(I've been working on Healthcare.gov for the past year and know some of the people at USDS; I was also YC S11 and appreciate the great parts of startup culture even more now)
PSA: I know it's not easy to tell from the outside, or from a website, but this is the real deal. Things are starting to change; by government standards, at ludicrous speed. The Healthcare.gov crisis really started a useful fire.
Todd Park, Mikey Dickerson, and the team he's building at USDS and the people he's placing into new "digital services" teams at other agencies like the VA-- if you meet them you'll quickly find out why they were superstars at their tech companies.
One important thing to understand is: yes, things really can be vastly improved IRL, not just in theory. It's not that government IT services ("IT") suck because the people responsible for it don't care. They're just in a completely different world, expectations and otherwise, and don't know how much better it could be.
E.g., they don't know there exists a hosting option that is more secure, more reliable, and less risky (and costs 90%/$90M less per year). Or that there exist software people who can build a far better user experience (#1: the worst UX is downtime, #2: product lead needs a) exist, and b) fight for the user on every decision), while still meeting all business requirements (for 80%/$20M less per year).
Some people do know, but they can't do it themselves , and they also don't have access to the right people to do it for them; their practical options are Lockheed Martin's "small-business" subsidiary, or ACRONYM's federal IT division.
USDS and 18F are fixing this, and much more. They need your help. I'm not sure what's public, but the progress is incredible. It's still going to take a long time. Most of all it's going to take more software engineers, designers, PMs, etc. The tech gap between Silicon Valley and DC is unbelievable until you've experienced it. Go east! (Or west )
It's definitely frustrating to work for/with the government (not sure how it compares to other institutions that provide many real-world services to a diverse 300+ million population), but if you're put in a position where you can actually change things, the impact is enormous. And now you can do that as a software engineer/technologist with no existing clue about government, because USDS/18F has leverage and the ability to place you where you can make that impact. 
The federal government deeply impacts all of our lives  and whether you think it should do more or less, there's no reason for what exists to be so incredibly inefficient and customer-unfriendly, especially when there's a huge pool of tech people with the skills needed to fix it, and now, a pipeline that can get them (you!) to the right place. Please apply!
(There's also small teams of engineers  on the inside tackling this problem, if you prefer that (less direct, but avoids gov. pay being capped at ~$150k or so and the strict background checks.) Contact me if you want more details.)
 They're also too busy trying to keep their heads above water in a bureaucratic system that seems to function only because many of the people in it work so hard, but I digress.
 AFAIK, USDS is based in DC (and I think has positions in Boston), 18F is mostly in SF (Civic Center) and DC, with a few remote people around the US.
 Imagine if you could direct and organize a team of people to rescue expanded healthcare coverage in the US (oops, Mikey did that already)
Imagine if you could help 22 million veterans get the care they deserve on time, instead of hundreds of days late
Imagine if you could help "fix" the IRS with auto-prepped tax returns (definitely seems like the hardest one on this list-- but it's also one that everyone wants to see happen. And yes it's a policy problem, but it's also a technical problem-- imagine policymakers having to trust the system that resulted in the original healthcare.gov. And informed engineering opinions have much more weight than you'd imagine.)
 Yes I know there's a whole world outside of the US, especially on the Internet :)
 "startups" and "small businesses" both have connotations on HN that I'm trying to avoid...
> Imagine if you could help "fix" the IRS with auto-prepped tax returns (definitely seems like the hardest one on this list-- but it's also one that everyone wants to see happen
Actually, its mostly hard politically, because not everyone wants to see it happen. Particularly, tax preparation firms and tax software sellers want tax returns to be difficult so that their business stays in demand, and lobby heavily against government pre-preparing returns, and the political right wants the personal tax process to be as painful as possible so that they can leverage anger at that process to get behind tax cutting moves.
There's also a whole mess of HUGE conflicts of interest and moral dilemmas with the issue of taking a private company's tax dollars, and using those tax dollars to develop and sell a competing product, which would then presumably reduce the revenue (and thus tax revenue) of the private company.
Imagine a world where our interactions with government are delightful and we are confident in government’s ability to achieve the goals we set for it.
We can create that world.
When I first jumped into the world of healthcare.gov last year it was a crazy experience, but over the last year I've come to believe that anything is possible, which is why I'm still working to creating software that radically improves how government serves people.
Interestingly, I went west from DC to the Valley within the past year - I have found that DC (industry) is surprisingly savvy, and much better at process management & leadership overall than the Valley. DC also seems to have a wealth of talented designers compared to the Valley that I have seen.
However, government is indeed a different world. One of my friends complains how he has to file a request in order to get permission to do anything (he is a contractor for the Department of Energy) - this is normal based on all I have heard from my ~4 years in the area. I heard in another organization, they are forced into short product cycles by the requests of representatives and senators for investigations. One forward thinking VP of Engineering came into a different organization and shored up a lot of the tech & brought a modern stack to the organization, making all of the developers very happy, but was ultimately sacked (I forget the exact reason told to me, but I remember it not reflecting well on the federal government).
Also, when a consumer of software created by government contractors finds a critical bug that causes a non-functional app and reports exactly what is failing (important scripts not loading), good luck getting the contractor to fix it - I've seen it take 10 months to get an acknowledgement of the problem, which affected the entire Marine Corps in not being able to satisfy a required class for that duration since it was required to complete it online.
The federal government needs to change how it runs things - I'm hoping that the USDS can make waves, but having been in the federal government world myself, I don't want to touch that beast without much better compensation & work environment.
I'm happy Lyft is demonstrating that it actually cares about its core/founding values of decreasing car usage.
They could have viewed this as a distraction to expanding its existing dedicated-driver model, in order to better compete against Uber. (Lyft Line is just multiple passengers; Sidecar already does "driver destination" aka real carpooling, but they're also playing a different game focusing on drivers in general, and don't have the scale Lyft does)
If they can get traction, they'll have cracked a problem that many people have tried to solve and failed at: how do you get Americans to carpool?
Context: Lyft's founders pivoted into Lyft from Zimride after five years of building white-labeled carpool sites for colleges/companies + a public long-distance carpool/rideshare board, and discovering that a) that's not a VC-scale business, and b) 90% of Americans don't "do" traditional carpooling and they're not about to start
Anyway, I use Lyft over Uber when possible for many reasons, but this is one-- they started out trying to improve society in a particular way, and still are, even as they've changed their approach. And I think they should be commended for setting an example for how to achieve an activist-y goal through a startup/company. Or since it's not achieved yet, at least trying.
(I have no affiliation with Lyft, see my profile.)
b) 90% of Americans don't "do" traditional carpooling and they're not about to start
90% of Americans didn't pay non-professional strangers for a ride before Uber came along. 90% of Americans didn't share what they were having for lunch before Instagram. 90% of Americans didn't share the hilarious list of "cats who forgot how to cat" before Buzzfeed.
The point being it's pretty much impossible to predict what product will be a success based on past market behaviour. Saying something won't work is very often right, but it's a sucky reason not to try.
Your overall point is correct but I don't think it applies here.
There are deep cultural reasons for why carpooling hasn't become popular in America. From what I have observed as a foreigner, people in this country love their big personal spaces, and their cars are a part of that. It's related to why public transportation isn't popular: most people don't want to sit within such close proximity to strangers.
In my experience it's mostly due to convenience. When public transportation is available and more convenient, it's heavily used. It needs to be available everywhere and all/most of the time. Car pooling is similar, coordinating with other people, leaving home/work at the same time everyday is difficult, not convenient. If Lyft is widely used, it can solve this problem. No need to have advanced plans.
In fact, in Washington DC, I can see people offering these rides for free to a second person in the car and use the HOV lanes. This is already done from fixed locations without the help of an app. Lyft would make it so much easier.
It's entirely possible that I'm being biased as an American, but I've never really felt this way. I love public transportation whenever I'm in cities like Chicago or New York City. My issue is that my state (and sometimes my commute) is bigger than most European countries. I've never felt a deep cultural barrier between public transportation and me, it's personally just incredibly inconvenient. I would very much love to see more public transportation options in America, though. But your argument is quite interesting, so thanks!
If people aren't willing to a share car with a stranger for money then Uber wouldn't work. It really is that simple. The evidence suggests that they are. The 'will people share someone's private car?' question has been answered and it's an emphatic "yes". That isn't the whole story here though.
There is a possibility that people wouldn't want to give up the convenience of commuting - having your car at the office so you can go somewhere on your lunch break, leaving the office without having to wait for your carpool ride, carrying large items to the office, and so on - are benefits that you would lose by switching to Lyft. People will have to weigh those benefits against the cost and stress of driving to work. So the question here is really "Do enough people want to give up driving themselves in favour of a cheaper, easier, but mildy inconvenient alternative in the form of Lyft?". The answer to that question is not an obvious "no". There could well be a big enough market to sustain a profitable business.
The fact that people haven't carpooled much before is not evidence that they don't want to or that they can't be persuaded to now; it is simply evidence that the pain of commuting was lower than the pain of organising a carpool. If you can lower the effort people have to put in enough so that it's sufficiently easy to carpool then it is possible change people's minds. Lyft will succeed if they can do that.
It's depressing that "VC-scale" (i.e. convincing some rich dude he can flip his investment soon for a 1000% return, possibly by unloading shares on unsuspecting rubes) is what matters. What ever happened to making something people want, then selling it at a profit?
There's a lot of (understandable) cynicism here. But if this makes you mad and you want to do something about it, email your links/resume to jobs at hcgov dot us.
We're a team of a dozen or so software engineers (many ex-Google and YC) who've been working on fixing Healthcare.gov for the future, since December. We're actively looking for experienced software engineers. Several have joined in the past few months.
(If you've seen this comment before, we were looking, but now we're very-much looking.)
The external environment may be frustrating compared to what we're all used to, but internally and day-to-day we're running like a startup-- github/node/backbone/AWS/asana/standups/etc. We're finally shipping and we're going to keep shipping.
Change starts with a small group of thoughtful, committed software engineers (...paraphrasing...) and there are many groups now seeding different parts of the system; our area is Healthcare.gov and associated systems. Because we began in a crisis situation, and other unique factors, some of the usual downsides mentioned in this thread don't apply to us.
Email us! We can also refer you to the other groups referenced in the OP if they make more sense for you.
Bravo for stepping into government and I wish you the best of luck. Dealing with the bureaucracy is always painful. After a decade in the Navy, I always thought that talented programmers could do so much for the service, but the current system wasn’t designed for them. Just take some of the people making it into Nuke School, move them to a programming pipeline, and form teams to attach to commands to help automate processes, create new processes if applicable, and help with SaaS procurements. Give the teams their own command structure and embed them in a manner similar to JAGs and Docs. Switch IT to DevOps.
Unfortunately, the current software procurement process is totally broken. It is the waterfall to end-all waterfalls. Most of the militaries ‘high tech’ is at least a decade old when it becomes operational. I remember in 2005, using a memory device the size of a brick (it’s nickname) with something like 256kb of memory. It could hold a total of 64 lat-long points. The upgrade to a card holding megabytes was still far behind a cheap thumb drive. Using an IPAD is so much better that the military started to okay flights with them.
Sadly, the military contracting process is so bad that they trap themselves with providers (HP) that border on treasonous behavior. I exaggerate, but when you make a profit off of the military and provide essentially crap, you walk a fine line. Fixing this process from the top will require some serious changes and I wish I new what they were.
Why would you work for somebody who doesn't respect you, except in a crisis situation? We will never, as a profession, get the respect we deserve until we make them give it to us. And they way to make them do so isn't to come running whenever they are in a crisis - it is to put a zero on the price in a crisis.
A side question, for any doctors on HN-- I'm really curious, what do you think about the Blood Tests section? That is, the benefits of monthly blood testing. From talking to one earlier today about related topics (coincidentally!) I could imagine the following response:
1. The ideal ranges for each value on your blood test do not necessarily represent the ideal range for you personally -- and not only do they not necessarily represent the ideal range for you, if your number is outside them and you're otherwise asymptomatic, your number is likely already "healthy" (with very few major exceptions like blood pressure and cholesterol.)
2. So by doing this, you aren't actually tracking things that need to be improved, or rather, you have no way of knowing if you'd be "more healthy" by being within range
3. So, getting monthly blood tests is useless, and any changes detected would also be useless
4. (And as an aside, annual physicals for young healthy people are not beneficial (and can be harmful) to health)
Is this right? Was I just talking to a curmudgeon? Tech-optimistic doctors, what do you think?
For normal people monthly lab testing would be overkill at best and dangerous at worse.
The thing to remember about lab tests is that the "normals" are based on bell curves so approximately 1 out of 20 labs will be abnormal from this phenomena alone. The more labs you get, the more false abnormals you get. If each false abnormal gets worked up, you are talking a lot of additional testing and worry.
Typical recommendations to test hypercholesterolemia is every 90 days at most if actively treating and then yearly once stable.
To your aside, I think annual physicals are probably overkill, but primary care doctors are now expertly trained in screening for multiple issues that could affect young healthy folks. Seeing your PCP for a "well-person" visit every few years is a good idea. Most of the time the doctor isn't going to order labs and will just chat a bit, do a physical exam, and get you on your way. A good doctor will have informed opinions about your exercise and diet regimen, for example.
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. 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.
...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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
"...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..."
Then please clarify, because it still reads like you were arguing past the post entirely.
"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."
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
>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"?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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...
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.
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.
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.
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?
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
> 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.
> 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.
 ("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.
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.
"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.
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.
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 , 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.
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.
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.
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'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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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'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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
> 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'.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
> ...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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
> 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.
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.
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.
I believe that healthcare is one of the most important issues the country faces, on the same level as education, or climate change. And this was an opportunity for me to help out with that.
This is also one of rare times where we have a non-zero chance of pushing the government towards solving technological problems in better ways than hundred million dollar contracts with broken specifications for projects that are doomed for failure.
Kalvin is a friend of mine, and when he called me up I saw it also as a chance to work with a good friend and a great group of people, so it is exciting as well. It has been a great experience working with Brandon and everyone else on the team.
Where do you draw the line on enabling a broken system that awards contracts to ill prepared monolithic RFP generating machines, and start saying, "We need real reform for technology in government and not just half-hearted bloviating about transparency"?
[Ridejoy] She said: "One day ridesharing will be commonplace in the US, but I don't think we are at that day yet. Here is my rationale:
1. We didn't see any desire even when all the right pieces were in place (origin, destination, timing match, long distance + high cost of parking, compatible and networked ridesharers -- they still couldn't be bothered).
2. In Europe, where ridesharing is catching on, it competes with bus and train travel which is expensive, not car travel. In the US, ridesharing is competing with going in your own car (or nothing) and it isn't very competitive. The costs of car travel are not significant enough (yes yes I know that it is 18% of household income and $8k per year -- remember, I spent lots of money and a couple of years on this business).
3. For short trips, it'll never work because the cost of any minutes of delay just aren't worth the reduced cost of travel to the driver.
4. As I'm sure you are thinking about dynamic real-time ridesharing -- everyone is -- answer this when you set about building your network: Robin driver posts her trip once, twice, four times (?), maybe keeps an open trip pending and gets no response. She stops posting and doesn't tell anyone about what a great service/app/method you are running. Ditto passengers. When you move to real time, you have reduced the likelihood of getting a match because now the window of opportunity is 5-10 minutes (if we couldn't find a match when we said any time you ever go to NYC email me, why would you find one if I said anyone wanna go in the next 5 minutes?)
5. Look at all the past efforts, and figure out honestly why your idea is different. Everyone so far has failed. Smart phone apps, social network connections, through employers, on narrow corridors, etc etc.
Driving is still too cheap in the US. People still aren't willing to make the effort in adequate numbers to make it work.
Sorry to be such a downer but I get asked this all the time. So many people starting and thinking about this space."
Note that she's using rideshare in the traditional sense, before Lyft/etc. took over the word within the tech community. (Lyft is awesome! Just different, for now.) So for short trips, using pseudo-hired drivers on shifts a la Lyft, it obviously works well, just like taxis work well.
The discussion about the costs of car travel are interesting -particularly in light of some of the topics circulating recently about how the private car is a terrible model.
It's not so much that the cost of a car is so cheap - cars do cost us significant chunks of income - it's the fact that the value (or cost/benefit, if you want to get technical) is so high.
Time is precious to everyone with a busy life. Cars save time, above and beyond their cost to maintain. Even if you are stuck in traffic and can't believe you are wasting your time, you're still saving time compared to the guy who had to wait for a bus, hail a cab or organise a rideshare and is still stuck in traffic.
Show me someone who doesn't need/want a car, and I'll show you someone who either has billions/trillions worth of infrastructure at their door, or someone who doesn't value their time highly.
Anyway, thanks for sharing. The decision to close down before the cash ran out is certainly brave and should be encouraged. Posting the lessons learned is even better.
We allowed our users to cross-post to CL if they chose to (it was opt-in, not the default, and they had to sign into CL themselves to do so... so not automatic) and many people did. If they cross-posted to CL, there was all the basic logistical info in the post, plus a small link to their ride on Ridejoy at the bottom of the post (which the user could remove).
[Ridejoy] This was a frequent joke around the office (ok, mostly me.) The future of rideshare, long-distance and short-distance [UberX, Lyft, Sidecar] is absolutely in self-driving cars and "everyone" knows it. I assume all three of those companies include it in their long-term-vision slide. Just need to wait a decade...
A lot of other bigger consequences too! See Quora for a great answer on societal changes.