Why not give everyone a monthly swag, forever?
Now that global corporations rule most of the 196 nations on Earth, the world is running out of paid fulltime jobs. An ideal world, ideal for big corps that is, will have fewer employees, with fewer benefits, and no unions. We’re getting there, and what’s coming toward us like a Mack truck surfing a tsunami, is a mass of computerization, automation, robotisation, and artificial intelligence that will do almost everything better than we stupid persons now do. Oxford University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the International Monetary Fund all agree that half of all the jobs in the world will be gone in the next 10 or 20 years.
And while most people have been kept from waging revolution by distractions such as videogames, pornography, drugs, mobile devices, online shopping, and the 196 nations’ versions of “X-country’s Got Talent”, all that becomes nonviable if none of us has a job that pays enough to do all that stuff.
In short, people will grow increasingly bonkers unless there’s a serious change to the system. They’ll trash the European Union and other globaloney like “trade pacts” that put corporations in charge of everything from war’n’peace to drinking water … some people might even elect a President whose brain is in his budgie-smugglers.
And while robots and computers will take over doing everything from truck driving to diagnosing illnesses, weeding orchards, building houses, and washing the dog, there aren’t many NEW jobs on the horizon for us billions of inefficient people to do.
One response to this, other than electing Trump or waging revolutionary war, is called the universal basic income, which proposes a simple deal: everyone in the entire country gets a flat paycheck every month just for being here. Let’s say $4000 a month --- and you spend it however you choose.
This notion has been around for hundreds of years, and while it’s variously called Universal Basic Income, Unconditional Basic Income, or Citizen’s Income, I suggest we call it The Swag. In any case, it will probably happen, because it has to. In fact, there’ve already been trial runs: Canada ran a five year trial in the ‘70s, and India ran a test program more recently. Both trials showed that very few people ODed on pizzas and videogames – in fact health improved, more people finished higher grades of school, more people created new work projects that made them happy and added to their income and the broader economy, and the net savings from these lifestyle improvements could cover the cost of handing out a trillion dollar annual swag to us Citizens.
Some advocates of a Swag reckon we should pay for it by doing away with all of our welfare systems, the ones that dole out bits n pieces of support – regulated by vast bureaucracies with rules that break your back and your heart. We need to watch this plan very closely because well-off people, especially American “libertarians”, are prone to tossing out welfare systems on principle, even though life is full of specific needs that will only be addressed by fine targeting.
While the world’s middle and working classes are losing their jobs, absurd amounts of wealth are accruing to the top 2% – who now get more than half of global wealth and income and live like kings, queens and warlords used to, or like members of the Saud family still do.
Now, it’s hard to imagine America’s many elites going anywhere near this scheme, though President Nixon proposed it in 1968! But Australians today tell pollsters they favour more social support for poor people and higher taxes for the very rich. Right now, six countries are planning versions of a universal Citizens Income -- led by Kenya and Finland, and Elon Musk says it’s the only way to go. So we should get moving too, though none of the existing political parties is likely to go there without undergoing brain and spinal implants.
Now, since we’re contemplating the idea of rearranging our multitudinous welfare systems around one big new idea -- let’s do the same thing to taxes. I never understood why we tax income -- and why do we let fossil fool companies dig up billions of tonnes of carbon, when retrofitting every building in Australia with solar energy and sensible insulation would employ millions of us brain-challenged persons! Why? Because momentum – it’s what rich and powerful people have been doing for a few hundred years, and Malcolm Turnbull’s fine with that. How about we have just one tax – a single tax on using any and all of our natural resources: air, water, land, and all things animal vegetable or mineral that are – or ought to be – our shared common wealth, and our shared responsibility?
Why does Gina Rinehart get $1 million every 30 minutes because her dad knew the look of iron ore from the window of an airplane? Why do we let ethically-challenged investors in Sydney or Shanghai rip up our land to build another mess of mansions?
It’s time for a new deal.