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You can now support my writing and advocacy of basic income through my creator page on Patreon where I’ve also founded The BIG Patreon Creator Pledge.
Essentially, my goal is to crowdfund my own poverty level basic income through my BIG writing and activism, setting a limit at $1,000/mo, and both helping and encouraging others to do the same.
The more people creating articles, videos, images, and everything else in support of basic income, the better.
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Breaking Down Without a Spare - America’s lopsided welfare system of counterproductive public assistance
Here in America, we like to think we have a safety net. We like to think we take great care of those in need. In fact, people like to believe it so much, we actually kid ourselves into thinking it’s a kind of safety hammock, where people with an aversion to hard work and gumption lie back and peacefully sleep their days away in a perpetual state of welfare nirvana next to surfboards covered in lobster and caviar.
But is that really the case?
"… without independence, without the power to say no, the ordinary worker is subject to someone else’s conception of desirable employment both in its goals and its terms. The most important injustices throughout history have not been that the powerful took a disproportionate share of wealth, but that the powerful took away the freedom of others and forced them to serve the powerful on terms chosen by the powerful."
How Basic Income Will Transform Active Citizenship? A Scenario of Political Participation beyond Delegation
In the delegation system, the most advanced form of democracy is a deliberation. Although it implies more participation of citizens than in other representative democracy channels, the outcome is the delegation of the execution of the decisions on what should be done. This implies that the executive power has still some leeway to intermediate between collective will and the output. The redistribution in the form of basic income will flatten the intermediary organizational structures in conducting tasks and reduce the opportunities for delegation. Citizenship beyond delegation is much more about doing than deciding what should be done. The delegation system and deliberation seems to be more consistent with patriarchal culture: hierarchical power relations and the delegation of tasks. In contrast, completing little tasks within peer-to-peer projects in a decentralized and horizontal way conforms rather to feminine characteristics. Since what used to be provided by the state will need to be provided by citizens, the relevance of decision making at the state level will decrease and the relevance of decisions to be made at the decentralized level of the self-organized services will increase. The engagement will be less specialized than an input in delegated system because it may involve such activities as decision making within collectives, ensuring the reliability of service providers through reputation ratings or other forms of horizontal monitoring and the work itself. This all will take time from the ‘time gain’ resulting from the security created by a basic income. Those most involved in the organizations will have more power.
Very interesting paper to read. Recommend.
Technologies are tools without an agenda of their own, but their influence on society is never neutral. They blindly sweep aside the livelihoods of some people and enrich others. Politics must craft rules and institutions that harness technology to suit society’s values and vision of itself.
The symbol of protest has spread from Missouri halfway around the world.
This is absolutely amazing to me. Please stop and think about this for a second. We are living in a world that allows such a new degree of interconnection, that a unifying gesture for a local community, can spread across the entire planet like wildfire.
We are all citizens of Earth. And we will stand united in increasing numbers, thanks to the technology that connects us more closely than ever before.
"The problem is that, instead of employing 100,000 middle-class workers, successful digital companies create a few thousand millionaires."
Someone asked about basic income and drug addicts. Here is my response.
Any discussion about basic income and drug use first needs to be informed by learning more about drug users and their actual behavior.
To start with, please read this: The Rational Choices of Crack Addicts
… addicts seemed enslaved by crack, like the laboratory rats that couldn’t stop pressing the lever for cocaine even as they were starving to death. The cocaine was providing such powerful dopamine stimulation to the brain’s reward center that the addicts couldn’t resist taking another hit.
At least, that was how it looked to Dr. Hart when he started his research career in the 1990s. Like other scientists, he hoped to find a neurological cure to addiction, some mechanism for blocking that dopamine activity in the brain so that people wouldn’t succumb to the otherwise irresistible craving for cocaine, heroin and other powerfully addictive drugs.
But then, when he began studying addicts, he saw that drugs weren’t so irresistible after all.
“Eighty to 90 percent of people who use crack and methamphetamine don’t get addicted,” said Dr. Hart, an associate professor of psychology. “And the small number who do become addicted are nothing like the popular caricatures.”
Dr. Hart recruited addicts by advertising in The Village Voice, offering them a chance to make $950 while smoking crack made from pharmaceutical-grade cocaine. Most of the respondents, like the addicts he knew growing up in Miami, were black men from low-income neighborhoods. To participate, they had to live in a hospital ward for several weeks during the experiment.
“They didn’t fit the caricature of the drug addict who can’t stop once he gets a taste,” Dr. Hart said. “When they were given an alternative to crack, they made rational economic decisions.”
When methamphetamine replaced crack as the great drug scourge in the United States, Dr. Hart brought meth addicts into his laboratory for similar experiments — and the results showed similarly rational decisions. He also found that when he raised the alternative reward to $20, every single addict, of meth and crack alike, chose the cash. They knew they wouldn’t receive it until the experiment ended weeks later, but they were still willing to pass up an immediate high.
“If you’re living in a poor neighborhood deprived of options, there’s a certain rationality to keep taking a drug that will give you some temporary pleasure,” Dr. Hart said in an interview, arguing that the caricature of enslaved crack addicts comes from a misinterpretation of the famous rat experiments.
“The key factor is the environment, whether you’re talking about humans or rats,” Dr. Hart said. “The rats that keep pressing the lever for cocaine are the ones who are stressed out because they’ve been raised in solitary conditions and have no other options. But when you enrich their environment, and give them access to sweets and let them play with other rats, they stop pressing the lever.”
Once this conversation has been informed by the knowledge that most poor drug users aren’t poor because they use drugs, and instead that most poor drug users use drugs because they are poor, we can better understand what kind of effect a basic income would have on drug use.
It could very well decrease it.
This conversation also needs to be informed with a better understanding of what addiction really is, in all its forms. I think Dr. Gabor Mate is the most knowledgeable in the area of addiction, and so I recommend watching him talk about it, or reading his written words:
“The hardcore drug addicts that I treat, are, without exception, people who have had extraordinarily difficult lives. The commonality is childhood abuse. These people all enter life under extremely adverse circumstances. Not only did they not get what they need for healthy development; they actually got negative circumstances of neglect. I don’t have a single female patient in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver who wasn’t sexually abused, for example, as were many of the men, or abused, neglected and abandoned serially, over and over again. That’s what sets up the brain biology of addiction. In other words, the addiction is related both psychologically, in terms of emotional pain relief, and neurobiological development to early adversity.”
There is also an inequality in the way we look at addictions, where the addictions of the poor carry a stigma, and the addictions of the rich, do not. When was the last time you heard concerns about all the cocaine those on Wall Street will use with all their huge taxpayer-funded bonuses? What about the addictions of power we see in the rich? Or shopping? There are many forms of addiction that can consume our lives, and yet we mostly just look at those in poverty, from atop our crates of fine red wines.
We also show evidence from actual basic income experiments that increases in usage of drugs like alcohol aren’t seen. In Namibia where people were given basic incomes, aside from a first payout spike, alcohol use did not increase as feared.
The same observation was seen in India with the basic income experiment there. Here’s a quote from one of the villagers of what they learned about others:
“Everyone, all the official people, had to laugh at the idea of giving poor people money. They said, ‘The poor are irresponsible, they don’t know what to do with money, they are unbankable, they can’t manage bank accounts. The whole idea is crazy.’ Even we were sometimes unsure, but we were really surprised each time that we had a story to tell. This is our story: poor people are responsible for themselves and their families. It is prejudice that they will drink it all away. We have learned that we can always trust the poor”. Later, an elderly woman villager said philosophically, “The fools have remained foolish, but the wise ones have made good use of the money for their work”.
The same observation was seen in Kenya and Uganda by GiveDirectly:
One of the main benefits of giving cash is that people can use the cash to buy whatever they want or need. When people first hear about cash transfers, this freedom is sometimes one of the things they worry about - “and… they can just spend it on anything?” But it turns out that, on average, people don’t use cash transfers to increase consumption on things like alcohol or tobacco. Instead, cash transfer recipients are more likely to use the money to make investments (buying tin roofs or livestock) that have big dividends over time.
There’s also a very interesting story learned from a GiveDirectly survey where it was discovered one of the villagers addicted to alcohol used his money to start his own business:
"Someone who had saved some money and was now able to buy a second hand motorbike and is now helping in as it is for business. people never thought he could do this because he is a drunkard and no one thought he would have a clear mind to think of something such big."
If we look at evidence from cash transfer programs all over the world, we find the same observations everywhere:
When we examine 44 estimates of spending on alcohol and tobacco across 19 studies and 13 interventions (i.e., Oportunidades/PROGRESA is very well studied), we find that the vast majority of estimates (82%) are negative. More than a quarter are negative and significant, and only 2 are positive and significant. With both of the positive and significant estimates, estimates within the study are discordant (i.e., one positive and one negative).
We can even look at an experiment where drug users on the streets were given cash to see what they did with it. The results?
You might also worry that the poorest of New York are different. The average person in Uganda is impoverished; it’s easy to believe he would make good decisions with cash. But a homeless person in New York is not average. Substance abuse is pervasive. Maybe panhandlers here are different from the global poor.
I used to believe this. Now I’m not sure. A few years ago, I started working in Liberia’s urban slums. My colleagues and I sought out men who were homeless or made their living dealing drugs or stealing. Many abused alcohol and drugs. We tested different programs in a randomized trial of a thousand men. One thing we tried was giving out $200 in cash. [Almost no men wasted it](http://www.poverty-action.org/project/0166).
If you put all of this together, and read all the real-world observations for yourself, it becomes very difficult to fear a future where basic income allows people to live in a subsidized drug-addicted world. A basic income could indeed allow people the freedom to use drugs, but that’s not the decision people actually tend to make with their freedom when they suddenly have access to greater resources.
Drug use at its core, like poverty itself, is the result of a lack of access to resources. Drugs dull the emotional pain. Increasing access to resources allows for choices other than drugs, and most people do prefer those choices over drugs, and make those choices when actually given the chance.
Today’s science lesson is: STOP DOUBTING GLOBAL WARMING