There’s a lot to unpack here politically and culturally and sociologically, and I’m probably not intelligent enough to do it in type of fundamentally-valuable way. But I’ll give it a shot, because the topic is interesting to me.
Generally, you need to start with these assumptions. These vary by culture — here’s a good example of that — but in general:
- Hard work is a virtue, and people should ascribe to that.
- Laziness or “good-for-nothings” (or “welfare people”) should be looked down upon.
That’s been a fairly consistent attitude (those two things above) since about the 1500s, give or take. (Oddly, “silos” were invented about the same time!) But here’s a third reality that could toss a wrench into a lot of it:
- A lot of jobs can be automated in the next 20-30 years.
So … you’re supposed to work (and work hard, baby!) because it’s a virtue, but … maybe you won’t have the opportunity to work because a robot can take your job and do it cheaper.
So … uh … now what?
If we don’t work, how will we pay rent? Dean supports the idea of unconditional basic income—a system in which society pays everyone enough to meet basic needs, so we can all spend our time doing something that truly fulfills us.
“Society has become wealthier and wealthier,” he says. “Even by traditional measures of total wealth (e.g. GDP) one can see this. But the wealth has become more and more concentrated in the hands of a few. So, the question is primarily not about work, it’s about how you share the wealth more fairly and humanely.”
“The reason that it’s no longer about work is because most of the wealth no longer comes from human labor,” he adds. “But the way the problem is typically presented, you’d think idleness was the problem, and that getting people back into work was the solution. But the global economic collapse wasn’t caused by human idleness, and neither were the previous recessions.”
Unconditional basic income.
So … everyone gets X-amount of money, and then theoretically they can go chase a dream or a passion or a purpose. That’s essentially impossible at work.
Obviously, here are the big concerns:
- If everyone has a “basic income,” doesn’t that mean hard work isn’t valued anymore? Because everyone is entitled to X-amount? So does that prevent people from “making their mint?”
- Could this lead to laziness once people have their basic needs covered?
- Should we be letting people who are scourges have money for essentially nothing?
To me, this is politically-fraught but entirely logical. In the 1800s, it took X-amount of people to produce food. In 2015, it takes Y-amount of people, and there’s a good chance “Y” is a smaller number than “X.” We have machines and processes and we’ve figured out ways to automate things. That’s just life and progress and technology and all that.
And we primarily do that because of a societal obligation to the idea that everyone needs to work to meet their needs.
So what if we took all the money being generated and put that towards meeting the base (not every whim) needs of people?
Sure, it sounds like socialism — but if people had base needs covered + time to pursue passions, couldn’t that lead to a new generation of amazing ideas? Theoretically, at least?
Think about all our issues with energy and student loan debt and race relations and everything else that the world struggles with.
You take a genius, passionate person out of a cubicle shackle environment and get them thinking about that stuff, and maybe he/she changes the world. And all because some huge GDP slush, instead of going to a billionaire vacationing in the Maldives, goes to an unconditional basic income.
Could never work — but could it?