Please don’t respond if you can’t muster something that is actually germane to me and my article. I would rather not see another copy and paste essay from you.
In that case, how about just a simple, “Fuck off, you economics ignoramus”? Will that suffice?
I don’t know if I’d say it suffices as an argument, but it does represent you forming a somewhat original thought with regards to something I wrote, which I do think should be a prerequisite for responding to someone else’s post. I wonder, though, fuck off to where? You approached me, after all. You ventured here to present yourself and your ideas. I didn’t post my article on as a response to anything you wrote. But leaving all that aside for the moment, I’ll do my best to respond to what you said, I think by looking at the fallacies I see in your arguments. First off “Fuck off, you economics ignoramus” seems to be a bit of bullying — perhaps an attempt to scare me into submission — paired with an ad hominem attack. Can we try to focus on the content of my arguments, rather than irrelevant details about my background? I will do my best to return the favor, and I won’t speculate as to yours.
Sorry, but “Art Is Long; Life Is Short”, and I can’t waste my precious (that is, SCARCE) time arguing against your particular Fantasy Island vision of Utopia.
I agree. Time is scarce. I feel the call of other obligations, too, but it still feels worth it to me in this case to look at your arguments critically and respond. If you don’t have time to spend thinking critically, best not to engage me. I’m glad I got a more specific and directed response from you this time, meaning you must have seen the point in using your scarce time on me. It seems a shame that you spent half of your argument insulting me, though. Why spend your valuable time on spite? What do you expect it to accomplish?
If you don’t grasp the simple point (to take just one example of your silliness) that “consumer wealth” (i.e., demand) is one-half of what determines prices on a free market under division-of-labor…
It’s true that I’m not an economist, but I have asked such questions of many economists, and I’m doing my best to present an understanding that those encounters have given me. I am open to argument. In this case, it seems you are implying direct equivalence between consumer wealth and demand. I do understand and believe in the concept of supply and demand, and even the principle that increases in consumer wealth can often result in an increase in demand as consumers want more goods, but I don’t see that those are directly, proportionally related. It seems a false assumption. That model only works in certain circumstances and up to a point. As consumers get wealthier and wealthier, more and more of their money goes toward savings, after all. They don’t necessarily just demand more and more goods with all of their income.
With housing specifically, the very idea that demand can go up and down is missing the point. Everyone demands housing, and a major premise of most UBI proponents is that everyone deserves shelter. Much like healthcare, it should not be a good reserved for those who reach some level of wealth, but a human right. Demand for human rights is 100% of how many humans there are. Perhaps it can be argued that there will be more economic demand in the housing market as certain people move off of the streets when they suddenly have enough income to pay for housing, and that indeed could be a factor toward raising prices some, and perhaps some people will want to move into better housing, or even get a second place, because the new income justifies it. Those things could have a rent-raising effect. That argument is well-taken, but that is ignoring a whole slew of other factors. If some people choose to move out of cities and into suburbs, as many predict could happen under a UBI, demand for housing will decrease in cities and increase in suburbs and rents in those places will adjust accordingly. If new types of housing (such as dormitory-style housing, a small room with a locking door and privacy with community utilities) crop up to cater to a new demographic market, a new class of people formerly living in shelters, on the streets, or in some other crappy situation, then not only the homeless, but many other people who weren’t already on the streets might actually decide to save money by moving into that type of housing. Moreover, if we manage to create a society of universally guaranteed security and dignity, how many people will decide to live more within their means rather than chasing affluence? How many blogs do you think might pop up about “50 life hacks for living well on your dividend” on the Buzzfeeds of the world? If you take insecurity away, I expect you’ll get a psychological side effect in your average citizen consumer. You’ll take some of the power away from the dollar, and more people will focus on simple living rather than greater and greater consumption. Maybe that sounds naive to you, because that’s not how people generally operate now in this country, but I would counter that our current system doesn’t really allow that mindset, while the radical transformation UBI represents would encourage it.
… and that “economic value” as reflected in market prices is a social-construct (determined subjectively by both buyers and sellers), then you have no business discussing anything at all about economics.
Not only is it my business to discuss it, but it’s my right. Hell, I would say it is my responsibility if I care about learning and growing and refining my opinions. I do indeed care quite a lot about such things, and I read your response and your article carefully to try to grab what value from them I could, rather than wholesale dismissing you for disagreeing with me or even for insulting me. In terms of economics arguments, you didn’t, in the end, present much I haven’t heard before, but I do appreciate the opportunity to think it through again. Most of what I learned pertains to your character and to your tactics meant to silence or demean me. The practice dealing with that is perhaps the most valuable lesson in this for me.
As to the “social construct” of prices, sure, there’s an element of perceived value in it, of course, but I think that factors in only to a point. Perhaps you’re coming at this from the perspective of someone who has always had money. The act of someone buying a Fendi bag for 10 times the price of a mass-produced bag has a lot to do with the perceived value of the Fendi brand, leading to fluctuations in its price, but this is not so much the case for the price of the cheap bag. The cheap bag is much more tied to procurement expenses and the quality of the bag, because its manufacturers don’t have a valuable name to leverage, and they could be undercut by any other aspiring bag manufacturer if they started raising the costs of their bags. At the bottom of the economic ladder, subjective value doesn’t seem to enter nearly as much into the equation. Whoever can sell you the same good for less gets the business. The cheap bag is like the cheap dormitory housing in my earlier example.
If someone asked you, “Hey, Conrad, old chum, what’s your opinion about Medieval Tibetan Naturopathic Dentistry?” you’d probably say (if you were intellectually honest), “Gee, uh, I don’t have any opinion. Sounds interesting, but frankly, I don’t know a thing about it.”
I might indeed say just that. You’ve got me there.
Yet when it comes to economics — something you clearly know even less about…
…than Medieval Tibetan Naturopathic Dentistry — you’re just full of opinions…
Yes, but they are not cemented.
and confidence that all kinds of wealth redistribution schemes (which have all been tried in the past) can “work” and lead to strong incentives for people to work at productive jobs
Indeed they have been tried in the past, actually with very promising results that were mostly buried for decades or dismissed for political reasons. However, UBI experiments in many places (Kenya, India, Canada, even the US) have shown improved health outcomes and graduation rates, greater entrepreneurialism, and a host of other positive outcomes. The concept has yet to be truly tested on a national, universal scale, so the effects on an entire economy are admittedly speculation, but that is true whatever direction your predictions/expectations may lean. I am excited to see what happens when the first country implements it, and I suspect it will go well and spread, but I will not boldly proclaim it will certainly be successful or unsuccessful in every way, that it is either immature fantasy or the true and only solution to the Earth’s ills. I have more humility and scientific curiosity than that.
(“Productive” is a term of art in economics. It means, “Making or doing something that other people find of value and are willing to exchange their products or services for”; it does NOT mean, “Doing something fun and creative that the doer finds compelling while he’s supported by welfare, UBI, or some other dole program”).
I see UBI not as a dole, but rather as a dividend and a human right.
And our definitions of value in this country are flawed. Value, at this moment, can only be defined by what people with money are willing to pay for, and so a great portion of demand is simply unfunded. It’s a chicken and egg scenario. One must have some foundation of currency to step up and participate in the marketplace. One must have seed money to start a business (your stance that the markets fairly weed out the good and bad business ideas strikes me as extremely simplistic, ignoring the realities of the human beings who actually attempt to start those businesses). One must have food and shelter to think and plan clearly about how best to contribute. People driven by fear are people whose effectiveness is severely hampered, even before you start loading them up with bureaucratic paperwork.
You focus just on “fun” enterprises like art in your critique of supporting endeavors of personal value, implying that practicing the arts has no value to society if the piece of art is not purchased. While I disagree wholeheartedly, I don’t think that’s worth arguing about. I will point out that you completely ignore the other types of extremely societally valuable work that the market doesn’t currently reward, like caring for children or elderly parents, volunteering, activism, etc. These are endeavors that people can only choose to pursue at their own risk and detriment in this world, yet they provide tangible benefit to all of us.
Dream on, O Great Fantasist.
naming yourself “Economic Freedom” seems to me disingenuous at best.
If I’m arguing the case for economic freedom (i.e., laissez-faire capitalism under a political system of classical liberalism) why shouldn’t I name myself EconomicFreedom? Seems appropriate to me. In any case, the fun-sounding, clownish monikers like “Conrad Shaw” were already taken, so I had limited choices.
Ouch, you made fun of my name. It is a bit of a silly moniker, I agree, though, in that it’s a stage name. I took it from George Bernard Shaw, because I’m a useless actor/artist-type, and I have my reasons. I confess that it’s strange to me to have a public persona that diverges from my private one in any way.
Laissez-faire, and equating it to freedom, I think, is exactly what is disingenuous. Freedom generally implies freedom for all, but a laissez-faire economy only really represents freedom for those with means. We live in a system that funnels money upwards, leaving those with no power to affect change in their lives not free at all. It’s like when current Republican leaders say they want everyone to have the “opportunity” to have healthcare, as opposed to the right. One must have money to take advantage of the “opportunity” for healthcare, and so not everyone will have it. One must have money to be free in a laissez-faire economy, and so not everyone will be free, and when not everyone is free, it seems disingenuous to call it Economic Freedom. Freedom is a right, not an opportunity or a privilege earned.
A laissez-faire economy feels more like a “Fuck Off” economy to me, and perhaps that’s why you gravitate to it, because people other than you, if a system that works for you isn’t working for them, should just “fuck off.”
Your entire response suggests a traumatic case of Acute Cognitive Dissonance.
Big words to sound smart = jargon, bluster.
Read the rest of the article on UBI at the Mises.org site that I posted previously. It’s a long shot, but you might learn something.
To the main points in your article:
- You say UBI simply shifts around the work disincentives. Work disincentives on the poor and destitute are not equivalent to work disincentives on the wealthy. Welfare recipients choose not to work because working can actually harm them in our current system. They can actually lose money and end up worse off. Work disincentives on the wealthy in the form of higher taxes means they will still be better off, but rewarded somewhat less, for every hour they work. It’s a relative “harm” versus an absolute harm.
- You seem to be of the common perception that every dollar gained is necessarily a dollar earned. That is true for the lower classes who can only accrue wealth as earned income. There is a whole world of unearned income out there that I’m sure you’re aware of (dividends, interest, capital gains…), and it’s only accessible to those who have wealth and property. There are many people who can survive indefinitely, in fact indefinitely continue to grow in prosperity, without ever lifting a finger again. The idea of the UBI is to provide every person a dividend as a right, to make sure everyone has basic security, basic empowerment, basic needs met, basic acknowledgement of their mutual ownership of our natural resources and long-built societal structures, and the very basic ability to step up to the plate and offer the best of themselves in all areas of society. UBI, the dividend, or whatever you want to call it, is affording a little of that unearned income to everyone to do their best for themselves with instead of funneling it only to the rich and hoping they do good with it on behalf of society.
Nice chatting with you. I’m glad I earned enough of your attention to get a considered response from you. If this warrants another, perhaps you can do it without the vitriol and sarcasm this time? Perhaps with a tinge of respect and acknowledgement of my humanity and dignity?