Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Not everyone needs to have a job.

I have been thinking a lot about the Swiss Unconditional Income idea and this post is a dump of my thoughts on the subject, hopefully when all put together will make a cohesive overview of where I stand.

In the world we live in, having a job is one of the most important things you should do if you wish to sustain yourself alive, this is emphasized with every politician talking about job creation as the solution to every problem. Why are pipelines in BC a good idea? Jobs. Why are the oil sands good for Canada? Jobs. How do you encourage growth in the USA? Jobs. Why do rich people get tax breaks, because they create Jobs (well that's the excuse anyway). The question is, is this really true?

How do we define a job? I define it (for the purpose of this post at least) as the way you generate money to buy the necessities (and possibly more) of life. So we (most of us) don't have a choice, we either work or we don't have a roof over our heads, food, not to mention the ability to retire and not work in our old age. This means that many tasks that people would like to do, be it art or playing video games all day are not possible, or extremely hard. Anecdotes of amazing Pianists teaching piano to make ends meet are very common everywhere.

Additionally as technology advances the need of a lot of the lowest paying jobs goes away. Just today I bought a 6 pack of coke from Safeway. I walked in, took the coke, used the self checkout and walked out without interacting with a cashier. How long until that is the only way to pay at grocery stores? Are we as a society actually benefiting if the same person that works as a cashier at Safeway gets paid to do that job or gets paid to not work at all? Wouldn't society benefit from their free time? Even if just a minority of them used that time to volunteer? I don't want to diminish the employees themselves, but there are obviously jobs that do not contribute to society in a meaningful manner - especially jobs being replaced by technology - and the people that hold those jobs (I assume) mostly do them because they _need_ to work and at the current moment for whatever reason that is the best option they have.

Does society really need every single person to be productive in the economic sense? I am not saying no one should work. Many people do jobs that are needed to improve our communal quality of life or to generate profit for their employer (hopefully the business of their employer benefits society in some way). Many people are driven to own more material things, and are willing to do jobs they might not enjoy for that, and some people are lucky enough to fall into more than one of those (myself for example). But there are people that are willing to live a simpler life if that allows them to pursue their interests, be it playing with inventing cool ways to use LEDs, drawing paintings, volunteering in old age homes or even not doing anything at all.

(My belief is that it's) The state's role to provide a minimal floor for people to land on. Free health care and free education are pretty common in the non-USA western world why stop there? Why not supply people with a floor that allows them to live a comfortable life.

Market realities dictate that supply and demand will make more desirable living locations more expensive, and less desirable living locations less expensive. Many countries have financial incentives to live in less populated areas. Additionally many people might prefer to live in more rural areas if they had the opportunity but they have to live in more central areas to find work.

We all know that one of the most important developments in humanity's development was the invention of agriculture. For the first time people were able to generate more food than they needed to eat. This allowed people to use their time to do other tasks which is why people could be doctors, philosophers etc. What things would people come up with if there was no need whatsoever to find a financial benefit to their work. Would more kids become "hackers" in subjects like physics, chemistry etc if they could afford to? This is already starting with co-working labs. Imagine the dedication that people have towards open source software also being dedicated towards biology, chemistry, philosophy, homeopathy etc. 

A system like this would help kids education, it would reduce the need for kids to go to work instead of 

I am not even going to consider the situation in the USA where people that work 1 or 2 jobs need the food bank, and where poor people eat unhealthy food because they can't afford more health food. 

Personally I think this is the way to go. Give everyone money (to use a wrong term) "for existing". Fund health care, fund schooling and now (indirectly) fund healthy food and fund housing. Sure there will be people that will "abuse" the system, some of them will do nothing, and some of them will gamble all the money away and still live in povety, but I believe that will be the minority and the majority will use this system to improve their lives, to improve their education and help get rid of the idea of the working poor. By using the swiss system to calculate the Income and tying it to the GDP of the state and giving the income to everyone, including people that work you are also giving a financial incentive for increasing GDP.

The biggest concern I have with this is inflation. I am no economics major or finance genius but you can't just give everyone double their money as everything should cost double the price. I think this is solved by replacing other government assistance, and by reducing (at the start at least) the cost for all businesses by allowing them to reduce all salaries to compensate for the extra income. This will reduce the cost of products etc. Also I would fund some of it by removing the silly tax breaks that companies and rich people get, especially capital gains tax rates, but that's a totally different issue.

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