Simon Griffee

What is Money? ➶

22 April 2014

See also ‘otherwiseyep’s’ answer to the ‘Where has all the money in the world gone?’ question on Reddit, and HN comments on ’Free Money for Everyone’, particularly lukifer’s:

I believe that basic income would unlock a lot of hidden wealth:

  1. Many more people would try their hand at entrepreneurship, and/or re-enter education, if they are freed from the obligation to work to survive.

  2. There would be little need for minimum wage laws; unskilled labor can become primarily for earning a little more spending money, or about social roles within a group or community. The incentive for high-end labor would remain.

  3. Much more non-profit activity, such as political engagement and volunteer labor, would become feasible (including the immeasurable wealth of more time spent raising children).

  4. Let’s face it: there are a lot of quasi-useless laborers out there, who are a drag co-efficient on productivity. The people who do the bare minimum to survive contribute more to the economy by staying home.

There are deep macroeconomic and budgetary challenges to such a policy, and the socioeconomic effects are hard to predict. It certainly wouldn’t be revenue-neutral, though it could be offset by other reductions in the welfare state (not to mention the prison-industrial complex).

One way or another, the value and negotiating leverage of human labor is declining. As globalization spreads, domain-specific AI improves, and software continues to “eat the world”, this trend will only progress. If we don’t want to revert to a world of lords and serfs, basic income is the best way to preserve Adam Smith’s humanistic vision of capitalism. And in the Western world, we are damn sure rich enough to afford it.