I’m not sure yet. I guess it depends where I end up at the end of this real-time fake debate with myself on the so-called Citizens’ Wage, a social program being tested in places like Finland that creates unconditional base income for every citizen whether they work or not.
The Pro Citizens’ Wage side looks like the favorite. After all, what’s the alternative when the human job market finally melts down from full computerized automation brought on by the tech explosion? People dying from starvation in the streets?
But let’s see how this ultimate grudge match in my mind actually plays out when I open the debate up to my imaginary friends:
In the Pro corner, Gladys the Unicorn!
Rainbows and glitter for everyone! Yayyyy!
In the Con corner, Mr. Horse from The Ren and Stimpy Show!
No, sir. I don’t like it.
LLLLET’S GET READY TO RUMBAAAAAAAAL!
GLADYS: Jobs are disappearing faster than that rainbow barf snap you just sent to your friend on Snapchat. Yay Rainbows! It’s all because of those silly little machines that make things automagically for us.
And, can I tell you a little secret?… The machines are starting to think. Like, for-real think. It’s a little spooky. Tell me Mister Horse, what do we do about that?
Well, we could place fun little unnecessary red START buttons all over our shiny, new automagic, self-thinking, sprocket-making machines just to give people an excuse to jump in their flying briefcase cars and commute to work everyday like George Jetson.
Oooorrr… we could let the machines do their thing on their own, making our lives super cool and then sprinkle the magical freedom of a Citizens’ Wage and a lifetime supply of Skittles on every human on the planet whether they wanna work or not. Yayy!
I’d much rather have a Citizens’ Wage and FREEDOM than be tied to a desk and have a bull-squirt, button-pushing job like that silly Mister Jetson. Do people really like getting yelled at by mean-ole Mister Spacely, that much? Hmmm, Mister Horse… Do they?
If all they’re doing is pushing a button then sitting back with their feet up for the rest of the 7 hours, blah, blah, blah minutes, pretending to work for a paycheck while all of their magical untapped creative potential goes unused? That’s just silly, Mister Horse.
I may be make-believe, but even I know people don’t need pretend jobs to justify a paycheck. Let them have a Citizens’ Wage no matter what!
Mr. Horse: Government Skittles? No sir, I don’t like it. Government Skittles would all be orange. No one likes orange.
And who said anything about buttons? We don’t need anyone to push buttons. The only way that button thing is going to happen is if the government forced businesses to have a certain number of humans on hand in order to – quote, unquote – save jobs. I’m for less government intervention in this thing, not more.
Let people make it on their own. They’ll figure things out. Always have, always will. Humans are almost as adaptable as horses. And, now, they’ve got the resources of the connected world to help them.
Do you want to end up in a world like Wall-E? That’s how it’s going to be if we do a Citizens’ Wage. Bunch of fat, lazy slobs, coasting around on hovering chairs staring at the screen in front of them, their only job, to consume… and then consume more.
We don’t need to encourage that kind of loafin’. We don’t want that kind of world. The only way to avoid it is to let people fend for themselves and find their own creative way to earn income. That’s the only way to have a productive society and grow the economy for everyone, the good ‘ole supply-and-demand capitalist way, not with some kind of handout.
GLADYS: A productive society? Can we be serious for a second? Ha ha! Just kidding. Can we be honest, though? I like honesty, and donuts with pink sprinkles. Even today, most humans are unproductive and completely unnecessary for half the time they’re stuck at work! Wah, wahh. That’s just a waste of their true potential.
Technology will create a productivity Bonanza!!! Hooray!!! the likes of which we’ve never seen. And we’ll only need a tiny smidge of human energy to manufacture most things. So, let the rest of the people fly free! Give them the free time to do what people do best, create brand new ideas and create lots and lots of cool random things out of thin air.
It doesn’t do society any good when everyone (besides a few super-dooper-fancy fat-cats) is wasting their life-energy frantically scraping around for a paycheck. Jobs, as we know them now, should simply go away. BAH. BYE.
Give everyone a basic Citizens’ Wage and you’ll see a golden age of creativity and entrepreneurialism. Sure, some Lazy Leroys will choose to loaf around on their couch listening to Puff the Magic Dragon [winky face], but most will blossom into beautiful flowers of unbridled creativity and that will make the world a happy-fun, dream-timey place! 😎
Mr. Horse: Puff the Magi- No sir. Actually, I think most people are gonna be smoking – quote, unquote – THE REEFER, playing video-games, and will waste all of their – quote, unquote – PRODUCTIVE time searching for – quote, unquote – HOT CHEETOS CALLED HARAMBE.
Listen, humans are most creative when their backs are against the wall. Most need a swift kick in the rear-end just to get out of bed. We won’t let people die in the streets, but they’ve gotta have some kind of major external incentive to get moving in the morning.
And the fact is, the very tech that’s supposedly stealing jobs is already making it super-easy to earn side-income from all kinds of – quote, unquote – SIDE-HUSTLES. People are already replacing their 9-to-5 income in other ways, aided by all kinds of online doodads.
Don’t forget about the growing Financial Independence, Retire Early community who are already using the tools of the Internet to take back their free time. They’re not doing this with a government handout. They’re doing it the right way, by scaling back unnecessary spending and then investing in the companies that own all the machines that would have eventually taken their jobs anyways.
GLADYS: Invest? Really, Mister Horse. Most people aren’t savvy enough to invest, or at least won’t do it the right way. Or won’t invest enough… in time!
The Engineering Eddies of the FIRE community are a special breed, made up by people who have the foresight to already get started and who like numbers and fancy spreadsheets.
No, no, no, Mister Horse. Most people will be caught with their pants down when the machines come for their jobs. Embarrassing. And they’ll be desperate. Desperate and embarrassed. Not a good combo, sir. Talk about backing people into a corner. Things could even turn ugly and maybe even violent.
I don’t mean to be a Negative Nelly. I like to think the best of every human being. Without their magical imagination, I wouldn’t be here. But what would you do if you saw all the wealth and Skittles of the productivity Bonanza go to the already ultra-wealthy upper-upper class while you’re struggling to scrape up even one sad little orange Skittle for your family’s survival?
Why not take a tiny sliver of the Bonanza and sprinkle it down from the top onto the masses, so everyone can taste the rainbow. Don’t worry there will still be endless truckloads of Skittles to reward all the Enterprising Ediths who took huge risks to build the machines and businesses that power the automagical future.
Mr. Horse: All this rainbow tasting or licking or whatever you’re talking about smells like flat-out redistribution of wealth to me. No sir, I don’t like it.
All the benefits of automation and technology is already being redistributed, in a way. Only it’s happening organically, not being forced by a government handout.
For example, the – quote, unquote – SHARING ECONOMY, made possible by our new-fangled connected devices, already acts as a kind of subsidy or safety net for the public good. Then there’s the – quote, unquote – FREEMIUM business model brought on naturally by increased Internet competition. It virtually forces companies to give away good products and services in hopes to gain some kind of market share.
Technology giveth and it taketh away from the bottom line of big corporations. In many ways it hands direct control over to John Q. Public. See? I can come up with clever names for all of these Joe Schmoe’s too.
So. There’s the sharing economy, competition that makes things better and sometimes free, and I’ve already talked a little bit about technology eroding the barriers of entry to small side-hustle businesses. The barrier of entry to medium and larger businesses is breaking down too. Making money, in many ways, is getting easier, not harder.
As long as we keep over-regulation like your Citizens’ Wage from mucking up the works, entrepreneurialism and prosperity will thrive just fine on its own.
Whew! What a debate! Colorful. Especially on the GLADYS side of the debate. Like I said, I was leaning Pro Citizens’ Wage at the very beginning. I really was. But Mr. Horse made a compelling argument for the Con side at the end.
He appealed to my Libertarian core by pointing out the unpredictable results of free-enterprise that boosts everyone’s standard of living as long as information and money flows freely. As long as cheating is kept in check.
We are not automatically doomed if automation takes all our old-school “jobs”. Other opportunities to “make a living” have already naturally opened up for us in ways we could not have imagined ten years ago. And these opportunities might not exist if we tried planning this whole thing out in some senate committee.
One thing Gladys, Mr. Horse and I all agree on is that some kind of Citizens’ Wage is probably preferable to the creation of a bunch of fake busy-work jobs to justify a paycheck. If we as a society end up deciding people need some kind of handout from the government to soften the blow of a jobs crisis, let’s not force people into a meaningless “job” to “earn” it. Let’s be honest about it and just give them the handout. Give them back their free time to pursue their passions.
I’m with Gladys, on that point. Given the chance, after a year-long stint binge-watching Chrisley Knows Best to get that out of their system, I think most people would use their new-found free time to create some pretty magical things.
What are your thoughts on The Citizens’ Wage (or Unconditional Basic Income)? Who won the debate? I’d love to read your comments on this.