One of my favorite economists, Yves Smith, has written about the one large scale experiment in providing a basic stipend for all citizens here. (Finland is giving it a go now.) Her conclusion is that the result of that experiment was the creation of a large un-skilled underclass. Her preferred approach to such a solution to poverty is to guarantee not income but jobs. I am not opposed to this.
I see two issues that do not seem to be being addressed in this debate, Most people seem to focus on class and worthiness and other things, but there are a couple of aspects I want to add.
For one, there are many, many jobs that are, well downright nasty. There is even a TV series (Dirty Jobs with Mike Rowe) that is quite popular possibly because of the yuck factor, probably more in seeing a celebrity getting really filthy and doing some manual labor. In the main, these are not jobs that I expect to see being taken over by computers or robots, any time soon. The jobs that are subject to automation are usually the high paying ones, or ones for which skilled labor is in short supply. For example, one California farmer doubled down on President-elect Donald Trump’s “promise” to deport undocumented foreigners by buying a lot more tree-picking machinery. Even though those jobs do not pay well, if the majority of the people willing to do them are exported, the only other option is machinery. (Note that they hadn’t done this before or not to this level, because of the availabilty of cheap human labor.)
The second thing was brought to mind with regard to the experiment described in Yves Smiths’ former post (linked yo above). There is a large class of people, a very large class of people, who have their basic necessities taken care of that could form a study group. The question is: “What would people do if they had the basics (food, shelter, health care) taken care of?” The group that falls into this class is much of the current U.S. citizens who are retired. Some people of a similar age do not retire because they like working, others of this age cannot afford to retire, but the ones who have, have a pension or Social Security or savings or a combination thereof, which makes the need to work no longer pressing.
So, what do these “senior citizens” do? Well, one thing they do is volunteer their labor in large amounts, as much as any other age bracket. Another think they do is start business. Another thing they do is pursue arts and education. And … some even sit on their couches and watch TV.
If we all were to paid taxes to provide minimal support for each of us, why would not the “retired” or “unemployed” person have the right to do whatever they damn well pleased?
Maybe a guaranteed job of the able and a minimum income for the unable and “retired” would be a good blend. It is not the case that there is not enough work to do that is in the public interest.