Fantastic article, thank you.
This (together with your previous article) is probably the first critique of Basic Income on grounds outside of financials that made me reconsider my support for UBI.
I still feel in favor of UBI, partly because I’m human and changing my mind is arduous work, but also for some other vague reason I can’t quite pin down, though I think it has to do with time.
The meaning & evolution of ‘work’, especially over the past 100 years, is a rich with change, stubborn ideas, and uncritically accepted notions & norms. From Thoreau, through Keynes and Bertrand Russell, to Rutger Bregman & co. today, discourse around leisure time vs. working hours, or analyses of the actual ways we spend our time/lives are what led me to UBI.
Where I don’t find Basic Jobs superior to UBI is in that UBI, to my mind, gives us all more time. Capitalizing on productivity & efficiency gains through automation, tech improvements, etc., implementing various cocktails of (admittedly progressive and politically doubtful) tax policies, the notion of no longer being forced to earn our lives, and rather, simply figure out what to do with them detached from concerns over subsistence & survival, is utopian for sure, but perhaps not damningly so.
I certainly suffer from what you call “California Optimism”, where I’m imagining the best case scenarios/responses to UBI. Artistic revivals, more community-oriented work, caring work, etc. It’s possible people would just siphon others’ money through UBI to feed their neuroses and contribute nothing back to the society that’s paying for their basic survival.
Though you raised the example of how disability recipients spend their checks, I don’t think it’s fair to generalize that behavior on the population, especially when nearly all UBI trials (though I agree, no true UBI trial can be run, and taking their results as evidence is intellectually dishonest) show an increase or no change, rather than any decrease, in labor force participation.
The notion of funding community-oriented jobs as you suggest is grounded, pragmatic, and realistic. I don’t think it and UBI need be mutually exclusive; can’t they coexist and mutually enhance each other?
But nor do Basic Jobs satisfy the itch that I imagine UBI to at least aid us in scratching. It’d definitely be a terrifying thing, an entire society all of a sudden released from having to devote the majority of their waking hours towards earning money enough to live their lives. Are we all equipped, mentally, to handle that paradigmatic shift? Definitely not, the adjustment period could be catastrophic, and it could all go to shit, as you suggest. All kinds of support infrastructure, learning institutions, etc. would be required.
But if the march of capitalism could progressively deliver us each more time to marshall as we please, without having to spend most of it on remunerated activities, freed to serve other ends (and communally struggle through determining what those ends ought to be) that strikes me as a real step forward.
Thanks again for the stimulating read