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robertogreco : thomaspaine   4

Traditions of the future, by Astra Taylor (Le Monde diplomatique - English edition, May 2019)
"If the dead do not exactly have power or rights, per se, they do still have a seat at the table—Thomas Jefferson among them. In ways obvious and subtle, constructive and destructive, the present is constrained and shaped by the decisions of past generations. A vivid example is the American Constitution, in which a small group of men ratified special kinds of promises intended to be perpetual. Sometimes I imagine the Electoral College, which was devised to increase the influence of the southern states in the new union, as the cold grip of plantation owners strangling the current day. Even Jefferson’s beloved Bill of Rights, intended as protections from government overreach, has had corrosive effects. The Second Amendment’s right to bear arms allows those who plundered native land and patrolled for runaway slaves, who saw themselves in the phrase “a well regulated Militia,” to haunt us. Yet plenty of our ancestors also bequeathed us remarkable gifts, the right to free speech, privacy, and public assembly among them.

Some theorists have framed the problematic sway of the deceased over the affairs of the living as an opposition between tradition and progress. The acerbic Christian critic G. K. Chesterton put it this way: “Tradition may be defined as an extension of the franchise. Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about. All democrats object to men being disqualified by the accident of birth; tradition objects to their being disqualified by the accident of death.” Social progress, in Chesterton’s account, can thus be seen as a form of disenfranchisement, the deceased being stripped of their suffrage. Over half a century before Chesterton, Karl Marx expressed sublime horror at the persistent presence of political zombies: “Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past. The tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living.”

The most eloquent partisans in this trans-temporal power struggle said their piece at the end of the 18th century. Edmund Burke and Thomas Paine had a furious debate that articulated the dichotomy between past and future, dead and living, tradition and progress. A consummate conservative shaken by the post-revolutionary violence in France, Burke defended the inherited privilege and stability of aristocratic government that radical democrats sought to overthrow: “But one of the first and most leading principles on which the commonwealth and the laws are consecrated, is lest the temporary possessors and life-renters in it, unmindful of what they have received from their ancestors, or of what is due to their posterity, should act as if they were the entire masters; that they should not think it amongst their rights to cut off the entail, or commit waste on the inheritance, by destroying at their pleasure the whole original fabric of their society.” Any revolution, Burke warned, hazards leaving those who come after “a ruin instead of an habitation” in which men, disconnected from their forerunners, “would become little better than the flies of summer.”

The left-leaning Paine would have none of it. Better to be a buzzing fly than a feudal serf. “Whenever we are planning for posterity we ought to remember that virtue is not hereditary,” he quipped. His critique, forcefully expressed in Common Sense and The Rights of Man, was not just an attack on monarchy. Rather, it was addressed to revolutionaries who might exercise undue influence over time by establishing new systems of government. “There never did, there never will, and there never can, exist a Parliament, or any description of men, or any generation of men, in any country, possessed of the right or the power of binding and controlling posterity to the ‘end of time,’” he protested.

In his pithy style, Paine popularized a commitment both to revolution and to novelty. “A nation, though continually existing, is continually in the state of renewal and succession. It is never stationary. Every day produces new births, carries minors forward to maturity, and old persons from the stage. In this ever-running flood of generations there is no part superior in authority to another.” Given the onslaught of change, a constitution “must be a novelty, and that which is not a novelty must be defective.” Never one for moderation, Paine advocated a decisive break with tradition, rejecting lessons from the past, castigating those who scoured records of ancient Greece and Rome for models or insights. What could the dead teach the living that could possibly be worth knowing?

Every person, whether or not they have children, exists as both a successor and an ancestor. We are all born into a world we did not make, subject to customs and conditions established by prior generations, and then we leave a legacy for others to inherit. Nothing illustrates this duality more profoundly than the problem of climate change, which calls into question the very future of a habitable planet.

Today, I’d guess that most of us are more able to imagine an environmental apocalypse than a green utopia. Nuclear holocaust, cyber warfare, mass extinction, superbugs, fascism’s return, and artificial intelligence turned against its makers—these conclusions we can see, but our minds struggle to conjure an image of a desirable, credible alternative to such bleak finales, to envision habitation rather than ruin.

This incapacity to see the future takes a variety of forms: young people no longer believe their lives will be better than those of their parents and financial forecasts give credence to their gloomy view; political scientists warn that we are becoming squatters in the wreckage of the not-so-distant liberal-democratic past, coining terms such as dedemocratization and postdemocracy to describe the erosion of democratic institutions and norms alongside an ongoing concentration of economic power. Meanwhile, conservative leaders cheer on democratic regression under the cover of nostalgia—“Make America Great Again,” “Take Our Country Back”—and seek to rewind the clock to an imaginary and exclusive past that never really existed."

"Questions of labor and leisure—of free time—have been central to debates about self-government since peasant citizens flooded the Athenian Pnyx. Plato and Aristotle, unapologetic elitists, were aghast that smiths and shoemakers were permitted to rub shoulders with the Assembly’s wellborn. This offense to hierarchical sensibilities was possible only because commoners were compensated for their attendance. Payments sustained the participation of the poor—that’s what held them up—so they could miss a day’s work over hot flames or at the cobbler’s bench to exercise power on equal footing with would-be oligarchs.

For all their disdain, Plato’s and Aristotle’s conviction that leisure facilitates political participation isn’t wrong. Throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, radical workers agreed. They organized and fought their bosses for more free time, making substantial inroads until a range of factors, including the cult of consumption and a corporate counterattack, overpowered their efforts. A more sustainable, substantive democracy means resuscitating their campaign. Free time is not just a reprieve from the grindstone; it’s an expansion of freedom and a prerequisite of self-rule.

A reduction of work hours would have salutary ecological effects as well, as environmentalists have noted. A fundamental reevaluation of labor would mean assessing which work is superfluous and which essential; which processes can be automated and which should be done by hand; what activities contribute to our alienation and subjugation and which integrate and nourish us. “The kind of work that we’ll need more of in a climate-stable future is work that’s oriented toward sustaining and improving human life as well as the lives of other species who share our world,” environmental journalist and political theorist Alyssa Battistoni has written. “That means teaching, gardening, cooking, and nursing: work that makes people’s lives better without consuming vast amounts of resources, generating significant carbon emissions, or producing huge amounts of stuff.” The time to experiment with more ecologically conscious, personally fulfilling, and democracy-enhancing modes of valuing labor and leisure is upon us, at precisely the moment that time is running out.

With climate calamity on the near horizon, liberal democracies are in a bind. The dominant economic system constrains our relationship to the future, sacrificing humanity’s well-being and the planet’s resources on the altar of endless growth while enriching and empowering the global 1 percent. Meanwhile, in America, the Constitution exacerbates this dynamic, preserving and even intensifying a system of minority rule and lashing the country’s citizens to an aristocratic past.

The fossil fuel and finance industries, alongside the officials they’ve bought off, will fight to the death to maintain the status quo, but our economic arrangements and political agreements don’t have to function the way they do. Should democratic movements manage to mount a successful challenge to the existing order, indigenous precolonial treaty-making processes provide an example of the sort of wisdom a new, sustainable consensus might contain. The Gdoonaaganinaa, or “Dish with One Spoon” treaty, outlines a relationship between the Haudenosaunee Confederacy and Nishnaabeg people. The dish symbolizes the shared land on which both groups depend and to which all are responsible; in keeping with the Haudenosaunee Great Law of peace, … [more]
astrataylor  ancesors  climatechange  history  2019  democracy  capitalism  patriarchy  whitesupremacy  borders  power  time  future  change  hannaharendt  ecology  sustainability  globalwarming  interconnected  interconnectedness  indigeneity  indigenous  leannebetasamosakesimpson  leisure  plato  aristotle  philosophy  participation  participatory  organizing  labor  work  marxism  karlmarx  socialism  freetime  longnow  bighere  longhere  bignow  annpettifor  economics  growth  degrowth  latecapitalism  neoliberalism  debt  tradition  gkchesterson  thomaspaine  thomasjefferson  us  governance  government  edmundburke  commonsense  postdemocracy  dedemocratization  institutions  artleisure  leisurearts  self-rule  collectivism  alyssanattistoni  legacy  emissions  carbonemissions  ethics  inheritance  technology  technosolutionism  canon  srg  peterthiel  elonmusk  liberalism  feminism  unions  democraticsocialism  pericles  speed  novelty  consumerism  consumption  obsolescence  capital  inequality 
may 2019 by robertogreco
The Town Where Everyone Got Free Money | Motherboard
"The motto of Dauphin, Manitoba, a small farming town in the middle of Canada, is “everything you deserve.” What a citizen deserves, and what effects those deserts have, was a question at the heart of a 40-year-old experiment that has lately become a focal point in a debate over social welfare that's raging from Switzerland to Silicon Valley.

Between 1974 and 1979, the Canadian government tested the idea of a basic income guarantee (BIG) across an entire town, giving people enough money to survive in a way that no other place in North America has before or since. For those four years—until the project was cancelled and its findings packed away—the town's poorest residents were given monthly checks that supplemented what modest earnings they had and rewarded them for working more. And for that time, it seemed that the effects of poverty began to melt away. Doctor and hospital visits declined, mental health appeared to improve, and more teenagers completed high school.

“Do we have to behave in particular ways to justify compassion and support?” Evelyn Forget, a Canadian social scientist who unearthed ​some of the findings of the Dauphin experiment, asked me rhetorically when I reached her by phone. “Or is simply human dignity enough?”

Critics of basic income guarantees have insisted that giving the poor money would disincentivize them to work, and point to studies that show ​a drop in peoples' willingness to work under pilot programs. But in Dauphin—thought to be the largest such experiment conducted in North America—the experimenters found that the primary breadwinner in the families who received stipends were in fact not less motivated to work than before. Though there was some reduction in work effort from mothers of young children and teenagers still in high school—mothers wanted to stay at home longer with their newborns and teenagers weren’t under as much pressure to support their families—the reduction was not anywhere close to disastrous, as skeptics had predicted.

“People work hard and it’s still not enough,” Doreen Henderson, who is now 70 and was a participant in the experiment, told the ​Wi​nnipeg Free Pres​s​ in 2009. Her husband Hugh, now 73, worked as a janitor while she stayed at home with their two kids. Together they raised chickens and grew a lot of their own food. “They should have kept it,” she said of the minimum income program. “It made a real difference.”

The recovered data from “Mincome,” as the Dauphin experiment was known, has given more impetus to a growing call for some sort of guaranteed income. This year, the Swis​s Parliament will vote on whether to extend a monthly stipend to all residents, and the Indian government has already begun replacing aid programs with direct cash transfers. Former US Labor Secretary Robert Reich has called a BIG “alm​ost inevitable.” In the US, Canada, and much of Western Europe, where the conversation around radically adapting social security remains mostly hypothetical, the lessons of Dauphin might be especially relevant in helping these ideas materialize sooner rather than later."

"Advocates have argued that a single coordinated program providing a base income is more efficient than the current panoply of welfare and social security programs and the bureaucracy required to maintain them (in the U.S. there are currently 79 means-tested social welfare programs, not including Medicare or Medicaid). “Existing social assistance programs were riddled with overlaps and gaps that allowed some families to qualify under two or more programs while others fell between programs,” says Forget.

When Mincome was first conceived, in the early '70s heyday of social welfare reform, some thought the experiment in Dauphin could be the prelude to a program that could be introduced across Canada. South of the border, there was widespread support for minimum income as well. A 1969 Harris poll for Life Magazine found that 79 percent of respondents supported a federal program President Nixon had proposed called the Family Assi​stance Plan that guaranteed a family of four an annual income of $1,600, or about $10,000 today. Nixon’s FAP plan (it wasn't guaranteed income, he insisted, but it was) made it through the House before it was killed in the Senate, voted down by Democrats. Still, there remained a sense of experimentation in the air. Four minimum income trials occurred in the US between 1968 and 1975, which appeared to show that the work hours of basic income recipients fell more sharply than expected.

But these experiments were done with small sample sizes; the experiment in Dauphin was unusual in that in encompassed a whole town. Forget, now a community health professor at the University of Manitoba who studies a range of social welfare programs, saw in the Mincome data a rare chance to examine the effects of BIG on a wider scale.

An undergrad in Toronto at the time the experiment was first being conducted, she remembers hearing about it in class. “My professor would tell us about this wonderful and important experiment taking place ‘out west’ that would revolutionize the way we delivered social programs.”

Years later, when she ended up “out west” herself, she began piecing together what information she could find about Dauphin. After a five-year struggle, Forget secured access to the experiment's data—all 1,800 cubic feet of it—which had been all but lost inside a warehouse belonging to the provincial government archives in Winnipeg. Since 2005, she’s been thoroughly analyzing it, carefully comparing surveys of Dauphin residents with those collected in neighboring towns at the time.

Forget's analysis of the data reveals that providing minimum income can have a substantial positive impact on a community beyond reducing poverty alone. “Participant contacts with physicians declined, especially for mental health, and more adolescents continued into grade 12,” she concludes in her paper, “The Town with No ​Poverty,” published in Canadian Public Policy in 2011. Forget also documented an 8.5 percent reduction in the hospitalization rate for participants as well, suggesting a minimum income could save health care costs. (Her research was unable to substantiate claims from US researchers that showed increases in fertility rates, improved neonatal outcomes or increased family dissolution rates for recipients of guaranteed incomes.)"

"When Forget looks at politics and culture and the economy now, she sees forces converging to create a more hospitable climate for minimum income experiments on a grander scale than before.

“This is an interesting time,” she said. “A lot of our social services were based on the notion that there are a lot of 40 hour-per-week jobs out there, full-time jobs, and it was just a matter of connecting people to those jobs and everything will be fine. Of course, one of the things we know is that’s certainly not the case, particularly for young people who often find themselves working in precarious jobs, working in contracts for long periods of time without the benefits and long-term support that those of us who have been around longer take for granted.”

In the Canadian context, at least, she said, “I’m optimistic enough to believe that at some point we are going to end up with a guaranteed income.”"
2015  manitoba  universalbasicincome  wellbeing  poverty  economics  dauphin  1970s  labor  income  mincome  switzerland  health  healthcare  education  mentalilliness  thomaspaine  martinlutherkinkjr  miltonfriedman  libertarianism  socialwelfare  motivation  via:anne  jamesmanzi  evelynforget  canada  ubi 
february 2015 by robertogreco
Rethinking the Idea of a Basic Income for All -
"The recent debate was kicked off in an April 30, 2012, post, by Jessica M. Flanigan of the University of Richmond, who said all libertarians should support a universal basic income on the grounds of social justice. Professor Flanigan, a self-described anarchist, opposes a system of property rights “that causes innocent people to starve.”

She cited a paper by the philosopher Matt Zwolinski of the University of San Diego in the December 2011 issue of the journal Basic Income Studies, which also contained other papers by libertarians supporting the basic income concept. While acknowledging that most libertarians would reject explicit redistribution of income, he pointed to several libertarians, including the economists F.A. Hayek and Milton Friedman, who favored the idea of a basic universal income.

Friedman’s argument appeared in his 1962 book, “Capitalism and Freedom,” based on lectures given in 1956, and was called a negative income tax. His view was that the concept of progressivity ought to work in both directions and would be based on the existing tax code. Thus if the standard deduction and personal exemption exceeded one’s gross income, one would receive a subsidy equal to what would have been paid if one had comparable positive taxable income."

the economist F.A. Hayek endorsed a universal basic income in Volume 3 of his book, “Law, Legislation and Liberty”:
The assurance of a certain minimum income for everyone, or a sort of floor below which nobody need fall even when he is unable to provide for himself, appears not only to be a wholly legitimate protection against a risk common to all, but a necessary part of the Great Society in which the individual no longer has specific claims on the members of the particular small group into which he was born.

"Most recently, Matthew Feeney of Reason, the libertarian magazine, wrote favorably about the Swiss proposal in a Nov. 26 post. As a complete replacement for the existing welfare system, he thought it had merit and might even save money. He was especially critical of the paternalism of the current welfare system and the denial of autonomy to those living in poverty.

“Instead of treating those who, often through no fault of their own, have fallen on hard times, like children who are incapable of making the right choices about the food they eat or the drugs they may or may not choose to take, why not just give them cash?” Mr. Feeney asked."
universalbasicincome  inequality  politics  2013  brucebartlett  income  policy  economics  hayek  miltonfriedman  mattzwolinski  us  switzerland  thomaspaine  davidfriedman  meganmcardle  matthewfeeney  charlesmurray  ubi 
december 2013 by robertogreco
The Coming Revolution in Public Education - John Tierney - The Atlantic
"• It's what history teaches us to expect.

• Education policies based on standardization and uniformity tend to fail.

[Related:;view=fulltext ]

• Policies based on distrust of teachers tend to fail.

• Judging teachers' performance by students' test scores is both substantively and procedurally flawed.

• More people are realizing that many of the organizations involved in "corporate reform" seem to need reforming themselves.

• People wonder why reformers themselves aren't held accountable."
education  policy  trust  2013  schools  schooling  reform  edreform  johntierney  testing  standardization  standardizedtesting  commoncore  local  testscores  us  capitalism  business  pearson  accountability  teaching  learning  dianeravitch  thomaspaine  pushback  davidpatten  geraldconti  michellerhee  doublestandards  richardelmore  mildbreywallinmclaughlin  incentives  corruption  motivation 
may 2013 by robertogreco

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