T Nation

Thoughts on UBI?

That’s my immediate reaction as well, but when you jobs that will be displaced in the digital economy (consider truck drivers in ~10 years), what do you propose? Inequality will expand drastically for people who can excel in the new ways of working, and many people will struggle.

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So, I guess, we want people to work even though it’s unnecessary? Why not make the UBI high enough to allow everyone to stop working?

Truck drivers will be fine. Every new “Age” brings displacement and change. People adapt. Subsidize training for workers? Maybe. Give them a base salary for nothing? Uh, no. Necessity is the mother of invention, and people can step up when pressured. Rome fed it’s citizens with an allotment of corn to keep them maintained - that resulted in entitled people that had to be entertained and placatedat every turn not a liberated thriving economy.

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I don’t think this true. We still need workers. If we get to a point where human labor is not needed, then I agree with raising UBI.

So…what’s the point of the UBI, then?

We’re always one law short of paradise, and one innovation short of hell. I guess.

This is historically true. Automobiles caused blacksmiths and horse handlers to lose jobs, but resulted in many more jobs than it destroyed. We don’t know what new jobs or industries will be created. It is possible we don’t have anything to worry about.

It does seem, that many economists are a bit worried about automation in a way that they were not worried about other technologies.

I think if we have high unemployment, and don’t have a use for human labor, then UBI absolutely makes sense. If we are using it to redistribute wealth it is a bit more nuanced.

In the current form it is a redistribution of wealth. Many argue about automation causing a need for it, and that is a bit of speculation.

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I can’t really understand that. Full automation=the closest we can come to ending scarcity, I would think.
That would make goods almost free. I guess those that own and operate the machines would control the rest of us to an extent. I don’t know what good UBI would do in that situation. Those that own and operate the means of production wouldn’t have much use for dollars.
I just don’t see how automation is seen by some as being scary.

What about during an automation transition period? High employment, but still a majority of people work? Then it is a redistribution, but probably a needed one.

I don’t think everyone should get paid the same or anything, but I do think we could have a standard of living defined, then your hard work just builds upon that.

The current estimate is that 1/3 of American workers will have their jobs displaced in the next 20 years (I believe it was a McKinsey study). Hoping that just works itself out is not a solution.

You do mention historical changes, and it has eventually worked out but that took a long time with a lot of dysfunction along the way. With how fast the digital economy will displace workers it will be much more on the destructive side, with a few key individuals/companies benefiting significantly.

I’m not sure if you meant this as callous as it sounds. I do not think the answer to people who at no fault of their own lose their jobs due to automation/technology is to figure it out. When people lost their jobs due to COVID a lot of people supported government support. I see this as a very similar thing.

How many lost jobs due to COVID? People’s jobs were taken by regulation.


Instead of UBI in the cases of displaced workers I’d favor giving 2 options to people.

  1. a low UBI check. Say $500/month.

  2. free tuition to a government sponsored “trade” school and a higher UBI check (say $1500) paid out until an on-time graduation date. These “trades” would be for jobs of the future, and the schools would employee staff while training workers to get back to the workforce.

Ya sorry, I’m not feeding the troll

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Why not add a higher UBI payment for work, say 3500.00 for a month for produce picking(just a a quick thought)? Stops some immigration and puts Americans to work with a wage that sustains and Farmers can give up some subsidies.

How many willbe leaving the workforce through retirement and other reasons anyway? Most of the “Displaced” are jobs that become vacant and are simply not ever filled again. The UBI helps them to decide to do nothing. I have a friend who was without work in the last crisis. He rode out the extended benefits. He is older than me, but wasn’t at retirement age. He turned down both work, and an offer of training for a new job, opting instead to ride out the benefits and then go into early retirement. Without the government “Relief”, he would have trained for the new job and worked until 65, or possibly longer. Financially, what was the better course?
Sponsored training? Sure. Free cheque (check)? Nope.

My understanding of the study is that those 1/3 are not related to retirement.

The intent is that it’s not enough of a payment to make that happen, it’s there to soften the blow. If they were previously working and get an income of 25% of what they were previously earning I think there is still a very strong incentive to work.

The point I’m trying to make is that for some people, they will really struggle to be re-trained in the new economy. It’s the coal miners learning to code analogy. They are different skillsets.

the point is the individual would be able to determine the best way to spend their money. Government has shown that executing something like sponsored training would be complex and they would not be good at it. Adding conditions adds bureaucracy.


Give a man a fish, feed him for a day. There is no advancement for the individual or the government or society in the “Just give him money” scenario.

We will have to agree to disagree if a majority of would-be workers would be satisfied with only $12K and have no incentive to make more.

In your fish analogy, it’s more like give a starving man some fish as it wasn’t his fault he has none, he has been fishing for 20 years

More like he’s been butchering cattle for 20 years and now the cattle are gone but we have plenty of fish in the sea.