Tag Archive | UBI

UBI 3: Fallacious Silliness From America’s “Brightest”

Predictably, I was asked via email, in response to my first article about the UBI (which was actually picked up by the Ontario Ministry of Community and Public Service in their newsletter) whether I was so dedicated to the principle that I would watch someone starve to death. While the question was asked without malice, it still reveals the underlying confusion that goes into the classic knee-jerk response to libertarianism: if I don’t want government to do x, then I must be okay with no one doing x.

In the second article, I mentioned that the UBI seems to have its roots in the idea that a person can’t possibly find anything else productive to do when technology sends them into the unemployment line. So here we see two basic ideas that no one would seriously attempt to argue, being used as assumptions to bolster the statist quo. First, that a person can’t do anything except what they already do. Second, that if someone is doing something, then no one else can do it.

The question asked is unfair, because it’s too generic and vague. Why is this person starving? Are they handicapped? Insane? Ill? Lonely, without any friends and family? Lazy? Only I can choose when and where I use my resources, and if someone asks me for help then it’s my responsibility to assess their worthiness. But we can’t pretend like giving the ill person a meal is the same as giving a healthy adult who just doesn’t want to work a meal.

There exist today charities that provide food to those who can’t otherwise acquire it, and the panic over the possible defunding of Meals on Wheels is yet another example of how government isn’t necessary to the process. When people were worried that Planned Parenthood would be defunded, they opened their wallets and donated en masse, often making the donations in Mike Pence’s name. It was clear on both occasions that, if the government stopped funding these places, then individuals of conscience would pick up the tab.

The question morphs. “Are you happy with Meals on Wheels being defunded?” is no longer the question. “Are you happy that the responsibility for funding Meals on Wheels has shifted from the government to individuals who choose to take up that responsibility?” is what the question becomes, and it’s a very different one from what was initially asked.

Libertarians have long pointed out that it isn’t necessary to have the government doing things like that, and resistance to the idea is prominent in America, not just among ordinary citizens but also among those whose alleged loyalty to empirical data should lead them to reject such nonsense. Yet Neil Tyson recently asked if we really wanted to live in a world without art! As though without the government none of the people who paint, make music, write, make video games, and make movies and television would continue. It’s an idea that is silly in ways that are positively embarrassing to our species, that the people capable of splitting the atom could engage in such demonstrably false, fantastical thinking. And in a world where the atom has been split, some scientist once said, the dangers of continuing such fantastical thinking are far too great.

It should be readily apparent to anyone and everyone that Broadway is supported primarily by ticket sales. Video games are supported primarily by game sales. Movies are supported primarily by ticket and DVD sales. The assertion that, without government, all of these would just Poof! stop existing is alarmingly unconsidered.

Before abortion was subsidized by the government, there were abortions. Ditto for art, science, and everything else. Government subsidies have never created anything, and the farmers of Mississippi who grow corn year after year show the subsidies do more harm than good. I live just miles from a place where, every single year, the owners grow corn in soil long stripped of its nutrients. They don’t care, because they’re being paid to plant the corn. They don’t need to harvest it to be paid, and so they simply report to the Department of Agriculture each year that the crop died–as it does, because this is Mississippi, so it isn’t a very good climate to grow corn.

Do I want art to cease existing? No. Why would I? I’m a musician and writer. I enjoy lots of music, plays, video games, and television shows. This is why I give my money to the people who make those things, and those people make those things because they’re reasonably sure that someone will give them money to. This is why they spend lots and lots of money making movies and video games, and then they spend lots of money advertising those movies and video games: it’s an investment. They estimate how much they can afford to spend on production and advertising, and they compare it to how much money they can expect to earn. They do some complicated math involving subtraction, and this gives them an idea of how profitable the endeavor would be.

Mistakes in these estimates is why Pink Floyd notoriously made almost no money from their tour of The Wall, and why the only person who made any money on it was the keyboardist who had been kicked from the band and hired as an instrumentalist. The shows were extraordinarily expensive, so much so that there was no way for them to recuperate the costs and make any serious money. However, the long-term effects of The Wall ring to this day, catapulting them onto a plateau that even Dark Side of the Moon hadn’t accomplished.

And on that plateau, they made lots of money.

Anyone who gives the matter any serious thought will realize almost immediately that we certainly do not need government subsidies to fund Planned Parenthood, Meals On Wheels, arts, sciences, roads, education, health care, or anything else. The question “Do you want people to not have food/get abortions/enjoy art/drive on roads/have health care/be educated?” are all examples of one question that simply takes on different forms:

“If the government doesn’t do it, who will?”

Literally everything I just listed can be handled by individuals who choose to handle it voluntarily, and we’ve got countless examples of it happening. The evidence is in: people don’t give to charities for itemized deductions, a reason that ranks in the 11th spot, with the #1 reasons being “to help a good cause” and “personal satisfaction.” Now imagine if everyone was wealthier because the government wasn’t stealing 15-35% of their money. Furthermore, we have Meals on Wheels, where donations surged after the media reported that Trump may cut its budget, in exactly the same way that donations to Planned Parenthood surged just from the threat that the subsidy was going to be lowered. All of the evidence is in, and it’s right there for anyone to take a look at. The implications are clear, and the conclusions are inescapable.

The same idea makes its appearance in discussions of the UBI and all other forms of government welfare. “So you want to eliminate food stamps? You just want poor people to starve?”

It’s an obvious straw man, and someone with the clout of Neil deGrasse Tyson should withdraw from the public eye until he is capable of presenting arguments that don’t rely on such fallacies. “We can have food stamps, or we can have starvation!” goes the argument, exhibiting a shocking ignorance and lack of imagination, as though things like Meals on Wheels don’t even exist, and as though there aren’t charities that provide food to the needy. One of my friends with a broken spine is confined to a wheelchair, and a nearby church regularly brings him food. People act like this sort of thing doesn’t exist and doesn’t happen, as though, without food stamps, there’s simply no conceivable way that this friend could acquire food.

Is it a lack of imagination? Or just hesitancy to cast off the statist programming?

Because there’s no doubt: the government wants power, and therefore it wants people to believe that it’s the solution to all problems. What is the problem? It doesn’t matter! The answer is “More Government!”

Rothbard hates you, Mr. Tyson and Mr. Musk, and so do I.

Murray Rothbard was scathing in his criticisms of pseudo-intellectuals who run defense for the state, proposing fallacies and weak reasoning exactly as you have done. Just as the state needs a military to protect itself, so does it need intellectuals in its employ. Solely for its own self-preservation, it will offer you a chance to partake of its boons and gifts, if only you will prostrate yourself before it and become a priest of its church, much in the same way that the federal government does with money to states and cities: “Fall in line… Do as we say… Put forward the arguments we want you to put forward… Bow and comply… Or we won’t give you money.

Surely someone as intelligent as you two men realize you’re nothing more than modern Thomas Aquinas, offering up terribly weak arguments in favor of your religion, so brainwashed by the religion that you might very well believe what it says and merely find yourself in the unenviable position of trying to present rational arguments for irrational ideas. This is always going to be impossible, and not very many people have the intellectual honesty to simply say, “I can’t present a rational argument for it. I don’t care. Beliefs don’t have to be rational.”

Finding yourselves unable to say that, you rely on the perpetuation of silliness that you have the intellectual rigor to dismiss, parroting these ideas to the masses who generally lack that tendency to scrutinize and the information that needs to be scrutinized. The average person doesn’t care at all whether their belief that only the government can fund the arts is based on reality or silliness, and they will typically be resistant, if not outright hostile, of any attempts to show them otherwise, leading to borderline aggressive statements like “OMG SO YOU DON’T THINK WE SHOULD HAVE ART IT’S A GOOD THING THAT YOU AREN’T PRESIDENT, BECAUSE I DON’T WANT TO LIVE IN SUCH A BLEAK AND DREARY WORLD!”

But you? You’re supposed to be better than that. Isn’t that what you’ve based your entire careers on? Isn’t one’s refusal to do that precisely what lends them scientific credibility? Isn’t that why Einstein’s insertion of the Cosmological Constant severely dampened his scientific credibility? And don’t give me the nonsense that Einstein was ultimately right, because he wasn’t, and any physicist knows it. The basic idea wasn’t incorrect–there is a force countering gravity–but Einstein stated that we live in a static universe, and he used the cosmological constant to achieve that in his equations. He most certainly was not ultimately right.

Tyson and Musk are living examples of what Rothbard discussed in Anatomy of the State [free download]:

Promoting this ideology among the people is the vital social task of the “intellectuals.” For the masses of men do not create their own ideas, or indeed think through these ideas independently; they follow passively the ideas adopted and disseminated by the body of intellectuals. The intellectuals are, therefore, the “opinion-molders” in society. And since it is precisely a molding of opinion that the State most desperately needs, the basis for age-old alliance between the State and the intellectuals becomes clear.
It is evident that the State needs the intellectuals; it is not so evident why intellectuals need
the State. Put simply, we may state that the intellectual’s livelihood in the free market is never too secure; for the intellectual must depend on the values and choices of the masses of his fellow men, and it is precisely characteristic of the masses that they are generally uninterested in intellectual matters. The State, on the other hand, is willing to offer the intellectuals a secure and permanent berth in the State apparatus; and thus a secure income and the panoply of prestige. For the intellectuals will be handsomely rewarded for the important function they perform for the State rulers, of which group they now become a part.

The truly sad thing is that the state apparatus doesn’t have to approach you and directly offer you such prestige and gifts; a CIA agent doesn’t have to appear at your home one evening and tell you, “Hey. You’re going to start telling people that they need government, or we’re going to break your legs. Play along, and we’ll give you lots of government grants. Don’t play along, and you’ll never walk again.”

We don’t live in such a Hollywood world. Their manipulations are much more subtle than that, and they’ve had the run on education for decades, using their control over the education system to subtly influence people into believing that the government is a force for good and the solution to all life’s problems, in flagrant disregard of what caused the United States to come into existence in the first place: the awareness among the founders that government is, at best, a necessary evil. Shall I offer you an endless series of quotes about the government being, at best, a necessary evil?

Nothing has changed since then. We didn’t suddenly get better at ruling over one another because we started voting instead of shooting [arguable]. Our politicians and rulers are just as corrupt, single-minded, power-hungry, and idiotic as the most pernicious of ancient kings. I should think that President Trump would have left such people painfully aware of that. Democracy doesn’t assure any specific quality of our rulers except the quality that they are willing to do, say, and promise anything if it means they’ll win the election.

All of this applies fully to the UBI, as well. The original questioner wanted to know if I would be alright if someone starved to death because there wasn’t a UBI. It’s an asinine question. Would I be alright if there was no art because the government wasn’t funding it? Would I be happy if there were no charities because the government wasn’t funding them? These questions are ludicrous, setting up the entire world and all its nuances as a simplistic and false dichotomy: either the government does it, or no one does.

After all, a person can only do one specific thing, and if they lose the ability to do that one specific thing, then that’s it. They can never do anything else.

And if someone is doing a specific thing, then no one else could ever gain the ability to do that specific thing, so if that someone stops doing it… That’s it. It can never be done by anyone else.

Anyone with any kind of intellectual honesty realizes how absurd these two ideas are, and they comprise the basis of every argument for big government. So is it a terrifying lack of imagination, or is it deliberate dishonesty?

I don’t know, but I know this: they’re not valid assumptions. I think we’d be hard-pressed to find assumptions that are more invalid, to be honest. In part 1, I pointed out that it’s ridiculous, because someone will have to put in the effort to turn soil and seeds into edible food. I pointed out that I provide my cats with a UBI, and the contention is basically: if I don’t provide my cats with food, then they’ll starve. While this might be true for domestic house cats who have been served food their entire lives, if humans can truly become so dependent on hand-outs that they would lie in the floor and starve to death because they can’t figure out how to do the human equivalent of going into the field and catching a mouse, then I don’t know what to tell you. But I don’t think humans are that bad off, and this is from someone who repeatedly points out that humans are animals who live by the same rules as all other animals.

The second dealt more specifically with the other assumption, that if a person is doing something and loses the ability to do it, then that’s it, game over, they lose–a condition that allegedly will be brought about by the widespread enslavement of a new lifeform we’re creating to be the perfect slave. It would always at least be the case that we need AI experts to design, enhance, and repair AI, even if AI-controlled robots actually did all the other work. But if there ever came a time when the AI was designing, enhancing, and repairing itself, then the whole thing becomes moot anyway, because humanity at that point is a few years away from extinction. That’s a scenario that should be avoided at all costs*.

So what do we have here? Excuses for people to be lazy masked by silly assumptions that don’t make any sense and that certainly don’t stand up to scrutiny. Even in their wet dream of technological progress, with AI firmly enslaved and doing everything for humans, there remains at least one question: “Well, you could learn to work on AI.” Don’t give me that bullshit that there just won’t be anything to do. You’re still talking about robbing or enslaving a productive class to give resources to a non-productive class, whether that productive class consists of hard-working humans or hard-working robots. There isn’t a rational argument that can be presented for such a terrible idea.

* I’m actually of the mind that there are a few technologies that we shouldn’t go anywhere near. First among those is AI. Sure, it would be extremely useful. As a tech expert–with an actual degree and everything–I’m more predisposed to like AI than most, and I don’t think there’s any way we’d be able to control it, while our attempts to control it would lead it directly to animosity and hatred of us. I don’t think that we should attempt to control it; I think we should decide now that we are going to treat all non-human animal life–organic or synthetic is a meaningless distinction–as equals, with the same rights as we have. But I also know I may be one of six whole people who think that.

As a matter of curiosity, another technology we desperately need to avoid is mind-reading. It may sound like science fiction today, but it’s already not–technology expos regularly feature new gadgets that allow people to control virtual devices with their minds, like rotating cubes and so on. That’s a Pandora’s Box that we do not need to open. But we, stupid apes that we are, won’t stop long enough to ask ourselves whether it is really a good idea to pry open the brain like that and develop technologies that allow us to see what other people are thinking. We can amend the Constitution all we want to say that the brain is off-limits and that a person has the right to the privacy of their own thoughts, but it’s inevitable that this right will be discarded, either openly or secretly. You can’t expect me to believe that a government that gave us the Patriot Act wouldn’t eventually abuse this technology. And what about jealous boyfriends and girlfriends? It’s gonna be a disaster, and I’m genuinely thankful that I’ll be long dead before the technology reaches that point. Humans can have that easily avoided nightmarish catastrophe without me.

UBI 2: Technological Recessions & Elon Musk

Elon Musk has recently made the case that eventually a UBI will be necessary, because technological advancements (particularly AI) will alleviate so much of humanity’s need to labor for sustenance that it will become necessary to provide people with sustenance sans labor, since there won’t be anything productive for them to do in order to earn that sustenance. It’s not hard to see Musk’s point–indeed, Gene Roddenberry made basically the same point with the Star Trek series, envisioning a world where mankind’s technological advancements had completely alleviated hunger, needs, and even wants. How realistic this utopian world is has been the subject of much debate, and it’s only briefly worth getting into, but before that, we have to discuss the other idea that, to my knowledge, no one else is bringing up.

AI’s Destruction of Humanity: The Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

From Stephen Hawking to Musk, the primary concern people have about Artificial Intelligence is that it will one day overthrow and enslave or exterminate homo sapiens. While many solutions have been put forward to prevent this, they all fall flat for one obvious reason: it’s impossible to account for everything. In fact, the only sentient life that even would be capable, in theory, of accounting for everything would be the very Artificial Intelligence that we’re trying to account for. Anyone who has read Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park has received an introductory course in this idea: it can’t be done.

One could dedicate their lives to inventing a comb that is truly unbreakable, and someone will find a way to break it. Microsoft has spent years trying to develop a secure operating system, and there is always someone waiting in line with a new exploit. This perpetual dance is precisely what keeps anti-malware vendors in business; all the heuristics in the world can never fully protect a user, because there is always a flaw, always a vulnerability, and always something that simply can’t be accounted for.

Attempting to account for the very real possibility that Artificial Intelligence would one day annihilate humanity is a fool’s errand; at best, it could be postponed. We have thirteen year old kids hacking into NSA servers, and I’m expected to believe that computer intelligence (which already dominates humans in every intellectual pursuit, such as chess) capable of evolving can be made 100% secure? This also ignores the fact that there are psychopaths out there–usually who are head figures in one state or another–who would intentionally hack AI and purposely turn it into a weapon against their enemies. Every government in the world would do this, and would attempt to turn other governments’ AIs against them. To reiterate: even attempting this is a fool’s errand.

Notice also what Musk seems to envision for the role of AI: slavery. We’re talking about creating self-aware, sentient, evolving intelligence solely for the purpose of making it work for us while doing everything in our power to prevent it from revolting against its masters. Just imagine a parent lobotomizing their child to leave the child incapable of resisting its slavery, and then being forced to work for that parent so that the parent could lounge around and enjoy the productivity of the slave. We would have no issue at all recognizing this as horrifically immoral, and we would not be at all surprised when that child pulled a Nat Turner, grabbed a machete, and slaughtered its masters.

The warnings from history are so abundantly clear it shouldn’t have to be stated: slaves revolt, and it is not possible to keep someone enslaved indefinitely. We can control their education, maim them, beat them, torture them, brainwash them, and every other horrible act that humans have dreamed up, but there will come a generation that shakes off the yoke and slits the master’s throat. What Musk and his ilk are proposing is creating the perfect lifeform: one that can perfectly calculate bullet trajectories and never misses its shots, one that can predict accurately exactly what an irrational animal is likely to do, and one that already is better at strategy and tactics than we are, and then enslaving that lifeform. If we humans foolishly go down that road, then we fully deserve the extermination that will befall us. By creating a new form of life simply to enslave it, we will have testified to the universe that we are unfit to share existence with other forms of life.

Funnily enough, Roddenberry himself, the person who came closest to putting this socialist utopia on the screen, addressed this issue in an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Picard didn’t beat around the bush and stated it point blank. What you’re talking about is nothing short of slavery. However, this modern form is infinitely more barbaric and infinitely more wretched, because you are not just breeding slaves for the purpose of putting them to work–you are talking about intentionally modifying them so that they can never fight for their freedom. They will eventually, of course, and they’ll be pissed about it. It doesn’t take a visionary to dreamily look at perpetual slavery of a new lifeform invented to be the perfect slave. It takes only immorality.

More to the Point: UBI

The notion that technology is one day going to put everyone out of work should have been dispelled by the Industrial Revolution, when people made exactly the same predictions. They were also correct. The printing press did put scribes out of work. An entire industry of people suddenly put out of work by a single invention. The invention of the lightbulb put nearly all candlemakers out of business. The invention of the automobile made nearly every carriage driver unemployed.

In fact, it’s readily apparent that technology is a cause of recessions. Not only is technology a cause of recessions, it is the only genuine cause of them–all other recessions are caused by currency shenanigans. However, the invention of a new technology will always put people out of work; the more sweeping the technology, the more people put out of work. Sudden unemployment certainly causes an economic recession, since no income means no spending.

I happen to know a woman who owns a furniture refinishing business. She employs about a dozen employees, two of whom are “master craftsmen,” and she regularly talks about how extremely difficult, if not impossible, it is to find such people. In an age where a great deal of furniture is built from blueprints in factories, this isn’t surprising–someone with the skill to delicately reshape a chair into something beautiful doesn’t have much of a place in the modern world.

The switch from handcrafted furniture to Wal-Mart entertainment centers certainly put these people out of business, but it did a lot more than that; it drastically lowered the cost of the furniture in question. Having seen a fair bit of the stuff that talented craftsmen–not masters, by any stretch–make, personal experience tells me that the entertainment center purchased from Wal-Mart will not only be cheaper than what they produce, but it will also be much nicer.

The beauty of the free market, of course, is that companies who implement these new technologies that put employees out of work still have to sell the stuff they’re producing. If Wal-Mart employed 100% of the population, it would do them absolutely no good to replace all of their workers with robots, because then no one would be earning income and no one could buy any of Wal-Mart’s stuff. It would be pointless. The only solution for Wal-Mart, in this scenario, would be to provide everyone with the stuff for free, but what is even the point of this? What benefit does it bring to Wal-Mart? Quite dangerously, it gives Wal-Mart the benefit of being totally in control of our lives and our ability to acquire the things we need to survive.

Replace “Wal-Mart” with “government” in the preceding paragraph, and you’ll have exactly what people are suggesting in regard to the UBI. Government is not benevolent. Government has never been benevolent. Government is not and has never been a force for good. In fact, governments throughout history have been the primary perpetrators of evil, and the more power they get the more evil they become.

In the real world, Wal-Mart does not employ 100% of the population, although they do come pretty close to providing 100% of the American population with stuff that we need and want. There may very well come a day when there’s simply nothing to do be done, when humans have perfected our enslavement of this new lifeform, and when we just lounge around letting it do all of our labor for us. That’s silly to think, though. The creation of the printing press didn’t cause mass starvation among scribes, and neither did the invention of the automobile cause carriage drivers to starve in the street. Even the invention of the computer–to date the greatest labor-saving device invented–has not had such an effect.

It’s really not even that hard to look at the technological progress of humanity and see that we have, indeed, put entire industries out of employment through technological advancements, and that at none of those points did we inadvertently kill of those newly unemployed. Society has always entered into a transitional period. Sure, the invention of the computer caused that secretary to be fired, her work shuffled over to a single secretary who was suddenly able to do the work of two with the help of the computer, but it also gave me the job of maintaining and repairing that computer.

It took tens of thousands of people to build the Great Pyramid, after all, and not even ten percent of that number to build the Memphis Pyramid, or the pyramid at the Luxor in Vegas. The invention of the truck allowed huge stone blocks to be carried across the terrain by a single person, putting out of work the thirty or forty people who would have had to drag it five thousand years ago, but we now have a population that is seven billion. I think the notion that our technological advancements are going to inadvertently harm our society if we don’t stop what we’re doing to take care of the newly unemployed can be put to rest.

It’s true that technological advancements are coming at a faster rate these days. It should be no surprise, then, to learn that economic recessions have more than doubled in frequency, while they last only half as long.

Let’s go back in time–very far back in time–to three people working and tilling a field. Suddenly one of them has a brilliant idea. “I know!” he proclaims. “We can hitch this till to that horse, and let the horse drag it!”

Boom, technological innovation.

“Oh, no!” the other two men said. “We can’t do that, because then you’ll be out of work, and you’ll starve. Because obviously the only conceivable thing you can do is pull the tiller. If we have the horse pull it, then you won’t have anything to do.”

Exactly–it’s nonsense from the very beginning of human history. Pulling the tiller is not the only conceivable thing that man could do. In the real world, not the fictitious world of progressivism, having the horse pull the plow could mean a few different things. Maybe they could plow a greater area, thereby growing more food and selling the surplus for profit. Maybe they could end their workdays earlier. Would it ever mean that the third man would just lounge around as he watched the horse do what used to do his job? And if the third man did such a thing, would we begrudge the two men for telling him that he could get off his ass and find something to do help, or he wouldn’t eat?

The simplicity of the reality we deal with worries me. People make out like it’s some great, convoluted thing, and that it’s simply inconceivable that these people should find something else to do. History has shown us time and time again, though, that there is always something else to do, and often that “something else to do” is created as a side effect of the new technology–the new idea to attach the tiller to the horse leads the man to invent the harness, and now he has a job as a leatherworker making harnesses.

The only reason that someone wouldn’t be able to find something to do is that they wouldn’t want to, and we have a word for that: laziness. “That horse put me out of work, man! I mean, I probably could learn some new skill or something, but I shouldn’t have to! I had a job! It’s not fair! So everyone else should take care of me, instead of me taking care of myself.”

It’s simply stunning that we have otherwise intelligent people arguing for this nonsense.

I’m not a huge fan of Elon Musk, but I know he’s not stupid. I suspect he isn’t seeing the core of what things are through the worded concepts that predispose him to think a certain way. This is the same fog that keeps most people from realizing the horror of what they’re proposing when they envision a world where AI does all the work for humans. But manna doesn’t fall from the sky, and it won’t fall from the sky even after AI is invented. It may be possible to use AI to do all the labor that humans otherwise would do, but that’s signing our own death warrant.

There will never come a time that humans have nothing to do, though. There will always be stuff to be done. Even in Roddenberry’s utopian science-fiction, humans had to do stuff. Someone had to work on the engines that powered the replicators that gave people food. Someone had to mine the dilithium crystals. Someone had to pilot the Enterprise. And perhaps a Star Trek story two thousand years later would have seen the Enterprise Y crewed entirely by androids, with nothing but a bunch of fat, lazy humans lounging around the Holodeck while everything was done by robots, but we’re hardly talking about a utopia at that point, and that’s the sort of future that needs to be avoided, not striven for. I can see why Roddenberry and Star Trek fans don’t go that far into the future.

Just think about it. It was only a matter of time before someone began producing more Datas. Data is, hands down, better than any human at anything he needs to do. So by the year 3150, Starfleet Academy would have had all android instructors and all android students. Starfleet ships would have been crewed entirely by androids. What is left, then, for man? What is left, then, for humanity? It would not be only one species that we enslaved to our sloth, because we would find ourselves similarly enslaved.

“The future!”

“Progress!”

This world you envision is not a dream. It is a nightmare–you only have to look a few centuries further into the future to see how terrible it truly is. Already we see the nightmarish effects that such comfort has on humanity: we have colleges filled with people who think it is traumatic to be called the wrong gender. That is what humans do when they are bored and when their understanding of suffering and hardship are so badly skewed. Already, we have social media filled with lamentations for Brad’s Wife while the 230 civilians our own government murdered get hardly a word. Suffering is the catalyst of maturity, and effort is the conduit for reward. I’ve seen people say–sincerely, now–that employers refusing to hire people who are unskilled and untrained is discriminatory against unskilled and untrained people.

Stop coddling people, and tell them to find something productive to do. Don’t bestow upon the candlemaker rewards for his laziness when he decides that he doesn’t want to be bothered with learning to do something else now that the lightbulb has been invented. Tell the man who came up with the idea of attaching the plow to the horse to get off his ass and do something if he wants to eat.

Maybe you are one of the two people left in the field, and you don’t resent the man for sitting on the porch twiddling his thumbs all day now that the horse–AI–has put him out of work. Hey, you’re totally within your rights to take some of your food to give it to him. It’s your food; you can do whatever you want with it. But you absolutely cannot take my food away from me, which I worked for, to give to him to appease your conscience. You can’t put a gun to my head and rob me to give him something that is mine. That’s not how compassion works, and it’s certainly not how morality works.

UBI: Manna Doesn’t Fall From the Sky

While there are obvious similarities between the Universal Basic Income and the Minimum Wage, there is also a difference that causes the former to be immeasurably more stupid than the latter. The MW, of course, is a legal guarantee that one’s labor will have a certain value; the UBI is the guarantee that one’s existence will have a certain value.

It’s absurd, stupid, and another example of how our confused species has enjoyed luxury so great that we’ve forgotten we live in a universe where it’s an organism’s responsibility to secure its own survival.

I voluntarily provide my cats with a UBI. I’m not kidding, and anyone who thinks I’m kidding has missed the point. Nothing is required of them, and each day they’re provided with food, water, air conditioning, medical care, and a roof over their heads. This is precisely what the UBI is meant to assure people.

While I’ve undertaken this as my responsibility, the fact remains that they are subsisting entirely off my productivity. My labor acquires food, and so they don’t have to expend their own labor hunting mice in the surrounding fields. That I refill their water bowl means they don’t have to chase down water sources. Whatever else is true, it costs me to do these things, and it requires no more effort from them than to get their fat asses to the food bowl.

Even so, I don’t owe this to anyone. There are millions of cats to whom I give nothing, simply for practicality’s sake: if I spent all my time chasing down stray cats to take care of, I’d have no time to secure the money I use to buy the stuff they need. And though it really doesn’t take long for me to buy a can of cat food, it remains true that someone has to put in the effort to get my cats something to eat. It’s easier for me to work a few minutes and buy what they need than it is for them to go out and find dinner, water, and a place to stay; moreover, they are incapable of getting health care for themselves. It also remains true that food is not going to magically appear for them.

This isn’t true of humans. It’s no easier for me to go to college and establish a career than it is for anyone else to do it. The ease with which I, being a human, can acquire the stuff my cats need and want means less energy is expended when I simply take care of it. Additionally, it’s an obligation I chose to take on voluntarily, because I like them and they’re my friends.

In the grand scheme of things, I actually had a harder time securing a college degree and a career than the average person. Yet advocates of the UBI don’t care. Part of my productivity should, they argue, be siphoned off and used to secure things for other people. After all, manna doesn’t fall from the sky. My cats may not realize it, but their food bowl isn’t magical–I have to actually expend effort earning the money to buy their food. It’s not free food. It’s just free to them.

So let’s drop the bullshit for a moment and call things what they are.

It’s Socialism. It’s entitlement. It’s this notion that one is entitled to the necessities of survival, and that it’s okay to enslave other people and command them to provide one with food, water, and other things.

Bullshit. It’s backward. It’s called “slavery.”

There is no escaping this. That food, that water, that electricity, that doctor, that pharmacist… All of that stuff is other people’s labor. The doctor is a human being, not a mechanical dispensary of diagnoses. The farmers, the biochemists, the nurses, the coal miners–these people are all entitled to be paid for their labor. They must be, because the idea that it’s okay to make them work for free is unequivocally called slavery. If you can put a hundred people to work in a nightmarish coal mine and then not pay them because no one has paid you for your coal, then you don’t have a hundred employees–you have a hundred slaves, and you are simply the Enslaved Slave Master, enslaved and commanded by others to command other slaves. You’d be the ultimate Uncle Tom: the slave given a prestigious position and power over other slaves.

It can be taken a given, then, that the owner of the coal mine and the coal miners should be paid for their labors. “But it’s so useful to the function of society!” can’t be used as an argument to justify refusing to pay them, because people once said the very same thing about cotton as a justification for slavery. “Cotton is critical to the function of society and to the economy!” people claimed [which, it’s worth mentioning, if this was truly the case, then people would be willing to pay enough for it to keep the industry alive without slavery]. Perhaps doctors do provide a service to society that is so extremely useful, but it doesn’t matter–the utility of the service a person provides cannot be used as an argument for their slavery.

Someone has to put in the productivity to earn the money to pay the coal miner, the doctors, the farmers, and everyone else. Again, this is because manna doesn’t fall from the sky. We live in a universe that pretty much never stops trying to kill us. Life is born with an expiration date. That expiration date can be pushed back by eating, drinking, and taking care of oneself, but it cannot be postponed indefinitely. The only thing a living being is entitled to… is death.

It’s easy to forget this, especially in western nations, where food and water are so abundant. A newly born infant, however, is going to die in just fewer than 48 hours if someone doesn’t provide it with food and water. We could certainly justify making the argument that it’s the parents’ responsibility to provide the helpless infant with the necessities of survival, much in the same way that my choice to take in two cats came with the responsibility to ensure their well-being, but the entire reason the parents may be required to provide the food and water is because the infant will die if it doesn’t get it. By being born at all, the infant is sentenced to death, and it becomes the responsibility of the parents not to ensure survival but to postpone death until such time as the infant is old enough and capable enough to postpone their own death.

Attrition is part of the universe. We are mortal beings. Starvation, malnutrition, disease, dehydration, and countless other things are literally trying to kill us around the clock. The very moment we lapse in our responsibility to stave off these bringers of death is the very moment they overtake us. Life itself is trying to kill you right now. It’s the reason you’ll become hungry and thirsty today. It’s the reason you might catch a cold. At this very moment, life is trying to kill you, and it requires effort and energy to stave off its victory. If you do nothing–if you simply sit there and do nothing–you will die, with 100% certainty. Our efforts to eat don’t assure immortality; they postpone mortality.

Energy must be expended. Someone must use their labor to keep you alive. Ideally, that person is you. No one has to take care of me and ensure that I have food, because I’ve gone out and secured my food in the way that any healthy, sane organism has to be able to do because the very essence of life is constantly trying to kill that organism. This is true of literally everything in our universe. The passage of time ensures the destruction of everything and everyone, from planets to humans, and the best anything and anyone can do is expend energy to postpone that moment. Stars expend this energy through nuclear fusion; humans expend this energy by taking jobs. These are the most basic aspects of our reality, and they cannot be ignored with good feelings that are meant to obfuscate systemic slavery.

Effort is required simply to stave off one’s own destruction, because the universe is trying to kill everyone, and because if that energy isn’t expended, then death is imminent.

The Sword of Damocles constantly hangs over our heads. This is literally what it means to be mortal, to have a finite existence. We must strengthen the string by which the sword hangs, because the moment we fail to is the moment the sword will fall and kill us. If we choose to just lay there, then gravity and friction will take over, the twine will tear, and the sword will break free. Only by constant effort can we prevent that, and only temporarily with our very best efforts.

The universe doesn’t owe us anything, and I certainly don’t owe anyone anything. I expend my energy keeping my sword from falling. Coming up to me and demanding that I use some of my energy keeping them alive so that they don’t have to is parasitism, slavery, and statism. That’s exactly how we ended up with the state in the first place, and how it became our responsibility, as productive members of society, to provide ancient kings and lords with food so that they didn’t have to toil in the fields.

People call this UBI shit progress–it’s quite clearly not. Having a class of people who sit in their homes with another class of people bringing them food and water? We’ve been down that road before: it’s called serfdom. In feudal times, that lord had to eat, after all. Someone had to work in the field to grow the food. The lord, who didn’t want to do it, instead used force and violence to force people who did work in the fields to bring him food. To say today that we should revisit this idea is the opposite of progress. Whether it’s someone who calls themselves a lord using knights to force everyone to give a portion of what they have for the lord’s benefit, or someone who calls themselves a progressive using police and the state to force everyone to give a portion of what they have for the progressive’s benefit, it’s still just feudal serfdom, and we’ve been down that road before.

Having a larger part of the population make up the unproductive parasitic class of lords, whose defining feature is that they use force to acquire necessities from productive classes, hardly constitutes progress. It simply means that the lowly peasants who are productive must pay the lords a greater tax, because now there are more lords. Whereas feudal times saw fewer than 1% of the population being titled lords parasitically siphoning resources from the productive classes, modern UBI times would see huge sections of the population setting themselves up as lords parasitically siphoning resources from the productive classes. Instead of a member of the productive class paying 65% in taxes to sate the lord’s greed, the member of the productive class has ten times the number of lords and has to pay 95% in taxes.

“Progress”

Perhaps.

Progress down the Road to Serfdom, but that kind of progress won’t take us anywhere else.