Why a Basic Income Matters in System Transition

In an article titled “Money to Resource Based Economics: Step By Step” we gave an outline for how we could transition out of a monetary system and into a resource based economy. This of course was nothing more than an idea, or a proposal of how we could move forward together, as this continues to be a question asked repeatedly, “How do we get there?”. You may have read the article and agreed, maybe you liked the steps but thought they were out of order, you may have liked some but not all of it. A point that has been discussed more so than any other is in relation to what was termed Step Seven: Adopt Universal Basic Income, centered around not understanding why in a resource based economy a basic income would be needed. We will try to clarify this step and explain why it is important.

Before continuing it is perhaps prudent to explain that the order of the steps was decided on based on what we could do without needing any dramatic change to social life. Steps 1 through 5 could happen inside the framework of our capitalist economy without any fundamental changes being made to society at large. They are little more than planning steps, which facilitate step 6 by providing us with the basic knowledge of our actions the consequences and our potential capabilities. While steps 7 through 10 would have direct impacts on modern society.

Why is adopting a Universal Basic Income Important to this process

We should all recognise that the structure of our global society is based predominantly on our current model of economics. We go to school to acquire an education, which is supposed to help us gain employment in an area of interest, so we can generate an income and pay for day to day life. That is the basic premise of our current work to pay to live capitalist economies.

Of course capitalism is supposed to do other things as well, such as raise the standard of living of society in general and drive innovation. To be sure in retrospect it has, capitalism has certainly played a role in elevating our species in many social areas and is certainly not inherently evil or a step in the ladder of social progress that we should have avoided or could have done without.

However we must also be prepared to recognise the limitations of our current economic process, understand its fundamental impacts and be open to change in order to continue to improve society, as opposed to stagnating in a system based on the personal comfort of our current social position. We can all see our environment is being degraded, species are dying off, resources are being extracted and used at an unsustainable rate, unemployment is rising, poverty is becoming ubiquitous in certain regions of the world, migration is dramatically increasing and our lonely planet is being turned into a floating dump in the cosmic sea.

These are some of the impacts of a pay-to-work-to-live system of economics, because of course, to keep enough people employed to maintain the system requires an ever increasing amount of production and consumption in the market. As the Bush administration knew full well:

“As we work with congress in the coming year to chart a new course in Iraq and strengthen our military to meet the challenges of the 21st century, we must also work together to achieve important goals for the American people here at home. This work begins with keeping our economy growing.

As we approach the end of 2006, the American economy continues to post strong gains. The most recent jobs report shows that our economy created 132,000 more jobs in November alone, and we’ve now added more than 7 million jobs since August of 2003. The unemployment rate has remained low at 4.5 percent. The recent report on retail sales shows a strong beginning to the holiday shopping season across the country. And I encourage you all to go shopping more.”
43rd President of the United States George Walker Bush

Public Domain

This is the crux of the capitalist system, get people shopping and keep people shopping in any way you can. If it means getting the commander in chief of your country to stand up on television and encourage everyone to do so then so be it. If it means producing things that are designed to break inside a given time frame, or to produce advertising which will cause people to feel incomplete or less than others without a given product, well that works too. Be damned the environment and life which it supports.

While we have not reached the carrying capacity of our planet, we have reached the carrying capacity of our economy on this planet, in fact we have surpassed that capacity some decades ago. However even as we come to recognise this as a society, even if we woke up in the morning and everyone magically understood this, a transition out of this type of model and into something else would be a decade long process.

Everything we currently have is provided based on the system of going to work to earn a living, our advanced medical care, transportation, communication, entertainment, everything. Any system wide evolution is going to take time and certain areas of that system will change before others. We can’t simply end money and expect doctors to keep going to work for the best part of their days based on little more than a moral obligation, as many others become freed from laborious tasks and have more free time to enjoy.

We are all a part of this social condition which has described to us that we need to work to pay to live, there is no way to escape that condition in the short term. This is why a Universal Basic Income will play such an important role in a transition process. Money will be used through any transition, that is why it is called a transition and not a stop dead rainbow farting unicorn utopian social reversal. Besides it’s so much easier to say transition, albeit not as fun.

Honestly it would be so much better to have the unicorn thing, to wake up and the magic change fairies had visited and resolved everything for us would be grand, but it won’t be happening. No matter how much time we spend sitting in the sun thinking good thoughts about everything and humming. In the end change will require work, and as a result of our social condition, money. Thus as work becomes increasingly more scarce as there inevitably become less jobs to do, a Universal Basic Income will help to maintain this system until it naturally becomes obsolete.

A Universal Basic Income is not a fixture or an end game outcome, it is just another segment on the path we will walk along as we continue to evolve socially.


Feature Image
Industrial Remains by Till Krech CC BY 2.0
Central Park by ZeroOne CC BY-SA 2.0
Work life balance rat race by KVDP, Shokunin, Aungkarns CC BY-SA 3.0

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