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Author Topic: Newsweek reports on Basic Income
Adam Masterman
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Finally some mainstream discussion of an idea that's both obvious and inevitable: Basic Income.

quote:
Some might see it as radical, but advocates, both libertarian and liberal, are suggesting straight up cash: a guaranteed subsidy to everyone. "We've got to a technological level now where no one needs to work the traditional 40-hour week," says Barbara Jacobson, chair of Unconditional Basic Income–Europe, an alliance of European citizens and organizations that advocate for such subsidies. But while productivity per hour across developing nations has increased dramatically since the 1970s, “this has not meant a rise in wages, or a fall in hours without a pay cut,” says Jacobson. And on top of that, she adds, there is a significant amount of “crucial work, generally caring work, which isn't paid for, but without which society would collapse.” The people doing this type of work—parenting and elder care, for example—often end up broke; if you are a single parent, it’s often not feasible to hold a traditional, wage-paying job while also taking care of three kids and your mother who has Alzheimer’s.


I'd force every american to take economics 101 if it would hasten this reform.
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Fenring
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I am so in favor of this you have no idea. Why, I'd even give up my regular income if it meant getting a...guaranteed regular income. Ok, wait, let me try again - don't make me go back to the office! Damn, I keep saying the wrong thing.

But, no, seriously, this must happen one way or another in the near future or else the economic system as we know it will simply fail bit by bit. There isn't enough work in America for 150 million people to do, and soon robots will make most work obsolete anyhow. 40 hour weeks to make one's living will no longer be viable.

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Gaoics79
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The question I have (which is not rhetorical) is how does something like this work in terms of inflation? Would the massive infusion of government money into the population not trigger inflationary forces?

Also, wouldn't this trigger a steep decline in productivity, thereby shrinking the very tax base the government would need to fund the ever increasing entitlement?

Also, has this been tried anywhere before?

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Adam Masterman
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quote:
Originally posted by jasonr:
The question I have (which is not rhetorical) is how does something like this work in terms of inflation? Would the massive infusion of government money into the population not trigger inflationary forces?

The answers are all in the article, but, in brief:

$15,000 per family in the U.S. would cost *less* than all current welfare and aid programs combined. So there wouldn't be any influx. Even $20,000 per family would be almost negligible; it would still cost less if we exempted families making 6 figures.

quote:

Also, wouldn't this trigger a steep decline in productivity, thereby shrinking the very tax base the government would need to fund the ever increasing entitlement?

Also, has this been tried anywhere before?

Its been piloted in many communities and states around the world. and it does not cause a decline in productivity:

quote:
But analysis of pilot programs in which basic income was provided to communities in the U.S. and Canada suggest that it plays out differently than opponents suggest. In those programs, the overall reduction in working hours among those given basic income was extremely low. And the only participants who stopped working fit neatly into one of two distinct demographics: new mothers, and teenagers who had previously been working while attending high school—neither of which are representative of the broader population
Also important to note that we currently have a labor *surplus*, which is likely to continue to grow over the decades. Low productivity is the opposite of the problem; we are entering an era where there isn't enough work to be done for people to survive if income is tied to labor.
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Fenring
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Not only that, but guaranteed income for all families will actually create disposable income for many, which will likely have the effect of giving a kickstart back to the economy. Spending would naturally increase as people who were barely affording necessities before working at McDonalds might now have a few extra bucks to spend on either investment or on consumables.

There are also 'tricks' that can be employed to mess with the value of money if it were so desired, which include managing inflation and even creating deflation if the need ever arose. The plus side of having the Fed system is that although it has in the past been used for taking advantage of the people, it could just as soon be put to use in helping to manage a new system such as this.

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Pyrtolin
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quote:
Originally posted by jasonr:
The question I have (which is not rhetorical) is how does something like this work in terms of inflation? Would the massive infusion of government money into the population not trigger inflationary forces?


No- because we have so much productive slack and unemployment that inflation is nowhere near being a danger, and that's even in light of active push back against automation that could be implemented in the name of protecting jobs.

As one basic example- Walmart pays many of its employees so little that they're forced to use food banks to get by. Where does much of that food come from? Walmart donates food that it hasn't sold that's close to expiring to recoup the costs in the form of tax write-offs. Basic income would mean that people were buying the food instead of forcing it to be donated- a benefit on both sides- better revenue and fewer losses for product sellers, and more choice and control for people who need the products (as well as not being subjected to a system that society choose to cast and operate as a tool for degradation and shame)

What's more, inflationary pressure comes from the top end- people with excess money bidding up real estate prices and other limited or non-producible resources. Since more can't be produced to chase additional income, prices rise, and get passed down the chain. The amount of increase wouldn't represent a significant changes in the amount of money they have to

quote:
Also, wouldn't this trigger a steep decline in productivity, thereby shrinking the very tax base the government would need to fund the ever increasing entitlement?

It would push a significant increase in productivity, since more customers means more demand for product, and thus more jobs for people looking to make additional income. IT would also make entrepreneurship a much more viable alternative for the average person- giving them the backstop necessary to be able to afford to try to start their own enterprise instead of making it such a dangerous proposition that most people can't afford to even try, never mind survive the chain of failures that are generally involved before something takes hold and becomes self-sustaining.

Unless you're currently happy working the least amount possible to just afford the least necessary to get by and stay healthy, the notion that being provided with just that bare amount will suddenly make everyone happy to be poor is pretty absurd.

Everywhere this has been tested, productivity and health improved significantly. They only people that worked less were students and new mothers.

quote:

Also, has this been tried anywhere before?

Manitoba:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mincome
http://basicincome.org.uk/2013/08/health-forget-mincome-poverty/

Namibia - Otjivero-Omitara:
http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/a-new-approach-to-aid-how-a-basic-income-program-saved-a-namibian-village-a-642310.html

India:
http://binews.org/2012/09/india-basic-income-pilot-project-finds-positive-results/
http://mondediplo.com/2013/05/04income

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Pyrtolin
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quote:
Originally posted by Fenring:
I am so in favor of this you have no idea. Why, I'd even give up my regular income if it meant getting a...guaranteed regular income. Ok, wait, let me try again - don't make me go back to the office! Damn, I keep saying the wrong thing.

To pull out one point that's raised in in your joking here- proper implementation would be to make it unconditional. First of all to save bureaucratic costs and to render moot the notion of trying to defraud the system by misreporting income, and also to ensure that there there isn't any point where a downward curve due to phaseout makes each next dollar of earned income less valuable for any point on the pay scale.
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Fenring
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Indeed, and not only would there be no fraud, but would have the opposite effect of the current pathetic welfare system we have now. Welfare is constructed with a deterrent mechanic, whereby getting work means you lose welfare; a conflict of interest for the individual collecting. If the prospective job isn't good enough it pays better to collect welfare and live with your family, and this is to say nothing of people who live as a group, all collecting welfare, and can't ever work unless it's under the table because it would mess up their system.

With this new theoretical system, if the payment was guaranteed no matter what it would not only cease discouraging looking for work, but would also provide a good baseline to be supplemented with a job that could lead to a very reasonable net income. And for anyone enterprising the guaranteed income could increase chances of ownership or entrepreneurship.

EDIT: But for those who really just don't want to work, they would no longer have to. There are already plenty of fake jobs around where no real productive work is done, that only exist because people had to invent ways to earn a living in a 40 hour week system. Foot dragging and fake jobs could become a thing of the past when those who really hate working could opt to live a frugal life of leisure, and for those who want a good income this will make it possible for them to live well even if the job they find isn't great.

[ December 19, 2014, 10:52 AM: Message edited by: Fenring ]

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NobleHunter
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I wonder if assorted interests would use free trade agreements to attack this as government subsidies of industry. I would expect higher quality employers to cut salaries by an equivalent amount, at least where the job has sufficient other incentives to keep people working.
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Gaoics79
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quote:
Unless you're currently happy working the least amount possible to just afford the least necessary to get by and stay healthy, the notion that being provided with just that bare amount will suddenly make everyone happy to be poor is pretty absurd.
Well I agree with this to an extent - but I caution you about using an educated middle class professional or equivalent and extrapolating this to the whole population.

In point of fact, I routinely (daily) deal with people who are content to not work and subsist on minimal incomes approximately in line with this.

Admittedly, I couldn't tell you if this segment of the population is going to get bigger or smaller or just stay the same if we transitioned from welfare to a guaranteed minimum income.

quote:
Its been piloted in many communities and states around the world. and it does not cause a decline in productivity:
Would these be rural communities? Urban communities? People already in social housing or people already employed? Middle class? Working class?
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kmbboots
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quote:
Originally posted by Fenring:
Foot dragging and fake jobs could become a thing of the past when those who really hate working could opt to live a frugal life of leisure, and for those who want a good income this will make it possible for them to live well even if the job they find isn't great.

Or a frugal life of creating things that we don't usually pay a living wage for - art, music, child care, volunteering, gardening - whatever. Not having to put in 40 hours a week just to make the rent doesn't necessarily mean people will spend that 40 hours sitting on the sofa watching crap TV.
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NobleHunter
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jasonr, that bit about the middle class gets at the heart of why I'd like to see more and bigger pilot projects. I know I get bored enough to go to work after a week or two of idleness (or sometimes just a weekend), but I don't know how far it can be extrapolated.

Of course, it also depends on why people are choosing not to work. Is it laziness? Despair at the futility of trying to get beyond dirt poor? Worry that if they try and fail, they'll lose the meager benefits they have now? Lack of a opportunity? All of the reasons could be affected in different ways by a basic income guarantee.

It puts me in mind of my favorite imperial motto: let's see what happens.

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Fenring
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quote:
Originally posted by kmbboots:
quote:
Originally posted by Fenring:
Foot dragging and fake jobs could become a thing of the past when those who really hate working could opt to live a frugal life of leisure, and for those who want a good income this will make it possible for them to live well even if the job they find isn't great.

Or a frugal life of creating things that we don't usually pay a living wage for - art, music, child care, volunteering, gardening - whatever. Not having to put in 40 hours a week just to make the rent doesn't necessarily mean people will spend that 40 hours sitting on the sofa watching crap TV.
You're absolutely right, and one of the worst ills of our times (in my biased perspective as an artist) is that art has become either a luxury activity or else something that to pursue has to be understood as almost universally leading to permanent poverty.

I also think that other areas would catch people's interest too if they had the time, such as reading for leisure, participating in local politics, volunteer work, and I also imagine sports leagues would see an upturn of activity.

All of this would be good, and who knows what other good things would result as well. I see the scenario as win/win from every possible angle, to say nothing of the fact that not adopting a system like this would imply waiting around for a crisis to happen and force a change.

PS for anyone who's read the book, this type of economic shift was suggested in a humorous but brilliant book called The Illuminatus! Trilogy by Robert Anton Wilson back in the 70's.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Illuminatus!_Trilogy

It's either this one or its sequel which mentions offhand how obvious a move this would be to take.

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PSRT
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Heck, we almost did this when Nixon was preisdent, so the idea has been kicking around for a while
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Pyrtolin
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The EITC is kind of a hacked version of it, but that plays into the the fundamental part of how our system is fragmented, overly paternalistic and at times regressive because of the complexity and, at best moralistic arguments used to undermine it (if not outright intent to keep people poor enough to be exploitable for artificially cheap labor and easier to manipulate)
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kmbboots
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Heinlein explored the idea of Social Credit in For Us the Living.
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Pyrtolin
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Also, another feature that will deflect direct inflation and shift the overall employment market is that the demand for goods at higher quality points will tend to increase when people have enough money that they're free to shop for better net value in their purchases and are no longer forced to sacrifice quality/durability for the lowest short-term price. Essentially in inverse of the Sam Vimes's Boots issue. More producers will be able to get into the market even if they can't match rock bottom pricing because more people will be in a position to pay up for other forms of value that come bundled into the product- be it durability, personal customization, brand identification, local access to support, etc... Anything other than cheap that a given consumer assigns value to as part of the product that they're considering.
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DJQuag
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I'm in favor of a universal minimum income, but I have to add this.

I've lived in the UK for just over a year, and I currently am employed in a former mill town that is absolutely full of people who live off of government unemployment benefits.

They get by just fine. They feel no shame. They have no motivation. Their grandparents were unemployed and lived off the state, their parents were, and they've been raised to believe that that is the way to live.

That's not BAD, necessarily, but it can not be denied that if such a thing were to be implemented, that there would be entire sections of the population that would fall into such a hole. Poverty is undeniably generational, and being okay with living on the bare minimum and just sitting around the house all day is also something that can be learned from your parents.

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Fenring
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DJQuag, this may be a difficult point to address in such a short space, but I think it might be hard to tell what people would do with themselves if they could do anything they felt like. Are we so sure that 'hanging around, living' is undesirable? Since many of us are busy spending much of our time working and the majority of the rest of it consuming our income in one way or another, a state of rest, by comparison, might seem 'boring' or lacking liveliness. And yet there may be something to 'gentle repose' that might just improve how humans relate to each other. Although it's somewhat outdated, I think the terms "rat race" is still a fair description of much of working life.

But on a separate note, I suspect that plenty of people would keep busy in various ways, with city dwellers obviously having more options in ways to spend time than occupants of small towns or villages.

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Pyrtolin
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quote:
being okay with living on the bare minimum and just sitting around the house all day is also something that can be learned from your parents.
By that do you mean that none of them do anything that they consider productive at all? No personal projects, no artists, no public service or personal educational activities? Not even any cat macros?

Its undeniable that there would be people who eschew marketable activities or employment- but casting that as nothing isn't quite accurate either. (Also, is there any level of out migration- kids and people who are more productive moving to areas closer to where they have better access to resources they find useful, leaving behind just those that are stuck in low gear?

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Seneca
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quote:
That's not BAD, necessarily,
It IS necessarily bad.
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Pyrtolin
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(It may seep a bit flippant to bring up cat macros, but I think they actually present a very interesting study in a kind of good that, by consumption levels is actaully in very high demand, and has creates a pretty impressive market place based on social currency instead of state issued currency.

From there they also help to make an interesting case that, for all the hype that Bitcoin gets, Dogecoin is actually more effective as money/currency and has created a far more active and higher volume market. It also has a baseline issuance policy that means it won't self-destruct, they way the Bitcoin is effectively designed to do because it doesn't have the same ultimate limit on issuance.)

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Pyrtolin
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quote:
Originally posted by Seneca:
quote:
That's not BAD, necessarily,
It IS necessarily bad.
It's bad for people that want to use public policy and the threat of poverty as tools for paternalistic control over others, certainly.

For those that value freedom, though, it's good, because it allows people full freedom to chose how they want to engage with life instead of having so suck up to authoritarians who'd rather dictate their behavoir.

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Seneca
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quote:
Originally posted by Pyrtolin:
quote:
Originally posted by Seneca:
quote:
That's not BAD, necessarily,
It IS necessarily bad.
It's bad for people that want to use public policy and the threat of poverty as tools for paternalistic control over others, certainly.

For those that value freedom, though, it's good, because it allows people full freedom to chose how they want to engage with life instead of having so suck up to authoritarians who'd rather dictate their behavoir.

The only "control" is taking from those who work hard to give to others who don't want to work. Freedom means you are free to succeed or free to fail, but we should not be slaves to each other (or more appropriately: slaves to our lowest achievers).
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Pyrtolin
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quote:
The only "control" is taking from those who work hard to give to others who don't want to work.
Nothings being taken from anyone though. This system makes those who work get rewarded more for their efforts, because it increases the total amount of reward that's possible to collect in the first place and the freedom of more people to assign those rewards. (And, by the nature of replacing a number of federal programs with tighter restrictions) it reduces the degree to which individuals choose who is rewards for their efforts and lowers the degree to which central policy allocates those rewards.
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Seneca
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quote:
Originally posted by Pyrtolin:
quote:
The only "control" is taking from those who work hard to give to others who don't want to work.
Nothings being taken from anyone though. This system makes those who work get rewarded more for their efforts, because it increases the total amount of reward that's possible to collect in the first place and the freedom of more people to assign those rewards. (And, by the nature of replacing a number of federal programs with tighter restrictions) it reduces the degree to which individuals choose who is rewards for their efforts and lowers the degree to which central policy allocates those rewards.
Yes, I know that is the faulty economic theory put forth by the "New Monetarists" who don't believe flooding the economy with new currency will raise inflation. Fortunately for us history tells us otherwise so we don't need to engage in a giant train wreck of an experiment in proving that is a dumb idea yet again.
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Pyrtolin
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quote:
Yes, I know that is the faulty economic theory put forth by the "New Monetarists" who don't believe flooding the economy with new currency will raise inflation.
Because it doesn't. The reasons why were even covered above

quote:
Fortunately for us history tells us otherwise so we don't need to engage in a giant train wreck of an experiment in proving that is a dumb idea yet again.
It has shown no such thing. IN fact, where it's been tried it has succeeded until, in some cases, shut down for its success (See: the Worgl Shilling)

There are places where flooding the market with currency has been used as a _response_ to rapidly rising prices. That fails miserably, to be sure. But that's because the problems were resource constraints which is not the situation we have at hand. You can't buy your way out of a shortage of resources. You can buy your way out of a shortage of consumption, and US poverty is rooted directly in an extreme shortage of consumption in the face of overwhelming excess.

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The Drake
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I SWEAR BY MY LIFE AND MY LOVE OF IT THAT I WILL NEVER LIVE FOR THE SAKE OF ANOTHER MAN, NOR ASK ANOTHER MAN TO LIVE FOR MINE.

A human being deserves value only when they can create value. The end of the agrarian age left people wondering if there would be enough work for all the people. The industrial age left people wondering what all the crafters and artisans would do for a living. Every technological advancement frees people to do something more fulfilling, and when robots do all the oil changes, burger flipping, bus driving, telemarketing, and shelf stocking - people will find something else to do for a living.

Trading value for value. Figure out what other people want, and satisfy that need.

I think I like that better than to split our society into Eloi who wander about devoid of any need, and the Morlocks who actually make the world function.

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Pyrtolin
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quote:
Figure out what other people want, and satisfy that need.
Sure. An the ability to do that requires a certain baseline level of income so that you can feed yourself, educate yourself,keep yourself healthy enough, and afford the resource to invest in that process. Deny people that basic starting point and you actively prevent them from being able to find value to create, instead enslaving them to others who will effectively give them just enough to keep them alive and take the balance of whatever their efforts produce. Even economists as conservative as Hayek got the fact that poverty is effectively slavery, and freedom can't exist where it's allowed to trap people.
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Seneca
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So tired of always hearing how the "perfect system" has never been done and that every time you bring up the failures of previous systems the proponents just say "oh, they weren't doing it right." That's what the socialists and communists always say, and if we follow this dumb idea of basic income and when it inevitably fails they'll just say how we weren't doing it right. Enough is enough! Experiment elsewhere, and when you finally have it right and it works as planned then maybe we'll take a look, ok?
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JoshuaD
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What they're proposing is really just a different tax structure. It's not a huge overhaul of the system; they're not proposing communal ownership of property or huge federal oversight (well, maybe they are, but not linked to this point).

Why is a 5% or 10% or 15% or 20% tax the right number? Why not 0%, or -5%?

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Seneca
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No, it's not a different tax structure. It is destroying the value of what one person has and giving value to a different person who didn't work for it.
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JoshCrow
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quote:
Originally posted by Seneca:
No, it's not a different tax structure. It is destroying the value of what one person has and giving value to a different person who didn't work for it.

Err... that's welfare. That's what we have now, which devalues work directly. I see plenty to like in this proposal for an open-minded conservative. In this model, working is always monetarily superior to not working, but is never *necessary*.

This proposal is far superior for countries with sufficient labor surplus and resources to make it possible. I'm not sure you're attacking it at the right angle: service jobs, which I think would take a hit in this system. I suspect that any transition to this system would require a long readjustment phase whereby "crappy but necessary" jobs would have to be much more strongly incentivized than they are now.

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Gaoics79
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Is there a country that has done this experiment?
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PSRT
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Seems to work very well in Alaska.
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PSRT
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quote:
A human being deserves value only when they can create value.
Even if we grant this premise, which I'm not sure is a premise many people actually hold fully, the question is "What is value?" OUr current economy does not value a lot of things that create value. For example, people who raise their families are not compensated for the value of what they are doing. Social workers are so far under paid that they might as well be slaves. On the other hand, our current economy ridiculously overvalues people who either contribute almost nothing to the economy, or actively do harm. And, our current economy does not ensure that everyone has an opportunity to find what they can create that has value.

The baseline income would help alleviate all of those structural problems with our economy, and bring it further into line with the quoted stated.

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Fenring
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quote:
Originally posted by Seneca:
No, it's not a different tax structure. It is destroying the value of what one person has and giving value to a different person who didn't work for it.

I might agree with this Randian concept if most people were actually involved in production and development and some people began to benefit from the superior productivity of others. But the fact is that very little production of any kind happens in America any more, and most jobs are in either the service sector, financial sector, or specialist sectors. The service sector, while involving work, doesn`t involve creation of value, and the financial sector, in my opinion, is a complete systemic leech that is also responsible for outrageous abuses of the public.

But regarding specialists (including scientists, professionals, teachers, etc) it would be quite simple to see that they`ll always be in demand and the market will reward them accordingly even if the system were modified in the way being suggested. At the moment certain jobs that are absolutely needed (including teachers) are not given much monetary value at all, and if anything the congruence between a job really being valued and remuneration for it being reasonable would improve greatly if `fake jobs` and unproductive work were eliminated due to certain people not having to earn a living anymore.

I think, therefore, it`s at least my contention that many people who do serious work would not be supporting others, but rather would actually be seeing superior rewards for what they do compared to now (with certain exceptions like doctors who often already do see excellent rewards).

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Pyrtolin
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quote:
Originally posted by jasonr:
Is there a country that has done this experiment?

India has experimented on a larger scale than most and is currently in the process of expanding the program sure to very clear success.
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Pyrtolin
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quote:
Originally posted by Seneca:
No, it's not a different tax structure. It is destroying the value of what one person has and giving value to a different person who didn't work for it.

That doesn't even begin to make sense. Nothing about this proposal changes any characteristics of things that impart value. Food would still be just as nutritious. Clothes would still be wearable. Cars would still be drivable. Asserting more people to but things and making more things to be bought doesn't have the value of those things, it just means that there's more net value to go around and more reward to be gained for creating it.
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Seneca
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quote:
Originally posted by Pyrtolin:
quote:
Originally posted by Seneca:
No, it's not a different tax structure. It is destroying the value of what one person has and giving value to a different person who didn't work for it.

That doesn't even begin to make sense. Nothing about this proposal changes any characteristics of things that impart value. Food would still be just as nutritious. Clothes would still be wearable. Cars would still be drivable. Asserting more people to but things and making more things to be bought doesn't have the value of those things, it just means that there's more net value to go around and more reward to be gained for creating it.
The supply of goods and services doesn't magically increase the moment all this cash is handed out to everyone. Nice try.
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