Can UBI be done statelessly?

I asked a minor variant of that question (Is full unemployment…statelessly doable?) back in 2011. Lexi Linnell asks, Does universal basic income require a state? This is C4SS, so of course “without a state” means voluntarism-friendly. The whole way Linnell approaches the basic income question differs from mine at almost every turn. Her first question is whether basic income can be distributed without taxation. Mine is whether the level of economic development is sufficiently post-scarcity to make universal survival provisions feasible. Basically Linnell’s main concern is whether we have to participate in something so involuntary as paying taxes to a state, while my main concern is whether we have to participate in something so involuntary as pounding pavement, possibly for years on end, asking for permission to contribute to the production of products and services. Free market types have a strange sense of what is and isn’t voluntary.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not pro-taxation. All other things being equal, I welcome any efforts to abolish taxation, or even to create a “voluntary” form of “taxation.” Please note that by “all other things being equal,” I mean that favoring someone’s “voluntary” alternative to taxation doesn’t mean I have to sacrifice something of comparable or greater value from my value system. To people who derive the entirety of their value systems from something like the Non-Aggression Principle (as if it’s a mathematical axiom or something) I suppose, all values are, by definition, of lesser magnitude than “voluntarism,” so it’s automatically a no-brainer that creating a “voluntary” or “stateless society” alternative to anything is a step in the right direction. For me, the real world is more complicated and questions of values contain more subtleties.

For me the main pain point in endorsing the Resilience brand of basic income is the centrality of incentive. My particular brand of anarchism is rooted more in rebellion against human nature essentialism than rejection of (I honestly don’t see any signs of a rebellious streak in market anarchism) the state per se. The whole “humans are necessarily creatures of incentive” talking point strikes me as a statement of Skinnerian behaviorism. At best, it’s a statement of Freakonomics; a belief system I find dubious at best.

In particular, the Resilience brand of basic income relies on incentivizing businesses to participate in their scheme. The logic seems to be that businesses, by paying Resilience “taxes,” wouldn’t be just giving money away, they’d be buying access to the Resilience market, which is desireable, if nothing else, because it’s a population that has some level of economic security. The catch (and there’s always a catch) is that you generate tax revenues by spending money. “This means you have to pay the ‘taxes’ you have told the system you are willing to pay.” How is this “enforced?”

To solve this problem, one final rule is created: Anyone who sends money to an account that isn’t in the Resilience network is temporarily disconnected from the network. This has the effect of freezing their BI, as well as discouraging anyone from sending money to them. In other words, participants in the network are strongly disincentivized from transacting with anyone outside the network. The upshot is, in order for businesses to have network participants as customers, they must join the network themselves.

Therefore, businesses are incentivized to join the network because they gain access to a new base of consumers. However, since participants can set their own tax rate, why can’t businesses set their own rate to zero and avoid paying anything? While they could do this, it turns out that their customers’ BI would increase with a higher tax rate. A business which set its tax rate higher would have customers with higher BIs, so consumers will generally look for businesses with high tax rates. Presumably, this will reach an equilibrium where businesses are paying fairly high taxes but not so high that they don’t make a profit. In a sense, the tax rates themselves are set by the market.

Honestly, this sounds like the actually-existing economy. The survival of the people is contingent on the success of participating businesses. Basically, trickle-down economics.

What really depresses me about pro-market ideologues, even “left libertarians” and “market socialists,” is their knee-jerk rejection of those economic concepts that are Keynesian in nature. I think “alt currencies” may have some value to efforts to build less authoritarian (or even more “voluntary”) ways of living, but why should we gravitate to those in the blockchain family (which seem to be “hard currencies” by design, hence their attractiveness to libertarian and other “gold bug” types) rather than decidedly soft-currency approaches such as demurrage or Ripple? Why work with rather than against the idea of spending-driven economic growth? Why work against rather than with the idea that secular stagnation might be an actually-existing problem? And even if you do go with a “let’s spend our way to prosperity” model, inflation (decay of the value of “money”) seems a more simple and direct incentive to spend that cash than a set of contractual obligations. So why go with a currency that is extremely inflation-resistant by design if the system you’re seeking to create rests on some kind of “you gotta spend money to get money” logic that frankly sounds to me like some kind of pyramid scheme (as does Bitcoin).

As I read this description of Resilience, I can’t help but think, this so misses the point as to why I might see basic income as a possibly positive development in the first place. The main reason why the idea of basic income appeals to me at all is because if I have a known future positive cash flow, I can make plans (more plans than I can without such an annuity). Even if the amount falls pitifully short of a livelihood, I have the knowledge that if somehow I can budget myself to it through some combination of extreme frugality and extreme punk DIY ethos, I can cross off the bottom level of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (basically the rawest of raw necessities; “the grossest of groceries,” to quote Thoreau) in a more or less definitive way, and have the sheer luxury of even thinking about the “higher” needs without the constant intrusion of thoughts of whether tomorrow’s efforts to sell myself in the competitive market economy will prove fruitful. But here’s the thing: I pursue punk DIY ethos, not only to “…[study] rather how to avoid the necessity of selling…” (another Thoreau-ism) but also to be as independent as possible from the for-profit sector (from both the buying and selling ends, frankly). What really nauseates me about the Resilience brand of basic income is that not only am I expected to accept that the profit motive and the for-profit sector will always be with us, but I must actively support some combination of businesses. Sounds to me like the motivation for inventing Resilience is one part “create proof of concept for ‘voluntary’ basic income” and thirty seven parts “kill the dream of socialism forever.” Same as goals as “bleeding heart libertarianism,” it seems, but with very different methods, of course. Which is cute, because the only reason lack of basic income is problematic in the first place is because the working class has utterly failed to gain control over all the means of production.

 

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पृथ्वी की उच्च किराया जिले में उद्यमिता कौशल अभाव
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7 Responses to Can UBI be done statelessly?

  1. Raoul says:

    “Therefore, businesses are incentivized to join the network because they gain access to a new base of consumers. However, since participants can set their own tax rate, why can’t businesses set their own rate to zero and avoid paying anything? While they could do this, it turns out that their customers’ BI would increase with a higher tax rate. A business which set its tax rate higher would have customers with higher BIs, so consumers will generally look for businesses with high tax rates. Presumably, this will reach an equilibrium where businesses are paying fairly high taxes but not so high that they don’t make a profit. In a sense, the tax rates themselves are set by the market.”

    This part I also explicitly dislike. It seems to simply reward those customers and sellers who are most bitter, most unwilling to contribute to the to the experience of others, least compassionate, least able to enjoy the joy of others. Concentrating whatever real wealth is enclosed in the Market in their hands in the long run. Much alike today’s market economy.

    We should not more and more forfeit that what is ours, the currency we chose to create by consent, and the Land, to some who are least inclined to give back, just for the reason that that’s how they roll (welcoming em into our community we can still do, of course.). An income to all unique participants, paired with a demurrage or similar seems sensible for a currency, if we want to keep the volume of currency stable (or growing if number of users grows), while keeping distribution dynamic. And whatever we come to agree to do about Land access, be it taxes or community management or similar, we can do that in context with that, should it appear desirable. The link posted by Jen is worth a read by the way, if you’ve not heard of Mary Mellor yet, here’s an introductory video series on money by her as well: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5IZRWQn5jgk&list=PLu5uG1sCEDiiUllfodXXsOzS3EI7adhDp

    Now for something slightly different: While the following was a ‘charity’ rather than a ‘right to use the Land and community currency’, this basic income project did quite successfully show that regardless of economic development, the concept is pretty functional. http://www.basicincomela.com/who-is-who/abu-bakr/

    Of course I’d want to have the basic income introduced on the premise of it being a sort of Charter of the Forest for the 21st century, a Land use right that also considers network effect and economies of scale (and of course economic opportunity in general) as part of the Land, rather than as a ‘charity’. Not to say that I’m for increasingly enclosing Land in the market either way. I see in the basic income an opportunity for people to build and reclaim Land outside of the market process, too. But to the extent that there’s Land enclosed, a basic income can be something to introduce to counterbalance that enclosure, via a process of deliberation.

    • n8chz says:

      Charter of the Forest sounds like a healthy direction.

    • n8chz says:

      Zakat appears to be that particularly rare bird, the self-obsoleting solution. No wonder there’s so much militancy behind a restoration of caliphate. Theocracy seems a high price to pay for economic security, though.

  2. Hi, have you considered simply enfranchising each in the global economic system?

    I’ve found that the core inequity of the current global economic system is in the creation of money.. in a fiat currency system money is created by loaning it into existence, interest paid to maintain the value, acceptance…

    The inequity then, is that each is not paid a share of the interest, when each provides the full faith and credit, and acceptance the interest is paid for

    Including each equally in the creation of money is as simple as allowing each to claim a limited right to loan about a million USD equivalent into existence, to be held in trust with local deposit bank, administered by local fiduciaries and actuaries exclusively for secure sovereign investment, as part of an actual social contract…

    ..the rule requiring sovereign debt to be backed with these Shares will be an international banking regulation, the monies will be collected and distributed through the banking system, sovereigns will simply borrow money into existence from individual sovereign trust accounts, at a fixed and sustainable sovereign rate, and make their debt payments

    The social contracts will provide this incentive for cooperation, and detail other state provided benefits, and taxation requirements.. making taxation voluntary, for all those who accept a social contract, and coerced for those who decide not to cooperate

    While alternative currencies may have certain appeal, for isolationists, or those wishing to establish a mini fiefdom, establishing a common standard fiat to back all currencies makes each currency that much more stable, and useful

    Note that it costs approximately nothing to provide each with a limited right to loan money into existence, only the codifying of social contracts (normal government function,) and the creation of the trust accounts (normal banking function,) while creating a surplus of sustainably priced credit for secure sovereign investment, globally, proportional to population…

    ..each individual sovereign will also have access to secure loans for home, farm, or secure interest in employment, for a portion of the value of one’s Share, at the sovereign rate

    I do hope you will consider the rule, and thanks for your kind indulgence

    View profile at Medium.com

    • n8chz says:

      establishing a common standard fiat to back all currencies makes each currency that much more stable…

      How about the Bancor? I can only imagine the world we’d have with the Havana Charter–the international trading system we could have had instead of Bretton Woods. Probably wouldn’t have resulted in Basic Income, but if “first” and “third” world standards of living were at least in the same order of magnitude, who would need it?

      • “…who would need it?”..

        Everyone.. not so much the Basic income, perhaps, for many or most.. and not welfare distributions…

        ..but inclusion in the process of money creation is an inalienable enfranchisement in the global economic system…

        ..as far as I can tell, blockchains either don’t scale to seven or nine billion accounts, and/or haven’t proven immune to attack yet.. and you can not be included if you are destitute, (which sort of skips the primary objective)

        ..so in the mean time, to get accustomed to abundance, we should allow each enfranchisement

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