MaxSpeak responds
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earsWe speak but we also listen. Responses to commenters, in reverse order (most recent threads first)

Sandwichman: Sure a UBI on the receiving side, without disturbing anything else, is an unalloyed good. But there is more to it than that.

Paine: We’re on the same page.

Peter K: Sure employment is a priority. My posts were limited to benefit programs.

nihil obstet: I think my reforms are pretty ambitious. Just not too ambitious. Some of your specifics are in the spirit of social insurance, so not against the grain of my posts.

Rich C: UBIs as I noted are being proposed in a wide variety of forms. I think the basic thrust of the idea is to replace everything, more or less, with a UBI. As for Dolan’s numbers, it only adds up to $6K a year, which is a pretty skinny income for one person. It’s easy to imagine better uses for the dollars lost from tax expenditures. Others have their own plans for that money, which as you can appreciate is very difficult to crack for any purpose.

Nihil Obstet: We disagree about the basis for political support for SS. I think it’s the contributory/insurance angle, you think it’s universality. I don’t have any evidence to bring, so I guess we’ll have to let that sit.

I’m not sure I get the pensions/SS angle. I think hostility to pensions stems from envy of public employees, including misguided perceptions of how great they have it.

coberly: We’re in agreement about the focus on the cap, though it should be noted that the Medicare tax was uncapped with barely a whimper from anyone.

sglover: no I don’t buy the substitution argument (public benefits allow employers to pay lower wages). That’s another post, since it comes up all the time with the EITC. It follows even less with the UBI, as you say.

Alex B.: No, it is unattainable, but that’s not my argumment. Mine is that it distracts from more compelling objectives, as elaborated in my manifesto. The UBI is not huge enough to noticeably affect the national debate in the U.S., but it is still the wrong road to go down, IMO.

Bud Meyers: I totally disagree with the idea that jobs will be displaced by automation. The composition of jobs will change, but there is still quite a bit of useful work to be done. People were talking this way in the 1950s. There is always more automation, and always other kinds of new jobs.

JDG: You’re raising the same universal vs. contributory argument I picked up above. To be sure, the ‘earned’ nature of SS or Medicare is not precise; I would argue that it is broadly appreciated in any case. As for end of work, see the preceding.

The question of public employment is well-addressed in the comments so I’m not taking that bait.


Comments

MaxSpeak responds — 28 Comments

  1. Truly a full service web site! But have you got any good investment advice? Or at least a tip on a winning horse?

    Lame jokes aside, thanks for the answer. The Speenhamland chapter was (for me, anyway) the most obscure chapter in a book that otherwise is a model of clarity. And I’ve read elsewhere that the system wasn’t as widespread as Polanyi implies.

  2. I apologize if I’m going on after it’s clear that we have different views about what’s politically possible, but you say you don’t get the pensions/SS angle. As I understand it, you think there’s a significant difference between benefits that are earned, like SS, and benefits that would not be tied to an eligibility requirement, like UBI. The point is simply that pensions are earned just as SS is. Same is true of pensions earned by members of unions, and the same “envy” comes into play.

    It seems to me that it’s a kind of morality, that our betters can get deferred compensation but our equals better not get anything we imagine we’re not getting. As Mitch Romney says, he supports policies that drive poor women into paid employment so they can learn “the dignity of work” while his own wife has never needed to brush up against any such dignity.

    I think it’s more ambitious to try to convert us all into people whose actions meet Romneyite approval than to convince us all that there’s a limit to how much other people’s morality is our business.

  3. Bud Meyers: I totally disagree with the idea that jobs will be displaced by automation. The composition of jobs will change, but there is still quite a bit of useful work to be done. People were talking this way in the 1950s. There is always more automation, and always other kinds of new jobs.

    I think you are eliding two inter-related problems here, one is will those other kinds of new jobs pay enough to live on? Sure every rich guy will need a butler and a personal shopper and a couple of footmen but how is one to live in that situation?

    The second is there isn’t plenty of useful work now, if one goes by un- and underemployment. My sense is that the global rich think they can make sufficient money by selling to the other global rich and keeping wages down with a surplus of unemployed. I do not have any confidence our politicians will stand up for the non-rich so that those plenty of useful jobs may not appear

    • The original fear was whether there would be jobs at all. How good they will be is a different question. I would like to know of a case for why they would be lousy jobs. It is possible for the better sort of jobs to migrate across national boundaries. We’ve certainly seen some of that. What sort of jobs we get here is up to public policy. I don’t see how it is pre-ordained.

      Some UBI advocates envision a world where machines do the work for people with money while the rest become redundant. But I’ve never seen a convincing story about why this will happen. It hasn’t happened yet, and there has been continuous growth in technology. The current dearth of employment is a demand problem, in my view, one possible to remedy with government spending.

      • The preferred and prevalently implemented
        macro policy of corporate Amerika:

        Perpetual job scarcity
        Contrived by a suite of context specific
        macro policies

        Kalecki and Lerner long ago
        Prescribed the remedy for perpetual job scarcity
        As sanctified
        by the Academy of cone head market sciences
        Ie
        NAIRU taboo zones lurking below say
        5 % UE

        • The remedy ?

          Vickrey macro
          Link not provided
          to retain your sincere sevants
          24/7/365 commitment
          To the earned insight ethic

          • Ever get that stream of coupons at the grocery register

            Hence the inspiration for tis bevy of comments upon comments upon comments

            Off thread or at best thread bare

        • Yes automation fear is a lump of sandy fallacy

          Micky K the Merlin of Marxian macro
          Has the magic formula for
          As many market mediated jobs
          As our confounding universal
          Sweat of the brow
          job ethic demands
          Out of us stupid enough to be born
          under capitalized

        • Stupid stupid idea. We could upload our own music. and stop with the copriyght stuff. It's stupid. Just make it a law on Y.T. that we have to credit the rightful owner. God,

  4. We need to pound on this EITC/ wage rate issue

    I agree the public might develop qualms
    about
    a universal
    robust
    compound
    ( with both required and voluntary components )
    uncle provided
    Universal pension system
    But
    Perhaps only because there exists
    An utterly media fabricated
    mass perception
    of shaky finances
    In uncle’s present modest system

    The black hats hammer away
    At this
    While the silent mass rip off
    Ie legalized big corporate obligation defaults
    Go under reported and under broadcast

    We need a huge movement push back here

    A counter offensive by the pro job class coalition

    Enough of this academic technocratic
    cone headedaccutarial gibbering ala
    The two st Peters
    diamond and orzaggle

  5. “I totally disagree with the idea that jobs will be displaced by automation. The composition of jobs will change, but there is still quite a bit of useful work to be done. People were talking this way in the 1950s. There is always more automation, and always other kinds of new jobs.”

    Whoa, Max! You just invoked the lump-of-labor fallacy claim!

    Logically, the premise that “there is still quite a bit of useful work to be done” is true BY DEFINITION. Empirically, the statement is vacuous. That doesn’t mean it is untrue, just that it has no empirical content. The effort to fill it with pseudo-content leads inevitably into self-contradiction, as shown by the “dispute” in the 19th century between Cairnes and Thornton over the wages-fund doctrine.

    see “Ceteris paribus, Dr. Jekyll tans his own Hyde”

    http://ecologicalheadstand.blogspot.com/2014/09/ceteris-paribus-dr-jekyll-tans-his-own.html

    • The methodological issues here don’t have to do with whether or not there is “work to be done” but with uncertainty, rational expectations and the fundamental assumption of “maximizing utility” (stated by Nassau Senior as “That every man is desirous to obtain, with as little sacrifice as possible, as much as possible of the articles of wealth.”)

      see my new post latest “On Deducing Faith and Redemption from Usury with the Help of Automata”

      http://ecologicalheadstand.blogspot.com/2014/09/on-deducing-faith-and-redemption-from.html

      • The lack of jobs for the asking is an institutional limitation of any system of social reproduction
        Based on and requiring
        Scads of exploitable wage laborers

        I hate talking jargon
        Unless I’m drunk
        Don’t make me do any more of it

        Job scarcity is a feature of capitalism
        Not a function of automation

        Wage rates are edgewoth box outcomes
        Not based on skills required

        Wage tates for
        Service jobs
        like care giving
        Could be upped like assembly line jobs were
        in mid last century

    • Sandy
      Don’t make me unleash
      The paradox of short shift

      Hours and rates
      Hours and rates

      The ceiling is value added per hour
      But that’s a moveable feast

      Look I want the massive chinaski effect
      To bring fatal erosion right at the base
      Of Our globe gurdling
      Highly leveraged temples of market mediated
      human exploitation

      Massive
      Loafing on the job
      Not millions of UBI sponsored
      bohemian non selfsame time selling
      hold outs

      • The vickrey paradigm

        The results of a lay off
        A short walk from one job site to another

        Joe stiglitz used to talk about this
        Before he became the famous
        bah bah white lamb
        Of reform capitalism

        • Let me be clear. I’m not saying UBI, Ubi Alice or whatever the German expression is. I’m saying, don’t sucked in to Bill Sikes’s alibi:

          “…no doubt the throat of this traveling salesman has been cut. But that is not my fault; it is the fault of the knife! Must we, for such a temporary inconvenience, abolish the use of the knife? Only consider! Where would agriculture and trade be without the knife? Is it not as beneficial in surgery as it is in anatomy? And in addition a willing help at the festive table? If you abolish the knife—you hurl us back into the depths of barbarism.”

  6. I disagree about contributory vs universality. Let me offer a perspective from across the pond. Here in Britain we have a coalition government which, as part of its austerity programme, has turned its fire on the welfare state. It and its allies in the media have denounced scroungers and such like, and talked about how we must “make work pay” (despite presiding over a big fall in real wages), introducing a dehumanizing workfare policy.

    Note that the main benefits they have undermined have been jobseekers allowance (which is contributory) and housing benefit (which is means tested and many claimants are in work). And yet they have got public opinion to go along with them.

    The angle they have taken has always been about work incentives. That’s why many who oppose workfare and austerity here in the UK have taken to advocating a basic income – it’s universality precisely undermines the work incentives argument. ‘Why not let people keep their benefit when they’re in work?’ proponents say.

    The only reason it’s not popular in the political establishment (though I think the Green Party might be on board) is that no-one in a position of power understands macroeconomics so everyone has bought into the “we have run out of money” argument sadly.

    • Work incentives are usually invoked as part of a right-wing supply side argument. Those making such an argument may not be impressed by a UBI that comes with no obligations at all.

      As for running out of money, financing a minimal UBI is still going to be quite a challenge in a nation of 300+ million.

  7. There have been attacks here on Social Security, as well as means-tested benefits. The difference is that it is only the latter that have been cut.

    Nearly everything is fair game these days. I don’t think we need to debate replacing Social Security with a UBI on this web site. Nobody wants that. I would like to leverage existing support for social insurance, while some UBI supporters present it as superior. I think that’s a mistake.

  8. Hey! I came in late and don’t know what I’m talking about.
    a. It doesn’t matter much whether Walmart wages are paid by Walmart or by my tax money but I’d rather keep the accounts straight. Higher minimum wage.
    b. Income is income whether earned, stolen or UBI. UBI is necessarily a negative income tax. Withholding keeps the cash flow under control.
    c. UBI cannot replace all (or even many) social insurance. There will still be people who need other help. Getting those who only need money to live out of the mix ought to be a plus.
    d. The only reason UBI is a discussion topic is that some of us have decided that the New Deal is dead and will not be revived. Yes, improving the social safety net would be great but it really looks like something more radical will be needed. Neither approach looks promising so why not reach higher?
    e. The argument that kills UBI is that there would have to be a national ID of some sort. Nobody on any side of any political divide will admit that that would be a good idea. From privacy people to vote suppressors it is anathema.

  9. Hi Bill. No worries, we’re all sailing in uncharted waters here. A negative income tax means your benefit goes down as income goes up. The UBI is not a negative income tax; its benefit does not depend on other income.

    I’d say the New Deal just looks dead. It’s resting. I’m all for ambitious proposals. I talked some up in my posts.

    The ID thing is interesting. Even with no card, to do a UBI the Gov has to know about everybody. You couldn’t get a UBI and be off the grid.

  10. Pingback: interfluidity » Links: UBI and hard money

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