Monday 2016-10-31

No More Work by James Livingston

Like Marx extrapolated declining interest rates to continue to fall to 0 -- meaning capital would be free and thereby making labor the constraint -- Livingston extrapolates the declining ratio of human labor / capital per good produced to fall to zero -- thereby making humans completely redundant.

While that ratio may go to zero, it may also go asymptotic as the number of machines continues its growth.

Regardless, Livingston can't see how anyone could earn a living doing what he does, so the only thing to do is give everyone a basic income. He doesn't consider his alternative of finding another job, or society's alternative of just jailing the unworkable -- previously critiqued in JobsWorthDoing -- or any other possibility.

As seen in the quotes below, all of Livingston's intellectual arguments seem broken, however since he's offering people free money, there will be at least some popular support for universal basic income (UBI).

Perhaps we'll see stronger economic growth and this question will be punted away. However, we will likely have to deal with it at some point. And then maybe we'll see a grand bargain where an opt-in UBI for citizens replaces Welfare, Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security.

The big political opportunity will be when UBI fails.


We raise the arbitrary lid on the Social Security contribution, which now stands at $113,700, and we raise taxes on corporate income, reversing the Reagan Revolution. These two steps solve a fake fiscal problem and create an economic surplus where we now can measure a moral deficit. Of course you will say, along with every economist from Dean Baker to Greg Mankiw, Left to Right, that raising taxes on corporate income is a disincentive to investment and thus job creation. Or that it will drive corporations overseas, where taxes are lower. But in fact raising taxes on corporate income cant have these effects. Lets work backward. Corporations have been multinational for quite some
On April 17, 1970, the House of Representatives voted 243 to 155 for legislation that would install a guaranteed annual income for all American citizens in need. In so many words, a substantial majority of Congress said, Fuck work! Well, almost. These congressmen werent utopians fresh from the commune or the campus, nor bumpkins just off the turnip truck. They were serious citizens with good reasons for their votes. They could read the recommendations of three weighty presidential commissions on dealing with the question of unemployment. And they had empirical grounds for supporting Richard Nixons agenda for welfare reform, what he called his Family Assistance Program (FAP).
The progressive advocates of full employment, for example, from Dean Baker and Jared Bernstein to Thomas Edsall and Mike Konczal, frame their proposals as alternatives to working- class dependence on the dolein other words, as a way of balancing the budget, heading off the growth of entitlements, and quieting popular (not just Republican) fears of a nanny state. If people have jobs, the argument goes, theyre not on welfare, so theyre not just absorbing tax dollars taken from hardworking citizens. Instead, theyre in a stronger position to bargain for better wages and working conditions on their own account.
What if a normal rate of growth produces no new jobs?
What if a normal rate of growth produces no new jobs? What then? Its not a rhetorical question. The recession has been officially over for six years, as corporate profits and stock market prices have soared, but employment has never recoveredtheres been no net gain in jobs. Where do the jobs come from hereafter? If
The contemporary advocates of workers cooperatives and trade unions are no less Protestant (or Hegelian, or Marxist) in their insistence that work is the essence of human natureand so must be protected against the degradation of wage labor, on the one hand, or protected by contractual agreements (collective bargaining), on the other.
How can we provide incomes for: (1) People who work hard but dont produce value that has a marketable numerator, by which I mean a return on their investment of labor time, among them [a] fast-food workers, journalists, academics, filmmakers, and musicians, but also [b] people whose labor time has been historically undervalued or redlined due to race or gender. (2) People who dont work because they cant, for example elderly men and women, who constitute a growing proportion of every developed nations population. (3) People who dont workthey dont produce value the labor market might recognizebecause theyve got better things to do?
Either we detach income from work, or we kill ourselves, figuratively and literally. Either we guarantee everyone an income, regardless of their productivity, or we declare ourselves brain-dead.
The creators and purveyors of informationjournalists, educators, musicians, filmmakers, geeks in generalarent working any fewer hours than they used to. In fact, were all working harder. And were actually more productive than ever. Theres more information, more music, more movies, more images than ever, and we ourselves produce it, but without any rational expectation of remuneration. We know that what we do is worthless as measured by the standards of the labor market, but we do it anyway. How? When and why did making a living become impossible?
The end of capitalism as we knew it is already upon us. The people who benefit from the way we organize production and distribution has shrunk to a tiny, cossetted minority, the 1 percent as we now say. We dont need them, and they know it. That is why their courtiers and hirelings now seek to protect their privileges by any legislative means possible, from voter ID laws to fast-track trade treaties. Or put it this way. The historic function of capitalistsand, more generally, class societywas to reorganize and compel social labor, to force men and women to be more productive than they would be, or could be, under the social relations specific to earlier modes of production, slavery or feudalism. The slaughter bench of primitive accumulation, enclosure, and industrialization is the proof of that compulsion. By now, however, this compulsion is simply unnecessary. Our prosthetic doubles, the machines that can reproduce themselves, have made possibility rather than necessity the central fact of our lives.
N. Gregory Mankiw, the remarkably naive Harvard economist who has advised George W. Bush and Mitt Romney, among others, precisely expressed that principle in a paper called Defending the One Percentwho could make that up?which recently appeared in the peer-reviewed Journal of Economic Perspectives: According to this view [his view], people should receive compensation congruent with their contribution.3 Well, OK. But what, exactly, are the gangsters on Wall Street contributing, and now that I mention it, to what are they contributing? Also, how is their compensation congruent with their contribution? Arent they the people who brought us financial disaster in 2008, destroying trillions of household savings in the process? We should reward them for their idiocy?
I ask him if he thinks journalism is over now that information is free. No, he says emphatically, some information is unique, and by that I mean its uniquely valuable. But to whom, I ask. Nobodys paying you to teach those fast-food workers how to tell their stories. If our labor time has become worthlessit cant be monetized, in the parlance of our timethen how do we explain or justify working for a living?
Wall Street bankers dont do much of anything except peddle bad paper, but they get paid millions of dollars. Teachers, professors, novelists, journalists, carpenters, musicians, and janitors do everything we say we valuethey educate, entertain, they build things, and they clean up after usbut they get paid almost nothing.