Looking for some thoughts on labor and a basic income - Politics Forum.org | PoFo

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#14841137
What would a Marxist say about using a basic income program to uncouple getting basic needs met from your position in the labor market?

I've been kind of wondering how this would effect the idea of exploitation of the labor force. Since they would no longer have to work and be forced into the labor force by neccesity.

Also just general thoughts about how a basic income would effect the system as a whole.

I've read a good amount of basic income opinion but not anything from your side.
#14841153
I'll generally support anything that advances the working class, and doing something to limit immediate hunger and poverty isn't a bad thing.

This all being said, these kinds of proposals are usually just a rehash of Friedmanism, which is to say the incentive for big businesses are reasonably clear:

1. People will keep buying their items, often at the exclusion of smaller businesses.

2. It will end a lot of other government programs as being redundant, which might make it less effective as an anti-poverty measure. Instead of getting someone addicted to opiates to a single-payer hospital, you're giving him a check in the mail.

3. It does nothing to address the problems that asked for the solution in the first place. Let us assume (and it is an assumption as I haven't looked into it in this case) that part of the reason for this is automated factories. Where I used to make widgets, now a machine does that. I can no longer afford to buy widgets. However, my neighbor builds the machines that build the widgets and he gets taxed so I have a portion of his income to buy more widgets so that my former boss can accumulate more money.

4. I see no reason why this should be a sustainable model. If we look at Social Security, which more or less is a similar plan for olds—we can see that it was initially there to benefit the capitalist market (you bribe old people to leave the jobs they can't afford to leave to make room); and once the initial crises was cleared you basically stop maintaining it and try to get it to wither away and die. At this point nobody can live off of it anyway and it's always on a chopping block even though you're mostly just "making" money you already made yourself. This is to say, after a new widget is designed that takes more labour, they'd dry it up and you'd be on your ass or making new widgets. Or, worse, enough people would be able to make the new widget that they'd end the program and you'd be stuck stealing dog food to eat from discount markets.

So I wouldn't be against it on immediate principle, but it does little to address the actual systemic problems in society that make such a notion needed in the first place—and potentially aggravate them further.

What do you think, Mike?
#14841176
What do you think, Mike?


Why thank you for asking. :D

1. People will keep buying their items, often at the exclusion of smaller businesses.


The first part I 100% agree with. It is, after all, vital to the capitalist system for people to actually be able to buy stuff. The second half, I'm not sure how a basic income system would cause people to favor larger businesses? I mean economies of scale will do that, and I don't necessarily even oppose larger centralized businesses where they exist because it's just more efficient to produce and distribute goods that way (which brings prices down for the people buying stuff and increases living standards overall). I just don't see why having a basic income would make people more likely to buy at wall mart over a local grocery or something except that maybe that people who only have a poverty line basic income can't afford to shop at more expensive stores?

It will end a lot of other government programs as being redundant, which might make it less effective as an anti-poverty measure.


Possibly I guess, though I'd set it to the poverty line to begin with so no one would get under that amount, I could certainly imagine a bill that actually get's passed to be a more modest sum below the poverty line that acts as more a supplement to income rather than a livable income in and of itself.

For the purposes of this discussion though I would like to use the idea of a basic income that puts people at or just above the poverty line so that they could actually live off it if they so choose.

Instead of getting someone addicted to opiates to a single-payer hospital, you're giving him a check in the mail.


Not quite sure what you mean with this? I think I get the general gist but I might be missing the point.

3. It does nothing to address the problems that asked for the solution in the first place. Let us assume (and it is an assumption as I haven't looked into it in this case) that part of the reason for this is automated factories. Where I used to make widgets, now a machine does that. I can no longer afford to buy widgets. However, my neighbor builds the machines that build the widgets and he gets taxed so I have a portion of his income to buy more widgets so that my former boss can accumulate more money.


That is a concern of mine, and a reason a lot of silicon valley types have started to support this idea generally. This would probably be paid for through income taxes and/or progressive consumption taxes and/or some kind of Land value tax. Personally I would tax capital gains as normal income as well and eliminate corporate income taxes so that the bosses are paying some portion of their profits into the system to keep it going. (and I do understand why you would argue that capitalists would fight this, but in the scenario that there isn't enough work for people to have enough collective income to consume enough to keep the economy going they would be basically forced to accept it).

4. I see no reason why this should be a sustainable model. If we look at Social Security, which more or less is a similar plan for olds—we can see that it was initially there to benefit the capitalist market (you bribe old people to leave the jobs they can't afford to leave to make room); and once the initial crises was cleared you basically stop maintaining it and try to get it to wither away and die. At this point nobody can live off of it anyway and it's always on a chopping block even though you're mostly just "making" money you already made yourself. This is to say, after a new widget is designed that takes more labour, they'd dry it up and you'd be on your ass or making new widgets. Or, worse, enough people would be able to make the new widget that they'd end the program and you'd be stuck stealing dog food to eat from discount markets.


There are always going to be those who try to roll back any particular program and people who fight to defend it. This is pretty much true of any policy in any state or economic system. I mean I get what your saying, the program would be under attack, but that doesn't really say much to me on it's own.

So I wouldn't be against it on immediate principle, but it does little to address the actual systemic problems in society that make such a notion needed in the first place—and potentially aggravate them further.


Well, what are the systemic problems as you see it that it fails to address? Just the general accumulation of capital?

What do you think, Mike?


As I see it a major problem in capitalism is that people have 2 roles. Laborer, and person we are supposedly care about insuring have a decent living. We must on the one hand keep labor costs down, on the other we must make sure people can consume goods to make the economy run, but also be able to consume the goods that give people a good standard of living. Yet we expect people to use their labor to secure the second and it turns into a societal conflict where businesses strive to keep those labor costs down and we put various regulations and practices to try and get to a middle ground between labor cost and standards of living.

I see a basic income as essentially taking the burden of making a basic standard of living off of peoples place in the workforce which means they no longer have to worry about their needs and have that used to keep them in jobs with terrible conditions, hours, pay, etc. (which yes would increase labor costs) but we could offset that by being free to deregulated the labor market somewhat since we aren't really worried about insuring people can make a living wage or any other particular wage rate to live on.

This might certainly increase automation of jobs that no company could pay enough for to make it worthwhile for people to do and still be profitable, but those are probably jobs no human should be doing anyway. Or their companies that sell products that are basically subsidized by negative externalities that their workforce's face (McDonalds and wall-mart for instance).

Your position as a laborer, being optional, is far less exploitable. Many people certainly want to work, and that work can pay for additional luxury goods, but it is no longer necessary to work.

Also, as an aside so we don't complicate the scenario to extremes, I think that as technology and automation get to a point that they can produce a good so efficiently that the good basically falls out of scarcity and isn't profitable anymore that particular set of capitalist enterprises will either get government imposed scarcity, scarcity through collusion, or get taken over as a public good since it no longer can operate on the profit motive. Personally I think the third option is obviously the best one and would buy that pesky non-profitable capital off their hands. Sure the capitalists will be way richer than people living off the basic income or basic income + whatever jobs they get but that would be their reward for building up the capital, technology, and efficiency to that point and after a few generations that excess wealth will have been taxed off their decedents. Nobody loses in that scenario except the hypothetical power of their great-great-grandchildren or whatever. Obviously this is just idle speculation on my part though and it could go a lot of other less savory ways.
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