People ask what does someone need to create a start-up or succeed in life (as if I’m an example, but nevermind). What I usually answer is to be born rich. Seriously, it’s the best.
I wasn’t born rich, or at least I didn’t feel that way. In the wealthy American community where I lived I often felt like I had much, much less. Only after leaving there and going about did I realize that I was indeed wealthy. And, of course, by that point my parents were older and earned more, and I earned also.
I was able to start a business and try blogging and learn photography and all these things because I wasn’t hungry and my parents helped me out. I’ve been working since I was 14, everything from McDonald’s to busing tables to telemarketing, but I’ve never had to work to survive. And it’s better. I could explore, take longer to develop, do stuff of occasional use to society, fail, and generally not be miserable.
Why should this opportunity not be available to more people? That’s why I think I believe in a right to basic income for everyone. And why I think Yanis Varoufakis’s idea – The Universal Right to Capital Income – is worth exploring.
Spoiler alert, but here’s the last paragraph:
Anyone still not reconciled to the idea of “something for nothing” should ask a few simple questions: Would I not want my children to have a small trust fund that shields them from the fear of destitution and allows them to invest fearlessly in their real talents? Would their peace of mind render them lazy layabouts? If not, what is the moral basis for denying all children the same advantage?
and the first:
The right to laziness has traditionally been only for the propertied rich, whereas the poor have had to struggle for decent wages and working conditions, unemployment and disability insurance, universal health care, and other accoutrements of a dignified life.
Broadly, I can’t see much to argue with there. Rich people have had the ability to be lazy, or to invest in new businesses, or to create art, or to do social work, or to raise children or care for others. If we have the means, why not extend those opportunities to more people?
Just think about it. If you have 20 million rupees you can put it in a fixed deposit and get an income of Rs. 200,000 per month. What have you done to deserve this? You had money in the first place. Capitalism!
What Yanis proposes is not taxing productive labor to create this income pool but rather allocating capital (taking shares of every IPO) and using dividends to pay a universal income.
A simple policy would be to enact legislation requiring that a percentage of capital stock (shares) from every initial public offering (IPO) be channeled into a Commons Capital Depository, with the associated dividends funding a universal basic dividend (UBD). This UBD should, and can be, entirely independent of welfare payments, unemployment insurance, and so forth, thus ameliorating the concern that it would replace the welfare state, which embodies the concept of reciprocity between waged workers and the unemployed.
This implementation may be nuts, but something similar seems necessary. With robots and automation more and more work will be done with less and less people, and more and more returns for those that hold the capital. Why not have those that hold the capital be the people, and have them get paid out of it?
Giving people cash directly literally lifts them out of poverty, and something like this could replace horribly inefficient welfare programs and other administrative ideas that have huge overheads in trying to solve social issues. Just give people money and let them spend it in more efficient markets to meet their actual needs.
Yanis addresses the ‘moral’ objections to this (the value of work, etc), but if we think of all people as our children then why wouldn’t we want to give them some basic level of dignity from which they could pursue their dreams without worrying about suffering or going hungry, etc.
Before inequality tips everything over, why not?