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Friday, 1 July 2016

Tipping Points - basic income

Early June 2016, Swiss referendum resulted in a clear "No" regarding the introduction of a Swiss basic income (eg, FT, Independent). Still 23% voted in favour.  It's quite interesting to notice how many segments of society are against a basic income: governments as well as left-wing and right-wing political parties. If so many are against, why is it still being debated?

To be entirely clear on this issue, I was always against this "leftist" idea, and only changed my mind early 2015. See my Dutch language blog of 7 January 2015. Perhaps even more remarkable is that I have no ideological or political arguments for being in favour. In my view, it is sheer inevitable that governments will start granting a basic income to their citizens, or - more euphemistically - start paying tax credits.

For centuries, governments have been taxing labour (eg, wage income tax) rather than machinery. During the Industrial Revolution (1760 - 1820/40) people were very afraid about their jobs. With hindsight, this first stage of the Technological Revolution (1800-2100) boosted economic growth, jobs, wealth, life expectancy - and also the global population.

Currently, we are in the second stage of the Technological Revolution (1800-2100). This time the probable outcome feels very different. I do not expect another boost in economic growth, jobs and wealth although another boost in life expectancy and thus global population is quite likely.

The use of 24/7 AI robotics, including absence of direct taxation, is widely expected to cause a massive loss in human jobs and income. The FT and the Guardian are warning us: "AI and robots threaten to unleash mass unemployment", "AI could leave half of world unemployed" and "Intelligent machines will soon replace human workers in all sectors of the economy".

The inevitability of a basic income should already be adequate reason to think about its future implementation. My existing blogs (part 1, part 2) on this topic are in the Dutch language as The Netherlands is a welfare paradise (blog, lyrics, video). Replacing this myriad of welfare by a basic income would lead to an enormous downsizing of Dutch bureaucracy.

Anyone with any job experience knows that the exceptions in processes require lots of control, execution, monitoring, reporting and supervising. Once you remove exceptions then there is almost no need for overhead. To a large extent, the additional cost of a Dutch basic income will be reimbursed through a huge downsizing of the Dutch government payroll.

On 25 June 2016, the Dutch Green Left party argued against a basic income by stating that it creates a split in society and minimises the role of the government (Trouw). Indeed it does but arguing against something will not stop it from happening. In my view, mass unemployment by 24/7 AI robotics is sheer inevitable. As far as I know, no government applies direct taxation on the use of machinery. Hence, no government will dare starting this now. Else, mass unemployment will start even sooner.

Implementation of a basic income is a guarantee for political and social stability. Hence, I expect that my country will ultimately be in the lead. Others will follow.

U2 - I Will Follow (1980) - artists, lyrics, video, Wiki-1, Wiki-2

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