Why are CEOs now supporting basic income guarantees?

It does not quite add up. But then why should it. Spin is spin. On the one hand, we are being constantly told that the world has entered a new era of secular stagnation, driven by an ageing population and a fall off in productive innovation, and we just have to get used to the elevated levels of unemployment that come with that. Yet, other spin doctors are talking about the innovation revolution, the second machine-age, where the march of the robots who will be embedded with AI that will make them smarter than us, big data, automation, the Internet of Things, and more will render work obsolete. In both cases, apparently, the introduction of a guaranteed income is recommended. Suspicious? Then there is more. When CEOs of big companies start advocating a policy that they claim will improve the lot of workers I become immediately suspicious. And why would people with a progressive bent advocate policies that are part of the continuing conservative ambition to achieve social control and which essentially amount to an abandonment of responsibility that government has for maintaining employment for those who cannot otherwise find jobs? So what is with this rush of support for a basic income guarantee (BIG) from all sides of politics??

Background reading

1. Work is important for human well-being.

2. Is there a case for a basic income guarantee – Part 1.

3. Is there a case for a basic income guarantee – Part 2.

4. Is there a case for a basic income guarantee – Part 3.

5. Is there a case for a basic income guarantee – Part 4 – robot edition.

6. Is there a case for a basic income guarantee – Part 5.

7. Employment guarantees are better than income guarantees

Social control motives?

The US media company CNBC reported in an article (February 21, 2017) – Tech CEOs back call for basic income as AI job losses threaten industry backlash – that CEOs in the big IT companies are beginning to fear “a backlash when it comes to jobs” as they introduce new technologies that wipe out jobs.

Yes, we are back to the ‘robots are coming to take all your jobs’ story, which has become one of the distractions that conservatives and progressives alike have fallen prey to further distance the issue of unemployment from government responsibility.


This portrayal of the future is one tech executives are keen to avoid and has driven a growing chorus to support the idea of a universal basic income (UBI).

Various uber-rich business types are now being extensively quoted as being in support of a UBI – as a necessity.

It is not just a preference they are claiming to be advocating but a change that will be “necessary” to absorb the “digital refugees” because “tech firms could be in ‘firing line'”.

So necessary for what?

To avoid the “political backlash”!

To maintain social control.

The article in question gives the game away in several ways. First, it repeats what everyone knows that the BIG proponents claim it won’t introduce disincentives to work because:

… it will provide a bare minimum of living. Instead, workers will still want to get a higher standard of living by working.

What was that?

Bare minimum – so nothing like the beautiful artistic freedoms that the BIG proponents promise will be delivered. A bare, scratching the floor existence.

And what was that about work?

Which work? Haven’t those robots taken all the jobs? So where will the supplementary income come from? Jobs that robots cannot do?

Feel the contradictions mounting.

Then it opines about who will pay for it.

And even the “bare minimum” payment will according to one commentator quoted:

… far exceed current benefit expenditure …

Which for a Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) proponent presents no problems. As long as there are real resources available for purchase in the currency of issue, the national government that issues that currency can purchase them and bring them into productive use.

In this context, funding a “bare minimum” BIG would be straight forward for such a government so what is the issue? For an MMT proponent the issue is the inflationary-bias (see blogs linked to above).

But the average progressive has bought the neo-liberal line that governments have to raise taxes and/or issue bonds to fund its spending. That is one reason they advocate a “bare minimum” BIG because they think that will stand some chance of being accepted and seen as being fiscally responsible – misguidedness has no bounds.

The entire BIG literature is full of whacky ‘funding’ proposals by proponents exactly because they do not understand the currency issuing capacities of the government and the macroeconomic implications of those capacities.

So in this article we have:

1. Government setting up sovereign wealth fund by buying shares in “all the publicly listed companies in the country and earn money in that way.” – and prop up the share market and the top-end-of-town!

2. “taxing super profits” – which are? Economists call super profits any net income return above that required to keep the resource in its present use. Who is going to work that out?

3. A “robot tax as a way for governments to get more money in the future” – what more than the about infinite capacity to spend they already have!

In addition to these whacky ideas, there have been a plethora of ‘funding plans’ proposed in the past many of which betray a fundamental misunderstanding of why mass unemployment arises in the first place.

For example, in the early literature, Belgian economist Phillipe Van Parijs, a leading BIG advocate, presented both an explanation of unemployment and a related model of BIG financing.

Drawing from mainstream economic theory, Van Parijs considers that unemployment arises because wage rigidities impede competition and prevent the labour market from clearing. The mainstream think that if wages could fall enough in the face of the excess supply (represented by the unemployment) then firms would have an incentive to employ them.

Various explanations for the wage rigidities include trade union power and minimum wage legislation, which cause a departure from the competitive outcome that would otherwise restore full employment, are proposed by the mainstream (and Van Parijs).

So according to one of the most vocal of the BIG proponents (and his accolades), unemployment is caused by the departure from competitive equilibrium rather than any macroeconomic failure (that is, a lack of jobs caused by a deficiency in overall spending on goods and services).

That view of the world was categorically debunked during the Great Depression by Keynes and others.

It was demonstrated beyond doubt that cutting wages will not increase employment at the macroeconomic level. Wages are both a cost and an income. So while firms might enjoy lower costs (assuming that productivity doesn’t fall as worker morale collapses as wages are cut), they also suffer from lower sales because people have lower incomes (due to the wage cuts).

Search the blog for “Keynes and the Classics” for a more complete discussion of this issue.

But, that issue aside, Van Parijs then proposed a rather bizarre, and very neo-liberal solution in terms of a redistribution of the ‘property right’ represented by the alleged existence of ’employment rents’, associated with scarce jobs. He said that we should give each person “a tradable entitlement to an equal share of the jobs that are available at any point in time.

Accordingly, BIG payments can be “financed” by taxing workers who enjoy “employment rents”. He said that:

… these rents are given by the difference between the income (and other advantages) the employed derive from their jobs, and the (lower) income they would need to get if the market were to clear. In a situation of persistent massive unemployment, there is no doubt that the sum total of these rents would greatly swell the amount available for financing the grant.

He claims that in this way, a BIG enables workers to live a decent, if modest, life without paid employment.

But the implicit full employment concept that the BIG advocates construct is unacceptable, because it is engineered through an artificial withdrawal of the available labour supply, so that some of the unemployed are reclassified as not in the labour force. There are insurmountable problems with this representation of income insecurity and the BIG financing model.

Apart from all the other issues I have discussed in the blogs cited at the outset, the BIG literature presumes that this ‘modest, life without paid employment’ or the “bare minimum” existence, depending on who you read, that is to be enjoyed (endured) by the BIG recipient should be paid for by the employed worker who is living the ‘good life’.

So scarcity of jobs is the problem. But while jobs might be scarce at present if we rely on purely market forces for job creation, it is clear that there are endless useful activities in which the unemployed could be engaged if someone was willing to pay their wages – the march of the robots notwithstanding.

Which brings me back to the original point – why are all these CEOs now advocating a BIG? The reason is not to be found in any particular concern for the unemployed.

Recall that Marx wrote in his 1844 work A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right. that “Die Religion ist der Seufzer der bedrängten Kreatur, das Gemüth einer herzlosen Welt, wie sie der Geist geistloser Zustände ist. Sie ist das Opium des Volks” (Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, just as it is the spirit of a spiritless situation. It is the opium of the people).

Religion was a major vehicle for social control used by capital to divert attention away from what they were up to – suppressing wages and worker autonomy and advancing their own interests.

Think about the role the Roman Catholic church played in Latin America as stark examples of the more subtle processes that operate in more advanced nations.

As the hold of religion lessened over time, capital found mass consumption as the next effective way to sustain a docile, compliant working class.

Please read my blog – The mass consumption era and the rise of neo-liberalism – for more discussion on this point.

But that meant allowing the standard of living of workers to increase through real wages growth in line with productivity growth and a more equitable distribution of national income.

As neo-liberalism has become more refined (not in quality but in its ability to attack the living standards of workers), the mass consumption strategy has become more involved.

Capital worked out that it could suppress real wages through labour market deregulation, take the gap generated by productivity growth for itself (redistribute national income in favour of profits), and then maintain mass consumption by pushing massive debt onto households, via the relaxing of credit standards and the corruption of banking, allowed for by the simultaneous deregulation of the financial markets.


Major lobbying was expended to make this seemingly perfect solution operational.

Except greed got in the way and the GFC came along because the debt that was being pushed onto households was no longer subject to satisfactory prudential standards and the NINJAs finally couldn’t pay.

At that point, a new form of social control was needed to cope with the mass unemployment that has been created around the world.

Enter the next ‘you-beaut-plan’ – the CEO-advocated BIG.

And the progressives who are pushing for the BIG don’t know what day it is!

So our conception of humanity is of a bare minimum consumption unit – where society only has a responsibility to provide a small capacity to ensure this consumption is enabled.

End of story. We keep people in their boxes with just enough food and other things to keep them alive – just so they don’t rebel and challenge the capacity of the top-end-of-town to go on their merry way pillaging national resources and generated income.

Social control – BIG time.

If they want a better material existence then they can do a bit of work! But haven’t the robots taken all the jobs?

However, the intrinsic social and capacity building role of participating in paid work is ignored and hence undervalued by BIG proponents. It is sometimes said that beyond all the benefits in terms of self-esteem, social inclusion, confidence-building, skill augmentation and the like, a priceless benefit of creating full employment is that the “children see at least one parent going to work each morning”. In other words, it creates an intergenerational stimulus that the BIG approach can never create.

An alternative vision

There was an interesting article published by the Artsy Editorial (February 1, 2017) – What We Can Learn from the Brief Period When the Government Employed Artists.

Artsy is an on-line organisation that aims to bring the beauty of fine arts to the whole world whether you can afford to travel to the grand galleries or not. It is also a highly educational resource.

The article in question reflects on the productive benefits that the US Works Progress Administration (WPA) provided the American people between 1935 and 1944.

Its focus is to recount that “thousands of artists and other creatives” were employed by the US government under the WPA.

The article writes:

That the arts would be funded significantly by the federal government – never mind that it would actively employ artists – may well raise an eyebrow today. But working under a subdivision of the WPA known as the Federal Art Project, these artists got to work to help the country recover from the Great Depression, as part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal …

the Federal Art Project’s non-discrimination clause meant that it attracted, and hired, not just white men but also artists of color and women who received little attention in the mainstream art world of the day. These artists created posters, murals, paintings, and sculptures to adorn public buildings.

Hospitals, post offices, schools, and airports were decorated with some of the roughly 200,000 artworks created through the program …

By 1938, the Federal Art Project existed in 48 states …

Only during isolated periods, such as the WPA art projects of the 1930s, had African Americans been given nearly the same opportunities as whites through government programs that employed artists …

And crucial to the resulting democratization of culture was a form of expression that addressed the experiences of the working class and was actively shaped by the working class.

The conservatives of the day believed that “the Federal Art Project was a hotbed for Communists” and they fought tooth and nail to retrench it as a result.

Their day would come a bit later as the mad Joe McCarthy purge began.

But the conclusion is that the WPA:

… left a striking legacy. In producing many thousands of paintings, sculptures, murals, photographs, and posters it pioneering new technical innovations in these cultural fields. It gave numerous important artists a leg up in a desperate time …

Above all, it turned a generation of young American creatives into career artists.

Which brings me to my final point – one that so-called progressives who buy into the neo-liberal fiscal story and thus support BIG seem to ignore.

Unlike the BIG model, the Job Guarantee model meets these conditions within the constraints of a monetary capitalist system.

The JG is a far better vehicle to rebuild a sense of community and the purposeful nature of work. It is the only real alternative if intergenerational disadvantage is to be avoided.

It also provides the framework whereby the concept of work itself can be broadened to include activities that many would currently dismiss as being leisure, which is consistent with the aspirations of some BIG advocates.

The future of paid work is clearly an important debate. The traditional moral views about the virtues of work – which are exploited by the capitalist class – need to be recast.

Clearly, social policy can play a part in engendering this debate and help establish transition dynamics. However, it is likely that a non-capitalist system of work and income generation is needed before the yoke of the work ethic and the stigmatisation of non-work is fully expunged.

The question is how to make this transition in light of the constraints that capital places on the working class and the State. BIG advocates think that their approach provides exactly this dynamic.

Clearly, there is a need to embrace a broader concept of work in the first phase of decoupling work and income. However, to impose this new culture of non-work on to society as it currently exists is unlikely to be a constructive approach.

The patent resentment of the unemployed will only be transferred to the BIG recipients who creep around our streets living their “bare minimum” existence.

Conversely, the Job Guarantee provides a vehicle to establish a new employment paradigm where community development jobs become valued.

Over time, and within this new Job Guarantee employment paradigm, public debate and education can help broaden the concept of valuable work until activities which we might construe today as being ‘leisure’ would become considered to be ‘gainful’ employment.

So I would allow struggling musicians, artists, surfers, Thespians, etc to be working within the Job Guarantee. In return for the income security, the surfer might be required to conduct water safety awareness for school children; and musicians might be required to rehearse some days a week in school and thus impart knowledge about band dynamics and increase the appreciation of music etc.

Further, relating to my earlier remarks – community activism could become a Job Guarantee job. For example, organising and managing a community garden to provide food for the poor could be a paid job.

We would see more of that activity if it was rewarded in this way.

Start to get the picture – we can re-define the concept of productive work well beyond the realms of “gainful work” which specifically related to activities that generated private profits for firms.

My conception of productivity is social, shared, public … and only limited by one’s imagination.

In this way, the Job Guarantee becomes an evolutionary force – providing income security to those who want it but also the platform for wider definitions of what we mean by work!

It is highly likely that the introduction of the Job Guarantee would also place pressure on private employers, particularly in the low-skill service sectors to restructure their workplaces to overcome the discontent that their underemployed workers feel.

A full-time Job Guarantee position at wages not significantly different from the low pay in the private sector service industries would appear attractive relative to a private job that rations the worker hours.

In this regard, the Job Guarantee would offer flexibility to workers. Some would prefer part-time jobs while others would require full-time jobs within the Job Guarantee.

It should be obvious this flexibility can accommodate virtually any requirement of workers. Further, it is very easy to design the program in such a way that child care services will be provided by Job Guarantee workers, to accommodate parental needs.

Social attitudes take time to evolve and are best reinforced by changes in the educational system. The social fabric must be rebuilt over time. The change in the mode of production through evolutionary means will not happen overnight, and concepts of community wealth and civic responsibility that have been eroded over time, by the divide and conquer individualism of the neo-liberal era, have to be restored.


In summary, I don’t think humans should be treated as meagre “consumption units” and I oppose the use of a Basic Income Guarantees as the primary means of poverty reduction.

Supporting a Job Guarantee is also tantamount to maintaining a view that it is the government’s responsibility to create full employment rather than abandon that responsibility and dish out minimum consumption bundles to the population who become jobless because the fiscal deficit is too small relative to non-government spending and saving decisions.

The advocacy by CEOs for the BIG is a reflection of their desire to maintain social control.

A Job Guarantee, by distinction, assists workers to gain a greater voice while being able to earn a socially-inclusive and stable income.

It should be a no-brainer for progressives.

That is enough for today!

(c) Copyright 2017 William Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.

This Post Has 45 Comments

  1. Answer to the question – The wealthy supporters of basic income are not nice people, but they aren’t stupid. They know B I G stands for Billionaire’s Income Guarantee. It is a pretend “progressive” “reform” that is about as progressive as re-establishing slavery, but calling it by a nicer name.

    And when it fails, causes inflation etc as it must, it will cause an easily manipulable reaction against this and any other “progressive” ideas, including truly progressive ones like old-fashioned welfare state measures and the (worst of all from the not-nice perspective) the Job Guarantee. Not to speak of progressive reforms that were fought for in the 19th century – like safe public water supplies, all of which the not-nice people want to eliminate in their plan for a sub-feudal future.

    The non-wealthy supporters of BIGs / UBIs are extremely stupid or insane, or both. Van Parijs is remarkable. He makes his proposals such vague moving targets (in order to make arguing against them hard) that for instance he counts an income guarantee which is given only to the rich as “basic income”. What is the difference between that and the most corrupt “banana republic” capitalist state? Like many other chatterers, he probably counts on supporters not actually reading what he writes – this category probably including himself.

  2. I love this vision for our future. It has much more humanity than the filth in my head.

    Whenever I accidentally stumble on these so-called “real” talk shows (those shows that appeal to conservatives who are lucky enough to have proud paid work, or just trolls who hate lefties), it sounds very appealing to say to people, “hey that’s great but guess what? it doesn’t get you paid.”Somehow we think the only things worth doing are ones that earn some businessperson profits. Of course. I never hear conservatives/neo-liberals mention the rent seekers in the FIRE sector.

    I am 26 atm. I do have a degree in stem. However, I always get the impression in USA that only scientists are useful in a society. It’s like if you can’t do math or build bridges or save some sick people then you are completely useless to society. It must feel great to say,”Oh, that Egyptian mural contains great wisdom, but it doesn’t make anyone any money except a useless college professor, so piss off about spending tax dollars on it.” Funny how acting macho instead of using one’s rational thought is a virtue in 21st century. Great progress.

    I know I shouldn’t pay too much attention to these ignorant stuff, but without proper guidance or any effective counter argument, I get Influenced by these ideas.

    At the very least, this is very narrow-minded view. Not everyone is a scientist. Many things have value other than the dollar value. Many things are worthless to me even when they have huge dollar value. What these people put forth is naive childish market extremism that has never worked anywhere in real life. Operating from this trend, conservatives and neoliberals will not stop until we destroy our civilization or stop having children altogether.

    I know many adults don’t feel that since I observe that many people still appreciate art (as long as it’s not your son/daughter pursuing it =/ ). However, I have felt what I have written above for my entire life. It’s really quite an extremist ideology that I have given too much attention to.

    Luckily, people are still trying to create art, and I hope they don’t listen to conservatives who propound this toxic ideology because words can hurt and bad ideas can stick. I hope artists are supported. I don’t have a particularly positive impression of the imperialist Winston Churchill, but he once asked what we are fighting for, when people asked him to cut spending on art during WWII.

  3. Bill,

    It is not clear from this piece where you stand on the question, but in my opinion the robots really *ARE* coming, not least because they are already here – or at least the algorithms are here; their embodiment is a harder problem, but I’m sure you have seen video clips of the sort of things that are being produced by university engineering departments, and will become commercial products in the next few years.

    Sure, a basic robot will not have the capabilities of even “unskilled” labour, but the economic problem is a different one. Capital is abundant, and investment opportunities are few, so the outlay on a robot is not particularly costly for a capitalist. On the other hand, the investors get to keep 100% of the income generated, and the total return is likely to be greater even if “worker” efficiency is reduced. The real problem with this road to nirvana is likely to be worker resistance – who can compete with slave labour? As you point out, the BIG is a solution to this problem.

    BTW as you may know the Federal Art Project is not the only occasion on which the USA experimented with federally funding artists. During the cold war, the CIA covertly sponsored artists as a way of demonstrating the cultural superiority of the American political system, compared to the Soviet Union. Now this isn’t quite a Job Guarantee, but it does highlight a potential danger of a JG system that employs what might be called public intellectuals. As long as the recipients are taking government money, they will always be under intense pressure to conform to the political agenda of those currently in power.

  4. The conflict with the wealthy and powerful few that are implementing ever more inequality, poverty, unemployment, decling living standards, hardship, injustice, war, destruction of the natural world and the existential threat of global warming, is being lost. The ALP leadership continue to support most facets of neoliberalism and the Greens are not much better with Richard De Natale recently promoting discussion about a universal basic income guarantee and offering no realistic road map for achieving full employment and greater equality even though these are policy goals.

    Bill and a few other talented MMT economists have without doubt proven how relatively easy it is to deliver far better outcomes for the world’s people and for the environment but so little headway is being made in Australia and the rest of the world.

    Inequality, unemployment, economic stagnation, tax evasion, political corruption, environmental destruction and most critical of all global warming are rapidly becoming even more critical so the ‘pressure in the pressure cooker’ is definitely increasing so at some point change must start to occur. Unfortunately the crazy right seems to be gaining ground. Which path will the world follow?

  5. CEOs want the BIG to maintain the circulation without having to do anything in return.

    Apparently this has been openly discussed. The book “Globalisation Trap” by Martin and Schumann has a report of a conference.

    The pragmatists in the Fairmont Hotel reduce the future to a pair of numbers and a term: “20 to 80” and “tittytainment”

    A fifth of all jobseekers will be enough to produce all the goods and perform all the top-flight services that the world society can afford. This 20 percent will actively participate in living, earning and consuming.

    What about the others? Will 80 percent of those willing to work be without a job?

    The term “tittytainment” makes the rounds. This term was coined by the old war-horse Zbigniew Brzezinski. The native Pole, National Security advisor of US president Jimmy Carter, has been occupied with geo-strategic questions. … The frustrated population of the world could be kept happy with a mixture of numbing entertainment and adequate food.

    So this is all part of the plan. Now that handing everybody a credit card has been shown to be a disaster, they just want handouts of cash directly from the central bank and then commerce will numb the minds of the masses with their distracting toys.

    It’s a clear picture of a world split into the Aristocracy and the Serfs. This is what the Income Guarantee is designed to bring about.

    A neo-feudal dystopia.

  6. You may have noticed some BIG proponents suggesting that they are now receiving a ‘Basic Income’ via supporters on Patreon.

    I had a good chuckle when I read this, because if you read the pitches on Patreon you see that they are actually making pledges to create things in their fields in return for people funding them.

    Which for anybody outside the groupthink is known as … a Job.

    In this case classic self-employment. If you asked the creators at SciShow whether they had a Basic Income or a commercial income that pays the wages I know what they would say. Certainly the taxman would see it as trading income, not a gift.

    To get a real test what we need is a Patreon pledge that states you’d like a $1000 per month but you’re not promising to do anything for it. You might do something for others, or your might not depending upon what you feel like when you wake up.

    And of course you should pledge the money because you are currently employed, using up ‘scarce resources’ and preventing others from getting that job. So out of a sense of guilt and shame you should pledge the money.

    And of course if this pitch *didn’t* get funded by Basic Income fans then that would show the whole Income Guarantee idea to be the lie that it is.

    I’m sorely tempted to do this.

  7. Employing people to work for the state in a Job Guarantee program is also a form of control, and I would argue that it is a tighter one than that of a basic income. I can imagine plenty of activities which need more freedom than a Job Guarantee program can offer. With a Job Guarantee, the public utility of the work has to be described, measured, controlled – through the laborious, dull and time-consuming processes too well know by artists, researchers and ngo workers of today.

    Understanding and accepting the rest of your arguments, I would say the best policy option would be to have both: a basic income guarantee and a job guarantee. So those who need paid work for “self-esteem, social inclusion, confidence-building, skill augmentation” can choose to participate in the Job Guarantee program. Those who can find it without working for the state and find the conditions of a Job Guarantee Program too constraining, can choose to live on a Basic Income on a more modest level. This combination is also what is proposed by DIEM25 in the EU: https://diem25.org/end/

    Bill, I would love to read your perspective on that.

  8. It is amazing how a simple concept can become so mired in unintelligent work by Neo-liberals. It’s so simple, the government just needs to pass laws allowing it and … it’s paid for right away – and on into the future.

    I believe it should go hand in hand with job creation/ job guarantees. However, the future seems like it will not create enough Jobs or enough jobs people want to see, [not trashy menial stuff]. Anyway the money will be for Everyone, even the Koch brothers, jailbirds, refugees, and children, say over 16. If you have a job then you have two income sources, but the basic one is still a living payment. It will supercede pensions and welfare except in special cases.

    How can the economy wear it? You might like to parse that one Bill, but IMO, it will be neutral at least. The spending power boost will translate into more robust growth for the economy to compensate. The happiness index will go through the roof. The only snag will be if the goods and services are not available to buy in sufficient quantity.

  9. dmm,

    “As long as the recipients are taking government money, they will always be under intense pressure to conform to the political agenda of those currently in power.”

    people who are taking private money conform to the political agenda too. You can even argue that they are the agenda themselves because the elites have always had different point of view than common people.

    I don’t think the problem there is JG, it’s the CIA that deposes governments around the world and corrupt everything it touches in order to serve the imperialist agenda.

  10. I took (possibly mistakenly?) from a piece written by Pavlina Tcherneva, that the job guarantee has the additional benefit of becoming a second driver of the value of money by way of spending initiatives rather than taxation initiatives. More “Socially valuable” work would gradually rival material goods mass production work as the source of the wage as mass production employs less and less labour.
    This to me would seem to be a good fiscal policy prescription for these times were the robot technologies (including AI “expert” systems) are potentially able to compete with human labour at most existing forms of what has been considered for paid work.
    In a way this is almost the “free market” solution to the current dilemma the CEO’s face, despite the forcing of fiscal policy to give formal recognition to a labour market that always existed. You would think technology sector CEO’s would be more excited about this prospect than a BIG?

    There of course is also the possibility of real fiscal activism on behalf of environmental considerations with this approach as well.

  11. The BIG idea is not just popular with CEO’s. Politicians on both the right and those self identifying as being left are out there peddling the idea in full force.

    In Canada for example we have a New Democratic Party (a left leaning party whose progenitor the CCF initiated Universal health care) leadership race going on, were a top runner named Guy Caron who has a background in economics, believes he has worked out a plan for financing a federal Basic income guarantee.

    Workers, the unemployed and underemployed, are becoming so demoralised by the nature of today’s workplace that the idea of an income free of work is growing in popularity.

    In the social media the mention of a JG vs a stand alone BIG usually results in suspicions of just being another form of workfare or gets derided because it represents government telling people what form of work they must do rather than industry, among other arguments. No doubt there are many trolls on social media trying to sell the BIG.

  12. “I can imagine plenty of activities which need more freedom than a Job Guarantee program can offer.”

    I bet you can’t, because the freedom the Job Guarantee offers is simply that the majority of other people who are actually giving up their output for your benefit think it is worth doing.

    Unless an activity passes that test it cannot survive – however you cut the cake.

    Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth. The Job Guarantee is the social mechanism by which everybody can make that rent.

    The issue is what is of social value. What can you do so that others consider you worthy of support. That means doing something, and it also means making sure others know you have done it.

    Without a system for making that happen no social support mechanism can survive into the long term.

    If you want a ‘Basic Income, then apply to a charity funded by those who believe in paying people up front regardless f what they do for others. The donations to such a charity would even be tax deductible.

  13. The actual Aristocratic serf system was a job guarentee system. Just as slavery was.
    Fascistic and Stalinist government’s delivered full employment.
    I do not believe this remotely makes an MMT job guarentee a slave or serf system.
    MMT iers seem to have a basic logic fail when it comes to BIG .
    Some reactionaries support BIG so BIG is reactionary is a logic fail.
    Nearly all reactionaries in the UK support BREXIT is BREXIT reactionary?
    Hitler was a vegetarian so are vegetarians NAZI’s ?
    As for the inflationary bias of BIG let us see the evidence of welfare or any payments
    given when no goods and services are produced being inflationary.The world is full
    of such payments after all, child , disability,unemployment benefits. Pensions
    both public and private etc etc. Just as any type of spending ( bond backed or OMF) it is the ability
    of the market to expand or improve production the spending is made in which makes
    demand pull inflation (land and the 11 members of a football team being classic ).
    Cost push inflation is the norm and increases in spending from increased costs will always
    have an inflationary bias over increased spending wothout increased costs.
    BIG or JG can be a tool for reactionaries or progressives (as a part of a progressive tax system)

  14. When not attacking BIG MMT sees unemployment as an involuntary outcome of
    inadequate demand.
    When not attacking BIG MMT sees the source of spending irrelevant to the inflationary

  15. I do not like earning money. I love to work, and in fact can never sit down, but all my passions in life I can not do for money. I am a self taught musician, cook, farmer, fisherman, artist, and have studied economics, law, religion, philosophy, psychology and history, all in my own time. As a ‘paid’ worker I am a truck driver who risks his life driving among morons who cant drive and spend most of the time on their phones risking everyone’s lives at the same time – and I hate it and I resent society for it. None of my passions (listed above) can I do for money. The moment I tried to do any of them for money was the moment they stopped being a passion. The world does not get the best of me – they do not receive what I am best at because I spend most of my time driving a truck delivering…wait for it…telecommunications materials so that these fuckwits can have the phones they love to use whilst driving!

    Too many people assume that what people want is money and property. You are wrong. All I want to do right now is find what I am good at and give it away but I have no time because I am too busy giving society what it wants by earning money because I have to pay someone else for the space I occupy in life. I am sorry to say this but I resent all you economists for this.

  16. “Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth. The Job Guarantee is the social mechanism by which everybody can make that rent.”

    indeed, but its not the whole solution, and I think all of this debate is going to be moot because of how smart and creative we are at indulging our laziness .

    the robots are here and they are going to do more and more. this missing piece in the puzzle is the bureaucratic inertia in the way we organise society and Asimov is going to be proven right and population control is on its way in the next 500 years.

    once we de bureaucratise , where a human being on this planet only has to work 5 years to pay his rent for the privilege of being part of the planet, there has to be a income guarantee, assuming we still have a monetary system , rather than a accounting system based on social credits.

    in fact , we can only have true freedom if we get rid of money altogether.

    we will outlaw paper, and plastic will die a death care of peak oil at some stage in our history, so some aspects our present distribution system and bureaucratisation will die with it.

    the number one goal for humanity since we were bequeathed this planet is to go from huddling in a miserable damp cave around a fire having just clubbed our food to death , to luxury apartment living , and having our free lunch 😉

    from what I can see, the next 1000 years is going to be about all of us turning into high tech socialists, with a Tibetan based spiritual /political structure , living in luxury apartments , wearing leisure suites , driving maglev cars, and the whole system being powered by fusion reactors , and us having to do very little to deserve it 😉

  17. Not totally relevant….but a vent to the insanity we must put up with in America, today….


    The OECD…..the 30 plus market-driven economies that dot the globe, and includes the U.S., which joined together in 1960…has from the beginning held to the belief that “the market can provide anybody wanting a job, with a job”….it seemed a natural in their belief in the market….

    In 2011, however, they created the “OECD Better Life Index” to measure the quality of life in member countries, and to improve the market:

    The data is now in, and it is conclusive: Counting on the Market to create jobs is a miserable idea!

    Indeed, in the U.S., alone-with this belief as our sole method for Job Creation since WW II, and to this day—this method has not resulted in an unemployment rate below 3% since 1953! Leaving millions jobless in its wake, it has created our inner-cities with 60% minority unemployment, drug economies, and an epidemic of gun violence!

    Further, 10% unemployment is not uncommon in the Eurozone, with north of 25% in Greece and Spain!

    It would be ideal if the market could provide all the jobs we need-but it is foolish to create policies that don’t work, or are subject to “wishful thinking” [the sole premise behind job creation per the Republican agenda in Congress, today]!

    And particularly, in the Age of Robots-where jobs are critical going forward, and are disappearing at an accelerated rate with each passing year in the 21st Century!

    The over-arching point, here, is that based on FALSE information…..[Trump has not looked at the data, or doesn’t care]-Trump asserts he can create “jobs, jobs, jobs” by spitting in the eye of virtually every other country in the world, by his denial of climate change-and destroying safeguards to reverse the adverse effects of same–on the bogus claim that this will create jobs!

    In short, rather than creating jobs-Trump will cost Americans jobs-plus destroy our leadership in the world!

    Further, no one will have jobs if our planet becomes uninhabitable–And only an IDIOT would fail to grasp this….

    Ref: “The D/UE LAW”, and “SUPPLY-SIDE REFRIED: The Trump/Republican Scam To Rob Americans Blind, Again!” Amazon/Kindle

    Jim Green, Democrat opponent to Lamar Smith, Congress, 2000

  18. I read that Elon Musk is a proponent of BIG. I also read that he fired an assistant of 12 years because she asked for a raise.

  19. Sorry, Jim, Trump is wrong but not wrong. We have left action for too long and now it is too late. The climate in 20 years is already baked in and irreversible. So doing stuff now is useless, effectively giving Trump reason. There are no substantial measures under consideration that will reverse direction or even slow down the march to a hotter climate. So the following 20 years are cactus as well. What Trump’s initiative will do is stop the doubling up of resource uses and the consequent speeding up of our inevitable downfall. To build the replacement infrastructure while at the same time continuing with fossil fuels we are beholden to today and which are needed to make the replacement machinery etc. is going to be expensive now that the cheap oil surpluses are gone. We stopped growing by 1970. Now we rely on credit to paper over our resource wastage. Well, that cannot continue much longer.

  20. John…so much to answer….so little time….agree that we are late responding to climate change….but I don’t think we agree on Trump’s motives…..he is a narcissistic psychopath and there is no justification for his reckless destruction of policies that would slow the process-so that he could pander to our ignorant, and uninformed [and our racists]-there is no honorable, or rational explanation-I think that is the mistake we make with Trump….we keep looking for decency, or an intelligent “business” move–where there is none……but the point I was driving at: We have to get honest that since it is impossible for the market to create enough jobs-we have NO choice but to create “public-sector” jobs-IF we are going to Fix Unemployment—if we are going to create the “JOBS, JOBS, JOBS”-Trump said he was going to create….Trump, the Republicans [and many others]-can’t fix this problem on the path they are on…..you paint a dark future….maybe yes, maybe no,…

  21. Trump is an enigma as I see him. He is all the bad things you say, yet he became President [which he didn’t expect himself]. He does appeal to our worst instincts too. We’ll have to wait and see if any good comes from his tenure.

    Bill says there ARE enough jobs possible as a JG is flexible enough to cover the options. I like the UBI because it will include a lot of unpaid work, like housework, into the money economy. The JG can operate in tandem with it. They are both government initiatives but obviously will interact with the private sector.

    I’ve got my fingers crossed that the Trump disruption factor will change the status quo such that a universal health care option can happen. Such an event would validate his presidency.

    And yes, time is short now. Our techno-industrial dynasty is coming to its end. Dynasties last maybe 300 years. This one will be no exception. Climate change will stop us recovering.

  22. “The call for basic income in order to soften the effects of automation is hence not a call for greater economic justice. Our economy stays as it is; we simply extend the circle of those who are entitled to receive public benefits. If we want economic justice, then our starting point needs to be more radical.”

    In his book, Why the Future is Workless, Tim Dunlop says that “the approach we should be taking is not to find ways that we can compete with machines – that is a losing battle – but to find ways in which wealth can be distributed other than through wages. This will almost certainly involve something like a universal basic income.” But is that the approach that we should take? Is it to find ways to ‘redistribute’ wealth “other than through wages” or is it to control the production of that wealth so that it can be allocated towards social need not profit?” Michael Roberts at https://thenextrecession.wordpress.com/2016/10/23/basic-income-too-basic-not-radical-enough/

  23. The CDEP devised by Nugget Coombs in the 1960s and 1970s is not a bad way to look at a kind of job guarantee that shows how political development, community development skills development, local control can come from explicitly creating local jobs designed by real people. (see the Nugget Coombs Memorial lecture (6th) by Sanders http://naru.anu.edu.au/__documents/news-and-events/coombs_lecture_2012_paper.pdf and the book co-written with Frances Morphy (via google books)

    The backlash from bureaucrats who want to assert control is clear ,=. They saw a challenge to a hierarchy that a job guarantee can create. People develop power to creat and oppose when in such a structure with autonomy

  24. John, I too have had a tiny flicker of hope that anything “good comes from [Trump’s] tenure”-but every day I move further away-and this totally unnecessary gimmick, today, with climate change–convinces me he just isn’t up to the job-I take it you are in America by your comments re Trump, but curious….are you familiar with Humphrey-Hawkins [hereafter HH]? It is pure genius because it anticipated a solution for our 21st Century market economy-but I mention, here, because it was buried almost from the minute it was signed into law by Carter in 1978-and like JG-these solutions are theoretical until they are actually put into practice……and which can’t be soon enough to suit me…problem is-these solutions are “political” and we need to get the electorate to understand that these solutions are not “communistic”, or whatever [In America as a result of McCarthyism]-which haunts us to this day and prevents our evolving-the puzzlement to me is why did we stand on one foot and then the other and let Flint/the Rust Belt rot into decay-when we had HH to prevent it? In fact I wrote a book: WHY DID WE LET FLINT ROT INTO DECAY: Ushering In A Trump Presidency?

  25. The American situation is well played here in OZ, Jim. And I have taken an interest. We do a “lite” version over here of your political dysfunction. Info comes from the USA in vast quantities and it’s easier to know what’s what there rather than here. The USA is still an awfully big deal in world affairs. We are a minnow. No I had not heard of HH, except Hubert Humphrey version. Any link?

  26. @-Máté

    Employing people to work for the state in a Job Guarantee program is also a form of control

    Surely you can admit there is something between Stalinist work camps and lotus-eater BIG nirvana?
    The gig-economy is a good pointer to how a JG could work without a massive central bureaucracy.
    Local councils could just maintain electronic bulletin boards of jobs and services offered, allowing JG employers to link up with JG employees in a very free enterprise way, just with government credit paying the (minimum) wages. The trick is just to ensure that there is many times more hours offered than there are hours workable. I suspect there would be plenty of people willing to sponsor JG financed sculpting, Christmas carolling, graffiti painting, arts and crafts of all nature. There is no private market for this stuff precisely because there is no spending power in the customer base, JG can fix that.

    @-Neil Wilson

    the freedom the Job Guarantee offers is simply that the majority of other people who are actually giving up their output for your benefit think it is worth doing.

    I do not see why majorities are required here. I suspect this immediately kicks minorities to the kerb, especially unpopular minorities, like indigenous peoples. The worth of a contribution is probably best determined through individuals interacting. Big projects and central authorities are great opportunities for hiding rent seeking.

    @-Kevin Harding

    Some reactionaries support BIG so BIG is reactionary is a logic fail

    Something of a straw man here, given Bill has half a dozen long posts on why BIG is a fail.

    These include, it is poorly targeted, it may provide a political climate that allows the dismantling of better targeted welfare programs, it does not provide the necessary demand injection if fully “financed”, it may discourage people from contributing to real national product which is the opposite of what is required to make the community prosperous.

  27. @ Dingo

    I’m hear you man,I feel pretty much the same way.
    But just resenting the world wont get us anywhere,and that’s why I spend so much time using what I have learnt from this site to spread the word on MMT. I may be on a hiding to nothing as I watch the people I am talking to glaze over, but I strongly support what MMT posits and reckon its worth it.

    James ( the forklift driver).

  28. Brendam.
    The strawmen are riddled throughout Bill’s long posts.
    ‘It may discourage people from contributing to real national product ‘
    this is pure neoliberal nonsense , unemployment is voluntary and welfare
    encourages people to be idle.
    The slither of truth is that means tested welfare does mean that those receiving
    it have the highest rates of effective taxation if they work and lose welfare , also
    the buerocratic mechanisms may put people off taking insecure work if they
    lose welfare and would have to wait and jump through hoops to reclaim.If anything
    universal welfare would reduce any discouragement of current welfare programs.
    But this is at the margins as Bill and any non neo liberal economist will continually
    tell us WHEN NOT ATTACKING BIG is that unemployment is involuntary and a result
    of inadequate spending .It should be a non brainier if BIG is implemented in the
    context of fiscal stimulus it will lower unemployment .

  29. Good points as usual, Bill. Thank you. I share the same wish expressed by Màtè.

    What actually I see in Europe now it’s the gradual shift from big to jg narrative. The new political wave is about creating a job guarantee scheme within the Eurozone. This doesn’t comfort me too much. In most cases it’s just fancy, there is no way to have it accepted by the neo-liberal oligarchy, that means a loss of time we can’t afford. In other there is no mention of anchoring the currency to jg in order to have price stability, or the source of financing still relay on the market or to the action of the ecb, that is an independent body which cannot be forced. And obviously, a very bitter point is at what level the floor wage will be set. It could be disruptive of the private sector or a new marvelous dumping tool to have a sort of market functional modern slavery. They will have enough to consume, not enough to be free and well-off.
    Varoufakis’plan launches a Job Guarantee Program (see 2.4.3) too. I’m sure that it will have a big prominence in the media and in the political debate.


  30. James,
    You have no idea how grateful I am to read your response and to know that someone actually understands where I am coming from.

    But I do not resent the world.

    I resent those who think economics is the be all and end all and force it on everyone through politics.

    If there is one thing which irritates me more than anything else about economists, politicians, and legal scholars, it is their inability to ‘listen’ to what others are actually saying.

    It’s one thing for property owners to smirk at the rest of us who can’t access resources in order to fulfill our legal duties because they are all already owned, but for people who claim to be representing ‘everyone’, it is an absolute embarrassment.

    I resent these people because the law tells me I must have access to resources otherwise I can’t fulfill the law, and to have to ‘borrow’ or ‘bargain’ for them is a travesty against conscience and reason. If I do not have housing, I will eventually break the law. If I do not have clothing I will eventually break the law..and so on.

    The problem is that economists think we can ‘all’ treat a house as some asset which we can convert into money at will. I’m sorry, but mathematically, this is impossible, and so too is 100% solvency.

    I would like to ask if you think this material (MMT) would be able to be used in a court of law?

  31. John Doyle:
    I like the UBI because it will include a lot of unpaid work, like housework, into the money economy. The JG can operate in tandem with it. They are both government initiatives but obviously will interact with the private sector.

    This is not a reason for the UBI, but a misunderstanding of the UBI. The UBI will not and cannot include a lot of unpaid work into the money economy. It will not include housework, for it will include no work at all into the money economy, the way you mean. Because the UBI is money for nothing, no work at all.

    On the other hand, a JG can include housework into the money economy – and in the most sensible cases, it already has in many countries – housework for child care, for the sick or elderly. So that was an argument for the JG, not the UBI.

    The work that the UBI includes into the money economy – but not the way you meant – is in essence slavery. The UBI Eloi are getting other people to work for them, the Morlocks, their slaves, for nothing in return. Either it is going to be a divided, master/slave society (the only way “basic income” can work – e.g. in petroleum states employing an immigrant underclass to do all the work.) Or it is a joke, something that cannot work, never will – instant hyperinflation.

    Anybody who opposes slavery must logically oppose the UBI; the UBI is a form of slavery. People that disagree haven’t really thought about the matter logically, or looked out the window at the real world.

    To clarify the matter – this applies to monetary UBIs – like many others I am for non-monetary “UBIs” based on what society wants and can afford. Sure, make the best things in life, like modern health care, free. Make necessities that cost society very little, that involve little or no (marginal) labor free. But don’t use state power to force people to work to satisfy the whims of assholes – the essence of the UBI, and the essence of slavery.

  32. Some Guy, I don’t believe a word of your commentary. it seems to me all completely screwed up. Housework will be de facto included simply because whatever is unpaid now is not included. With a UBI, it can be included if one so chooses. As to slavery, that is just buffo. Same re hyperinflation.
    I wouldn’t include housework into a JG. because housework is a job you do for yourself. A JG is something commissioned and paid for by an outsider. You would need to be a paid housekeeper to qualify IMO, a job for/from someone else.
    Including housework etc into the economy will provide a way of booking the cost into GDP etc. The money itself is debt free, but accounting for it has to be resolved. IMO, it will end up revenue neutral, but I’m guessing.

  33. @Dingo
    “I would like to ask if you think this material (MMT) would be able to be used in a court of law?”
    Its beyond me to answer that I’m afraid, I am semi educated at best, I suppose it would depend on what context you intend to use it.
    I am on the same page as you regarding politicians, but I don’t lump all economists together.
    If you have the time I’d suggest you read through some of the work written by the author of this blog,you may change your mind.

  34. Some guy -masters did not give their slaves an income they gave them a job.

  35. @ James,

    appreciate your thoughts James

    I’ve read through a lot of the authors material..its not what i want as it still involves money

  36. “So our conception of humanity is of a bare minimum consumption unit – where society only has a responsibility to provide a small capacity to ensure this consumption is enabled.

    End of story. We keep people in their boxes with just enough food and other things to keep them alive”
    Marx, 1844:
    “The lowest and the only necessary wage rate is that providing for the subsistence of the worker for the duration of his work and as much more as is necessary for him to support a family and for the race of labourers not to die out. The ordinary wage, according to Smith, is the lowest compatible with common humanity [6], that is, with cattle-like existence.”
    The more things change, the more they stay the same.

  37. Kevin Harding: Some guy -masters did not give their slaves an income they gave them a job.

    You are probably thinking in the backwards mainstream way, not the straightforward MMT/ordinary life/intuitive way. Masters gave slaves a job, work to do – and nothing else if they wanted to give them nothing. Holders of UBI money will give the poor working fools who accept it in return for something of genuine value, their work – nothing but their UBI money, which the holders got for nothing, and which will soon be worth nothing.

    Master = UBI recipient. Slave = Poor sap who accepts this worthless paper. Still don’t see the resemblance to slavery?

    One can further distinguish two cases for clarity – (a) the UBI is not universal, but goes only to one carefully limited class, the masters, and the others, the workers can’t get it. This is a master/slave society. Oil (micro)states like Kuwait can and do such things. Not a pretty picture, but it CAN work. It is the only example of real-life “UBIs.”

    (b) the UBI goes to everyone, in which case so much money has been dumped into the economy, it very quickly becomes worth exactly what the UBIer did for it – nothing. The UBI is a daydream, nothing more. No country will ever have a working real monetary UBI, for it destroys the economy in no time. The one good thing about it that makes it better than classical welfare in one respect is the word “universal”. But the solution is a universal job offer and targetted welfare spending, not a plan to wreck the economy universally.

  38. John Doyle: Again, housework cannot be included in a UBI, because no work is included in a UBI. UBI proponents don’t agree with you, they agree with me. Saying housework is included is like saying urination (“whatever is unpaid now”) is included in the UBI and will now be part of the money economy, because even more people urinate (for themselves) than do housework for themselves; houseworkers and urinators alike will get UBI. Again, if a UBI “includes housework” it is not a UBI, but a “housework JG” – otherwise one isn’t speaking English, but arbitrarily redefining common words.

    Your point on housework as work for oneself as not being included in a JG is correct and salient though. Which is why states have not spent on that, while they most definitely have spent on a “housework for other people JG” – parents for their children especially, especially in postwar Europe for obvious reasons. That was the kind of housework I said was sensible above.

    As to slavery, that is just buffo. Same re hyperinflation.
    It is so nice of the UBI proponents to be so generous with the everyone else’s labor. No odor of a master’s generosity with slave labor? Hmmm? MMT (and any economic school whatsoever and the common wisdom of humanity) says: UBI = galloping inflation.

    The money itself is debt free There is no such thing as debt-free money, it is like talking about plant-free trees. Money is a debt. This is basic MMT, unfortunately a part that most beginners don’t understand, imho because many sources don’t explain it well or carefully.

    That the UBI causes extreme or hyper inflation: This is really, really obvious. I mean does anyone believe that the government could give a million trillion dollars to everyone and not cause inflation? If you think so, I give up.

    If the government put just one penny into the economy, or just gave one penny to everyone – there would be no visible inflation.

    So it depends on how much money. The line is unclear or indefinable (how do you define inflation?).
    But some things are clear: The JG is clearly on the side of “no inflation”, if anything it deflates. On the simplest level, it is just talking about much less money than the UBI.
    The UBI is clearly on the side of supergigantic mega-inflation, even if it only gives a few tens of thousands, rather than a million billion to everyone. That is what MMT economists and most people, (particularly the less educated, maybe Trump-voters 🙂 ) find obvious, because it IS obvious. UBIs add a gigantic amount, trillions of government spending for nothing, which in a modern economy will be leveraged into much more. Full employment, 100+% capacity usage and way, way beyond into galloping inflation in no time.

    UBI proponents are saying things that the overwhelming majority of humanity and MMT and every other school of economics thinks are “buffo” or absurd. I am just presenting the overwhelming majority opinion more pungently and crisply than usual.

  39. sorry. Again I cannot agree with you. Obviously if we ended up with hyperinflation, it would be a failure, but since the difference while substantial, also subsumes many on going expenses today, such as unemployment benefits and pensions. These will offset the difference. Spending into the economy will boost it. What I am thinking [without actual stats] is that it will not cause excess inflation. We already have an Output Gap to spend into. The White House in 2012 thought it was 1.8 Trillion dollars[ more than the entire cost of US wars since 2001]. It will be more now. There is a lot of spare capacity needing to be utilised.
    I don’t know how you can say there is no debt free money?? The source is debt free and then it is paid tp buy the debts. Always.
    Im not advocating a UBI instead of a JG, We need both.

  40. @Dingo

    “I’ve read through a lot of the authors material..its not what i want as it still involves money”

    Money isn’t evil. It’s just a medium. It allows you to get meat from the butcher when you otherwise have only music to give but he doesn’t want it. Instead, you play for those who do and they pay you with money instead of pigs or potatoes. I know you know this. I’m just pointing out the obvious so as to demonstrate that “money” isn’t the problem. And economics is really just the study of how money flows through an economy.

    What we need isn’t a change in “economics”… the economy functions how the economy functions based on the rules we impose, and MMT simply attempts to describe those flows more accurately than other theories. What we need to do is to change some of the rules. The ones that need to be changed. The ones that make the current flows of money unfair. That’s politics, not economics.

  41. @Darren,
    Thx Darren for that lesson in 101 economics and the possible solution

    I can’t believe in all these years I missed that

  42. @Darren,

    Seeing as you gave me such an invaluable lesson, I might return the favour.

    You see, economics is like a religion. One may even suggest it is the biggest religion on earth. The law defines religion as the belief in something beyond the five senses and the following of certain canons or rules to give effect to that belief. Economics and those who worship it believe in a thing called the ‘invisible hand’ and the rules to which they follow to give effect to this invisible hand are called commercial laws which they constantly change and amend through a body called the legislature.

    The object behind the invisible hand belief is that if everyone (not some of the population, but “everyone”) just pursues their own self-interests then, and only then, are they serving the social good, and people do this by ‘selling their labours’ and converting the proceeds into private property.

    This object is quite ironic, for anyone who does ‘not’ wish to ‘earn money’ as the means by which, as Emerson famously quoted’ ‘you must earn your living’, is in fact pursuing their own self-interests, but alas, those who do earn money as their means to earn a living do not like those who do not do so, and as a result try to fashion some ‘model’ by which to force these same people, who at first thought they ‘were’ pursuing their own self-interests by not selling their labours, into some activity, against their will and self-interests, for the purpose of attaining money so they can be seen to be ‘earning their living’.

    Of course, this theory completely neglects the fact that some people do not wish to earn money as their way of earning a living, but economists in worshiping their god cannot accept this and so choose not to ‘listen’ to these people.

    Further, and even more ironic, is that if one wanted to grow their own potatoes and pork, so as not to have to sell their music in order to obtain them, they have no recourse to any land by which to do it because alas, all the economists have purchased all the land and stuck ‘private property’ signs at the front, forcing all those, who just wish to return to a pre-industrial revolution type of lifestyle, into having to sell their music, instead of just giving it away for free, in order to rent said land, or worse, get into a 30 year slave style debt in order to ‘own’ said land, only to have a council tell them what colour jocks they are allowed to wear when on said land.

    But of course, telling an economist this is probably going to offend them due to a thing called a ‘buffer’ which is like some alarm where when one realizes deep down they live in a contradiction but instead of admitting it become very defensive of their actions and beliefs…just like all other religions.

  43. @Dingo,

    OK. Now I get it. You think economics is the cause of societal ills. I disagree. Neither is the existence of money. It seems you’d like to be able to return to a barter system, or self-sufficiency. OK. On some level I understand and appreciate that. But guess what. They are still “economies”. They are still described by economics. That’s all economics is… a descriptor; a measure.

    Some people (wrongly) treat economics like a religion. That doesn’t make it one. And more correctly, they’d be treating certain economic theories like a religion, not economics itself. Theories can be, and usually are, flawed. Certainly current mainstream economics theory is very flawed. MMT is an attempt to remedy some of those flaws by updating it with ideas derived from observation instead of postulation. Of course, MMT won’t be perfect either, and is also undeserving of religious status. Hell, as far as I’m concerned, nothing is deserving of religious status, including all religions.

    So while you seemingly long for a “simpler time”, even that time can be described by economics.

    Oh, and “thanks” for the sarcasm. Much appreciated. 😉

  44. Darren,

    Naturally I was going to become sarcastic, as I am only a human being and as a result I suffer from vanity which must react the moment another, by his words or conduct, implies that I am a few beers short of a six pack and therefore does not understand basic economics.

    But I do apologize because it does appear that explaining one’s intent and meaning regarding any particular subject matter by text alone and then having that intent and meaning understood as the author intended it to be understood is obviously extremely difficult, because again, based on your response, it is clear you do not ‘get’ what I was trying to convey.

    I must wonder then how any solution, to the problem of allowing individuals to choose their own paths in life without having to rely on ‘politics’, and thus extinguishing the hopes of anyone who shall not agree with my ‘political’ beliefs should I happen to be on the same side as the majority, could ever be made or had with the use of mere words.

    I shall ponder this question because if I cannot explain myself to you or anyone else, what hope have I if I ever wish to present my idea to someone who can actually help me, because they, like me, may have a similar vision.

    I have learned a lot about myself during this conversation and so thankyou (and no, this was not sarcasm).

  45. Dear Bill,

    It might be a bit late to comment on this post, but it is a particularly interesting one, which I continue to think about. Anyway, I wanted to add something to my previous comment here. The argument I laid out there was not quite right, for a couple of reasons. One error is this:

    Capital is abundant, and investment opportunities are few, so the outlay on a robot is not particularly costly for a capitalist. On the other hand, the investors get to keep 100% of the income generated, and the total return is likely to be greater even if “worker” efficiency is reduced.

    The problem is that it’s not a matter of either/or. There are ways to invest in the capital, and get the labour input for free! One example I was thinking of when I wrote my comment was transportation. Well here’s an interesting article that explains how it’s possible to just invest in a truck, skip the robot driver, and get a human driver to work (almost) for free. If this is, or becomes, commonplace it will obviously slow down the loss of jobs to AI. However, it doesn’t seem sustainable, unless some scheme like the BIG is implemented, to relieve employers of the burden of paying a living wage.

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