WEALTH AND MONEY PART XII: THE UNCONDITIONAL BASIC INCOME
“We must do away with the absolutely specious notion that everybody has to earn a living. It is a fact today that one in ten thousand of us can make a technological breakthrough capable of supporting all the rest. The youth of today are absolutely right in recognizing this nonsense of earning a living. We keep inventing jobs because of this false idea that everybody has to be employed at some kind of drudgery because, according to Malthusian-Darwinian theory, he must justify his right to exist. So we have inspectors of inspectors and people making instruments for inspectors to inspect inspectors. The true business of people should be to go back to school and think about whatever it was they were thinking about before somebody came along and told them they had to earn a living.” – – R. Buckminster Fuller
The concept of a guaranteed unconditional basic income for all citizens is not new. Many like Fuller understood if we intelligently utilized the physical resources and energy provided for us by planet Earth and the Sun, we were fully capable of providing well for all humanity. This possibility did not always exist. It took the accumulated learning of millions upon millions of humans over thousands and thousands of years to reach this potential. From the first Stone Age tool to the solar cells on our roofs and the cell phones in our hands, countless human beings contributed to our mastery of our surroundings.
But though we have overcome the physical barriers to universal human success, our economic thinking is still in the Stone Age. The ancient, no longer valid, reptilian reflexive hoarding instinct of “survival of the fittest, you or me not enough for everyone, someone must suffer and die,” still rules our financial systems and displays itself as the gross and historic inequality now preventing humanity from realizing its vast birthright of wealth.
Let us recall from previous articles in this series that wealth is not money. Wealth is the productive capability to utilize the matter and energy at our disposal to provide the goods and services needed for humans to lead happy, healthy lives. In an equation – – WEALTH = (MATTER +ENERGY) X KNOWLEDGE. It is the accumulated “knowledge” component of wealth that now makes possible humanity’s success.
Money is the claim to wealth. It is a necessary medium of exchange accepted as valid by the members of a society to enable the transfer of ownership of true wealth as needed to allow the society to function. Here is the issue: We do not have a wealth shortage problem. We have a maldistribution of the claim to wealth (money) problem. Through corruption and fraud, the banking and financial industry, along with corporate leadership, have transferred so much of the claim to wealth to themselves that societies can no longer function.
We are now in the odd situation where the governing principles of the Universe – the laws of physics – are telling us we have ample wealth to care for all, while the manmade rules of money, serving rich and powerful elite, are manipulated to tell us we are broke and in debt.
Visionless, “policy wonk” politicians, driven by utterly false ideological beliefs, say we must endure austerity when exactly the opposite is the reality. Not only can we afford the services and public infrastructure expected of government in a democracy, we can afford to pay an annual, unconditional living income to all citizens. One of the most obvious areas where this can be demonstrated is in manufacturing, but the gains in true wealth productivity apply to all fields.
Americans who grew up in the 50’s and 60’s can recall predictions for the coming 21st century. Automation would usher in an age of universal prosperity. Machines would do the work and humanity would be blessed with growing leisure time. Half of this prediction came true. Automation did vastly increase our ability to produce the “stuff” of an abundant life. But because automation eliminates jobs and virtually all of the financial gains have gone to the wealthiest one percent, the elegant technologies that might have freed us are instead leading to impoverishment.
Most of the jobs lost to automation are gone for good – and they should be. Robots and computers are better at doing mindless operations than humans. But because of our antiquated economic thinking we are left in a strange quandary. By automating, industries become much more productive and profitable, but because jobs and employees are eliminated, fewer people can afford the very products that are now ever more available. It is the equivalent of requiring people to starve in a garden of plenty while watching the food rot because they haven’t earned the “right to live.”
We must profoundly rethink what it means to “earn a living.” Humanity can afford to do whatever the laws of physics and protecting the planet will allow, and it is infinitely beyond the self-imposed limits of our now utterly inadequate, disconnected economic systems. As we did with the GI Bill after World War II, we must begin paying people to go back to school, to pursue the work they love, to do that which humans do best – think. The return on investment for mankind will be enormous and we can no longer afford not to do this.
“To put it in perspective, if all the people of the United States shared our nation’s wealth and income equally, every family of four would be worth nearly $1.5 million dollars and have a yearly income of over $240,000 dollars, virtually tax free. There would be no shame in being wealthy, indeed everyone would be.” – – Dariel Garner, Popular Resistance
Extensive information about the work already being done on the Unconditional Basic Income can be found at the Basic Income Earth Network.
Part XIII will discuss: The Robber Baron Theft of Technology
Please take the time to watch the following video from the Future of Work Summit as Federico Pistono explores the myth and reality behind an unconditional basic income guarantee. It is filled with hope and dispels ideological beliefs.