Segment "suggestion": basic income

Hi,
i just saw that twitter washed up into my “in case you missed it thingie” a :heart: which @sil gave to the tweet from a …basic income group/initiative…i guess… where they rallied for basic income.

As I see it, basic income is a topic that will become even more relevant in the coming years, and I think there is a lot that can be reasonably and interestingly be discussed about it.

So, maybe it’s worth a segment? Maybe with a competent guest presenter?

Regards
Tobi

PS: Btw, please everyone who has a opinion, I would love if you shared it in this thread :slight_smile:

PPS: most of what I think I know about the topic is from this freakonomics episode which i recomment to everyone.

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PS: Btw, please everyone who has a opinion, I would love if you shared it in this thread :slight_smile:

Well, OK… :slight_smile:

Redistributive taxation - taking money by force (or by threat of imprisonment) from person A to give it to person B because you think person B needs it more - is theft.

If you don’t agree with that, where do the following scenarios stop being theft?

  • I take money from you with a gun to give it to myself
  • I take money from you with a gun to give it to a homeless person because I think they need it more than you do
  • Me and ten of my friends agree to take money from you with a gun to give it to a homeless person because etc.
  • Me + 100 others agree to take money from you with a gun -> homeless person etc.
  • Me + 1000 others have a vote, and 60% of them agree with this policy, so we take money from you etc etc.
  • The entire county has a vote and 60% of them support it, so we etc.
  • The entire country has a vote and 60% of them support it, so we etc.

The fact that a load of people voted for something doesn’t make it moral. There are legitimate reasons to levy taxes - the fact that you think someone who has earned some money doesn’t need it as much as someone else does is not one. We all should be generous, but compelled generosity is not generosity at all.

This, of course, makes a Universal Basic Income theft on a grand scale.

Hi @gerv,

thanks a lot to take the time to reply.

…hm…I don’t agree with that…

imho if if we talk about a “normal” country it stops beeing theft right here (and would replace “country” with “state”):

The entire country has a vote and 60% of them support it, so we etc.

But just to be sure: let me add a condition and write instead:
“If a state makes a law that forces people to give up a part of the money they received for capital or services which they provided, then that’s not theft per-se”.
wdyt?

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So if a country votes for a policy, that automatically makes it morally OK? I’m fairly sure you don’t believe that consistently in practice. There is the obvious Godwin-esque example, but even without going to that extreme, people are almost certainly about to vote the Conservative party in in a landslide. Is every policy they enact, or every policy in their manifesto, therefore moral?

But just to be sure: let me add a condition and write instead:
“If a state makes a law that forces people to give up a part of the money they received for capital or services which they provided, then that’s not theft per-se”.

Are those services provided to the people who are giving up the money, or are they being provided to other people?

You can just declare “well, redistributive taxation is not theft” but that doesn’t make it so :slight_smile:

We’re just not at that level of Roddenberry yet :frowning:

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So if a country votes for a policy, that automatically makes it morally OK?

The “So” irritates me a little bit…did you conclude that I would subscribe to
"if a country votes for a policy, that automatically makes it morally OK"
based on what I wrote earlier? If yes, how did you come to that conclusion?

Are those services provided to the people who are giving up the money, or are they being provided to other people?

I can’t see what difference it would make

The “So” irritates me a little bit…did you conclude that I would subscribe to
"if a country votes for a policy, that automatically makes it morally OK"
based on what I wrote earlier? If yes, how did you come to that conclusion?

Because you said that of my chain of scenarios, it stopped being theft at the point where the whole country voted for it to happen. The difference between this scenario and the previous one was that instead of a geographic sub-part of the country voting for the action, everyone voted for it. So I assumed that was what made the difference for you. If I’m wrong, please help me understand what aspect of that scenario makes it no longer theft.

I can’t see what difference it would make

If I pay money to my local council and they maintain my road and collect my bins, that’s one thing. If I pay money to my local council and get nothing back for it, but instead it’s spent on services for other people, that is definitely a different thing.

You may not be surprised to hear I have a different view here and support a redistribution of wealth.

I hope I am correct in saying that we all live in democracies and so are ruled by our common consent, This is not the case in all countries or states but is certainly true of the UK where I live and the USA. Under such a system we elect politicisations to frame the laws, level of taxation and what that money is spent on.
When we disagree with their decisions we are free to protest and campaign against them and we have the opportunity to give someone else the power to somebody else or even stand for election our selves.

I am lucky in that while I would certainly not describe my self as rich I am well educated and financially comfortable. I don’t begrudge some of my earnings being used to help others less fortunate than me. You have said that its OK to tax people to pay for road maintenance but not to for example provide a hand=up for an homeless person to get them into a home and give them the chance to get back into work so with luck they can start to contribute to society. Why?

In the UK we have the National Health Service which offers free at the point of need health care to anybody who needs it. I could argue that I am fit and healthy so should not need to pay for it. So far I have put more into the NHS than I have taken out I hope this continues to be the case. However, I am very proud of the NHS and the people who work in it from the cleaners who keep the hospitals clean, nurses, doctors and thousands of others, too many to mention, who give me the confidence that if anything were to happen to me I will be looked after

A few years ago I was working from home, my daughters school was almost next door to my house and anywhere I needed to go to I could ride either mine or my daughters horse so did not directly benefit from road maintenance so would I be justified insisting I did not pay for it?

Clearly for me the answer is no, the state provides a safety net for those in need and the more fortunate amongst us pay to fund it. Why? Because while you or I may be lucky enough to have little need for support there is nothing to say that will always be the case. I could for example fall ill tomorrow and be unable to work again. If that were to happen I would happily accept that I would not be able to keep the horses, they are an indulgence I have because I like horses and can afford to keep them, I would hope though that the state would be able to assist as I needed. I am happy to contribute to the needs of others while I can

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The trouble with this sort of conversation is that people always jump from someone’s statement that say “the Government should not do X” to an assumption that the person thinks that “X should not be done”. But that’s not logical.

I am absolutely OK with using my money to help homeless people, or give it to those who are. But that’s very different from someone taking my money and using it to help whoever it is that they feel is needy, in the way they choose (which I may think is actually harmful). And government handouts are a very different thing from charity. Similarly, there’s nothing wrong with healthcare that’s free at the point of need. Insurance-based healthcare can be free at the point of need.

If you support a redistribution of wealth, where in my list of scenarios does the situation stop being stealing? Clearly, the top one is, and obviously you think the bottom one is not. So where’s the transition?

If you support a redistribution of wealth, where in my list of scenarios does the situation stop being stealing? Clearly, the top one is, and obviously you think the bottom one is not. So where’s the transition?

I’d say in a democracy, at the 51% mark. Not to say that’s right, or even necessarily morally acceptable, but most things in a democracy are shitty, nobody-wins compromises. And, is theft always wrong? I’m vehemently against the death penalty, yet pro choice. Not necessarily always logical or acceptable positions, especially in extreme situations, yet I’m comfortable within that moral dilemma. If redistribution of wealth, or as in this case, universal income voted in by the majority, is theft, then I’m ok with theft.

edit: and to add, if I understand universal income correctly, every individual, you and me included, would receive the exact same amount of income, so not exactly stealing?

Can’t tell if you’re trolling or not.

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Hi @gerv
thanks for spending some extra time to explain your point.
Now I also better understand why you wrote redistributive tax.
I also see how this enters into my original question about basic income.

So I assumed that was what made the difference for you. If I’m wrong, please help me understand what aspect of that scenario makes it no longer theft.

I don’t know that you are wrong…and I added some silent assumptions to the last (or last two) scenario(s) you described
I wrote that redistributing money stops being theft at this point,
because I additionally assumed that

  • in the scenario those 60% (or 51%) voted on a generally applicable law the text of which is publicy available (and not a number of people with guns deciding something on a whim)
  • the amount of money that is redistributed does not threaten the donors’ livelihoods

And so I now think it might as well have been the county where the redistribution lost the “theft” quality. I’m not super-familiar with what a county is.

Can’t tell if you’re trolling or not.

Trolls don’t tend to set out a careful argument. This viewpoint may be miles from where you are, but it seems to me that saying it’s trolling is just a way to dismiss it without engaging with it…

tobi42: thanks for your clarifications. I would say that just because the text of the law is public doesn’t change the morality of it. Have you heard the old joke about two wolves and sheep voting on what to have for dinner? Even if the wolves write up a public document, that doesn’t make it any more right :slight_smile: You might try and argue that it’s a bit less immoral if the livelihoods of those who are being taken from is not being threatened, but if we are all equal before the law, then robbing a rich person is as morally wrong as robbing a poor person.

Sorry about using the word “county” - the UK is divided into about 60 of them, it’s the next smallest unit after “country”. You can replace that with whatever subdivisions are used in your country, and the effect will be the same.

For me it stops being theft once it is the majority of the population for whatever society you belong to. I belong to a group of horse lovers and we have lots of events where we do things which the less fortunate amongst us could never afford but we have a social conscience and raise money for several good causes. For example we regularly play host to a local school which deals with children who have learning difficulties and spending time with our horses clearly helps them. Some of the horses are ridden by the kids in small groups though mine are not because while I love them to bits mine are not suitable for beginners. This is a rule of this society, if you want to benefit from our events you contribute.

People here are free to join and contribute but do not have to join if they don’t want to. At a bigger level as a UK subject I have to abide by the rules set by our government. I don’t always agree with them but I am free to protest and try to change opinion.

Insurance based health care has its problems because you have to be able to afford to pay for it which may be difficult if you have long term health problems which are expensive and may make it difficult for you to work.

Our key difference here is that I see certain responsibilities that we have to care for each other which we should be obliged to support. You see this as more of a personal choice in that you may choose to support one cause but may decide to ignore another completely. The problem here is that it’s only the people with money who get to choose and since they are not usually the people who are suffering their priorities may not match the actual need.

We need to have suitable checks and balances here. I don’t want the state to be seen as a free ride for anyone who does not want to contribute but I also don’t want anybody’s life to be ruined by a run of bad luck.

@kerneloops the discussion here is not universal income but basic income which is, for me, an income level that supports peoples basic needs. There needs to be some scope for people to earn more to encourage competition and innovation but I don’t see any reason that shouldn’t be limited to a sensible level.

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I feel like I’m on QI and about to get the klaxon for a stupid answer, but doesn’t all of what you said apply equally well to existing benefit schemes? Are you saying that you believe unemployment pay, disability benefit and maternity pay to be morally wrong?

@kerneloops the discussion here is not universal income but basic income which is, for me, an income level that supports peoples basic needs. There needs to be some scope for people to earn more to encourage competition and innovation but I don’t see any reason that shouldn’t be limited to a sensible level.

From Wiki:

A basic income (also called basic income guarantee, Citizen’s Income, unconditional basic income, universal basic income, or universal demogrant)[…]

In my small mind I think I was talking about the same thing, but then again, I am often wrong (so my wife tells me).

ralight: No buzzer :slight_smile: You are absolutely right that this viewpoint has a lot of ramifications. I think government has taken on a lot of roles it shouldn’t have, and that supporting the unemployed, disabled and those who are pregnant (to take your three examples) is the job of the communities surrounding those people. (Who would have a lot more money to do it with if tax rates were reduced accordingly when the government wasn’t doing it!) In my case, it would be my church, but I’m sure other charitable groups would form, large and small, with various motivations, to take this on.

As well as the fact that I think this is the appropriate Biblical scope of government (an argument which may or may not carry weight with you), I think that it would also be very good in practice for society. Compassion and caring for others would move much more to the forefront of everyone’s thinking, by necessity. People would be no longer isolated from their neighbours, happy to think “oh, the government will take care of them”. People would be encouraged to be financially responsible, saving for forseeable upcoming periods of lower income, like pregnancy. There would be much greater incentives to find work, because I suspect many charities run in this way would not be happy to bankroll someone to lie on their sofa for years. (Usual disclaimer for the hard of thinking: I don’t think this is how all unemployed people are!) Support for those in need would be much more person-centred and relational, rather than e.g. turning up at a Job Centre where an overworked employee sighs, puts a tick in a book because they don’t want to have an argument, and the cash keeps flowing. The whole thing would be an expression of “love one another”, which our current benefits system definitely is not. God’s ways are better.

It’s a very different vision of society, I grant you, and we aren’t going to get there tomorrow, or even in a decade. But I still think my argument that redistributive taxation is theft is morally watertight. The fact that it has massive ramifications doesn’t affect its rightness. If as a country we’ve been stealing on a grand scale, what we ought to do is repent and stop.

My ex wife used to tell me the same thing.

@tobi42 suggests that this would be an excellent subject for a show segment. He may be correct but they would need to find the correct guest presenter. I suspect the views of @sil on this matter are similar to mine. I don’t know the politics of @jeremy and @jonobacon well enough but I suspect they are not different enough to make the discussion interesting.

Clearly @gerv and myself disagree strongly in this area but I would always defend his right to express his views. The beauty of democracy is I an free to explain why I think he is wrong while he has an equal chance to pick holes in my argument. We may never convince each other that one view is the correct one but in arguing our cases we give others the chance to think and make their own minds up.

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If anyone is interested, there is also this wikipedia article about taxation-as-theft.

@gerv I hope you don’t find the disagreement too frustrating. Even if I don’t aggree with you on this, you gave me something new (well, new to me) to think about and I sortof feel enriched for it.

He may be correct but they would need to find the correct guest presenter.

Agree, but just to mention it, IMHO the talking would not have to be restricted to ethics and/or economy:
maybe someone has a deeper inside in the technical developments
…e.g. are all jobs expected to merely be handed over to machines, or are there also examples for teamwork, where it’s not clear that the machine is just a tool, but still the human has something essential left to do…just crossed my mind…I’m sure there are plenty of interesting things to come up with.

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Hi Tobi,

I don’t find this frustrating at all; thanks for engaging with my. BTW, I don’t believe all taxation is theft, as noted above, so the Wikipedia article doesn’t really reflect my position. (It may reflect the position of others here, I don’t know.)

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