Printed: 2020-07-02

Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies

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Basic Income is certain, but ‘they’ will wait as long as they can to implement it.

Khannea Suntzu


January 29, 2016

Looking at the barrage of news on technological unemployment, we may get lucky and avoid the predictable denialism phase altogether. A lot of time gets wasted on denying things that are inescapable. We may get lucky, as in “we might avoid a massively disfunctional dystopian future full of mass-poverty and the consequences thereof“.

Technological unemployment, especially in the next 2-4 decades, is set to be a nightmare, in terms of making a lot of people extremely unhappy and anxious and as I see it (and from my personal experiences with my Basic Income) but at least with a workable solution, – Basic Income, we might not suffer a collapse of modernity, democracy, civilization, that sort of thing. Yes, Basic Income is now functionally a certainty. It may not yet be widely discussed by our current governments. but they know damn sure that this future is electorally inescapable.

Given enough unemployable people, given sufficiently depressed markets and product demand, Maybe consumers/voters might not be capable of exerting sufficient push to implement new laws, but before long a lot of consumer goods companies will start pushing their bought government representatives that they want consumers to be able to buy their junk (and banks might get nervous about the real possibility of massive mortgage defaults and a hard downward deflation in the globally bloated real-estate bubble).

Dredd: Okay, rookie. What do you know about Peach Trees?
Rookie: It has the highest crime rate in Sector 1 3. Unemployment rate of 96%.
…and more than half the residential levels here are classed as slums.
Dredd, 2012


Without something very closely resembling a humane, non-means-tested basic income. That means – enough to buy decent food, rent a decent home, go to a movie once or twice a month, get all rational insurances, have internet, get water and energy and buy a new sweater occasionally. Yanno, more than welfare.

But even if a coalition of voters, progressive humanist parties, churches, unions, companies manufacturing consumer goods somehow convince politicians tomorrow a basic income is a genius inescapable idea, politicians will be pulling out their hair to decide a massive amount of really complex questions. Here’s a few;
(do know any more for this list, let me know)

  • Would a basic income in a political union such as the EU have to be implemented in all member states, and if so should it be different per country, region or for people living in a city, vis-a-vis the countryside?
  • What if some societies and governments degrade and start using basic income in sinister and fascist tool for conformity?
  • Do disabled, 65+, children (etc) get a similar BI than people who are young, healthy and highly educated?
  • Do we give women of birthing age a higher basic income? If so, how about women of Transgender origin?
  • Do we allow politicians to leverage a lower/higher basic income to incentivize “societally desirable” behavior? (not smoking, not having children, having children, making your children have inoculations, religion, sexual abstinence, conservative heterosexual values, not playing WoW, not eating junk food (or, conversely – eating corporation produced foods because of lobbyists, etc., etc.)
  • If someone goes through an enormous effort to live a low consumerist, sustainable lifestyle in some desert commune, do we penalize such a person by giving them a lower basic income? Or do we reward being plugged into a grid people don’t want? What about conscientious objectors who refuse a basic income, and let the money accumulate in a bank account?
  • Do you give immigrants and refugees a basic income (as high as voters), with the risk this will attract a mass influx of even more immigrants and refugees? What if you don’t and they come anyway, infusing society with extremely integration recalcitrant, desperate, hateful and dead-poor ghetto’s?
  • Does someone who has lived all her life in the city of Londen receive a higher BI than someone living in East Cambridgeshire?
  • Do ten people living in a commune each get the same income as someone living alone in an expensive house in the city?
  • How to we avoid large numbers of people to “secede” from orderly society?
  • How do we avoid alcoholism, drug abuse, unhealthy lifestyles?
  • How do we avoid people moving massively when they receive a basic income?
  • Do we keep rent control, health care insurance subsidies, child support, food stamps ( intact if people get a basic income?
  • If someone spends their entire basic income the day they get it do we save them from starving – or do we place loads and loads of irresponsible people on day one on some form of protective custody?
  • Does a person in a long-term coma receive a basic income, or does the person caring for that individual receive a basic income?
  • Can (part of) a basic income be garnered by debt collectors, and if not, do we allow prisons to take the basic income of their inmates? Why? Why not?
  • Can a country with large state debts decide (or be compelling by, say, the WTA) to low a basic income, even if that basic income is voted a constitutional right – even if that basic income is already too low to live off? (say, Greece, most developing nations)
  • What do you do if Basic Income, once implemented, triggers mass-inflation and sharply increased costs of living? Do you keep increasing it?
  • … and the zillion euro question – what if competing states (Say, Russia, China, the US under a Trump p;residency) decide to let their people starve rather than give them a Basic Income?

I can go on and on. Remember, a whole lot of viciously conservative, protestant, fiscalist fundamentalists, economists, libertarians, the Koch brothers, people benefiting from massive low-wage industries and desperate force labour, racists who won’t stand seeing dark-skinned people people receiving a basic income, social darwinists and Ayn Rand aficionado’s will be dead set against the mass implementation of a Basic Income, no matter the necessity or sound arguments. Also, quite a lot of established and left-wing lifetime career politicians might (perversely?) be staunch adversaries of a basic income. Most socialist parties and unions worldwide don’t like basic a basic income, at all. It would reduce voter need for their services as defenders of the lower classes. Or worse – a lot of government bureaucrats might already be smelling the imminent consequences of implementing a basic income – a society with a basic income needs a lot less bureaucratsA civil servant glued to his or her seat would be terrified of a basic income.

I am ideologically very progressive, a socialist-libertarian, a materialist atheist, a futurist and a transhumanist. I look at the future with a decades of experience in the field and I know that a basic income is pretty much inescapable. But that doesn’t mean the battle won’t be very hard, or that we might not have decades of dystopian, post-middle class squalor, mass nativistfar right populist, with an extremely disparate society ahead of us. But I say with quite a bit of sincerity basic income is inescapable, simply because in the end it will prove cheaper than any sensible alternative. Giving people free stuff saves a lot on overhead, despite of what a lot of older voters might argue.

The question now is how long it will take, and that’s largely the prerogative of politician mandarins. They get to decide it. That means that politicians have a significant incentive to hold out “just a little longer” in actually implementing a basic income. The longer they wait, the longer they leave the mass unemployable “precariat” in the cold, the longer they will be stuck having to institutionalize something they will never be able to un-implement. Once you implement a basic income, very quickly it will be regarded as a human right, be “constitutionalized” and be utterly irreversible. People fight tooth and nail to defend rights that have been “achieved”, and rightly so.

There will one day be a future where this current perverse, insider system will be dismantled. We’ll dismantle the “perverse incentive” banking sector, bailouts, the revolving door, the bloated Big State and when we do, we will see a society where money is not created as a fiat instrument of politicians nationalist hobbies, but rather money is created with voters. That’s right – being a person, being a citizen, being a voter and being a human being will be quintessentially equated with a humane, non-means-tested basic income guarantee. Corporations won’t cozy up to banks that print money out of thin air – no things will be as they are supposed to be – corporations will trip over themselves to satisfy consumers to make money.

When? The longer politicians play “hard to get”, the worse conditions in our society will deteriorate. If we get lucky, it will be 2025 but I am not betting on it. If the process proceeds sluggish (more likely) it will take till 2050. But not much later and not much longer. Quote me if I am still alive by then.


Khannea Suntzu is a politically left leaning futurist and activist in the Netherlands.


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