Guess who’s back with a brand new rap? Thankfully not me. I spread good ideas far, I don’t spit bar-s.
Anyway, this week I have a Universal Basic Income-themed Patterson Post for you all to read and hopefully enjoy.
Tell me what you think in the comments/replies!
Read time – 6 minutes
Rutger Bregman’s Utopia For Realists – The Case For a Universal Basic Income
This week I finished Rutger Bregman’s book “Utopia for Realists”. He’s a Dutch historian, left-leaning and genuinely progressive. He has some pretty out-there ideas, but backs them up with evidence-based arguments and data. Bregman makes a great point that the left knows what it’s against (racism, homophobia etc.), but hasn’t got a clear idea of what it stands for.
However, in this book, Bregman gives us something to work towards.
What is Universal Basic Income (or UBI)?
Fox News’ worst nightmare, UBI has gained popularity as an idea over the past 5 years, with Bregman helping to lead the charge. The policy is simple – give people free money. It sounds unrealistic, but it actually makes sense.
Governments are excellent at theorising over what makes people poor. Think-tanks, countless studies and billions of pounds have gone into trying to solve the problem of poverty. Bregman’s solution? Just give them cash.
It might shock a Tory minister to hear, but poor people are just people, and given the chance, want to improve themselves. However, “it’s impossible for people to pull themselves up by their boot-straps if they don’t have any boots”. Instead of coming up with layers of bureaucracy, like we do in the UK, many studies show that just giving poor people money is the best way to help them out of poverty.
But they’ll just spend it on drugs and alcohol!
No, they won’t. Bernard Omondi, a young man from Western Kenya, was given $500 along with the rest of his village in a UBI study. Fast-forward several months, and what do you find? A village of alcoholic drug addicts? Of course not. “Homes had been repaired and small businesses started. Bernard invested his money in a brand-new Bajaj Boxer motorcycle from India and was making $6-9 a day ferrying people around as a taxi driver. His income had more than tripled.”
Bregman provides many, many more examples of government and NGO schemes which show that when you give poor people money, they stop being poor.
I’ve put together a long-form blog post here sharing some other ideas from the book and how we might afford UBI.
In this video, our good friend Rutger outlines why sanitary workers should be paid more than bankers, and cites two fascinating examples of when each of the groups went on strike and what happened.
It’s only 3 minutes long, and brilliantly outlines how ridiculous it is that bankers are paid so much and bin men so little.
Definitely worth your time.
David Graeber was a well-respected Anthropologist who sadly died last year.
In this phenomenal article, which he later turned into a book, Graeber highlights a dark new feature of our society – bullshit jobs.
A bullshit job is one that if it disappeared, no one would really notice. Jobs such as telemarketers, corporate lawyers or administrators are considered bullshit.
Whereas without nurses, bus drivers or bin men (and women), society would grind to a halt.
Graeber’s article is less than a 10-minute read, and asks some important questions about what kind of work we value in today’s society.
Three Interesting News Articles From This Week
Here are three interesting news headlines from stuff happening in the world this week.
- A Global Failure – Why the World’s Poorest Countries are Missing Out on the COVID-19 Vaccine
My good friend Rose Heffernan has struck again with an insightful and important article about how the world’s poorest nations are being left behind in the fight against COVID. She’s such a good writer and knows her shit. Check it out.
- Ten years in jail for holidaymakers who lie about going to Portugal
With a slight 1984 vibe, Matt Hancock this week announced anyone who didn’t quarantine properly after visiting a red listed country faced 10 years in prison and a £10,000 fine. As a supreme court judge pointed out, this is a harsher sentence than for some sex offences.
But the government has doubled down on its punishment, threatening the population with a decade in jail.
What’s the jail sentence for ignoring experts, pretending everything is fine, and causing over 100,000 deaths? Matt is yet to reply to my email.
- Tesla buys $1.5bn in bitcoin, pushing price to new high
Elon Musk’s company, Tesla, has invested $1.5 billion dollars in the cryptocurrency bitcoin. It seems self-evident that we will eventually move to digital cash.
Money is just a story we tell each other, and its value is based on trust. The more trust mainstream businesses like Tesla put in bitcoin, the more valuable it becomes.
I continually fail to grasp how cryptocurrencies work. But, I do know that they’re decentralised, therefore owned by no one, and offer an alternative to central banks and government-controlled money. Power to the people, which I’m all for.
I’ve probably listened to more hours of the JRE than any other podcast. As the most downloaded show of all-time, I’m not the only one who loves a bit of Rogan.
The conversation he had with Andrew Yang last year is worth tuning in to. Yang ran for the 2020 Democratic Presidential nomination, doing quite well, but obviously didn’t win. At the moment, he’s looking to become the next mayor of New York City.
He’s most famous for his support of UBI, which he explains in-depth on the podcast. If you don’t have time to listen to the whole thing, here’s a Youtube video of him describing why he believes in the idea.
I’m firmly in the #YangGang. He seems like a good dude, and could end up as the President of the US in years to come.
Who knows, maybe he’ll be the first president to introduce UBI?
This week, Elon Musk appeared on the JRE. This is the third time he’s been on. With the first two being excellent, I went in with high hopes, and so far haven’t been disappointed.
They talked about space travel, colonising Mars, Tesla, climate change and much more.
Elon is an absolute savage. You can’t help but marvel at what he’s managed to achieve, and what he aims to do in the future.
Definitely worth a listen.
“The great milestones of civilization always have the whiff of utopia about them at first. According to renowned sociologist Albert Hirschman, utopias are initially attacked on three grounds: futility (it’s not possible), danger (the risks are too great), and perversity (it will degenerate into dystopia). But Hirschman also wrote that almost as soon as a utopia becomes a reality, it often comes to be seen as utterly commonplace. Not so very long ago, democracy still seemed a glorious utopia. Many a great mind, from the philosopher Plato (427–347 B.C.) to the statesman Edmund Burke (1729–97), warned that democracy was futile (the masses were too foolish to handle it), dangerous (majority rule would be akin to playing with fire), and perverse (the “general interest” would soon be corrupted by the interests of some crafty general or other). Compare this with the arguments against basic income. It’s supposedly futile because we can’t pay for it, dangerous because people would quit working, and perverse because ultimately a minority would end up having to toil harder to support the majority.” – Rutger Bregman ion Utopia for Realists
What do you believe will one day become commonplace, but today seems utopian?
Thank you all so much for reading my writing.
What do we think? Is UBI a realistic idea? Or is it utopian, destined for history’s dustbin?
I’m really interested to hear everyone’s thoughts, so please get in touch and let’s start a conversation.