Basic Income and The Role of the Market in Society

Posted on Posted in Basic Income, Ethics, Political Philosophy, Politics

We currently live in a world where we are born into a social structure that is governed almost entirely by market forces. As children our lives are profoundly shaped by our parents place in the market, that is our parents value to the market place and what that value can provide for us. And as adults the trajectory of our life is profoundly affected by our value to the market place.

As I imagined a world in which persons were provided a basic income I realized what a profound affect liberation from the market would have on society. I imagined a world in which people sometimes chose to participate in the market, when it served them, and sometime chose to not participate. The market served as a tool that people could use to their advantage rather than than being oppressed by the market.

Let’s be clear, the market is terribly oppressive. Some people’s lives are destroyed by the market. These are the people who are mentally unstable and end up homeless while mentally competent just don’t have the skills the marketplace values. Others are the people who grow up with virtually no opportunity and so are unable to get any decent opportunity in the market place. Others are the people who are the working poor, those who do hard back breaking work well into old age and go without many of the comforts of life and often times without basic necessities. They don’t live in the beautiful mansions we see in “reality TV” but in inner city ghettos and trailer parks, and run down homes down dusty dirt roads. Other people suffer a less acute but more more chronic form of anxiety from the oppression of the market, a life of constant stress and toil to continuously avoid getting trampled under foot by the market.

As I pondered the liberation a basic income would provide to the seven billion or so persons on the planet it occurred to me that life wasn’t always like this. For almost our entire history we lived outside of the influence of the market. There were people who traded things. But people basically grew their food and got their basic necessitates of life from the land they lived on.

Feudalism was no cake walk certainly, Europeans seem to be historically good at devising systems of oppression, but I honestly wonder if it didn’t feel less oppressive than the current system of capitalism. Even in that state of oppression persons still existed as persons. Their value wasn’t determined by the market. It was in a sense determined by birth but I can’t help but feel that capitalism dehumanizes people in a way that no other system had before.

Leaving aside Feudal Europe and looking further back into our history as a species, life was certainly hard before the industrial revolution, before capitalism, and before civilization no doubt much harder than it is now. But I can’t help but feel that even though life was harder it wasn’t as dehumanizing.

Maybe it was a hard life but it was at least a human life?

Basic Income provides an opportunity to go back a form of life much more natural to human beings. A form of life where humans can focus on caring for each other rather than fighting each other for survival. Where the emphasis of our lives is on community, relationships, and persons rather working for money so we can buy more and more things.

I imagine that in the future the market will exist, much as it always has in the past, as a small part of society and social interaction. Right now the market place has grown out of control and taken over the entirety of society, even medical care! The market has become like a cancer or a parasite that has overcome the host organism. And it threatens to destroy its host. In the United States there are still areas of life that exist somewhat outside the corrupting force of the marketplace, like public utilities, public services like police and fire departments, public parks and libraries but we have gone way too far in allowing the market run free and trample much of society underfoot.

This has been the dream of many visionaries throughout history but now with we have realistic chance making that dream a reality.

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2 thoughts on “Basic Income and The Role of the Market in Society

  1. Nice blog Gaura. The idea for a basic income was a tenet of the late Clifford Hugh Douglas, founder of the Social Credit movement. Douglas discovered an accounting flaw that forced prices to rise faster than incomes as technology replaced labour in production. His solution was to give people debt/cost free money which was not associated with the necessity for work. This differs from other basic income schemes which rely on taxation as the basis for funding. As technology replaces labour in production, we should have access to more labour, but a system which forces us to work for all our income can only lead to a situation where more and more goods and services are produced, whether we really require those goods and services, just in order to distribute incomes.

    Some further reading on Social Credit can be found at the following sites:

    http://www.socred.org/

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_credit

  2. Thanks for the info! Not something I was familiar with so I will definitely check it out and get back to you on it.

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