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August 10, 2016

Comments

Patrick Kirk

I respect your idea but it seems, to re-use an old phrase, "socialism in one country." I don't see how you can combine a basic income for all workers with mass immigration.

Matt Moore

Very interesting post. Your definition of 'freedom' has a lot in common with Amartya Sen's. Maybe a better word would be opportunity, capability or access.

My problem with envy as a measure of anything is that (I) indulging in envy is corrosive to individual character and (II) it normally is only envy of outcome, not willingness to mimic the inputs. Most people who envy banker's income would not like the entire lifestyle of insane hours and burnout.

The point on equality of power is well-made, and is in my mind a strong Marxist argument for extremely small government.

Overall, the focus on institutions is highly welcome.

chris

@ Matt. Thanks. You're dead right that envy should apply to inputs as well, & i had that in mind; your example is a good one.
Many Marxists have, of course, hoped for the "withering away" of the state.
@ Patrick - I get round that by stressing that it is a citizens' income, so immigrants won't initially be entitled to it. My ideal world would have open borders. But it would also have free, peaceful and rich nations so migration would be smaller. Getting from here to there is, of course, another matter.

Blissex

«a citizens' income, so immigrants won't initially be entitled to it»

That's a Dubai/Kuwait style system of "guest workers" and it is deeply corrosive. It is also rejected by a small majority of UK voters: they seemed offended that EU citizens could choose to work in the UK as a right, and also had right to most civil and most political rights.

That's also vaguely similar to what B Johnson seems to wish for London, when he talks of Classical Athene's metics.

It would be quite dangerous indeed to have workers divided in those who pay taxes and contributions and get and benefits and those who pay the same taxes and contributions and don't get the same benefits. Think of the electoral impact: it would be "Britannia Unchained" forever.

Conversely if the immigrants who don't get the same benefits then pay much less taxes and contributions they would outsell the citizens.

The problem with this kind of delusion is that it is based on a misunderstanding of a democratic state: it is *also* a community of inheritors and a "magic money tree", but in the economic sense it is primarily a group purchasing scheme with voluntary membership.

Blissex

«those who pay taxes and contributions and get and benefits and those who pay the same taxes and contributions and don't get the same benefits.»

That's more or less the aim of "points based" immigration systems like the australian one. In the 70s and 80s the australian elites had the problem that as it was "the lucky country" a lot of the young generation were not bothering with education and learning to work and opting for a life of low-intensity leasure. It was a problem because the previous generation had awarded themselves large defined benefit pensions, and they needed hard working high-tax payers to fund them, and having raised a generation of underachiever seemed a threat to their retirement.

So they decided to import hard-working high-tax paying asians, and designed the point system to give the highest score to people most likely to pay a lot of taxes.
Plus they planned like in the UK a huge property price boom, as most of them were property speculators.

«Conversely if the immigrants who don't get the same benefits then pay much less taxes and contributions they would outsell the citizens»

Which is what happens with high levels of "illegal" immigration, or in general immigrants paid "cash".

Overall the best solution by far is to limit immigration to countries (group purchase schemes) with similar levels of income (it's crazy that the UK has worked hard to have freedom of movement with Romania but not the USA, Canada, etc.), plus *slow* offshoring to low income countries, so that incomes, employment *and cost of living* goes up in sync in those countries.

Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Singapore "offshored" to themselves a lot of stuff and as a result they have levels of income *and cost of living* not too different from those of the UK.

The problem with offshoring to low wage countries of course is that it not only needs to happen a bit more slowly, but also that it does not help the price of assets *and cost of living* boom in the importing countries a«those who pay taxes and contributions and get and benefits and those who pay the same taxes and contributions and don't get the same benefits.»

That's more or less the aim of "points based" immigration systems like the australian one. In the 70s and 80s the australian elites had the problem that as it was "the lucky country" a lot of the young generation were not bothering with education and learning to work and opting for a life of low-intensity leasure. It was a problem because the previous generation had awarded themselves large defined benefit pensions, and they needed hard working high-tax payers to fund them, and having raised a generation of underachiever seemed a threat to their retirement.

So they decided to import hard-working high-tax paying asians, and designed the point system to give the highest score to people most likely to pay a lot of taxes.
Plus they planned like in the UK a huge property price boom, as most of them were property speculators.

«Conversely if the immigrants who don't get the same benefits then pay much less taxes and contributions they would outsell the citizens»

Which is what happens with high levels of "illegal" immigration, or in general immigrants paid "cash".

Overall the best solution by far is to limit immigration to countries (group purchase schemes) with similar levels of income (it's crazy that the UK has worked hard to have freedom of movement with Romania but not the USA, Canada, etc.), plus *slow* offshoring to low income countries, so that incomes, employment *and cost of living* goes up in sync in those countries.

Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Singapore "offshored" to themselves a lot of stuff and as a result they have levels of income *and cost of living* not too different from those of the UK.

The problem with offshoring to low wage countries of course is that it not only needs to happen a bit more slowly, but also that it does not help the price of assets *and cost of living* boom in the importing countries as much as immigration from low wage countries does.

NB: the difference is that offshoring means that both income and consumption (and rents) happen in the offshore location.
s much as immigration from low wage countries does.

NB: the difference is that offshoring means that both income and consumption (and rents) happen in the offshore location.

Igor Belanov

One thing is absolutely obvious. Hodgson is not a socialist.

Seth Edenbaum

"care must be expressed via institutions which meet people’s needs whilst treating them with dignity."

G.A Cohen, with comments by Harry Brighouse
http://crookedtimber.org/2009/09/01/why-not-socialism-by-g-a-cohen/
"It does seem to me that all people of goodwill would welcome the news that it had become possible to proceed otherwise [i.e. in ways that tapped into our nobler, rather than our more selfish, motives] perhaps, for example, because some economists had invented clever ways of harnessing and organizing our capacity for generosity toward others."

We need a machine to rule us!
Cohen defended his lack of personal generosity by arguing that taxation should do the work. With the right system of government people could be as shallow and self-centered as is they wished. Who needs virtue when we have a just government?

Aristotle: "...for the principle of an aristocracy is virtue, as wealth is of an oligarchy, and freedom of a democracy. "

Montesquieu: "We shall examine this relation in each government, and we shall begin with the republican state, which has virtue for its principle."

Obviously you go with Aristotle.

Liberalism sucks, and the kumbaya-singing socialism that comes out of it is just as bad, a sodden paean to togetherness founded in individual fantasy. Republican virtue isn't love for your neighbor, it's the shared love of you and your neighbor for the motherfucking republic, and the principles it's built on. Socialism isn't built on mediocrity, but technocracy requires it!

Cohen was an idiot.

http://blog.edenbaumstudio.com/2015/06/the-new-york-times-vs-analytical.html

aragon

Sports Direct is going to be subjected to competition from a company you might have heard of:

Amazon, wishes to automate the warehouse, and retail/delivery of goods (shops).

http://www.techrepublic.com/article/amazon-robots-and-the-near-future-rise-of-the-automated-warehouse/

"Amazon would be unable to ship items to millions of people each day and as the retail giant moves towards its goal of delivering packages within 30 minutes it needs to continue to streamline delivery."

"Not only does Amazon plan to use Kiva bots in more of its warehouses but it also wants to automate the process of picking items from shelves. To that end, the firm last year set up the Amazon Picking Challenge (APC), a contest where robotics researchers compete for a $25,000 prize for designing the best picking bot."

[...]

Krug anticipates picking systems of the type Amazon is pursuing being introduced to warehouses around the start the next decade.
"I don't know whether the first real commercial system will hit in three or five years but it will happen in the very foreseeable future, I'm sure about that."

Not much future in warehouse work?

I am a left wing (not a silicon valley) Techno-Utopian.

You might find the following interesting:

http://wiki.p2pfoundation.net/Towards_a_New_Cybernetic_Socialism

Complete book (see above):
http://www.ecn.wfu.edu/~cottrell/socialism_book/new_socialism.pdf

aragon

@Matt Moore - Do bankers serve a socially useful function.

Or is the long hours etc, just demanded by management, as a smoke screen fro the extraction of rents, especially trading on behalf of the bank itself.

In how many jobs do you get to make your nut?
i.e Enough to keep you in luxury for the rest of your life.

Not to mention all the crime, fixing libor been recent example.

http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/everything-is-rigged-the-biggest-financial-scandal-yet-20130425

Why is Goldman Sachs et al known as the Vampire Squid?

http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/the-vampire-squid-strikes-again-the-mega-banks-most-devious-scam-yet-20140212

http://business.time.com/2009/07/14/goldman-sachs-vampire-squid/

"The bank is a huge, highly sophisticated engine for converting the useful, deployed wealth of society into the least useful, most wasteful and insoluble substance on Earth—pure profit for rich individuals."

Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone Magazine. (enjoy!)

aragon

The tl;dr version.

* Machines are going to replace large areas of work.

* Finance is killing capitalism.

* The book (new_socialism.pdf) is one solution and it addresses the above including socialism in one country (Currency is not exchangeable!, also see Recardian equivalence).

I am not suggesting the book is a blue-print/solution or the correct path to follow.

Just that left wing techno-utopianism, offers, a different perspective.

@Blissex,
Off-shoring to low cost countries, is by your definition exporting your economy, until we reach a new equilibrium (How low a standard of living).

Just look at the amount of warehouse work, just redistributing products made elsewhere (China), while finance extracts increasing rents from what remains of the real economy.

We are now importing capital from China! and having them provide basic services (Hinkley Point/Bradwell).

We don't need or want Chinese investment or mass-immigration, but then Finance benefits from the above in the short-term.

Ironically Finance may keep us out of the single market/EFTA and Norway may keep us out of the EFTA (the preferred solution of the remainers).

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/aug/09/norway-may-block-uk-return-to-european-free-trade-association

Brexit means Brexit :)

The next phase of off-shoring/out-sourcing will be to machines, where is the new equilibrium then?

Neil Wilson

"For me, socialism means giving people control to live their lives as they want."

Which is ultimately a toddler attitude. Nobody has that level of individualistic freedom, for the fairly obvious reason that it impacts the individualistic freedom of others.

You have the right to do whatever you want as long as it doesn't impact others doing the same. As soon as you get into the conflict zone then you have to have social mechanisms by which the conflict is resolved.

So 'freedom' is really a 'free market' attitude. Based upon the idea that stuff to do will magically appear. There is no more reason to believe that, than there is with any other free market concept. It simply doesn't happen, or it doesn't happen completely.

There is a huge amount of sociological evidence that isolation and despair impacts those that are retired and those that have no job. We have a murder of an MP linked to somebody who had a basic income, but nothing to do. So the far right found him something to do instead.

So as ever it is freedom for some, maybe even most, and a different form slavery for the minority.

Nanikore

"First, economic growth makes people more liberal and tolerant and hence supportive of beneficial change"

I am not sure about this one. Perhaps it would be if most people shared in it. But then again that would be mission achieved for a socialist.

I think though there is evidence to suggest that economic growth has not been accompanied by increased happiness in many places. Some people might have been nostalgic for a society when per-capita incomes were lower. Perhaps the key word here is 'beneficial' change. For example, some people might want less economic growth if they felt it provided for a better society - eg environmentally or perhaps more socially caring and less growth obsessed. You may find some anthropologists argue that some Pacific societies, for example, were happier before economic growth.

Raises a lot of questions.

NK.

Neil

"First, real freedom. For me, socialism means giving people control to live their lives as they want."

That, in two sentences, explains why your ideas are doomed to failure. The fact that you think of freedom as something to be *GIVEN* to people, rather than something that people just have as a part of their essential nature, creates a fundamental contradiction; you end up in a situation where in order to give someone "real" freedom, you have to take away ACTUAL freedom from someone else (by taking away their property for redistribution). This is the seed from which the collapse of all socialist societies stems.

Freedom is not something that can be given; it is a privative - something defined by an absence. As cold is the absence of heat, as darkness is the absence of light, freedom is the absence of restraint. "Real" freedom is not freedom at all. The use of the term "real" to describe it is Orwellian in the extreme.

HarryAlffa

Nice.
Little tweaks. Yes!

A simple tweak to how income tax is calculated and how the bank-levy total is calculated will change the financial system for ever, for the better.
Bankers' income tax. Let's say the top-rate only. Dynamically set this every month with the release of ONS Labour Market Statistics to ten times the percentage rate of unemployment.
Dynamically set the bank-levy total similarly but have the cost be the sum paid to the unemployed - Jobseekers Allowance.
Please see http://bailoutswindle.com/ for more details!
Also see this for a kind of FAQ.
http://bailoutswindle.com/QuestionsProtestationsAnswered.html

Bank-levy total could instead be the cost to the state of paying Housing Benefit, this will then also get affordable homes built. Strangely absolutely no housing association I've contacted has even replied to this idea. Do themselves out of a nice job?

Anarcho

'you end up in a situation where in order to give someone "real" freedom, you have to take away ACTUAL freedom from someone else (by taking away their property for redistribution).'

Except, of course, having inequality of property results in a lack of freedom for the many -- they end up just having a series of different masters who, of course, live off their labour.

In short, freedom means the abolition of property -- replacing property rights by use rights, as Proudhon explained in "What is Property?" in 1840.

This is the inherent contradiction within "classical" libertarian (i.e., propertarianism, the misnamed "libertarians" of the right). Property creates hierarchies and these limit freedom by creating master-servant relationships.

I explore this contradiction here:

http://anarchism.pageabode.com/anarcho/an-anarchist-critique-of-anarcho-statism

Suffice to say, anarchism (real libertarian ideas, libertarian socialism) recognises that freedom means more than picking masters and so advocated forms of association which did not mean the denial of freedom within them:

http://anarchism.pageabode.com/anarcho/anarchist-organisation-practice-theory-actualised

As for "the collapse of all socialist societies", well, the Soviet Union (etc.) were state capitalist, not socialist. The state replaced the boss -- and, indeed, Lenin was clear on the fact he was building state capitalism (and he opposed attempts by workers to build actual socialism):

http://anarchism.pageabode.com/afaq/secHcon.html

Sure, they called themselves "socialist" but they also called themselves "democratic"< "republic", etc. -- did not make it so!

The problem, of course, was that Marxism pained a picture of socialism which was basically state capitalism -- state ownership of the means of production, centralisation, etc. This helps explain the many errors of the Bolsheviks and why Trotsky has such problems understanding what Stalinism was (and that it was not that different than Leninism).

So Marx did present blue-prints, maybe not detailed one, but some nevertheless -- and they were deeply flawed. There was a reason why the Bolsheviks acted as they did when they built centralised, statist organisational forms in 1917-18 and proclaimed it the (state capitalist) foundations of a future socialism...

Deviation From The Mean

Matt Moore said,

"Most people who envy banker's income would not like the entire lifestyle of insane hours and burnout."

Chinese mine workers work harder, longer and with much more danger than your average banker. No one envies their input or output.

I worked in IT in the City of London for around 3 years and when I would go to get my lunch at dinner all the bankers were boozing in the pub. Their tanned skin was also noticeable. The leisure class has never been more apt. As I walked home later that evening they were still at the pub! But bankers will tell you they are always working because whether in the pub or on the golf course or getting a massage a banker is always working!! What the bankers call working we call leisure time.

A key problem with this post is that it doesn't really deal with agency. Who brings about this change? That must come from an organised working class movement and that includes a powerful party.


Blissex

«Off-shoring to low cost countries, is by your definition exporting your economy, until we reach a new equilibrium (How low a standard of living).»

But offshoring (as long as it is slow) does not mean «exporting your economy», it means building up the economy of a poor country in parallel with that of the rich country (but for competition over resources).

Consider the case of Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Singapore: they have built advanced, high-wage, high-prices economies of their own, and they are now "same level" competitors of the USA, UK etc.; they are still fierce competitors, but they no longer have an overwhelming wage/cost-of-living advantage across the board, and thus as a result they have also specialized into some areas.

The point I am making is that international trade, competition, free movement of labour are not a big deal among countries with much the same level of wages and prices.

The problem for rich country workers is wage arbitrage, not immigration or trade as such.

The solution to wage arbitrage is to boost the level of wages and prices in the poor countries, and this requires investment targeted at those poor countries, not immigration from the poor countries to the rich countries.

And it happens very rarely that investment in a country can simply "bootstrap" it into higher wages and prices from scratch on its own; the initial impulse as a rule must come from exports, and that in practice means a degree of offshoring to "seed" internal production and consumption in the poor country (just exports of commodities usually results in "dutch disease" instead).

Of course there is wage arbitrage in both immigration from poor countries and in offshoring to poor countries, but the impact on both is different *distributionally*, and also it is much easier to control and slow down offshoring than immigration.

Also (slow) offshoring is far less disruptive to the poor country than mass emigration, and makes it richer.

For rich countries the alternative to immigration or offshoring is autarchy, and that works as to distributional impact, but there is good evidence that trade does give substantial benefits, just the distribution of those benefits is very different in different arrangements.

UberDave

Guys and gals, all your plans have one problem: UK GDP really is only £1.9 trillion. You can parcel all that output perfectly equally, and you'd still have each person making £28,000 a year. That is an improvement compared to current household income to be sure, but it still won't be Switzerland.
Certainly government policy can help, just as it can hurt if well-intended efforts have damaging unintended consequences. Building a ton of houses would help, and GDP isn't everything (education, health, safety, aren't always well captured). But as even Marx knew, to make the whole thing hang together, you need a whole lot of growth, and the best machine for that is free-market, well-regulated, profit-driven capitalism.

BCFG

Uberdave, who is suggesting children should be paid 28k per year?

You are totally missing the point, you do not understand the left critique, so if I were you I would stop having an opinion on it!!

David.

In my very humble opinion Basic Income is the solution to all of the world ills. But it has to be a worldwide equal basic income. Lower birth-rates, no envy, negligible pull or push immigration, little xenophobia, no starvation...... the list of benefits would be long.
But as you say, we are a long way off.. or are we?

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