Monday, 7 May 2018

Killer Arguments Against Citizen's Income, Not (16)

Bill Bonner, with whom I agree with on most things, comes out with a KCN: "He who does not work, neither shall he eat." Yes, it's St David again, although it turns out he was just quoting St Paul.

Bill goes on to expand on this, to show how the idea of a basic income contradicts ancient wisdom,

It was an old idea, another of the precious insights, condensed and hardened – like diamonds – by time and experience. It takes work to produce food. A society that doesn’t work will soon go hungry. But since it now takes fewer and fewer people to produce the food we eat, many people have come to the conclusion that this gem of wisdom has been rendered obsolete by technology. Maybe we don’t all have to work, after all.

What Bill fails to notice, however, is that ever since mankind moved from a hunter-gatherer existence to an agrarian economy, society has supported a significant proportion of the population who have not worked, but have generally eaten rather better than the workers: the elite. This non-working elite of aristocrats and priests had been going thousands of years by the time St Paul made his pronouncement, so, unless St P was being ironic, he failed to appreciate that his was one rule for the poor, with someone else's rule for the rich. One wonders if St David's rule applied to him as well, or just the brothers.

So there's nothing new in having a proportion of the population being paid "to do nothing". It's just a slightly different stratum of society.

8 comments:

Ben Jamin' said...
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Ben Jamin' said...

Those who are hurt in an accident get paid compensation. Yet they've done no work for it.

Citizens Income is a part of the compensation owned to us all for the opportunity loss we suffer by being excluded from valuable natural resources.

If that's paid for by taxes on output, that's unfortunate. However that wouldn't be necessary if we taxed land directly and efficiently, rather than indirectly and inefficiently.

If we all got paid what we are owed, including our share of land rents and other Pigou Taxes, a Poll Tax would be the only fair and necessary tax. The only benefits the state would need to pay are disability related ones.

James James said...

Also we already have plenty of benefits. Citizen's Income is just about making them non-means-tested. It's an improvement on what we have already.

Mark Wadsworth said...

Agreed. But this isn't an argument against UBI as such, it's an argument against any all welfare, or state provision of anything whatsoever.

Curtis said...

St Paul really says a lot of disagreeable stuff in the Bible. Christianity is actually about being poor and giving up all your earthly possessions to follow Jesus. Presumably the rentier class will get what's coming to them after they die and the poor exploited workers will be eternally rich and happy with God.

L fairfax said...

St Paul did work for his own money. I can provide references if you like.
But I am not sure that we want this to become a Bible debating post.

Lola said...

The bastard 'extractive class'. A primary example being the EU bureaucracies and the UK quangos.

Mike W said...

BJ,I agree of course, in the econmic sense you outline, but how about viewing CI/UBI as a payment for being a 'participating full citizen' too, ie, not a serf or debt slave. Full Citizens, vote, serve on a jury, be a magistrate, be a citizen soldier, be local politician, be voluntary teacher,school govener, hospital porter, St Johns driver, RNLI, Girl Scouts, etc, etc?

Curtis, 'Presumably the rentier class will get what's coming to them after they die' one hopes so, but don't bet on it, and their is 'stuff' we can do here and now :)

Lola, I always felt that mainstream economics ought to model what happens under extractive slavery, as many 'plantations','great fuedal estates, etc, were exporting a surplus of some kind into markets.

L Fairfax, I seem to remember Paul, before Damascus, was a slave owner himself (also soldier). Other folks here may be able to confirm ready for next weeks Bilble class :) Can we discuss Jesus overturning the money lender's tables the following week?

MW nice twist in your conclusion :)