Here we go again with utopian dreams that are not rooted in reality. The AFP posits a future society that will no longer be centered around work and instead everyone will be given a guaranteed stipend (entitlement) by the state.
Enter the concept of a “universal basic income”, a flat sum paid to all regardless of your existing wealth or ability to work. It is one of the rare ideas that has support from both the libertarian right — which favours tearing up the welfare state — and the left wing.
Someone who supports this idea andclaims to be libertarian right, obviously doesn’t know what libertarian means. The state cannot provide something material without first taking it from someone else.
At the least, advocates argue, a basic income could replace the thicket of unemployment benefits currently on offer in many advanced economies. Those can, perversely, discourage people from retraining in new fields or taking on lower paid work that society needs, such as care for the elderly.
What’s the difference? A guaranteed basic income would also discourage people from working lower paid jobs. Why scrub toilets 10 hours a day when I can sit on my ass and do nothing?
At its most ambitious, the proponents say, it would give everyone a safety net and encourage new modes of thinking: work might no longer define our lives and instead we might find productive existences in volunteering for the greater good, or in the creative arts.
“As new technologies replace work, the question for the future is how best to provide economic security for all,” economist and former US labor secretary Robert Reich wrote in a blog post.
“A universal basic income will almost certainly be part of the answer.”
And there lies the fundamental misunderstanding of what exactly money is and what it represents. Money is work, and work has always been part of life, since the dawn of time.
In prehistoric times, when you needed shelter, you built one. And when you needed food, you hunted or gathered. Intelligent animals like man quickly figured out something called specialization and cooperation. That means we’ll work together and I’ll build the shelter while you go find food and water. (For those of you who are milleniums, it’s sort of like on those survival reality shows.) One man can concentrate on building and another man on finding food. Add in a third man, and he might provide something else of value like security from outside threats (animals, Huns, etc.).
Through specialization and cooperation and trading skills, each man is better off. Rather than each man individually having to master every skill, they can work together and collectively do things faster and with less effort. This left over time and effort is called profit, and it frees up man to do other things of value. This bartering of goods and services creates a better lifestyle for everyone involved.
Now, since not everything is equal in value, nor is it consumed at the same rate and at the same time, it becomes quite convenient to have a placeholder for goods and services. In modern society, this placeholder is called money or currency. Thus currency is not severable from work and nor the value that work provides to other members of society. Severing that link will make money worthless. And this is why simply printing more money has never worked and creates hyperinflation.
The only way for socialist governments to hand out money without completely devaluing it, is to seize it from someone who actually did work for it. And you have to do that without destroying that person’s will to do future work. This is essentially what taxation is.
While new technologies may replace some specific jobs, but they will never replace the concept of work. After all, someone has to create and maintain those new technologies. And by taxing that work that is beneficial for everyone in society, what you’re really doing is stealing from the productive and giving it to the unproductive. And that is bad for everybody, including the unproductive.