More of these stories appear by the minute. This from Finland, for example, has been rumbling away for a while:
The growing demand for a solution to austerity economics seems unstoppable – and in many parts of the world, unconditional basic incomes (UBI) are gaining ground.
In the eyes and on the tongues of the chattering classes, at least.
I’ve already argued elsewhere that UBI – and its guaranteed income streams, both for essentials as well as items of a more luxurious nature – could mean the end of traditional business models, in particular for the content industry:
Once #UBI comes in, tech, food, leisure and car corps will of course benefit from such predictable spending. But in every big change in society, someone always will lose out. And in this particular case it will surely be the content industry as it currently stands. Who’ll need paid-up journalists – or even a resource-hungry ad-plagued website – when volunteers, using cheap or zero-cost social media, tablets, smartphones and PCs they inevitably have for other purposes, can supplement their guaranteed income from the state with other activities of such a pleasurable and community-focussed nature?
And so seeing how, in this way, UBI would suit significant parts of the techie sides of big-business capitalism down to the ground, I automatically assumed that austerity’s promoters and sponsors were working in cahoots with the aforementioned big business.
But now I’m not so sure.
Let’s analyse what the Tory-led government here in the UK was doing since 2010. That is to say, demonising the poor, in particular those dependent on state benefits, to such an extent that they have ultimately been blamed for the supposedly parlous state of the wider economy.
Yes. Many have explained the strategy away as a distracting action to divert attention from the truly culpable individuals and orgs, mainly involved in the murky ins and outs of the financial services sector. But it’s an awfully complex movement of smoke and mirrors, simply to hide from the public what they already know, fully know, to be the truth: rich people like rich people, and want to remain rich in the future.
Why go to all that trouble, knowing the British are always going to tend to put up with a helluva lot more than that? Revolution and riots – with very few exceptions – are simply not what the long-suffering inhabitants of these islands get up to.
I think those who plan these things, or at the very least think carefully beforehand, are aware that the right wing of any politics – never mind that of the British body politic – would lose all reason to exist, absolutely entirely, if unconditional basic incomes became par for the course.
It’s not the redistribution of money that would destroy the right wing either. No. It’s simply the opportunity to turn one group of people against the other that would become fairly impossible.
But it’s not only the right wing which would lose out with the introduction of UBI.
Imagine a society where workers no longer needed to unionise.
Imagine a society where work was a weekend break.
Imagine a society where leisure was the 9 to 5.
Imagine a society where the sacred bond between jam tomorrow and striving today was broken forever more.
It’s not just the right which is looking to promote – and needs to perpetuate – austerity. It’s also a certain group on the left which can’t believe in a civilisation where we actually spend most of our time carrying out civilised acts of gentlenesses, kindnesses, love, humour and discussion.
Where leisure and pleasure rule over dialectic and critique.
Where people can do what actually makes them happy … and not what makes them tiresomely weary.
In truth, if UBI came in, the political classes would lose huge rafts of control over us. For one thing, the economic decisions which always augur “tough medicine” would no longer need to be boorishly wheeled out. The rich would remain rich of course, but who’d care if we received the humane minimum which we’d need to live and let live? And all kinds of new systems of time banks, maybe even barter, the virtual exchange of services and products for sure, would sprout up in hyperlocal communities, as little people decided to remain little in the full knowledge that happiness was far more important than the accumulation of unnecessary wealth.
Meanwhile, aspiration would be seen to be the empty and hollow concept it’s probably always been all along. Instead of being a political tool to fashion a vacuous lottery of material futures, designed principally to keep ordinary people under the lock and key of consumerism, we could see our way through to reforging its nature so that financial measures were no longer the definers of our lives.
Austerity as a kickstarter for getting UBI in place more quickly? Maybe, a tad cruelly in the event, for some it has been so after all.
Maybe they thought, in the beginning anyway, that more good would eventually come out of the process than bad.
But more and more, I’m beginning to think that at least with respect to its purely political promoters – not necessarily transnational businesspeople either but, rather, those very vested national interests whose positions in society depend entirely on keeping otherwise rounded people in preordained and squarely painful boxes – much of austerity has been aimed at constructing a firewall around predictable changes to a society whose nature could be turned utterly upside down … especially if work was no longer to be a political tool of control, nor human dignity’s denial a way of keeping the workers fearful and down.