Universal basic income

Andrew Flowers of Five Thirty Eight on universal basic income:

The idea is as simple as it is radical: Rather than concern itself with managing myriad social welfare and unemployment insurance programs, the government would instead regularly cut a no-strings-attached check to each citizen. No conditions. No questions. Everyone, rich or poor, employed or out of work would get the same amount of money. This arrangement would provide a path toward a new way of living: If people no longer had to worry about making ends meet, they could pursue the lives they want to live.


Basic income has attracted a motley crew of supporters, spanning the ideological spectrum. Efficiency-minded libertarians like the idea of streamlining the bureaucracy of the welfare state. Silicon Valley techies hope a guaranteed income would cushion the blow as automation replaces human jobs. Those with a more utopian bent, such as the organizers of the Swiss referendum, want to open up more options, to let people create art and free the world of … “bullshit jobs.”

Via Matt.

Delinquent lemonade peddlers

A local station in East Texas reports that cops have put a child’s lemonade stand out of business. The seven-year-old delinquent is still trying to peddle her contraband:

We had kettle corn and lemonade. The lemonade was for 50 cents and the kettle corn was a dollar, but if you got both it was a dollar.

Of course, her mother is standing by the miscreant daughter:

A code enforcement officer and the chief, she called me to the side and said we needed a permit […] I think that’s ridiculous. I think they’re 7 and 8 and they’re just trying to make money for their own cause.

Chief Clyde Carter, who earned the worst score in the Milgram experiment, defends the police action:

It is a lemonade stand but they also have a permit that they are required to get. […] We have to follow by the state health guidelines. They have to have a permit if they’re going to do the lemonade stands.

As does the erudite drudge, Matt Novak, who helpfully points out that people contracted polio from a lemonade stand once eighty fucking years ago1:

I did a quick search through newspaper archives and found examples of lemonade stands getting shut down as early as the 1960s. There was even one case in the 1940s where a young girl was giving the whole neighborhood polio by the cup. Caveat emptor, amirite kids?

I’m not saying that you’re going to get polio if you buy lemonade from kids in your neighborhood, but you’re probably going to get polio if you buy lemonade from kids in your neighborhood.

True to Gawker style, he concludes that you shouldn’t really care too much because “[e]verything’s always been bad”, and anyway fashionable cynicism is more fun than thinking about stuff, a deeply profound argument that is not literally meaningless. He also manages to incorporate the illuminating Thanks Obama! doubly-ironic apology, helpfully defending someone who hasn’t killed that many people from a charge that virtually no one ever made.

  1. Linking to Gawker is about as bad as unpasteurized juice, so no.

On the purported oppression of writers

Chris Weigl on why being a writer is dreadful:

There are times where being a writer sucks. In fact, tell me when I get to the good part. You struggle your whole life to fight for an idea that needs validation from someone in a position of authority to succeed. It’s nearly impossible for writers to earn a living and by that I mean earn a mediocre living wage so we can live in some of the most expensive cities in the world. You can’t get a job because just about every job feels unfulfilling compared to writing. In essence one cannot get a job because they would lose their will to keep on writing. That’s where society’s values are at. […]

If you believe the right-wing lie about makers vs. takers though writers would be the worst offenders as most of us can’t afford to pay our bills, can’t afford health insurance, and depend on government services to be doing things that corporations should be paying us for. The issue isn’t makers vs. takers at all. If it were writers would be sitting on the upper triage of society along with teachers, engineers, architects and construction workers. We’re the people who really make shit. Yet, most writers are at the mercy of corporate America and we get screwed every time. Our skills are de-valued for reasons passing understanding while those who prop up said corporations decry America’s moral decay. […]

Journalists are viewed as parasites, but it’s their job to keep people in power honest because passive voters sure as hell aren’t doing it.

As much as I appreciate “creative” people, and fully support a guaranteed minimum income, I’m weary of the kinds of arguments that “creatives” often make with respect to their work and its devaluation.

My uneasiness stems from two facts: The simple truth that all people are profoundly creative, and that designating a particular class of individuals as “creative”, only serves to devalue the great majority who don’t have the luxury of living a life of the mind—a luxury despite the financial difficulties of “creatives”. One who has a couple children, a mortgage, and a car or two isn’t necessarily living high on the hog, yet for them the option to join this “creative” class essentially doesn’t exist. Presumably they are to be considered deficient in some way.

The second reason resembles the first in its arrogance: Even if we accept that “creatives” are a distinct class of people, virtually every difficulty that Weigl mentions applies doubly to many people in the United States, let alone the forgotten non-people stuck in the Third World.

Indeed, one can quite literally replace “writers” with “people” in Weigl’s post, and achieve a fairly accurate picture of the world. The failure of many writers to acknowledge this or engage with ordinary people—people often ridiculed as “passive”, members of the teeming masses, the bewildered herd, and so on—can’t be discounted as a source of their financial woes. More importantly, however, such egoism is perfectly compatible with the social stratification and oppression that Weigl regrets.

One way to oppress others is to stomp them with your boot. Another is to form a kind of vanguard, anointing oneself to lead the ignorant masses to salvation. Both should be avoided.

On idleness

Andrea Badgley on loafing about:

I don’t know how to loaf anymore. I’m always doing. Always going. I tried to cut back on work to make time with my family and for our home. The first day I logged off after my eight hour workday, I folded five loads of laundry, emptied the dishwasher, wiped down the kitchen, vacuumed, organized doctor and financial appointments, and did two ten-minute free writes.

I exhaust myself just thinking about it.

But I don’t know if I even want to loaf. If I did want to, I would, right? I’m trying to think if I know anyone who loafs anymore. Do grownups loaf? Grownups in their 30s and 40s, with partners or families or jobs or any and all of those things?

Much of our society is organized according to the principle that we must justify our right to exist. Our very lives are contingent upon performing a certain amount of work — often artificially increased by excess desire, and to subsidize the wealthiest among us — yet the human impulse suggests that most people seek to do as little work as possible.

As Bertrand Russell puts it1:

Work is of two kinds: first, altering the position of matter at or near the earth’s surface relatively to other such matter; second, telling other people to do so. The first kind is unpleasant and ill paid; the second is pleasant and highly paid.

Loafing becomes feasible once we come to accept our impulse, and appreciate that existing without interference is our most fundamental right.

  1. From In Praise of Idleness, 1932.