The Case for Universal Basic Income in the COVID Era

“Recent Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang hinged his entire campaign on the idea of a true universal basic income where every American over the age of 18 would receive US$1,000 every month”.

Let us put this in perspective, it is no longer a fringe idea of the Left and of the libertarian Right.  Such is the vision of the ‘Great Reset’ as envisaged by the World Economic Forum (WEF) in the name of a “fairer, more equitable”, more environmentally responsible society. Many labour unions in the UK  have now passed resolutions at recent conferences lobbying for “UBI” that would liberate workers from the bondage of work and allow them to spend their time doing something else. Of course, the income will be basic, meaning you will need to accept a certain level of subsistence and no more to prevent inappropriate inequality. You will own nothing and “be happy about it”. Perhaps a government issued vehicle, government allocated holiday locations, a government issued games console, TV, computer,  that are privileged to you on condition you are a good citizen. No more debt. Energy will be green, rationed, and expensive, and travel will be restricted to protect the environment. Your diet will be controlled, and currency will be digital.  There may be those with great wealth but that is because they will be the ones designing our better world and they need it to facilitate and support their visionary work. As Klaus Schwab (the founder of the WEF) has said, “there will be a fusion of our digital, our biological, identities” (repeated in his book, The Great Reset). Bill Gates has the same idea in mind when he talks about an RNA based vaccine (the new kind developed for preventing COVID) that will be able to “delete” the God-gene in people (considered an evolutionary artefact that has now served its purpose; we have matured, we have just plain outgrown the need for a “God”)  and normalise them to become full and proper, fully committed and responsible members of society. We all know, that it is religion, not (and certainly not their) money that is the root of all evil in the world.

The historical precursor to this mode of thinking is found in the early 20th century philosopher John Dewey who once proposed the education system should be used to “dum people down” so that there would be greater social cohesion, i.e. we would be too stupid to understand we were not free and would look to our governments to be Daddy and Mummy for us. That is the core idea at the heart of UBI, the government provides for us.  Of course, Dewey was more eloquent at expressing it than I was here but his vision of the “new democratic family” in which the only responsibility of parents was to prepare children for state education to ensure loyalty and respect for the institutions of the State, was clear in his work and inspired a generation of humanist and socialist educators.  For Dewey and his descendants, society can only work if people are too stupid to disagree with their leaders. It is absolutely essential that all schools are state schools and a “correct” curriculum is taught that ensures we all agree that we sacrifice our individuality and freedom for the collective good as decided by those, who like Dewey, could correctly understand the public and its problems (the title of one of his most read works).

The postmodern pragmatist philosopher, the late Richard Rorty (d. 2006) said much the same thing, influenced heavily by Dewey, he self-described as a “bourgeois liberal” philosopher and one of his most notorious works was an essay on Orwell’s 1984 when he criticises the central character, Winston (who we recognise as the spokesperson for Orwell’s view) arguing that Big Brother was good at social solidarity and what was Winston so worried about?  Big Brother provides all our needs and all he asks in return is the willing surrender of myself to the greater good.  Similarly, UBI makes us physically and thus, psychologically, dependent on our leaders for our well-being; it is in our own interests to remain in good standing with those who provide for us and the dream of social solidarity and absolute equality of outcome is realised, we have a better world.  Enter UBI as radical, out-of-the-box “new normal” thinking developed in the hallowed halls of the WEF.

In contrast, democracy with an informed and engaged electorate is messy and unpleasant, which is why it gets suspended when we enter wars and the “emergencies” such as the COVID “crisis”. That is why the COVID crisis is being extended without scientific justification (mortality is insignificant compared to the peak in March) as it allows governments to dispense with voting and debates and “just get things done, period” paraphrasing the Mayor of New York as he justified stripping certain community groups of their constitutional rights.  It allows “rapid sociological reconstruction”, such as introducing UBI in response to the “greatest recession in 300 years” (the Treasury Chancellor of the UK) without the inconvenience of needing to convince your citizens before implementing it, they are “emergency (read – not subject to democratic processes) measures”.  However, read about COVID specifically elsewhere on the blog, back to our options for democracy.

Dewey and Rorty offered an elitist solution to the problems of the public in a democracy where the “professionals” and “experts” solve our problems for us.   I would rather have the messy, pluralistic version of democracy, characterised (maybe idealised) in the rugged individualism of the early US settlers, eventually distilled into their Constitution which has turned out to be the longest running republic the world has known in the last 1000 years.  Dewey and Rorty were correct about the problems of democracy, as Thomas Jefferson before them, describing democracy as “a terrible form of government” but, as Jefferson also said, “the alternatives are worse”.  The Constitution assumed a pluralistic solution where we govern ourselves and solve our own problems in our communities.  They demanded by the inalienable authority of God (not a King, State or politician – so no King, State or politician can remove it) to be free to pursue, life, liberty, happiness (by being allowed to own property); that is to work in an environment where there is equality of opportunity – but where you end up, is up to you.  The alternative is equality of outcome of which UBI is a variant, we are at home not having to work but receiving our support from the government in return for our civil obedience and rescinding our rights to own property.  However, you might consider that the latter is a really good deal if it is on offer – odds on Justin Trudeau is going to offer a revised version of a previous experiment in UBI to the Canadian people and Canada has no shortage of space should you want to emigrate, he has already made a long video talking about “the opportunities COVID presents as a global reset of the world’s economic systems to address inequitable economic systems and to move forward to a more just and fair society, to speed up what we were intending to do in the next few decades” (a close paraphrase from memory).

Of course, I do not necessarily disagree that we do not need a more equitable or environmentally responsible society but not at the expense of our individual freedom or at the level of genetic reprogramming us to make us “better” and more “socially conscious” versions of ourselves. However, you might think that is still a good deal and you are happy to be un-individuated to be a “good community partner”.  However, I say, let us be glad we still have the freedom to disagree, that is the essence of a pluralistic democratic society in contrast to a “centrally-managed” version of “democracy” (whether of the red-flag or brown-shirt variety) that wants to prescribe one “right” way of doing and thinking, then use the coercive power of the State, visionary technologists and a complicit mega-media to ensure we comply, if for some strange reason, we cannot see the wisdom of UBI as the gateway to a better world. I am for one, dedicated to maintaining freedom of thought and expression, will never take a government-mandated vaccine and will continue to do what I can ensuring we keep and value freedom, truth and individuality in the post-COVID, ‘Great Reset’ era.

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