Universal Basic Income, a leftist critique
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Universal Basic Income, a leftist critique


The Universal basic income or UBI is an ambitious
social program which has been gaining traction over the last few years. Thanks in large part to this man. Andrew Yang. He is running for US president though his
chances of becoming the democratic nominee are low because of his low ratings. Nevertheless, he has proven popular on the
internet and especially on the new left if you want to call it that. That’s because of his proposal of what he
calls a freedom dividend. It’s essentially a UBI. But what’s that? And why does my title imply that I don’t
like it? We’ll get to that. Let’s first go over the basics. A UBI would be a set amount of money given
to people unconditionally. For now, we will use Andrew Yang’s plan
because the specifics like who get’s the money and how much can vary. Yang’s plan is to give every American citizen
over the age of 18 1000$ a month. Yang doesn’t advertise this a lot in public
but that would probably replace some social security like unemployment benefits and some
healthcare stuff his website mentions something like that. It would probably also remove the need for
all of the bureaucrats whose job it is to bully unemployed people into getting a job. There are many advantages to giving out money
to EVERYONE rather than just to unemployed people. One of them is that with usual unemployment
benefits you may just loose all of them if you find a job. Here is an example of someone I know. She get’s 500€ a month in unemployment
benefits and she is searching for a job. She found a part time job where she get’s
550€ for working 20 hours a week. Would you take that deal? She didn’t. And before you judge her keep an in mind,
she didn’t not take the job because she doesn’t want to work but because she wanted
a full time job in the first place and because 20 hours a week aren’t worth 50€ a month. She isn’t lazy she is being rational. But with a UBI she would always get those
1000$ and even if she got a job, even a part time one, she would get to keep all of that
money. Work is always rewarded. This is one of the upsides, another one is
the fact that those who have stable jobs could work fewer hours and still have the same income. Or they could work the same amount of time
and get a higher standard of living. It would also allow a sort of payment for
socially necessary work which is currently not paid like housework and reproductive labour. Finally, families could afford to live with
one primary bread giver…. again, I guess. But this time let’s not do it in a really
sexist way? I guess? Alternatively both parents could just working
part time. Now you may wonder who is going to pay for
all that and the answer isn’t necessarily easy but it’s not as unimaginable as it
may seem. Yang has a whole section of his website dedicated
to how he is going to pay for it and it’s not really relevant to my point, so I’ll
just assume it all works out and it will work out forever even through all natural and economic
crisis, inflation and all the other things that could prevent the US government from
continuing it. So then why then does my title imply that
I dislike it? You may or may not have noticed that I am
a bit of a socialist and I like helping the working class. And it really seems like a UBI would be great
for the working people doesn’t it? And in the past, I used to like the idea of
a UBI. Hell, there even used to be a video of me
defending the UBI on this channel but looking a bit closer I changed my mind on it. Now don’t get me wrong. I am not one of those people who want to oppose
helping the working class to get them angry enough to start a revolution. I think that that’s a horrible idea and
I think we should do everything we can to help the people which is why I also support
minimum wages and universal healthcare. But I am still a little hesitant on the UBI. Let’s look at why Yang is proposing it in
the first place shall we? Luckily his website explains it to us. Essentially automation will make most people
unemployed through no fault of their own and we somehow need to keep people alive even
if they can’t work. The video “Humans need not apply” by CGP
Grey from a few years back sums that up pretty good. So, the goal of Yang is not to improve the
conditions of the people now but to secure a future for everyone. Seems good enough. Looks like a noble goal. And as I mentioned before. I used to like the UBI as well. To me it seemed like the only way a future
could be secured once most can’t get work anymore. It was also sort of a socialist dream. Work becoming entirely optional. The people no longer being slaves to the economy. It sounds great! But now let’s approach this differently. Let’s not look at it in terms of up and
downsides and in terms of policy proposals. Let’s do a Marxist analysis of the Universal
basic income. Let’s set the stage. We live in a neoliberal capitalist society. We have our two capitalist classes. Bourgeoisie, that’s cpaitalists and Proletariat
who are the workers. The Bourgeoisie are the people who make money
by owning things. They are our landlords, factory owners and
major shareholders, people like that. They profit by owning. And on the other side we have the Proletariat. The people who need to work in order to survive
because they don’t own enough stuff to live of their passive income alone. Those 2 classes have different interests like
for example a landlord wants high property values so they can make lots of money and
the tenant wants low property values to be able to pay the rent and still have some money
left for other things. The state is a tool of the ruling class. This means that the class in power uses the
state to help them in the class war. For example, by setting a minimum wage or
by cutting taxes on the 1% depending on who is in power. Right now, we live in neoliberal states and
they are very much on the side of capital. For example, the state provides education
for the people and roads, so the Bourgeoisie has good infrastructure and an educated workforce. This makes business easier and profits higher. Of course, countries also compete for businesses
via offering them tax breaks or similar. This is why apple pays only half a percent
in tax. It’s because the states aim to please the
capitalists in hopes that their wealth will trickle down. The state very much serves the economy over
the people right now. In their defense most politicians probably
genuinely believe that their support of the economy helps the people. As the Austrian Economic Chambers put it after
the re-introduced the 12-hour workday: “If the economy is well, everyone is well”. Of course 90% of people hated having to work
even more and it has undoubtedly made many people a lot less well but whatever. Now where does the UBI fit into this Marxist
view of society? Is it a tool of the working class used against
the capitalist class? Not really. As I mentioned before the class currently
in power is the capitalist class. Andrew Yang himself is an entrepreneur and
a major capitalist. This doesn’t mean everything he does it
bad, that’s not how the world works, but it means we should question his motives twice. So, for some reason the capitalist class is
in favor of this policy. Why is that? Well he told us. Because automation will make most working
people unemployed. And maybe Yang cares about this because he
is a genuinely good person, but we should also keep in mind that while the Bourgeoisie
exploits the working class it also needs the working class to consume the products they
sell. Capitalists own factories and exploit workers
in them to create things which they then sell to the very working people that produced them. If all the workers where replaced with machines,
then nobody be able to buy the products from the Bourgeoisie. That worries the capitalists. Not to mention that a lot of hungry unemployed
people might get the idea to take this whole class warfare thing a little more seriously
than we do today. So, what to do? How can the capitalist class keep the workers
pacified and able to pay the Bourgeoisie? With a UBI. So from a Marxist perspective a UBI would
be little more than the Bourgeoisie putting the Proletariat on life support. Giving them just enough money to avoid revolution
and enough to continue to purchase products and keep the profit flowing. Essentially this is another example of the
ruling class using the state for its profit. The state would basically gift the capitalists
a big population with money whom they can sell their products to. A UBI would be the next costly thing the state
would to do serve the economy. So maybe in the future we would then have
90% of the population being unemployed, dependant on the state for their survival while the
1% owns all of the machines which hold more productive power than our modern economy does
with only a fraction of the workers. The UBI may seem like a good thing for the
people but in reality, it’s just another hotfix for capitalism. Let me suggest an alternative. The reason we need a UBI in the first place
is because most would be unemployed while a few would own the machines that produce
everything. But what if we changed the way the economy
was run? What if we said that things produced by a
machine belong to everyone? Not just the person who owns the machine. Everyone. Collective ownership. This way we wouldn’t need a UBI. Everyone would get what they need. And we wouldn’t have to worry about 90%
of the people being poor while the 1% continues to profit of machines. There would still be jobs for those who want
them but work itself may not be necessary anymore. It would be a fully automated economy, build
by everyone serving everyone. But right now, we aren’t going there. Right now, we are sliding towards a future
where a few people will own everything that is produced by machines. A world in which technological advancement
allows a few people not to work by getting everything the machines produce while everyone
else is barely able to survive on government money. And if we get a UBI we may very well end up
like that. It is a great idea and I admire that people
are so forward thinking. But the UBI will not save us from a bad future. To save us from a bad future what we need
to do is change the way we see ownership. Why should the product of a fully automated
factory forever belong to the person who once paid for it? Or their children or grandchildren? Why not give it to everyone? The universal basic income is very much a
neoliberal solution to a capitalist problem. The profit drive of capitalism makes most
workers unemployed and if you can’t imagine anything but capitalism your solution will
probably not be making useful systemic changes but relying on the government to fix the problem
just as neoliberalism always does it. But at some point we may have to consider
that adding band aids to capitalism may no longer be feasible. Maybe it’s time to look at change. So, in conclusion: Should we support a UBI? *sigh* I don’t know. It is certainly a good step and it would help
countless people, but the problem is that we may slide into a world where the means
of production are fully automated and in the hands of the Bourgeoisie while the remains
of the proletariat would be dependant on the government for survival. I guess we can say that the UBI should not
be our goal. Our goal should be a world in which products
of automation belong to everyone and not just one person. And that way we wouldn’t need a UBI. But in the meantime? Should we support it? I don’t know. I am genuinely not sure so I will leave that
decision to you. Feel free to tell me your conclusion and your
reasons in the comments. And whily you are scrolled down there leave
a like and sub as well. Oh, and join the discord. Until the next time c ya.

17 Comments

  • Jim Bledsoe

    I will Use my Freedom Dividend to grow food in my neighborhood. I will also paint more paintings and my neighbors will be able to buy them at affordable prices.

  • Genericicity

    How he's going to pay for it is suprisingly important. He is going to pay for it with a a VAT which is a regressive tax. The way he's going to pay for this is going to affect the proletariat disproportionately

  • Julian R

    r/wayofthebern isnt a good subreddit to compare to yangs. r/Sandersforpresident is the more centralized campaing hq with 384,000 members

  • Kefkaownsall

    We need it as a stop gap for sure but a thing is automation isn't necessarily going to eliminate jobs. Like among other things we need humans to maintain the machines. Also the push for atomization will push smaller businesses out. Say we have 2 plants and 1 is a small co op that makes glass bottles. The other is a major factory. The other gets more money gets more machines and destroys factory 1. The other issue is ultimately UBI doesn't factor in each according to their needs. A single mother with 5 kids needs more than an executive at Boeing. Yang isn't say telling people ok you have 3 kids and you make under 20k so you get 2k a month

  • Mirai Hi

    UBI is basically economy-wide bribery of a working class. Also even if most of the people on planet Earth are perfectly happy with this arrangement, capitalism is still incredibly wasteful, and world ecology is just not able to bear that kind of strain. The system can not be reformed in a sustainable way.

  • James A

    Hi, I am generally opposed to Yang's UBI. However, I have a quick question. Why would a UBI pacify the working class but not social democratic reforms like single-payer healthcare, a minimum wage, a shorter workweek, and things like that?

  • Historical Sense

    One potential advantage of a UBI is that the fear of job loss may be less severe for workers who want to organize. It may also force companies to pay and treat their workers better, because workers wouldn't have the fear of starvation or precariousness and nuisances of our means-tested welfare programs. But yeah, it can't be an end in itself nor is it sufficient by itself.

    I like Bernie's labor policies, transferring 20% ownership of companies worth more than 100 million to worker controlled trusts and giving workers a vote in the selection of corporate management. Of course, eventually you would want workers to have complete control, but I like the general direction of Bernie's plan.

  • B P

    It’s another capitalist scam. The idea (with regards to automation) is to keep the workers pacified until state violence (police/military) can be sufficiently automated (and under the full control of the capitalists). At this point, they won’t even need to maintain facade of liberalism.

  • TheMindOfBrandon

    It sounds to me like you might be advocating for a Resource Based Economy (RBE), which is an idea I support, but it takes waaaaaaaay longer to implement than a UBI does (if Yang is the next president of the United States, we could have UBI as early as 2021). RBE is better and we should totally make it happen as soon as possible, but since an RBE is going to take a long time to implement UBI can help smooth the transition from here to there.

  • Furrowed Brow

    You dont actually know what the motivation is behind the support for UBI that corporations are giving.

    There is one simple reason. The richest have money to spend on consumer goods, but how many televisions, or washing machines or cellphones is one rich person likely to purchase? Then there are the poor. They dont consume at the level they could because they dont have the purchasing power. Corporations can see a simple solution. Have the government tax away some of the money that the rich would have saved or invested and give it to the poor. The poor will then spend that money on stuff, which will make the corporations a ton of money.

    Universal Basic Income is really a Universal Business Income.

    It is crony capitalism at is finest.

  • Raul Simeon

    UBI helps alleviate the worst types of poverty, but doesn’t change the fundamental structure of capitalism. It’s a good idea, a start that should be taken further.

    Certainly the US could afford to do this AND universal healthcare AND free college. Seriously, it’s a rich place and could be easily done. What’s lacking is the political will.

    What I’m glad about is that it’s actually entering the political spectrum and you see some independents out there. It’s a small change but a welcome one.

  • James L. D.

    You need to get out of your room first before posting this garbage on YouTube and hope to make some changes. Socialism and communism theories will never be realized because greed is human nature. UBI is basic foundation for all, it encourages most people to be productive and creative and helps those who can't like disabled, seniors, caregivers, stayhome moms, single moms, students and even you if you're citizen to live easier and better. Bernie's FJG and $15/hour garbage doesn't work for all. He's a career politician with an ego to become president. He has not created one job his whole life from his own money and effort how the hell he guarantees job for anyone. Step back from his rhetoric and carefully listen if Bernie offers any solution for the future. None so far. If socialism and communism countries are so great why those people come to United States. If Bernie is for real then who can the people trust to continue his policies. That's why there is no utopia in any previous or current socialism and communism countries. Bernie will falter after next debate because he can answer how he pays more than 60 trillion for his M4A, green new deals, free colleges, student loan forgiveness without raising tax through the roof. I am for all that but I am realistic. American people cannot afford that right now. I dropped Bernie because he dropped and didn't fight for his supporters in 2016.

  • China Forced Organ Harvest - Medical Genocide

    Freedom Dividend is the REINVESTMENT to average Americans, the same way

    Amazon is paying ZERO TAX and using FREE MONEY to REINVEST into the company

    itself. Andrew Yang's Freedom Dividend will make people have less incentives

    to commit small crimes, thus saving $31,000 per year for each inmate and

    billions of dollars for shelters to help homeless. Not to mention it will

    help boost local economy, local community everywhere in US where new

    business will pop up everywhere. Not to mention it will decrease the rate of

    abortion where couple or single mother will have resource and more options

    to consider the carrying to terms.

    Andrew Yang also support local Journalist which divert influence from Big

    Media Corporations which most Americans don't trust to tell them the truth

    and support TERM LIMITS for politicians.

    Here is video how Andrew Yang will pay for Freedom Dividend:

    "Andrew Yang narrates illustrated explainer video on how we'd pay for the

    Freedom Dividend (updated!)"

    https://youtu.be/bSzUJULjdpI

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