Conrad Shaw
Dec 19, 2017 · 6 min read

I think I understand what you’re trying to get at here, Jim, but I think it matters literally zero, so for semantics sake, maybe I’ll try and put it in a different framing so you can accept it.

I think it matters a lot.

Here’s my concern. #1, you’re turning into another Scott Santens with his slick used car salesman pitch. :P

He’s comes off as one of those guys that asks you how much you can afford for a monthly payment the moment you walk onto the lot. You tell him $300 and he immediately takes you over to the brand new 7- series BMW. Hey it’s an $80,000 car but.. $300/month right? And then when you go to sign the contract he happily points to the $300/month payments listed on page 2, skips the next 7 pages and hands you a pen to sign on page 10. Then when you get home you read the stupid contract only to find that you signed a car loan at 35% interest, you have to make payments for the next 47 years and the last one is a $50,000 balloon payment. (I’ve never met Scott and I’m sure he’s a nice guy but that’s how his articles come across to me.)

He’s actually a friend, so I’m sure I’m biased, but he’s never come across as a slick salesman to me. I’d be curious to know what in his pitch came off like a slick trick. We’re all still trying to figure out the best framing in a hurry, before the debate gets to a truly national issue level, but it’s very difficult task in such a stubbornly and ideologically divided country. If anyone gets a whiff of the “other side”, it’s no use trying to win them over. Everyone has to think it’s their side’s idea before they’ll realize it should be on their side’s platform.

This article was another test of a framing, and not meant as a trick at all. If it comes off as one to people, that’s something I’m trying to learn and adapt to. I do believe UBI can appeal to all sides, and I’ve witnessed it happening, but frame it slightly off in any one way and you lose some chunk of public support, even if the underlying policy is the same. There are so many trigger words, and walls are thrown up easily. There are also many ways to implement it wrong-headedly, so I’m trying to walk a fine line and experiment with the language as much as possible early on.

#2- I *like* the idea of a UBI. I prefer a different system than you are advocating for, but playing with words is going to doom anything before it gets launched. No one is going to slide anything past the general public and get them to agree to it by trying to twist definitions of words. We need a UBI and we need the public to understand it. If they think they are being lied to, it ends right there. Using hard sell tactics and slick packaging will backfire.

I’d be curious to hear about your preferred system.

Again, I don’t see what I was writing about here as a hard sell trick. It was confusing to me at first, and didn’t seem right, but the more I think about it, the more it actually makes sense to me. It’s just a hard concept to explain, and so I can understand how it sounds like BS. In any case, I still think $900B is a lot of money to raise, and I still think that even a $3.2T version would be worth it. I’m always open to the idea and searching for evidence that I’m missing something, but that’s where I’m currently at.

New framing:

The cost of UBI is indeed $3.2 trillion, but then we get an instant windfall of $2.3 trillion.

Let me think on this one a bit. At first blush it seem clunky but I admit that I don’t have a better phrase at the moment.

So you might say the cost of the shirt was actually $32, but I don’t care, because I was given $23 in cash for buying the shirt.

This is where each participant’s perceptions all play into things. Just like looking at different ledgers.

You don’t need to care. They listed the selling price and the rebate amount. You understand everything that is happening in the process and agree to it with that knowledge.

But that’s what I mean. I feel like we can set up a UBI similarly, as in list both the selling price and the rebate amount of it. I don’t think either is really undefined. Say we just pay for it with a 20% flat tax on top of the current system with nothing else (not my proposed plan, but an example). Everybody would know they are always guaranteed their $12K up front, and that they will always pay an extra 20% on every extra dollar they earn to pay for it. So someone bringing in $60K will always be the breakeven point.

Say we start there conceptually, and start reducing the flat tax in chunks by finding other funding sources (like carbon tax, etc) for the UBI, to get that flat tax as low as possible? Is that not essentially defined up front? Where’s the bill of sale there?

You can bet the State Dept of Consumer Affairs would be all over that store if they advertised the shirt for $9 in their weekly sale flyer and didn’t make any mention of the rebate until people walked up to the register to pay for it. In my State, that’d be considered an unfair or deceptive trade practice. They care. The store itself cares. The manufacturer that will be reimbursing the store cares. When you build a system, you have to care about everyone in that system. You can’t just isolate yourself and build a system that works around you.

Maybe some people would be annoyed at this, yes. I’m not sure if this lines up in my mind with the pitch I was making, and I’m getting lost in the analogies now a little. In that analogy, I guess some people would be pissed ifthey showed up with only $9 in cash and couldn’t buy the shirt. In any case, I’m not intending to trick the public into thinking the cost is low. Maybe I’ll develop the new framing a bit more.

And this is why we need to be very careful to be 100% up front and honest with people. Right now, we don’t know where funding would come from to pay for a UBI. Its easy to come up with a lot of scenarios that have Dolph pay Albert. Just keep in mind that when you do that, everyone listening (or reading) is wondering “Am I Dolph? Or am I Albert?”.

Yep, just another tight wire to walk. One of my longer term goals I’d actually like to collaborate with someone to design a website with a UBI calculator, set to model a specific UBI, that would allow people to simply enter their income and other pertinent info, and it would pop out the net result of the program on their lives in terms of net income gained or lost. If we could design something that directly resulted in 70% or of the country gaining money outright, that would be an easier sell. Just send them to the calculator site, so that many can learn they’re actually Albert before they have to vote! Maybe there could be an advanced level, too, that would let people toggle and suggest their own ways to fund it by playing with the economic levers themselves to fit their own priorities. I dunno. This is still a rough idea, but it does fascinate me to actually just slap the real economics onto a simple user interface so people can really know how much revenue certain policy changes would actually raise. Enough of everyone having to trust our bought out politicians and economists with agendas to assure us what actually can or can’t be done in our economy if we choose to.

(btw, KEEP WRITING ABOUT UBI!)

Thanks!

    Conrad Shaw

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