Wednesday, 24 March 2021

Killer Arguments Against Citizen's Income, Not (33)

Bayard emailed me this, from the comments section at Craig Murray's blog.

Our idiot of the day responds to this sentence: "A solid leftist wish list, with the notable exception of the promotion of Universal Basic Income".

Temporary Covid-related measures apart, people need and want jobs, not to be given £100pw, have all other benefits removed, and being told to then f*** off and go away.

1. People "need and want" food, clothes and warmth, and a couple of little extras like a mobile phone, a Netflix subscription and enough money for a couple of drinks with friends every week or two.

2. It's society as a whole that wants people to have jobs. Everything you consume has to be produced by somebody else. From my point of view, I'd rather win the Lottery and never work again - but I'll still need other people to work to produce stuff for me to spend my money on.

3. The £100 would be a straight swap for "other benefits" and come to much the same thing. So the loss of "other benefits" is a non-issue.

4. People who struggle through the welfare system to get a few quid Universal Credit and bits and bits and pieces are also "told to then f*** off and go away". Which is repetition. "F*** off" means "go away" AFAIAA.

A Job Guarantee, providing non-compulsory, government-funded, locally administrated employment, at a genuine living wage, with pension rights, sickness and holiday pay, and career advancement, achieves a far more humane and economically sound result.

1. These will all be made-up, degrading non-jobs of no benefit to society. If there is stuff worth doing of benefit to all, then the government should pay people a proper wage to do those things anyway. That's got nothing to do with the welfare system.

2. What's a genuine living wage? £10 an hour? If that's what you want, make the National Minimum Wages £10 an hour, job done.

3. For every non-job paying £300 a week, what are the overheads? They will need premises or equipment, supervisors and administrators, which will bump up the cost to (say) £500 per week per non-job.

4. What about all the people who don't currently "need or want jobs"; those who don't or can't do much paid work. Like stay at home parents; carers; people with severe disabilities; low-paid apprentices; full-time students; and dare I say it 'interns'? Are they supposed to survive on little or nothing?

5. For a given welfare budget of (say) £50 billion, is it better to give ten million (or however many) people £100 UBI a week each - or create two-million non-jobs and tell the other eight million "to then f*** off"?

6. How is JG "non-compulsory"? If the choice is JG or starve, then it's compulsory. As to "career advancement"? What? Move up to a better-paid non-job overseeing unmotivated adults doing low paid non-jobs?
[JG] forces the private sector to match the genuine living wage if it wants to bid workers away from the JG, it acts as a fairer inflation buffer than condemning 5% of the working population to sacrifice their social economic well-being, as well as their physical and mental health, to the fight against inflation under the neoliberal policy of the NAIRU...

1. So direct intervention in the markets? Draw lower-paid workers out of productive work and into non-productive work? Push up wages and make businesses bankrupt; putting even more people on the dole? Sounds like shit to me.

2. £100 a week UBI for a stay at home parents, carers etc will do wonders for their "physical and mental health", methinks.

... and, apart from the economic madness of a UBI pumping more money into the economy without a commensurate increase in productive capacity to absorb the extra spending...

1. He's trying to sound clever here and falling flat on his face. First he says UBI is part of the neo-liberal anti-inflation agenda. Then he says that UBI is inflationary. Twat.

2. UBI is no more inflationary than all the benefits it replaces. Funny how he overlooks that.

3. Each JG non-job pump five times as much money into the economy as one UBI claimant and *reduce* productive capacity. The UBI claimant is still free to get a proper job rather than being condemned to adult detention five days a week.

... and the absurdity of weekly giveaways to millionaires...

1. For millionaires, a UBI is just a refund of a few percent of the tax they pay. You can net them off and call it a "tax free personal allowance. Again, twat.

... a JG avoids the resentment of those who are still in employment towards others who simply take the money without making any contribution to the productive economy that benefits us all.,

1. But everybody gets UBI You'd have to be the most embittered Daily Mail reader to claim it and then resent other people getting it. Under this logic, people who don't make "any contribution to the productive econonmy" should be denied NHS care and their children should be denied state school places. And I'm not sure where that puts pensioners who all happily collect their UBI (aka State Pension) or people with severe disabiliites.

2. Stay at home parents, carers etc are doing valuable work and are making a contribution to society in general and "to the productive economy" (however indirectly).

UBI is a sop to neoliberal private capital interests; sustaining demand for its products, yet condemning workers to subsistence levels of survival.

1. He's descended into fuckwittery here. Most of the UBI supporters I know are Labour or Green Party members.

2. UBI means that low-paid workers will be up to £100 a week better off.

3. UBI covers subsistence, which means "demand for neoliberal private capital's products". If workers magically earned more (and that would be a good thing, given levels of inequality) then what does he imagine they would do with their extra income? Wouldn't they demand more of "neoliberal private capital's products"?
If in doubt, ask yourselves why there is such a high level of support for it amongst billionaire entrepreneurs and their think-tanks?

1. Because intelligent wealthy people realise that they are there largely by luck and need a cohesive society to underpin their wealth. They would rather hand over half their income in tax (or better, pay a shedload of LVT on their lovely big houses) than risk a revoution and lose the lot.


Bayard said...

... and, apart from the economic madness of a UBI pumping more money into the economy without a commensurate increase in productive capacity to absorb the extra spending...

4. He is assuming here that the JG jobs are an "increase in productive capacity", i.e. they would be taking work away from the private sector, either by directly competing with them in jobs that add value or doing jobs which have so little added value that they are not worth the private sector doing and competing with them indirectly. E.g. no-one makes doofers, because the profit-maximising selling price is so low that there is no profit in it. Along comes the government with its JG army and it makes doofers, because it doesn't need to make a profit. Now, an large chunk of those who used to buy duberies, which were worth making, will now buy doofers, which aren't half as good but are much cheaper.

"For millionaires, a UBI is just a refund of a few percent of the tax they pay. You can net them off and call it a "tax free personal allowance. Again, twat."

I pointed this one out and his comeback was that people who earn over £120K a year don't get a personal allowance, to which I pointed out that he couldn't assume that the introduction of a UBI would be the only change to the tax code. Hidden by all the other shit is the tried and tested KCN of "here is a form of UBI that doesn't work, therefore UBI is a bad idea".

"If in doubt, ask yourselves why there is such a high level of support for it amongst billionaire entrepreneurs and their think-tanks?"

Ah, the damnation by association argument, always unconvincing: "Trump/Putin/Hitler/bogeyman of choice thought this was a good idea, therefore it was a bad idea. No doubt they all enjoyed having sex, does that mean you shouldn't?

James James said...

Basic Jobs takes the good part (the income, the Basic Income) and combines it with a bad part (compulsory bullshit job). There is no need to combine them, the jobs side can be left to the private sector.

The whole point of the UBI is to remove overheads (administrators). Basic Jobs puts them back in, and makes the money go less far. Completely pointless, whereas if you leave the jobs side to the private sector, you get the overheads for free.

Scott Alexander made a very good point here:
"Private employees deal with bad workplaces by quitting them; nobody has a good plan for how basic jobs would replace this." Basic Jobs would be effectively compulsory, and if you had an abusive manager there would be little you could do about it. It would make it difficult to start moving up the ladder by quitting a low-paid job and getting a higher-paid job, which is exactly the problem Basic Income is designed to solve, because Basic Jobs would introduce bureaucracy to move job. "People will set up systems to solve these problems, and the systems will be unwieldy and ineffective, just like the systems for switching public schools today, and just like all the other clever top-down socialist systems people invent to replace exit rights."

Bayard said...

JJ, that is the problem with most government thinking, it assumes you can make a perfect system by getting half the population to keep the other half in line. The bureaucracy that comes with Basic Jobs and Job Guarantee to them is a feature, not a bug. It removes any idea that the poor may be able to think for themselves instead of having to be told what to do all the time.

Mark Wadsworth said...

B, it is true that Alaistar Darling introduced this, people on over £125k get no personal allowance. It was a shit idea then and is still a shit idea now. And I see no reason not to reinstate it.

JJ, "if you leave the jobs side to the private sector, you get the overheads for free". Music to my ears.

L fairfax said...

The only problem I have with UBI is immigration.
Either a) it pays people to come here which is not desirable
b) immigrants who should get because they have been long enough don't get it.
I can't see how we can make it fair to immigrants without encouraging more people.
(This is true under the benefits system to some extent as well but this could be worse).

Mark Wadsworth said...

LF, as you say, that is true for any welfare system.

I'm heartily indifferent whether we pay people UBI of £14 a day as soon as they step off the plane or boat, or whether there is a minimum number of years required legal and settled residence before you get it.

Politically, it's a hot topic, in economic terms it makes no difference.

Bayard said...

The big question that no-one ever answers is, if you are not going to give immigrants any sort of welfare payments so that further immigrants are discouraged from coming here, are you prepared to allow them to die of hunger and/or exposure? If not, what are you going to do with them?

L fairfax said...

A lot of immigrants do have on their passports not entitled to any recourse from the public purse, so that is the case for them anyway.

Mark Wadsworth said...

B, exactly. If you are hard hearted, you put that down to "encourager les autres". Or you "send them back". Or you just quietly pay them and hope the Mail doesn't find out.

LF, there are already rules, we can roll them forward to UBI. It's a political question, not an economic one.

mombers said...

@L a UBI that is restricted to residents of say 2 years or more has a fantastic side effect of making low paid work unattractive to immigrants. It's only worth coming to the UK to do a highly paid job where the lack of UBI isn't such a big deal. Coming here to do a rubbish job for half of the total income of a UBI recipient doesn't give you a good standard of living

L fairfax said...

@mombers a good point.

Mark Wadsworth said...

M, fair point. That's how you spin it to Mail readers, but this applies to all benefits.

LF, we were getting off the topic. No welfare system is perfect and keeps everybody happy. I was doing UBI vs JG.