the fraud under the old system (including people who would border-hop to take advantage of OHIP while living primarily in the US).


Basic income is the first step to an empirically ethical society, which accounts for inherent human limitations and behaviors. Evolution is an extremely feckless game, and thus far we've been trapped by its whims, endlessly struggling in a free-for-all battle for survival.

In order to transcend and escape our evolutionary origins, we will first and foremost need to understand ourselves. How we came to be, what behaviors we're prone to, and what impact these have on our societies.

Second, we will need technology which allows us to liberate ourselves from extreme labor, giving us free time to engage our societies in a calm, rational matter without our survival on the line.

If these two conditions are met, then I believe humanity will transcend into a new golden age. As of this writing, I think we're made incredible progress on the second point, but are very far behind on the first.

Furthermore, the US is an extremely complex nation, with a history that makes unity almost impossible except against foreign entities. The US needs to make an incredible amount of progress on the first point in order to even consider radical ideas like basic income. In fact, it is currently dialing back its SNAP (food stamps), which is part of its social assistance program. This is in the context of an already weak social safety net, by far the weakest of any western nation.

Sadly, the US has a very long way to go. The commonwealth and Nordic countries, by comparison, are much further along.


> Basic income is the first step to an empirically ethical society

Not sure, but wouldn't basic income induce increased prices for commodities? If disposable income increases for everyone, then there is an incentive to increase prices everywhere (including accommodation which is a significant part of monthly expenses), thus negating the positive effects of basic income.

Then you know what would happen next... people asking for an increased basic income, and the thing would spiral to the end.


> Not sure, but wouldn't basic income induce increased prices for commodities?

Yes, it would be expected to shift the demand curve somewhat, because you'd be redistributing income to people with a higher propensity to spend, increasing demand.

> If disposable income increases for everyone, then there is an incentive to increase prices everywhere (including accommodation which is a significant part of monthly expenses), thus negating the positive effects of basic income.

Reducing, not negating: the normal effect of more money in the hands of people with a given desire to buy a product is that the price goes up somewhat and the market clearing volume traded goes up somewhat, not that the whole increase in income is reflected in price increases.

> Then you know what would happen next... people asking for an increased basic income, and the thing would spiral to the end.

If you tie it to a dedicated revenue stream and set the benefit amount based on the revenue divided among the eligible population, you establish a control mechanism.


>> Not sure, but wouldn't basic income induce increased prices for commodities?

>Yes, it would be expected to shift the demand curve somewhat, because you'd be redistributing income to people with a higher propensity to spend, increasing demand.

Which also has the happy effect of raising money velocity int he system. By substantially reducing demand constraints you increase overall economic activity, push money through the system faster and grow the overall economy significantly. The economy doesn't work like a household budget; the affordability of this sort of measure is rather different from what one might otherwise expect.


If you tie it to a dedicated revenue stream and set the benefit amount based on the revenue divided among the eligible population, you establish a control mechanism.

How do you keep some demagogue from campaigning on abolishing this mechanism and just giving people more money?


> How do you keep some demagogue from campaigning on abolishing this mechanism and just giving people more money?

You don't. People can run with any platform they want.

Of course, pretty much this idea has been raised against even the idea of democratic government for centuries -- that if the masses could just vote for people to give them money, they would. Strangely, that doesn't seem to happen.

There'll be plenty of people that understand the problems with that idea and have self-interest in communicating those problems -- and they will be disproportionately the people with the resources to effectively sell the idea. Frankly, I'd be more worried about the system being eroded by people campaigning to limit the dedicated revenue stream than by abandoning limiting controls. (Not that I necessary think that method of control is necessary in the first place, just that its an available option.)


Of course it happens. Entitlement spending essentially never goes down, it always goes up or when proposals are floated to reduce it they almost always fail. People do vote to give themselves money, and they always vote to protect their entitlements.


Adjusted for inflation it can go down. And some states have reduced welfare (welfare mothers don't vote).


You'd have to add in lobbying for corporate tax breaks, subsidies, and all manner of sweetheart deals.


Free from wage slavery, citizens receiving basic income could spend time producing their own commodities. They could learn trades not to use in a career, but to reduce their dependency on others.

I also think the premise that prices would rise and create a GBI death-spiral is far from guaranteed. With a GBI behind them, citizens could potentially be more likely to start their own businesses, increasing competition and productivity and keeping prices well within reasonable range.


Free from wage slavery? Technology is so much further along than it was 1000 years ago people barely have to work to have the same living standard as they had then.

People generally only work for 8 hours a day. They can't spend the rest of their time doing that right now? Everyone is free to start a business. Tons of people do it while working a full time job. Tons of people go to college while they have a full time job. Those who are lazy won't and I see no reason why I should reward such behavior with my tax dollars.


This is the type of attitude that hinders progress, and for no apparent reason. News flash: you're already rewarding people who sit around doing nothing with your tax dollars. GBI does the same, but at reduced overhead.

Starting a business is hard. Starting a business while working full time is near impossible. It's not about laziness or incompetence. You just don't get the same business opportunities you do when working a full time job as you do when you're able to network and market yourself during regular hours. It can be done but it's really, really fucking hard. Also, working a full time job while in college isn't a good thing. Our country needs to provide education more universally if it wants to stay ahead of the curve. Saying "you can either live in indentured servitude to your student loans, work a full time job while in college, or be born with rich parents" doesn't really cut it. Sure, pull yourself up by your bootstraps and all that bullshit, but let's get serious here...the country doesn't work like it did in the 50s.

GBI makes it possible for your average person to take an idea from conception to reality a lot easier. I'd say for all the companies I've started, the largest overhead was by far salaries and making sure the founders were able to put food on the table. With GBI, our businesses would have been 10x more successful, because investment capital would last 10x longer! This is good for business.

Yes, you'll have lazy people who take advantage. But I'm willing to bet for every lazy person who just wants to sit around all day eating Little Debbies cake rolls, there are 100 who get bored and decide to actually do something with their lives.

Let's also take art into account. Sure it's useless and stupid because the free market doesn't approve, but imagine a world without it. GBI would provide for those who thanklessly and actively make our country a more beautiful place.


> the country doesn't work like it did in the 50s.

No, in the 50s (in the US) basically every working age man who survived fighting in the war had been given the opportunity to get a free education and probably even a discount mortgage[1] on a house while the government was building what might have been the biggest and most extensive road system[2] since the roman empire.

And then was born one of the most productive eras in American history. Funny that.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GI_Bill

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interstate_Highway_System


We had a 20 year advantage after WWII though, we were one of the Allies on the winning side that took the least amount of damage. We were able to do these because everyone owed us money then and we just won the war. All of our competitor companies even on the Allies were battered and their industries took decades to rebuild on top of owing us lots of money.

So we had massive infusion from '45 to the mid-70's. Germany in fact just finished paying off the WW debt in 2010. After winning WWII we had a much different structure and trusted the government doing things, we couldn't do anything like that today with our divided team-based political climate that mimics the WWE.


>Yes, you'll have lazy people who take advantage. But I'm willing to bet for every lazy person who just wants to sit around all day eating Little Debbies cake rolls, there are 100 who get bored and decide to actually do something with their lives.

I'd take that bet and put my entire personal wealth behind it.

Have you ever lived in the ghetto? I grew up in a poor area, not even that horrible compared to many others. Since this is a site for nerds, you are probably familiar with the 80/20 rule. Applies here as well. 80% of the people I grew up around were worthless, and the only reason they did anything at all was if they had a base need to fulfill. If they had enough income from sitting on the couch all day to pay for their home, food, sex, and basic entertainment most of them would have not done a single iota of work in their lifetimes. Some didn't as they were able to game the SSI and/or welfare systems.

The other 20% either "got out" through sheer personal effort or became entrepreneurs of the only sort they knew how - generally drug dealers or other illegal means of enterprise (and yes, some of these guys were absolutely impressive and could have easily run legit companies). This group would benefit from a basic income, but the vast majority I see simply soaking up the system to the point where it would be untenable. I'd also expect far more "abuse" of the system if the lifestyle was that of a minimum wage job or better.

I think you might have a slightly optimistic view on the average human - probably from associating yourself with high performers on a daily basis. I tend to forget this too sometimes, but then I go home for a visit and very quickly re-learn my hatred of humanity :)

The tragedy of the commons exists. This entire discussion seems to forget this fact.


I'm opposed to rewarding those who sit around and do nothing period, including the current system.

Yes, starting a business is hard. So? All I'm hearing is excuses.

I'm not saying do things that put you in indentured servitude. Debt is a tool that can be used to great effect but used unwisely it can make life harder. Unless it makes sense financially people are better not incurring college loans and educating themselves or working for less pay. They will actually come out ahead financially even though they may make less in wages. Alas, financial education is rarely taught in school, parents, or society.

Those who start out with less resources need to work harder but it is possible. Why should those who have worked harder or whose parents' have worked harder so their kids have better opportunity have to sacrifice for those unwilling to put in the hard work and make the difficult sacrifices?

The majority of bored people engage in escapism and only a small percentage engage in creative endeavors. People have more disposable time now than they did 100 years but instead of using those hours to work on their own stuff and better themselves the majority engage in escapism (facebook, movies, tv, video games,, etc).

The free market definitely approves of art. What are you talking about? Increasingly larger portions of disposable income are being spent of various forms of content (music, movies, books, etc) than on actual physical goods.


> I'm opposed to rewarding those who sit around and do nothing period, including the current system.

So what's wrong with a system that still rewards laziness (because it can't be stopped no matter what system is in place) but benefits the country a lot more?

> All I'm hearing is excuses.

Excuses from someone who's started a number of companies (successful and failed), been through acquisitions, all without going to college. And it has been hard. And I would have really appreciated a GBI =]. If your society requires people to work 16 hours a day to provide for themselves, your society is broken.

> That's a straw man argument there.

No, it's not. Overused term, especially on this forum, doesn't apply here. People do live in indentured servitude to their student loans as an alternative to working full-time in college. It's a detriment to society.

> Bored people creating? Then why aren't they doing that now instead of watching reality tv?

I know a lot of creative people who actively work to make art in various forms who get jack shit in return. They don't watch a lot of reality TV either. You seem really out of touch with a lot of the general population.

> The free market definitely approves of art. What are you talking about?

Once again, I feel you're out of touch. How many artists do you know? Painters? Musicians? Performers? Most of them (if not all) have side jobs to allow them to do their art (while still living in poverty). The free market accepts art in a pop-culture sense, but people who are pushing the boundaries in art are usually lacking in capital. Not because what they're doing is wrong or useless, but because the general population doesn't approve. Which is a big part of art in the first place.


The problem with rewarding laziness is that you get more laziness. Rewards by definition are meant to encourage behavior. I disagree that it can't be stopped. Don't give them money. Stopped.

I'm not arguing that it isn't hard. You don't need to work 16 hours a day to provide for themselves. But you do need to work more than 8 hours a day if you don't have resources and want to get ahead. Once you start having some resources it gets easier and easier.

That's nice that you would have liked a free lunch. I would really appreciate not paying so many taxes; it would make it much easier for me to get ahead.

I agree with you that people can incur debt in the form of student loans that becomes extremely difficult to get out from. It's a conscious choice to incur that debt. Nobody is forcing them into that situation. If they weren't brainwashed by society they would see that the debt/equity ratio of modern college degrees is, for the most part, a bad investment.

I personally have lived with a song-writer who has had his work reach the #1 most popular music video on youtube for a short time period. We were also dirt poor and living in a warehouse with rooms that we built from scratch ourselves with hammers and nails because we couldn't afford anything more. I had to pay for the drywall, lumber, nails, and tools with my credit card because I had no money. I studied framing because it was too expensive for me to hire a contractor (and we weren't exactly following city codes).

When I was working at a modeling agency in LA I knew more than a dozen actresses and models that have made more than $10K a month consistently. They pursued their careers full time not part-time.

People on HN will generally know more people who are creatively engaged. That's not the majority of society though.

Pushing the boundaries in art? Well, if people aren't interested in it then that's their own fault for being stupid. That fact that other people won't buy their work is not a problem of other people. It's their problem. If you aren't going to provide value that someone else wants then why should you be compensated for it. I certainly won't compensate someone for something I don't value.

In my own case, I quit my day job because I decided it would be more fun to travel the world and photograph beautiful women. I tried to make a business out of it but I was never really successful at it financially despite being published in several major magazines. I racked up over $30K in credit card debt. Did I expect a handout from others so I could continue doing it? Absolutely not. It was my own choice and one that did not pay off financially. I took responsibility for my situation. I switched back to programming, paid off all my debt, and am now still pursuing my interests part time as a hobby. My pay wasn't that great in the beginning but through personal study and experience I have greatly increased my salary.

People don't always get to do what they want. But if they make the right decisions they can definitely prosper.

Just because someone can't support themselves doing whatever they find the most interesting or the easiest path doesn't mean others should be forced to provide them that opportunity.


> Don't give them money. Stopped.

How would you go about doing this? Who gets money and who doesn't? Is a single mother raising 3 kids lazy? Is an artist who works night and day and gets pennies in return lazy? There's a lot of overhead in deciding this. A lot.

> That fact that other people won't buy their work is not a problem of other people. It's their problem.

So, my point that art is only worth it's value to the general population stands. That makes it more entertainment than art. Please note the distinction.

> Just because someone can't support themselves doing whatever they find the most interesting or the easiest path doesn't mean others should be forced to provide them that opportunity.

Valid point. However, I do think there's something to be said for giving people more of an opportunity to do what they like. After all, we all tend to do better work when we're doing something we want to be doing =].


> How would you go about doing this? Who gets money and who doesn't? Is a single mother raising 3 kids lazy? Is an artist who works night and day and gets pennies in return lazy? There's a lot of overhead in deciding this. A lot.

You get money if someone agrees to pay you for goods or services rendered. Period. No overhead.

There will always be unfortunately situations. Charity and family can help. Knowing there will be consequences for your actions and that you can't ask people to bail you out is another.

They definitely aren't lazy. I greatly respect those people. I'm still not going to pay for their lifestyle though.

In the case of the artist, I was in that situation. Minimum wage would have been an order of magnitude more than I was making. When it didn't work out, I took responsibility for my situation and changed what I was doing to something that society would pay for.

I got a day job and it sucked. I hated it. I moved into a warehouse with a friend to save money and so I could pay off my $30K of credit card debt faster, I built myself a room with lumber purchased on credit card, built in the evenings after I got off of work, hands numb from all the hammering I was doing when framing (which I had to teach myself how to do), getting woken up at 6 AM every morning to the sound of industrial saws and compressors from the unit next door, trying to work on the weekends when it was 100 degrees in my room because there was no AC, paying $500/mo in credit card interest, buying food on credit card, having my friend pay down my credit card with checks I would endorse to him because any checks I deposited in my bank account would be seized by the IRS because I didn't have enough money to pay my taxes. Then to make matters worse my friend and I got laid off. So, we decided to try to make our own startup and worked our asses off. When the finances couldn't bare I decided to give in and find a normal day job again.

Yeah, it sucked. But I didn't whine about how I'm a victim and how others need to give me their hard earned money. I manned up, took responsibility, changed what I was doing, and slowly over the course of many years dug myself out of the situation. I wasn't doing what I wanted to but I was digging myself out of the hole I dug from my failed ventures. Eventually I completely paid off my credit cards, and car loan. I even got a motorcycle to make the commute easier and paid that off completely as well. Now I'm making decent money at a place I enjoy doing programming, saving up and trying to figure out how to invest in real estate. I had to go through some lousy programming jobs before I found the good ones.

I went from a really horrible situation, deeply in debt, no college degree, and now I'm doing well for myself. I don't see why I should be forced to pay so others don't have to work as hard and/or make the hard decisions to grind through what needs to be done.

So yeah, people may be in some really crappy situations. So what? They need to stop whining, stop expecting handouts, and do something about it.

> So, my point that art is only worth it's value to the general population stands. That makes it more entertainment than art. Please note the distinction.

Noted. I see the difference. But that begs the question, what is the value of something that society doesn't value? lol

I'm not changing my mind that people should get to do whatever they find interesting at other people's expense though.

> However, I do think there's something to be said for giving people more of an opportunity to do what they like. After all, we all tend to do better work when we're doing something we want to be doing.

Ideally yes. As technology grows people need to work less and less and they will have more time to pursue their own interests. Also, if you want to pursue your own interests, go through the grind first. Once you have resources you will have more time and money to pursue your interests. It's much easier to work hard first and then enjoy things, than to dig yourself into a hole because you don't have the resources. Trust me. I know. lol

I actually saved up for years at a job I hated before I felt I had enough money to do the photography. I failed miserably, but then I did what any toddler would do. Get back up and try again.


Congrats on your ability to climb out of a desperate situation. A distinction needs to be made between a situation that has a solution and one that doesn't. Consider refractory cancer, or a severe neuralgia. Such persons cannot simply "do something about it" in the same way that someone who is in financial trouble can.


>Who gets money and who doesn't?

Easy question. Nobody. Stop all government welfare and redistribution. Sever the dependence of unproductive citizens on the productive. Return to each citizen their natural right to freely distribute their resources. End all perverse incentives. And force each citizen to provide for themselves through the value they can offer to other freely-choosing citizens in consensual trade relationships, rather than through wielding populist political pressures to enforce coercive redistribution.


Great, so just let people die if they can't afford health insurance and get bronchitis. Let people starve if the economy tanks. Ability/desire to work does not equal production. Sometimes there is a willing worker and no job to do.

Are you aware of the purpose of society in the first place? It's the idea that as a whole, we all do better when we're looking out for each other. So far it has worked surprisingly well. This whole notion of FREE MARKET EVERYTHING, PRODUCE OR DIE needs to go back to the stink hole it came out of. People, and society as a whole, are much more than their market value.

Also, there needs to be a distinction between productive and needy. They are not mutually exclusive, and not everything in this world that's worth producing can have a price tag slapped on it.

The libertarian utopia you describe is a pathetic excuse for a society.


Why would we want to live in a dog-eat-dog survivalist dystopia straight out of an '80s cyberpunk novel?


Mate we will have a communist "utopia" well before that ever happens.


> I'm opposed to rewarding those who sit around and do nothing period, including the current system.

Excellent! Welcome to the Socialist Party! Time to put the lazy, nonworking ownership class up against the wall!


> wage slavery

Having a wage, is by definition, not being treated like a slave. Plus, in most countries you get a wage AND you are free to look for jobs everywhere around you, and to get them. Unless you mean that the concept of having to do something to earn a living is actually akin to slavery, but I'd rather say it's common sense. Even from a personal standpoint, most people would not really feel good to be paid to do nothing. At least where I come from.


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wage_slavery

> in most countries you get a wage AND you are free to look for jobs everywhere around you, and to get them

At some point, there will not be enough jobs to keep everyone gainfully employed doing meaningful work (in even the loosest sense of the word). With a basic income, rather than having immense swaths of poverty, each person would have the freedom of any pursuit they desire. For many, this would be some form of productive work.

> Even from a personal standpoint, most people would not really feel good to be paid to do nothing.

This is a thought process very much a product of our current socio-economic environment, where you are told that you are worth the work you put in. But when there is nothing to do, how can you argue with being paid to do nothing?

Furthermore, it is disingenuous to call it being "paid to do nothing". You are being paid a wage directly, unconditionally, but there is nothing forcing you to do nothing. You are free to do anything the law affords.


You raise an interesting and valid point. As technology increases the amount of time it takes to produce a certain effect goes down though. This means people need to work less. It's not that visible to most though because the definition of surviving has gone from not being eaten by a tiger and not knowing when your next meal will be to having a large screen TV with 5000 channels, air conditioning, and free food. If we have the same expectations in the future in terms of standard of living then we will do fine and people won't need to work as much. But people don't really compare themselves in terms of absolutes, they compare themselves to their neighbors. So yes, they will not be satisfied, but I believe they will still be better off than before in absolute terms.


>the definition of surviving has gone from not being eaten by a tiger and not knowing when your next meal will be to having a large screen TV with 5000 channels, air conditioning, and free food.

It really hasn't. I don't know anyone my age (24-ish) who considers air conditioning or cable TV to be surviving. They're considered luxuries. Food is a necessity, but most of us, you know, pay for it.


I think wage slavery refers more correctly to the condition many people find themselves in, where they cannot afford the switching costs to find another employer or educate themselves for another career. Perhaps they have a family to support or have basic needs, thus through market discipline they are forced to work in the same conditions.

In other words, although they are getting paid, they are getting paid just enough to live paycheck-to-paycheck, and they can no more be a free labor market participant than a slave.


Debt slavery is probably a more accurate description of the citizens of developed countries with high house price to income ratios.

(Or large student loans. Will the basic income be enough to cover student loan repayments?)


Unfortunately many people think that having to work for a living is somehow inhumane. I think the best solution is to let them form their own country and live amongst themselves so that those who value hard work and think it is a virtue can enjoy the fruits of their own labor.


Basic income means taxing people with income, and redistributing it to everybody.

Where did you get the idea that disposable income increases for everyone? How could that be even possible?


For the rich, taxes are all disposable income. For the 99%, taxes are cutting into their living wage. The rich might not be able to afford a 3rd house; the rest of us struggle to pay a mortgate/rent on the 1st one.

So for Almost everybody, disposable income rises.


> Where did you get the idea that disposable income increases for everyone? How could that be even possible?

The government could be printing money to make that possible, as well, instead of financing it through taxes only.


Taxes remove money from the economy and also create the demand for the fiat currency.

A government that didn't spend any money while collecting taxes would create massive deflation and markets wouldn't clear. On the other hand, a government that didn't collect any taxes and simply spent the money would create inflation.

If for the increase in money supply there is a corresponding increase in GDP, there is no real inflation since the money is chasing more goods and services.

The increase in demand would happen mainly because the MPC multiplier of poor people is higher http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marginal_propensity_to_consume

Guess what - that means more poor people getting what they need, before rich people get to fund golden toilets or something. And yes, I will think this way even when I am a billionaire.


Printing money causes inflation, which is effectively a wealth tax.


A liquid wealth tax. The actually wealthy have many vehicles for hedging against inflation, from owning durable property, to complex financial instruments.


It's more complicated than that. As a first approximation inflation is a transfer of wealth from from savers to debtors. However, there are many under-appreciated details based on tax implications of such things as paying real taxes on illusory income. (nominal gains which result in an real-after-tax loss) I learned a lot about this from this guy: http://danielamerman.com/


Inflation in a currency is not a wealth tax, its a (inflating currency)-denominated-asset tax. There's a substantial difference.


It depends on how that wealth is stored. Most wealthy people invest in things that are resilient or that even perform better under inflation. It's really the middle class that gets hit and the poor the worst because minimum wage doesn't go up that fast but prices definitely do.


The same amount of money would exist, it would just be distributed differently. Poor people would be able to buy more things, so the things that are disproportionately bought by poor people would go up slightly. Conversely rich people might buy fewer yachts, lowering the price.

Despite the slight price increase, it would still be a net benefit for poor people.


Worse, there used to be a concern that, given food and housing, people would stop trying. Once the comforts of life are a civil right, the great majority might stop making any effort at all.

Its bound to be a major disruption. McD's will have to automate; you'll need a Roomba for your lawn; everybody in the world will want to come here regardless of the job situation.

Maybe that's all right; maybe we can sustain it. But it will be a rough couple of years.


Whether or not that's true, that doesn't actually respond to the part you're quoting.

Unless you're arguing that an empirically ethical society is not possible?


Well if it causes inflation then it calls into question whether it really is a "first step."


yes, if it increased income. but it still reduces admin cost


It's not that easy to escape from Evolution. We can delay it for a time, if we keep our exponential growth going. Unfortunately, not for a really long time, unless we discover some way to grow beyond our galaxy.

Anyway, basic income is important for this century we are on. For our lifetime. Things will get very ugly very fast if we automate everything and don't have some functional redistributing program before.


The centralizing power of automation is much more pronounced now than it has been in the past. This stems from the current focus on knowledge work tasks rather than repetitious, small problem-space labor. IBM's watson will price out radiologists and their pattern finding ilk. I found Martin Ford's [lights in the tunnel](http://www.thelightsinthetunnel.com/) enlightening and concerning. He too suggests a basic income.


> empirically ethical society

Did you mean "ethics informed by empirics" or something like that? "Empirically ethical" is a logical contradiction.


>...I believe humanity will transcend into a new golden age.

I was amused by my brain which, perhaps inevitably, read "golden age" with a distinct Alpha Centauri voice.

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