Someone else explaining the main reason for a Universal basic income (UBI). Now in the Guardian, will it finally go viral? My weblog certainly hasn’t done the trick.
A few of the 300+ comments doubt that the UBI will ever see the light of day, due mainly to vested interests. The answer is implicit in Lewis & Maslem’s Guardian article, but it needs spelling out.
Purely as a thought experiment, once the UBI idea is widely understood, the principle of everyone having an identity of interest when dealing with ecological limits will seem obvious. Indeed it will quickly be realized that anything else is lunacy.
The phrase in italics and bold is taken from what was for me a seminal book written by Richard Wilkinson in 1972 (before Kate Pickett was born?) – Poverty and Progress. Wilkinson explains how the Siane, a tribe with stone age resources and technology had nevertheless developed – without any outside contact – a culture which even allowed for differences in wealth and status whist guaranteeing a sustainable environment. Their system was as close as you could get to a UBI in a society which had not yet invented money.
I must digress with a couple of grumbles. Pleas really. As a techno illiterate I need help. I cannot place a comment on the Guardian article by Lewis & Maslen through my Facebook account because it now says “Your pop up is too small” It will not let me in. I don’t know what it is talking about. I may find another way, but I shouldn’t need to.
Second cry for help. How do I add something to the Wikipedia entry on the Tragedy of the Commons? I explain in a ‘Page’ on this blog, but who reads that? Both Garrett Hardin, who wrote the classic article in Science, and Elinor Ostrom, who criticises it from a social justice perspective miss the underlying significance. Whenever a period of exponential growth becomes possible, the end, as limits to expansion are reached is sudden, and disastrous. The strategies which were optimum whilst growth was feasible become the worst possible strategies for sustainability, as Easter Island demonstrated.
Although the onset is sudden, the problem persists. Why else do humans, who are supposed to be intelligent and capable of co-operation, kill a far higher proportion of their own kind than any other species? This understanding of the Tragedy also helps explain lesser problems such as why collectively we make unsustainable personal decisions such as flights.
I wonder what happened when the first amphibians, or birds, reached this crisis. Ultimately both became successful life forms. Unlike humans they could not just change their culture once they had fully exploited their new opportunities.
Why does homo sapiens still cling to growth? In her book the Origin of Capitalism: a longer View (Verso 2002), Ellen Meiksins Wood points out that the opportunities created by the monetization of transactions in the late mediaeval period quickly became imperatives. A new phase of exponential growth became possible, therefore inevitable. If anyone in a position to take advantage of the new opportunities did not do so, they would simply be at a disadvantage vis a vis others who did.
Whilst it is capitalists still temporarily following this logic which is the main driver of the main threat, climate change, there are human societies still damaging local environments where the chief escape from rising population is migration to more prosperous areas.
A basic income, even a World Basic Income will not of itself solve all these problems. Trump is not the only one in a position of power who actually believes climate denial lies. But it will make the necessary new mind set more likely than it is at present.