It is time to stop quivering in our boots in pointless fear of the future and just roll up our sleeves and build it.
- Ray Pierrehumbert

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

On unlinking work from sustenance

I think we need it to be possible to get rich from working, but we need to make it impossible to get desperate from not working.

Hat tip to Dan Olner who points to a cogent argument for what I will persist in calling social credit or creditisme [sic], by Paul Mason on the Guardian.
A low-work society is only a dystopia if the social system is geared to distributing rewards via work. 

The automation revolution is possible, but without a radical change in the social conventions surrounding work it will not happen. The real dystopia is that, fearing the mass unemployment and psychological aimlessness it might bring, we stall the third industrial revolution. Instead we end up creating millions of low skilled jobs that do not need to exist.
The solution is to begin to de-link work from wages.

3 comments:

coby said...

I'm not sure de-linking has to be part of the solution. People should be able to acquire more of what they want through harder efforts and if what that want is material wealth then let them have at it.

I think the problem you are describing can be solved by putting a floor on personal income and perhaps almost nothing more than that. I agree with the idea of a guaranteed personal (livable!) income. After that is in place people can work at whatever they want for more money, or satisfaction of any kind, as they choose rather than because they must to avoid starvation. You could do away with a minimum wage as well and I bet you'd find that, because most people working minimum wage do so only because they are forced to, most of those minimum wage jobs' wages would go up as employers struggle to find willing employees.

Beautiful things could happen...

Michael Tobis said...

I think we are saying more or less the same thing. Of course, we need rewards to accrue to well-crafted efforts; else we are able to afford nothing collectively or individually.

There are two ways to put a floor on income - one is through a negative income tax on the lowest income groups. The other is through social credit, where everyone gets the same check, regardless of whether they are poor as a church mouse or rich as Croesus (whoever he was). The advantage is that a whole swath of enforcement and means-testing goes away. You just start every month with, say, $800 in your pocket, whether you are an infant or a billionaire. It's not enough to be comfortable, but it's enough for a cot in a barracks, rice and beans, and access to a TV set.

The linked article mentions this as attractive to the right on the grounds that it turns out to actually be cheaper than means-tested welfare in some calculations.

I am okay either way - it's just a tactical difference really. But it certainly is interesting to do away with much of the welfare state apparatus as part of paying for the benefit.

coby said...

I didn't expect any real disagreement.

"Everyone gets a check", yes, much better than means-testing as it avoids creating a social stigma as well as the other advantages you listed.