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robertogreco : scottsantens   7

Silicon Valley’s Basic Income Bromance — Backchannel — Medium
"A cult of bros, brahmins and braintrusters is pushing the idea of a government-distributed living wage"

"Among the grassroots braintrust, Santens is elite.

His fascination with basic income started in his late 30s, with a Reddit thread about how quickly tech-induced unemployment was coming. He read about basic income as a possible solution, and was hooked. “When I came across this idea and read more and more into it, I’m like wow, this is something that can totally change the world for the better.” In the fall of 2013 he abandoned his career as a freelance web developer to become the movement’s most omnipresent advocate. “People passionate about basic income don’t have a very loud voice,” he says.

In person, Santens doesn’t have one either; he’s polite and thoughtful, a reed-like 6-foot-2. His microphone is Medium and The Huffington Post, the Basic Income subreddit he moderates, and his Twitter account, from which he tweets anything in the day’s news that can be summoned into a case for basic income. Santens also created a Twibbon to superimpose #basicincome on one’s Twitter or Facebook profile pic. Such is the newness of this movement in the United States that the guy who does all this wins a profile in The Atlantic, and gets invited to talk on a Brookings Institution panel.

The technologist crowd says a basic income will become a moral imperative as robots replace workers and unemployment skyrockets. Conservatives say it would replace the kraken of welfare bureaucracy, with its arbitrary income cutoffs and overlapping programs. Optimists say humanity will no longer have to work for survival, freeing us to instead work for self-actualization. (You know, start businesses. Go to school. Do unpaid care, volunteer, and parenting work that doesn’t add a cent to the GDP.) Progressives say it would level the playing field: the working classes could have a taste of the stability that’s become an upper-middle class luxury, and would have bargaining power with low-paid work.

It’s a compelling idea having an international moment: Finland’s government announced first steps toward a basic income pilot project in 2017. Details aren’t finalized, but early plans call for giving 800 to 1,000 euros a month to a large test group for two years instead of any other social benefits. (Tally it up to another socialist program from a Northern European country if you will, but Finland is trying to solve eerily familiar U.S. problems: a growing class of freelancers who were neither eligible for employment benefits nor unemployment, and Finns in the poverty trap: taking a temporary job decreases your welfare benefits.) Several Dutch cities aim to introduce similar programs next year, and the idea of a universal basic income has gotten some consideration and endorsements in Canada, where it was tried for five years in the 1970s in Manitoba.

In the United States, it only makes sense that Silicon Valley would be the natural habitat for basic income bros, brahmins, and braintrusts. The Bay Area is home to a fertile mix of early adopters, earnest change-the-worlders, the Singularity crowd, cryptocurrency hackers, progressives and libertarians — all of whom have their reasons for supporting a universal basic income. “Some of my friends [in favor] are hardcore libertarian types, and others will be left-wing even by San Francisco standards,” says Steven Grimm, an early Facebook engineer who now writes code for a cash transfer platform used by charities, the most direct way he could think of to apply his skills to advance basic income. If we’re name-dropping: Zipcar CEO Robin Chase, Singularity University’s Peter Diamandis, Jeremy Howard, Kathryn Myronuk, and Neil Jacobstein, and Y Combinator’s Sam Altman, Clinton administration labor secretary Robert Reich, Tesla principal engineer Gerald Huff, author Martin Ford, Samasource CEO Leila Janah, and Silicon Valley optimist-in-chief Marc Andreessen all support it.

So of course, while Scott Santens isn’t from here, he needs to come kiss the ring."

"Back in San Francisco at the end of his trip, Santens was mostly killing time before a 2:00 am redeye (to avoid the hotel bill, of course). We leave Patreon and head out to Market Street, and Santens snaps a photo of the Twitter headquarters plopped in the middle of the city’s tech-gentrified skid row, where the city’s polarized classes come into sharp relief.

It’s a boulevard of all the ills Santens believes basic income will solve: the shuffling homeless people — they could get cash in one fell swoop instead of extracting it from a byzantine welfare system. Lining the sidewalk are drug dealers; they could do something else, and their customers — not having to self-medicate their desperation — might dry up, too. We pass the Crazy Horse strip club. No one would have to dance or do sex work out of poverty, leaving it to the true aficionados. The high-interest payday loan shop would lose its raison d’etre.

The thought experiment of basic income serves as a Rorschach test of one’s beliefs about human nature: some people instantly worry that human enterprise would be reduced to playing PlayStation; others point to the studies of cash transfers that show people increase their working hours and production. One cash transfer program in North Carolina revealed long-term beneficial effects on Cherokee children whose parents received some $6,000 a year from a distribution of casino profits. (The kids were more likely to graduate high school on time, less likely to have psychiatric or alcohol abuse problems in adulthood.) No one debates that $1,000 a month, the amount usually discussed as a basic income in the U.S., would only be enough to cover the basics — and in expensive cities like San Francisco, not even that. Anyone wanting to live with greater creature comforts would still have the carrot of paid work.

Santens is, unsurprisingly, of the optimist group. He tells me about his baby boomer dad who moved into The Villages, the luxury retirement community in Florida (“basically Walt Disney World for senior citizens”). He says it’s a great case study in that people stay busy even when they don’t have to work: the seniors join kayak and billiards clubs, paint watercolors, and go to Zumba. “People do all sorts of things.” His dad is partial to golf.

Before he goes, I ask what he would do if he truly got a basic income, one that was not dependent on advocating basic income. “I’d do more screen-writing,” he says. “I’m a sci-fi writer at heart.”
You might be a basic income bro if, if and when basic income comes, you finally can do something else."
laurensmiley  siliconvalley  universalbasicincome  libertarianism  economics  2015  policy  government  miltonfriedman  richardnixon  edwardsnowden  martinlutherkingjr  scottsantens  arjunbanker  robinchase  peterdiamandis  jeremyhoward  kathrynmyronuk  neiljacobstein  samaltman  robertreich  geraldhuff  martinford  leilajanah  marcandreessen  rosebroome  jimpugh  finland  erikbrynjolfsson  federicopistono  singularityuniversity  automation  future  robots  bullshitjobs  efficiency  publicassistance  mlk  ubi 
december 2015 by robertogreco
Trickle-Down Economics Must Die, Long Live Grow-Up Economics — Basic income — Medium
"For over thirty years we’ve treated something as fact which is actually false. Economists we trusted to know better, didn’t, and so people have suffered and continue to suffer. This pernicious economic myth is the idea that a rising yacht lifts all tides, or as more popularly described, “trickle-down economics.” If we are to start running our economy in a way we could one day describe as notably less insane, we must finally come to see it for what it actually is.

An Undead Idea
This belief that it’s good economics to give a relatively greater and greater share of the pie to the top of the economic spectrum because the absolute sizes of all remaining shares will grow, has taken some mortal hits in recent years by some major players, most notably even the OECD and IMF. In fact, it has now reached the point that the idea even being left alive at all in the minds of anyone, makes it a good candidate as an extra in The Walking Dead.

Surveying the data, we’ll start with Wall Street bonuses versus the economic multiplier effects of higher velocity money, go on to economic growth research in relation to distributional inequality, and end with what we know from global cash transfer evidence and the economic effects of billionaires. Let’s burn this undead idea of inequality-driven economic growth with napalm and bury it in concrete shall we?"

"What Mother Jones neglected to mention however is something that goes well beyond “fucked up”, and something which did not go unmentioned in a piece by the Institute for Policy Studies after identical news the year prior.
Every extra dollar going into the pockets of low-wage workers, standard economic multiplier models tell us, adds about $1.21 to the national economy. Every extra dollar going into the pockets of a high-income American, by contrast, only adds about 39 cents to the GDP. These pennies add up considerably on $26.7 billion in earnings. If the $26.7 billion Wall Streeters pulled in on bonuses in 2013 had gone to minimum wage workers instead, our GDP would have grown by about $32.3 billion, over triple the $10.4 billion boost expected from the Wall Street bonuses.

Yeah, you just read that right. In 2013, by giving huge bonuses to those on Wall Street instead of low-wage workers, we actively prevented the creation of about $22 billion in additional national wealth. In 2014, we did the same thing, but to an even larger degree, preventing about $23 billion in additional national wealth that would have otherwise been created, had those billions in bonuses been distributed to low-income earners instead."

"Our politics have become a twisted version of the principles we claim to hold dear, where everyone is to have a voice in this supposed democracy of ours. Instead, dollars have become speech, and where dollars are speech, the voices of the many are drowned out in a deluge of the best speech money can buy.

When 1% of the electorate has the majority of the voice, democracy does not exist. When 1% of the electorate owns the majority of the stocks and bonds, the economy is effectively privately owned. The phrase “going public” with each new IPO holds little actual meaning today. When 1% of the electorate is able to rig the game in their favor, they do, but as if that isn’t bad enough, a rigged game destroys the game itself.

By allowing our inequality to grow to the point it exists now, every single one of us is supporting something against our own best interests, poor and rich alike. To continue to allow our economy to fallaciously serve only the interests of a small fraction of the population, everyone will be worse off.

We need to recognize myths where they are perpetuated and the myth of trickle-down economics can not be allowed to stand any longer in the 21st century. To grow our economies we need to accept the policies that enable economies to flourish. Policies that reduce our inequality — policies like universal basic income designed to move stagnant money from the hands at the top not spending it into the hands of all those who will — are the policies we need.

No more trickle-down economics.

Without a pump to circulate money throughout our entire economy, systemic failure is inevitable. Essentially, the economy needs a heart, not more blood, because on its own, money has one net direction — up. It’s time for our economics to grow up too, in realization that all economies are built from the ground up, upon the shoulders of the many — not the few — who comprise them.

The fact that even the phrase “trickle down” as a description of government policy was born in the mind of a comedian, should serve as a sober reminder of how the joke has always been, and without needed changes will continue to remain, entirely on us."
economics  trickledowneconomics  scottsantens  2015  growth  inequality  ha-joonchang  finance  wallastreet  politics  policy 
july 2015 by robertogreco
Continuations : Debating the Gig Economy: Going Past Industrial...
"Yesterday Hilary Clinton mentioned the “gig economy” in a speech. She said
Meanwhile, many Americans are making extra money renting out a small room, designing websites, selling products they design themselves at home, or even driving their own car. This on-demand, or so-called gig economy is creating exciting economies and unleashing innovation.

But it is also raising hard questions about work-place protections and what a good job will look like in the future.

This is of course a topic I have been speaking and writing about a lot. Like Fred [ ], I think that this is a discussion we need to have. I think the framing though of the question has to be quite different. We need to move past traditional concepts of work and jobs towards an era of economic freedom enabled by a universal basic income and something akin to what I have called the right to be represented by a bot.

As long as we frame the debate in terms of “work-place protections” and a “good job” we are still caught in the industrial system. The hallmark of the industrial system is what I call the job loop: most people sell their time and receive a wage in return — they then use that wage to buy products and services, which in turn are made by people selling their time. This job loop has been extraordinarily successful. In combination with relatively free markets it has given us incredible progress. But it is now breaking down due to automation and globalization.

The rise of the gig economy is a part of this break down of the job loop. Instead of trying to fix it and to imprint traditional work and labor thinking on these new platforms I propose an entirely different approach: truly and deeply empower individuals to participate on their own terms. Just imagine for a moment a world in which everyone can take care of basic needs such as housing, clothing, food, healthcare and education.

In such a world any and all participation in “gigs” will be entirely voluntary. People will have real walk away options from gigs that don’t pay enough. That also includes “jobs” at McDonalds, or Walmart or the local nail salon. In such a world there is no need to distinguish between a W2 employee and a 1099 contractor.

Such a world is now possible thanks to the productivity gains we have made over many years and the ones that are just now emerging. If you want some good numbers on the economic feasibility of a Universal Basic Income I propose reading this piece by Scott Santens. You can also listen to and read about a discussion from a few weeks back at Civic Hall which includes additional thoughts on funding.

Empowering individuals economically through a Universal Basic Income is just the start though. We also need to give individuals informational freedom. This means that if I am a driver for Uber I should have the right to access Uber through a third party app that strictly represents me. In the open web era that was the browser (not by accident referred to as a “user agent” in the http protocol). We need the equivalent for apps.

The combination of economic and informational freedom for individuals will be a far better check on the power of platforms such as Uber, Etsy, Airbnb, etc. then any attempt to have government regulate directly what these companies can and cannot do.

So this is a perfectly good time to suggest you watch my TEDxNewYork talk on basic income and the right to be represented by a bot.

[video: ]

If you prefer to read, there is a transcript [ ] instead. I am also happy to report that my book (which will really be a long essay) on this topic is making good progress."
economics  universalbasicincome  2015  albertwenger  socialsafetynet  work  labor  technology  freedom  scottsantens  fredwilson  automation  gigeconomy  freelancing  hillaryclinton  uber  etsy  airnbn  policy  jobs  progress  inequality  agency  motivation  politics  ubi 
july 2015 by robertogreco
Wouldn’t Unconditional Basic Income Just Cause Massive Inflation? — Basic income — Medium
"The money for a basic income guarantee would be already existing money circulated through the economic system. It would not be new money, just money shifted from one location to another. This means that the value of each dollar has not changed. The dollar itself has only changed hands.

It is also important to note the observation that even when money supply is vastly expanded, the effects on prices need not be extreme. For example, the Fed’s quantitative easing added over four trillion new dollars to the U.S. money supply, and the results were not enough inflation, as defined by the Fed."

"So even though basic income would not be printing new money for everyone, even if it were, inflation would not be a guaranteed result.

With that understood, to then understand how much we should actually fear rising prices as a result of redistributing existing money from one place to another instead of printing new money requires some studying, but the short answer is that capitalism not only still exists with basic income, it is enhanced.

By enhanced, I mean there is growing evidence from where basic incomes have been actually tried that it increases entrepreneurship. We also have actual examples of partial basic incomes, that we can examine for inflationary evidence.

Aside from this evidence, we also need to understand how increased demand leading to higher prices isn’t as simple as we might think is is, and how when it comes to housing prices, in a future where everyone has basic incomes, we are likely to see some very interesting market adjustments. Meanwhile, fears involving unearned income and increased velocity require a closer examination."

"The Inflation Bogeyman

Inflation is not the unmanageable danger it is made out to be. It is a complex equation involving multiple variables, and in the context of evaluating the idea of a universal basic income guarantee, because a basic income will be set at a basic level, there is even less to fear.

Because we have actual evidence, there is less to fear.

Because capitalism will be enhanced, there is less to fear.

Because technology will continue to advance and make goods like housing cheaper, there is less to fear.

Because our economic capacity is underutilized and underconsumption is systemic, there is less to fear.

There is however one real thing to fear…

Increased Wages and Salaries

Basic income could provide an upward force on wages through increased individual bargaining power and slightly decreased labor force participation rates, and businesses as a result of new higher labor costs could raise their prices so as to keep their profits unchanged.

This would mean that if you are currently earning $20,000 per year, you’d not only get an extra $12,000 per year in basic income, but also $10,000 in higher wages. Your new yearly income would be $42,000 and groceries might end up costing you an extra 1.4 percent per month.

Would you personally have a problem with earning an extra $22,000 and paying an extra $50 on groceries? Let’s assume you would, and that you also think it’s wrong the cost of food would go up for everyone else as well, including those with only $12,000 per year basic incomes, and therefore with tighter fixed budgets. There is one last final detail to understand.

Any basic income can and should be indexed to match or beat inflation.

Indexing Basic Income

Just as the minimum wage has eroded over time because of inflation and the political fight over ever raising it, a basic income should automatically rise each year to match inflation so that it doesn’t erode in the same way.

Better yet, instead of just indexing a basic income to CPI, it could even be indexed to something like productivity, so that the gains of society continue to accrue more widely for everyone, instead of only the few.

(Because wages and salaries certainly aren’t rising with productivity and haven’t for decades.)

The result of this would be a basic income that always increases faster than inflation, so that each and every year, we would be able to buy a greater amount of goods and services than the year before.

It cannot be stressed enough that this ability is especially important to enable in advance of the decades ahead of us as software and hardware continue to decrease the need for human labor, and as a result, decreases availability of ever decreasing incomes derived from human labor."
universalbasicincome  2014  scottsantens  inflation  economics  hyperinflation  wages  income  compensation  salaries  labor  work  ubi 
february 2015 by robertogreco
Why Should We Support the Idea of an Unconditional Basic Income? — Working Life — Medium
[Section titles: ]

"What would you do?
Didn’t they try this in Russia?
The magic of markets
Can we really improve capitalism or is this just theory?
Larger rewards lead to poorer performance.
Capitalism 2.0 sounds great and all but can we afford it?
Okay, it’s affordable… but wouldn’t people stop working?
But still, what about those few who WOULD stop working?
Why would (insert who you dislike) ever agree to this?"
universalbasicincome  capitalism  communism  economics  markets  2014  scottsantens  namibia  poverty  danielpink  productivity  power  choice  workweek  hours  thomaspiketty  psychology  motivation  canada  seattle  denver  1970s  taxes  taxation  inequality  alaska  mincome  employment  unemployment  work  labor  freedom  empowerment  ubi 
february 2015 by robertogreco
Universal Basic Income as the Social Vaccine of the 21st Century — Basic income — Medium
"What if we had hand-waved away the costs of eradicating smallpox as too expensive with napkin math? What if we today faced that same choice we did then? What if the price of smallpox eradication now was calculated on a napkin as being $3 trillion? What would we do? What should we do?

What if the discussion about smallpox eradication never included the reality the investment would be recouped every two months? What if no one talked about the 40% annual return on investment? What if we all kept pretending eradicating smallpox would just be too darn expensive and that it’s just one of those ugly facts of life we just have to deal with until we die?

This is where the conversation about basic income needs to change.

A $3 trillion napkin-math price tag does not reflect a vaccine’s true value. The fact that it’s not even its true price tag doesn’t even really matter (Note: its true price tag is more like $1 trillion after consolidation and elimination of many existing cash-replaceable federal programs) because even at $3 trillion instead of $1 trillion, it’s still an ounce instead of a pound.

Poverty is a disease. It’s an illness that even doctors are beginning to recognize as something that requires the prescription of cash in order to successfully treat its many associated diseases:
“I was treating their bodies, but not their social situations. And especially not their income, which seemed to be the biggest barrier to their health improving. The research evidence was pretty clear on this. Income, poverty, is intimately connected to my patients’ health. In fact, poverty is more important to my low-income patients than smoking, high cholesterol, high-blood pressure, obesity, salt, or soda pop. Poverty wreaks havoc on my patients’ bodies. A 17% increased risk of heart disease; more than 100% increased risk of diabetes; 60% higher rates of depression; higher rates of lung, oral, cervical cancer; higher rates of lung disease like asthma and emphysema… It became pretty clear to me I was treating all of [my patients’] health issues except for the most important one — their poverty.” — Dr. Gary Bloch

We can do more than continually treat poverty’s many economically and physically expensive symptoms. We can eradicate it entirely with a social vaccine designed to immunize against it.
A social vaccine can be defined as, ‘actions that address social determinants and social inequities in society, which act as a precursor to the public health problem being addressed’. While the social vaccine cannot be specific to any disease or problem, it can be adapted as an intervention for any public health response. The aim of the social vaccine is to promote equity and social justice that will inoculate the society through action on social determinants of health.

Basic income is a tested social vaccine. It’s been found to increase equity and general welfare. It has been found to reduce hospitalizations by 8.5% in just a few years through reduced stress and work injuries. It’s been found to increase birth weights through increased maternal nutrition. It’s been found to decrease crime rates by 40% and reduce malnourishment by 30%. Intrinsic motivation is cultivated. Students do better in school. Bargaining positions increase. Economic activity increases. Entrepreneurs are born.

With experiment after experiment, from smaller unconditional cash transfers to full-on basic incomes, the results point in positive directions across multiple measures when incomes are unconditionally increased.

Universal basic income is a social vaccine for the disease of poverty.

We can keep spending trillions every year to treat this disease and its many symptoms, or we can choose to eradicate poverty as we did smallpox through a mass social vaccination program known as basic income.

It costs real money for us to look the other way on poverty. Unlike smallpox and other diseases we can vaccinate ourselves against, the costs of poverty can be more invisible. We don’t get bills in the mail from Poverty, Inc. telling us each month how much we owe, but we still pay these bills because they are included in our many other bills.

When we pay $10,000 in taxes instead of $7,000 because of welfare and health care, that’s in large part a $3,000 poverty bill. When we pay $500 a month instead $400 on our private health insurance premiums, that’s a $100 poverty bill. When we pay $50 on a shirt instead of $45 because of theft, that’s a $5 poverty bill. When we’re taxed a percentage of our homes to pay for prisons, that’s a poverty bill. What other examples can you think of personally? What might we all be spending on poverty every day?

These poverty bills are all around us, but we’re just not seeing them as they are. And let’s not ignore the lack of opportunity bills either.

If just one Einstein right now is working 60 hours a week in two jobs just to survive, instead of propelling the entire world forward with another General Theory of Relativity… that loss is truly incalculable. How can we measure the costs of lost innovation? Of businesses never started? Of visions never realized?

These are the full costs of not implementing universal basic income, and they will only increase as technology reduces our need for work as long as we continue requiring the little work that’s left in exchange for income.

These are the full costs of being penny-wise and pound-foolish by not socially vaccinating ourselves against poverty.

These are the full costs of continuing to opt for a pound of cure instead of an ounce of prevention.

So now, let us consider a new question.

Is the question for us to answer in the 21st century, “Can we afford basic income?”

Or is the question, “Can we not afford basic income?”"
scottsantens  universalbasicincome  2015  economics  vaccines  poverty  inequality  socialwelfare  socialsafetynet  welfare  ubi 
february 2015 by robertogreco
Breaking Down Without a Spare — Basic income — Medium
"America’s lopsided welfare system of counterproductive public assistance"

"Our current system is not productive. It is not the fully functional safety net we need, especially as technology increasingly disrupts our day to day lives. If one day we can be a driver for Uber, and the next day Uber can buy a fleet of self-driving cars and fire all of us, that’s a world where we need a real safety net that doesn’t just drop away. We need more than a safety net. We need a floor set above the poverty level, so that regardless of any amount of disruption, we are still allowed to stand on our own two feet and start climbing again.

Don’t catch us and trap us with nets. We need a solid foundation that allows all of us a space in which to build our futures.

We also need to understand that those at the bottom aren’t the only ones receiving welfare. There exists a great deal of netting underneath the feet of all of us. We just don’t see it. It is the invisible safety net, lacking in any stigma."

"But is that what the working Americans who work for them want?

Driving on Spares
It may have seemed a small detail and one possibly gone unnoticed, but it’s possibly the most important detail of all in our automotive parable.

“Unfortunately there’s no spare. We had no choice but to drive on it.”

It’s not that we made the unwise choice to go driving around without a spare tire. It’s that we could not make the wise choice, because our car had already suffered a previous blown tire and there was no money in the budget for a new one. After replacing our blown tire with our spare tire, we could only hope nothing else would happen until there was money for a new tire.

But something did happen. That’s the nature of unfortunate surprises.

It is this fact we must recognize, possibly above all. No one wants to suffer a flat tire, and no one wants to have no options but to call for help when we do get one. And we see this reflected in what we have done for decades now, as we have faithfully sought all possible avenues of increasing our incomes.

We went from one earner per household to two.

We asked for more hours and sought second, third, and even fourth jobs.

We got credit cards, took out second mortgages, and are now even tapping our own retirement funds."
universalbasicincome  economics  us  policy  taxes  safetynet  publicassistance  welfare  welfaresystem  scottsantens  2014  bureaucracy  socialsafetynet  stadiums  inequality  freedom  welfarecliffs  income  uber  labor  work  housing  ubi 
february 2015 by robertogreco

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