You wrote.
Luna Tsee

Wholeheartedly agree that humans need work! (not so hot on the idea of war as a tool for full employment — in actuality it does work, but I think the price is a little high, so let’s all try to avoid this solution, ok?)

Re-read my premise — I offered an extreme example to illustrate the point, not something I consider a likely scenario. 100% automation? Pretty unlikely IMO as something that could really happen.

To stray back toward the real world, there are going to be MASSIVE adjustments to what we think of as labor and how we rate compensation.

Currently, as I alluded to in my prior post, people need to have 40 (or more) hours of work to earn a living that allows them to buy the goods and services needed to live. But full employment at those hours creates TOO MUCH goods and services to be consumed. We’re just too damned efficient at producing stuff.

What if we made a 20 hour work week, but paid for 40? At the moment that would be overkill, but let’s consider it as a scenario for illustrative purposes. (Again, at this moment not a scenario that is likely anytime soon, but good for illustration.)

Let’s say, for the purpose of this discussion, that the numbers work out so that by 100% of the people working 20 hours a week, the amount of goods and services needed to sustain the population can be produced. As before in my prior scenario, that 20 hours of work will need to provide the income needed for those people to consume the goods and services, or the economy will collapse.

And, in fact, this gives everyone more time to consume, ensuring that the economy would be driven to create goods and services.

And there are other benefits too! There would be time to create solutions to problems that no one is paying to solve. What would you do with 20 extra hours of life a week? Hell, just finally getting to have a full 8 hours of sleep each night alone would make everyone happier and nicer. Our kids would be better people with more involved parenting, ensuring the next generation really was better off than we are.

But here is the catch — in order for it to work, people would actually need to be able to earn a living in those reduced hours of employment.

There are, as I see it, two ways to make that happen, neither being exclusive as a solution (either or both in combination at varying levels could be used to accomplish this).

First — the basic income already discussed. The companies are producing enough to meet everyone’s needs, so they need to be taxed enough so that a basic income can be established to allow people to meet their basic needs, and thus consume the goods and services needed to make sure the businesses stay in business.

Second — businesses are going to need to figure out that if they hire people and pay them generously, that money comes flooding back to them. Take the profit and, instead of distributing it as salary based on “comparable hourly rates in similar positions and industries”, base it on the hours needed to create that profit. With increased efficiency, with increased automation, that means more salary for workers, not higher returns for stockholders.

Of course, the problem with that second potential solution is that corporations, no matter how well-intentioned their executives, are not designed to fix social infrastructure in that way — they are designed to return profits to the shareholders. It is their purpose.

In fact the only social structures designed to do that are non-profits and governments. Neither of which are really in the business of providing goods and services in exchange for fees.

However, governments ARE designed to take whatever actions are necessary to keep they systems running. Which brings us back to basic income as the viable way of keeping the economy rolling despite increased automation.

(Though writing this, it also occurs to me that the government could pass living wage laws that require companies to compensate employees at rates that keep the economy sustainable and everyone able to purchase the needed goods and services. Not sure that there is a way to do that which is fair to everyone (I’m thinking about the business end of things), or the political will to create these kind of laws; a basic income may be easier for a government to pass — let’s let that sink in for a moment — as it would be less restrictive on “freedom” (in quotes because a lot of what is discussed as freedom is more about anarchy, but I digress).)

In any case, a basic income in no way invalidates the need to work — in fact it depends on people still working in jobs that can’t be done by automation. If the economy becomes a zero-sum game, the economy is toast. New value constantly needs to be injected into the system for there to be profit AND sustainable basic income. That value comes from creativity, from new-better-more-efficient ways of doing things, from invention.

The cool thing about a basic income is it provides life for everyone, but if you want to do more than just survive, there is opportunity to create something new and benefit (financially) from creation. People who put in the effort to do more than just survive get to, well, do more than just survive.

Some more specific responses to your post —

  1. Tax and build is fine except the things doing the building will be robots. Doesn’t help in the employment of people.
  2. Your use of the phrase “on the dole” and the surrounding text imply to me that you think there is something negative about getting money that you haven’t “earned” through labor. Take it up with Paris Hilton and see how she feels about it, then get back to me. (If I inferred incorrectly, please let me know)
  3. You mentioned (slightly off-topic) about your doctor being regulated by some book. I take from that that you are against “government health care” and are afraid of “death panels”. The reality is that, under the prior (and apparently returning) system in the US, the death panels were unelected bureaucrats at insurance companies (rather than people who had to report to elected officials who were accountable to us, the voters, as would be the case in a single payer system) whose motivations were profit for themselves, not health for you. Your treatment costs us too much? Sorry, you can’t have it. Under the ACA the only treatment restrictions were, you know, does the treatment actually demonstrably WORK? (Sorry for the off topic; and again if I misread what you were saying, please let me know)

I think I have blathered on enough for the moment. Though I’m happy to stay engaged and continue the discussion!

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