4 years ago: The workers in the vineyard

Feb. 24, 2009, on this blog: The workers in the vineyard

These are warped, stunted, soulless creatures who lie awake at night worrying that somehow, somewhere, some poor person might be catching a break that they didn’t 100-percent deserve. Some poor family might be getting extra food stamps. Some poor mother might be using WIC to get the good cheese.

  • http://stealingcommas.blogspot.com/ chris the cynic

    Pretty sure I am not the person here most knowledgeable on wolf packs so I’ll leave it to someone else, someone more knowledgeable, to make any corrections needed.

    -

    Thank you for your elaboration.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Patrick-McGraw/100001988854074 Patrick McGraw

     

    If I’m following you correctly you’re comparing human behavior to, say, how a wolf pack behaves in captivity.  It’s the last two words of the previous sentence that interest me, as possibly indicated by them being italicized.

    The “captive wolves used as models for wolf social dynamics” thing causes me no end of irritation. The whole alpha/beta/omega crap was debunked decades ago, but people all over still seem to embrace it.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Okay, all is clear now–though I see no reason why Dave could not accept the payment and then turn around and hand it to someone in greater need or to a private charitable organization

    Dave could. Equally, Dave could. But in reality the large majority of people won’t. So you’ve got yourself an extremely inefficient way of getting resources to where they are most needed.

  • Gotchaye

     At the same time, if you want substantially more government spending for poor people, then it’s probably going to be extremely inefficient not to also spend a lot more on lots of people doing better.

    I’m not sympathetic to people crying over the difference between a 35% and 40% marginal tax rate on $400k+, but marginal tax rates do matter.  If you want a guaranteed minimum income of $15k, then at the very least you have to be giving /something/ to people making $14k, or else no one would have any reason to work any full-time job paying less than $9/hr.  No one would have any reason to work part-time for $18/hr.  And remember that part of the point of a guaranteed income is that you make it possible for people to accept certain sorts of low-wage jobs without being coerced, or to allow people who only want to work part-time to only work part-time.

    The more generous the benefit, the more people you have to pay at least a little bit to in order to guarantee a certain standard at a lower level of income without destroying all reason to work for a large range of potential incomes.  For the $15k minimum income, unless you’re paying something to people making up to $30k, everyone making less than $30k is facing an average effective tax rate of at least 50%.  And that’s a result only of the decrease in benefits with income; if there are other benefits that are also means-tested, or if there are real taxes people are paying, that would be even higher.

  • http://stealingcommas.blogspot.com/ chris the cynic

    Honestly I don’t even understand why this conversation is still going, it’s pretty well established that Dave and I were operating on different sets of assumptions.

    If one assumes, as Dave was, that there is X amount of money that will make it into the hands of the people getting aid and that is sufficient to raise the lowest five percent to the same level as the next % above them or near enough to take them out of desperate need, then it is undeniably true that dividing that X amount of money amoung 100% of the population will leave the lowest five percent worse off than just giving it to the lowest 5%.  Twenty times worse off, if we want to be specific.

    If one assumes that the amount of money available for aid is not fixed, if one considers un/undertapped sources of revenue and takes into account the cost savings that come with universal systems (for a single example, you can cut out almost all of the bureaucracy that comes with having to determine who is approved and who is denied because everyone is approved by default) then things are different.

    I assume that the amount of money available for aid is not fixed, I think that with changes in how revenue is collected, as well as various changes that come with making things universal instead of for a certain few that have to be sorted through layers of bureaucracy before they’re even told, “Yes, you qualify,” or, “No you don’t,” that it’s possible to get resources where they’re needed by giving the needed resources (in equal quantity) to everyone, whether they need it or not.

    I further think that this has side benefits.  For example there are certain perverse situations now where people discover if they’d earned two dollars less they’d be much much better off but instead they’re no longer poor enough to get help with respect to this or that and so in the long run they end up poorer than they would have if they’d made a bit less this year (but they’re poorer too late to qualify for help with whatever the problem was, which by then has (hopefully) passed.)  If the benefits never go away then you never have the perverse situation where earning more makes you financially fucked.  (In spite of what some would have you believe, in the USA this is currently a problem for the poor and lower middle class, not the rich.)

    For another example it takes away the (admittedly stupid) argument, “Hey, how come they get nice things?  I make more than them and I didn’t get any nice things from the government,” because everyone does get the same nice things.

    And so on.

    But all of this rests on the assumption that we can provide things like universal healthcare, a universal supplement to people’s food budget, a universal supplement to people’s housing and utilities budgets, and so on without reducing the payments we’re currently giving to people (which partially comes from the assumed savings made by not needing to work out who “deserves” help, but mostly comes from assuming that new revenue can be raised by fixing the tax code) if you take away that assumption then Dave is right, assistance should go to those who need it most.

    If there isn’t enough for an equal division of aid to leave everyone with with the necessities then the division needs to be unequal so that those who would lack the necessities without help will still get them.

    And thus different assumptions lead to different conclusions.  As naturally they would.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

     It may in fact be true for ducks. What evo-psych people overlook in their analysis, however, is a very subtle fact that they, being evo-psych and not ornithologists miss is: humans aren’t ducks, or indeed anything like ducks.

    I really wish I could find that really fantastic lampooning of evo-psych from a few years back. Unfortunately, the original no longer exists, and neither google cache nor the wayback machine still have it. But to give you an idea, the title was “Dear Jesse: I want to eat my stepchildren. Is this normal?” (My understanding is that it was written in direct response to an article in some otherwise reputable scientific journal that was essentially an evo-psych apologia for hebephilia)

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    All of which is fine with me; we have a low-income tax offset and have recently dramatically raised the tax-free threshold. Where I live $30k is still low income, so I’m completely fine with people earning $30k getting partial subsidy as a side-effect of getting greater subsidies to people on $15k. People on $75k, however, no.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

     I have absolutely no problem with the idea that certain aspects of human thinking have an evolutionary origin. That in and of itself is not a value judgment, and frankly it seems like it would be harder for it to be false than true.

    The issue I have with actual evo-psych is that I don’t think I’ve ever seen an evo-psych article that wasn’t written backwards. Every single one of them was very clearly written like this:

    1. Evolutionary psychologist does some antisocial behavior
    2. Someone calls out the evolutionary psychologist on their antisocial behavior
    3. Evo-Psychologist shouts “Oh yeah! I’ll show you!”
    4. Evo-Psychologist goes cherry-picking nature for something he can massage into being analogous to his bad behavioir
    5. Evo-Psychologist publishes a paper “explaining” how nature encourages, nay commands him to behave in this antisocial way
    6. The Huffington Post health section, being run by faith-healers, runs this as real science because “Why it’s perfectly natural for you to want to bone your girlfriend’s hot sister” is sure to increase their page impressions.

  • http://www.oliviareviews.com/ PepperjackCandy

    The other way that evo-psych “works” is not the rationalization of antisocial behavior, but the attempt to force others into a strict (usually, but not always, gender-essentialist) mold.

    For example, there is the ever-popular “girls like pink because as natural gatherers they need to know which fruit is ripe” malarky.

  • http://www.facebook.com/WingedWyrm Charles Scott

    Okay, here’s a question.

    Let’s get all the essentialist rhetoric out of evolutionary psychology.  Let’s take all the justifications out.  Let’s whittle evo-psych down to only the narrowest, most accurate aspect thereof…  What is the value of evo-psych under those circumstances?

    Is there any indication that evo-psych can be used to make predictions on behavior?

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

     I’d go with “Every single person gets a subsidy enough to live decently on, and the tax structure is such that we’re all working for ‘pin money’”

  • Gotchaye

    So then the question is – why do you favor higher marginal tax rates on people making $30k than on people making $75k?

    Right?  Ignoring for now efficiencies gained by having the government spend on things directly instead of handing people cash, any tax-and-transfer system based solely on income is equivalent to a lump sum handout plus a set of marginal tax rates.  Giving some benefit to low earners but not to high earners is effectively a higher marginal tax rate in the region over which the benefit is phased out.  This effect vanishes after the benefit is phased out.  If you phase out a $15k benefit linearly between $0k and $45k, there’s an extra disincentive to work in that range.  But after $45k, you keep all of your marginal dollars (due to this; obviously if there’s an income tax that’ll still hit you).

    Using my example, there’s an additional 33% marginal tax rate on all income up to $45k.  On every additional dollar you earn, you lose 33 cents in benefits.  If US federal income tax is the only other thing going on, then people making $30k see an effective marginal tax rate of 48% compared to people making $75k see an effective marginal tax rate of 25%.

    I don’t know whether or not there are supposed to be efficiency gains from the poor facing much higher marginal tax rates than the rich – maybe the poor are more likely to work anyway because they need the money more -  but on face it looks weird to me.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    There aren’t IMV.

    And for all the right-wing bloviating about high marginal tax rates killing the incentive to work – they sure as hell don’t bother trying to find their ass with their hands in their back pockets and a map ’cause if they did and could, they’d know that at times people on social assistance face ~70-100% equivalent marginal tax rates on their incomes as they transition to income levels above assistance limits.

    Talk about killing incentives to work! It isn’t being killed for the rich that’s for sure, even in the 1950s and 1960s – it’s being killed for the poor.

  • Turcano

    On a much smaller scale, we already do this; it’s called the Earned Income Tax Credit.

  • arcseconds

     I’ve been told (by a guide at a historic cottage, but I’ve seen other references to it.  Maybe on this very ‘blog!)  that pink was considered masculine back in Victorian times.  Blue was a girl’s colour, because it was quiet and retiring (or somesuch).

  • http://stealingcommas.blogspot.com/ chris the cynic

     Definitely on this very blog.  On a recent link roundup.  Give me a moment and I’ll find it.

  • Gotchaye

     We do, and the effective marginal tax rates it produces are quite significant.  It’s an extra 21% on top of whatever other marginal tax rate you’re paying between $16k and $40k, if you have 2 kids.

    Like I said, I’m open to an argument that there are good reasons to keep marginal tax rates lower at higher incomes, but if one’s goal is to make it /more/ possible for people to work part-time or for one partner in a couple to stay home, it strikes me as bizarre to make it so that two partners working 40 hours each make more than twice as much as one partner working 40 hours or both partners working 20 hours.

  • arcseconds

    Why would you expect it would? 

    Evolutionary biology doesn’t need to make specific predictions about current human physiology to be useful.   Most of what we know about human physiology wasn’t derived by evolutionary arguments, but by looking at human physiology directly, which seems like a much more efficient route to knowledge about it.  It’s enough for evolutionary biology to explain how it got to be the way it did.

    (that’s not to say it’s useless for making predictions, of course, making successful predictions, or at least deriving in a non ad-hoc manner things we already know,  is what you’d expect of a decent scientific theory.  But evolutionary biology doesn’t stand or fall on being able to make novel predictions that might wind up in medical textbooks.)

    Which is interesting — that analogy suggests that evolutionary psychology as it is today has got the whole thing backwards.   They’re trying to determine what is ‘inherent’ (itself a highly problematic concept… don’t get me started) by working out what must have evolved, but this is determining the (barely) known from the  unknown.     Really you’d expect the direction to be mostly working the other way around: going from known facts about human psychology (preferably things known to be robust in the face of cultural change) to an account of how they came to be like that.

  • http://stealingcommas.blogspot.com/ chris the cynic

     Yup, on this blog in a link roundup.

    ‘Who seeks kindness over control’ posted on the 13th of this month:

    “Pink being a more decided and stronger color is more suitable for the boy; while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl.”

    The link goes here, which cites it as, “A piece of advice from a 1918 children’s wear trade journal”.

  • arcseconds

     Wow, I’ve really tapped in to an underground reservoir of rage towards evolutionary psychology!

    Maybe Fred needs to bring it up once every 12 months or so — could be cathartic.

  • Trixie_Belden

     I saw an argument given by a philosopher of science who demolished an evolutionary psychology paper using cladistics once.

    That sounds fascinating – was it a paper presented somewhere?  It might be well over my head, but it sounds fascinating.  Please don’t go to any trouble, but if you happen, off the top of your head, to remember any info that might help me track it down I’d be very interested.  

  • Trixie_Belden

    I remember that!  You shared the link with us – it was awesome!  Too bad it’s not still floating around on the Internet somewhere.

  • AnonaMiss

    My favorite evopsych study was one in which they demonstrated [insert gender-essentialist thing here] by giving a group of ape children (I don’t remember the species – maybe chimpanzee?) human toys, and seeing which ones they played with. They grouped the toys into 3 categories: ‘masculine’ toys, ‘feminine’ toys, and ‘neutral’ toys, and wow! the boys played with the ‘masculine’ toys! the girls played with the ‘feminine’ toys! they played with the ‘gender-neutral’ toys at about the same rates!! Which gives you an idea of how bad their methodology was.

    For once the “study” wasn’t behind a paywall, and when I dug into it, it got better. You see, the pop science/pop psychology article I had originally found didn’t identify what toys were considered masculine or feminine or gender neutral. The “study” did.

    The ‘masculine’ toys were toy trucks, balls, and the like.

    The ‘gender neutral’ toys were dolls & stuffed animals – miniature approximations of the apes themselves.

    The ‘feminine’ toys? Were pots and pans.

    I shit you not, these asswipes were trying to justify their gender essentialism based on young female apes’ enjoyment of pots and pans. Because evolution! Clearly the female of the species is hard-wired, from many ancestor species back, to prefer tools that did not exist yet!

  • http://www.facebook.com/WingedWyrm Charles Scott

    Pots and pans?  Doesn’t pots and pans as feminine rely upon a cultural… at the very least comprehension of cooking?

    Were they approximating cooking or were the pots and pans used, much as I might expect many human girls to use them, as weapons?

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    That kind of study makes me wonder:

    1. Were the researchers unnecessarily human-classifying what the apes were doing, given that the apes would have had no prior experience with any of the things they were given?
    2. Was there any kind of unconscious or unstated biasing of the data, e.g. by researchers perhaps not realizing they were rewarding the gender-essentialist constructs they were using by perhaps making sounds of approval or the like?

    Really, sheesh!

    Every time some genius comes up with an “it’s instinctive and hard-wired!” to justify some completely absurd notion of human behavior it’s almost always someone using evo-psych quickie analysis to, as Ross noted, essentially argue from back to front.

    EDIT addendum:

    It’s the sheer fact that evo-psych is such discredited bullshit in the first place that makes me worry that comparative studies of mammals will be de-emphasized or disregarded even though the question of what human behaviors are, in fact, rooted in behaviors that are mirrored in other mammal populations is a valid one to ask.

    For example, the diverse range of sexual behaviors exhibited in some of the primates rather tends to militate against the notion that humans *must* adopt monogamy and only monogamy as the valid relationship-construct around which to, if desired, have children.

  • arcseconds

     I thought about it a bit more, and while it was a paper about evolutionary psychology, the bit where he used cladistics wasn’t actually evolutionary psychology.

    I’ve forgotten exactly what the evolutionary psychology argument was, but it was the usual kind of fare.   The philosopher, who’s name eludes me for the moment (names can be a struggle for me, but I think I might be able to get this one, he’s reasonably famous in his field…) ,  basically said “that reminds me of another sucky argument making the same kinds of mistakes!”

    He then produced the idea that heavy menses in primates was all about sexual promiscuity.   This seems a plausible argument why? Not because of any strong evidence, so presumably because of sexy-sex and ladyparts.

     It was that idea that he demolished with cladistics.     Basically the cladistics showed that whatever the reason for heavy menses, it has nothing to do with sexual promiscuity but rather being a large, African ape.

    So, you know, good idea to employ some actual scientific techniques from time to time. 

    (so given that it was a different argument, I now think its not too likely he did his own cladistics, but y’know,  his point was a pretty good one.  Anyone seen a evolutionary psychology paper using cladistics or any other evidence-based technique?)

  • AnonaMiss

    My personal theory is that they had originally intended the dolls to be the feminine toy, and the pots and pans to be the gender neutral toy; but, when the little boy apes played with the dolls as much as the little girl apes did, they decided that dolls were gender neutral after all.

    This was a long time ago in net-years – somewhere between fall of 2005 and spring of 2007 – so I don’t remember the details, I’m afraid.

  • Trixie_Belden

    Thanks – even without the name, you may have given me enough so that I can go  hunting, mess around and perhaps track the paper down.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    But you’ve still got an incentive to work because you probably don’t want to be on the floor.  Maybe you want more/better food than the payment from the government allows you to buy.  Maybe you want more toys.  Maybe you just like money for money’s sake.  Maybe you want satellite TV or whatever.  Or maybe, and this is in fact true of a lot of people, you just want to work for the sake of working.  Because it makes you feel useful.

    Unfortunately, I have known more than one person who either previously did or currently does get living assistance from the government, whilst also espousing the position that the government should not be in the nanny-state business of telling people what to do.  They seem to fail to understand that government benefits are optional things a person can fall back on which, yes, come with a few strings attached (you must look for work or you can only spend this dole on particular essentials, etc.)  My attempts to explain that this is part of a deal they agree to when they go on the benefits and that if they did not like the deal they should not have accepted the benefits tends to be rebuked by the argument “I have kids, it’s not like I had a choice!”  

    Also, several of them are Ron Paul cheerleaders, for some reason.  :

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    The main problem with evo-psych is people come up with the most amazingly stupid rationales for bad behavior (usually in males, in which case it’s dickbag behavior), by trying to cast a ‘scientific’ veneer of respectability over said actions.

    Just to give you a notion, there are people who use evo-psych to claim that rape is some kind of survival promoting reproductive mechanism

    Uh yeah

    I DO NOT COMPREHEND THIS.

    I have always been of the school of thought is that biological considerations like that may be used to explain behavior, but they should never be used to excuse behavior.  We are ultimately responsible for our own actions, regardless of what factors may have precipitated them.  
    Besides, trying to use that to justify such actions is a classic “appeal to nature” fallacy.  Nature and evolution are amoral concepts, with no intrinsic ethical value, and a person is a fool to ascribe such characteristics to them.

  • http://jamoche.dreamwidth.org/ Jamoche

    The “captive wolves used as models for wolf social dynamics”

    After one too many fantasy novels with werewolf pack dynamics based off the old captive wolf models, I really want someone to write the werewolf novel where the established werewolf packs have sensible dynamics; it’s only the artificially created packs of recently-turned werewolves that act like captive wolves.

  • arcseconds

     I think it may have been Paul Griffiths, although i’m not entirely sure on this point.  ‘From adaptive heuristic to phylogenetic perspective: some lessons from the evolutionary psychology of emotion’ looks like it could be promising, but paywall.

  • http://www.oliviareviews.com/ PepperjackCandy

    Most kids, both male and female, that I know use pots and pans as percussion instruments.  Not that I expect an ape to have any more of a concept of a musical instrument than they do of cooking, but I don’t think it would be too hard for anyone inquisitive who has hands to find out that pounding on the bottom of a pan makes an interesting sound.

    Or maybe I just know weird kids.  This is also a possibility.

  • http://stealingcommas.blogspot.com/ chris the cynic

    My attempts to explain that this is part of a deal they agree to when
    they go on the benefits and that if they did not like the deal they
    should not have accepted the benefits tends to be rebuked by the
    argument “I have kids, it’s not like I had a choice!”

    Try using that one on Ron, or worse, Rand Paul.  They’d be screwed over so fast.

    Plus the obvious response is, “Of course you had a choice.  Take the benefits or watch your kids probably (but not definitely) die at the hands of the free market.  Same choice everyone gets.  If you don’t want the market to correct your kids by getting rid of your kids, don’t vote for the person promising their death.  Your choice was the same as the choice of anyone else who ever took government assistance.  And your disrespect for contract law means that no actual libertarian will ever respect you in the least.”

    Or something like that.

  • AnonaMiss

     Oh, definitely; you can have a good time playing with just pots and pans.

    They also make OK suits of armor, and seafaring vessels for dinosaurs to cross the Great Kitchen Ocean. (Dramatic confrontation with plesiosaurs, killer whales, or giant squid optional but highly recommended.)

  • MaryKaye

    For chimpanzee behavior I’ve found the following two books useful (I keep thinking about writing chimp-based fiction but I chicken out; I really need to spend time observing the animals, and there aren’t any in Seattle).

    de Waal, _Chimpanzee Politics_ (captive chimps)

    Boesch et al., _The Chimpanzees of the Tai Forest_ (wild chimps)

    If one is going to look at a single group of animals for insights into humans, it would really seem best to look at chimps or bonobos:  not baboons, wolves, pigeons or ducks.  We are a lot more like chimps.  One could then look for specific correctives:  we pair-bond more than chimps, what are some other pair-bonding primates?  What is the general behavior of pair-bonding animals?

    My beef with much of the pop-science writing I’ve seen about this is that it does not flow from any detailed knowledge of the animals involved.  Worse, the parts that talk about humans don’t flow from any detailed knowledge of low-tech, small-society human behavior.  You cannot start from Fred Flintstone and expect to find out anything useful about humans.

    (Another fun book in this context:  _Stranger in the Forest: On Foot Across Borneo_ by Eric Hansen.)

  • veejayem

    A lot of text maybe, but some good points.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Patrick-McGraw/100001988854074 Patrick McGraw

     

    After one too many fantasy novels with werewolf pack dynamics based off
    the old captive wolf models, I really want someone to write the werewolf
    novel where the established werewolf packs have sensible dynamics; it’s
    only the artificially created packs of recently-turned werewolves that
    act like captive wolves.

    I actually came across an article on “bad urban fantasy writing” that tore into writers for not using the debunked captive wolf models on werewolves. Tagged as “do your research!”

  • http://stealingcommas.blogspot.com/ chris the cynic

    Well, werewolves don’t have to act like actual wolves whether they’re established or new.  In one story I was writing once upon a time there was an exchange like this:

    [Werewolf says something about howling at the moon.]
    Human: I thought wolves didn’t actually howl at the moon.
    Werewolf: They don’t.
    Human: Then why-
    Werewolf: Only werewolves howl at the moon.  Normal wolves don’t see the point.
    Human: Ok…
    Werewolf: I mean, we’ve tried to explain it to them… but at the end of the day some concepts just don’t cross speices lines well.
    Human: You can talk to wolves?
    Werewolf: For a given value of ‘talk’.  I prefer to describe it as communicate.  Fewer false assumptions that way.  Less baggage.
    [and so on.]

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    I’d go with “Every single person gets a subsidy enough to live decently on, and the tax structure is such that we’re all working for ‘pin money’”

    OK, well, Australia has 23 million people and a GDP of 1.5 trillion dollars. Estimates of “enough to live decently on” I’ve seen hover around $50,000 per person. So you’re looking at subsidising cost of living to the tune of $1.15 trillion, or more than 3/4 of GDP.

    Really? That’s really the best idea?

    (Australian dollars and purchasing power in these equations)

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

     “We can talk to wolves, yeah. But they’re still wolves. They mostly just say ‘hey!’ and ‘What’s up with that?’.”

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    I’m not sure what’s wrong with it as an idea. It costs 3/4 of your GDP to give everyone a decent standard of living whether it’s the government doing it or not, and I think that it’s pretty well established by now that if you let the free market try to do it, you end up with 3% of the people having a fantastic standard of living and half the people starving.

    I mean, if everyone’s gonna live decently, it costs what it costs. So the government takes 3/4 of the GDP and makes sure it gets used to get everyone living decently, and the free market can have the remainder for its invisible hand to spread around how it likes.

  • Consumer Unit 5012

     Isn’t the Australian minimum wage around 15$ an hour?

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Why not? In theory, GDP per capita means distributing the dollar value of the final output of all a nation’s production into the hands of everyone who lives within it.

  • Gotchaye

     There’s got to be at least some danger of that causing a big reduction in real GDP, though.  The long-term effects are uncertain, but in the first year after implementation productivity isn’t going to skyrocket and lots of people are going to do much less work.  $50k Australian is 75% of the median household income, and the average household has more than 1 person in it.  That kind of guaranteed income seems likely to me to cause a big drop in real GDP initially and substantial inflation later as prices and wages adjust.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Most Guaranteed Annual Income proposals usually propose a smaller income, like around $20k a year as the base, which isn’t as bad and can be clawed back in taxes from anyone who’s quite wealthy.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Which will affect these people how?

    What about if the guaranteed income is pinned to the local consumer price index such that it’s not possible for the guaranteed income to drop much below a living wage or stay below it for more than a few months?

  • EllieMurasaki

    $20K sounds like an appropriate number for a US-centric proposal. Not enough to be a living wage, only works out to ten dollars an hour at fifty forty-hour weeks, but most of one.

  • Gotchaye

    The worry then would be a wage price spiral.

    The big issue is that, until robots, we need a certain number of people doing things like teaching and policing and driving buses and stocking grocery shelves and all that.  Ultimately that’s the real stuff that we want to pay for.  The ability for everyone to “live decently”  requires some minimum amount of stuff that can be distributed to everyone.  But lots of people would walk off the job tomorrow if they were promised a check for 75% of median household income every year in perpetuity.  Working 40 hours a week for an extra $40k each year really just isn’t going to be worth it, and most people make less than that.

    If the policy impacts the income demands of very large numbers of people – and at this level it almost certainly would significantly impact the income demanded by the median earner – then in the short term a lot less stuff gets done.  This drives prices up.  Employers raise wages, which they can easily afford because prices have gone up, in order to attract people who now have much more appealing options other than work.  If after all this you ratchet up the nominal value of the minimum income again, it’s going to repeat.

    For the record, I’d really like to try a $20k minimum income in the US.  $40k is starting to get pretty scary, and at the very least I’d like to ease up to that.

  • EllieMurasaki

    So what’s your proposal for ensuring that everyone has enough to live on?


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