Universal Basic Income

  • I'm writing and thinking on Epicurean economics and am curious to know; Do people here have any opinions on universal basic income?

    "Please always remember my doctrines!" - Epicurus' last words

  • Random thoughts:


    1 - The documentable relevant references to the Epicurean texts would probably include the reference to sharing beans when Athens was under seige (? not sure I remember the context?) and the reference to Epicurus advising against holding money in common, as that is not the way friends operate (because not indicative of trust?)


    2 - I am not sure there is any verifiable reference to a particular form of government or taxation being the best or worst or acceptable or unacceptable, except for references to how to treat kings. To me this doesn't mean that Epicurus didn't take a position on that subject as much as it probably means that he would say that any number of forms of government / society / taxation / redistribution can be acceptable depending on circumstances if it works for the people involved, citing PD10 and the last ten on justice. (With of course the premise being that there aren't categories of "good" or "evil" ways, standing alone, to organize things.)


    3- There might be an analogy to Greek thought on democracy here, along the lines that the closer and more homogeneous the society the easier it probably is to have a democracy (or a basic income) while the more divergent the society is in the way it sees things and wants to live, the harder it's going to be to have democracy (or a redistribution of wealth involved in a basic income). I gather that discussions like that exist in Aristotle and maybe Plato, who I hate to cite, but it might well be true that where Epicurus deviated strongly from the others his deviation is more likely to have survived to us, but where he generally agreed with the consensus, Laertius and others didn't bother so frequently to record that he agreed.


    4 - Is what is involved here the relationship among friends, or the relationships referenced in PD39-40? I would think it would be necessary to address the type of society involved before it could be determined how much redistribution would be acceptable to the people involved.

  • It is clear that this was not discussed in antiquity, and that ancient sources point to not one definite answer but many possible ways of thinking about this, based on specific conditions.


    I'm strongly inclined to consider this in terms of American society today, and/or perhaps European societies today, only for practical reasons and reasons of familiarity.


    The only way that this consideration would apply only to our friends is if we had a small Epicurean Community Bank (or a wealthy benefactor willing to experiment), but this is not the case.


    So I think this needs to be considered in terms of the MUTUAL ADVANTAGE for all citizens today in these societies, because that is the guideline we are given in the sources, so we are left to consider and calculate the factors & variables ourselves based on that criterion.

    "Please always remember my doctrines!" - Epicurus' last words

  • I'm strongly inclined to consider this in terms of American society today, and/or perhaps European societies today, only for practical reasons and reasons of familiarity.

    Yes I think the only way to consider this kind of question (or any question?) is within a specific context, whether it's the USA today or any country in Europe or any other specific context, so you have facts with which you can discuss practicalities. I think I've read comments to the effect that some people assert that tightly-knit societies like perhaps Sweden are thought to have the best chance of making something like this work. Maybe I've seen Ilkka comment similarly as to Finland.


    So I think this needs to be considered in terms of the MUTUAL ADVANTAGE for all citizens today in these societies, because that is the guideline we are given in the sources, so we are left to consider and calculate the factors & variables ourselves based on that criterion.

    Agreed - that makes sense to me. The last ten PDs would have an important role in the analysis and that is what they seem to reference. No doubt there are many issues as to who is considered to be in the society, and whether "the society" is taken to be the equivalent of the people involved, but you've got to start somewhere for any analysis to take place.

  • Germany's welfare system is close to it except that people need to apply for their handouts and cannot reject every job offer without risking cuts in their handouts. Statistics, old studies on long-term unemployment and my observations match in the conclusion that a large percentage of people get stuck in it with a fatalistic attitude and a false sense of entitlement.

    Specific support for mothers/fathers, students and other target groups is fine but I would rather vote against universal basic income. Moreover, it is unlikely that a sizeable universal basic income can be sustained in the long run.

  • Martin what is the situation in Thailand? Is there a welfare system there that is comparable? I think my current view is that if you have a society that is tight-knit enough to be concerned about each other enough, then the balance will be that universal basic income is probably more workable, almost like an extended family. But the more "diverse" the society, the less the members of that society really care about each other, and the less you'll be able to convince them to redistribute income. In Epicurean terms, the more the members of the society are actual Friends, the more you can do in terms of sharing without it seeming oppressive, but the less the members are actual friends, the less you can do without seeming oppressive (to those from whom you are taking money, that is).


    (All of which leads me toward the view that UBI systems are probably desirable, just as very close-knit societies are desirable, but that the reality of the makeup of the society and how close "friends" they really are is the limiting issue.)

  • The welfare system in Thailand is rudimentary. Old people can get enough to buy food but not to pay rent. There is cheap, basic health service for the poor and that is about it. People can supplement with insurance for reasonable fees but would need income for that. Regular employees of regular companies can get better health care and contributions to retirement funds. Only government officers get a pension and free, decent health care after retirement. So anyone below retirement age needs to find work just for survival. Relying on wealthier family members may sometimes work but usually, the family will exert quite some pressure on free-loaders to work. The disabled get support from there families and can beg for sufficient donations from passersby because this is a culture where people like to donate to make merit. The steep income differences and the latent social conflict suppressed by the last 2 military coups indicate that Thailand is not a close-knit society beyond local communities.

  • One more important item: Traditionally, old poor Thais can rely on support from their children.

  • "indicate that Thailand is not a close-knit society beyond local communities." << Is this based on religious or other background differences, or just sort of a "Thailand personality." I see discussion on the internet of the term "high trust" and "low trust" societies, in which homogeneous peoples with very similar backgrounds are considered "high trust" and presumably more open to taking care of each other. I would have thought that Thailand had a fairly homogeneous population, but it sounds like your observation is that they are not particularly close-knit or inclined to take care of each other "beyond local communities."


    I would think that "beyond local communities" it would be hard to generate sustained enthusiasm for major income-redistribution plans (other than by force).

  • I guess it comes from remnants of the medieval territories controlled by local warlords, from Buddhism itself, which accepts large income disparities, and from a shift in actually practiced philosophy from Buddhism, which is still upheld by rituals and protected by the Constitution and other laws, to Confucianism, which puts emphasis on accumulating wealth and the primary allegiance to the family/clan.

  • It is clear that this was not discussed in antiquity, and that ancient sources point to not one definite answer but many possible ways of thinking about this, based on specific conditions.


    I'm strongly inclined to consider this in terms of American society today, and/or perhaps European societies today, only for practical reasons and reasons of familiarity.


    So I think this needs to be considered in terms of the MUTUAL ADVANTAGE for all citizens today in these societies, because that is the guideline we are given in the sources, so we are left to consider and calculate the factors & variables ourselves based on that criterion.

    I would recommend that same mentality applied to today; not one definite answer but many possible avenues we should investigate. I think we can experiment with the idea, as we've done in Canada, specifically in Ontario, we're waiting on the results but perhaps the new government has decided against it, prematurely.

    Germany's welfare system is close to it except that people need to apply for their handouts and cannot reject every job offer without risking cuts in their handouts. Statistics, old studies on long-term unemployment and my observations match in the conclusion that a large percentage of people get stuck in it with a fatalistic attitude and a false sense of entitlement.

    Specific support for mothers/fathers, students and other target groups is fine but I would rather vote against universal basic income. Moreover, it is unlikely that a sizeable universal basic income can be sustained in the long run.

    Martin, what happened with the GDR government workers after the fall of the wall? Is it true that many were difficult to retrain and that the skills they had in GDR were not easy to integrate? Did many people on social welfare programs tragically become alcoholics which only further confounded the problem for themselves and society at large? In Canada, alcohol is very expensive and probably for good reason. I don't think with public funding/support that people should be able to purchase alcohol/cigarettes because it seems to me to be counter-productive. Is alcoholism a big problem in Germany?

    Random thoughts:


    1 - The documentable relevant references to the Epicurean texts would probably include the reference to sharing beans when Athens was under seige (? not sure I remember the context?) and the reference to Epicurus advising against holding money in common, as that is not the way friends operate (because not indicative of trust?)

    I think you got the idea Cassius, from my understanding I don't think Epicureans should compromise their trust/confidence of friendships by having a common fund and should instead be able to just be confident that a friend will help when required.


    It seems to me to foster a most unhealthy relationship, to have to be an accountant for every possession someone has for a friendship to be valid.

    Joy to the World!

  • Oscar:

    Industrial productivity in the GDR was about 30% of the old BRD, and demand in its traditional markets in Eastern Europe collapsed around 1990. So, the reunification wiped out most of East Germany's industry within a year. There were certainly many cases as you described. But after some initial difficulties, the majority of East Germans managed to cope well with the transition to the moderate form of capitalism then prevalent in Germany. Education in East Germany was mostly not inferior, and the percentage of women working full-time jobs had been way higher under socialism. This certainly helped in the transition. Except for the then middle aged, the percentage of those who got stuck permantly in state welfare was probably not higher than in the West, and the percentage of those for whom alcoholism made things worse also not. On a sarcastic note in comparison, West Germany started off on its own so badly into the reunification that those East Germans who could not cope in the long run did not make the statistics worse.


    Alcoholism is often described as a major problem in Germany but I may be biased because my father was an alcoholic and dragged my mother into it, too. However, the vast majority of Germans (including about everybody in my extended family except for my late parents) knew/knows how to handle the vast choice of moderately priced alcoholic drinks. So, despite my bad personal experience and what medical doctors in official functions and other sissies say, I prefer that we can choose what to drink without being limited by excessively inflated prices. Alcohol is a part of culture in all German regions I kow, and excluding welfare recipients would be discriminative. In Cologne, we even have a popular song expressing the generosity to invite a man without money to a beer in the pub.

  • Martin there is a stereotype in the USA that alcoholism is a terrible problem in Russia. This is necessarily a very general question, but do you think most Germans would see alcoholism as worse, about the same, or less of a problem than in Germany?

  • Worse in Russia, because alcohol comnsumption in Germany is mostly beer and wine and to a lesser extent spritits, and on average, Russians seem to drink much more spirits and less beer and wine.

  • Extending the sentiment to our own society in North America; Except for the middle-aged?! This is what I'm thinking may happen when freight trucks become autonomous and reduce a significant proportion of the working population to unemployment. The wall is ready to fall, again.

    Oscar:

    In Cologne, we even have a popular song expressing the generosity to invite a man without money to a beer in the pub.

    I looked up beers of the Cologne region, would it be a Koelsch?

    Joy to the World!

  • Yes, a Koelsch.