Friday, 13 March 2015

Sense And Sensibility Is Not Sexy. Discuss.

Well I've had quite a week in which I've had to mute two people for ideological spamming and got into some ridiculous conversations in which the people involved wanted me to agree with them. They weren't interested in having a discussion as such. I still haven't had the discussion on Middle-out I crave but the UBI fanboys appear to have been vanquished by logic and facts on the UK Pirate Party's Basic Income Subreddit. So the question is, why have we not had any debate at all on Middle-out?

I can't help thinking that it doesn't appeal to enough of us to actually get them fired up about it while the others may silently agree but aren't working to upvote it for whatever reason. I guess I didn't make myself clear enough: this is how I think Middle-out could be implemented:

  • Raise taxes on those earning over £500k PA to £65%
  • Cap CEO/Senior officer pay at x15 times that of the lowest-paid member of staff. When they get a pay rise, so do the staff
  • Encourage the proliferation of profit-sharing schemes to give employees more of a stake in the company
  • Increase the minimum wage to £7.50 PH at first, then raise it to £10 PH. It will have to be gradual as small employers would struggle to implement it
  • Cap prescription charges at £10 for multiple items
  • Subsidize public transport for those earning less than £14k PA as part of a co-payment scheme with employers
  • Create a co-payment scheme for childcare where the Government pays for half and the employer pays the rest
  • Build more social housing
  • Tax second homes and empty properties at an incremental rate to force them onto the market
  • Invest in education, healthcare, and infrastructure to support workers and encourage people into work
  • Get rid of mass surveillance. Targeted surveillance is more effective for catching criminals
  • Use Open Source software
  • Eliminate waste
  • Reform IPR (intellectual property rights) legislation, reduce copyright terms to 10-15 years, and promote alternative business models for artists, inventors and creators
  • Break up the big corporations using anti-trust laws to encourage competition and free up the market where competition is being stifled
  • End the war on drugs and treat them as a health issue

Okay, I've been more specific so let's hope it gets a bit of discussion now. I want to see it kicked down the stairs to find out whether it would bounce or break. It got zero comments on the Pirate Party blog where it was first published, though. I don't see what the problem with it is: why aren't people at least talking about it?

Free money is more attractive

Everyone likes free stuff, and Unconditional Basic Income attracts the flies like a big pile of you-know-what for the most specious reasons.

  1. The truthiness that it's the fairest way to redistribute wealth because everyone gets it
  2. The number of paid jobs is in decline
  3. £11K-odd is enough for many people to live on
  4. All citizens are automatically entitled to it
  5. Having this money will free you up to be entrepreneurial and creative
  6. People receiving this money tend to be more happy and healthy, etc.

I've already debunked this over and over again ad nauseam and occasionally ad hominem.

1. Not all the rich pay tax, a point neatly raised for me by a fanboy who declared that rich women don't always have their own source of income. Well £11k is pocket change to them and I've never seen them begging in the streets. Try again.

2. The number of jobs might go up if the government invested more in infrastructure, education, and healthcare. Breaking up those corporations engaged in anti-competitive or cartel behaviour would certainly raise the number of jobs. Assume, though, that the number of jobs stays about the same. That's a lot of people, many of whom may have complex needs, who won't have enough to live on and can't get more money because they can't find paid work. UBI only works if you have a job as well. If you don't, it's not enough to live on. "Take any job" can and does lock you out of career options, I've fallen foul of that. I got lucky when a friend recommended me to an agency that got me office work. We don't all have those opportunities and UBI fanboys have no plan for those people.

3. £11k-odd is plenty for a student still living with parents if he or she doesn't want much. However, when you're an adult living alone it's not enough, particularly if you have health issues and are liable for rent, bills, local taxes, and prescription charges, i.e. you live in the real world, not some trendy lefty-liberal commune. Even if you have a partner and kids, you're screwed if you have a mortgage and a car or two. Remember, half your earnings are being taken away and replaced with £11k-odd. It's fine if you earn less than £22K or so but if you earn more, you lose out. So you might find you end up homeless. Many middle-class people are ending up at food banks now because they can't simply move to cheaper accommodation and giving up their car(s) may not be an option, depending on their needs. But UBI's main purpose is to eviscerate the middle class and pass their money to the rich and the poor, who wouldn't benefit that much, depending on their needs. UBI fanboys have no plan for people who have complex needs; UBI replaces all benefits, remember.

4. I'm not a UK citizen, I'm a foreign resident. I would be stripped of 50% of my wage to give the BNP's Nick Griffin his eleven grand a year and receive nothing, not even my earned tax-funded pension. Frantic back-tracking on the subreddit led to calls for a progressive tax but and allowances for the Irish, but where would it end? The number of claimants would exponentially rocket, driving costs up. And what about ex-patriots? They haven't thought this through and still have the nerve to patronise and dismiss me on Twitter till I mute them.

5. Receiving free money doesn't automatically make you more creative or entrepreneurial. In any case, there are government grants and market-focused avenues for investment in new ideas, e.g. crowdfunding. Besides, we don't all work ridiculous hours. Most of us have evenings and weekends free to be all creative and entrepreneurial.

6. I'd still have arthritis. Working gives me dignity and purpose, a sense of achievement. Having to work too hard for not enough money can be solved via Middle-out. Increasing the minimum wage might mean some people being able to cut down their hours, creating employment opportunities for other people.

In any case, I don't approve of authoritarian approaches to anything. So, now that I have thoroughly and completely debunked UBI as a valid solution by pointing out that the pillars on which it stands, namely "It's for all" and "It's not enough to live on by itself and you DID say there aren't enough jobs" are easily pushed over by little old me, please can we move on to Middle-out?

Peer pressure is hard to overcome

It is very hard to swim against the tide. I take a lot of crap for what I believe because I'm willing to fight for it but since the majority of people I know prefer to conform or stick with Blue Team or Red Team, it's hard to find people who think for themselves. And those are the people who would at least discuss Middle-out.

The trouble is, UBI has some very passionate fanboys who have painted themselves into a corner by adopting an ideological position so rigid it just can't be questioned and does not stand up to scrutiny because it can't be questioned so it can't be adjusted to make it work.

Worse still, some of these fanboys have actually built a career around promoting UBI so accepting that it has flaws and needs some readjustment till it lines up with reality is literally impossible as doing so would alienate their base, and because it's hard to walk away from something you've invested everything in. This is why they resort to responding in derisive, patronising, and dismissive ways when you question the tenets of UBI: they have no real answers to give you and they wish you'd just shut up, already. Accept it with open arms. Loads of other people have, after all.

Add the emotional hyperbole they're so fond of to the mix and you've got an uphill struggle, right there, to get people to see past "But free money...! Why don't you want to be a couple of hundred quid a year better off, Wendy?"

We've already had that discussion, mate. Several times.

Emotional arguments tend to win

I don't understand why this is, but emotional arguments always win. If some logic-lover hops in with epic debunkage, get all defensive and accuse them of personally having a go at you. Better still, adopt a special cause group and claim that the attack is on them.

When people are emotionally invested in something, however wrong it is, they won't give it up no matter how wrong it is because this is how they understand the world and this is what they believe is right. Add a moral imperative and good luck with getting past that. It's not necessarily hubris, this is more about people being more interested in how they view themselves and the world around them than about the truth of the matter. I really, truly don't understand it and I think it's weird. It's particularly pronounced in people with social, political, or religious convictions. To them, sticking to their conviction however thoroughly it's debunked is a matter of honour, or something, and they'll fight to the death for it.

They might pretend to go along with you for a minute, five minutes later the elastic band will ping and they'll be back where they started. It's really frustrating and I come across this all the time. It's probably the reason why a certain Pirate said he disagreed with all the points raised in a recent blog post but couldn't tell me why.

Sensibility is just not sexy

We're going to have to face up to this sooner or later, but policies that look and feel like lace-up brogues, bottle-bottom specs and an anorak don't exactly enthuse the masses, do they? There, I said it. But those are the policies we need to discuss because they are the bricks and mortar of how the nation is actually run. That they're not trendy is a problem, but the trouble with trendy policies is that they're usually bunk.

What do you think?

No comments:

Post a Comment