David Thompson
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June 19, 2013

Comments

sk60

Imagine the creativity, innovation and enterprise that would be unleashed if every citizen were guaranteed a living.

Imagine the idleness that would be unleashed if nobody had to work for a decent living.

David

Imagine the idleness that would be unleashed if nobody had to work for a decent living.

Yes, but artists and musicians would be free at last!

Sam

Let me get this straight.

I get $30,000 whether I work or not.
So I don't bother working because I'd rather do other things.
And because I don't work I don't pay the taxes that pay for everyone else's "free" $30,000.

David

And because I don’t work I don’t pay the taxes that pay for everyone else’s “free” $30,000.

Yes, the prospect of chronic and widespread idleness, with a huge number of people using their time to watch TV and generally pootle about – does seem to be a major flaw in the theory. As does the likelihood of a rapidly shrinking tax base to fund this slacker’s utopia. And how any of the dirty or unglamorous jobs – the ones that that Mr Moase frets about - would get done reliably, if at all, remains a mystery. If you’ve a choice of unblocking public toilets or listening to music, and you’re getting paid $30,000 either way, which would you be more likely to choose? Rather than workers getting “fair compensation for what they do,” i.e., something dirty and unpleasant, isn’t it just as likely that many would say, “Bugger it, I’m sitting in the sun”? It’s almost as if Mr Moase and his admirers hadn’t quite grasped human nature. Indeed, one commenter tells us, quite emphatically, that “there is no such thing.”

WTP

I find this comment by lil_andy, in response to Tim Worstall, an indication of a far more troubling trend:

I seem to recall a similar article being written in the UK edition a few months ago. The key difference is that article suggested the implementation of a land value tax. This of course would be the essential component, combined with a basic income, in transforming Australia into a truly capitalist society whilst also maintaining the social benefits of a modern economy.

This abuse of the language, the lie of these leftists claiming that they are really capitalists or are true fans of free " and fair" markets, is down right Orwellian. And for the most part goes unchallenged. Of course arguing with such stilted (being generous with that word) logic is a battle with no end, like trying to nail jello to a wall.

Tom Foster

Someone else in the comments points out that every layabout in the world will immediately want to move to Australia. So they'll be unable to afford it without some incredibly strict immigration rules. Which would, of course, make them monocultural, unvibrant, colourless racists. I doubt Mr Moase would want this, somehow.

It's as if he hasn't thought it through properly.

ACTOldFart

" ... with dirty jobs – say, abattoir work and drain maintenance – being done, intermittently, by doctors, hair stylists and other random individuals with no relevant expertise"

Umm, err, wasn't this tried somewhere? China, wasn't it? I think it was called the Cultural Revolution??

Horace Dunn

David

"It’s almost as if Mr Moase and his admirers hadn’t quite grasped human nature."

Indeed, but I think the problem with leftists is not so much that they don't grasp human nature, but more that they have some notion that the human animal is perfectible. No doubt Moase would claim that once his socialist paradise has been realised, most humans will simply become better and those that don't will be worked on by the creatively-freed good people, until they too become better. Schemes for modifying the human race so that it conforms to some ideal dreamed up by self-important intellectuals have been a staple of lefty thinking since the days of the early Fabians. It would be funny were it not for the fact that, if taken seriously, it's the kind of thinking that invariably leads to misery on a catastrophic scale. Moase's idea is so bewilderingly stupid and unworkable that I think we can assume it will just disappear, fortunately, but there's no harm in giving Moase and similar bozos a metaphorical kicking just to make sure!

David

Umm, err, wasn’t this tried somewhere? China, wasn’t it?

Quite. And what could possibly go wrong with a repeat performance? Hey, it’s what our betters want. Because they care, no doubt.

David

but more that they have some notion that the human animal is perfectible.

Well, many do deny the existence of a common, statistical human psychology, as if How People Are were indefinitely plastic and therefore amenable to all manner of coercion – sorry, correction - by more enlightened people, i.e., people like themselves. The point, I think, is that the proponents of such utopias tend to imagine themselves as the ones doing the perfecting of others. They themselves already being higher in some implicit moral hierarchy. Not that they would admit to a belief in hierarchies, being as they are so egalitarian.

sackcloth and ashes

'Imagine the creativity, innovation and enterprise that would be unleashed if every citizen were guaranteed a living'.

The only states I can think of that can basically subsidise their own citizens are Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAE. These are not exactly beacons of 'creativity, innovation and enterprise', let alone places where I'd like to live even as an ex-pat (and definitely not as one of the hundreds of thousands of South and South-East Asian guest workers who are employed as slave labour to do many of the 'dirty jobs' Moase despises).

'I once worked in a call centre where a few of the interviewers would be regularly rostered to do phone surveys about female incontinence products. Asking strangers whether they lost a teaspoon, a tablespoon or more in volume per occasion is a tough gig. Then again, the horror of the role was somewhat less visceral than that experienced by a worker I’d once represented who had to manually slit the throats of chickens at a poultry factory. At Centrelink, he had listed his occupation as “killer.” What strikes me about a dirty job isn’t that it needs doing – it’s that someone has to do it to get by. There’s no other choice for them'.

I'm sure that every digger who has served in Afghanistan can feel your pain, Mr Moase.

Franklin

Commenter Tenthred: "So I'd say yes to a citizen wage, but guilt-trip citizens into doing a few hours a day (or annualised equivalent) of some unpleasant work that needs doing (but not spend too much time or money enforcing it - some people will always freeload, just leave it to be socially unacceptable)."

They reveal so much about themselves.

Steve 2

Why is Mr Moase being so stingy? Why not crank up the printing presses and hand every Australian and illegal immigrant a billion dollars. Boom! Poverty solved overnight.

Adam d

Indeed, one commenter tells us, quite emphatically, that “there is no such thing...

David I noticed that to. Unsurprisingly that commentor happens to be the author

David

They reveal so much about themselves.

Mr Moase’s article first appeared in Overland magazine – tagline: “progressive culture since 1954.” None of the commenters there seem to register any fundamental problems with Mr Moase’s utopia and what it might entail. Instead, they share their feelings and talk about how “positive” and “inspiring” it all is. Likewise, a recent Guardian commenter adds this, “I’m surprised at the amount of people commenting here unable to expand their imagination towards trying something a little different.” Yes, if only people would expand their minds and stop mentioning practicalities and all that unfluffy maths.

Darleen

I enjoyed the comment that this proposal will never fly because Australia has become such a mean nation.

How does anyone take Leftism seriously? The arrested development of its adherents is embarrassingly visible.

David

The arrested development of its adherents is embarrassingly visible.

Yes, there’s a distinct air of adolescent pouting. “Why won’t my embarrassing parents see things my way and give me more spending money? Why do I have to get a job and pay bills? Why aren’t all jobs really nice? Why isn’t everything just free? I deserve free stuff, I just do.”

We’ve seen it before, of course. And voiced quite explicitly.

rjmadden

At least now we know Australia's 'progressive' left is as economically illiterate and juvenile as ours.

JuliaM

No pony? Isn't he supposed to demand a pony?

Sam Duncan

Cue angry articles berating supermarkets for charging $100 for a loaf of bread because they have to pay brain-suregeon wages just to get people to stack shelves they're evil capitalists who hate the poor.

mojo

Imagine how little I care about this lefty twit's opinion.

David

Oh, he’s not alone. Laurie Penny has been thinking – radically, no doubt – along similar lines.

pst314

"the horror of the role...manually slit the throats of chickens at a poultry factory"

As has been the case since the birth of the human race. This garbanzo thinks that such grubby jobs are caused by eeevil kkkapitalism? Sheesh.

pst314

"Someone else in the comments points out that every layabout in the world will immediately want to move to Australia."

Build a special passenger ship to get them there. Call it the Golgafrincham Space Ark B.

dicentra

cooperatives and small businesses could be started

What the hell for?

Imagine the creativity, innovation and enterprise that would be unleashed if every citizen were guaranteed a living

Someone has a hard time with the unidirectionality of cause and effect.

Furthermore, if we all felt free to pursue our artistic inclinations, the world would be flooded with genuinely mediocre-to-awful art (more flooded, I mean to say). I can't imagine he'd enjoy THAT.

In college, I loved the old movie/play "You Can't Take It with You," because it was so delightfully goofball and quirky. Why SHOULDN'T some random old bag spend all day writing plays if that's what floats her boat? Why NOT spend all day in the basement trying to invent something impossible, for the sheer joy of it?

But the last time I saw it I wanted to scream. Right there, in that cute little Frank Capra movie, was the reason we can't have nice things.

One person worked to support all those free-loading free spirits.

One.

::spit::

David

The spam filter is being reliably unreliable. If anyone has trouble posting comments, email me and I’ll beat the thing with a stick.

AC1

> The key difference is that article suggested the implementation of a land value tax. This of course would be the essential component, combined with a basic income, in transforming Australia into a truly capitalist society

Actually this is totally true and you're wrong. If you google Adam Smith LVT, or Ricardo's law of rent you can see for yourself. The foremost opponent of Ricardo is a chap called Malthus, not famous for being a capitalist...

Paul

What was Alene Composta's maiden name?

john s

I find the comments more disturbing than the simplistic article. Most depressing is the suggestion that everyone would have to do some of the 'unpleasant tasks' rather than a few people ;sacrificing their whole lives". The problem of course is that all real jobs tend to stray into the unpleasant category, at least relative to the things we like to do ( and thus are not paid for). I do not know how anyone old enough to bother writing a comment on the Guardian website could be so naive.

pst314

"Most depressing is the suggestion that everyone would have to do some of the 'unpleasant tasks'..."

Far better would be to force those who make such demands to do all the 'unpleasant tasks'. After all, who better to enslave than those who want to enslave others? "A far, far better thing...."

The Inside Line

I suggest that the author has never been in a poultry factory nor spoken to anyone that actually has either, well not in the last 60 years at least since I know from personal experience that they do not "manually slit the throats of chickens." Don't read on if you are weak of stomach, but this is how it is actually done.

The chickens are bought in to the factory in large truck loads and put into pens outside the factory. There catchers are employed to grab them and place them upside down locking their feet into a continuous conveyor which disappears into the factory. As they pass into the factory they are greeted by a V shaped device that tears their heads from their bodies while they are still alive and they bleed profusely as they then pass into the hot bath to ready the feathers for plucking. Sometimes the head doesn't tear off cleanly and parts of the body rip away as well. From these birds you get your chicken nuggets etc. The smell in a poultry processing factory is enough to turn the strongest stomach and will put you off chicken for life. Enjoy.

CharlieP

Haven't we tried this in Australia for over thirty years? Sit down money I believe it is called.

Darleen

that tears their heads from their bodies while they are still alive

Know how they kill/killed chickens on small family farms?

You go out with a hatchet and a bucket .... the bucket goes over the chicken's body then you lop off the head WHILE IT IS STILL ALIVE!!! AAARRRHHHH!!!

Then you tie it up by its feet so it will drain of blood prior to plucking.

Mr Potarto

I'm actually quite a fan of the concept of a citizen's basic income, and I consider myself right-wing. I'm pretty sure Mr Moase wouldn't like my version of it. It would have to be low. Low enough to make the left squeal. Somewhere around 5,000 GBP.

A CBI would address two difficult issues in our economies:
What to do about those who are happy to stay in bed and on the dole?
How to help the working poor who have marginal tax rates of 80-100% because of benefit withdrawal.

I argue that if starving the lay-abouts is politically unacceptable, then a CBI gives them what they are getting already, but gives it to everyone else as well.

The benefit to the working poor is that there is no benefit withdrawal. Every pay-rise or overtime payment goes straight to them (after tax).

A couple of extra points:
A CBI would kill off most benefits, but a large chunk of incapacity benefit or equivalent would remain for those who are disabled and need additional care.
Salary is received on top of a CBI, so any work brings you more money.
Without benefits that claw-back earnings, the low-paid or unemployed would be free to take temporary or part-time work as they like. 5 hours this week, ten hours that.
Without a minimum wage, easy menial work that had been priced out of the job market would be available for a couple of quid an hour.

I see huge issues with the idea, (immigrants, re-shaping the tax system) but I think it has a simplicity and a charm that free-marketeers can appreciate, once they get over the "money for nothing" aspect - which happens already anyway.

The Inside Line

Yes Darleen, we used to kill chickens on a regular basis for our own consumption. We never ever used a bucket though, just the axe on the chopping block then hung up by their feet to bleed while Mum got the big pot of hot water ready to gut them and pluck them ready for the oven. I was merely pointing out there is no job in a poultry processors for a knife wielding throat slitter, it would just be too time consuming. Sounds more like one of those urban legend type stories to me especially with the job description for unemployment bit.

Nick Shaw

I'm pretty sure Mr. Moase has just offered us the first example of a thousand monkeys given the keyboards of a thousand computers.
If it was an infinite number of monkeys on an infinite number of keyboards, they might come up with something to best his drivel!

DensityDuck

I like the one guy, replying to Tim Worstall, who says that a guaranteed minimum income will pay for itself through higher tax receipts.

Um.

So we're going to raise taxes...to give people money...which they will then pay back to the government as taxes...

If the money's just doing doughnuts then why not leave taxes where they are?

Rafi

the goal of which, as one commenter conceives it, is to “distribute drudgery fairly” via some massive rota system, with dirty jobs – say, abattoir work and drain maintenance – being done, intermittently, by doctors, hair stylists and other random individuals with no relevant expertise.

It's actually disturbing that someone can suggest this as if it hadn't been tried on a massive scale less than fifty years ago.

David

It’s actually disturbing that someone can suggest this as if it hadn’t been tried on a massive scale less than fifty years ago.

I hope you’re not implying that our state education system is in some way lacking. The Guardian massive won’t stand for that.

Rob

A citizen's income is an excellent idea, say £5-10k per annum. Here's the kicker though - NO OTHER BENEFITS. No housing benefit, child support, no tax credits, no public subsidy of the arts. No means testing, so we can sack 100,000 useless mouths from the public payroll. If useless 'artists' can live on that sum, good luck to them.

An LVT to pay for much of it and switch taxation from useful ecomonic activity.

Believe me, these are not Leftist ideas. They may be attracted by some of them, but they do not understand them and recoil in utter horror when someone explains it to them.

Karen M

Imagine the creativity, innovation and enterprise that would be unleashed if every citizen were guaranteed a living.

Two words. Public. Sector.

Chicago Vooter

Imagine the inflation. All goods would immediately reprice. 30K would equate to 0 pretty quickly. Riots, scarcity, hording: the entire hit parade of social maladies. Creativity is never cultivated by comfort.

Spiny Norman

It's actually disturbing that someone can suggest this as if it hadn't been tried on a massive scale less than fifty years ago.

I'm quite certain the commenter is well aware of the previous results, and I'm equally certain he is quite giddy at the thought of thousands upon thousands of "rich people" being killed off. Giddy!

ChrisM

" If you’ve a choice of unblocking public toilets or listening to music, and you’re getting paid $30,000 either way,"

In fairness, presumably you would get paid 30K for listening to music, or 30K plus a wage for cleaning the toilet. Of course that doesn't change the essential lucacy of the proposal.

David

presumably you would get paid 30K for listening to music, or 30K plus a wage for cleaning the toilet.

Yes, and were the recipient an architect, publisher, pilot or whatever, there’d probably be an incentive to keep working reliably, both in terms of income and satisfaction, etc. But Mr Moase is fretting about the kinds of jobs that people tend to do only because of financial necessity and which often pay less than his proposed guaranteed income. So if you were someone accustomed to earning a modest living – say, by changing and washing the soiled bedding at a care home for the elderly – you might think twice about turning up every day.

Ted S., Catskill Mtns., NY, USA

Dicentra wrote, regarding You Can't Take It With You:

One person worked to support all those free-loading free spirits.

You're forgetting that Lionel Barrymore lived and supported these people off money he had made years earlier, and didn't believe in paying income taxes. It was a voluntary arrangement, and the government man was pissed that government wasn't getting its cut.

Tim Newman

I like the one guy, replying to Tim Worstall, who says that a guaranteed minimum income will pay for itself through higher tax receipts.

You would not believe the number of lefties who I've heard saying the government cannot cut the public sector head count to save money because they would lose the tax receipts from those same employees, thus harming the government finances. One of these cretins was an Open University lecturer!

dicentra

You're forgetting…

Well, yes. It has been years since I saw it.

As with the sub-prime loans Jimmy Stewart gave out in It's a Wonderful Life, there were plenty of mitigating factors to prevent the idealism of the films from being an actual advertisement for statism.

Such as the voluntary association, and the fact that Mr. Potter was just plain bigoted against "those people," whom he didn't see as worth the risk. George Bailey gave loans to people who were more risky on paper but whom he could see would do their utmost to pay off the loans and become prosperous citizens.

cm

I'll just leave this here:

If the protesters DEMANDED 1.FREE clean safe (with no fluoride/chlorine/aluminium) drinking water through taps, 2.FREE sewerage/waste removal,3.COMPLETE CESSATION OF CHEMTRAILS, 4.PERMANENT SHUTDOWN of nuclear energy, 5.stopping use of ALL DU weapons, 6.FREE electricity, 7.FREE gas, 8.FREE safe, clean, reliable, integrated and frequent public transport along with 9.FREE high quality healthcare with all options including natural remedies and 10.FREE safe, organic natural food then the people could be content and would enjoy 11.FREE high quality education and live in 12.FREE high quality NEW public sector council houses. They would communicate with 13.FREE voice and data technology. Open, fair and just and accountable employment conditions with 14.NO EXPLOITATION of employees. The 16. [sic] FREEDOM of EVERYONE to CHOOSE their job/work and be supported in it as long as they are able (with support) to do the job.

What stands between us and this utopia?

17.The rulers of this world hate humans and so the above will NEVER HAPPEN.

Uh-huh.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2138168/Occupy-London-Stock-Exchange-Protesters-claim-fulfilled-goal-setting-new-camp-outside.html

Clam

30,000 Australian dollars a year, extracted from others and given to him,

Given to him whether he works or not or is any good at anything. He wants us to pay him just for being a socialist.

Torquil Macneil

"So if you were someone accustomed to earning a modest living – say, by changing and washing the soiled bedding at a care home for the elderly – you might think twice about turning up every day."

If you were the sort of person who worked in an exploitative environment and only showed up for the case, you might. But the dedicated carers and the better homes would thrive with better remunerated and less demoralised staff. Meanwhile, the other kind would drop out of the system or be forced to reform or to raise wages. Win, win, win, expcept for the criminals and exploiters.

Torquil Macneil

" He wants us to pay him just for being a socialist."

Just as some people are paid just for being capitalists (I think of a certain family friend who inherited a large number of shares). You don't have to like it but it isn't obvioulsy any more unjust than the inequities in the system we have.

Even the artist business has something to be said for it. It won't just be the next Damien Hurst who benefits (and we will see his stuff anyway) but the next Schubert, whose music is unlikely to reach an audience large enough to survive as things stand and who will be ignored by the arts quangos. He or she will be able to choose to dedicate a life to music that will appeal only to a tiny audience, but one that really cares. That is good for us. Really, you don't have to be a Che-obsessed socialist fanatic to think there are some things that capitalism isn't much good at.

Torquil Macneil

"...If you were the sort of person who worked in an exploitative environment and only showed up for the case'

Should be 'cash'.

Torquil Macneil

"Believe me, these are not Leftist ideas."

Not necessarily anyway. Milton Friedman and Hayek were advocates of a basic income, weren't they??

David

If you were the sort of person who worked in an exploitative environment and only showed up for the cash, you might.

I don’t think the working environment need be exploitative for quite a few people to consider not turning up, or not turning up reliably, if the state gave them money equivalent to, or in excess of, their normal salary. For many people, I’d imagine it’s enough that a job is low paid and not at all delightful. There’s a nursing home not too far where I live, one of those “better homes” you mention, apparently quite respectable. From what I can gather, it’s run by decent people and the pay for the kind of work I mentioned is nonetheless pretty poor - certainly less than the equivalent of AUD$30,000. That seems to be a matter of economics, not (necessarily) exploitative intent. And it seems a tad optimistic to suppose that the majority of the people who do such jobs, which apparently have a high staff turnover, are invariably more noble and selfless than thee and me.

Torquil Macneil

"And it seems a tad optimistic to suppose that the majority of the people who do such jobs, which apparently have a high staff turnover, are invariably more noble and selfless than thee and me."

I agree, but we won't necessarily have to rely on the same pool of people if the pay is not so grim. In the home you refer to, which is, a reasonably pleasant working environment and where workers are doing an obvious good, I think it likely that many people would stay on, taking their Basic wage and their low pay because, added together they are now making a reasonable wage, and even a nursing home salary would be a substantial addition to the basic pay. But where they left, there would be a new pool of labour to draw on, people who want to do meaningful social work but can't, today, afford to take the low pay. The places that would lose out would be the ones where nobody in their right mind would work unless the option was no work at all (lots of those of course).

David

But where they left, there would be a new pool of labour to draw on, people who want to do meaningful social work but can’t, today, afford to take the low pay.

I’m guessing you have much more faith in the prevalence of altruistic motives than I do. And spending every day handling mountains of badly soiled bedding may be “an obvious good” but it isn’t my idea of a “reasonably pleasant working environment.”

Watcher

The unpleasant jobs that no one wants...

The odd thing about a lot of jobs (yes, even the ones like scraping the sewers clean) is that they do require some considerable skill. Years ago I understood the man with a broom had through practice honed his own technique in order to make the onerous task of sweeping up as effective as possible. Going into someone else's job for a few hours usually results in the statement "I had no idea what it involved." So, it follows that having this vast body of people sharing the tasks is likely to make everyone pretty inefficient at what they do in order to “distribute drudgery fairly”

It would be however when anyone is appointed, for an afternoon, to be a heart surgeon that I begin to worry. I would find slicing into bloody flesh a very unpleasant job, so I like it that people who know how to slice properly have that job rather than someone who the day before was filling shelves or, possibly, scraping the sewers clean.

That's the thing about socialists: they imagine anyone can do anything. Which explains why so many lefty politician's economic theories go into a tail spin early on.

Watcher

Silly me, I forgot to mention. On the subject of society looking to “distribute drudgery fairly” there would of course be people whose onerous task would be distribute the drudgery. I imagine, the way these things work, this elite would sit in comfy offices with wall charts and generous lunch hours. They would be exempt from the drudgery they appoint, though their union (they would have to have one) would argue that selecting who does what and when and for how long is the toughest job going.

Ordering other people is a nasty business but someone's got to do it.

Unless of course the ordering of who does what where, etc, is a randomised task, so everyone gets their three hours in the comfy chair near the wall charts. Spreadsheet knowledge may be essential, so it's back to that old problem of EduKayShun.

Osumashi Kinyobe

"Star Trek" has tried that sort of "economy" and people still have trouble with it:

"Imagine the creativity, innovation and enterprise that would be unleashed if every citizen were guaranteed a living. Universal income provides the material basis for a fuller development of human potential. Social enterprises, cooperatives and small businesses could be started without participants worrying where the next pay cheque would come from. Artists and musicians could focus on their work."

Then there is the matter of replication, political stability, space travel...

It's a good thing right thinking people know fact from fiction.

David

I think it likely that many people would stay on,

As a fan of Mr Moase says in the comments, “this universal income… makes employment optional.” For him (and no doubt others), that’s the goal. “Submission to a corporation,” as he puts it, rather dramatically, “will not be mandatory for your survival on Earth.” (Though leeching indefinitely on the skills and effort of others – who will be forced to submit to him - will be perfectly okay, apparently.) Furthermore, everyone getting paid an average salary regardless of whether or not they ever deign to work will, he says, “force innovations into the market to finally automate many of the less desirable jobs in society.” Though the details of this are somewhat sketchy, indeed entirely absent. And when everyone has self-cleaning sheets and a robotic toilet and all unglamorous jobs have been automated away - again, in ways that are somewhat unclear - the subsequent lack of employment will, he says, lead to “a more sophisticated populace.” These new improved human beings – remade by socialism – will be “educated,” intellectual and full of creative talent. They’ll be poets and dreamers, and mindful of their fellow man. And they will never, ever “piss all over the floor of the [toilet] stall.”

These are the kinds of ideas that lead Mr Moase and his supporters to believe that enlightened people - people like themselves - should therefore be put in charge. Because the “right-wing” heretics who point out problems and refer to human nature are, and I quote, “smaller-brained people.”

Bart

"Crap jobs like toilet scrubber's are not as necessary when people don't drop deuce's on the seat and piss all over the floor of the stall. More civilized, educated people either take more effort not to make a mess, or are cognizant that there are others affected by their actions, and clean up after themselves"

Of course, what this chap's just unwittingly declared is that the Occupy protests were populated by the dumbest, most ignorant people in the Western world.

And that people who put apostrophes in pluralized words leave the bathroom in an appalling state.

Torquil Macneil

"And spending every day handling mountains of badly soiled bedding may be “an obvious good” but it isn’t my idea of a “reasonably pleasant working environment."

I realise that this seems obscure for people who feel a strong antipathy towards that kind of work, but really it can be. There are many people, for example, who would much prefer wiping their children's arses all day than, say, sitting in front of a spreadsheet, even if the spreadsheet was delivering a huge bonus each year. And you may think that looking after your own children is just a selfish motive like coining it in the hedge fund, but it really does transfer; there are many, many people (I know lots of them) who really do find it fulfilling to take care of the weak and needy (disgusting as that seems to many others)and they are willing to earn much less than they could otherwise in order to get that benefit, despite the nasty stuff, and so long as they don't actually have to endure grinding poverty.

Everybody tends to think that their own natural preferences are the natural preferences of all. I know a fund manager, husband of a friend, who honestly thinks that anybody who could would change places with him, because he loves doing that sort of thing and he can't quite believe that anyone wouldn't want to spend all day with other fund managers talking about and making money. When I disagreee he doesn't believe me (I know because he says so - plain talking type)and claims that I am rationalising my own weakness and failure (as he sees it). The moral of this story being, it is dangerous to generalise from our own experience too much.

David

There are many people, for example, who would much prefer wiping their children’s arses all day than, say, sitting in front of a spreadsheet,

I’m sure there are. But wiping the arse of one’s own child tends to be regarded rather differently from doing the same, day after day, to random adult strangers. The kind of altruistic sentiment you invoke is, it seems to me, much rarer than you suppose (and rarer than one might wish). The heated resistance - not least among Guardian readers - to long-term benefit recipients taking ‘workfare’ placements in supermarkets, DIY stores, etc., seems to support my position rather more than yours.

Everybody tends to think that their own natural preferences are the natural preferences of all... it is dangerous to generalise from our own experience too much.

That’s often a danger, yes. And yet we don’t as a rule see tens of thousands of unemployed people volunteering daily to sponge the buttocks of the elderly and incontinent.

Jacqui

As a fan of Mr Moase says in the comments, “this universal income… makes employment optional.” For him (and no doubt others), that’s the goal. “Submission to a corporation,” as he puts it, rather dramatically, “will not be mandatory for your survival on Earth.” (Though leeching indefinitely on the skills and effort of others – who will be forced to submit to him - will be perfectly okay, apparently.)

*applause*

Ted S., Catskill Mtns., NY, USA

I realise that this seems obscure for people who feel a strong antipathy towards that kind of work, but really it can be.

Judging by the NHS horror stories I read from Brits here and at other sites, regardless of the environment for the workers, it sure doesn't seem to be good for people who use the system.

But those people don't matter.

Torquil Macneil

"The kind of altruistic sentiment you invoke is, it seems to me, much rarer than you suppose (and rarer than one might wish)."

It is hard to tell, but I don't think that is obvious. There are thousands of people in thee UK, after all, who give up a substantial amount of their time each year to do unpleasant work for charities for free. But we don't have to assume prodigious amounts of hidden altruism. If someone is working daily taking care of the elderly (and we could characterise that in many other ways that are just as realistic as changing soiled laundry)on, say £15,000 pa, they don't need to be saints to choose to stay on for a putative doubling of their salary with a basic wage. I think you have to assume that the working poor are very powerfully motivated by a desire for idleness to think that. Surely it is more realistic to suppose that they will prefer the benefits of work at a reasonable salary, rather than idleness in poverty, unless that work it truly gruesome.

Jacqui

rather than idleness in poverty,

AUD$30,000 is about £20,000 or nearly the average earnings of a full-time British worker. That's not poverty.

Torquil Macneil

"AUD$30,000 is about £20,000 or nearly the average earnings of a full-time British worker. That's not poverty."

It's not far off, if you have to pay rent and it is a lot less comfortable than £35K which is somewhere close to what our speculative care home worker who chose to stay put would then be getting. Of course some would split but many wouldn't, surely nobody who had kids would go.

Cash n Carrie

Torquil Macneil: "on, say £15,000 pa, they don't need to be saints to choose to stay on for a putative doubling of their salary with a basic wage"

Of course they don't. Saintliness however isn't the issue, but money supply is.

There is still the point about where does all this money come from? It may be a gift of sorts but it has to come from somewhere. The government's printing presses running overtime? Then money becomes worthless and inflation kicks in. If the state is being generous with other people's cash, then taxes would have to rise sharply. Either way, the generous offer of plenty of money to either not work or carry on doing those awful jobs means that this phantom figure is in reality much lower in buying power.

Wiping old people's rears is not a service the nation can sell abroad. It is not necessarily an exportable asset that tips trade agreements our way. The thing about having everyone working is, obviously, people pay far less tax though they still have to pay something. But the idea here that sparked all this discussion is that people can either choose to work or not. They can be 'creative' and not have to be a menial drudge.

Sadly, every person who under this wonderful idea opts for the money and in so doing not working increases the burden on either the state or the rest of us happily working away at whatever to pay for it. Then it becomes a slippery slope of the more who opt out the more the remaining workers have to pay. The less you bring home the more likely you are, in this utopia, to say 'sod that for a game of soldiers I will stop wiping rears and stay at home.'

AC1

Ground-rents are a still more proper subject of taxation than the rent of houses. A tax upon ground-rents would not raise the rents of houses. It would fall altogether upon the owner of the ground-rent, who acts always as a monopolist, and exacts the greatest rent which can be got for the use of his ground. More or less can be got for it according as the competitors happen to be richer or poorer, or can afford to gratify their fancy for a particular spot of ground at a greater or smaller expense. In every country the greatest number of rich competitors is in the capital, and it is there accordingly that the highest ground-rents are always to be found. As the wealth of those competitors would in no respect be increased by a tax upon ground-rents, they would not probably be disposed to pay more for the use of the ground. Whether the tax was to be advanced by the inhabitant, or by the owner of the ground, would be of little importance. The more the inhabitant was obliged to pay for the tax, the less he would incline to pay for the ground; so that the final payment of the tax would fall altogether upon the owner of the ground-rent.

Can you guess who wrote this, and which book?

dcardno

David - is Torquil a real person, or just a strawman (or sock puppet, I suppose) introduced as some sort of caricature?

David

dcardno,

a strawman or sock puppet,

Not so far as I can tell. Though Mr Macneil does seem to have more faith in human benevolence than I’ve ever found plausible. And altruism aside, there’s still the issue of making the numbers add up without an indecent and unsustainable amount of leeching. Quite a few of Mr Moase’s supporters seem to like the prospect of Giving It To The Man by taking it from others.

Mrs 246

Latest comment: "A set maximum wage would be nice too." Another of those 'sweet cherries', David.

dcardno

David - I suppose I was wondering if *you* had fabricated Mr Macneil to liven things up. Since you claim no knowledge of such, then I must conclude that he *is* a real person, although the possibility that another participant is posting in that name as a send-up.

As it is said, things have gone too far when you can't distinguish the actual from the parody.

dcardno

sorry: "...the possibility *remains* that another..."

David

I’d have to be a lot more drunk before I’d start inventing people.

Karen M

Some workers would no longer be faced with the unenviable position of having to choose between supporting their families and degrading their local environment.

Slacking for Gaia! His excuses aren't very convincing, are they?

the subsequent lack of employment will, he says, lead to “a more sophisticated populace.”

So daytime TV will make us *more* sophisticated?

David

Slacking for Gaia! His excuses aren’t very convincing, are they?

There is an air of excuse-making, and more so in the comments. But it’s a familiar pattern of avowed anti-capitalists. Let’s not forget that one rather snooty anti-capitalist said recently, “[Abolishing work] is a fairly standard anti-capitalist argument.” Sadly, and despite being a student, he didn’t bother to explain what the details of this argument might be or how this workshy utopia might function, and he didn’t feel that other anti-capitalists – even Marxist academics writing in the Guardian - ought to explain it either. Too much like hard work, presumably.

Torquil Macneil

"Not so far as I can tell. Though Mr Macneil does seem to have more faith in human benevolence than I’ve ever found plausible. "

Not a sock puppet, just someone who is not convinced by the standard right-wing characterisation of human venality. It may be right, but my experience says not. And Hayek took the same view I think, not an obvious supporter of leftwing slackerism.

The thing is, it doesn't require a rosy picture of human altruism to think that people will keep working even if they are not forced to live in poverty. Take a look at Richard Branson. He could live in opulence and never lift a finger but he is still the fist at every board meeting. The idea that only greed for money or power could motivate that sort of behaviour strikes me as odd and it flies in the face of experience, just look around and you will see thousands of people giving up their time for free to help others.

The technical question of affordability is another matter. I just don't know if it would be possible, but many people have calculated affordable citizen's wages. Bear in mind that it would replace all other state subsidies except health and education (and some even include those). In fact, many people at a basic wage of AUS 30,000 would be taking less money from the state than they are today, because housing benefit etc would be withdrawn. Some people would actually be poorer. That at least must be a cheering thought for dcardno and others, surely.

WTP

Some people would actually be poorer. That at least must be a cheering thought for dcardno and others, surely.

OK, now you're just being an ass. Or do I need to expand that thought to four paragraphs of vaguely worded pabulum so you can relate. Ah...self-awareness.

Torquil Macneil

WTP, I had suspected that you struggled to follow long sentences and paragraphing. It explains plenty. (Short enough for you?)

WTP

TM, you had suspected? Wherefore ever did you deduce that? I don't believe I've had the pleasure until this very time.

Reading into the thoughts or intentions of others is a common leftist mistake. Another common leftist intellectual error is mistaking quantity for quality. But let's stick to economics, as asked by someone else above, where is the wealth to come from to supply everyone with this living wage? Also, I'm curious to the source and context of your Hayek assertion above. Or did you just think that?

Torquil Macneil

The idea is that the basic income or citizen's wage/income (not living wage, that is a different thing) will be paid for through taxation, just like the welfare state that it replaces. I don't know if that is feasible, lots of clever people think it is though and their figures aren't obviously wrong. For one thing, the savings made by dismantling the complex administrative apparatus of the current welfare payments system would be vast. Hayek saw it that way,I believe, and it has appealed to libertarians left and right (Friedman too from time to time, I think). I don't know where FH expounded on this, but it shouldn't be too hard to find. I should warn you though, Hayek often wrote at book length. If paragraphs are a strain for you, it may be a struggle.

ErisGuy

still the fist at every board meeting

Insightful slip.

WTP

TM, I've read Atlas Shrugged. Volumes are not a strain. They are, however, a sign of narcism, and a waste of people's time. Especially in blog context. You seem obtuse to the point...heh...obtuse...point...but I digress...

I don't know if that is feasible, lots of clever people think it is though and their figures aren't obviously wrong.

The figures, please. Devil lurk in details, Kemosabe. While I do seem to recall something from Hayek re savings from axing the bureaucracy, the money, wealth really, must come from somewhere. To simply say it comes from taxation misses the point. Somewhere someone must do the $30K or whatevs of work to support these people. Why? Why are they not expected to support themselves?

Spiny Norman

Money grows on trees, WTP.

Just ask Obama, Geithner and Bernanke, "clever people" all.

dcardno

many people at a basic wage of AUS 30,000 would be taking less money... because housing benefit etc would be withdrawn.
There is nothing in Mr Moase's piece that suggests that any current benefit would be withdrawn.

Some people would actually be poorer. That at least must be a cheering thought for dcardno and others, surely.
I am not sure what missteps of logic lead you to that conclusion.

You don't have to characterize people as venal to observe that giving money to people lessens their incentive to work, which seems to be exactly Mr Moase's point. A large part of his blathering is about the wonders we will see when those call-centre workers, chicken throat-slitters, and bum-wipers are free to pursue their avocations as poets, musicians, philosophers, and so on; it goes without saying that to the extent today's chicken slaughterer turns into tomorrow's poet, that we either need to find another chicken-slaughterer, or give up chicken - and either way, prepare for an onslaught of bad poetry.

You have not responded to David's comment up-thread that we do not see an army emerging from the ranks of the unemployed who "really do find it fulfilling to take care of the weak and needy (disgusting as that seems to many others)" actually volunteering to do so. It seems to me that is a bit of a flaw in your assertion that we will be able to continue providing services that require unpleasant work under such a scheme - much less services (such as Mr Moase's putative chicken-slaughterer) where the chances of personal fulfillment are rather less.

WTP

I know, Spiney, but you never could tell my parents that. Of course Mom never went to college and Dad had to drop out to support the fam when his dad died. It was tough being raised by such ignoramuses.

David

Some people would actually be poorer. That at least must be a cheering thought for dcardno and others, surely.

It’s interesting that we aren’t supposed to notice the stated motives and beliefs of Mr Moase and his supporters – including a belief that dull and unpleasant jobs shouldn’t have to be done, that artists and musicians shouldn’t be expected to support themselves, that there is “no such thing” as human nature, that giving large amounts of taxpayers’ money to random people would result in a surge of great art and social elevation, and that employment should be “optional” rather than a customary feature of adult life. (To say nothing of those who wish to see imposed a vast rota system of enforced “drudgery” akin to the fantasies of a certain Chairman Mao.) And yet, at the same time, we’re to assume that dcardno and others - who register these stated motives and their implications - can themselves only have unstated motives – i.e., laughing at the poor.

[ Added: ]

As Tim Worstall notes, there are more credible (though still problematic) arguments for a guaranteed income, though these tend to be at a much lower level – a fraction of what Mr Moase is suggesting. They also tend to suppose the elimination of most current benefits and associated bureaucracy. In turn, this raises the question of what happens when inept and irresponsible recipients screw up catastrophically and find themselves in need again. With the conventional benefits infrastructure disassembled, won’t we again hear scandalised cries of “something must be done”? And Mr Moase imagines a system in which everyone would automatically receive this close-to-average income, regardless of whether they choose to work (and regardless of how they spend it, or fritter it away), which means that the average earners who remain in work would be taxed in order to subsidise those who choose not to, and those who piss their hand-outs up a tree, while also subsidising the lifestyles of Cate Blanchett and Hugh Jackman. I suspect that people across the political landscape might find this objectionable.

Torquil Macneil

"You don't have to characterize people as venal to observe that giving money to people lessens their incentive to work"

Which people? In the financial sector the opposite has always been held to be true. Are poor people just a different breed?

"You have not responded to David's comment up-thread that we do not see an army emerging from the ranks of the unemployed who "really do find it fulfilling to take care of the weak and needy (disgusting as that seems to many others)" actually volunteering to do so."

But I have. This is at the heart of the argument. There are literally tens of thousands of people who do all sorts of unpleasant work for free every week in the UK as volunteers. But they will not, generally, accept penury as a return for those efforts. That is why a basic wage would motivate greater participation from people currently unwilling to make a sacrifice of their lives as well as doing difficult and dangerous work to benefit others.

" including a belief that dull and unpleasant jobs shouldn’t have to be done"

I don't think this is right. The belief is that dull and unpleasant jobs shouldn't be done only by people whose lives are so poor and insecure that they are unable to avoid the exploitative conditions pressed on them.

"and that employment should be “optional” rather than a customary feature of adult life."

If employment is not optional, then you are a slave, no? That is the definition of slavery, non-optional employment. Nozick thought so at any rate.

Torquil Macneil

"In turn, this raises the question of what happens when inept and irresponsible recipients screw up catastrophically and find themselves in need again. With the conventional benefits infrastructure disassembled, won’t we again hear scandalised cries of “something must be done”? "

Perhaps, but the answer will be 'do something then, we give you plenty of money after all'. That's what appeals to libertarians about this sort of approach, welfare that does not institutionalise or infantalise the recipient.

Politically, it would be impossible as things stand, but the Overton window can be given a gentle push from time to time.

"which means that the average earners who remain in work would be taxed in order to subsidise those who choose not to, and those who piss their hand-outs up a tree"

Yes, but those avereage earners would be much better of than the fritterers and than they are today. They could hardly complain (although they would of course) because they have a free choice to work or fritter themselves.

David

The belief is that dull and unpleasant jobs shouldn’t be done only by people whose lives are so poor and insecure that they are unable to avoid the exploitative conditions pressed on them… If employment is not optional, then you are a slave, no?

This is Marxoid thinking. Most of the people I know have done a variety of jobs, usually beginning with something dull and unglamorous and slowly progressing to something more congenial. Sometimes the same individual will find themselves repeating this process, perhaps several times. And I can’t help thinking that you’re conflating exploitation with existential necessity. The fact that one generally has to fund one’s own lifestyle is a feature of reality - adult reality at least - not some heinous conspiracy to oppress the proletariat and laugh at their woes. As parents sometimes have to remind their teenage children, “The world doesn’t owe you a living.”

I remember times when I had to stack shelves and clean toilets. I also remember having to choose between food and bus fare. I can’t say I enjoyed the work enormously, or the situation in general, but I didn’t see my experience as one of injustice, or of being “exploited” or oppressed. I didn’t presume I had some natural right to confiscate as much as I might wish of the earnings of people in different circumstances, many of whom would have gone through experiences similar to my own. You talk of “slavery,” and yet Mr Moase and his supporters envision a society in which an undefined but apparently unlimited proportion of one’s earnings (and therefore freedom) will be expropriated by the state in order to keep in comfort people who choose not to support themselves - say, on grounds that they consider themselves “artists and musicians.”


[ Added: ]

It should hardly need pointing out that individuals tend to move from one social and economic category to another, up and down, during their lifetimes - and more so over a generation or two. Thinking solely in terms of groups fixed in composition - as Marxoid thinking tends to - leads to error. Furthermore, the opportunities for social and economic mobility cannot be measured solely by how many people from group X move to group Y. Skills, attitude and behaviour matter quite a lot. As Thomas Sowell says,

Opportunity is just one factor in economic advancement. How well a given individual or group takes advantage of existing opportunities is another. Only by implicitly (and arbitrarily) assuming that a failure to rise must be due to society’s barriers can we say that American society no longer has opportunity for upward social mobility. The very same attitudes and behaviour that landed a father in a lower income bracket can land the son in that same bracket. But someone with a different set of attitudes and behaviour may rise dramatically in the same society. Sometimes even a member of the same family may rise while a sibling stagnates or falls by the wayside. […]

Those “social scientists,” journalists and others who are committed to the theory that social barriers keep people down often cite statistics showing that the top income brackets receive a disproportionate and growing share of the country’s income. But the very opposite conclusion arises in studies that follow actual flesh-and-blood individuals over time, most of whom move up across the various income brackets with the passing years. Most working Americans who were initially in the bottom 20 percent of income-earners rise out of that bottom 20 percent. More of them end up in the top 20 percent than remain in the bottom 20 percent. People who were initially in the bottom 20 percent in income have had the highest rate of increase in their incomes, while those who were initially in the top 20 percent have had the lowest. This is the direct opposite of the pattern found when following income brackets over time, rather than following individual people.

Most of us have been obliged to do crappy jobs, at least for a while and maybe longer than we’d have liked, but whether or not a person remains in a job they consider dull and uninteresting isn’t usually the result of enemy action. In the developed world, a person who, after 20 years, is still fondling the bedding of incontinent people isn’t usually doing it because some nefarious cartoon capitalist finds it amusing. And yet this is the basic atmosphere, and often the explicit assumption, of Marxoid thinking.

It’s bad medicine.

Horace Dunn

"If employment is not optional, then you are a slave, no? That is the definition of slavery, non-optional employment."

Well, yes, if you define "slave" in the loose colloquial sense - "I've spent 15 years as a wage-slave in the city", "he was such an uncaring husband, and treated his wife as a mere kitchen slave", "I've worked like a slave all week and only got peanuts for my trouble". But, no, if you define it in the narrower sense of a "person who is the legal property of another". Perhaps you should desist from muddying the water and address the actual points being made.

Torquil Macneil

"Most of the people I know have done a variety of jobs, usually beginning with something dull and unglamorous and slowly progressing to something more congenial."

But for a large group, or class, of people this is not the case, they are trapped by their circumstances in doing degrading work and some people think that unjust, especially if there is a way we could avoid it, through a citizen's wage, for example.

"And I can’t help thinking that you’re conflating exploitation with existential necessity."

I think that the two things are sometimes dishonestly conflated, there is no existential necessity that one group of people be exploited by another, in my opinion. And history supports that view. The argument against the banning of child labour in the UK made exactly the same sorts of arguments: 'unpleasant, yes, but impossible to run an economy without it, and the kids benefit in the long run, and anyway, it's the natural social order'. But the system ended and the world didn't.

"The fact that one generally has to fund one’s own lifestyle is a feature of reality"

For some sorts of people, to some degree, yes. But not for others. Some sorts of people (bankers spring to mind) receive vast subsidies from the state that are denied others. The citizen's wage seeks to redress the balance very slightly.

"not some heinous conspiracy to oppress the proletariat"

It needn't be a conspiracy. The Lancashire mill owners did not conspire to oppress and maim the children of the poor, and that was not their intention, but few today, would claim that these children were not unjustly exploited. In fact, we came to the conclusion that their world owed them a living, of a minimal sort. Even the most braced of meritocrats rarely argues for allowing the poor to die (even if it did encourage the others).

Torquil Macneil

"Well, yes, if you define "slave" in the loose colloquial sense "

No, I think 'slave' in the strict sense means someone that has no option but to do the work he or she is given. What definition would you prefer?

Torquil Macneil

" In the developed world, a person who, after 20 years, is still fondling the bedding of incontinent people isn’t usually doing it because some nefarious cartoon capitalist finds it amusing. "

Whoever said they were? The question is simply whether they should be required to live in poverty or not, and if not, what we can do about it. It doesn't have to be a moral question, we may have other concerns too, we may want a system where skilled people are not motivated to get out of caring for the elderly at the earliest possible opportunity leaving those without the resources to do anything else, for example. The implicit contempt in characterising caring professions such as 'fondling the bedding of the incontinent' is telling, I think and may be a clue as to the nature of the market failure tat has led to the current crisis.

WTP

Re slave, this is typical of the lefty, especially lefty-disguised-as-libertarian, MO. Broaden the meaning of words to mean what they want them to mean. And do so in a casual, matter-of-fact manner such that you of course wouldn't question the usage. Note also the slap at all workers in the financial sector. think of them what you will, but they do get their asses out of bed and go to work. while much of it is incomprehensible to the left, the employment and the source of their income is, aside from the too-big-to-fail bs, voluntary. Note, still no explanation as to why taxpayers must work to support slackers. That would make them slaves, no?

BTW, "penury"? Really? As in

1 : a cramping and oppressive lack of resources (as money); especially : severe poverty
2 : extreme and often niggardly frugality
?

Torquil Macneil

"Re slave, this is typical of the lefty, especially lefty-disguised-as-libertarian"

No, it is Robert Nozick, nobody's idea of a lefty.

"Note also the slap at all workers in the financial sector. think of them what you will, but they do get their asses out of bed and go to work"

It is not a slap to notice that the UK banking sector is subsidised to the tune of billions by the UK taxpayer.

"BTW, "penury"? Really? "

Our values may differ in that regard, but, yes, many people in the UK live in penury as far as I can see. It would be better if they didn't, even if they were slackers.

David

Torquil,

Whoever said they were?

Well, you’re the one with the Marxoid assumptions of “slavery” and “exploitation,” terms you’ve used repeatedly. And I refer you to your own comments regarding dcardno and his supposed amusement at the poverty of others. I notice you keep spinning your terms and redefining words in grossly tendentious ways. It’s difficult to play fairly if the ground keeps shifting as and when it suits you.

Some sorts of people (bankers spring to mind) receive vast subsidies from the state that are denied others. The citizen’s wage seeks to redress the balance very slightly.

Setting aside, as you appear to have done, almost all of the objections and corrections mentioned above, by myself and others, here’s a wild idea. We could just avoid subsidising incompetent bankers. And for that matter, the politicians who created absurd incentives for dodgy banking – say, those who insisted with legal penalty on dramatically lowered standards for mortgage lending to Designated Victim Groups.

The implicit contempt in characterising caring professions such as ‘fondling the bedding of the incontinent’ is telling,

It isn’t a matter of contempt. It’s an attempt to highlight why a great many people would rather do something else. To pretend that the caring professions don’t often involve such realities is, well, a little coy.

But for a large group, or class, of people this is not the case, they are trapped by their circumstances in doing degrading work and some people think that unjust,

I refer you to the update to my previous comment. Thinking chiefly in terms of groups and classes leads to error and unrealism. Though of course some people – including Mr Moase and his boosters – appear to like the unrealism.

This dance is getting boring.

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