Was Finland’s Universal Basic Income Program A Failure?

Yves here. I know a lot of readers are basic income fans, but any program is not even going to dimly approach what you’d like to see. As long the odds are of getting a public service program are, they are infinitely higher than getting a universal basic income. For starters, it would be obviously far too inflationary to be implemented. It would either provide for token benefits or be a welfare variant, targeting only very narrow populations. By contrast, a Job Guarantee would not be inflationary because it would add to the output of the economy.

In addition, as one reader pointed out, consumers do not have power but producers do. Public service jobs would produce constituencies for those services, be it for more day care, for people to read to the blind, to build and repair infrastructure, to create and maintain parks and other public amenities, to paint murals, and so on. And the US did this very successfully in the Great Depression, as Marshall Auerback described:

The government hired about 60 per cent of the unemployed in public works and conservation projects that planted a billion trees, saved the whooping crane, modernized rural America, and built such diverse projects as the Cathedral of Learning in Pittsburgh, the Montana state capitol, much of the Chicago lakefront, New York’s Lincoln Tunnel and Triborough Bridge complex, the Tennessee Valley Authority and the aircraft carriers Enterprise and Yorktown. It also built or renovated 2,500 hospitals, 45,000 schools, 13,000 parks and playgrounds, 7,800 bridges, 700,000 miles of roads, and a thousand airfields. And it employed 50,000 teachers, rebuilt the country’s entire rural school system, and hired 3,000 writers, musicians, sculptors and painters, including Willem de Kooning and Jackson Pollock.

By contrast, not only is a [non] Universal Basic Income guaranteed to be skimpy and patchy, it’s going to be vulnerable to backlash, as its precursors, such as the Speenhamland system and LBJ’s War on Poverty were.

Finally, people need structure to their lives and a place in society. Not having a job or socially legitimate role, like being a full-time parent or elder carer, and being a dependent, particularly for men, is a negative from a mental health perspective. I can tell you that the opprobrium that merely self-employed people who don’t have a visible business (as in an office or shop) is palpable, because people assume you are unemployed. Being low on the status totem pole is bad for your health, and even more so in a highly stratified society. And at least in America, with both high income inequality and weakening social bonds, retiring earlier appears to have a longevity cost.

By Josh Owens, a content director at OilPrice. Originally published at SafeHaven

While it lasted, Finland’s social experiment that gave 2,000 unemployed people nearly $700 a month with zero strings attached was a decent take home for those who enjoyed its benefits over the 15 months—but the authorities say it’s not working and are moving to wind it down by 2019.

In January 2017, Finland became first country in Europe to launch a universal basic income program, randomly choosing 2,000 individuals without jobs, aged 25 to 58, and giving them a fixed monthly income of $685 without the usual condition that they actively seek employment.

It was a unique social experiment that its advocates hoped would help reduce poverty, boost employment and cut down on crime.

One year and one quarter later, the government is scrapping the program though the country’s social benefits agency, KELA, has requested an extension.

The government holds that the program, experimental in nature, was only intended to run for an initial two years.

As of last November, Finland had 213,000 unemployed people—largely unchanged since from the year before. Panic set in in 2015 when unemployment rates hit a 17-year high of 10 percent, prompting calls for welfare reform. Since then, it’s hovered around 8.4-8.8 percent, none of which can directly be attributed to the latest social experiment, however, as the unemployment rate lowered before the launch of the program.

Source: Statistics Finland

Change was already on the books back in December, when Finnish parliament introduced legislation requiring the unemployed to receive training or work at least 18 hours in a three-month time period in order to qualify for unemployment benefits. Its advocates argue that not enough time has passed to call the experiment a success, or failure.

“Two years is too short a period to be able to draw extensive conclusions from such a big experiment. We should have had extra time and more money to achieve reliable results,” one expert involved in the project told media.

Indeed, 15 months into it and it’s not possible to get a handle on whether crime has been reduced as a result, or whether getting a stable monthly income incentives anyone to seek gainful employment.

And it’s not only Finland dabbling with this social experiment. A few other countries have also tried their hand, or are preparing the groundwork, for universal basic income (UBI) projects.

The Dutch city of Utrecht also launched a UBI program in early 2017 with 250 Dutch citizens receiving about $1,100 per month. It’s a micro-scale experiment designed to determine what would happen in society if the entire country set a standard income for all its citizens.

The ideas was to enable the beneficiaries of the pilot program to volunteer, study and work on community improvements rather than spending all their time simply trying to survive. In other words, the goal is to make citizens more productive at the end of the day—and better contributors to society.

And there’s an additional incentive to ‘volunteer’, and this is yet another element of the experiment, which is largely psychological. There are two groups of ‘volunteers’ in the program—one of which gets paid an $161 up front and has to give it back if they don’t end up volunteering, and another that gets paid at the end of the month only if they’ve volunteered.

The Canadian province of Ontario is also getting into UBI this spring, having earmarked some $19 million to pay individual nearly $17,000 annually in cities where manufacturing job losses have taken their toll on society. That’s double the amount they currently get through welfare.

The oldest UBI-style program we’re aware of is in Kenya, which launched a pilot project through the GiveDirectly charity in 2016. The program is also experimental, treating different groups of villages differently, but looking more towards the long-term. While the handouts are much lower, in this case, it’s village-wide, all adults in 40 villages receiving the equivalent of about $22 a month for 12 years. Other groupings of villages receive similar amounts for fewer years, or an entire two-year allotment up front.

At the end of the day, it’s about what motivates people to do more, and what happens when the playing field is equalized.

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  1. The Rev Kev

    I can’t see how this is an any way a fair test of an idea. Not only are the numbers far too statistically small but you wonder just how random the selection was. This won’t give you hard results. It will only give you a series of anecdotes. The only fair way to test this idea is to do it for a whole community that is semi-isolated and then extend it for a period of, say, five years?
    Guess what? As another commentator pointed out a coupla weeks ago it was done in Canada back in the 1970s. They selected Dauphin, Manitoba, a small farming town on the Canadian prairie, and carried the experiment over for five years. And the results? Nobody knows as all that data was buried in spite of it costing tens of millions of dollars and it was never analyzed at the time. Some researchers have gone in and drawn remarkable findings. There is a page on this experiment at-

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      A small isolated community is not a valid experiment either. As indicated, on a society-wide level, you can’t pay people at a living wage level, not have most of them provide services or otherwise add to overall production, and not generate massive inflation.

      On top of that, as Speenhamland showed, there are people who do not want handouts. I didn’t take unemployment insurance when I was entitled to it. If I were desperate I would but only as a last resort.

      1. JEHR

        I beg to differ, Yves. The experiment in Manitoba included more than just Dauphin. There was no massive inflation as far as I know. Americans always worry about inflation, it seems. This money was not treated as handouts and the results were mostly positive once they were evaluated.

        Not taking unemployment insurance is a personal choice and has nothing to do with minimum income. I think you just think getting basic money is a socialist idea and to be avoided at all costs. Too bad you couldn’t see anything positive about it.

        1. JeffC

          Ah. A drive-by commenter.

          If you think this site’s populace is allergic to socialist ideas, you haven’t read much here.

          1. JEHR

            Sorry, I live here too (just look at comments going back to 2010). I know what I am talking about. Americans define socialism in their own unique way.

      2. Anon

        I’m sure you know, but worth noting for anyone else — unemployment insurance is not a handout. You and/or your employer (depends on the state) pay a premium for the insurance. Even if paid by the employer, it’s still a component of your compensation, just like the employer half of FICA.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          Yes, I am aware of that, but I still regarded it as a handout and a badge of shame and didn’t take it. You had to go stand in line to a government office and fill out forms to claim it.

          1. Andrew Dodds

            Ironically, this is why a basic income is a good idea; the whole concept of morality in receiving ‘handouts’ is removed.

            It need not be inflationary either. For someone like me – in full time employment, decently paid, the introduction of a UBI of, say, £700/month would just mean that my taxes went up by £700/month.. so no overall change. Many people would see no change; as quite a lot of benefits would be removed at the same time, those at the lower end would see little change either.

            But no standing in line to fill out forms. Anyone who wants a decent disposable income still needs to work, of course. A job guarantee can help there as well, for those who are in a position to work – not everyone is, it’s not much good having the guarantee of a job if you are disabled, long term sick or have caring responsibilities.

          2. MG

            Now it is either done on the phone or online. I have never heard an American who was ashamed to take it either vs their general unemployment status.

      3. jrs

        I’m not sure there are plans to pay people a living wage level anywhere. $15 an hour? While that may be a living wage in some parts of the country that’s simply not a living wage in other parts. So living wage needs to be at least $20 in some parts of the country and that assumes no family to support pretty much. Of course sooner or later one needs to look at the costs of necessities and reducing those probably.

        Anyone who doesn’t take unemployment when provided is very probably destroying their own future, depleting savings they might genuinely NEED later, especially when they are older and less able to find work or to work period. Unless one is a trust fund kid who is going to be ok no matter what, it is wise to take unemployment if qualified. I understand wanting to work rather than collect unemployment, but unemployment isn’t about that at all, it’s about supporting the process of looking for work which can take time (even when it succeeds). I don’t think I’d support any program that dumped unemployment as part of it.

    2. kevin

      And, despite the name, this isn’t even UBI. If its only given to the Unemployed its standard welfare, unlike the Kenya example.

      It would be interesting to see if giving *everyone* money induced some low wage employed people to quit their jobs which would free up some for those currently unemployed and reduce unemployment overall. These potential effects are totally ignored here.

      1. Andrew Dodds

        I believe that there is an effect of students and mothers of young children working less with a UBI. Frankly, in both cases that’s OK with me; students should be studying, and young children do better with a parent who is consistently around.

        I do suspect that it would give low-end employers less power, meaning better pay or, more likely, improved respect and conditions.

    3. Jamie

      Yves makes a lot of good arguments and I admit that I am much less gung-ho about UBI than I used to be in the face of them. But I have to agree with you that this is hardly a fair test. Not only do we have the oxymoron of a “universal” basic income that is in no way universal, but we have:

      its advocates hoped would help reduce poverty, boost employment and cut down on crime

      When to many of us the whole purpose of a UBI is to allow society to function with high unemployment, not to reduce unemployment. I’m all in favor of providing jobs for people to do socially valuable work, and for shifting the labor force away from planet destroying activities and toward beneficial (for everyone not just a few) labor. But I see no reason why a hundred million people need to be employed to do work that might actually take far fewer. I believe in “work smart, not hard”. And I have personal experience of working for concerns where efficient work practices were rejected for a variety of reasons that all boil down to some variant of “we need the work to last so we can maximize our pay”, and this was sometimes with the collusion of management.

      So, using UBI to reduce unemployment is absurd. Moreover, poverty is not an absolute, but a relative measure. So using UBI to reduce poverty is also conceptually idiotic. Since “poverty” is relative, the only way to reduce it is to reduce the relative inequality of the poorest compared to the mean. Nothing that is “universal” could possibly do that. That requires a wealth redistribution which a UBI, being universal, does not touch.

      I havn’t previously thought much about the crime portion of the statement. A UBI would not be expected to reduce crime unless crime was a direct cause of not having enough to live on. That might sound plausible at first blush, but I don’t think it holds up very well to scrutiny. So with at least two and possibly three of the intended goals for this “experiment” to be incompatible with the tool being tested… what is really going on here?

      1. Blake Kelly

        I think that a UBI can reduce income inequality of the poorest, if the taxes that support it come mostly from higher income people, which they should.

    4. just another lurker

      There were also experiments in Seattle and Gary, IN. The Seattle one was panned as it showed a rise in divorce/single family households but no one made the connection to women being able to use this to gain some agency/autonomy for themselves and their children. That was 40+ years ago: maybe we are smarter now.

    5. Larry Motuz

      When, to qualify, you had to be unemployed, no one is testing the consequences of a basic income, to everyone especially when we are also talking about $700 monthly. This was designed to fail.

  2. makedoanmend

    I’m glad that there is practical experimentation taking place in the concept by various different states, types of governments and remuneration methods. I suspect that measuring the results of will be difficult at best and probably impossible given the short durations being measured in most programs.

    But, I hope all attempts fail.

    I’d rather go into a neutral social job centre and be offered a variety of jobs at various pay grades (dependent upon job requirements and attendant skill levels), durations and levels of job security or potentials. If one applies and takes a job offer in these conditions, it is up to the individual to fulfil their end of the bargain with regard to skills and duration. If you don’t do your part, why be paid? Being a part of some sort of a trades or social union would be an advantage imo.

    Of course any such program is only a good as its administration. If the intent of the administrators is hostile, the program will fail; and we all know how modern neo-liberalists like to break working programs so that they can tell everybody that social-public system always fail and that they need to run everything for a profit – they’re profit, your expense.

    [Bugbear of mine: is the whole volunteering shtick that has sprung up during the “austerity” phase of late neo-liberal capitalism. It’s just another excuse for the obscenely wealthy not to pay taxes for essential services imo.]

    1. Tony Wright

      I share that bugbear Yves. My own preferred solution would be to name and shame the super rich who offshore their excessive wealth to tax haven countries, and further to financially isolate said tax haven countries, thus putting them out of business as it were.
      Sadly, that probably won’t happen despite the logic behind it; I came to the conclusion long ago that if something in society was illogical, look for a hidden vested interest. In this case the vested interests are not always well hidden, but are both powerful and insidious.
      I also came to the conclusion long ago that in so called western democracies we get the best democracy big money can buy.

  3. Disturbed Voter

    I would be fine with “Basic Income” etc if we end democracy? I don’t want any policies by politicians trying to buy the votes of the people getting improvements thru government action?? Well, if I had no confidence in the idea of democracy, maybe I would feel that way.

    Let the government hire every adult who is willing to slave for the government (any work is slavery, right?) … if it is inflationary, then “after me the deluge” seems to be the meta-strategy of society. But in any case, only an authoritarian government can do that, democracies can’t … in democracies you get pushback.

    1. Undisturbed voter

      If we talk about democracy, why is it that UBI and all such other schemes are anti-democratic, and the way things have been up until now is so, that is with neo-liberals and conservatives competing against each other to destroy the social safety net and labor standards? I’d be more worried about oligarchs buying politicians, not politicians “buying” votes.

      Pushback is normal in a democracy, but so is implementing social programs.

  4. Adam1

    One failing of most of these is the intent to provide stability so that someone can find gainful employment. However it is subject to macro scale accounting failure. Just because you hand out a basic income every month does not mean that spending that money will increase demand for workers. If the basic income money ends up primarily being spent on imported consumer goods, then there is little or no increase in local/domestic demand for workers.

  5. ACF

    I support a jobs guaranty instead of a universal basic income for psycho/social reasons, similar to why I embrace the reality of MMT but value talking about taxes as purchasing things

    Whether it dates to some kind of Puritan protestant work ethic or some other source, too much of people’s feeling of value and self worth is constructed of feeling ‘productive’ for a universal income to be as socially beneficial as a jobs guaranty. Similarly, it’s important to feel like citizens participating in a communal project that is the nation, and tax policy is a key piece of that, and of tax policy as setting and enforcing social norms about that communal project. Income and tax policy both have strong moral and norming components.

    I think the fact that techies are big proponents of basic incomes rather than job guaranties is that it’s easier, in a mechanical sense, to simply cut checks rather than simply employ people; there’s something superficially more efficient about it. But that view requires ignoring the perspective of the person receiving the income or job. People don’t want ‘hand outs’; they want to feel like they are contributing value in a value exchange.

    To be clear, I support a universal basic income vs. abandoning people; but a jobs guaranty is just a much better way to do things.

  6. Eclair

    I wonder how a guaranteed jobs program would work in an economically depressed area such as Jamestown, NY. Where the headline in the local newspaper reads: “More Bad News.” Another manufacturing plant closing and another round of people laid off.

    The local Sam’s Club shut its doors, with no notice. Tops Market, with a half dozen stores in the area, is in bankruptcy an seeking to close stores. (And, according to news reports, wants to cut its pension fund, increase employees’ share of health care costs and reduce hours, while rewarding top (hah!) executives with millions in bonuses.) The population is dropping, as young people leave.

    Houses and buildings in the city are rotting, streets are full of potholes, one of the main bridges over the Chadakoin River has been under repair for over a year. In the surrounding countryside, barns and houses on once thriving dairy farms are falling down. Apple orchards are left untended. Owners can make money by leasing to gas extraction companies, who drill wells, run them until they have sucked out the easy money, then disappear into a thicket of shell companies, leaving the wells uncapped and leaking.

    There is so much work that could be done. But it would take a dedicated group of planners with creativity and imagination to make it work. At this point, most of the spirit has been sucked out of the area and a dull gray miasma hangs over the city. Nothing wrong that an infusion of cash and a sense of accomplishment can’t cure.

  7. Eustache De Saint Pierre

    One of the very few good things that was intoduced by the Thatcher government in the early eighties was what were called Community Programs. They varied in purpose – the young unemployed got training from experienced tradespeople which although not up to the standard of City & Guilds apprenticeships, was at least a start & there were then still opportunities in education to progress further. My wife was an administrator & life skills tutor for one such scheme, which was located in an old pottery which was being renovated with public funding, into what became ” The Gladstone Pottery Museum “.

    The other part was for older people, particularly the long term unemployed & who for the main part were used to clean up the mess left by the city’s industrial past – laying paths, cleaning up the canals, landscaping, tree planting etc .I myself spent six months on an old graveyard which held the wrong way facing grave of a famous 19th century local witch named Mollie Lee, recording the epitaphs with some added research work.

    The programs were far from perfect & the pay was not great, but it was less expensive to live then & I did notice that the men who worked around me became a small community, which although not being a real substitute for that which they had previously known in large scale industry, it was I believe better than the alternative, which I believe would have mainly consisted of them stewing in their own juices.

  8. Steve

    I see no way in the current US where a basic income guarantee doesn’t quickly morph into another give away to corporations and significant opportunity for abuse and corruption by organized crime. A jobs guarantee seems a much harder system to game.

    1. sarf

      Gaming the jobs guarantee seems easy to me: Private public partnerships, were the state provides the money to private companies in return for hiring more employees and having them do something, just up until the limit where the law (if applicable) would force the companies to actually start paying them themselves.

      It is basically how the system worked in Sweden, where companies got (large) parts of new employees salary paid if the employees had been longtime unemployed, or lacked job experience. The current limit to when they were considered “continuous employees” (being protected from firing without cause and lots of other bennies) is working for a total of 2 years under a 5 year period for the same employer; quite a lot of companies with entry level positions simply fired people due to “lack of work” 1 month before they would have gotten to that point… and then going back to the state agency for job placement and getting new workers.

      Now, sure, not all companies did that, and not all will do it – there will always be diamonds in the rough that the companies will keep on. Also, granted, this type of behaviour is not impossible to guard against, but it does need to be guarded against.

      I also have a very hard time believing that the current political systems would not (in my opinion needlessly) involve a lot of private companies sucking up a lot of money in administration no matter in which (western, neo-liberal) nation this is attempted in. There are some arguments that I would agree with (creating a state department or agency that directly managed workers would create a lot of administration that would be very hard to get rid of should one wish to stop the programme), but for the most part I simply believe that vested interests would like to grab as much of the cash available without having to involve actually transferring it to workers, and the excuse of getting private business involved due to a mythical efficiency is good enough to do most of the job.

  9. Thuto

    I believe at their core, both UBI and jobs programs seek to restore dignity to the socio-economically marginalized albeit utilizing different approaches. The cultural context is also important in these debates as the ingrained ethic around work, status, self image etc varies across different societies (although this is becoming less so as American/western consumerism and pop culture spreads around the world). In SA for instance, we have some type of a jobs program called the Extended Public Works Program (EPWP) that employs mostly unemployed youth. Far from restoring dignity and creating a platform from which they can leap forward with gusto towards a better life, the meagre earnings from this type of work seem to only reinforce the all too apparent reality that a “good life” is only accessible to the well credentialed.

    With even basic necessities priced out of reach, these EPWP workers take their meagre weekly earnings to the nearest liquor store every Friday night to drown their sorrows at the realization even “employment” hasn’t brightened their prospects vis a vis upward social mobility. The point being: jobs programs or UBI programs that are implemented so politicians can pull up the stats on how many “jobs” were created/lives were improved during their tenure are often divorced from the reality of what it takes to really change people’s lives and set them off on a path towards a brighter future.

    I don’t have the solutions but I do suspect injecting a bit of humanity into the architecture of these programs rather than using them as tools to quell insurrections and appease the poor would go a long way towards heightening their impact.

    1. Eustache De Saint Pierre

      Yes, you are correct & i imagine that if the Tories & probably the faux Left developed a scheme, it would be more chain gang than that which I described above from the eighties & likely privately funded in order to squeeze as much as possible from their captive human capital.

      I have a friend in his fifties who is unemployed & I know for a fact that the horror show he & his wife have found themselves trapped in, is far more vicious than that of when Neoliberalism first reared it’s ugly head. He refers to it as Kafkaesque, especially now that the new Universal Credit system has arrived, in which the hoops have been tightened & there are more of them featuring private companies, whose only purpose is it seems to repeat the whole futile process already undergone elsewhere, while adding to the misery & taking their pound of flesh.

      ” I, Daniel Blake ” already needs an update.

      1. akaPaul LaFargue

        I liked your [Eustache De Saint Pierre] account of the 80’s scheme (above @ 8:47am) and I agree that given the confusion re both UBI and JG we might wind up with a “chain gang” for the latter and for the former a bastardized welfare scheme that only affects the social welfare office with redundancies!

        JG advocates seem not to want to face the inevitable – too many mouths and not enough spoons, while the US proponents of UBI (here I mean the our Tech-Overlords and their peons) have no appreciation of solidarity engendered by collective effort.

        UBI as envisioned by Guy Standing and others of his persuasion (Soc.Dem), while head and shoulders more astute than the pap on offer today, always had a social welfare core that could rot easily in the stale air of opportunists.

        UBI as a critique of “work culture” and its mythology is another thing.

  10. WeekendPeak

    Basic income seems to be a counterweight to the increasing concentration of income and wealth in the hands of a few.
    As technology moves every forward and more and more jobs are made redundant there should be a mechanism by which the wealth that is now created by robots (and built inside of a society that many have contributed to, not just the owners of capital) is to a certain degree spread around. Taking technology to the nth degree, eventually all means of production will be held by literally a hand full of people while the rest has no means to earn a living.
    This btw is why the Fed’s mandate of full employment is incorrect – in reality people don’t want to work full-time, they want to earn full-time. Big difference.

  11. Summer

    What motivates people to do more?
    A sense of justice in the world (different from “law and order” ) would go a long way for many.

  12. Pookah Harvey

    The question of how to handle surplus workers due to increased productivity from technological innovation always seem to come down to Universal Basic Income vs. Guaranteed Jobs. Why isn’t the old idea of decreased work week ever brought up? Has anybody heard anyone suggesting a 30 hour work week? I wonder why not.

    1. Disturbed Voter

      The shorter work week was exactly what we were told to expect. But the Powell Memo …

      Excess population, needing to be occupied by excess activity to keep them out of trouble?

      The original Pyramid Scheme … lets build giant stone pyramids, with lots of low tech labor …

      And we can put the Elite in them, even before they are dead, if completed early ;-)

  13. grayslady

    “On top of that, as Speenhamland showed, there are people who do not want handouts. I didn’t take unemployment insurance when I was entitled to it. If I were desperate I would but only as a last resort.”

    As a former employer, I disagree that unemployment compensation is a “handout”; it’s simply part of the cost of hiring a worker, like worker’s compensation insurance or Social Security payments. By foregoing unemployment insurance payments, you simply denied yourself a form of pay to which you were entitled.

    I never consider social programs which support the well being of individuals, families and society in general to be “handouts” or “entitlements.” We pay into these programs either through our labor, through our taxes or through both. There should be no guilt attached to accepting their benefits.

    1. pricklyone`

      It is a little like having one’s house burn down, and not claiming against your fire insurance.

    2. artiste-de-decrottage

      Aye, excellent point.

      It’s a little something called “solidarity”.

      In my more than 20 years in the US, I’ve heard the word “solidarity” in public discourse less than a handful of times.

      While in Europe one hears it often.

      That alone must be indicative of the type of affliction we are dealing with here…

    3. jrs

      +1000 It’s not a handout, rather it is smart to make use of the resources provided to one. Unemployment is such a resource if unemployed for reasons which qualify. Just like the library is a resource. Just like the community college is a resource. No noone is forced to use any of these. But they are resources one can use when they make sense. And unemployment pretty much always makes sense when one finds oneself unemployed and qualified to collect (possible exceptions might be finding temp work that pays more than it etc.).

  14. BobbyK

    If as Kevin Drum suggests – AI is going to be taking over all work 40 some odd years from now – the only option would be UBI.

    1. JohnnyGL

      I know fakenews when I see it!!! :) and that sounds awfully fake!!!

      Sounds more like a narrative to intimidate people from asking for raises.

  15. JohnnyGL

    I think something that gets lost in this debate is the big difference in power relations under UBI vs. JG.

    If I get an extra $1,100 a month, then I have $1,100 and not much more. If I have a job that wants to shave my hours and make me work off the clock, I can’t tell them to where to stick it because I can’t live off that and don’t want to spend more time sitting at home playing vid games or watching daytime TV.

    If I can get another job that pays the same min wage and WILL NOT make me work off the clock, then I now have a measure of control over my working conditions. Turnover forces employers to shape up.

    Also, let’s be clear. There’s power in production, not in consumption. The history of success of the strike vs. the boycott is incomparable. Strikes work, plain and simple.

    1. JohnnyGL

      Also, think about how strike-breaking works when

      1) the workers you are threatening to replace….have a fed guaranteed job waiting for them.


      2) the workers you are trying to use to replace them….also can opt for a fed job waiting for them if they don’t like what they’re being asked to do.

  16. Wukchumni

    If UBI didn’t work in a law abiding place such as Finland, how would it work in a hellwhole like Stockton, Ca.?

  17. kev4321

    An important difference between UBI and a jobs program is the distribution of economic power. If money is issued directly to the public, then the public’s economic power will be increased due to the advantage of having the money first. Taxes on the rich would have to increase to somewhat balance the budget. If money is issued through a jobs program, the employers will have their economic power increased due to setting the requirements for getting money. There is a question of whether employers could be imaginative enough to create sufficient new jobs or whether corporations will be major participants. In either case, the programs would improve the relative position of the bottom economic rung, so I don’t expect either type of program to come to the U.S. any time soon. I don’t buy the jobs program arguments about inflation, social integration, or work ethic; and I don’t really buy the eventual increased productivity argument for UBI either. The simple fact is that the lower economic strata is kept in a state of anxiety and stress for a reason. Justifying these programs in terms of status quo economics is basically talking around the issue.

  18. Isotope_C14

    “Finally, people need structure to their lives and a place in society. Not having a job or socially legitimate role, like being a full-time parent or elder carer, and being a dependent, particularly for men, is a negative from a mental health perspective.”

    Yves, I hope you will understand my complete and total disagreement with you on this.

    Do you know what makes me miserable?

    Being forced (coerced) by capitalism to have to deal with people dumber than me on a daily basis. On top of that, but being forced in nearly every way to accept hierarchy as the “way it just is”. (Notably in a system where those at the top primarily acquire that position by being a family-blog kisser).

    If I could sit alone, not generating much carbon, in a room, with a food replicator, a stack of books, and/or wi-fi, I’d be perfectly fine never seeing anyone again.

    If I could legally inhabit temporarily 2 acres to myself to grow and scavenge food for myself, I would. In fact, I would like it to be where I could peacefully fish alone, participating in no way with the death economy that capitalism is, where the vast majority of actions that are essentially biosphere mass-suicide are the actions that are incentivized, while the actions that help people are the exact opposite.

    I’d humbly suggest that not everyone really wants to participate in this “society” that is broken beyond all meaning and reason. Now if you were talking about a hunter-gatherer-native-American lifestyle/society, I could enjoy that thoroughly.

    Please understand that some people don’t find meaning in the approval (or disapproval) of others. Actually, if someone disapproves of me, I must be doing something right.

    1. sarf

      I would posit, Isotope_C14, that you are atypical of most humans, who need others and an emotional connection to them (approval or disapproval can both work for validation). This is not meant as an attack or defense, but merely an observation.

      I personally thought I didn’t need people at all, but discovered a minimum level of social interaction needed to remain internally consistent (sane, to my definition). If you do not, then good on you, but recognize that a lot of people need other people to be well.

      We will need people to put in effort for quite some time before the robots/what have you save or damn us from that; I see no reason that a society which you wish to be a part of can not require that you provide some benefits to it (and I do not, in and of itself, consider money as a bad way of doing that, since it allows us to avoid pitfalls in strict command and control economies). If you have no money to provide to society, of course society should provide you with the means to earn some, hopefully means that are societally beneficial and does not enrich certain parts of society at the cost of others.

      I would argue for some way of opting out of society for people, but with very strict entry and exit protocols since, of course, opting out of society does mean opting out from all sorts of societal goods (healthcare primarily) and interaction with people (can’t have people who possibly don’t take care of themselves spread disease to the others and so on). I doubt it would be a very popular option, especially since it would of course mean giving up any capital and control of capital in society (can’t have external controls of society).

      1. Isotope_C14

        While atypical, these events must be planned for in these social/economic experiments. Not everyone is made happy by coerced job guarantees, but UBI doesn’t sound that bad to me, simply because people who aren’t made happy by enforced social interaction with buffoons X hours/week can have a way to simply be happy.

        Though all in all, I don’t think it really matters what we do in the next 2-10 years. Industrialization is going to end it all very soon.

        I’m pretty sure that Guy McPherson has it right, and for the record, the president of Finland is saying the same things now, we lose the Arctic, we lose agriculture. The oil companies aren’t going to stop. The finance barons of Wall Street aren’t going to stop. And hats off regarding the article about Ford only going to make SUV’s now. Brilliant.

        Now we can push the planet to potentially Venus 2.0 in a worst-case scenario. I’m a pretty smart science type guy, and I don’t have many ideas on how to re-freeze the Arctic.

        Our societal epitath will read:

        The most destructive species on the planet decided to kill all complex life because people needed jobs.

      2. The Prescription Was Clear

        C14 is probably high-functioning-autistic, if so, he has a lifetime of poor interactions with others and has grown to avoid and reject company (or perhaps society as a whole).

        There are many such disabilities (autism and feminism being the prominent examples), that are hardly ever recognised as such, so no real solution is provided beyond telling disabled people they need to “clean up their act” which they either can’t, or can, but only by pretending (to understand, imagine a feminist, pretending she’s OK with being employed as a prostitute) – this leads to massive levels of stress and, perhaps, at some point to violence.

        Once you realise that most (or, at least, many) govt. funded and forced “bull**** jobs” programs (we call them “larpurlar work” over here, after the french expression “l’art pour l’art”) aren’t needed, the ugly side effects and torment they cause (and better we don’t get into real-work programmes, not that the elites would know about them, or understand how horrible they really are) really leave no option but to call for end of any and all of such nonsense.

        Yes, Virginia we really do need to get quite a lot of work done, but this doesn’t mean brutalising lower classes into horrific conditions over the concern that we might experience “inflation.”

        How does that even work BTW? How does (U)BI cause inflation of food and other real products, but “fake-job” employment (which produces nothing, as it’s point is mostly to obscure the nature of the programme – which is UBI in everything but name) magically doesn’t?!?!

        Concern trolling about inflation has got to be one of the best ideological tools the western plutocracy has in its arsenal today.

        Make no mistake, I’m all in favour of providing that “great experience” of being a “member of the society” to all who like it, but not as a mandatory, no opt-out programme; remember, erotomans and nymphomaniacs would very much like to see if the govt “helped” people by forcing them to have sex regularily, everywhere and with everyone, and they would claim how much it improves the lives of “beneficiaries.”

        Everyone else would recognise this as sex-slavery; how about we do this for other, more subtle forms of abuse (and I think “rape” would not be too strong of a word here either).

        TLDR: I implore the “work is great!” “society is great!” crowd to wake up and finally recognise the true nature of their demands; you’re calling for horrific, hellish nightmare conditions for those who don’t share your enthusiasm.

        There, I said it.

        1. Isotope_C14

          Interesting response,

          “C14 is probably high-functioning-autistic, if so, he has a lifetime of poor interactions with others and has grown to avoid and reject company (or perhaps society as a whole).”

          I have a lifetime of great interactions with most people normally. I grew up poor, and therefore able to compromise and adapt. If you think society as a whole is a good thing – you know, the plundering and destruction of the biosphere, then I’m autistic. (I’ve had to wait tables and be a servant to the rich when I thought I had to acquire money for the established carrot and stick model)

          “There are many such disabilities (autism and feminism being the prominent examples),”

          Huh? So women wanted to be treated as equals in an economic system that demands participation is a disability? Thinking outside what “normal people” think is autistic? What is the definition of normal???

          “TLDR: I implore the “work is great!” “society is great!” crowd to wake up and finally recognise the true nature of their demands; you’re calling for horrific, hellish nightmare conditions for those who don’t share your enthusiasm.”

          You got me fully confused here. On one hand you are somewhat putting things in your definition box, and then your summary-thesis is exactly the point – that all these “what if we do X or Y and make everyone fit in the box is baloney”.

          Can you please elaborate on this?

          1. The Prescription Was Clear

            I have a lifetime of great interactions with most people normally.[…]

            Aha, I see. You don’t have a real problem, merely an ideological one.

            Be aware, problems are those you actually have, not those you conjure in your head, “plundering and destruction of the biosphere,” for example, is not a neccesary feature of a full employment programme.

            So women wanted to be treated as equals in an economic system that demands participation is a disability?

            But they don’t want to be, sexually disabled people don’t want to be treated as equals, that’s horrible to them, hence all of the screaming, same with autistic people, they don’t want to be forced into “inclusive participation.”

            Again, real problems of real people (being bothered by what other like and consider normal) as opposed to political positions (culture warfare talk ala “treated as equals”).

            On one hand you are somewhat putting things in your definition box […]

            Not at all, I merely misjudged you, real sorry there, no need to fret.

            And indeed I am fully against treating everyone equally, it’s insane.

    2. jrs

      needing structure (really I think this is mild as many retired people find structure) or more needing to feel part of and of course needing an income and needing respect is closer to accurate than needing a purpose or to contribute to society. Because really even if a job does evil it will be sought after by many unemployed people. So it’s really not about contributing to society … at all.

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