Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Bill Mitchell — A basic income guarantee is a neo-liberal strategy for serfdom without the work

A reader pointed out the other day that a good idea remains a good idea even if bad people advocate it. This was in relation to my blog – Why are CEOs now supporting basic income guarantees?. It reprised an issue that has a long history in culture and the arts. Should we hate Wagner because it was symbolic for the Nazis? What about the work of Budd Schulberg who produced the screenplay for ‘On the Waterfront’ but was simultaneously dobbing people into the House Un-American Activities Committee? There are countless examples of this sort of quandary, or not, depending on your viewpoint. As I wrote in the earlier blog (cited abive), I am always suspicious when the elites advocate something. It is not just a taste for Wagner they are articulating. Generally, they are advocating further pathways that they can shore up their control and power. Which means bad things for the rest of us! The BIG is one of those pathways and it leads to impoverishment and an on-going capitalist domination. A basic income guarantee is not a path to nirvana – I see it as just a neo-liberal strategy for serfdom without the work....
Ccapitalism is not as much about private ownership of the means of production as it is about favoring capital, that is, ownership of real and financial assets, over the other factors of production — labor, that is, workers, and land, that is, the environment.

Capitalism is about capital accumulation and this occurs through expropriation and exploitation of workers and the environment by means of the application of power and control.

In democratic republics, the people have the opportunity to confront this through the electoral process. But they have to know what the alternatives are and how to proceed. Presently, they are being kept in the dark and misled.

MMT shows what some of the economic options are and how they would work to produce an economic system in which the factors of production are integrated harmoniously, with the top priority being people and the planet.
I know that BIG-toting progressives will respond and say their intent is different to Friedman’s. Sure enough. But structures are structures.
The BIG is very susceptible to neo-liberal manipulation. Once you abandon the narrative that it is the government’s responsibility to ensure full employment and agree that all the government is required to do is guarantee a bare existence then the slippery slope has been erected.
A moment’s reflection tells us that the CEOs and their lobbying organisations typically oppose any form of social assistance being provided by governments, in the same way, they tend to oppose wage rises.
Capital-labour conflict remains a central dynamic in our societies and only naivety would lead one to conclude it will go away, or rather, be ‘outside’ this dynamic by giving the unemployed a bare minimum BIG.
Once those who were formerly workers – in direct opposition to capital – become meagre consumption units, then the balance of power is tilted further towards capital....
Bill Mitchell – billy blog
A basic income guarantee is a neo-liberal strategy for serfdom without the work
Bill Mitchell | Professor in Economics and Director of the Centre of Full Employment and Equity (CofFEE), at University of Newcastle, NSW, Australia

15 comments:

Dan Lynch said...

The JG is very susceptible to neo-liberal manipulation.... Capital-labour conflict remains a central dynamic in our societies and only naivety would lead one to conclude it will go away.

There, I fixed it!

Look, both the JG and the various BIG/UBI proposals are utopian. Any real life JG will be workfare with strings attached and any real life BIG will be a meager subsistence with strings attached. Both fall into the category of trying to save capitalism from itself. In the long run the capitalists will always win in a capitalist society because they have more power and influence.

Calgacus said...

A lot of things we have now were once called utopian. Economic literacy shows UBIs are dystopian, rather.

But the wrongest thing is calling a JG "trying to save capitalism from itself," of the article of faith that the capitalists are omnipotent, when they certainly know and occasionally say how omnimpotent they are.

In Marxian terms, a JG is a Transitional demand that will "abolish" (a horrible mistranslation of aufheben, that unfortunately Marx himself once used) capitalism.

Ralph Musgrave said...

"Neo-liberal strategy for serfdom"???? Living a life of leisure on BIG doesn't sound like serfdom to me!

Moreover, we have in effect had BIG in the UK for decades. That is, if anyone is really determined to, they can spend their life living on benefits for no good reason. I know people doing it.

Bob said...

Introduce those people to Neil.

Andrew Anderson said...

That is, if anyone is really determined to, they can spend their life living on benefits for no good reason. Ralph Musgrave

Why does that offend more than the rich living off, say, positive yielding sovereign (i.e. risk-free) debt? Because the rich look more elegant when idle? And have more ways to disguise their idleness/meddling as, for example, public service?

Let's please take on welfare for the rich first, eh? Then we should not need so much welfare for everyone else?

Andrew Anderson said...

Capital-labour conflict remains a central dynamic in our societies and only naivety would lead one to conclude it will go away, or rather, be ‘outside’ this dynamic by giving the unemployed a bare minimum BIG. Bill Mitchell

Forget a BIG and forget a UBI and we are still left with the moral NECESSITY of a Citizen's Dividend IF we are to have ethical fiat creation beyond justifiable deficit spending by the monetary sovereign.

Forget a BIG and forget a UBI and we are still left with the fact that productivity increases have gone almost entirely to capital since 1971 despite being financed with what is, in essence*, the PUBLIC's CREDIT but for private gain.

And yes, a Citizen's Dividend is not sufficient but it is certainly necessary in addition to asset reform lest people sell their redistributed assets in order to eat, etc. as was apparently the case in Russia after the fall of Communism there.

*due to extensive government privileges for private credit creation.

Noah Way said...

Living a life of leisure on BIG doesn't sound like serfdom to me!

The voice from the Ivory Tower. Living on a minimum of public assistance is not exactly the lap of luxury. You should try it sometime ...

@AA Let's please take on welfare for the rich first +++

Tom Hickey said...

In Marxian terms, a JG is a Transitional demand that will "abolish" (a horrible mistranslation of aufheben, that unfortunately Marx himself once used) capitalism.

It's signifiant that Marx used "aufheben" in this context. "Aufheben" is a key term in Hegel's dialectic method.

Aufheben or Aufhebung[1] is a German word with several seemingly contradictory meanings, including "to lift up", "to abolish", "cancel" or "suspend", or "to sublate".[2] The term has also been defined as "abolish", "preserve", and "transcend". In philosophy, aufheben is used by Hegel to explain what happens when a thesis and antithesis interact, and in this sense is translated mainly as "sublate".[1]

The German philosopher Walter Kaufmann argues that the word Aufhebung literally translates into English as "pick up" and that it is quite common in ordinary German speech: "it is what you do when something has fallen to the floor. Something may be picked up in order that it will no longer be there; on the other hand, I may also pick it up to keep it."[3] When Hegel uses the term in its double meaning, he usually expressly informs the reader that he does so. Kaufmann also claims that "Hegel may be said to visualize how something is picked up in order that it may no longer be there just the way it was, although, it is not cancelled altogether but lifted up to be kept on a different level." [3]


The idea is that neither nature nor history move in jumps. One state blends into another and the beginning state influences the succeeding one.

The basic logic of the dialectic that assertion of one thing (A) calls forth its complement (not A) to complete the whole, (A and Not A). This is the opposite of categorical logic where assertion of A excludes not A. But in dialectic, when one thing is asserted is opposite is also called into play.

History is path dependent. So when one position is posited, its opposite is also called into play. Their interaction results in the formerly stonger becoming weaker and finally being replace by then formerly weaker.

But the former is not completely replaced in that its influence is still present.

Feudalism gave way to capitalism and in Marx's view capitalism will give way to socialism.

But just as there are aspects of feudalism in capitalism after the transition in which capitalism became dominant and land was folded into capital as a factor, there will be aspects of capitalism in socialism.

The JG functions historically as a transition mechanism.

A reason that TPTB want to minimize employment by the state is because they realize that this is part of a transition to socialism from capitalism and they want to discourage this.

Under capitalism employment (labor) is controlled (defined) by private employers (capital). In the transition of to socialism, the concept of "job," "work" and "wage" will remain in the form of capitalism, just as the servility of field workers was transferred to factory workers in the transition from feudalism to capitalism, even though factory workers were no longer serfs bound to land.

A JG keeps some aspects of the concept of a job and work under capitalism but expands upon its, e.g., with matching the job to the employee rather than the reverse as is now the case.

Aufheben captures this idea. We would probably be more inclined to look at now from the POV of evolutionary development involving adaptation, reflexivity, and emergence.

Andrew Anderson said...

A reason that TPTB want to minimize employment by the state is because they realize that this is part of a transition to socialism from capitalism and they want to discourage this.
Tom Hickey

Here's a problem - the belief that the only alternative to fascism is socialism. But neither is stable in the longer run because they both ignore justice.

Tom Hickey said...

Here's a problem - the belief that the only alternative to fascism is socialism

Category error. Fascism is a political system while socialism is an economic system.

Andrew Anderson said...

In any event, socialism is not very popular WITH THE PEOPLE, never mind the TPTB. Otherwise, we would not tolerate so much of our present system of welfare for the rich.

So, if we wish to win against welfare for the rich, we should present a more palatable alternative than socialism since it's been tried and rejected BY THE PEOPLE.

So how about we aim at eliminating what is clearly unjust about the present system rather than throwing the baby out with the bath water?


Tom Hickey said...

socialism is not very popular WITH THE PEOPLE

Social democracy and democratic socialism have been rather popular with the people where in force, but not so much with TPTB. Neoliberalism, which aims at a market state, is a reaction to social democracy and democratic socialism, which both aim at a form of welfare state.

The assumption of economic liberals is that a market state produces optimal socio-economic results based on agent optimization, reward based on marginal productivity, and optimal growth,employment, and price stability, all based on spontaneous natural order.

The assumption of social democracy and democratic socialism is that the assumption of economic liberalism is false and that public policy should be determined democratically rather than being left to market outcomes.

Andrew Anderson said...

What is spontaneous or natural about government privileges for private credit creation? For usury?

Yet those privileges have existed since the founding of the US, at least in implicit form, since the population should not have to work through private banks or be limited to unsafe, inconvenient physical fiat, a.k.a. "cash."

Six said...

"In any event, socialism is not very popular WITH THE PEOPLE"

Most everyone likes some aspect of socialism. The right has many police and military fetishists. People on the left and right like quality public infrastructure, publicly funded old age insurance, quality schools, etc. And there seems to be a big demand for socialist health insurance. It seems that most people want aspects of both socialism and capitalism. Whether or not they realize this is another story, due to varying degrees of cognitive dissonance.

Andrew Anderson said...

People like fiat distributions (e.g. Social Security), that's for sure. But meddling in their lives? Who likes that except the meddlers?