IEET > Rights > Economic > Technological Unemployment > Basic Income > Staff > Hank Pellissier
Basic Income Guarantee — my three hesitations
Hank Pellissier   Mar 2, 2016   Ethical Technology  

I support the generous intention of Basic Income Guarantee: the notion of “sharing the wealth”, rescuing people from impoverishment, granting a cushion to help people pursue their dreams.

I am on board with all that but I have three hesitations. Quibbles that trouble me…

FIRST: I’m concerned that Basic Income Guarantee isn’t a step towards economic equity in the USA, it doesn’t have egalitarian aims. It is, instead, just a pacifier, a way to keep the poor, the working class, the lower middle class and impoverished youth - all these economically marginalized groups - Basic Income Guarantee is a drug to keep them docile, content, and obedient. 

BIG will alleviate anger. Enough to prevent riots, uprisings, rebellion. BIG is a social placebo.

Economic disparity will remain entrenched. The disenfranchised will be fed and sheltered, but they’ll remain totally powerless. BIG will keep the 1% in control and the 99% complacent. 

BIG - I’ll say it again - BIG is NOT a step towards egalitarian revolution. True equality would be acquisition of actual political, societal, and economic power. BIG won’t deliver any of that.

BIG reminds me of Caesar appeasing Roman mobs with free wheat and gladiator games. Superficial Appeasement.

SECOND: I don’t see BIG as the “priority” reform. I regard it as a contender for the Top 6 or Top 8, but no higher than that. 

Free Education is the top priority IMO; its a societal crime to have higher education unaffordable for many, or creating a pit of debt. Free Health Care also ranks high on my list, as does Campaign Finance Reform, Obliteration of War Profiteering, and Secularization. 

BIG is farther down the list because, as I stated in my first complaint, it doesn’t change the rigged system.

THIRD: I agree with Dutch Socialists who find fault with BIG; we both believe People SHOULD Work for the Common Good, We Must Labor for Each Other, It Is Essential for the Social Contract. 

Many BIG advocates believe “work” will be extinct soon, due to technological unemployment. They view the “end of work” is a positive step. I disagree. I believe work is rewarding, work gives us meaning, work is healthy for our brains, work gives us value and connects us to each other.

I reject a future where humans have nothing to do. I reject any plan that gives people 30K to play anti-social video games all day or eat junk food and passively view idiotic TV. 

I insist, instead, on a future where each individual is valued, performing valuable work, and paid equitably for their contribution. I suggest we create a just society where tasks are shared freely and profits from these tasks are equitably distributed. A society where everyone who is today told they are worthless, is tomorrow given worth with tasks that have value and are rewarded with livable wages. 

Conclusion: These are my three hesitations. I am willing to be convinced they are silly concerns, but no one has argued my fears away, yet. 

Hank Pellissier serves as IEET Managing Director and is an IEET Affiliate Scholar.


Hi Hank,

1) Agree, but BIG is still much better than no BIG, especially if you are starving.

2) I think unemployment (in the sense of disappearance of conventional 9-to-5 “jobs” for an employer) will reach such levels that BIG will become the top priority sometime in the next few decades.

3) That is an argument FOR BIG, not against. Slave wages who must work all days at useless jobs they hate, to put some food on the table, don’t have time to work for the common good. In our current economy the vast majority of “jobs” is not for the common good, but to enrich greedy bankers and bureaucrats. BIG could free people to do good things for each other.

1) True, most any practical form of basic income (be it a poverty-level, working-age, individualized citizen’s NIT or minimum citizen’s income) does not lead to egalitarianism. What it does do is abolish poverty. Provided there are opportunities for entrepreneurship and employment with minimal government regulations, fees and taxes that do not threaten the public safety and health, a practical form of basic income abolishes the welfare trap. Rather than an egalitarian state, it promotes a meritocratic state based on ingenuity and dedicated work, not an utopia.

2) True, a practical form of basic income is not the top priority. Economic viability of the nation state, defense of the nation state, enforcement of contracts and property rights plus fair taxation precede the introduction of a practical form of basic income. I place economic viability first since without it there is little to fight over, whether measured in cash, gold or cattle. Defense requirements are currently measured at the 2% of GDP NATO requirement for mutual defense in the alliance, though we currently spend much more. Government does serve a useful purpose in these former roles, along with upholding your property rights and formal contracts with others in the formal sector. For me, an egalitarian flat tax on assets and transactions(less than or equal to 1% on persons and automatons[1,2] split between the states and federal governments) would be sufficient to fund government overhead, fund a practical form of basic income and fund a well thought out infrastructure to provide essential public safety, public health and strengthen the former priorities. It would then be in the best economic interests of the nation, citizens and business interests to maintain a low debt/gdp ratio in order to minimize asset and transaction taxes. It is my opinion that a person should not be taxed, by the government, at a higher rate than an automaton and that any special consideration should not be given to transactions of automatons over transactions of persons. A practical and fungible form of basic income would go a long way toward funding an individual’s higher education, but would not prevent that individual from pursuing alternate goals, like starting a business and hiring individuals in the formal sector with lower payroll costs.

3) False, a person works for his own self-interest and that normally includes his family. Wishing it otherwise will not change human nature. It is not the role of government to interfere with an individual’s life or family unless it is to prevent physical harm to others. Civil society is better equipped to deal with the more tedious complexities of social issues of indviduals and family.

The current trend of our political economy appears, to me, as promoting the expansion of the informal sector[3], greater economic inequality, higher government expenses, lower government revenues and that neither furthers the national interest nor the public interest, especially in money matters.

[1] This Is How $14 Trillion Flows Every Day Through The US Financial System | ZeroHedge | 2012
[2] The Potential Revenue from Financial Transactions Taxes | CEPR |  2009
[3] A Classical Theory of the Informal Sector | Gibson | Manchester School | 1994

YOUR COMMENT Login or Register to post a comment.

Next entry: Susanne Tarkowski Tempelhof: the Diamond Lady of DIY Governance 2.0

Previous entry: IEET in Rolling Stone magazine, with a quote from our CTO Marcelo Rinesi