Who are the wolves?
Responding to the Article
"Guaranteed Income is a Wolf in Sheep's clothing"
by C. L'Hirondelle & J.S. Larochelle - 2007
On June 11th, 2007 the article "Guaranteed Income is a Wolf in Sheep's clothing" by Kathleen Donovan and Garson Hunter (both involved in social policy research at the University of Regina) was published on Act-Up Sask, an independent media website. The article described guaranteed income as a being a kind of right-wing plot to cut social programs and exploit workers and people on welfare. Full article here.
This article is extremely problematic. First, Hunter and Donovan (both social policy academics ) are either calling people who advocate for guaranteed livable income "wolves", or they are saying that people who believe a guaranteed income are dim-witted sheep. This would include all the people who have advocated for guaranteed income such as: Martin Luther King Jr., Pierre Berton, authors of the Royal Commission on the Status of Women, authors of the Pictou Statement, Judy Rebick, Selma James, Robert Theobald, Thomas Paine, Henry George, Buckminster Fuller and the hundreds of people linked to articles and groups on our links page and... anyone else who doubts the veracity of the job system.
The authors of the "wolf in sheep's clothing" article are two people who either have, or will have, or hope to have, a guaranteed income through university tenure. If a guaranteed income is good for them why do they say it is bad for others? When will they write their article that tenure is a wolf in sheeps clothing?
But more generally, if people say Guaranteed Livable Income is a bad idea, by default they are saying the jobs system is a good idea. They must then explain how they would address the following problems which are inherent in the job system:
1) EXPLOITATION OF WOMEN'S UNPAID WORK:
There has been no declaration to end the human species. Demanding jobs means women pay the externalized costs to produce "human capital". The fact that this work is essential to the economy is evident in worried headlines like: "Not enough babies: new threat to economy" (Globe & Mail, Aug. 23, 05). It is taken for granted that women are going to work for free to produce the next generation of human beings *in addition to* doing a 'real' job. (A targeted benefit to mothers is not a solution, as women would then face pressure to have babies for economic reasons.) Without a Guaranteed Livable Income everyone is "free-riding" on the unpaid work of women.
2) NO PRODUCTIVE CHOICE:
Productive choice means people could say "no" to dangerous, degrading or harmful work; "no" to exploitive relationships resulting from poverty, "no" to jobs that harm the environment. Conversely, productive choice means people being able to say "yes" to essential work such as caregiving their children, elders, family members (or friends) with disabilities, chronic illness, or health crises. No guaranteed livable income means no productive choice.
3) JOBS FOR ALL = ECOCIDE:
It will be impossible to even begin to save other species and the world's environment as long as billions of people are desperate to escape poverty. People are forced to take any available job regardless of the impact that more production and more consumption has on other peoples, other forms of life and the earth as a whole. Without a GLI humanity won't have a means to stop destroying nature.
4) DESTROYING HEALTH:
Millions of jobs rely on consumption of products that are harmful to health (especially to children). The attempt to produce fuller employment by inducing people to consume more products such as fast foods, tobacco, alcohol, soft drinks, donuts, caffeinated drinks, sugared foods, processed foods etc. has caused widespread ill health. Not only does the repeated consumption of certain products make people sick, it also makes all forms of life progressively sicker by polluting the air, water and soil that gives us all life.
5) WAR ECONOMY:
Millions of jobs in the military industrial complex depend on the continuation of war. Without a Guaranteed Livable Income we effectively endorse an economic draft where people take military work because they see no other way to "make a living".
6) WASTE OF PRECIOUS RESOURCES:
The jobs system does not differentiate between activities that are beneficial and essential and those that are wasteful or harmful. Thus, jobs just for jobs sake, means a vast waste of time, energy, resources and people's lives and is a massive diversion of precious resources. Instead of building more homes for people, the business sector insists the world needs more shopping malls, sporting arenas, luxury housing, hotels, office towers, golf courses, and so on.
7) ECONOMIC GLUTS & OVERCAPACITY:
Automation and mechanization has meant that for decades there has been over-producton and over-capacity. As our glut of goods page shows and as author Michel Chossudovsky has pointed out, "global oversupply of commodities is a direct consequence of the decline in purchasing power and rising levels of poverty" (The Globalization of Poverty, 2003)
Trying to create living wage jobs for every person in the world who needs one means a massive attempt to increase production and consumption which is both illogical in the face of the existing gluts of goods and services and and would waste and pollute ever-more natural resources.
8) FREE WILL:
Free will means people do not have to consume to give other people jobs. However, as Adam Smith has pointed out, jobs rely on consumption:
"Consumption is the sole end and purpose of all production; and the interest of the producer ought to be attended to, only so far as it may be necessary for promoting that of the consumer. The maxim is so perfectly self-evident, that it would be absurd to attempt to prove it."
Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations, 1776
In addition, even if we want to consume, there are physical and time limits to consumption. People can only eat so much, drink so much, and their houses (and cars) will only hold so many goods.
9) DESTRUCTION OF SUBSISTENCE ECONOMIES:
The jobs system depends on the destruction of people's ability to do subsistence work for themselves and their communities. Economic growth, development and the jobs system also depends on the continued and accelerated theft and destruction and degradation of indigenous people's lands and resources around the world.
"The war against subsistence is the real war of capital...Only after people's capacity to subsist is destroyed, are they totally and unconditionally in the power of capital."
Maria Mies and Veronika Bennholdt-Thomsen,
The Subsistence Perspective (2001)
"Throughout history the rich and powerful have colluded to use physical force and coercion to gain wealth by stealing it from others and then lying about how they did it."
The Last Taboo, How Jobs cause poverty, by J.S. Larochelle, End Poverty Primer, 2003) See also: "Eve, Adam and the market"
10) THE NAIRU (The Non-Accelerating Inflationary Rate of Unemployment):When there is not enough "slack" in the labour market, interest rates are raised to create unemployment to stop inflation. See "Unemployment heartwarming to economists"
"The more rigid wages and salaries are, the more unemployment is necessary to convince individuals that it is appropriate to accept smaller increases in income."
Linda McQuaig, quoting an economist from the Bank of Canada in Shooting the Hippo, 1993, (pg. 151)
IF JOBS ARE THE SOLUTION TO POVERTY then show how jobs would address: mass poverty, ill health and early graves for people without a livable income, a perpetual world wide war economy, mass exploitation of women, mass waste and degradation of the environment, and the continued theft of indigenous lands-- which are all sources of "economic growth" and "development."
Also explain the logic of how people who have guaranteed incomes for themselves can deny that others need what they need.
See also related article here by Jim Mulvale on Act Up Sask.
Read another response rebutting Donovan and Hunters arguments.
C. L'Hirondelle & J.S. Larochelle
Founding members Livable Income For Everyone (LIFE)