My Thoughts & Understandings from the Reading “Guidelines for Envisioning Real Utopias” by Erik Olin Wright:
Thought One: So far, there isn’t an answer to transforming capitalism, because there is a lot of distrust in alternatives.
Thought Two: People let their doubts and uncertainties stop them from thinking about what the future could be. Right now, it’s too hard to think of a “viable, achievable, and desirable” form of social structure, different from the one we’re living in.
Thought Three: This is because there hasn’t been a good way to “test” if a different form of social structure would work or be better. It’s hard to tell on a small scale, and too risky to experiment on a large scale.
Thought Four: Achievability is the hardest because people can’t possibly know what’s in the future to let us have the power to change our gov/social structure.
Thought Five: It seems to me that people have a “try it before I buy it” attitude about UBI, but what’s funny is that people aren’t buying it because they’re too scared to try it in the first place.
Thought Six: Because of this, I wish there was a way to simulate “possible futures” before people just turn ideas down. Maybe if there was a way to simulate the outcomes of UBI, and prove it’s benefits without risking it in the real world could provide some clarity or helpful decision making? Could IBM’s Watson be capable of this?
Thought Seven: The lower and middle classes would greatly benefit from a UBI. If I were born into a rich family, would I still like the idea of a UBI as much as I do now?
Thought Eight: I think it’s true that a lot of people might opt to live off of the basic income. Yes, there are some lazy people in the world, but there are also people who deserve a chance to break out of their cycles and habits due to debt.
Thought Nine: “In most developed capitalist economies, a generous UBI is not currently achievable: the dominant political forces in these countries do not back basic income as a general proposal, and public opinion is certainly not behind it.” — This sentence is interesting to me.
Thought Ten: I’m wondering if maybe a UBI could be granted to people in certain circumstances, and could be applied for? Maybe it could be something that the government provides to the agricultural world, or artists?
Thought Eleven: “The problem of viability is particularly important because there is so much skepticism among people who are convinced of desirability and willing to participate in the political work to make alternatives achievable, but have lost confidence in the workability of visions beyond the existing social order.” — I feel like this is a true statement.
Thought Twelve: “…The analysis of the viability of alternatives to existing institutions should not be short-circuited by the problem of political achievability.” –I wish more people realized this.
Thought Thirteen: High profits = Poor people suffer. Low Profits = Better life for normal working class citizens.
Thought Fourteen: We’re not just trying to fight the rich and dominant, we’re also trying to fight government. Are these arguments strong enough to face those two together?
Thought Fifteen: The paragraph that talks about how a limited below subsistence UBI doesn’t work, makes a lot of sense to me. I could see the possibility of employers taking advantage of that money, and paying people less for service jobs like waitressing, retail, etc. Internships might not be paid.
My Additional “Real Utopia” Research: Universal Basic Income:
Universal Basic Income is something that I wanted to learn more about, so I decided to use that as my “Real Utopia” research. Coincidentally, while I was doing the assignment on New Technology, I discovered the World Economic Forum’s website. On there, I found a video from their most recent meeting called: “Basic Income for All, Dream or Delusion?” which is an amazing discussion by experts coming from different countries and backgrounds. Did you know India is looking into implementing UBI into their system?
In Summary (If you don’t want to read all of the quotes):
UBI is becoming more desirable and being looked at by many different countries. Automation and silicon valley have a role to play in the emerging interest, as well as countries “experimenting” with it on a small scale. India might be the first to try this on a large scale, as they are opening up discussions about implementing it. From the research that has been done, people benefit greatly from the extra income, and typically don’t use it to buy drugs/alcohol, but use it instead as a way to ease the tension in their lives and pursue more meaningful things. Every country is different, so a UBI can’t really be talked about on a global scale. It should be talked about for specific regions and even occupations (ie: the medical world) that it could effect. As far as viability, Guy Standing makes the point that the US government was able to fund the quantitative easing of 475 trillion dollars – dollars that could’ve been spent on UBI. It’s possible for countries to do it, but they have to be open to moving money around. In America, a form of UBI is being done successfully in Alaska.
Here are some relevant quotes that I picked out of the discussion:
Guy Standing: [Starting the discussion]
“…We’ve been going through a period where we’ve been doing a lot of fundamental research on the feasibility, affordability and implications of a basic income, and for many years, we’ve been totally ignored. But in the last couple of years, there’s suddenly been a huge surge of interest – partly by a realization about automation. Now, I want to stress that that IS NOT my rationale for basic income. It never has been… but it’s quite useful because it’s made us more topical.” -Relates back to desirability issues
Guy also goes on to say that some of our metal health issues can be solved with basic income because it will take care of our security issues that we have. “What we’ve found in our pilots – I wish people would look at our evidence from our pilots – rather than continue with their views, covering thousands of people, and most fundamentally, we found that the emancipatory value of a basic income is greater than the money value. The point is that it gives people the sense of control of their time… so that the interest in learning grows higher than the values of just surviving…” – Something that people are concerned about is that people will get lazy if they receive a basic income. Guy’s studies show that people don’t take advantage of it, and even improve their health from not having to worry about “making ends meet.”
Ambitabh Kant: [about India’s Government]
“…So there’s a huge imbalance which is taking place – the technology evolution has moved much faster than the structuring & skill evolution of our people. And therefore my belief is that if we were to do away with the [current system India has] we should give universal basic income, but give it as a loan with interest free for a period of 3 years. But be sure that this money is re-paid and used to recycle for productive purposes, which will allow you to reach a vast amount of people in society.” -From watching Kant speak on India’s perspective, I think that he is very overwhelmed with the task of helping raise the poverty line in his country. He made the point that India isn’t like Norway, it’s larger and very diverse. He is afraid that there will be parasites of the money, if India gives it out freely, however he does admit that a UBI could be successful with the right conditions. In general, India has a lot to fix in terms of structure which kind of reminds me of the text we just read about Dark Matter.
“We tend to think of work primarily as a source of income, a way of making a living, but of course, work is also a source of meaning and identity, a place in the world and a way of contributing to the common good… The debate about the basic income forces us to confront and debate what really is the point and purpose and social purpose of work. Listening to my colleagues on the panel, it strikes me that there are two very different arguments in the current debate about a UBI. There’s the ethical argument going back to Thomas Paine, and then there is the compensatory argument of silicon valley based on automation.
One might look at these two arguments and go “oh well they point in the same direction, so it doesn’t matter too much which one we embrace. However I think that would be a mistake. I think IT MATTERS A LOT what reasons, what rationale, what principal governance we embrace for the following reason: …With the silicon valley argument – The message that it would send, the social meaning that it would promote would be: “Here is a side payment, a way of easing the way into a world without work, or a world where work is obsolete for a great many people. Which is another way of saying: “We’re gonna pay you off in exchange for accepting a world in which your contribution to the common good isn’t really required – and what you do with your time is your business.” …I think that would be corrosive of the sense of mutual obligation as well as the sense that we are mutually indebted to whatever success we enjoy.” -I hope that silicon valley hears this message loud and clear.
“I fear that in politics, that this is just not pure and transparent in the argument – so the matter depends on if you’re left, right, and what else. …It’s not a matter that you can stop robotizing, and we shouldn’t! In an aging population, there are a lot of positives, but anyhow it’s difficult on a global scene talking about this principal, for that you have to be far more specific. It’s easier and better to talk about the more specific cases this will effect: like the medical world.” -Neelie has concerns about the transparency of the automation issue, and how it will effect regular people.
“If I can be blunt, the affordability question is one that is very easy to answer. And I mean it. Somehow, with quantitative easing, the US government was able to fund the quantitative easing of 475 trillion dollars. If that money had been used to pay a basic income, every American household could have been able to receive 56,000 dollars. That’s just one little example. I strongly believe that we must frame basic income as ”paid from Rentier capitalism and from Rentier-ism” because at the moment, the corruption of capitalism is primarily because of the returns to property and intellectual property. The rentier income from natural resources are going to a tiny minority, and we need to be sharing that. So something like the Alaska permanent fund or the Norwegian fund that was set up.” -The discussion runs out of time, so the other speakers don’t have a chance to answer this question about affordability. However Guy seems to be quite sure that our government can afford it, and is currently wasting money in other areas. Neelie Kroes mentions that it is a different situation / solution for every country.