Sandy Irvine tells me I am wrong, and he is one of a chorus who cannot see how the universal basic income (UBI) could have forestalled ecological meltdown, and even now could ameliorate the worst effects. Why pick on Sandy? he is the only one who takes me seriously enough to ask me to shut up.
I do have some support – thank you Roger Lewis – but none from anyone with a media presence. I have a narrative, which to my unusual brain remains sound, and questions which Sandy has not answered to my satisfaction.
This has suddenly become urgent, as next Tuesday (I write on Sunday) I shall try to convince a Citizens’ Assembly of the case for the UBI, as part of an XR action in central Leeds. Do I have a crucial insight, or am I suffering from a psychotic delusion?
There is circumstantial evidence for the latter: Caroline Lucas is aware of my narrative, and so is someone close to Greta Thunberg, though she may not be, but as I have heard nothing back from George Monbiot, David Attenborough, or Kate Raworth among other lesser (in the media) figures, I can only draw my own conclusions.
The narrative is simple. Living within ecological limits means less economic activity than continuing to ignore them. A steady state, aka ‘recession’ must become the norm. Technology, including ‘Green’ solutions will continue to push the boundaries, but many ideas will fail the new sustainability test. They must not (for example fracking) be desperately needed to prolong growth.
I remain traumatized by my conversation in 1973 with a founder member of the Green Party, who admitted that Martial Law might be needed in the transition. Is it irrational to fear that Martial Law is the least we can expect when, not if, governments panic? The UBI could be used to promote growth, so it is dangerous, but it seems a pity if the public has not even been made aware of the ecological case for the UBI.
The Tragedy of the Commons has two aspects: unless there are compelling reasons to the contrary, humans are averse to short term loss; and in a competitive situation (growth) no one can allow themselves to be at a disadvantage. The UBI is not a panacea, but something is necessary which allows less economic activity to be thinkable.
The wider principle is that the strategies which were optimum for growth persist long after the exponential principle suddenly rendered them the worst possible. To me, the history of Easter Island is a neat example of exactly this. Sandy Irvine dismisses this explanation.
Sandy re-phrases the Tragedy as a tragedy of small decisions by millions of individuals. To me the two aspects of the Tragedy account for how humanity fell into this trap.
Next Tuesday I risk making a fool of myself. Who is right, Sandy, or me?