Guaranteed Minimum Income

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sam sanchez
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Jul 28 2007 17:29
Guaranteed Minimum Income

I'm sure you've heard of the idea. The Greens love it. Basically, everyone gets an amount of money high enough to keep them afloat each month, generated from taxation. You get it no matter how much you earn, no matter whether or not you work (obviously the money comes from taxing rich people).

What do people think of this idea? Obviously its only a reform. But it does have a hint of the "from each according to their abilities, to each according to their needs" idea, as it frees individuals fromt he urgent need to have a job (although considering how depressing it is being unemployed, I'd imagine most people would anyway). Would increase workers bargaining power, perhaps?

Mike Harman
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Jul 28 2007 17:34

A few people were talking about it a couple of years ago - I think it was getting popularised by Alex Foti (he of the Middlesex Declaration) - although they didn't mention it'd been a Green Party policy for 10-20 years.

In short - yes it would reduce the compulsion to work and maybe bargaining power as a result, but there's no way it's going to happen - any movement strong enough to impose that kind of reform on capital would be strong enough to do a lot more than that.

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Joseph Kay
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Jul 28 2007 17:46

yeah it's the kind of partial 'decommodification' of labour that would be conceded if they feared we could go the whole way, so it's not the reform we should be after, but the movement capable of winning it

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sam sanchez
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Jul 28 2007 17:48

Slightly unsettlingly Milton Freidman was a fan of the idea... his "negative income tax" is basically the same thing. Of course, he proposed it in conjunction with the dimatling of the welfare state as well, which is not something I'd like to see this side of the revolution, really.

Randy
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Jul 28 2007 17:53
Mike Harman wrote:
...yes it would reduce the compulsion to work and maybe bargaining power as a result, but there's no way it's going to happen - any movement strong enough to impose that kind of reform on capital would be strong enough to do a lot more than that.

I agree. But I don't know that raising the demand is necessarily a bad idea from a propaganda perspective, though, in that it calls attention to the inherent unfairness and brutality of capitalist social relations.

Mike Harman
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Jul 28 2007 18:02
Randy wrote:
Mike Harman wrote:
...yes it would reduce the compulsion to work and maybe bargaining power as a result, but there's no way it's going to happen - any movement strong enough to impose that kind of reform on capital would be strong enough to do a lot more than that.

I agree. But I don't know that raising the demand is necessarily a bad idea from a propaganda perspective, though, in that it calls attention to the inherent unfairness and brutality of capitalist social relations.

Well that sounds more like a transitional demand kind of thing to me - I know it's not on the cards any time soon to get it, and I don't see that there'd be widespread support for it either to be honest. It's also pretty irrelevant when actual wages and the social wage are under continual attack at the moment.

Feighnt
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Jul 29 2007 07:36
Mike Harman wrote:
any movement strong enough to impose that kind of reform on capital would be strong enough to do a lot more than that.

but just because it'd have potential to go further doesnt mean such a movement *would*. it's not altogether difficult for a movement - even a large, popular one - to get tunnel vision and settle for only what was demanded in the first place (or to lose its nerve/become "realistic" and settle for less). besides, the movement would likely generate at least some influential leaders who may actually be aware of more ambitious goals, but would attempt to steer the greater movement away from going for these goals, for a number of possible reasons (ideological tunnel vision or fear of "being too red" possibly being some; fear that pushing the movement beyond the more modest demands would make the authorities less sympathetic and therefore less willing to bend - and possibly become overtly repressive; having too much ideological sympathy for Liberalism, including the understanding that the system does require at least some economic punishments in order to sustain itself - especially the case if the leader in question is an "upper class with a conscience" sort); or, of course, politicians or would-be politicians using - and dulling - the movement to provide his/her own personal platform into power.

sorry for the pessimism embarrassed it'd still be decent if it got done, though. and even better if the movement lead to greater class consciousness, and perhaps further pushes.

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Jul 29 2007 11:04
revol68 wrote:
it's fundamentally nonsense though because the only thing that makes it meaningful is the ability to enforce it, if they give a guaranteed living wage they will straight away seek to claim it back by higher costs of living, there is no way on earth a government is going to provide a level of income that would remove incentive to wage labour

This is exactly what I was going to say.

And of course we're on the defensive at the moment, not in much a position to demand things, rather trying to stop things like wage/social wage cuts, like revol says.

lem
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Jul 29 2007 11:11

no-one has engaged with randy's point IMO.

i agree with him; perhaps to the extent that it would be fucking sweet for me at least.

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Jul 29 2007 11:20
lem wrote:
no-one has engaged with randy's point IMO.

i agree with him; perhaps to the extent that it would be fucking sweet for me at least.

People have engaged with it, Lem. That is what the talk about transitional demands is.

At the moment working class living standards are coming under massive attack. In the UK the state has set a below inflation ceiling on public sector pay increases. And some Italian academics want to make abstract demands for a 'guaranteed minimum income. It really is nonsense.

Devrim

lem
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Jul 29 2007 11:44

yeah i suppose. no-one said yay or nay; closest was catch who said "little support". doesn't mean that it won't highlight anything. IMO.

:-/

eta: yeah soz i guess i missed most response it cos no-one was paying it much attention laugh out loud IYSWIM.

sleight of hand almost there by the libcommers laugh out loud

Randy
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Jul 29 2007 12:57
Mike Harman wrote:
... It's also pretty irrelevant when actual wages and the social wage are under continual attack at the moment.

That's seems a valid point. I first heard of these demands relative to the USA in the 60's, a period of economic growth and an upswing in progressive politics, and i thought it made sense in that context.

I also thought the more recent demands for financial reparations for the descendants of slaves was effective in a limited fashion, in that raising it forced liberals to at least address the issue of institutionalized oppression (as opposed to everything being about acts of discrimination by individuals, acted out on individuals.) Most reasonable people agree that slavery's legacy lingers in the USA; that there is no way reparations would ever be paid; so why not? What is wrong with/inherently unfair about this system?

lem
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Jul 29 2007 13:46
Randy wrote:
from a propaganda perspective, though, in that it calls attention to the inherent unfairness and brutality of capitalist social relations.

i think this is the important point. maybe tho because it is a reform the only unfairness it will call attention to is an unfairness that is not total not capitalist. so it would only be reformist "propaganda".

tho it strikes me as possible anti-bureaucratic propaganda.

:-/

Randy
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Jul 29 2007 14:14

I don't have any qualms about demanding reforms along the path to revolution, so some of this discussion may be going past me. (I think focusing overmuch on avoiding reformism is a recipe for marginalization-- I know many don't share that view. "We take or win all possible reforms with the same spirit that one tears occupied territory from the enemy's grasp in order to go on advancing..." Errico Malatesta )

Anyway, stated simply, I think the value of demands such as reparations or guaranteed income is as follows: 1-- People hear the demand being made. 2-- Some (not all) workers will say, that seems good/fair/just/compassionate. 3-- Someone else will say, yet but it won't ever happen.

Giving the original individual occasion to ask, is our society then inherently unjust/brutal?

It is only a propaganda tool, I think, useful but in a limited fashion. If it were taken as some sort of realistic program, I would be skeptical-- cause it AIN'T gonna happen this side of a revolution. A guaranteed income would wreck capitalism, because too few would be willing to volunteer to be exploited, sans necessity. (Edit- and the bosses understand this.)

lem
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Jul 29 2007 14:24

yeah i thought you meant highlight the fact that capitalism is slavery; not that communism is good IYSWIM.

thanks

lem

petey
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Jul 29 2007 16:28
Quote:
there is no way on earth a government is going to provide a level of income that would remove incentive to wage labour

exactly. in the US, AFDC, aka welfare, brought a modest level of temporary benefits, and it was hammered by the business right and the resentful right to the point where it was pretty much dismantled by the clinton administration.

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Jul 29 2007 19:20
revol68 wrote:
if they give a guaranteed living wage they will straight away seek to claim it back by higher costs of living,

Devil's advocate: Couldn't this be said about all wage gains?

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Jul 30 2007 02:55

I wasnt there but I hear that the conference in Cambridge a year or two or so back about this had a number of folk who were going on about minimum income would be good for capitalists too. I'm not convinced that's actually true (and if its not I think the capitalists' servants in economics departments will figure it out) but if it is I think that should make some advocates of the demand a little less enthusiastic. I think if "citizens income" was actually won in one country or for the EU it'd result in greater border controls, more obstacles to citizenship, more 'guest worker' programs, more undocumented workers, etc.

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Jul 30 2007 03:04
Nate wrote:
I wasnt there but I hear that the conference in Cambridge a year or two or so back about this had a number of folk who were going on about minimum income would be good for capitalists too. I'm not convinced that's actually true (and if its not I think the capitalists' servants in economics departments will figure it out) but if it is I think that should make some advocates of the demand a little less enthusiastic. I think if "citizens income" was actually won in one country or for the EU it'd result in greater border controls, more obstacles to citizenship, more 'guest worker' programs, more undocumented workers, etc.

In the 30's there was a lot of "dividend capitalism" in the states especially with the anti-central bank folks.

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Jul 30 2007 18:00
Nate wrote:
I think if "citizens income" was actually won in one country or for the EU it'd result in greater border controls, more obstacles to citizenship, more 'guest worker' programs, more undocumented workers, etc.

It's not an issue - there will never be an amount given that will remove the need to work, there never can be.

Mike Harman
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Jul 30 2007 18:15
Nate wrote:
I wasnt there but I hear that the conference in Cambridge a year or two or so back about this had a number of folk who were going on about minimum income would be good for capitalists too. I'm not convinced that's actually true (and if its not I think the capitalists' servants in economics departments will figure it out) but if it is I think that should make some advocates of the demand a little less enthusiastic. I think if "citizens income" was actually won in one country or for the EU it'd result in greater border controls, more obstacles to citizenship, more 'guest worker' programs, more undocumented workers, etc.

Well one thing it'd do would be replace all state benefits. You'd no longer get income support , housing benefit, working families tax credit, job seekers, allowance, incapacity benefit, .etc. because the guaranteed minimum income would be deemed enough, maybe there'd be very much reduced versions of some of these (child benefit for example) depending on what level it was set at.

Getting rid of all of those means means a massive, massive reduction in administration costs - a lot of the same arguments that a flat rate of income tax has. Also there'd be very little opportunity for fraud as well.

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Jul 30 2007 21:13

the reason that the capitalists and managers will oppose anything like this quite strongly is that it undermines labor discipline. to the degree people aren't forced to take miserable jobs under threat of starvation, there will be more rebellion. in the '60s/'70s period in the US there was an increasing level of workplace absenteeism, sabotage and so on, and that led to a lot of talk by management consulants about "job enrichment" and so on. that stuff went out of fashion with the shrinking of the welfare state. the tendency in the USA historically has been for redistributive welfare programs (like AFDC) to be means tested. this then leads to severe resentment by that portion of the working class making just about whatever the current cutoff is. this also makes it easier to destroy or undermine such programs through racist attacks since they can be portrayed as being for black people. AFDC was destroyed this way even tho most of the beneficiaries were poor white women and their children.

in the absence of a very high level of disruption and class conflict, redistributive programs of this sort are not likely. moreover. When Randy says it's useful for attacking the injustice of the present system, i suppose this must be because it brings out how people are forced to accept the jobs the employers offer on pain of destitution. in that case it might be better to advocate for 100% of pay for the unemployed. if i'm not mistaken the Swedish unemployment system had some setup like this back in the '80s. also, making the employers pay for unemployment. right now in the USA it's a form of insurance and workers pay part of the cost, and you can be denied for a host of reasons, including being on strike (but in most states you're eligible if locked out).

Randy's point about reparations is somewhat different, tho. a good case could be made for this, see Randall Robinson's "The Debt." Robinson's proposal is to set up a trust that would pay for things like education for the descendants of West Africans enslaved in North America. You could imagine community-controlled investment trusts that could do things like finance worker coop supermarkets, housing cooperatives, community centers, youth programs, as well as funding education, free quality child care, etc. I suppose a problem with funding anything other than a personal benefit like education would be the question, Are the benefits limited to the descendants of slaves?

But this also would not be realistic unless it were one demand as part of a set of demands by a larger social movement that was severely disruptive.

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Jul 30 2007 21:40

I am presented with difficulty by this discussion.
I may be mistaken but there should exist an overlap between libertarian communism and anarchism.
Correct me if I am wrong but anarchists here might seem to be discussing the pros and cons of a monetary reform.
The pacifist discussing which weapon kills best?
The catholic priest discussing his preferred method of contaception?
Bill gates moving in to open source software?
Confused,
Dagenham.

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Jul 30 2007 22:10
revol68 wrote:
if they give a guaranteed living wage they will straight away seek to claim it back by higher costs of living,

To go at this another way...

Doesn't the above argument directly support the Iron Law of Wages idea?

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Jul 31 2007 00:57

So why so much more pessimism about a wage demand that applies to everyone rather than one just for one sector or another? I mean, I agree with what most people here are saying about the low prospects of it happening and the pointlessness of it as a strategic demand etc. I just don't see why you need to include that subtly reactionary argument against it.

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Jul 31 2007 02:17

right. just like any gain short of communism.

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Jul 31 2007 05:27

In Germany the idea of a basis income is quite popular being advocated by people like

- The boss of the biggest drugstore chain
- The prime minister of the federal state of Thuringa
- Many anthroposophers
- Parts o the Green party
- Most of the left social democrat party (Die Linke)
- Most of the Toni Negri fan clubs
- The Euro Mayday fun clubs
- Many of the post-workerist academics
- Parts of what remained from the autonomous movement
- same reformist trade union bueraucrats

While most people involved in this strange coalition sometimes differ in the quantity of money the claim and in the amount of "unconditional" in the "unconditional basic income", they roughly share the same idea, that is some sort of "Be realistic - demand the possible". It is real fun to argue with a Negri fan, what he thinks about the super state a basic income would generate. May be, the idea of a basic income is not absolutely. As even parts of the establishment like the idea (because they have to deal with the growing part of the class that is no longer need for (productive) accumulation) maybe in 10 years we will see a miserable not-quite-un-conditional basic income and a left that no longer will focus on how to overcome the capitalist crap but on the amount and the conditions for their monthly pay cheque from the ministry of love.

alf shawyer col...
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Jul 31 2007 08:08
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maybe in 10 years we will see a miserable not-quite-un-conditional basic income and a left that no longer will focus on how to overcome the capitalist crap but on the amount and the conditions for their monthly pay cheque from the ministry of love.

i agree and i think the ministry of love would also ensure that the ministy of home could increase tighter controls for people entering the country - unless they were cash tourist or have a personal jet

nic o
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Jul 31 2007 13:25

There was a good article on the limitations of a basic income demand in Turbulence - 'Money for nothing', that covers the fundamental objections to the proposal well - nationalist, further checks on border control, etc. Well worth the read. There has been some talk of it as 'incompatible' with capitalism, but I personally don't see how... from the same article:

Quote:
Since the basic income proposal brackets the question of who owns and controls the means of production, it should be clear that it is reformist in the sense that it accepts many basic parameters of developed capitalist economies. Far from eliminating the social relation that capitalism is, a relation that finds its clearest expression in the wage and in the money form in general, the basic income proposal in fact depends on and accommodates itself to that relation. While it certainly represents a particularly extreme device for redistributing incomes through taxation, such redistribution is far from being new to capitalism or incompatible with it.

Even though I find the whole reform/revolution divide kinda useless, and I do like the idea of pushing for something that decouples labour with the wage, I don't think this is it. Especially as many of its advocates rely on the 'social factory' to justify it - the idea that all activity is productive for capital and therefore all should be 'rewarded' - which is to say, waged. Which is kinda the opposite of the decoupling surely...?