The Most Boring Article you will ever read
by C.A. L'Hirondelle, Jan. 2011
A universal income grant - referred to by many names including guaranteed livable, annual, basic income, or citizen's dividend - is often regarded as being idealistic and possibly one of those good intentions that might pave the road to hell.
However, it is in response to the many hellish problems humanity currently faces that the movement for guaranteed livable income has persisted for the last 200 years and has grown in recent years.
The biggest problems are those damaging environmental and human health. These are especially paradoxical because massive waste exists alongside massive poverty and unhappiness.
Advocating a guaranteed income in order to 'unpave' our current hells, is not a hard-line political position. This is why support (and opposition) for the idea comes from both the political 'left' and 'right.'
Advocating a guaranteed income is a recognition that many economic and environmental problems are dire but shouldn't we at least give guaranteed income a try before the (self-imposed) engine of mono-crop monolith economic growth chews up and spits out our entire species?
Guaranteed income is a willingness to experiment with how we can evolve our economic system to respond to technological advances as well as natural resource limitations. It is "radical" without being Radical. A guaranteed income would avoid a cataclysmic economic crash that would come smashing down on the most vulnerable people first.
But practical solutions don't appeal for some people who are enamored of John Wayne Lone Ranger Wonder Woman with a Bandana heroic fantasies. A hardline "Radical" political position is the equivalent of wearing stiletto heels, it might get attention, but it is not very practical.
Several years ago I attended a public seminar about women and human rights. During the break, I struck up a conversation with a woman who told me she was not interested in guaranteed income because it was too boring. During the question period she then asked the speaker about international aid and human rights career opportunities.
For some people guaranteed income lacks political sexiness. And it does sound boring as implementation would not involve running through fields with pitchforks or theatrical battles at the barricades. But the results of guaranteed income would be as far from boring as you could get since it would create a way to maximize individual freedom while balancing the needs of society as a whole.
People could run away and join the circus or start their own circus of creativity, invention, innovation and collaboration to solve current or emerging problems at many levels. A guaranteed income is grounded in practicality as opposed to being high-minded and ethereal.
For example, in our society we have the laudable principle of democracy. However, that principle in practice is very different depending on whether you have the money to exercise it. If you wish to attend a city council meeting but you have no money for a babysitter, for bus fare, or are working a nightshift, or having to sleep to get to a morning shift, or need to prepare lunches and meals for the next day, or you have an illness or a disability that makes getting somewhere and doing anything a challenge... then impediments to political participation are so great that democracy becomes a lofty ideal floating ever out of reach.
Instead of stiletto politics, we could try the rather boring innovation of distributing income to everyone: rich and poor, no strings attached, no bureaucracy. And surely the bureaucrats will be happy to leave their desks to start their own Cirque du Memo-Point 24-Subsection 6-B-12.
So a guaranteed livable income is not a good paving strategy for building a road to hell because it is flexible as opposed to being hardline. It would allow humanity to adapt a new life/work definition and practice. There would be many ways to problem-solve because we would not be locked into a leg-hold-trap economic system. On the extreme side of economic evolution, we may in the future evolve to the point that humanity doesn't use money at all. After all, money is not an immutable law like gravity. It is not a natural resource. It is a tool that humans invented, and as such, we can at any time re-invent how we use it.
Example of monolith leg-hold-trap economics that needs planned obsolescence to keep going (and to maximize the number of jobs): “Planned obsolescence is the catch-all phrase used to describe the assortment of techniques used to artificially limit the durability of a manufactured good in order to stimulate repetitive consumption. To achieve shorter product lives and sell more goods, manufacturers in the 1930s began to base their choice of materials on scientific tests by newly formed research and development departments. These tests determined when each of the products specific components would fail.” Made to Break; Technology and Obsolescence in America, Giles Slade, 2006
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