Mincome & Mass Unemployment

Mincome & Mass Unemployment

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I recently described my employment status as ‘Self-unemployed’.

I am not retired and I don’t earn a living. I am just pursuing what I love to do, while I have the resources to do it. Because of the freedom I have, I am able to focus my entire time on making a difference. I am happier and healthier than ever before, and my contribution is at an all time high. If I never needed to earn money again, I would be a far greater servant to humanity. And I see what I am doing now as something of an experiment and a preparation of the future.

You see, we are entering a phase of technological development that will make the Industrial Revolution look like child’s play. Rapidly emerging technologies like robotics, artificial intelligence, 3D printing and automation will do more and more of the things we used to get paid for. The downside is the destruction of both blue collar and even white collar jobs at an ever-accelerating rate, so our economies will increasingly shed jobs.

It will be interesting to see whether or not job creation occurs at the same rate. An argument gaining more traction is that it won’t. That means we are potentially entering a new era of technology-driven mass unemployment.

On the positive side, the costs of all our basic needs will fall through the floor. Food, energy, clothing, housing, healthcare, education, and transport are all on the cusp of revolutions that will make them extremely affordable to everyone. We are entering the era of a technology-fueled abundance.

To me, the challenge for society in the future is how to provide people with enough resources for all basic needs so that each and every one of us can pursue the life we want.

To achieve that, we need a new approach. As societies, we have to start thinking more about how we facilitate life, not about how we create jobs.

Technically, a small number of people can work to provide for a very large number of people in the future. Those super-wealthy organisations and owners of organisations will need to redistribute wealth to those at the bottom of the wealth scale to prevent them becoming restless revolutionaries.

And we are starting to see it happening. Companies like Facebook and Google are working to provide for the basic need of a free internet connection for everyone on the planet. Even Coca-Cola is starting to understand that they have the power and distribution to bring clean drinking water to the entire planet, with their recent partnership with the inventor Dean Kamen. This type of behaviour will become more and more prevalent,  giving us all ever-increasing financial freedoms. But this will still not be enough to cope with emerging unemployment problem.

And this is where a little-known societal experiment called Mincome comes in. The Mincome experiment took place in the 1970s, in a Canadian town called Dauphin. For 5 years it was a town without poverty, since all its citizens were provided with a basic guaranteed income.

One of the interesting things about the experiment is that there was very little change in employment levels. Only people like new mothers chose not to work, to spend time with their babies. Every other form of employment actually stayed pretty much the same. What did change in the employment market is that people had the freedom to choose the work they wanted to do, rather than had to do – which had some interesting knock-on benefits for the health and wellbeing of the community.

Mincome caused some significantly positive changes in healthcare outcomes, including fewer incidents of work-related injuries, and fewer emergency room visits through car accidents and domestic abuse. Additionally, the period saw a reduction in rates of psychiatric hospitalization, and mental illness-related consultations with health professionals.

This ubiquitous safety net provided an entire community the opportunity to thrive, rather than just survive. As this experimental data is beginning to resurface, it won’t be too long before there is a fundamentally conclusive challenge to the way we currently redistribute wealth. In Switzerland, there is a community-led movement to have a referendum to bring in a basic guaranteed income, which will be interesting if it comes to fruition.

I  am also looking forward to seeing the first really entrepreneurial community in the world building a virtual currency that delivers a minimum income for its members without the need for government support. The first project that does this is bound to attract a lot of libertarian-based financial support: there for the taking by the first community that can put it together.

Experiments like this will shatter the illusion of what our welfare systems are all about.

Fewer and fewer people will control exponentially-increasing amounts of wealth. Those few people need to find ways to radically redistribute that wealth to others by either providing low-cost basics and/or a guaranteed income for everyone.

And that time can’t come too soon, because we are in danger of creating inequality on a scale never seen before. (If you are interested in learning more about the harmful impact of inequality on society, watch this TED talk from Richard Wilksinson).

The healthiest and happiest societies are the fairest – not the wealthiest – and we need to rapidly develop approaches to make society fairer whilst employment is becoming a relic of the past.

The old promise of productivity-driven liberation from the need to work may finally be coming true. And there lies the opportunity of mass unemployment for humanity. Once we start to shift our focus from providing an economy to providing for all our needs, then we will free people up to be the best they can be. We will free people up to solve problems in ways that they currently can’t. We will redefine the nature of work, and as a result, we will free those world-changers who can and will spend their lives making a better place for all of us to live.

Personally, I am looking forward to seeing how we handle a society of very high unemployment; where the self-unemployed can make a far greater contribution to humanity than they would if they had to work for a living. That, to me, will be a very interesting world indeed.

Do you believe that technology will drive unemployment?

Do you believe in a future of abundance?

Do you believe that a guaranteed minimum income is a solution for a fairer healthier society?

I would love to know your thoughts on this post. Please share your insights in the comments section below.

Marc

 

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  1. I think the biggest obstacle is having people become less selfish and understand that if we nurture certain communities or environments eventually it will pay out and spread out.

    I have to agree on all the points with collaboration and community we can overcome many obstacles. Great Write up Marc.

  2. How technology developments can bring Abundance is truly exciting. It is exciting to see wealth generation in technology falling on the younger energetic, hungry generation who are willing to disperse their capital (physical, mental and financial) for the greater good under their unrestricted vision .

    The move by Coca Cola to look at clean drinking water, absent form marketing and PR agents to promote the brand is again an exciting development.

    In my mind we are witnessing an evolution of capitalism and free markets. (The system isn’t broken) How long until Google/Amazon can deliver farming equipment, spare parts via drones to remote places in the most impoverished regions. Allowing economic development, improvements in health and education unrestricted by the lack of asphalt and geography?

  3. Hi Marc – interesting post as always. The concept of relying on the few who manage to accumulate wealth in this scenario – to then distribute it in a workable way is a challenge worth considering. If you haven’t seen it already this is an interesting article looking at how the Founding Fathers approached this at a time of extreme inequality in Europe http://www.rsablogs.org.uk/2014/adam-lent/forgotten-insight-american-revolution-transform-21st-century/#more-22285. Food for thought on how to create small power …

  4. Hi Marc – excellent post. I agree with a lot of what you’ve written here; however, I’d be wary of accepting the thesis that inequality causes all sorts of bad outcomes in society based on the Ted talk by Richard Wilkinson. The Ted talk (as well as his book “The Spirit Level: Why Equality is Better for Everyone”) is an excellent example of the misuse of statistics by a researcher who had already made up his mind about what he wanted to prove and then selectively used data to support his thesis.

    Nothing in his book or the Ted talk proves a causal relationship between inequality and those harmful outcomes he talks about. Instead, all that he presents are simple correlations. And correlations of course don’t prove causality. For a more detailed critique of Richard Wilkinson and his work, please see https://ipa.org.au/publications/1824/does-more-equal-really-mean-all-better-

  5. Interesting. Is it not the case already that small numbers of people have a huge influence while the majority are relatively inconsequential in an ant-like way? I am rather of the view that technology will force the recreation of a local focus and return to ore-industrial patterns if behaviour, and therefore lead most people to a more locally focussed existance.

  6. Looks like I had better get my backside in gear and create a cryptocurrency for Guernsey. I reckon 2 years is a good moon mission timescale to get this done by time I turn 50.

  7. A response from a libertarian ( http://www.reddit.com/r/Anarcho_Capitalism/comments/2fhs7x/looking_forward_to_seeing_the_first_really/ck9c7xh ):

    “Minimum income is maximum stupid.
    TANSTAAFL.
    If you want to be part of a society that provides a mincome to its members, you’re free to do so at your own expense. But you are not free to force me, or others, to participate in such a scheme.
    I expect many cities in a free society will indeed offer unemployment protections… in the form of insurance or similar mutual-aid guarantees. But again, this is achieved on a voluntary basis.
    Always the socialists assume that production is some solved problem and the real issue is with distribution.
    Nay. Wealth production IS wealth distribution, ala Say’s law.
    Want a minimum income? Do a minimum amount of work.
    You know how the free market would provide a minimum voluntarist income? Someone with simply enough money invested creating a return for them will have a minimum income.
    I think we all need to set aside investment money for future generations. Right now only the rich have trust-fund babies, but in the future I expect this trend to filter down to the middle-class and poor.
    Only problem is that you need to earn more than you spend to save money, and that money currently is being filtered out of the water and into the slimy gills of government.
    I am also looking forward to seeing the first really entrepreneurial community in the world building a virtual currency that delivers a minimum income for its members without the need for government support. The first project that does this is bound to attract a lot of libertarian-based financial support: there for the taking by the first community that can put it together.
    That makes zero sense and betrays a complete lack of understanding both of what bitcoin is, accomplishes, and why it has a non-zero value in the first place.
    Money doesn’t create value, it only transfers it. You cannot create a cryptocurrency that delivers minimum income. This is the sort of wishy-washy thinking of a dreamer out of touch with the reality he’s playing in. On what possible grounds would a libertarian want to financially support a random alt-coin, much less one designed to support people who don’t work for their money!
    Experiments like this will shatter the illusion of what our welfare systems are all about.
    You wish.
    And that time can’t come too soon, because we are in danger of creating inequality on a scale never seen before.
    Force is the problem, not inequality. People have always been and will always be inequal. And people always have and will always produce in unequal measure.
    The healthiest and happiest societies are the fairest – not the wealthiest
    Tell that to the North Koreans.
    The old promise of productivity-driven liberation from the need to work may finally be coming true.
    If and when it comes true it will be via the free-market processes I outlined above, of increasing personal investment, not government mandated social schemes like a mincome.
    Once we start to shift our focus from providing an economy to providing for all our needs
    It’s moronic statements like this that betray the author’s almost complete lack of economic intellectual development. These are the words of someone who has a Dunning-Kruger Effect level of economic knowledge.”

  8. I think that the future CAN be one of abundance, but that outcome is still very much in the balance. I see lots of positive things going on in the world that give me some hope for that, but at the same time, a lot of negative. If we don’t come up with a solution for climate-change, for instance, there will be no abundance. Driving that, is the false belief that things will be okay just BECAUSE of technology, that it will solve all of our problems for us. Technology has always created some unemployment, though that usually balances out over time. The problem with that now, is that the rate of new discoveries outpaces the balancing effect, I think. It is not technology that will save us, though it can help; it will only be a change in mind-set, something I think you talk about on your site–though I’m a newcomer and haven’t had time to read everything you’ve written. Another problem is the idea that we can continue filling the planet with humans, indefinitely; we cannot. We have finite resources, on a finite planet. The only thing that is infinite is the capacity of the human mind to think outside of the box. But our resources are very much ‘in’ the box: the planet. We have to figure out how to live sustainably on the resources we have, while finding ways to reduce our numbers, in a humane way of course. We have to ‘choose’ to slow down the expansion of our species. Otherwise we will eat ourselves out of existence.

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