In the last year or so there have been numerous stories on /. on the subject of Universal Basic Income (UBI). Many so called 'libertarians' left a number of comments on how they are supporting UBI because they think it might be more efficient than other forms of welfare.
Whether welfare is efficient or not is really irrelevant from point of view of individual freedom, putting a lipstick on a pig doesn't change the nature of the animal but I do want to bring to their attention this simple fact: UBI is the modern version of Communism and just like all other forms of collectivism, this form is doomed to misery, oppression, murder and finally economic failure.
Communism is absence of private ownership of means of production, possibly State ownership or in case of Marxism some form of collective non-State sharing. For voluntary forms of Communism or Marxism there is no need to reinvent the wheel, go to a modern day kibbutz, where people are participating voluntarily and this might be the best argument for *voluntary* form of cooperation to date.
However this is not the subject of my post. Here I am looking at the UBI imposed by the State, where the income taxes are collected from each person according to his or her income level (ability) and everybody is getting some minimum amount of money out of that pool on a monthly basis.
First of all automation, outsourcing and other forms of efficiencies are cited as the reasons for all of these UBI related ideas, so it is proposed that in some not so distant future people will no longer be able to earn a living by holding a job, because American (and maybe European) people are uncompetitive when it comes to automation and foreign labour. The reality is that labour and capital are always in competition and it is not necessary that capital should always win against labour in the market. Capital wins where government makes labour uncompetitive with various rules, laws, taxes and government intervening on behalf of unions that make it too expensive to hire labour and make it more practical to automate or outsource.
Once the labour is uncompetitive due to government intervention into the market the argument becomes that without UBI there will be no more jobs for people to take and so UBI is proposed as a form of welfare that is supposedly more efficient. In reality the reason why UBI is proposed has nothing to do with efficiency but everything to do with marketability of that concept. It is much easier to sell UBI to the public, majority of which is actually still working under the current system than to sell a welfare system that excludes people based on their income level. The argument is the same nonsense that was used to push through the SS and EI. Since everybody is supposedly going to receive the benefits it is sold not as a form of welfare (which has stigma attached to it) but as a form of universal entitlement that everybody gets.
SS and EI benefits (as well as Medicare) are completely unnecessary for the people who are self sufficient, the people running profitable companies, people who are much better at investing their money than a modern State apparatus could ever be. Yet SS and EI are advertised as 'universal' to make them look as if they are not a form of welfare but instead a form of insurance. Of-course the people who do not need SS and EI benefits also absolutely do not need to pay into the SS and EI system through payroll taxes. Yet without them paying into these systems the payments would be in even more deficit than they are today. The proponents of SS and EI state that these programs are sustainable and would be even more sustainable if the wealthy people didn't have a cap at 100K or so that EI and SS percentages are taken from. Of-course those are the very people (the wealthier income earners) who do not need SS and EI in the first place, they shouldn't be in those systems, they don't need that form of welfare and they shouldn't be paying those taxes. Originally SS was set up for widows and orphans, not for everyone. Eventually it was extended to everybody else to make those ponzi scams workable much longer. The self employed were excluded from the system completely, they could afford their own retirement and other savings, they didn't have to pay into those programs, eventually they were forced to pay into them to make the ponzi scams run longer. Today the argument is that the wealthy should not have a cap for SS and EI payments to make those ponzi scams run longer yet.
UBI would be similar to SS in a way making it 'SS for all', not only for the retired. But why am I defining UBI as a modern version of Communism? Lets start from the obvious: everybody who works will have to pay into UBI and everybody who does not will not be paying into it. So this is a technicality, but basically it says: from each according to his ability to each according to his need. However under Communism there cannot be private means of production, there is either State ownership of productive resources or some voluntary collective ownership (like in a family or in a kibbutz). So the real question would a UBI system mean that the ownership and operation of productive resources will be nationalized and otherwise collectivized? My contention is that it is inevitable that a UBI regime requires nationalization and collectivization of resources and of all means of production. I will explain this in detail and I will start with a simplified model.
Consider two villages where both villages share common currency (dollars):
* Village A has a population of 10 people, each one of them is working in something productive. There is a farmer, there is a blacksmith, there is a hunter, there is a doctor, there is a shoemaker, etc.
* Village B has a population of 10 people, one of them is a milk farmer who owns a cow, the rest are either unemployed or are service sector workers, they do not possess means of production.
The milk farmer produces 10 litres of milk a day that he can sell at $1 a litre thus making $10 a day. The farmer sells the milk for dollars but the reason he wants to receive dollars is to buy goods produced by other workers. The farmer wants to buy some bread, shoes, tools, he sometimes needs to visit a doctor. The farmer also may pay for some service like for a haircut. The people from village A are able to supply the farmer with the goods exchanged for his dollars, the people from village B are able to supply him with some services.
A person from the B village (an unemployed individual) decided to start a campaign for equality in the village because the income levels are so different. The milk farmer can make $10 and a service sector worker can only make a small fraction of that while an unemployed person does not get to eat unless he can figure out something useful to do as a service or he begs or robs somebody. The campaign starts picking up momentum across the B villagers since they agree, they are all poorer than the milk farmer. Village B forms a government and collectively introduces a motion that requires that everybody in the village must get a UBI of minimum $1 a day. For this to work each one of the villagers must contribute what they are able to make the total sum of $10 a day so that the $10 can be distributed to each villager at $1 a day. The total taxable income of the B villagers is maybe $15, $10 of which comes from the daily earnings of the milk farmer. A UBI income tax is established and the milk farmer is now taxed at about 80%, which makes the 80% of UBI amount and the remaining 20% come from the rest of the villagers.
At this point the milk farmer looks at his income of $10, $8 of which is taken away and $1 is returned to him, making his daily net income $3 and he decides that it does not make sense to generate income in the village. So instead of selling his milk in both villages, he moves most of his sales to village A, where he now makes $8 out of the daily $10 and maybe he is able to sell $1 worth of milk in village B. Then he leaves the $8 in the bank in village A and only takes home $1 a day. All of a sudden the daily UBI taxable income in the village B falls from $15 down to $6. Since there are 10 people in the village it is not possible to split the $6 among them at $1 amounts and besides this would mean that even at the taxation level of 100% there is still a UBI deficit of $4 a day.
B villagers (except for the milk farmer) get together and decide that this will not do, they have to make sure that they have their $1 a day of UBI but to achieve this they have to force the milk farmer to bring his income home. Milk farmer does not agree but he is met with overwhelming force of 9 guns pointing in his direction. At this point the farmer's ownership of his property, his means of production are confiscated from him because he is unwilling to work within the system. He might decide to continue working within the system but again, from point of view of how the business is done he has no choice in the matter, he is no longer the owner of his private property and of his means of production. It is nationalization for all practical purposes, whether the milk farmer goes with the program or not. Eventually of-course there is a movement to ensure that nobody with such horrible background as a private property owner can actually live at any level above somebody with much more acceptable background (like that of a labourer or that of an unemployed, the formerly unemployed are the ones with the most time to set political agenda, normally they will end up in the top echelons of the newly formed government).
This is actually the road that was taken a number of times on this planet where 'social justice' doctrines have been taken to their logical conclusion, the end result is overall poverty, destruction of the means of production given that nobody is actually allowed to own productive property as to not ascend above the rest and generally economic calamity that comes some time after the installation of this type of a regime.
UBI is a modern form of Communism, it is the rose under another name or more to the point it is the proverbial lipstick on a pig.