Socialize Finance
December 6, 2016 12:06 AM   Subscribe

The economic geography of a universal basic income - "An underdiscussed virtue of a universal basic income is that it would counter geographic inequality even more powerfully than it blunts conventional income inequality. By a 'universal basic income', I mean the simple policy of having the Federal government cut periodic checks of identical dollar amounts to every adult citizen, wherever they may live. Importantly, a universal basic income would not be calibrated to the local cost of living. Residents of Manhattan would receive the same dollar amount as residents of Cleveland. But a dollar in Cleveland stretches much farther than the same dollar in Manhattan..."
At the margin, for those willing to let economics guide their choice of home, UBI would shift demand from expensive capitals to cheaper mid-sized cities, and take some of the pressure off of powerhouse city housing markets. A UBI would tilt the residential playing field towards a country with lots of vibrant, geographically dispersed cities rather than a few 'closed-access' capitals.
also btw...
posted by kliuless (52 comments total) 56 users marked this as a favorite
 
Nice plans but feel anything of this sort will be on hold until 2020.
posted by skepticallypleased at 1:46 AM on December 6, 2016 [5 favorites]


Given that the average CEO's goal (production or service industry) is to automate all the employees out of existence, a UBI becomes necessary in order to have a continued customer base. Of course, for this dystopian ideal to come to pass, we need to tax corporations* ... as if that's going to happen.
posted by oheso at 2:11 AM on December 6, 2016 [7 favorites]


* Or we can just print the hell out of the currency.

(I know, I know ... but I'm pointing up how this goes right to the heart of what value is, fuck currency.)
posted by oheso at 2:14 AM on December 6, 2016 [2 favorites]


I'm not even close to expert on these matters, so I'm willing to be open-minded about this, but I'm not convinced a UBI won't just end up facilitating rent increases in areas with tighter housing markets, won't be used as a way to cut off social safety nets or diminish them considerably, and would just translate into extra income for use no matter where one lives rather than simply moving the base up, roughly leaving things as they are in regards to social stratification and people in need.

I mean it sounds good in theory, but a lot of people aren't good with money and a lot of people are good at grifting or finding ways to profit from others' gains, so I'm remain cautious about the concept being any sort of grand cure.
posted by gusottertrout at 2:57 AM on December 6, 2016 [16 favorites]


I think it's hard to predict what UBI would accomplish. A world in which the US passes something like UBI would very different, politically. We would probably have more ability to pass progressive housing regulations, for example.

I don't think it's fair to evaluate whether UBI is a "good" thing against the backdrop of the mainly regressive social and economic policies we have now, except in the context of evaluating what kinds of policy changes would be needed (or not) to make it work. Although, some people think it would work anyway, so there's that.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 3:18 AM on December 6, 2016 [11 favorites]


Yeah, my worry isn't that nothing is needed, UBI might be the best we can hope for at this point. It's more that it seems like another "the market is rational" solution when I don't think that's the case. It's not like I have a better alternative in mind, more that I'm wanting to put on the brakes a bit against the more optimistic predictions about the idea, and about the likelihood of enacting a host of other protective policies along with it since that doesn't seem to fit how our system has behaved very well either.
posted by gusottertrout at 3:29 AM on December 6, 2016 [5 favorites]


Universal is such a poor qualifier for any US policy, but I grok its import is unabridged inclusion. Yet, Britain and America invented the transnational corporation and a half century of moral wars (to crib Vonnegut) and another half of more dubious conflict was spent summoning the promise of global interdependency.

Speaking to a US universal income is, on some ways, a sort of nationalism and when its contexts include yet another business periodical's cursory reportage of China, a tint of isolationism.

Many MeFites enjoyed Hans Rosling's optimistic indices and graphic presentations beginning in 2006. For me, its appeal was a global view of income and a rational contradiction to the frame of Malthusian catastrophe.

What supports Rosling's findings to this day is the scale of consumer economies and what limits it are carbon emissions and footprints.

Transnationals, and their capitalization, pursue consumers and labor...period. Taxation is their only meaningful regulation and its externalities inevitably result in frequent human catastrophes, but they will expand because...

85% of the world population lives in the driest half of the planet. 783 million people do not have access to clean water and almost 2.5 billion do not have access to adequate sanitation. 6 to 8 million people die annually from the consequences of disasters and water-related diseases.

Much of the world aches to enter the developed world of choice, comfort, and convenience.

Yet the developed world abides a tolerance of statistical and collateral tragedy-- Between the years 1966 to 1981, yearly US traffic fatalities approached fifty-thousand-- that's off by only 10 percent of total US deaths in Viet Nam. That's how brutal western economic models are, yet their expansion is prevalent.

The degree of convergence of commodity, stock, and currency markets achieved in this day, a working model of interdependency, is unprecedented.

If memory serves, Obama asked Steve Jobs about FoxConn when he first took office, about moving some of those jobs back to the US. Jobs' reply was: Those jobs are never coming back. John Bowe's 2008 book Nobodies (despite a subtitle meant to appeal to liberals) was a wonderful primer in what Jobs meant.

That question, about what 5 or 6 or 3 things one would choose if stranded on a deserted island, about what one believes is necessary?

There's no more complex scenario on Earth than what's necessary.
posted by lazycomputerkids at 3:43 AM on December 6, 2016 [8 favorites]


There's no more complex scenario on Earth than what's necessary.

Which is, unfortunately, always constrained by what's possible, what's likely, and what are the effects on me and my immediate surroundings, which makes dealing with the necessary almost impossibly complicated.
posted by gusottertrout at 4:03 AM on December 6, 2016 [2 favorites]


I feel like something like UBI is inevitable but we'll end up getting the most miserable version of it possible.

Like it will be like food stamps, vouchers for services and products not cash, not automatic, full of morality clauses and restrictions, woefully below need, and you'll prohibit have to supply some unpaid labor to get it. on and some kind of middleman to suck up most of the gains.
posted by The Whelk at 4:09 AM on December 6, 2016 [36 favorites]


lazycomputerkids, can you expand on this?

What supports Rosling's findings to this day is the scale of consumer economies and what limits it are carbon emissions and footprints.

Are you saying that optimistic predictions about economic growth ought to be tempered by what the planet can physically and ecologically sustain? I'm not familiar with Hans Rosling (younger mefite) but "Malthusian" predictions seem simplistic to the point of aping Ray Kurzweil, though that's anachronistic. "If you just extrapolate this" - yah, but that ignores all the obvious complications and reasons you shouldn't extrapolate like that.
posted by iffthen at 4:13 AM on December 6, 2016 [3 favorites]


Roslilng's 2006 Ted Talk
2010 Ted Talk

Are you saying that optimistic predictions about economic growth ought to be tempered by what the planet can physically and ecologically sustain?

Yes, given the west's per capita footprint.
I can't sufficiently recommend Sunita Narain's summary of India's conundrum presented in Before the Flood.

And it is correct to criticize my reference of Malthus because its simplicity and applicablity has been unseated by more than a few developments. It's a lazy frame to emphasize how Rosling demonstrates growth, for a mean of humanity, raises more from below than some will recede from above.
posted by lazycomputerkids at 4:37 AM on December 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


Is there anything in the recent behavior of the wealthy and powerful that leads you to believe they'll support a workforce they no longer need?
posted by MrVisible at 5:20 AM on December 6, 2016 [8 favorites]


The recent behavior of the masses at the polls leads me to believe they better figure it out quick.
posted by notyou at 5:31 AM on December 6, 2016 [6 favorites]


I'm not convinced a UBI won't just end up facilitating rent increases...

I had the same concern a while ago, but I've since come to wonder whether you can just see UBI as a giant make-work program (to put all the automation- and technology-workers back to work) where the "job" is to pretend to be the free hand of the market, picking winners and losers in the capitalist system.

I don't think anybody believes the people receiving UBI would do anything but spend it, so the money is inevitably going to flow back up to the pockets of the rich and well-connected. But by hiring the poor and dispossessed to deliver it to the collection points, you improve the lot of the poor and dispossessed. They no longer have to beg by the on-ramp or sit around the SSA office waiting for someone else with a make-work job to staple the red form to the blue form.
posted by spacewrench at 6:32 AM on December 6, 2016 [7 favorites]


we need to tax corporations

as the right wing campaigns for their corporate tax cuts, here's one graph you're not going to see in the corporate media:

https://fred.stlouisfed.org/graph/?g=c34W>

blue is real corporate topline income (their "gross")
red is real corporate taxes paid
dotted green is effective tax rate
posted by Heywood Mogroot III at 6:42 AM on December 6, 2016 [16 favorites]


The recent behavior of the masses at the polls leads me to believe they better figure it out quick.

whaddyamean, we're going to win so much we'll get tired of winning!
posted by Heywood Mogroot III at 6:46 AM on December 6, 2016 [5 favorites]


but I'm not convinced a UBI won't just end up ......used as a way to cut off social safety nets or diminish them considerably, - gustottertrout

Well, that's exactly how Charles Murray proposes we do it: The Social Contract Revisited Guaranteed Income as a Replacement for the Welfare State (warning: pdf)
posted by vespabelle at 7:12 AM on December 6, 2016 [4 favorites]


Using the UBI to replace certain aspects of the current social safety net isn't necessarily bad, so long as the ultimate economic benefits to the recipients are equal to or greater than the current program.

Because the UBI is simpler to maintain, requiring less bureaucracy and infrastructure, you could potentially increase the benefits to the recipients while also decreasing costs.

Of course, practically that's never going to happen, because even at 10k per person, you're looking at over 3 trillion dollars in benefits, which far outstrips current welfare programs.

That said, if everybody's getting a check, it becomes more politically feasible.
posted by leotrotsky at 7:34 AM on December 6, 2016 [8 favorites]


The whole "but it will just make costs go up!" argument doesn't seem to hold true with minimum wage increases, I don't know why we would assume it does here.

And the rent-increase-in-cities problem is directly addressed in the FPP. You get an extra 10k a year, you can afford to stay in Smallville and take care of your aging parents, or start a new business in Hooterville, or go back to school at State U and get that degree cheaper than you could in a big city.

Believe it or not, lots of people don't particularly want to live in giant cities. It's just that there's no jobs back home.
posted by emjaybee at 7:48 AM on December 6, 2016 [9 favorites]


but I'm not convinced a UBI won't just end up facilitating rent increases 

absolutely. Must be tied to stronger rent control laws. Better yet, tie the minimum wage to $/sq ft...ie: 1 week min wage=1 mo. rent on 400 sq ft. Get the landlords lobbying for real wage increases.
posted by sexyrobot at 7:50 AM on December 6, 2016 [2 favorites]


The recent behavior of the masses at the polls leads me to believe they better figure it out quick.

Yeah, I've been worried that lately the nature of the question ('WTF are we supposed to do as a world population with not much to do, but ever-tightening resources?') is being answered more and more in two ways.

One way says 'Y'know, if we all just slightly shift our concept of 'living well' and use the amazing advances of computing and automation to address resource distribution, we'd be alot further along to actually surviving the upcoming ecological shitstorm than we are now. '

The other says, 'Welp, obviously, a whole bunch of people are going to have to die so that demand comes in line with the new supply. Sucks to be them.'

The tricky bit with that second one is, of course, who the 'them' is - it's awfully slippery, and seems to change, according to whom you ask.
posted by eclectist at 7:50 AM on December 6, 2016 [10 favorites]


if we all just slightly shift our concept of 'living well'

This bit is being minimized. A global ban on air transport, and major reduction in fuel used for sea transport, or even better, wind travel, would go a long way towards achieving some carbon neutrality. Otherwise this answer is asking for magic. And not the cool Hermetic type even, but more the Harry Potter kind.

The other one is problematic in the obvious way.
posted by Strange_Robinson at 8:08 AM on December 6, 2016


For some people it's f*ing HARD to simply move somewhere else.

It costs money to move.
It's difficult to find a job in a remote location.
There may not be effective mass transit in less populated areas.
There's little social safety net if you move away from friends and family.
Many places that are more affordable don't have jobs available.

I'd like to see a universal guarantee but don't think it's going to solve the issue of higher cost of living in certain places. Also, increased population density helps bring the possibility of better infrastructure.
posted by mightshould at 8:23 AM on December 6, 2016 [3 favorites]


About the Fedwire idea, SEPA and ACH transfers are close enough to free for businesses already, but they offer no consumer protections. Adding dispute procedures could be done more cheaply, but sucks and costs money. If you want cheap transactions, then you need a transaction system that gives the customers benefits besides dispute procedures.

I work on GNU Taler because it provides customers with anonymity, digitally signed receipts, anonymous refunds controlled by the merchant, and limits a customers liability to whatever they wish to carry in their digital wallet, meaning the system is basically cash-like but with digitally signed receipts for when merchants fail to deliver. At the same time, Taler promises cheap transactions because all software components are GPLed, so anyone can start a competing exchange, etc.

Anonymity, and a limited wallet-like balance, are central to providing a cheap online transaction system because otherwise your customer is paying a steep price in the risk of identity theft and their bank account being hacked. If you do not provide anonymity, and limit damages, then you need some form of expensive dispute procedure.
posted by jeffburdges at 8:29 AM on December 6, 2016 [4 favorites]


I'm finding it hard to imagine an America where Universal Income gets any traction. People are furious that their tax money might help someone not die of cancer; the idea that they'd agree to pay for something like this seems like a fantasy of a much kinder US than I live in.
posted by octothorpe at 8:29 AM on December 6, 2016 [17 favorites]


octothorpe, I feel the same way. At the same time, supposing we survive the current situation, we will have to deal with this at some point. Automation isn't going away. And while I do not believe that burning it all down is the right thing to do, lots of things are going to go up in smoke under this administration whether we want them to or not. And if opinion turns against the administration because people are suffering, then we might have an opportunity to propose these kinds of reforms to prevent more chaos, and people might be willing to listen.

One thing 2016 has taught me is assume I know nothing about the political future of this country. It doesn't hurt to have a plan even if it seems unlikely we'll get to use it.
posted by emjaybee at 9:05 AM on December 6, 2016 [4 favorites]


The recent behavior of the masses at the polls leads me to believe they better figure it out quick.

As evidenced by his recent Cabinet appointments, the wealthy and the powerful are not the ones menaced by Trump. He will concentrate on kicking a few of his favorite targets (Muslims, immigrants) to please the bloodthirsty masses while the empowered Republican Congress pursues an aggressively pro-corporate agenda he either won't mind or won't even care about.
posted by praemunire at 9:18 AM on December 6, 2016 [2 favorites]


An American UBI would never be universal. Anything that could get passed would exclude at least some of the following:

-ex-convicts
-people with "gang ties" or "at high risk for criminal behavior"
-drug users
-the homeless
-undocumented immigrants
-legal but recent or low-status immigrants (e.g. "guest workers")
-everyone in states with awful governors

The UBI-excluded groups would constitute a legal underclass desperate to do the menial jobs that still require humans. Look at Dubai: the UAE doesn't have a UBI per se, but sinecures at state-owned companies are widely available to male citizens. All of the shit work is done by South Asian and Filipino guest workers with little or no rights. I'm sure we'd be able to figure out something equally exploitative.

The Whelk has it: an American version of any ideal policy would necessarily reflect America's particular method of providing social services.
posted by theodolite at 9:32 AM on December 6, 2016 [21 favorites]


Oh! I love this topic! I just wrote an essay on it, so I've been up to my ears in research.

Besides housing, i think a huge problem with implementing UBI *right now* is health care. If we were to dismantle parts of the welfare system to pay for this (which I think is fair), 60% of that spending is on Medicaid. Without Medicaid, we'd force lower income people to get on the private exchange, which means they'd be spending a large chunk of their basic income on insurance premiums.

But! Further down the line, there's a ton of evidence that giving people cash (instead of in-kind aid) will lead to people making healthier decisions. When they tried out the Negative Income Tax plan in Canada (a few years after universal health care was implemented), they found that hospital visits went down for mental health and accidents/injuries. Many of the cash transfer experiments in Africa and Latin America have found higher vaccination rates, more doctor's visits, better nutrition, etc.
posted by hopeless romantique at 10:21 AM on December 6, 2016 [7 favorites]


Another thing that would need to be figured out would be how much cash to give for children. Like, it does make sense to give families more money if they're raising children, but would the money go directly to the parents? What would happen if the child was in an unsafe home - would they have to fill out a bunch of paperwork and prove abuse in order to get that money? I wouldn't want the homeless youth to be stuck without a safety net.
posted by hopeless romantique at 10:35 AM on December 6, 2016 [4 favorites]


Better yet, tie the minimum wage to $/sq ft...ie: 1 week min wage=1 mo. rent on 400 sq ft. Get the landlords lobbying for real wage increases.

This wouldn't be good for low-income tenants: landlords would have a strong incentive to discriminate against them.

The nice thing about basic income is that wherever the money ends up going (rent, food, video games), it reflects the wants and needs of the people spending it. The market works pretty well right now for rich people; basic income would (hopefully!) help it work better for everyone.
posted by panic at 11:09 AM on December 6, 2016 [2 favorites]


I confess to being completely mystified by these kinds of discussions wherever I see them. It's like watching people soberly work through the practical details of putting a saddle on a unicorn. Can the horn be used as a point of attachment? Do you need a bridle or can you just hold onto the plumage? We are talking about giving people free money so they don't have to work. Is there something I'm missing about the modern United States of America that suggests that this idea would ever come up as a topic of serious discussion among people with legislative power?

'Just let people eat out of garbage cans' has been a perfectly acceptable solution up until now. "Sure, other people live that way, but it's unthinkable that society would allow such a thing to happen to ME." Hmm. Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security are apparently on the chopping block; if we can't even manage that stuff, as obviously and desperately as so many people need it, I respectfully submit that Free Public Money is an idea whose time has not, and may not, come.
posted by Sing Or Swim at 11:11 AM on December 6, 2016 [21 favorites]


It should be called a "national dividend" to make it politically palatable. And not raised from taxes but from revenues accruing from government ownership over a share of the capital stock.
posted by moorooka at 12:18 PM on December 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


The Universal Right to Capital Income
Yanis Varoufakis
posted by moorooka at 12:23 PM on December 6, 2016 [2 favorites]


(Previously.)
posted by tobascodagama at 1:29 PM on December 6, 2016 [2 favorites]


Or we could get a universal income from the universal right to *natural* capital -- e.g., the ability of the atmosphere to absorb CO2, proxied by auctioning fossil fuel mining/drilling rights by ton and rebating the cost to everyone.

I don't know if this would be a survival income, because we literally don't know if we can survive -- either on the extract-more-engineer-more path, or the cap-extractions-hope-there's-enough-food path. But putting a goddamn cost on it would at least line up the incentives the way we'd like, and the money would be significant to the poorest.
posted by clew at 1:59 PM on December 6, 2016


I am personally taken by the idea of a nationalised payment infrastructure. It's often raised in conjunction with UBI, as it has been here, but there's no real need to conflate them. (I say this as a UBI proponent).
The ubiquity and necessity of payment systems make them inescapable to those of us who don't have the resources to avoid them (money, time, knowledge etc). The providers are a cartel and are being paid several times over - by payers, payees and by data aggregators. This seems to me to be the very definition of rent seeking.
Standard payment systems should be considered a common good and should be administered as such. We should pay the current bridge trolls a reasonable sum and tell them to Gtf. I suspect this might be more cost effective and less controversial than UBI.
posted by Jakey at 3:11 PM on December 6, 2016 [3 favorites]


Nice plans but feel anything of this sort will be on hold until 2020.

"Nationalized finance will never, ever happen." - Cory Booker, speech to the Ohio Education Association, 2020
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 3:26 PM on December 6, 2016 [3 favorites]


Sing Or Swim: "Is there something I'm missing about the modern United States of America that suggests that this idea would ever come up as a topic of serious discussion among people with legislative power?"


I've got two responses to that. The first response is that we're not all Americans here - and that I, at least, read discussions like this and think about what UBI might mean for my own country. The second is that these kind of discussions are more important than ever now, especially if you think they're not currently possible because your country is too screwed up.

When times are dark and scary, that's when we need hope the most. It's when we need to believe in the possibility of hope the most. When people give up believing in hope they quit fighting, and then they're truly lost.
posted by Kevin Street at 3:28 PM on December 6, 2016 [14 favorites]


A lot of things congress will be considering in 2017 were fringe ideas in 1967. Talking about it is a necessary if not sufficient step. Gotta give people dreams.
posted by dame at 3:32 PM on December 6, 2016 [10 favorites]


they bailed out the banks, they can surely cut checks so people can buy their shit. our economy is fake anyway. money/currency should be a tool, not a way to hoard power and prevent people from much needed resources for survival. also, make healthcare a right, not a commodity.
posted by resplendentsaturation at 4:06 PM on December 6, 2016 [5 favorites]


Also, and this bears repeating: When (not if) self-driving trucks come into commercial use and suddenly 3.5 million Americans are out of a profession, we do not have the means to support them. UBI might be a pie in the sky idea, but it would solve a lot of problems we're going to face in reality.
posted by hopeless romantique at 4:46 PM on December 6, 2016 [7 favorites]


I'm finding it hard to imagine an America where Universal Income gets any traction. People are furious that their tax money might help someone not die of cancer; the idea that they'd agree to pay for something like this seems like a fantasy of a much kinder US than I live in.

Then tweak the idea. Instead of a basic guaranteed income, simply call for the government to provide a job to any American who can't find work. Democrats couldn't be accused of rewarding laziness (a favorite right wing talking point), because progressives could easily counter by saying that having a government provided job is a far better alternative than government assistance, because it gets people into the workforce.

That flips the script. Now it's the GOP who wants to defend the status quo, and Democrats who want to reform welfare in a meaningful way. Since the government provided jobs would match cost of living, it would be a huge economic boost.
posted by Beholder at 5:47 PM on December 6, 2016


I still haven't seen any discussion (and feel free to prove me wrong) around whether non-citizen residents will be about to access UBI, or if - as is already the case - they will be footing the bill by paying taxes without receiving benefits.
posted by divabat at 8:12 PM on December 6, 2016


Is there something I'm missing about the modern United States of America that suggests that this idea would ever come up as a topic of serious discussion among people with legislative power?

A lot of things congress will be considering in 2017 were fringe ideas in 1967.
Imagine this headline: “House of Representatives approves proposal for guaranteed annual income by wide margin.” The passage of that kind of social welfare measure sounds wholly implausible today, but, in fact, the House did pass such a bill in April of 1970 by a vote of 243 to 155. The measure, The New York Times reported, “establishes for the first time the principle that the Government should guarantee every family a minimum annual income.”

The story did not ultimately have a happy ending for advocates of guaranteed annual income (“GAI”) — the bill died in the Senate. But the fact that it received serious support and consideration in mainstream political circles is a testament to how radically the bounds of political debate have shifted since that time, and raises several crucial questions:

What allowed for GAI to be considered seriously by both Republicans and Democrats in the late-1960s and early 1970s? Why would the chances for a GAI proposal be so bleak today? And why are the answers to those questions critical to the outcome of virtually every other domestic public policy issue that exists today?
I still haven't seen any discussion (and feel free to prove me wrong) around whether non-citizen residents will be about to access UBI, or if - as is already the case - they will be footing the bill by paying taxes without receiving benefits.

graduated for immigrants/residents?
In this scheme, people entering the United States would receive no BIG for their first year living in the country (though they would be entitled to some other sort of minimal safety net e.g., Medicaid, food stamps, etc.). After the first year, they would then receive some percentage of the BIG, with that percentage increasing with each successive year spent in the country until full benefits were paid out. If the BIG amounted to $18,000 annually, a recent immigrant might receive $2,000 after her first year in the United States, $4,000 after the next, $6,000 after the third year, and so on. Only after some reasonable period of living and working in the country would she receive the full BIG.
Another thing that would need to be figured out would be how much cash to give for children.

held in escrow for children under 18?

I'm not convinced a UBI won't just end up facilitating rent increases...

some kind of middleman to suck up most of the gains...

We should pay the current bridge trolls a reasonable sum and tell them to Gtf.

in socializing finance by jw mason
Decommodify money. While there is no way to separate money and markets from finance, that does not mean that the routine functions of the monetary system must be a source of private profit. Shifting responsibility for the basic monetary plumbing of the system to public or quasi-public bodies is a non-reformist reform — it addresses some of the directly visible abuse and instability of the existing monetary system while pointing the way toward more profound transformations. In particular, this could involve:
  1. A public payments system. In the not too distant past, if I wanted to give you some money and you wanted to give me a good or service, we didn’t have to pay a third party for permission to make the trade. But as electronic payments have replaced cash, routine payments have become a source of profit. Interchanges and the rest of the routine plumbing of the payments system should be a public monopoly, just as currency is.
  2. Postal banking. Banking services should similarly be provided through post offices, as in many other countries. Routine transactions accounts (check and saving) are a service that can be straightforwardly provided by the state.
  3. Public credit ratings, both for bonds and for individuals. As information that, to perform its function, must be widely available, credit ratings are a natural object for public provision even within the overarching logic of capitalism. This is also a challenge to the coercive, disciplinary function increasingly performed by private credit ratings in the US.
  4. Public housing finance. Mortgages for owner-occupied housing are another area where a patina of market transactions is laid over a system that is already substantively public. The 30-year mortgage market is entirely a creation of regulation, it is maintained by public market-makers, and public bodies are largely and increasingly the ultimate lenders. Socialists have no interest in the cultivation of a hothouse petty bourgeoisie through home ownership; but as long as the state does so, we demand that it be openly and directly rather than disguised as private transactions.
  5. Public retirement insurance. Providing for old age is the other area, along with housing, where the state does the most to foster what Gerald Davis calls the “capital fiction” – the conception of one’s relationship to society in terms of asset ownership. But here, unlike home ownership, social provision in the guise of financial claims has failed even on its own narrow terms. Many working-class households in the US and other rich countries do own their own houses, but only a tiny fraction can meet their subsistence needs in old age out of private saving. At the same time, public retirement systems are much more fully developed than public provision of housing. This suggests a program of eliminating existing programs to encourage private retirement saving, and greatly expanding Social Security and similar social insurance systems.
Or we could get a universal income from the universal right to *natural* capital...

It should be called a "national dividend" to make it politically palatable.

A Fundamentally American Idea - "In the form of a citizen's dividend, it goes back to Thomas Paine through his recognition of the significance of the loss of the Commons to the average person. The founders understood the value of land and having (equal) access to it, and they realized it was upon land that economies and lives were built. The early government lacked an income tax for the reason the federal government was able to gain so much money from the sale and taxation of land. Paine's insight was that financial gain from public resources, especially when given away and privatized, should be shared to some minimal degree with the citizens that the government constitutionally represents. Later American thinkers such as the 19th century Henry George had related ideas." (via)
posted by kliuless at 10:10 PM on December 6, 2016 [8 favorites]


My pessimism is of the octothorpian variety above, in that if and when America ever sees this, it'll be one of the last nations to have UBI, and the version we get will be diluted and distorted to the point that it's 'universal' (and even 'basic') in name only. If we can't get health care caught up with the rest of the world, how on earth could we ever hope to lead in something even deeper?

That said, the fact it's a topic of discussion in the most media-amplified nation in the world is a good sign. If Americans make enough noise about it, it may come to pass in other nations sooner.
posted by rokusan at 6:28 AM on December 7, 2016 [2 favorites]


I know that UBI has been getting some talk in libertarian circles and that has been some concern for supporters since their imperative is more in the direction of eliminating current programs. Hypothetically speaking, if UBI could only be passed with right-wing/libertarian support, is it still worth passing just to get it done or would it be better to hold out to get things right?
posted by charred husk at 7:29 AM on December 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


Kliuless: that link shows an immense misunderstanding of how immigration and visas work. It's not easy to get permanent residency off the bat - usually you arrive on some kind of temporary visa and then apply for PR/Green Card. And those temporary visas have time limits. It's not fair to publish visa holders by only giving them a percentage and expecting then to hang around longer for more money (while being taxed the same rate the entire time) when they don't even have much of a say in how long they can stay.
posted by divabat at 11:53 AM on December 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


The question of whether to pass UBI with right-wing or libertarian support is a good one. Part of the reason I'm interested in UBI is some of my right-leaning acquaintances who dislike social spending are interested in it, so it seems like it might actually happen sometime in my lifetime if we can get people on both sides of the aisle interested. In some sense it almost seems more achievable in the USA than universal healthcare or making welfare for the impoverished more compassionate and comprehensive because basic income proposals often contain items that get conservatives interested.


That said, I am very uncertain about whether teaming up with people who don't believe in spending to help the less fortunate is really a good idea. Let's say the US passes a UBI in a compromise that otherwise guts the safety net. Will that it make life worse for the least fortunate among us? And will it make it easier to completely dismantle the welfare state at a later time by giving the right wing a single point of attack? One of the things that makes basic income palatable to me is that it is universal and unconditional, but I would be surprised if it could remain universal and unconditional for very long. And that gives me pause when considering any compromise that would make the right wing interested in passing basic income.
posted by Tehhund at 12:04 PM on December 7, 2016


"Let's say the US passes a UBI in a compromise that otherwise guts the safety net. Will that it make life worse for the least fortunate among us?"

In that scenario, yes it would make life worse for the people who most need the social programs. It would be like giving everyone a free pair of shoes, when all of the shoes are the same size. Some people need more or less help than others, or help of a different kind than just income.
posted by Kevin Street at 4:13 PM on December 7, 2016


-The Economic Security Project is exploring the possibilities of a UBI for Americans
-Nation of Renters: "eviction isn't rare as many policymakers and sociologists might assume... The solution is a universal housing voucher program that is funded using money that currently goes to the mortgage interest tax deduction, a $170 billion program for homeowners that benefits mostly the upper-middle class."
posted by kliuless at 8:08 PM on December 10, 2016 [2 favorites]




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