Have you Ever been Swept Off Your Feet?

In both cases – whether the bubble was inflated with positive or negative energy – the participants in the bubble are being swept away further and further away from actual physical reality and start to see everything either ‘extremely negatively’ or ‘extremely positively’ – neither experience is grounded in reality – because the physical is neither positive or negative – it just is what it is.

And Then You Crash – Meconomics

In this little series, we’ve been investigating the phenomenon of inflation, how we in our daily lives participate in ‘inflating our reality’ and so, how we are on a personal level participating in the same principles/dynamics that we see playing out on a bigger scale when it comes to inflation, speculative bubbles and financial market crashes.

Welcoming New Life with Living Income Guaranteed

Comfort, security and nurturing are all things we wish are present when a baby comes into this world. Yet, these conditions are not a reality for many babies, as parents themselves like these things in their lives. In Pietermaritzburg, the capital of KwaZulu Natal province in South Africa, 3 to 5 babies are…

Humanity Washed Ashore

This was an excerpt of just one of the stories about the boy. Over the last few days, dozens have been written and published on various major news sites. What is more striking than the content of the posts, is the comments that are left on these articles. What is humanity’s response to such images, to such news?

Voting Fun – What does it Feel Like to Have a Say?

Now – before such increased direct political participation is a reality – let’s do a little test to see what it feels like. So – here are some mock-questions where you’re asked to give your input. Imagine that this relates to your direct reality (eg. your town) – and your answer has a weight that influences the outcome of the decision. Of course, in reality…

25 October 2014

Transcending False Dilemmas with Living Income Guaranteed – Part 2 - Sustainability vs Full employment

In my previous blog, I discussed what false dilemmas are, how they are used in our everyday life, how easily we get swayed by false dilemmas and what the consequences are of their use. I also discussed how one is able to broaden one’s view of a situation, taking a step back so one has a more accurate view of the whole picture when faced with false dilemmas.  I gave 4 examples of false dilemmas dominating discussions on very real problems that require direction and solutions. Within this blog I’ll take each example and show how the Living Income proposal steps outside of these false dilemmas and offers real win-win solutions.

Example 1

‘If we want to reduce the use of fossil fuels for a better environment, we will lose thousands of jobs in the energy-sector. So – which do we choose: preventing unemployment or fighting climate change?’

At Naomi Klein’s launch for her new book ‘This changes everything’, Naomi presented the same dilemma to Estela Vasquez, Executive VP at SEIU (United Healthcare Workers East), asking her to comment on the tension that has been existing between climate change and labor union activists – her reply was as follows: “We actually can fight for good jobs, for jobs that deal with the question of having clean energy, renewable energy, to have transportation that is accessible to all, (…) jobs can be created in retro-feeding buildings, in creating new forms of energy, in creating transportation that is clean, in creating a new society, where the determining factor is not profit, but the determining factor is the well-being of every living thing on Earth, not just human beings.”

She further mentioned that the interests at stake with climate change and pollution are heartfelt by the same people whose jobs may be insecure – what does it matter, for instance, if one secures a good job with good working conditions, if one’s child develops asthma from playing in the garden, breathing compromised air? There shouldn’t be a choice between one or the other – because both factors are, in different ways, affecting individuals’ well-being.

With a Living Income Guaranteed in place, one will always have a security net available when it comes to job losses or threat of losing one’s job – where it can be recognized that loss of employment is not an infringement on basic human rights, because one’s rights are fundamentally guaranteed through the receiving of a Living Income. When fear of unemployment is removed – flexibility is created in making a transition towards creating different jobs, jobs that are more beneficial to the community at large. The most common excuse from corporations that have not been mitigating the social costs they have helped to create, has been that: ‘we provide employment, and if you don’t want us here, we will find cheaper employment elsewhere’. Such threats become void when jobs no longer stand equal to lifelines. Such threats have created a burden on society at large in having to compromise the future for the present – but now we are walking into that compromised future. When we are faced with points such as climate change – creativity and innovation play a key-role – it is a time that calls for human potential to freely move – a potential that remains shackled as long as human rights are linked to jobs, where eventually the employer and the availability of alternative employment, determine what one can and cannot do in life, what forms of society we can and cannot aspire to, what solutions we can or a cannot bring into manifestation. A Living Income Guaranteed allows us to stop the cycles of the past and allows us to, instead, start addressing the problems we’ve created as well as ensuring that we do not make the same mistakes again.

Of course, it’s not sufficient for human creativity and inspiration to move freely – ideas must be able to become a reality and businesses concerned with sustainable and renewable energy sources, for instance, must be given a chance to establish themselves in the market. Here we’re looking at economic power-plays where companies engaged with power-production from fossil fuels have established themselves as pillars within an economy around which everything else turns. Having considerable economic influence, the practice of compromising the opportunity for firms based on renewable energy to establish themselves in that same market is common practice. Within the Living Income Guaranteed proposal, we suggest that the citizens of a country become the owners of companies within that country that produce power – hence – allowing the activities of these companies to be directly accountable to every citizen – and as such – having to keep all citizens’ interests at heart. This changes the economic dynamic in such a way that the entire power producing industry and the role established companies play within it – can be considered within the context of what would be best for all the citizens involved.



17 October 2014

Transcending False Dilemmas with Living Income Guaranteed – Part 1

One of the ways in which we limit our ability to address problems and steer ourselves towards solutions without entering into an endless debate, is through our acceptance of false dilemmas at face value.

What is a false dilemma?
"A false dilemma arises when we allow ourselves to be convinced that we have to choose between two and only two mutually exclusive options, when that is untrue. Generally, when this rhetorical strategy is used, one of the options is unacceptable and repulsive, while the other is the one the manipulator wants us to choose. Whoever succumbs to this trap has thus made a choice that is forced, and as such, of little value. . . . Here are a few examples of common false dilemmas:

•    Either medicine can explain how Ms. X was cured, or it is a miracle. Medicine can't explain how she was cured. Therefore it is a miracle.
•    If we don't reduce public spending, our economy will collapse.
•    America: Love it or leave it.
•    The universe could not have been created from nothing, so it must have been created by an intelligent life force.”
(Normand Baillargeon, A Short Course in Intellectual Self-Defense. Seven Stories Press, 2008)

It seems easy enough to spot false dilemmas and yet, they seem to dominate the discussions about some of the most important issues we require solutions for. Have a look:

Example 1

‘If we want to reduce the use of fossil fuels for a better environment, we will lose thousands of jobs in the energy-sector. So – which do we choose: preventing unemployment or fighting climate change?’

Example 2

‘The government has two kinds of policy at its disposal to correct market failures: fiscal policy and monetary policy – not using these policies means letting the free market dictate economic conditions.’

Example 3

‘If we don’t maintain our military forces and curtail individual freedoms, terrorists will have free reign and come to destroy our beloved country.’

Example 4

‘We’ve created a society with an abundance of choices and so freedom to choose. Producing so many varieties of the same product places pressure on the environment, but reducing it would mean to give up the freedom we’ve gained.’

Do you start seeing to what extent false dilemma’s – the ‘either/or’ presentation of options – is thoroughly ingrained in media, in politics, in every day life discussions?

On the one hand false dilemmas are used to manipulate those presented with the false dilemma to choose the option that the presenter of the dilemma wishes – but on the other hand – it also encourages stagnation and paralysis. Because what happens, is: you have groups who have an interest within the one option, or who support the one option – and you have groups who have an interest within the second option, or who support the second option. And now there is a back-and-forth quibbling, to put it plainly, about which option to choose, about which group ‘loses’ and which group ‘wins’. Of course, no one wants to lose, or be the one to sacrifice their interests for the other group’s or the other goal – so everyone is fighting, but in the meantime, you maintain the status quo, because there is no movement, there is no common solution – there is just a debate, a discussion, an argument, when what is really needed is direction and action.

We tend to so blindly accept information the way it is presented to us – without critically thinking for ourselves and seeing if there are no alternatives. No, instead we immediately position ourselves on one or the other side of the dilemma and feel good about ourselves for ‘taking in a position’. But what does it matter to take in a position, if that position is not going to lead to a solution, but simply perpetuates a back-and-forth dynamic that can only lead to losing? Either ‘our group’ wins over the other, then the others lose out, or the other group wins and then ‘our group’ loses out – or no solution is reached and everyone keeps quibbling, then everyone loses out, because nothing gets directed – or both groups go into a ‘compromise’ and don’t really take on either issue, but just do ‘ a little bit’ on both fronts to please everyone – which seems like a ‘win-win’ solution – but it actually isn’t – because everyone is compromising.

The first thing to do is to take a step back and allow yourself to see the bigger picture. Because – what is presented with a false dilemma? You’re presented with a zoomed-in picture that shows two doors, two options. Now, instead of trying to break your brains over figuring out which of the doors represents the lesser of two evils – take a step back – zoom out the picture and suddenly more becomes visible within the frame – there might be a third door that had not been mentioned or there might be a pathway going around the wall that the doors are in, making every door entirely irrelevant.

In my next post, I’ll go over each of the examples and show how the Living Income proposal steps outside these false dilemmas and offers real win-win solutions.

12 October 2014

Common Concerns about the Implementation of a Living Income Guaranteed

The following is a Q&A discussion from the Living Income Guaranteed Facebook page.

Do we have equal education, ambition, and iq? should the cashier and server make the same as the entrepreneur with more risk and skin in the game? If you want more pay, find a profession in high demand. Also, if positioning the government to raise minimum wage rates only creates a market distortion inducing hyperinflation, increasing the rate of automated points of sales, job elimination, and pricing some smaller companies completely out of markets. i find it hard to believe that the people on this page can't see through a socialist ideology for the disaster that it is.

Hi - it's not within the Living Income Guaranteed proposal to give each one equal wages, regardless of skill, profession or education. However, it is within the Human Rights Declaration to provide each one with certain rights - which requires a minimum living income. Wouldn't you say it is hypocritical to promise or guarantee these rights and then refrain from providing the means through which these rights find their expression - which in our world, is money? In terms of the inflation argument - please check out the hangout we did on that topic:

A living income is not a right. It's a right to persue, it. How can someone be provided something equal, or to a hyper -standard of their personal production? If a living is "guaranteed ", what is the motivation of the indevidual to continue to be a productive member of society? Where is this guarantee coming from, if the incentive to work is gone? Will farmers farm if they are guaranteed a living even if they dount? Will truckers get up at 3am and drive? Will doctors continue to practice?
The truth is, this utopian, society you are promoting sounds like roses and rainbows but the facts are, you are pushing the same socialist ideology that has been failing for hundreds of years.
I hope you never see the day your agenda is a reality. I hope you never have to explain why you have to stand in line for the only meal of the day. I think you should be studying the reasons for the collapse of the Soviet Union, or for that matter, Rome. Noone can guarantee you a living, it's a fact. The people who say they they can, are only going to make those promises until they realize, that giving you that guarantee, means taking from someone else who WORKS for it. It's called slavery. What some see as greed and unfair, I call success.
Asking your government to guarantee your living, is in turn relinquishing your liberty to them. If you want to know your rights, read the constitution. There are no guarantees in life. If you want freedom and peace, and your rights? You have to work and fight for them. And that means taking personal responsibility for your actions and wellbeeing. If you want someone to guarantee you the the things that sustain your life and you are over the age of 18, you are completely delusional.

Hi - I hear your concerns regarding the Living Income Guaranteed proposal as they have been brought up before. If we lived in a world where jobs and opportunities for success were readily available to all - then, yes, we can suppose that it is ever person's choice to live in poverty and there might be reason to leave someone to their own vices. However, that is not the world we live in today. Not everyone grows up in the same environment that supports them with the skills to enter the job-market. Not everyone has access to decent education and even with having a degree and the will to work, youth unemployment is a growing phenomenon, because there are no jobs available. For a different perspective, I suggest you read the blog 'Redemption and the Right to a Living Income' as it is directly pertinent to the point you raised here. Placing that absolute 'rule' or 'principle' that only those who can make a decent living within the economic system rightly deserve it is problematic when you consider the world we live in, because it can not simply be argued that those in poverty choose to be there and/or that they are unwilling to change their living conditions.

In terms of work incentives, we looked at this point as well. If staying at home still provides you with your basic living necessities, would there be a reason to work? One point here I would like to bring up is that pilot projects for a basic income have all shown that work efforts are not reduced when a basic income is provided. So, there is reason to believe that our fears are just that - fears. But do we want to take that risk? We'd rather not. Therefore, within the Living Income Guaranteed proposal, we suggest that the minimum wage be double the Living Income. That means that those with a job can definitely afford more luxurious lifestyles than those living with just the basic requirements - which therefore provides an incentive to take up employment.

In terms of your argument of taking from someone else who worked for their income to provide another with a living income, I suggest you read the Living Income Proposal itself again as we suggest a way of financing the Living Income Guaranteed that does not require means such as income tax which ensures that no one pays for anyone else's Living Income.

That guaranteeing a Living Income stands equal to, or is a slippery slope towards communism is quite a leap. Consider that communism was characterized by central planning and the centralization of ownership of resources. We propose instead that capitalism remains the way in which economic activities are conducted and we support the decentralization of power with minimal government - less government in fact than a welfare state implies. Herein, we agree with Libertarians such as Matt Zwolinski who recently wrote an informative and insightful article titled 'The Pragmatic Libertarian Case for a Basic Income Guarantee'.

The constitutions and the values and principles that we've been upholding are products of the past - where once upon a time, they were considered useful and an improvement over what was here before. However, if you look at the abuse that has been allowed in the name of these values and principles, it becomes clear that we have to formulate new principles for our global society to live by. We simply cannot continue as we are. If not for those in need - then out of self-interest - because in the battle where each person is fighting for their rights - we are disregarding the planet we live on and some day, we will all have to pay the price - unless we change what we're doing. That doesn't mean we have to implement a utopian society of equality - but would it be so outrageous if each person was given the bare necessities to survive?

08 October 2014

Pollution Inequality and Living Income Guaranteed

One of the reasons pollution has been able to become such a huge problem is that those creating the pollution are usually not the ones suffering its consequences. Let’s take the classical fictional example of a paper factory using a nearby river in which to dump its waste-material. The river-current drags these materials away from the paper factory and to a nearby town that uses the river water for drinking purposes. The paper factory might use the same river for drinking water for its employees or production processes, but it will use the water a bit higher up the river, at a point where the water is still clean. So – even though the factory is producing the waste material, dumping it in the river and so contaminating the quality of the water – it is not the factory itself/those working at the factory who feel and experience the consequences of polluting the river to get rid of its waste. Since the factory doesn’t feel the harm in what it’s doing, it won’t change what it’s doing, unless there are complaints from the villagers who DO experience the consequences of the river pollution and take action so that solutions can be implemented.

Now – a study was done by James K. Boyce, professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts, where he investigated the ‘distribution’ of air pollution. Most people have heard about distribution of income and wealth and how unequal it is. But what about air pollution – is everyone suffering to the same extent or are certain groups/categories of people more exposed – and why?

In an interview with the professor the following was discussed:

LP: Do patterns of inequality differ across the country? How can a person of color or a poor person avoid air pollution?

JKB: Avoiding industrial air pollution is difficult, particularly if you're poor or a member of a racial or ethnic minority. That’s partly because of housing prices. It’s partly because of discrimination in housing and mortgage markets — the phenomenon of red-lining. And it’s also partly because of the tendency for firms to site polluting facilities in relatively low-income and relatively high-minority communities because they expect less political pushback.

Hmmm, that last statement is quite interesting, isn’t it? In the example of our paper factory we were giving the factory ‘the benefit of the doubt’ in saying that – they probably didn’t realize what they were doing within polluting the water of the river, because they weren’t experiencing the consequences of the polluted water. But this statement clearly shows that – polluting firms are not only aware that they are polluting, they are aware that it has negative consequences for others – and yet, so long as they think they can ‘get away with it’, they’ll still do it. And when can they get away with it? When those experiencing the negative outflows are unlikely to speak up or take action to hold the firm accountable.

Or maybe it doesn’t mean that at all. Perhaps – let us entertain this notion for a moment – perhaps people of color or poor people are less likely to initiate political push back because they just don’t mind the air pollution. Maybe they are the enlightened ones who realize that air pollution is really not a big deal and therefore simply don’t want to make a fuss when it isn’t necessary.

But then you get to the following part of the interview:

LP: What are some of the most concerning economic effects of industrial air pollution on communities?

JKB: Air pollution has adverse effects on people’s health, and that means that they have to spend more on healthcare and they miss more days of work, either because they themselves are too ill to go to work or because their kids are sick and they have to stay home and take care of them. It also has adverse effects on property values, which vary with the levels of air pollution in the community.
On top of those outcome effects, it also impacts equality of opportunity, particularly for children. Because communities that are heavily burdened with air pollution tend to have higher incidence and greater severity of childhood asthma, the kids miss more days of school, and partly because they’re missing school and perhaps partly because of the neurological impacts of air pollution on their young and developing cognitive function, there is an adverse effect on school performance.

If you believe, as I think most Americans believe, that every kid deserves an equal chance, that equality of opportunity for children is dear to our society for reasons of both equity and efficiency, then the impacts of disproportionate pollution burdens on the children in some communities – the fact that the playing field is tilted against them through no fault of their own – is a troubling feature of our environmental landscape.

That settles it then – air pollution is definitely a problem that impacts the lives of those who are most exposed to it in a harmful way. So, it’s highly unlikely that they don’t mind – it must be that there is a problem in their ability to voice themselves and push for solutions that would improve their standard of living. And that makes total sense. As we have argued before – political participation is currently a luxury that can only be afforded by those who have the money and the time to firstly educate themselves on what procedures are available to them to organize themselves, formulate complaints and propose solutions – and secondly, walk these procedures and taking action.

With the implementation of a Living Income Guaranteed, companies would no longer have the ability to get away with excessive air pollution in low-income or minority community areas. No matter how much one currently struggles to get by income-wise and no matter if one belongs to a ‘minority community’ – each one’s economic situation would be secured and therefore, each one’s political influence is guaranteed as well. Herein, we could make an end to the cycle of impairing opportunities of those who already have a harder time to make the best of the opportunities they do have. Because once one is caught up in the struggle to survive, one has no bargaining power – one becomes the equivalent of a ‘slave’ within a system where one’s long term benefits are sacrificed for the short term goals of having enough money to put food on the table and pay the bills. And this is known by the bullies of the world who will ensure that the consequences they create are carried mostly by those who don’t have the luxury to put a stop to it.

So, is a Living Income Guaranteed ‘bad news’ for firms? No – not at all. The philosophy of the free market is based on the premise that off-setting individual interests can create the best outcome for everyone. Of course, interests that are not voiced have no power to off-set anything at all – which is precisely what we’re witnessing in the world today. A Living Income Guaranteed would ensure that all interests are considered and play a role within the creation of an optimal outcome. Air pollution is a great example herein, because what is air pollution – it is a way in which the natural equilibrium is disturbed, which, as we are all too aware of, is having consequences on the larger natural systems that the air forms a part of. In essence, it is a form of poisoning the planet, the planet we all share. We can try for a while to keep the effects of pollution isolated so that most, or at least the more affluent, in society don’t have to worry about it. But the planet is an interconnected system and eventually – as we’re noticing with global warming – the effects will reach everyone. So – implementing a Living Income Guaranteed is not only a matter of empowering those without means or voice to make a decent living for themselves in this world – it is a vital step to ensure that we create optimal outcomes for everyone, that cannot be achieved if not everyone is part of the discussion.


01 October 2014

Day 265: We’ve Got Blood on our Hands

Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader Julius Malema and party chief whip Floyd Shivambu accused Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa during a question and answer session in the National Assembly on Wednesday of killing the 34 mineworkers police shot dead in August 2012 in Marikana, saying he has blood on his hands and calling on him to accept responsibility for the deaths.” (For the full article, see: http://mg.co.za/article/2014-09-17-eff-ramaphosa-has-blood-on-his-hands?utm_source=Mail+%26+Guardian&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Daily+newsletter&utm_term=http%3A%2F%2Fmg.co.za%2Farticle%2F2014-09-17-eff-ramaphosa-has-blood-on-his-hands )

For context on the Marikana shootings:

The Marikana miners' strike or Lonmin strike was a wildcat strike at a mine owned by Lonmin in the Marikana area, close to Rustenburg, South Africa in 2012. The event garnered international attention following a series of violent incidents between the South African Police Service, Lonmin security, and strikers themselves among who the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) emerged through intimidation, violence and killings that mostly affected the members and leaders of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM). The NUM attributed the decline it experienced to the intimidation, violence and killings, and as a result of these, also the displacements of workers from work and their communities. This resulted in the deaths of 44 people, the majority of whom (34) were striking mineworkers killed on 16 August while 10, including 2 police officers and 2 private security guards, were killed between 10 and 11 August. At least 78 additional workers were also injured on 16 August. The total number of injuries during the strike remains unknown. Killings did not stop, but continued up to 2014, mostly affecting NUM members and leaders. In addition to the Lonmin strikers, there has been a wave of wildcat strikes across the South African mining sector.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wildcat_strike_action)

EFF leadership is out on a witch-hunt to find the one responsible for the deaths of the mineworkers during the Marikana strike and bring about justice – more so, they believe they know who is at fault and are demanding Cyril Ramaphosa to take responsibility.

Is it so? Is the Deputy President of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa, a murderer? Does he have blood on his hands? Is he responsible for the deaths of 34 people?

Of course he is.

But then again, who isn’t?

Who is responsible for the killings during this violent strike? The policemen who did the shooting? The union workers who were striking without the authorization of the union leadership? The ANC as the party in power? The people who voted the ANC into power? The system that created the conditions in which mineworkers felt the need to go strike to demand better wages? Or… all of us? For not preventing conflict where it could have been foreseen, for not preventing harm where it could have been predicted, for not preventing desperation that would obviously lead to compromise?

Let me ask you this: for all those who are leading relatively comfortable lives – enough to sustain yourselves, your family, with means of transportation, a decent house, access to technology for easy communication such as phones, computers, internet, a job that may not be ideal but doesn’t pose a threat to your life – how much would someone need to pay you to take up a job as a mineworker? Is there any amount someone can offer you that would make you say ‘yes, cool, if you pay me that much, I’ll leave my current job and start working in a mine’?

Answering that question for myself: No, there is no amount high enough that would sway me to go and work underground, digging up materials in less than pleasant and potentially dangerous conditions. Of course, I can only make that statement because I have alternatives. If I had no alternatives, no other means to generate an income while perhaps having others depending on me for support – and working in a mine would provide me that income – then ‘hell yeah’, you do what you have to.  But is that acceptable? Is it acceptable that people find themselves in such a position, where it is desperation driving them to accept a job that, if they had other means of income, they would never place their lives and their health on the line?

It is possible of course that some genuinely love mine-working – I cannot say – but then wouldn’t you say that they require a salary worthy of heroes? Because in terms of South Africa’s economy – gold and platinum is what is keeping us going. And it is the mineworkers who herein have the toughest part to play – putting in the actual physical labor so that there is a mining industry that is really the backbone of our economy. Firefighters are considered heroes because they place their life on the line in the attempt to save others’ – which is really exactly the same for mineworkers. Why do they not have the same status in society and why is that not reflected in their wages?

With implementing a Living Income Guaranteed for all those who are unemployed – a living wage sufficient to take care of your living necessities – and placing the minimum wage at double the living income – here we have a first step towards both ensuring no one accepts a job that they wouldn’t do if they had alternatives as well as moving towards proper wages for those who do decide to continue working in a mine – giving them also more bargaining power, because hey, they can quit and receive a Living Income too – you better take care of your heroes.