ZeroHedge: Universal Basic Income + Automation + Plutocracy = Dystopia

https://www.zerohedge.com/news/2019-09-08/universal-basic-income-automation-plutocracy-dystopia

“Billionaires like Jeff Bezos, Pierre Omidyar, Mark Zuckerberg, Jack Dorsey, Elon Musk, Richard Branson, Bill Gross, Tim Draper, and…Bill Gates have all been seen advocating for [UBI].”

The writer asks, then answers, “Now why would that be?”

22 thoughts on “ZeroHedge: Universal Basic Income + Automation + Plutocracy = Dystopia

  1. Well, he does paint a pretty grim picture of the future.

    Perhaps the reasoning behind the first US estate taxes makes more sense. Don’t allow the pooling of extreme wealth among a handful and their descendants.

    Before death, use taxation to redistribute a portion while the average wage earners still have a modicum of political power. And before the reason for labor evaporates. Taxes to use for healthcare, education, affordable housing and decent nutrition for those at the margins.

    Allow enough wealth to provide incentives for innovation, but not enough to amass so much power and isolation from society as to control the nation like a computer game.

    We had marginal tax rates of 90%+ before on top incomes. Our economy was humming along nicely and innovation was still strong. Loopholes were a bit over the top, but the rich were still with us.

    I sort of agree with your link when he says:

    “If humanity is to learn to collaborate in a healthy way with the ecosystem in which we evolved, a lot more of us are going to have to start doing a lot less. We’re going to have to stop using up energy driving to jobs the world doesn’t need to produce crap you have to propagandize people into believing they want so they’ll spend money on it and then throw it in the landfill. That’s obviously an insane way for an increasingly technologically advanced species to continue to function, and one way or another we are going to have to start doing a lot more nothing quite soon.“

    Freedom to innovate does produce a lot of crap as well as great things. But there is a limit. There is an old joke about an infinite number of monkeys pounding on an infinite number of typewriters producing all the great books. We should do better than monkeys. And our planet would thank us by staying livable longer.

    Thanks for the link. It does provide a bit of fodder for discussion.

    And it’s not about Trump.

    I know. I bring him up often myself. But even I need a break.

    Liked by 3 people

      1. But it it might be up to the voters to determine how much power a person or groups of persons can acquire and wield just by virtue of wealth alone.

        And in our system of of governance and our economic structure of capitalism wealth is power.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Of course it is not up to Len. However, it is up to our Constitutional legal and political processes to decide on tax rates and methods. Higher tax rates are Constitutional. Higher inheritance tax rates are Constitutional. Get over it.

        Liked by 2 people

      3. Sure it is. That’s the whole idea behind government and society. If you benefit from it, you support it. If that means a 100% estate tax so be it, or you can cash out, pay the long term capital gains tax on the whole and leave for… UAE — they appreciate wealth.

        Pooling money, like pooling water, breeds disease.

        Trump is doing an excellent job of draining the swamp directly into his accounts.

        Liked by 4 people

    1. The Brits had a plan for Ireland that worked beautifully. After burning the castles, Protestant estates passed to the eldest male child. Catholic estates were divided equally among the heirs.

      The quickest, least painful way to bolster the middle class is set an appropriate tax for estates over a certain size. The $675K was way too low. Something on the order of $5M passing tax free, and the enforcement of a reasonable Generational Skipping Tax, and cleaning up Trust law would resolve the problem nicely.

      Liked by 3 people

  2. I’m not in favor of taking wealth from the wealthy. The main reason? I know of no theory in economics, political science or moral philosophy that would justify doing so.

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    1. “I know of no theory in economics, political science or moral philosophy . . .”

      The economics are clear. Moving money to people with a higher propensity to spend would have an important stimulative effect.

      Political science – History demonstrates that concentration of wealth in too few hands leads to catastrophe.

      Moral philosophy – Try the New Testament.

      Like

    2. RE: “The economics are clear. Moving money to people with a higher propensity to spend would have an important stimulative effect.”

      The wealthy spend more money than the poor. If you want stimulus, let the rich keep their money.

      RE: “Political science – History demonstrates that concentration of wealth in too few hands leads to catastrophe.”

      Marxist history does that, but unconvincingly, in my view. Be that as it may, a peculiar feature of the modern world is that wealth is vastly more widespread among the populations of humanity, and more obtainable for the masses, than it has ever been.

      RE: “Moral philosophy – Try the New Testament.”

      There’s nothing in the Bible to justify taking wealth from the wealthy.

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      1. “The wealthy spend more than the poor. . .”
        This rebuttal simply illustrates your apparent ignorance of an elementary economic concept – the marginal propensity to spend. A poor person who gets a dollar is FAR more likely to spend it than the wealthy person who gets that same dollar.

        Marxist history? There is nothing Marxist about the history of societies collapsing from too much concentration of wealth. It just is. French Revolution, Russian Revolution and the collapse of the Soviet state are obvious examples.

        As for the New Testament, there are many interrelated ideas about the morality of the wealthy contributing to the welfare of the poor . . .
        Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
        Give ALL of what you have to the poor and follow me.
        Attacking the Temple money lenders
        Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s.

        For the record, Jesus and, for that matter, the early Christians lived a pure communist way of life. Jesus and the twelve Apostles were literally a commune. Everything they had, they shared. Capitalism tries to wrap itself in Christian ideas – major fail.

        Like

      2. RE: “your apparent ignorance of an elementary economic concept – the marginal propensity to spend.”

        You need to go back to your economics book. The next dollar of disposable income has no relevance to my comment: The rich have more disposable income than the poor, period, both current and future. That’s the point.

        RE: “French Revolution, Russian Revolution and the collapse of the Soviet state are obvious examples.”

        That’s three out of thousands. Also, notably, three that Marxists particularly make an issue of.

        RE: “As for the New Testament, there are many interrelated ideas about the morality of the wealthy contributing to the welfare of the poor…”

        So you say, but there is no instance of support for taking wealth away from anyone, rich or poor. None of the examples you cite promotes such an idea.

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        1. “You need to go back to your economics book. . .”

          No, I do not. You really ought to learn that when I offer you a correction I know what I am talking about – at least most of the time. That is your cue to re-read the thread and THINK.

          To recap this exchange I wrote . . .

          You wrote that you were against taking money from the wealthy because there was not economic justification in any theory you know of.

          I gave you a very clear and accurate economic justification . . .

          “The economics are clear. Moving money to people with a higher propensity to spend would have an important stimulative effect.”

          Your attempt at a rebuttal was a total whiff. You said . . .
          “The wealthy spend more money than the poor.”
          That may or may not be true but it is not relevant. We are talking about MOVING money from the wealthy to the poor. More of THAT money WILL be spent because the poor have a much higher propensity to spend that the wealthy. With more of THAT money being spent instead sitting in some hedge fund somewhere the economy will enjoy greater demand and that is a good thing. It is people with needs and desires and money they are willing to spend who are the “job creators.”

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        2. RE: “More of THAT money WILL be spent because the poor have a much higher propensity to spend that the wealthy.”

          You mean, if we make the poor wealthy, the newly wealthy will have a higher propensity to spend their disposable income than the original wealthy?

          Or do you mean, if we make the poor wealthier, but not rich, they will be more induced to spend their expanded disposable income than the rich would be with any disposable income they retained?

          Either way your point is absurd. The aggregate spending of the poor will never equal the aggregate spending of the rich.

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          1. @Roberts

            “Either way your point is absurd.”

            What is absurd is thinking that it is possible to have a serious discussion with you on almost any topic. It is a simple fact that the poor receiving a dollar are more likely to spend it then the wealthy. A UBI financed by higher taxes at the top would be stimulative. This is non-controversial. And yet you manage to go round and round in clueless circles rather than just think like an educated adult.

            Good night and good luck.

            Like

  3. Here’s an argument in basic economics which should make Universal Basic Income (UBI) unthinkable.

    1. Money is worthless without goods.
    2. UBI would trade money for no goods.

    3. Therefore UBI would make money worthless.

    There are some who support UBI despite the devaluation of money it would cause. They note that automation and robotics will make goods cheaper (worth less). Trading worthless money for worthless goods makes sense to them.

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    1. Basic economics is not good enough if the concept of labor for exchange of goods and services is no longer possible. That is the argument for UBI in the face of automation and ensuing layoffs.

      From CEO’s down to janitors, government employee to Uber driver, hedge fund managers to poets, compensation for labor, is the core of economics. It is the basis of free markets and capitalism.

      Here is an irrefutable fact, however. Humans need food and shelter every day. They can’t wait for various economic theories and adjustments to play out.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. “UBI would trade money for no goods?”

      Uh, no.

      UBI would replace a dog’s breakfast of support programs such as food stamps, ADC, rent subsidies, ACA subsidies etc. Such programs are bound to keep growing as the value of human labor decreases. UBI is far easier to administer and creates more freedom for the recipients.

      Also, UBI does not come from printed money – though in a less than full employment economy it could without ill effect. It would come from a return to historical tax rates on those at the top. Same amount of money but in different hands. Moving money from those who would sit on it to those who would spend it stimulates the economy and MORE goods would be the result.

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      1. RE: “UBI would replace a dog’s breakfast of support programs such as food stamps, ADC, rent subsidies, ACA subsidies etc.”

        All those entitlement programs trade money for no goods. UBI might be more efficient, but the economics are the same.

        RE: “UBI does not come from printed money”

        It doesn’t have to. The exchange of existing money for no goods causes devaluation in its own right. To see how, just imagine spending all the world’s money on all the world’s heroin. Fundamentally, no good would come of it. The value of all the world’s money will have been wasted.

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        1. “… entitlement programs trade money for no goods.”
          Those entitlement programs make it possible for the people who receive them to produce goods that they would not be willing or able to do without them. Your perception is simply wrong-headed. But even so, if UBI replaces those programs then our money is neither more nor less valued than it is now.

          “The exchange of existing money for no goods causes devaluation”
          Obviously not true. If you give me $1,000 it does not change the value of the money. If a billionaire gives each of 1,000 people $1 million it does not change the value of the money. If the government taxes that billionaire and passes it around as UBI that does not change the value of the money either.

          Your example of heroin makes no sense of any kind. If everybody took all their money and bought heroin the money does not disappear. Whoever was selling it now has the money and will spend it on something.

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        2. RE: “Obviously not true.”

          It’s true. Economic activity is a continuum of production and consuption. When money doesn’t fund production, (or consumption that supports production) there are fewer goods to consume.

          Sure, one or a few exchanges of money for no goods may not register in the totality of the economy at large. But notice in the heroin example: If all the money in the world traded for all the herion, and all the workers became non-producing addicts, the pusher who sold the dope might have all the money, but there would be no goods to spend it on.

          Like

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