The Unconditional Basic Income ... please read !!

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The Unconditional Basic Income ... please read !!

Post by Cov » Sun Jun 21, 2009 8:46 pm

Hello people !!

Today I would like to introduce a movement (again) which has become very strong in our country only since the beginning of this year and might even affect the federal election of our government on September 27th 2009.

It's about the so called Unconditional Basic Income (Bedingungsloses Grundeinkommen).

Please note that I'm aware that discussions about this subject is a very sore point.

You are welcome to post your opinions about it, but if I can ask everybody also to check the following text, and to let me know about parts I should either write / arrange differently or maybe those of you who like / know the idea, can come up with some suggestions I could add, please.

The reason why I ask, because english is not my mother tongue. (Ok, got this out now)

Anyway, here is the video clip I have uploaded onto YouTube:

>>> Please see the edit note at the bottom. <<<

And here is the text as information to the video:
The unconditional Basic Income (UBI) has to be included in the foundation of every country.

That way, every citizen would be granted a life in dignity that is guaranteed, no matter the circumstances.

The social benefits that we have now in place, cost us around two thirds of that what an Unconditional Basic Income would cost anyway.

The remaining part would be financed through taxes, included in goods that people buy every day.

Everybody would be free to earn additional income on top of the UBI.

The same gross income would be paid out in net, because earning money should not be penalized with any deductions.
PS: Doesn't this forum allow YouTube videos to be embedded ?

Edit: Unfortunately I needed to delete that video clip on the owners request.
That's a pitty, but you can still watch it on the owners site: >>> YouTube <<<
Last edited by Cov on Mon Jun 22, 2009 4:20 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by AZBrandon » Sun Jun 21, 2009 9:22 pm

Just as I said last time around: You First. Right now it's still in the realm of economic theory, which means it needs to be tried out somewhere before it can be widely adopted. You try it out and the rest of the world can watch and see how it goes.

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Post by Tobias » Sun Jun 21, 2009 11:55 pm

The biggest problem from an economical standpoint is that you are offering an argument that is based on "all else equal". The social benefits already in place will not matter much, their effect on the economy has already played out in full.

The second part of your proposal includes adding a Value Added Tax, which will affect demand downwards. Sure some, if not most, of the money would be spent on consumption again, but not all, so the net effect would be a cut in demand.

The effect of a cut in demand will lead to decreased production and an adjustment downwards in prices. The scale of that reduction is hard to say anything about, but we can be reasonably sure, specially with the cut throat prices we have today, that the prices will be higher than today.

So, those who only have UBI will be faced with higher prices. And not only that. Because of the loss in demand, production is down, so there will be harder to find a job. So the number of people who, with todays standards and wordings, would need well fare would increase. Thus government incomes would decrease and spend would increase.

The Question is if this proposal is economically sustainable? Based on the above analysis I would say that it would say that it might be, but it might also be destabilising to the economy as a whole.

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Post by croddie » Mon Jun 22, 2009 3:24 am

Too ideological, not the right point of view to see economic questions.

"Granted a dignity" is nonsense. Granting money does not "grant a dignity" and even if it did how much money is needed to grant dignity is not related to the variables of the economy which should really determine the level of tax/benefits, plus you would then be taking away dignity (!) from richer people to do it. Let's just think in terms of money because money=money.

Now there are two questions:
-Q. Should social services be provided directly or given out as money.
-A. I think a lot of social services can be replaced with money to some extent but not totally. Health, education can benefit of some move to this but not without controls.
-Q. Should taxes be raised to fund additional social programs/redistribution.
-A. Not in Europe. Taxes are already high relative to the rest of the world and the deadweight loss of a 1% increase in tax increases with the tax rate. Even in the US this is a factor of 3. It leads to reduced incentive to produce and emigration of talent(/capital), more important as globalization makes migration easy.

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Post by L2GX » Mon Jun 22, 2009 3:58 am

imho it's not too bad of an idea, IF the government also gains the means to finance it.

Let me put it in another perspective. I'm using simplified guestimates here, but the real number are hard to find (or decide upon)

If today's employees produce ten times more wealth than 100 years ago, and few have money left af the end of the month, this roughly means we use ten times more wealth.

important questions:
1: how much wealth do we need?
2: how much wealth is spent on non-essential matters vs essential matters.
3: how much of that wealth is sustainable?

The answers quickly get counterintuitive:

1: We could live and prosper on less. How much less depends on itenirations: if everyone lived on less, employees would need/cost less, so costs would go down, etc..

2 & 3: The economy is a semi-closed system, so this is difficult to understand.

A luxury car is non-essential, but how much of it's cost goes back into the economy compared to cheap cars? Another example could be weapons systems or medicine. Most of the money circulates back into the economy.
But if we look at the in- and output of our economy the 'real' costs are clear.
Luxury cars don't take much more manufacturing effort to provide the same payoff as cheap cars- they both transport. Whereas weapons and medical supplies have a completely opposed payoff.
And whereas perks like luxury cars encourage some people to organise large groups of others, which we all profit from, weapons encourage people to organise destructive wars, which we don't profit from at all.

Examples like these show that the demand on finite resources of our planet as well as human life could serve as a guideline to deciding which forms of wealth we can afford and which forms we can't. Even if the results may be counterintuitive!

The currently en vogue climate change issue, as well as many other issues show that, in fact, a reduction of our wealth is not just needed, but urgent!

Keep in mind that only a third of the world's population is currently as wealthy as the average westerner. If everyone on the planet would their wealth according to the same standards, the 'real' cost of our economy would kill us all in a matter of years, not centuries. We're looking at energy and water shortages, pollution, degradation of agricultural production, medical issues rising from overpopulation, etc. This planet does have a hard bottom limit.

So if, using this 'real' cost as a guideline we manage to cut back on counterproductive production, how much of our time will be needed to produce the wealth we actually need?

A lot less. Imagine how many people work to support unneeded wealth? How many military? How many support agents, hairdressers, shoe salesmen, tax people etc. would we really need?

Even if and after we fill in the positions we now have a lack of people in (education, medicine, research, third world development,...) there will be a lot of thumb-twiddling. And obviously our current economical system is not capable of sustaining so many unemployed without significant changes.

The sort of proposal in the original post seems to be one way of accomplishing this. If we can start shunting people away from say flat-panel display manufacturing, marketing, sales and support, even if they seem to put a heavy cost on our society, acting now will give us time to develop an alternative economical stability.

You may choose to dislike the end of manufacturing based on political ideologies born in the industrial revolution, be they capitalist, libertarian, fascist, communist or socialist, but the fact remains that there are too many people on the planet for it to continue supporting our lifestyle. Manufacturing on the scale we now know it will have to go.

And nice as the concept of a service economy is, in practice people work in unneeded and destructive services and there is a lack of the services we need.

All jobs will eventually go the route of agriculture.

The twentyfirst century will be the century where mankind retires.

Pick up a hobby, there will be plenty to do. Just dont expect a paycheck.
Last edited by L2GX on Mon Jun 22, 2009 4:07 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by judge56988 » Mon Jun 22, 2009 6:33 am

Apart from the already mentioned obvious financial difficulties associated with sustaining a scheme such as this, I am just as concerned about the social and moral problems that would arise.

Why should people who are fit and able bodied be entitled to not have to work and live off the hard work of others?
This is essentially what it comes down to in my opinion. I don't mind paying tax so that sick, old or unemployed people can be looked after but why should I or anyone else pay tax so that lazy people can sit at home and watch TV all day long?

Nobody is entitled to a free ride through life (where has that idea come from?) a fundamental aspect of being part of a society is that you should make some kind of contribution to that society.
Those that are fit to work should have to work, provided the jobs are there, and if the feeling is that there will not be enough jobs to go around at some point in the future, thought needs to be given to perhaps reducing the number of hours in a working week thus creating more jobs. Or perhaps get people to do some of the work that is now mechanised. A step back maybe, in some respects, but I really do believe that people feel better about themselves after having done a days work. Things are appreciated more if you have to earn them rather than have them handed to you on a plate.
(and before some of you dive in at this point: I am not advocating a return to the Victorian era and the workhouse)

If there were to be a system like UBI in place, I think it would have an extremely detrimental effect. Unless the UBI was so low as to be sufficient for only the basic requirements of food, shelter, clothing; the incentive to work would be removed for many people.
Society would become even more polarised than it is today; those that have a natural inclination to work hard to earn more money to buy nicer things would continue to do so whilst at the same time resenting the fact that their taxes were subsidising that section of the population that are naturally inclined to laziness and freeloading.
Most intelligent people would, I imagine, want to work for the satisfaction they derive from their work, and I'm sure that there would be a small group of well meaning people who would take the UBI and choose to do voluntary work for charities and to help the old and sick; just as I'm sure that there would be a small group of people who would supplement their UBI by drug dealing and thieving.

It all sounds very nice in theory, especially when watching a video like the one linked to by Cov, full of lovely smiling benign people. Shame the worlds not like that.

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Post by qviri » Mon Jun 22, 2009 7:30 am

I am far from having a settled opinion on this, but I'd just like to note that there are plenty of things I would like to work on in the absence of my day job. None are destructive; a couple are positive to the society as a whole but would never get paid for in today's world; none are as stupid as watching TV.

Is all the retirees do sit lazily at home and watch TV all day long?

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Post by judge56988 » Mon Jun 22, 2009 8:01 am

qviri wrote:
Is all the retirees do sit lazily at home and watch TV all day long?
Course not - retirees have too much to do - all the stuff they didn't have time to do when they were working.

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Post by Cov » Mon Jun 22, 2009 8:03 am

That's what I woud like to point out:

Nobody should be forced to justify himself, being worthy of taking part in our society.
There must not be a scale where one is compared to, of how much "value" a human being has, on gounds of his usefulness.

Everybody was, has been and will be born at random places, at random parents and under random circumstances.
Nobody has been able to explain to me, for why there should be a class system in the first place, that's how our society is structured, right ?

Material has priority over anything else, even over humans.

And no one has replied to the objection that our resources are limited.
Why would anybody with common sense destroy his own and everybody's future ?

Let me come back to the "value" of a human being.
That simply reminds me on desicions been made on behalf of others, instead to letting others decide for themselves.
It has to do with dominating poeple under ANY circumstances ... look at our society, do you recognize what I mean ?

Humans are very strange animals. They don't always follow a logic way of thinking.

And as a last note: most people only start moving (inside & outside), when their butt is under fire.

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Post by jessekopelman » Mon Jun 22, 2009 11:36 am

judge56988 wrote: Nobody is entitled to a free ride through life (where has that idea come from?)
Where did your idea that people are not entitled a free ride come from? The are both equally arbitrary.
judge56988 wrote:a fundamental aspect of being part of a society is that you should make some kind of contribution to that society.
I definitely agree, but does contribution to society = work? What about artistic endeavors? Most would agree these have great value to society at large, but they are very difficult to value at an individual level.
judge56988 wrote:thought needs to be given to perhaps reducing the number of hours in a working week thus creating more jobs.
This is just a form of indirect taxation. You are taking work away from those who already have it, thus impacting their earning ability. This is certainly not more efficient than direct taxation and the only benefit is to satisfy your arbitrary desire for everyone to be employed.
judge56988 wrote:Or perhaps get people to do some of the work that is now mechanised.
Where is the benefit to society in this? If the work is already getting done, it is getting done. Why would people feel better about themselves by having a job that is completely unnecessary? I'm pretty sure that the people who feel the worst about themselves are not the unemployed, but those who know their hard work is completely unappreciated.
judge56988 wrote:Things are appreciated more if you have to earn them rather than have them handed to you on a plate.
Agreed, but you are not really talking about earning anything. You are talking about make-work being created, that has no value to anyone, just to put a certain veneer over a social program.

I think things are actually much simpler than the argument you are making. What is more beneficial to society: to have a high base mark of livability for all, even at the expense those capable of high achievement, or to sacrifice this base mark to enable high achievers to reach their ultimate potential. I would claim that the fundamental proposition of society is wholly for the former and wholly against the latter. So, we can certainly argue about whether it is more efficient to provide a universal salary or just a universal set of services; but it is silly to argue that people somehow need to earn their membership in society by meeting a specific definition of working.

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Post by Ralf Hutter » Mon Jun 22, 2009 1:20 pm

Cov -

Is there a good reason to start another thread on this exact same topic?

Here's the original thread that you started three months ago:


We'll lock this duplicate in the meantime. Discussion can be continued in the original thread.