image: war workers’ housing in Toronto in 1945 from City of Toronto Archives via Wikimedia Commons
Glass is more full than empty 3-page .pdf file
Senior Tory Hugh Segal was in the GTA this week advocating for a guaranteed minimum income. With an election underway you’d think we’d be all over this. Kinda weird, since a guaranteed minimum income “…could pretty much eliminate poverty entirely.” With a bit of a push?
image: bystanders help motorist in bad conditions – NARA via Wikimedia Commons
image: Library and Archives Canada
Most advocates of guaranteed national minimum incomes argue in favour of such a tool as a direct way to combat the ill effects of poverty and social difficulty in complicated economic environments. Business arguments in favour of minimum incomes are perhaps more important in certain places when it comes to seeing them enacted. We were really intrigued to come across a piece at Falkvinge & Co. sensibly advocating for minimum income from the point of view of high technology management and digital entrepreneurship in a dangerous, fast-moving future economy. That economy will feature serious insecurity for working people while being rich in opportunities and rewards for innovative behaviour in new environments. The country, city or region that best nurtures the dynamic players in the risky new world will be the ones to thrive. How best to do that?
Falkvinge.net is as close as you can get to the forward-most positions of the new economy. Perspectives and opinions there are edgy and sensible. How will a new Bill Gates evolve if she is trapped in a dead end job in the suburbs, wasting all her time and energy getting to and from insecure work that barely pays for a minimum dignity of life? How will the rest of us find our way as well? A guaranteed minimal income could help organize the most powerful aspects of the future economic life of places willing to adopt one. This argument is pure business: pure self-interest of a radical kind.
What a contrast to the embarrassing words of those who fight increased minimum wages in North America, let alone a guaranteed universal income, on the basis they would hurt business or reduce personal incentive to participate in the economy. This piece makes a case for a guaranteed income as a powerful tool that acknowledges reality and supports high quality entrepreneurship in a decentralized, increasingly open source world . This profoundly reverses opinions like those of TV businessman Kevin O’Leary. The latter’s recent cranky assertion that global poverty and the spectacles of wealth will somehow inspire future entrepreneurship seems quite mentally ill when read next to material such as this:
Infographics are fantastic things. They function like road maps to keep us from becoming lost in complex issues. Citizens for Public Justice whipped one up last year allowing Canadians to make a speedy and direct comparison of the social welfare system with its possible replacement: a guaranteed income. The GLI or Guaranteed Liveable Income emerges right away as a cheaper and less nasty way for Canadians to look out for those in social difficulty. The immediate cost of a GLI is more than balanced out by the reduction in costs accrued to society for the impact of crime, poor health and poor mental health incurred by social difficulty. Not to mention the bureaucracy and poor efficacy of current social welfare programs. We’re talking about billions of dollars and more importantly, the bedrock quality of life here.
The British Medical Journal looked at food costs and the diet/public health relationship in ten countries recently. They confirmed that it costs individuals more to eat fresher, healthier foods but that not making better diets part of public health policy will have high social costs. For a Canadian family the household budget requires an extra two thousand dollars a year to stay off a less healthy diet. With over 1300 comments and several thousand “shares” in just a couple of days CBC online coverage of the report seems to have struck a note with Canadians.
See also: (355) Meal break with Jack Monroe
image: Van Tol Retail via Wikimedia Commons
We like to keep an eye on other countries at suburban-poverty.com. The comparison of social conditions, especially in the other English-speaking countries, lends some insight into where Canada stands, helps us avoid the Fortress North America mentality that appears from time to time. Via the Guardian site today we find Britain looking at an increase in food bank use on the part of people holding jobs. If any one thing undermines the idea of a global economy shaped by neoconservative values it is the phenomenon of those in employment in poverty. An equation straight out of the nineteenth century.
image: tinned beans by Gordon Joly via Wikimedia Commons
An era of leaks this has certainly become. Now available for heaping on the ever-growing mountain of revelations that reflect not exactly positively upon official posture from Iraq to Utah and back again is Project Hero, a report commissioned by the British government for a new intergenerational tax. If financializing debt was a bad idea for American real estate, why is it a good idea for UK student loans?
Raise interest rates on old student loans, secret report propose: proposal is found in Whitehall-commissioned study examining how coalition could privatise entire stock of student loans
image: Chris Moncus via Wikimedia Commons
The British government’s so-called “nudge unit” has had one of its toys taken away. The nudgers are mandated to make special efforts to move what are seen as extra-problematic social welfare cases into employment by taking them to task for personal behaviour seen to be creating barriers to employment. A psychometric test devised by a US firm designed to help subjects of the cabinet-level Downing Street Behavioural Insight Team gain understanding of what they might do besides burden society has failed its scientific validation and its publisher has advised the British government to stop using it. The media is asking questions about the tests and now the whole scheme is looking shallow and unethical at best. Bloggers and other critics describe the test widely as a “sham”, as “bogus” and as “snake oil”.
The four-dozen questions in the test require graded answers to statements about a variety of things such as how often a job seeker creates things of beauty or visits museums. The test was apparently explained to job seekers as objectively able to determine the strengths of the individual taking it. This type of testing is a well-established mini industry unto itself within the world of human resources management and yet this particular tool is now in discredit. It would seem, in this instance, to in fact be a pseudo-scientific instrument used to enforce the idea that unemployment, poverty and social difficulty are the result of defects in character. Such defects in turn are said to be entirely correctable through better decision making, positive thinking, and the creation and enactment of a rational plan of higher goals for oneself within an economy based on rewards for merit, self-knowledge, high levels of effort and freedom of opportunity.
The nudge unit’s days are probably numbered now. It is set to take its ten or so employees into a partially privatized arrangement though it is tough to see how it can have meaningful influence on policy or be seen as credible by its clients after embarrassing itself so much.
image: psycho-surgery in the 1940s by HA Ewing via Wikimedia Commons