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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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