Friday, September 19, 2014

On the Stipend, 2: discussion

          On the Stipend, 2: discussion

“Paid for how much?  Enough for the jobless to live on, with a little bit more for small luxuries.”
 Let’s just admit defeat, and recognize that the jobs are never coming back.

“A stipend stabilizes society by giving everyone a stake in the system.”
 Everyone except for the taxpayers.

“... this amounts to plutocracy insurance; buying off the poor to quash rebellion.”
 A stipend like that will not calm down the masses.  Here’s why.
“Some radicals say, ‘We do not propose to abolish wealth.  We say, abolish poverty.’  The fact is you cannot abolish poverty without abolishing wealth.  For wealth is relative.  One can be sensible of it only in contrast with poverty.  What is poverty?  What is wealth?  There is no absolute measure.  Only contrast.  In that hut over there the people seem wretchedly poor.  That is because habitations have improved.  Not long ago, historically speaking, the royal family would have lived in a hut like that.  The king himself.  The poor now have more than the rich had a few generations ago, more of everything to eat and wear and enjoy.  They are none the less torn by envy because others have more.” -- from “Harangue” by Garet Garrett

That’s not defeat. That’s victory over the curse of Adam.
Of course we are approaching an economics of superfluity; it has been visible for a century.

PMA; seconded about defeating the curse of Adam.
Robots are how industrial man proposes to achieve hunter-gatherer man’s liberty along with farmer man’s security.
But also agreed that envy and ambition will remain, despite everyone having full bellies. The natural strife of society will not decrease with the abolition of absolute poverty. Man is born to trouble, sure as sparks flying upwards. Relative rich and relative poor will remain; in fact I am counting on them remaining, for then competition and innovation will also remain.
If you get a pet rock, then that does decrease the value of my pet rock; but your not going hungry does not decrease the value of my not going hungry. So not all wealth is relative.
BJ; what you denounce is state-based welfare; you don’t have to pay for it, but there’s only one choice. What I propose is a market-based stipend; each gets a sum to spend as they wish. If we are to do a Keynesian counter-cyclic stimulus at all, then the poorest are the best dispensers of the stimulus money; they’ll spend it all, as efficiently as possible, on what they need most. Thus the economy gets going, in a direction closest approximating filling real needs, for the poorest are the ones most uncomfortably aware of real needs.
Funding the stipend? Nontrivial! Doing it right? (i.e. enough to live on, phases out slowly enough for work to pay) Also nontrivial! But I submit that in a sense all of civilization is an immense stipend. Civilization dispenses certain benefits to all, rich or poor, worthy or unworthy, free of charge or scrutiny. That’s the point of civilization.
Oh and one more thing; a point of nomenclature. In the first stipend essay, I described the stipend-receivers (i.e. the poorest) as being “paid to consume”, and thus as “job creators”. This is factually accurate; consumers _are_ the job creators, by definition; they are the ones whom the jobs are done for. Now, there also exists another economic class, also called “job creators”; but this is an Orwellian reversal, for the CEOs thus described make their fortune by _destroying_ jobs, by automation, outsourcing and other tactics. Their drive for efficiency increases output, so they do have a role; but that role should not be mis-stated. They are job destroyers; that is their job; one which lately they have done very, very well.

The problem is that the stipends AREN’T free, whether they are “invade Iraq” “goodies” or “Publik Skoolz” ”goodies” and as you’ve probably figured from my sarcasm, there’s a serious argument as to whether they’re valued anywhere close to the cost.  They may even be valued NEGATIVELY.  So if a person’s money is stolen for a Public Schooling for their kid, and  they DON’T value the public schooling anywhere NEAR what it cost them in taxes, or even at all, or they would even pay to avoid it, even if their kid DIDN’T go to school at all, then the money they’re spending on private schools may be like the money we have to spend on guns when Bill Clinton gives us “night basketball” or some other nonsense.  That sort of “free market Keynesianism” you’re discussing sounds more like Disaster Capitalism to me.

Hmmmm.  I’ve been a Welfare worker and I’ve been a Welfare client (“I’ve looked at Welfare from both sides now...”), and I can tell you from my own observation that people on a stipend do not cease being productive if they have any health at all.  I’ve seen old Black grannies save up their Welfare money to buy yarn and needles, knit everything from blankets to dresses, and sell the same for a profit at a yard-sale.  I’ve seen Welfare unemployeds fighting for places in line to sign up for factory jobs.  I’ve seen others take up underground and illegal jobs -- numbers-running, drug-selling, whoring -- to make extra bucks.  I’ve seen ADC mothers buy seed and plant backyard gardens to improve their children’s diets, and then swap the excess with neighbors.  In my own case, Rasty and I are living on Social Security, and doing our damndest to plant a fruit-orchard.  What all these examples have shown me is that being on a guaranteed stipend does not necessarily create dependency, and certainly doesn’t stop people from being productive.
As an Anarchist, I’d have to say that, when dismantling a government, we should leave the stipend for the poor to the very last.  Given a free and intelligent society, there would be few enough really poor people that the “stipend” could be maintained by private (which includes group, don’t forget) charity.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

On the Stipend, 2

          On the Stipend, 2

This very Internet, on which we communicate so swiftly, has Star-Trek-like economics. The cost of data replication is near zero; information once released on the Net becomes essentially common property of all humankind. This has already cratered the music industry, and is now obsoleting newspapers and book publishing.

          So we already have a replicator of sorts; a data replicator; and enough of our economy is based on data rather than labor or materials that replicator logic is a major factor in the economy. The replicator doesn’t make hash of economics, as such, for it has an economics of its own; an aplutic logic of zero-difference transactions.

          The market-based Keynesian effect of the stipend is its selling point to the business class; its purchase of the political loyalty of the poor is its selling point to the political class (and yes, they overlap); but let me add a third point; a medical point; the healthfulness of the stipend, its elimination of sickness and anxiety; a benefit proven to be shared by the rich as well as the poor.

           In a 23rd-century Star Trek economy, the only scarce raw material is energy. Short of then, we can soon assume cheap form-printing, and have long had fairly cheap chemistry short of alchemy.

          And the information replicator is right here right now.

          In a replicator economy, raw materials are scarce, and new ideas are scarce. Old ideas become common property of humankind, and therefore contribute value but not competitive advantage. Old, processed, materials eventually become trash, and hence recycling; again, a value-contributor but void of profit margin.

          The replicators themselves are not scarce; they self-replicate, if you know how to build them from the spare parts they can replicate. So labor is scarce and valuable; so is knowledge, particularly of replicators.

          The question is, what to pay the maid? Or the doctor? Or the replicator repairman? In gold? Well, that works until the replicators can do alchemy; and until then it’s too inelastic a medium. In paper money? Crank up the xerox machines!

          What to base the zero-sum currency on in an economy largely zero-difference? Credit? Bitcoin?