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Discussion point – current events show why universal basic income would be a terrible idea

There are lots of reasons in my mind why UBI would be a bad idea. I know that some libertarians/classical liberals, such as the late Milton Friedman, favoured a form of it in the form of “negative income tax”, but largely because they wanted to sweep together existing welfare benefits into a single payment, and for that payment to be cut fairly low so as not to kill incentives. More recently, I have seen folk such as some (not all) “transhumanists” claim that in our marvellous tech future where there is no scarcity, we can have all these goodies for “free” (no more of that stuff about “there’s no such thing as a free lunch”), and that therefore UBI will be affordable and that it will be needed, as conventional “work” no longer exists. This sort of argument is bound to be made more and more because of how work practices have been hammered by the lockdowns, among other forces.

Apart from the implausibility of the idea that scarcity will be overcome – as seen by this critique of a Charles Stross book, another reason why I distrust UBI is that it is going to create a whole class of entitled brats if UBI were to not just replace existing welfare, but be added to them in significant ways. We have had a recent demonstration of what happens when lots of people are paid for doing nothing, with only a few diversions to amuse them, and the results aren’t pretty.

Do we want to scale that issue of people living in prolonged adolescence even more? The cultural/economic consequences of a world in which a handful of evil capitalists are paying all the taxes while the rest of the population loll around on UBI, updating blogs and being generally bored out of their minds is not one I look forward to. It could end up as Ray Bradbury-meets-George Orwell-meets Aldous Huxley. Here is a good case against UBI from David Henderson.

UBI is a terrible idea, at least in terms of somehow covering a vast chunk of the population and funded by a small group who, apparently, are happy to do so without conditions. If people think I misrepresent what UBI is, and can achieve, by all means come back to me in the comments. So far, all too often it appears to be sold as some sort of utopian replacement for work. I am not buying it.

31 comments to Discussion point – current events show why universal basic income would be a terrible idea

  • Stonyground

    I suppose it could be a way of keeping said entitled brats on the straight and narrow. Breaking the law results in suspension or complete cessation of UBI payments.

    On balance though, I see it as a bad idea. I’m also interested to know why ever increasing automation is likely to result in idleness when it hasn’t in the past. It seems to result in more stuff being made available more cheaply and people buying more other stuff because they have money left over. In other words ever increasing living standards.

    I do wonder about how many people work for quangos, fake charities and government departments effectively doing no actual useful work. Are these people effectively in receipt of a publicly funded income? I seem to recall the NHS advertising for a climate change coordinator a while back, that pretty much defines a non job.

  • Johnathan Pearce (London)

    I do wonder about how many people work for quangos, fake charities and government departments effectively doing no actual useful work. Are these people effectively in receipt of a publicly funded income?

    The answer to that is a yes, in some respects.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “There are lots of reasons in my mind why UBI would be a bad idea. I know that some libertarians/classical liberals, such as the late Milton Friedman, favoured a form of it in the form of “negative income tax”, but largely because they wanted to sweep together existing welfare benefits into a single payment, and for that payment to be cut fairly low so as not to kill incentives.”

    Not precisely.

    The issue with welfare is that it creates a poverty trap. If welfare is used to top your wages up to a minimum, the marginal rate for work is zero until you reach that minimum. The result is that the unemployed get trapped in a situation where (initially) the more they work, the less they earn. If they get a job, they lose benefits, but now have extra costs associated with working. This forces a lot of people who would like to work into permanent unemployment. They cannot reach the first rung of the ladder.

    The solution proposed is not simply to “sweep up” the welfare payments into a single payment, but to prevent the zero marginal rate that causes the poverty trap. The point is that it should always be the case that the more your work, the more you earn. Welfare payments should not be subtracted to entirely nullify wage rises, but only in some sliding proportion. Thus, the unemployed should always have an incentive to work, even below minimum wage.

    Besides that, it’s just a matter of what name you give things. You earn a gross wage, then subtract taxes and add welfare to get a net wage. But all that really matters is the difference between the gross and the net – whether you allocate this difference to tax or welfare is irrelevant. A reduction in tax is equivalent to an increase in welfare, and vice versa. Thus the idea of UBI has two components – creating a non-zero marginal rate for work, the important bit, and renaming the gap ‘income’ instead of ‘welfare’, which is of no practical consequence, just a difference in terminology, but which seems to generate most of the opposition to the idea.

    People don’t like the idea of people at the bottom of the ladder getting an ‘income’ without work. But this is what welfare does anyway. We’ve already got the bit people are objecting to. The thing UBI does differently is to prevent the converse situation – of people having to do work for which they get no income, being stuck in the poverty trap.

    The other people don’t like is the higher cost. If people at the bottom are being paid more, that money has to come from somewhere – specifically, the people further up the ladder. For the unemployed the cost is the same, for those working at below or just above the minimum wage the cost of their welfare is higher, because we’re no longer subtracting from their welfare everything they earn.

    But the cost to people further up depends not only on how much is paid out, but also on how it affects the number of people at each wage level. If people remain unemployed, it costs the same – we have just renamed unemployment benefit as UBI and nothing really changes. If people get below-minimum-wage jobs and stay there the total costs go up. But if, as intended, it enables the unemployed to escape the poverty trap and start climbing the ladder, then it reduces the number unemployed and below minimum wage, and makes them productive again. That raises the overall wealth of society, and actually reduces the tax burden on the rich.

    Yes, people can survive without working, but why would they, when they can get more for themselves if they do work? So the UBI is available to all, but virtually nobody is earning so little as to need it. UBI is added, and an equal amount of tax takes it away, to give virtually no net difference.

    So there are two separate arguments. One is whether there should be a safety net, so that people who lose their jobs don’t starve in the gutter. (And a separate argument about how to pay for it, whether through taxes or insurance payments or whatever else.) If you accept the idea of a safety net, you thereby accept the idea of people being paid for no work. The second argument is whether the marginal rate for work should ever be zero, creating a poverty trap, requiring people to do more work for no extra pay. This second argument is what UBI, contrasted with welfare, is all about.

    Do we believe that if we give people an incentive to work, they will? That if given the opportunity, people won’t want to be idle? If they can once get on the ladder, are they capable of climbing it, and willing to do so? That’s a pretty fundamental difference in our beliefs about the nature of humanity. And that’s the fundamental unanswered question when it comes to whether UBI would actually work.

  • Johnathan Pearce (London)

    Do we believe that if we give people an incentive to work, they will?

    Yes, and that is why means-testing and the impact of taxes on low incomes creates what people refer to as the “tax wedge”, creating marginal rate for low earners of 90 per cent or more when they compare living on welfare vs getting a job. If UBI were about that specific issue, there would be more support for it. But the problem is that UBI, as I see it, is that it is often pitched not as a neat fix for some difficult welfare issues, but because people think that tech is going to wipe out most jobs, being replaced by robots, and that all the squillions generated will need to be paid out to the population, lest we get some horrible, Darwinian mess.

    There is also the “optics” to consider. UBI is often portrayed by some of its adherents that it is something one gets without having to prove any need for it, but just by being a citizen with a pulse. There is an entitlement unmoored to any prior contribution via tax, etc, or even performance of a specific duty, such as jury service, military service, or whatever. That is not good. I have heard some say that UBI, precisely because the term “universal basic income” does not come with any language of “welfare” or so forth, is like a gateway drug for socialism.

    Another issue is that people already get a lot of transfers from their fellows in the form of money that is used to pay for roads, schools, healthcare, etc, and I doubt that the UBI payments will replace these (such as giving a UBI top-up for parents in the form of a school voucher for their kids). UBI, then, will only replace some of the total that is paid out by taxpayers.

  • Paul Marks

    No Nullius you are mistaken – and it was shown decades ago that you are mistaken.

    Money for no work was discredited, even in official circles, by the 1980s-1990s. That is why it was required that people, who were physically able to do so, work to get benefits. This was required even in historically leftist Wisconsin (by Governor Thompson – not even a particularly conservative Republican) that people do work in order to claim benefits – work that the State would give them if they really could not find any. This was applied by the Federal Congress in the 1990s (Welfare Reform). The undermining of this by Barack Obama was one of the worst of his many bad deeds.

    This is because (contrary to Milton Friedman) there is a massive DIS UTILITY to a lot of work – many jobs really are crap.

    Saying “you will earn more money if you work than if you do not work” is not enough – especially if someone has been out of work for a long time, or SEVERAL GENERATIONS (as with the “Underclass” that LBJs “War On Poverty” CREATED and EXPANDED) so it has to be “work or you suffer” – work is not called “Adam’s Curse” for nothing – it involves suffering, so people engage in it when the suffering from NOT working is even greater. I know this – I have had crap jobs all my life, so have a lot of people. So it really has to be “find a job or we will give you one – and you really will not like the sort of job we will give you”.

    The UBI would create an ever growing UNDERCLASS – getting worse with each generation, sink estates on steroids.

    As for the history – it is just is not true that governments have always provided welfare.

    The American example (no “Food Stamps” till 1961) is often dismissed – even though the “frontier” was not really available in 1960 (essentially the last year before people were just given stuff in return for breathing).

    So let us look at other examples – there was no government welfare tax in most of Scotland till 1845. And no government Welfare tax system in FRANCE for many decades even AFTER this. Of course there was poverty in France – but it was no worse than in countries that had a government welfare system.

    I say again – if you give able bodied people money for NOT working that is what many of us will do (and note I said US – I am in this position myself, since Mr Johnson put me out of work with his insane “lockdown”).

    It is very unlikely I, or many other people, will get a job at all – but if I do it will be a crap job. Why should I suffer (doing a crap job) if the state is going to give me money just for sitting here? Especially as I can, quite truthfully, tell myself that I am unemployed by no fault of my own – like millions of other people I have been MADE unemployed by the insane “lockdown” policy.

    A policy you pushed Nullius.

    I have mentioned before that you are utterly shameless – that the policies you push do terrible harm, but you carry on as if nothing had happened (giving no apology at all). So I take a grim satisfaction to see you that are you still here giving us the “benefit” of your words. It proves me right about your moral conscience – lack there of, or ability not to listen to.

    Just a thought – are you related to ether Sir Charles Trevelyan or General Douglas Haig?

  • William H. Stoddard

    Economic calculation and scarcity aren’t actually the same problem, except in the trivial sense that if we were post-scarcity we wouldn’t need to economize and therefore wouldn’t have to do economic calculation. If, hypothetically, we had machine intelligences that could do economic calculation algorithmically, they would let us find the optimal use of scarce resources; but there would still be scarce resources. If there were post-scarcity, every question of economic calculation would have the exact same answer: “Do as you please.” So in envisioning a world where economic calculation is vastly easier and more efficient without reliance on the market, Stross is not pointing toward post-scarcity, even if he was ill-informed enough to suppose otherwise (I’m not sure if that’s the case; I read Accelerando once, years and years ago, and decided not to keep it, so I haven’t reread it and don’t remember it well).

    Incidentally, if machines could do economic calculation better than humans and human markets, it seems that every business would have one; or, in the shorter run, that businesses that didn’t use such machines would fail to compete and be forced to close, just as (much earlier) businesses that didn’t adopt double entry bookkeeping to track costs and returns failed to compete. We don’t seem to see that happening now.

    But it seems to me that if we did have businesses using such software, one thing that would happen would be that other businesses using such software would be part of their competitive environment; and every business would spend increasing computational resources trying to model and predict the stratagems that other businesses were using trying to squeeze a fraction of a percent of increased returns out of the new economy. In fact, this would be exactly like the way primate brains were driven (according to some current evolutionary thought) to increase their size and processing power, even to the point where they threatened maternal survival during childbirth, by the imperative of modeling other primate brains that were modeling other primate brains that were modeling . . . and so on. The most complex and important part of a human environment is other human beings, and the most complex and important part of an Economy 2.0 business’s environment would be other Economy 2.0 businesses—and they would still be competing, at a depth nearly inconceivable to unaided humans. Any one computer might produce a local socialist utopia, but the whole nexus of such computers would still be ruthlessly competitive.

    As for post-scarcity, scarcity is simply the economic version of a well-known ecological principle, Liebig’s Law of the Minimum, which says that for every species in every environment, there is some one resource that is scarcer that any other, and that sets the upper limit to that species’ biomass and/or reproduction. If scarcity did not exist, there would be no limits to reproduction, and human beings (as a biological species) could increase their numbers without limit. Good luck on making that happen!

  • Nullius in Verba

    “No Nullius you are mistaken – and it was shown decades ago that you are mistaken.”

    No Mark, you’re misunderstanding what I said. But you never listen.

  • Nullius in Verba

    Sorry, I meant ‘Paul’.

  • Nullius in Verba (July 3, 2020 at 1:25 pm), if the aim is that UBI be designed to function like Milton Freidman’s negative income tax, then it would be politically and practically wise to call it that, not UBI.

    It would also be prudent to tie the negative rate to the positive rate, so recipients knew any rise in tax meant a decline in their welfare payments.

    Psychologically, calling charity by an appropriate name (e.g. ‘welfare’, not ‘income’), seems honest to me – and prudent if the aim is, by removing the welfare trap, to make it easier for recipients to switch to earning.

    I would guess that Paul’s “it was shown decades ago” also refers to the various basic income experiments done in the US. They were pushed by people who liked the idea – who hoped and expected them to show that old-fashioned judgemental attitudes towards getting paid without working for it, could be discarded. The experiments’ outcomes disappointed their promotors. Paul is, of course, right that many jobs are rather dull, so that a pound obtained for free is worth more to most people (in all ways except maybe their moral sense) than a pound obtained at the cost of time and effort. Many who would not waste their time in idleness would choose to paint pictures, research history, march for causes – even write Samizdata blog comments – rather than work at a job whose main attraction for them is its pay. (A friend of mine enjoys replying, when people ask him what he does, “I’m in sewage” 🙂 , but while it’s less objectionable work than you might think, it needs the motivation – pay and respect for “working, not scrounging” – that it has.) Charles Murray (“Losing Ground”) has a discussion of this.

    So I agree that it would be a great good to eliminate the gross marginal rates of tax inflicted on any who try to escape the welfare trap, and no actual regression if welfare payments continued at the same or lower levels under a new name. However I think those who seek to escape the welfare trap will continue to need all the self-respect motivators that a once-saner society gave and that a corrupted society needs to restore. So I don’t want it called UBI.

    Just my 0.02p on this.

  • neonsnake

    Why should I suffer (doing a crap job) if the state is going to give me money just for sitting here? Especially as I can, quite truthfully, tell myself that I am unemployed by no fault of my own – like millions of other people I have been MADE unemployed by the insane “lockdown” policy.

    Honest question: would you really be happy sitting at home while being paid to do so?

    I’ve this vague impression that you wouldn’t. You’ve despaired at the place you work being closed (an amusement park, IIRC) – is that just because of the money? Or because it gives you some sense of purpose?

    I lost my job about three weeks ago, due to the perceived state of the future economy. It would be fair to say that I blame the extended lock-down for this*.

    (Were things back to normal, my role would be required; looking at it with a philosophical hat on, I can understand that my role probably is not necessary under current circumstances)

    I reckon I have at most 5 or 6 weeks before I run out of jobs to do around the house, and start climbing the walls due to a lack of purpose. That “5 or 6 weeks” is quite some time before I run out of redundancy pay (and I’ve not even looked yet at what benefits I’m entitled to)

    At that point, I’ll start applying for delivery driver jobs, service jobs, fruit-picking jobs – anything, just to give me a sense of purpose and worth. I believe most people are the same (and, yes, that’s the fundamental difference in philosophy. Being idle is an awful feeling).

    People, in general, want to work.

    And not even just for a sense of purpose. They want to work in order to be able to afford nicer things, whether it’s clothes, holidays, or the latest gadgets and toys. But there’s a point in our current system where you have to make such a leap that it seems impossible.

    I have a friend of a friend, she’s disabled and qualifies for an amount of benefits. She makes an amount of money by designing and selling crochet patterns. She’s so popular, that she’s getting to the point where if she sells 10% more, they will cut her benefits by far more than she will earn by selling 10% more. I’ll have to make the numbers up a little bit, because I’m not rude enough to pry, but I’ll be in the ball-park – she would need to increase her sales by (I think that’s roughly correct) 80% overnight, to make up the loss.

    So she’s desperately trying to manage her sales at the current level, so as not to be put in a position where she starves. Imagine doing that? Whilst dealing with a disability as well? Imagine having to refuse sales, because it drops you back down to not being able to buy food?

    That’s the reality of our current welfare system.

    UBI, at a stroke, corrects that grotesque reailty.

    It incentivises work. It incentivises her to work harder, to the best that she can within her limits, so that she can move up from “I can afford food” (a good thing, but kinda basic in anything calling itself a society) to “I can work hard enough to afford a dishwasher and a tumble-dryer, so I don’t need to ruin myself for the next two days because I’ve had to use all my limited energy on cleaning dishes and hanging out washing on the line”.

    *lockdown has been hard for me, on a practical level. I’ve lost a loved one (not due to Covid, I will stress) and I am unable to offer the support to their nearest and dearest that I would like to, due to lockdown. I’ve been separated from my other half for going on three months, and I have also lost my job.

    But be very clear: the reason all of that has happened is not because of “lockdown”. It’s because people didn’t follow the medical advice. If people had done what they were asked to do by medical experts, were they isolating, wearing masks in enclosed spaces, and so on, we wouldn’t be here now.

    The reason we’re here now is that people decided to be contrarian about it, to pretend that this was just a flu, to treat wearing a mask (ie. caring about your fellow citizens) as “virtue-signalling”, and those people are to blame for the deaths, the state of the economy and the job-losses. This could have been over weeks ago, but we’re facing into another year or so of this, because of those people.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “Nullius in Verba (July 3, 2020 at 1:25 pm), if the aim is that UBI be designed to function like Milton Freidman’s negative income tax, then it would be politically and practically wise to call it that, not UBI.”

    Possibly. When it comes to the best way to spin it politically, I don’t claim to have any answers. My preference is for trying to explain it so people understand, and can figure out their own name for it.

    “I would guess that Paul’s “it was shown decades ago” also refers to the various basic income experiments done in the US.”

    Paul is presenting the argument against welfare, and I’m not disagreeing with him on it. What I was trying to explain was that the arguments for UBI aren’t about support for welfare, but about making it less damaging and reducing the need for it by removing the poverty trap implications of welfare (which are themselves one heck of an argument against welfare).

    I’m not particularly trying to argue for or against UBI here. I’m simply trying to ensure the arguments for it are clearly understood, so that people can agree or disagree with it for valid reasons. Now, you might argue that welfare is bad for other reasons, and UBI doesn’t fix those flaws, and I’m fine with that. Friedman-type UBI only claims to be better than poverty-trap welfare, not that it is thereby necessarily a good idea. The arguments against or in favour of having a collective social ‘safety net’ at all are entirely separate from it.

    “So I agree that it would be a great good to eliminate the gross marginal rates of tax inflicted on any who try to escape the welfare trap, and no actual regression if welfare payments continued at the same or lower levels under a new name. However I think those who seek to escape the welfare trap will continue to need all the self-respect motivators that a once-saner society gave and that a corrupted society needs to restore. So I don’t want it called UBI.”

    OK. I’m happy about that. We could have a discussion about what to call it instead. 🙂

    “People, in general, want to work. And not even just for a sense of purpose. They want to work in order to be able to afford nicer things, whether it’s clothes, holidays, or the latest gadgets and toys. But there’s a point in our current system where you have to make such a leap that it seems impossible.”

    That’s certainly been my experience of poor people. Lots of people do want to work and earn, but the system gets in the way. But there are also some I’ve met who genuinely don’t, and I don’t pretend to know how many there are or what the outcome would be.

  • William H. Stoddard

    I have to say that when, earlier this year, I was unable to resume working immediately after a long distance move, I found myself increasingly frustrated and out of sorts. There seemed to be vast stretches of empty time. But I don’t know if everyone is constituted as I am, to need work to be comfortable.

  • like millions of other people I have been MADE unemployed by the insane “lockdown” policy. (Paul)

    I lost my job about three weeks ago, due to the perceived state of the future economy. It would be fair to say that I blame the extended lock-down for this. (neonsnake)

    Very sorry to hear that, Paul and neonsnake. To no-one’s surprise, those who work in the private sector are victimised while many a quango pays its chair-warmers as usual. Niall ever-the-optimist Kilmartin has a hope that the excuse (and/or necessity) of paying for the lockdown will be used summarily to kill a pointlessness of quangos (I welcome anyone’s suggestion for a better collective noun). However if I had just lost my job thanks to lockdown, I might experience a dent in my habitual sunny outlook.

    Neonsnake, I agree there are many who will work at something regardless. However see mine above (Niall Kilmartin, July 3, 2020 at 6:06 pm) for my opinion that there are many that will laze around, and many others that will work at what interests them instead of on the job that pays their keep, if their keep is independent of their work. From the artist ‘starving’ in his garret – and staying there all the more determinedly if allowed not to starve – to Niall me-too Kilmartin who many years ago was unemployed for months because I was determined to get the job I wanted (I did eventually reel it in) there are those who will pursue their goals till the money runs out. We need such people – but they need the financial discipline of “he that does not work, neither shall he eat out in restaurants, or even the burger bar” (and Niall ruthless Kilmartin could put it more strongly 🙂 ).

  • But be very clear: the reason all of that has happened is not because of “lockdown”. It’s because people didn’t follow the medical advice. If people had done what they were asked to do by medical experts, were they isolating, wearing masks in enclosed spaces, and so on, we wouldn’t be here now.

    The reason we’re here now is that people decided to be contrarian about it, to pretend that this was just a flu, to treat wearing a mask (ie. caring about your fellow citizens) as “virtue-signalling”, and those people are to blame for the deaths, the state of the economy and the job-losses. This could have been over weeks ago, but we’re facing into another year or so of this, because of those people.

    You forgot to mention that “Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia.” 🙄

    These so-called “medical experts” would be people like Neil Ferguson aka Professor Lockdown and his dodgy data? The same “expert” that decided the plebs all needed to sequester themselves for the duration but he could go for a quick shag with his totty adulteress?

    TL/DR – I refer you to the reply given in Arkell and Pressdram

  • Fraser Orr

    @neonsnake
    But be very clear: the reason all of that has happened is not because of “lockdown”. It’s because people didn’t follow the medical advice. If people had done what they were asked to do by medical experts, were they isolating, wearing masks in enclosed spaces, and so on, we wouldn’t be here now.

    The reason we’re here now is that people decided to be contrarian about it, to pretend that this was just a flu, to treat wearing a mask (ie. caring about your fellow citizens) as “virtue-signalling”, and those people are to blame for the deaths, the state of the economy and the job-losses. This could have been over weeks ago, but we’re facing into another year or so of this, because of those people.

    None of that is true. This whole epidemic has been so utterly confounded by politically driven misinformation it is just plain shocking.

    * The main reason the this virus has been so damaging is becuase of the criminally poor handling of it in New York. Specifically the decision to force nursing homes to take Covid positive patients when they should have been in hospital.

    * Truthfully masks really don’t work. The best thing to do is to keep vunerable people is safe places where real and effective precautions can be used.

    * Every number you read is basically a lie. Number of cases doesn’t matter at all, it is entirely an artifact of how many have been measured, not how it has spread. For some reason they did not follow the practice of standard randomized testing to determine infection rates, but in the few cases they did (for example, random measures in various counties in California, and a test sampling of every laboring mom entering a couple of hospitals in New York) the infection rate was above 10%. That is 30 million people infected in the US. Which, BTW, is roughly the average number of people who get the flu each year.

    * The number of Covid deaths is just simply a lie. They numbers being reported are the number of people who die WITH Covid, not OF Covid. I have heard this said without embarrassment by several public health officials, including the head of the Illinois department of health. where I live. Just to put this in perspective, each month in the USA about 350,000 people die each month of all causes. Since 10% of them are Covid positive, then 35,000 people die WITH Covid while not dying OF Covid. That number overwhelms the statistics, which is to say they are complete BS.

    * There is NO evidence that lockdowns work at all. None. Zip. Nada. On the contrary, the evidence is that states that did NOT lockdown generally did better than states that did not.

    * Lockdowns are producing and will continue to produce many, many more deaths than from Covid. For example, a study in Britain estimated that 18,000 people extra will die from Cancer because they did not get timely checkups due to the lockdowns. (Extrapolating to the USA that would be 100,000 extra cancer deaths in the USA) That is just cancer, never mind all the other things people died of because of inadequate access to medical care. Indications are, for example, that drug overdoses have DOUBLED during this period.

    * The media have gone out of their way to squash important theraputics like Hydroxichloriquine with AZM and Zinc, just out of spite for Donald Trump.

    * The latest spike is not a bad thing — it is what we want. A growth in asymptomatic cases produces herd immunity. The last thing they should do is reverse the opening up. It is true that hospitals are busier than normal (though certainly nowhere near overwhelmed) because hospitals are trying to catch up on the massive backlog of treatments caused by the lock down.

    * The spectacular dishonesty of politicians closing things down again for regular folks like you and me, while happily allowing massive crowds to wander the streets unmolested by laws or police or virus concerns, because the former doesn’t serve their political ends and the latter does is so transparent and hypocritical it shocks even a grumpy old curmudgeon like me.

    * The idea that, as Biden recently said, Trump has bungled this is about as far from the truth as it is possible to be. First of all, it isn’t even a federal problem, this is a county and state level problem. However, Trump has gone out of the way to produce the relief demanded by the states such as massive numbers of unused ventilators, construction of huge hospital capacity that was never used, and immediate response whenever the states wanted it, something even the governors acknowledged until it was politically a bad move to do so. And massive, unheard of amounts of borrowed money thrown around like twenty dollar bills.

    Basically the whole this is a massive lie, a crisis that has been used to exploit the good will of decent people to undermine Donald Trump (and on your side of the pond, Boris.) Not that Covid isn’t a nasty disease. It does seem to be, that part is not a lie, but the idea that lockdowns or masks is the solution is about as wrong as it is possible to be.

  • @Fraser Orr. Yup, that’s the long and the short of it. A nasty variant of the flu virus has been used for cynical effect by politicians, media and the usual troughers for their own ends to good effect. The massive power grab was done with the blessing of most of those affected.

    And, no, I won’t be wearing a face nappy.

  • I believe North Carolina’s data is typical in showing a huge gap between the modellers’ projections for all scenarios (no lockdown through firm lockdown) and the actual deaths and hospitalisations.

    The recent article titled Modelers Were ‘Astronomically Wrong’ in COVID-19 Predictions, Says Leading Epidemiologist — and the World Is Paying the Price concurs.

    A yet more recent article claims that Post-Pandemic Americans May Be Done With Taking Orders. There are still plenty of terrified Britons, but one may hope (and it would be a very modest hope 🙂 ) that a sense of reality is spreading faster than the (symptomatic) virus.

  • Nullius in Verba

    * Assuming everyone gets hospital treatment, it kills about 1% of those it infects.

    * It will need to infect 60-80% of the population before it stops spreading naturally – achieving herd immunity.

    * If allowed to do so, it will therefore kill 1% of 60-80% of the population. 400,000-530,000 in the UK, 2,000,000-2,600,000 in the US.

    * An unconstrained epidemic would infect this number over a few months.

    * That would overwhelm every health service, and the 1% death rate would rise. Nobody knows how high, but it would very likely at least double and quite possibly quadruple the death rate. That could be two million dead in the UK and ten million in the US.

    * If controls are imposed on-and-off, the lower 1% number would still apply, spread out over an indefinite period.

    * So the only way to keep the death count down is to prevent most people ever getting it.

    * Millions of deaths are politically unpopular, and a majority of the public are willing to pay a high price to prevent it.

    * The disease is passed from person to person through virus-laden airborne particles and contact.

    * To prevent it spreading, you have to prevent contact between people, or stop the particles being transferred.

    * Since in the absence of controls each infection typically leads to 3-4 subsequent infections, the controls have to reduce infections by a factor of four or more to stop it expanding exponentially. That needs a dramatic change in behaviour.

    * Even if you stop it expanding, with R = 1, it will keep on spreading. You would need to get R well below 1 to get the infections to reduce exponentially. Getting it to disappear entirely would still take many months to several years.

    * Lockdown is a fairly crude ‘panic’ measure, guaranteed to cut the transmission rate dramatically. We could potentially be smarter about it, but such systems take time to research and implement.

    * The current plan in the UK is that having got the number of ongoing infections down, we keep R at or below one until a proven vaccine or treatment shows up. We’re currently experimenting with how much we can do to carry on economically without letting it start spreading again. It will probably take about two years to get through it and recover.

    * In the US it’s got mixed up with politics, and has become a mess. A bunch on the right have got it into their heads that it’s all some scheme by the Democrats to wreck the economy and thus overthrow Trump. And since they’re so used to the media having spent the last four years trying to do that, any source of information that says anything different is automatically dismissed as false and part of the conspiracy. Simultaneously, a bunch on the left have got it into their heads that this is the perfect opportunity for a revolution. The infection controls are breaking down, and several states now have rapidly expanding outbreaks.

    * The US has so far had 120,000 deaths, about 6% of the 2 million potential. About 5-7% of the population have antibodies having caught it so far. (Most results I’ve seen seem to be in the range 2-10%, depending on location, but numbers are very, very uncertain. Cities are a lot higher, generally.) As infection controls break down, the number is headed higher.

    Ultimately, it’s a political choice. You could say millions dead is an acceptable price to pay, and follow the US path. Or you can say a major dip in the economy is an acceptable price to pay, and follow the UK. The politicians are paying close attention to public opinion. I’m not going to say either is unquestionably right or wrong. That’s a question of values, rather than facts. But the problem we face doesn’t have anything to do with models, and while the uncertainties around the data are large, they’re not large enough to offer you a way out. We’re not even half way through this yet.

  • TMLutas

    A “thin” form of private UBI is unavoidable. Done in cryptocurrency with the mere requirement to have a pulse and be in the USA, it’s an incredibly cheap way to gather private data and thus will likely be implemented by someone in the B2C commercial space in the US. In this form, tied to some empowering use for the pocket change you put in the accounts, its main effect would be to make people who are unbanked have access to a cheap place to store value.

    It’s quite tempting for the list generation and marketing effects, and therefore someone will do it. It’s the power given by the computer revolution plus microtransactions enabled by cryptocurrency. To pretend like someone isn’t going to do it isn’t living in the real world. The real challenge is what do you do when someone does.

  • Fraser Orr

    @Nullius in Verba
    * Assuming everyone gets hospital treatment, it kills about 1% of those it infects.

    That isn’t true. That 1% number is based on a greatly exaggerated numerator and a massively understated denominator. The real death rate is probably closer to 0.1%, which is to say, the same as the flu.

    * An unconstrained epidemic would infect this number over a few months.

    That isn’t true either. We don’t need to guess. There are many places in the US where it has been unconstrained and that hasn’t been the result. Nebraska is not piling up their dead.

    * That would overwhelm every health service, and the 1% death rate would rise. Nobody knows how high, but it would very likely at least double and quite possibly quadruple the death rate. That could be two million dead in the UK and ten million in the US.

    This has been proved to be wrong. Hospitals have never come close to being overwhelmed. In fact President Trump build many hospitals that lay mostly empty. Again, you might claim that that is because of the health services’ actions. But there is no reason to believe that is true. We can compare with states that did lock down and those that didn’t and the data is not favorable to your conclusion.

    * So the only way to keep the death count down is to prevent most people ever getting it.

    That isn’t possible. Viruses spread, unless you want to keep everybody isolated for forever, they will get it. The point of the lock down was never to prevent infection it was to slow the infection. And the data simply does not support the conclusion that that was true.

    * The disease is passed from person to person through virus-laden airborne particles and contact.
    * To prevent it spreading, you have to prevent contact between people, or stop the particles being transferred.
    * Since in the absence of controls each infection typically leads to 3-4 subsequent infections, the controls have to reduce infections by a factor of four or more to stop it expanding exponentially. That needs a dramatic change in behaviour.
    * Even if you stop it expanding, with R = 1, it will keep on spreading. You would need to get R well below 1 to get the infections to reduce exponentially. Getting it to disappear entirely would still take many months to several years.

    This is just you spouting the CDC line. But the fact is that the CDC and King of the World Faucci have been wrong on just about every claim they have made. One should respect credentials when initially assessing the reliability of a source. However, it is much better to assess their results, and their results have been disastrously and systematically wrong.

    * Lockdown is a fairly crude ‘panic’ measure, guaranteed to cut the transmission rate dramatically. We could potentially be smarter about it, but such systems take time to research and implement.

    Except that there is no evidence to support that claim.

    * In the US it’s got mixed up with politics, and has become a mess. A bunch on the right have got it into their heads that it’s all some scheme by the Democrats to wreck the economy and thus overthrow Trump. And since they’re so used to the media having spent the last four years trying to do that, any source of information that says anything different is automatically dismissed as false and part of the conspiracy. Simultaneously, a bunch on the left have got it into their heads that this is the perfect opportunity for a revolution. The infection controls are breaking down, and several states now have rapidly expanding outbreaks.

    But ever piece of information is suspect, and tainted by politics (more like overwhelmed by politics). Again, the Mayor of Los Angeles just locked down the city, the beaches, outdoor dining, everything, while outside his office are crowds and crowds of people marching. The purpose of the lockdowns (Which are controlled, if you remember, mostly by democratic governors and mayors) is to damage the economy, and consequently to damage Trump. Covid is not a disease, it is a pretext.

    * The US has so far had 120,000 deaths, about 6% of the 2 million potential.

    But that isn’t true. The US has bad 120k deaths of people who have had Covid listed on their death certificate. The vast majority of them died of something else (remember, 350k people die in the US every month of all causes and probably 10% of them are likely to be Covid positive) and their death was attributed to Covid for mostly political reasons. Many of them would have died at the same anyway and so their deaths, while tragic, are not caused by Covid, they are at most compounded by Covid (and are frequently independent of Covid.) The political masters in these states have said quite explicitly that dying WITH Covid means that your death certificate says you died OF Covid. Were we to record Flu deaths this way we would get the same eye-watering numbers.

    Ultimately, it’s a political choice. You could say millions dead is an acceptable price to pay, and follow the US path.

    What are you talking about? The US has mostly followed the conventional wisdom on this and destroyed its economy in the process. Those parts of the country that did not do so have not suffered nearly as badly. So when you say “the US path”, I have no idea what you are talking about.

    I am hesitant to even make this comment, since I’m not sure I want to spend a significant amount of my life reading your very long comments (in reply to my very long comments.) Especially since I doubt we will agree on this matter.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “That isn’t true. That 1% number is based on a greatly exaggerated numerator and a massively understated denominator. The real death rate is probably closer to 0.1%, which is to say, the same as the flu.”

    The death rate is 1%. You wouldn’t get massive spikes in excess deaths if it was like the flu.

    “This is just you spouting the CDC line.”

    No, that’s just how respiratory viruses work. We’ve known that for the last hundred years. The CDC didn’t invent it.

    “The vast majority of them died of something else (remember, 350k people die in the US every month of all causes and probably 10% of them are likely to be Covid positive) and their death was attributed to Covid for mostly political reasons.”

    That wouldn’t lead to spikes in excess deaths. The number of deaths in New York at its peak was six times the normal level. That’s impossible if they were just allocating a subset of normal deaths to COVID-19.

    “I am hesitant to even make this comment, since I’m not sure I want to spend a significant amount of my life reading your very long comments (in reply to my very long comments.) Especially since I doubt we will agree on this matter.”

    I’ve tried to keep it short. But I agree, we’re not going to agree on this.

  • neonsnake

    Dammit. I fear I have derailed what could have been a very interesting thread on UBI!!

    My caveat at the end of my initial post was merely to note that despite “lock-down” having hit me pretty badly, I don’t blame it, or some of the polices, wholly for the situation I now find myself in. I’ve been trying to remember to put “lock-down” into quotations (I missed a couple upthread) to note that I don’t wholly agree with all of it – now that we have more information, it appears that social distancing, hand-washing and mask-wearing are potentially enough.

    I personally think that – with the benefit of hindsight – we in the UK should have locked down quicker and harder, and made it much clearer how much higher of a risk COVID is than we did. I think we didn’t take it seriously enough, and we now have this horribly prolonged “sort-of” “lock-down”, that my gloomy side suspects may go on for another year; in turn, this severely damages the chances of Paul Marks or myself finding suitable employment (more-so in Paul’s case, given that he works in amusement parks, which is a shitty situation for the poor bloke to be in).

    I believe that had we done so, we’d have quashed it down to far more manageable levels, and would be in a better place right now.

    Hindsight being what it is though, we are we are. I am not by any means golden on this one – I was making jokes about the quantity of face-masks we were selling in January, because I wasn’t taking it seriously. I went to a gig on the 8th of March – the sort of gig where jumping up and down and belting out the lyrics are de rigour, which in hindsight was possibly one of the worst things to have done. This was mere days before the much-maligned Cheltenham event. I point that out because I don’t want anyone to think that I was taking it seriously before anyone else, I really wasn’t.

    Fraser, FWIW, I don’t actually disagree with much of what you wrote upthread (I disagree with some of it 😉 )

    Mainly, I agree that the whole thing has been horrible politicised (by everyone). It’s very difficult to know what to believe and what not to, when everyone and anyone can pull up a study to prove their point – “look at Sweden! Look at Japan! Look at Vietnam! Look at New Zealand!” and so on – all which get immediately criticised and debunked.

    I’m trying – hard, but not entirely successfully – to stay away from the politics of it. I don’t really buy that the entire world “locked-down” out of some idea to exploit a “flu” for political gain.

    With respect to masks – I wear one, whenever I go out to shop.

    My current understanding of masks is that they do bugger-all for me, but an enormous amount for everyone I come into contact with. If I have COVID, but don’t know it because I have no symptoms, then my wearing of a mask protects you from me, even while it doesn’t protect me from the people who aren’t wearing masks.

    Yes, it’s uncomfortable. I wear glasses, so I’m constantly dealing with them steaming up. It’s a bit weird, and trying to communicate while wearing one is tricky. I get strange looks, because mask-wearing in the UK (at least where I live) is very uncommon. I’d guess that less than 1 in 50 are wearing masks in my neck of the woods.

    But in my case, I’m prepared to put up with 30 minutes or so of discomfort every few days when I go to the shops, for the sake of those around me.

    Wearing masks, in the absence of a vaccine, is probably the single most efficient way of achieving an equivalent to herd immunity. If 60% or so of people were wearing masks, it breaks the chain sufficiently to be able to open up lock-down.

    But instead, mask-wearing has become a horribly politicised issue. It’s been widely publicised for weeks if not months, that wearing a mask does nothing for you, but is for your fellow citizen. And somehow, wishing to protect your fellow citizen has become a “bad thing”, a political statement along the “wrong” side.

    I don’t agree with that. I find that really hard to comprehend.

    So, can we get back to UBI now?

    Nullius:

    But there are also some I’ve met who genuinely don’t, and I don’t pretend to know how many there are or what the outcome would be.

    I agree. I don’t know either. I’m sure there’s some people who would be content to play Call Of Duty all day and get paid for it (did I just show my age? Is it Fortnite now?)

    Maybe we could give it a go, and see what that number is?

    There will always be outliers, there will always be counter-examples. I don’t know what percentage that would be before we called the whole thing off. 5%? 30%? I genuinely don’t know. It’s a sensible discussion to have.

    My more “sunny” outlook suspects that it’s actually pretty low. But I don’t know that for certain, and I’m aware of my bubble.

    From the artist ‘starving’ in his garret – and staying there all the more determinedly if allowed not to starve – to Niall me-too Kilmartin who many years ago was unemployed for months because I was determined to get the job I wanted

    Niall, for brevity I’ve only quoted part of your comment, but I think the whole thing is worthy of a good chat through.

    I did the same; back in 2009, I was unemployed for several months until I took a job I deemed…worthy? By which I mean, paid me a salary I was comfortable with for a job I was comfortable with doing. Were we wrong, you and me, to do so? Open question!

    In a few weeks’ time, I will join the hallowed ranks of the unemployed benefits’ claimants who have a large flat-screen TV and an expensive mobile phone (cell-phone, for the Fourth Of July types amongst us).

    Should I trade in my flatscreen, which I purchased when employed, for a CRT? My Samsung, for a Nokia 3210 (or a modified 8110 for the Matrix fans)?

    What is work?

    I personally think there’s a potentially interesting conversation to be had over that, if we can extricate ourselves for now from COVID! (I know, it’s my own fault, I derailed it. My bad, forgive me)

    Is “childcare” work?

    If a mother (or father! Let no-one accuse me of sexism!) stay home and look after the children, the household, is that work? I say yes.

    I said unconsciously that I have a few weeks of “jobs” to do round my house. Are they “jobs”? I’m not being paid. Are they “work”? Yes.

    You have a friend who works in “sewage”?

    Good for him.

    Within all of that, there’s a discussion to be had over what qualifies as “work”. Does it increase GDP? A parent looking after their own child actually decreases GDP. Is that something to aim for?

    “Work” is not necessarily that which gets paid for.

    I’d much rather not need welfare. But as it stands, our system is set up to do so. Remove individual welfare last or people die. Remove corporate welfare, and this idea that unpaid work is not work first.

  • lucklucky

    I would go in another direction.

    Let me explain:

    For example the State sells radio and TV, phone frequency waves, air corridors slots, oil and mineral prospecting, fishing licenses, and many other licenses that belong to the country not to the political system so why are that money that belongs to everyone going to the State ?

    Why when the state sells the 5G license, the money from it goes to political system and not to the citizens? does the fish on the coast belong to the state or to the citizens of the country?

  • In the US … A bunch on the right have got it into their heads that it’s all some scheme by the Democrats to wreck the economy and thus overthrow Trump … any source of information that says anything different is automatically dismissed as false and part of the conspiracy. (Nullius in Verba, July 4, 2020 at 2:22 pm)

    It is advisable (and pedantic, I admit, in a comment, especially one you were laudably seeking to keep short, but the abstract point seems worth making) to distinguish very carefully two meanings which I find poorly distinguished in the above.

    1) If you appeared to be telling some US “bunch on the right” that, this time, the Democrats nobly rose above “a crisis is a terrible thing to waste” – that they sincerely, reluctantly believed in the life-saving necessity of the orders they gave – then the ‘bunch on the right’ will rightly scorn you as fool, liar or ignorant. When a huge ‘bunch on the left’, from governor to grim reaper 🙂 , switched from “stay home or you’re evil” to “join our protest march or you’re racist” without skipping a beat, the ‘bunch on the right’ rationally applied the global warming rule – “don’t believe it if those who preach it act like they don’t believe it”. No right-wing propaganda that the virus was a pussy cat could match the power of that emphatic demonstration that the loudest on the left thought it was.

    2) I see, as you will, that the above reasoning is not strictly safe as regards the dangers of the virus. “Our lying enemies are following ‘Don’t waste the (unanticipated) crisis’ ” and “there is no crisis” are logically independent statements.

    3) My point, therefore, is that if you want to persuade people that there is more crisis than e.g. Fraser or myself think, I advise clearly granting the just assumption that some who would agree with you in words agree more with me in actions.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “Dammit. I fear I have derailed what could have been a very interesting thread on UBI!!”

    Don’t worry about it. Threads derail. People explore whatever new territory seems most interesting.

    “Within all of that, there’s a discussion to be had over what qualifies as “work”. Does it increase GDP?”

    There are actually two interesting questions embedded there – is it work, and is it production. ‘Work’ is the effort you go to, ‘production’ is the benefit you get out of it. They are opposites. One is bad and should be reduced. The other is good and should be increased.

    And yes, of course working/producing for yourself counts as both. GDP is a limited measure, constrained by the difficulties of collecting the statistic, that only covers the trade in work and production, not the total.

    But much of what we’re really aiming to measure comes through trade, and it is the hard part to arrange and thus more likely to go wrong, and thus of greater interest to economic policy makers. The baseline of human existence is where we each do everything for ourselves. We grow or hunt all our own food. We plough our own fields. We make all our own clothes. We invent and make all our tools. We care for our own children. We build our own homes. We defend our own land from robbers and invaders. We rely only on our own capital – we each own entirely the means of our production. The result is something close to the grinding poverty of ‘subsistence farming’, only more primitive.

    Everything else we produce arises from trade. It’s possible to work very, very hard and produce virtually nothing by it. It’s possible to work very little, and produce an overflowing bounty. ‘Work’ and ‘production’ are distinct. Which do you want to measure, for what purpose?

    “If you appeared to be telling some US “bunch on the right” that, this time, the Democrats nobly rose above “a crisis is a terrible thing to waste””

    I thought I’d made it obvious that I considered the left’s reaction – to start a revolution – was equally damaging to the controls aimed at stopping the epidemic?

    I think that most people even in the US, both Republican and Democrat, understand the dangers of the epidemic and are appalled at both Republican dismissals and the Democrat protests breaking the collective defensive measures. It is only those at the fringes for who politics overrides absolutely everything else. And too many are scared to say so, fearing the mob turning on them. I think most people regard them the same way they regard the 5G conspiracists. In the UK it’s only about 10% who think that way, in the US I get the impression from the noise level that there are more, but I’ve seen no surveys so I can’t quantify it. But still, most of the US has complied willingly. However, it doesn’t take very many ‘super-spreaders’ to keep the epidemic growing. I think the US has a major problem.

    It’s a natural disaster, like an earthquake or hurricane or tsunami. Because it progresses so much slower, we have the time and ability to mitigate the damage and reduce the number of deaths – as if we knew the tsunami was coming and evacuated the coastline. But because the virus is invisible and much of its action is hidden, it’s far easier to discount and dismiss as political propaganda than a tsunami would be. The long time delays from infection to symptoms to hospital to death mean that the wave can be building in the shadows for weeks before it becomes apparent, and by the time we can actually see it with our own eyes it is far too late for taking action to stop it. We are always fighting it blind, trying to anticipate what is to come, and that’s hard to sustain. And if we succeed, nothing appears to happen, and that makes people wonder.

    The erosion of trust in the media and government over the past few years has done damage that is only now becoming apparent, now that we need clear information and organisation in an emergency. The boy has cried ‘Wolf!’ too many times.

    I don’t know. I hope that with this new peak in the southern states rising so rapidly, that action will be quickly taken to squash it before it really gets going, and that it maybe wakes a few more people up to what they’re dealing with. I think it’s the most likely result – the Americans are mostly sensible and intelligent people. But the noises I’m hearing, from either end of the political spectrum, are not comforting.

  • neonsnake

    ‘Work’ is the effort you go to, ‘production’ is the benefit you get out of it. They are opposites. One is bad and should be reduced. The other is good and should be increased.

    Good point. You thinking of the proverbial “busy fool”?

    I think it’s blindingly obvious that technology has increased productivity by ridiculous amounts (I could probably dig up a stat if needed, but I trust that it’s un-needed). I have this personal view that because of this, it’s much more possible today to achieve something approaching self-sufficiency than ever before.

    Please note the italics!!

    The baseline of human existence is where we each do everything for ourselves.

    Can I ask your meaning by that sentence?

    Do you mean that a) in times past, people did do everything for themselves?

    Or do you mean that b) without trade, people would have to revert to “subsistence farming”?

    I’d agree wholeheartedly with b) – I’m not sure about a)

    (I’m not totally disagreeing, literally that I’m not sure. My sense is that a, uh, “division of labour” as such has existed for millennia. Whether that labour was traded in the sense that you or I might use the term “trade”, for some form of currency, or as a semi-official IOU, or as a more loose “you guys deal with baking bread, we’ll provide venison, and we’ll trust each other not to take the piss”, I can only imagine that humankind has been co-operating through most of it’s history).

    I know I’ve banged on about self-reliance in the past; it was never intended to be a paean to anything like some kind of lone wolf “subsistence farming”, even though I think it’s closer to reality now than in the past. For me it’s more about minimising, but not eradicating, my reliance on the traditional economy so if push comes to shove, I’m not screwed if I don’t have an income (!). It relies on “trading” the product of my skills for the product of other people’s skills.

    Are you familiar with the concept of agorism?

    Which do you want to measure, for what purpose?

    I actually don’t know. It’s a sound question, but not one I feel qualified to answer, if I’m honest.

    I was more musing (I’m doing a lot of musing right now) over the idea of “work”. Amusingly, upthread, I described some stuff I want/need to do round the house as “jobs”. Are they? I mean, no-one’s giving me money to do them…but I used the term without thinking about it.

    I find the example of child-care quite interesting. I don’t have children, so I have no skin in the game, but from a GDP perspective, the “correct” thing to do would be for both parents to work, and to employ a child-minder. If mummy/daddy (or one of the mummies/daddies 😉 ), stays home, that’s two people who aren’t contributing – the stay-at-home parent, and the child-minder. There seems to be a distinct difference between “then” (the 80s for me), when most mums stayed home for years, and we were able to survive on one income, and “now”, where it seems that the majority of mother’s have to go back to work pretty quickly.

    It seems to be an interesting contradiction to me. UBI would unravel some of that contradiction.

    In a vague sense, I feel the same about what is termed “unskilled work” – Niall’s friend in “sewage” for example, if Niall is not being playful with the term – I’ve always felt that people should value “low-paid” work much higher than we do. I’m not convinced that “the market” is doing a good enough job in defining what is essential and what is not.

    I suspect that some digging might unearth significant interventions in the market, but that’s only a suspicion for now. That’s not a hill I’d be prepared to die on quite yet.

    lucklucky:

    I think that’s a really interesting and good way of looking at it.

    Was it a deliberate updating to modern sensibilities of the old Georgeist/geo-libertarian way of looking at Land?

    Either way, I approve whole-heartedly!

  • I feel the same about what is termed “unskilled work” – Niall’s friend in “sewage” for example, if Niall is not being playful with the term (neonsnake, July 5, 2020 at 1:43 pm)

    My friend is very skilled – he keeps the system going and spends little (not none) of his time literally standing in sewage. He’s in the (disposing of) sewage business.

    If mummy/daddy (or one of the mummies/daddies 😉 ), stays home, that’s two people who aren’t contributing – the stay-at-home parent, and the child-minder. (neonsnake, July 5, 2020 at 1:43 pm)

    Your literal argument seems to require that the child-minder be incapable of doing anything else, let alone doing anything else to outperform the margin of the mother returning to work instead of doing her own minding of her own child. When the minder is the child’s 84-year-old grandparent or 14-year-old sibling, the latter can indeed be so. However, people typically aim to maximise their happiness, not the nation’s GDP, and feel they have the moral right to do provided the family earns enough to cover its keep.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “I’d agree wholeheartedly with b) – I’m not sure about a)”

    I meant b). On a), the instinct to trade favours is certainly older than humanity, but largely between friends and family. We have only started doing it with such scale and organisation very recently. Subsistence farmers today may be said to be as poor as they are because of the limitations of their trade network. (If you’re interested, Hernando deSoto did a fascinating book on the subject: ‘The Mystery of Capital’. Well worth a read if you have the inclination.)

    I really just meant that if you want to measure production, that traded production was a good approximation to the total. That’s probably even more arguable. The contributions are not linearly additive, so it’s questionable what it even means to talk about the relative contribution of each. But it’s a thought.

    “Are you familiar with the concept of agorism?”

    Yes, but not in any detail. The bit about free markets and voluntary association is fine. I don’t agree with it on its anarchism, its opposition to capitalism, or its exclusive use of counter-economics, and I don’t entirely understand the distinction they make between statist ‘partyarchy’ and voluntary association. However, I’ve not studied it in depth, and I have a feeling that they may be using different definitions of basic concepts, so I suspend judgement.

    “Amusingly, upthread, I described some stuff I want/need to do round the house as “jobs”. Are they? I mean, no-one’s giving me money to do them…but I used the term without thinking about it.”

    Work, yes. Production too. But not traded. We only use money when we’re doing work for somebody else’s benefit (i.e. you do the work, they get the product), in exchange for them doing work for our benefit, such that each of us values what we receive more than what we give up, and thus mutually benefit. ‘Money’ is the measure of what we have produced for the benefit of the rest of society, that the rest of society has not yet repaid. It allows us to spread the two halves of the this-for-that transaction across time – the money records/represents all the exchanges currently in progress. Having lots of money means you have given to others more than you receive, you have done good unto others as they promise to do good unto you. Working for yourself, for your own benefit, there is no time separation between giving and receiving, between doing the work and getting the product, so there would be no point in using money.

  • bobby b

    neonsnake
    July 5, 2020 at 1:43 pm

    “I find the example of child-care quite interesting. I don’t have children, so I have no skin in the game, but from a GDP perspective, the “correct” thing to do would be for both parents to work, and to employ a child-minder.”

    I think you’re mostly pointing out that GDP isn’t the best measure of productivity.

    What is more productive in a long-term sense than providing a stimulating, educational, secure upbringing for your kids?

    And those jobs around the house? In the money-model, we go out and do work for others in exchange for money, which we can then trade to others to get them to do those jobs for us. Tender – money – is just a middle-man. Certainly the work that you perform for your own satisfaction is as much a “job” as the work for which you receive money as payment.

    The main difference is that one evades accounting and taxation.

  • Fraser Orr

    bobby b
    I think you’re mostly pointing out that GDP isn’t the best measure of productivity.

    I think this is well recognized in economics. There are really three economies going on: the trade economy, the gift economy and the labor economy.

    As an example, lets say you are moving house and so you need to get your stuff from one place to another. There are basically three ways to do that:

    * Pay someone to do it. This is the trade economy.
    * Get your friends to do it. This is the gift economy.
    * Do it yourself. This is the labor economy.

    Each method achieves your goal, but the actual trade of value takes place in completely separate economies.

  • neonsnake

    I don’t agree with it on its anarchism, its opposition to capitalism, or its exclusive use of counter-economics, and I don’t entirely understand the distinction they make between statist ‘partyarchy’ and voluntary association. However, I’ve not studied it in depth, and I have a feeling that they may be using different definitions of basic concepts, so I suspend judgement.

    It’s reasonably close to anarcho-capitalism; as far as I can tell, they consider anarchism to be the logical end-point of libertarianism, define “capitalism” in the sense of capitalists using their capital to lobby a government for regulations (etc) that restrict the market, and I think that what they use “partyarchy” to mean is that you can’t fight government with government. Counter-economics is a tactic only, not the end goal – the end goal is a “free market” (literally an agora), but they believe that the way to get there is via counter-economics – building a new world in the shell of the old, to paraphrase the Wobblies.

    The main difference between agorism (and most strains of free-market anarchism) and anarcho-capitalism is that the treat the Entrepreneur and the Capitalist as two different entities, and have slightly different focuses.

    Again, we run into the difficulty of defining capitalism 😉

    I think you’re mostly pointing out that GDP isn’t the best measure of productivity.

    What is more productive in a long-term sense than providing a stimulating, educational, secure upbringing for your kids?

    Indeed; I agree. I’ve read in some of the studies about UBI that it resulted in parent’s not returning to work after having children, whereas previously they could not afford to not work.

    Depending on your view, that’s either a positive or a negative, of course…

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