Day 241: Will Inflation be a Problem with Providing a Living Income Guaranteed?

‘Inflation’ is one of those big posh words that people like to use when they want to show off that they’re “in the know” of economics and money mechanics. You hear it on the news, tv, the internet and when you listen to other people talk about it, it never really becomes clear ‘what it is’ or ‘why it is so important’.

Day 240: A Bank for the People

We have an interesting point being taught in economy books - which is that an increase in investment spending has an expansionary effect on the economy - because money is invested in certain products and therefore, people are being paid or jobs being created, which means an increase in income...

Day 239: Sustainable Pricing with Basic Income Guaranteed

When we have a look at how prices have been determined throughout history, we can see that that for most throughout time (up to until the last 50-100 years), prices were set in the interest of the owner of the product / service, whereby those who labored on the products were given miniscule wages...

Day 238: Advertisement vs Rational Informed Decision-Making

One of the premises of the argument for Capitalism as the most Effective means of distributing goods and resources is that consumers make rational and informed decisions...

Day 237: Planned Obsolescence becomes Obsolete with Basic Income Guaranteed

During the war as countries no longer had access to their usual trading routes through obstruction like blockades and disrupted commercial agreements, industries had to start making the same things with inferior materials...

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.




http://livingincome.me
http://livingincomeguaranteed.wordpress.com/the-proposal/
https://www.youtube.com/user/LivingIncome
https://plus.google.com/u/0/communities/117690749220880074672
http://www.twitter.com/LivingIncome

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.

15 September 2014

Day 264: Living Income Guaranteed and Taxation - From Redistribution to Contribution



‘The re-set’ is a UK-based movement consisting of several proposals to effect ‘a constitutional re-set to re-store fair principles, accountability, community led governance and ethics. Ensuring peoplecare, earthcare and fairshare for the benefit of all’. You can  check out their website here: www.thereset.org. An overview of the proposals is presented here: http://www.thereset.org/proposals.php.

In this blog the focus is the Proposal on the abolition of Taxes. The re-set proposes to abolish the current tax system and replace it with ‘TEAL’ – Total Economic Activity Levy:

TEAL is very much a ‘pay as you go’ tax. Every time money is withdrawn or paid into a bank account, a tiny percentage of money from each transaction will speedily find its way into the treasury. Even people without bank accounts will contribute, because whenever a pack of cigarettes or a loaf of bread is purchased, the seller (say a shop) will be paid, and when the shop pays into his bank TEAL will be collected, and if you sell your labour (i.e. you have a job) TEAL will be paid by your employer and collected by your bank.”

This principle is the same one we propose under the Living Income Guaranteed proposal. Within such a system, the focus changes from ‘redistribution’ to plain ‘contribution’.  It’s not about trying to equalize incomes and moving it from the rich to the poor – but a matter of: if you make more use of the economic system, you proportionally contribute more to sustain it. One likes to believe that one’s wealth is derived from merit alone – but it simply isn’t. There is an entire economic system in place that enables a successful person to be successful. There are those who have gone before you, who have shared their know-how with you, there are those who have an income to buy your goods or services, an income they earned through participation in the economic system, there is physical infrastructure like roads and railway systems that enable all economic activity. If the economic system was self-sustaining and never required any financial input in order to maintain it or correct its inherent weaknesses, then we could say the economic system is a free one. Obviously, that is not the case. The ‘pay as you go’ tax is therefore a reasonable method of collecting the funds to be re-invested within the economic system that each one depends on.

If a basic income or living income is provided through non-tax funding – then the ‘pay as you go’ tax or ‘TEAL’ should be sufficient to mobilize the funds needed for other government expenditures, which we suggest would be quite limited if the economy in itself is largely corrected and empowered through the integration of the Living Income or Basic Income – then other taxes can indeed be abolished.

31 August 2014

Day 263: Campus Education vs. E-learning - My Verdict

With a rising amount of online tertiary courses being developed and made available, a debate has started about whether online education can guarantee the same quality tertiary education that a student would receive when attending a campus college. (See: http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/can-online-courses-replace-campus-education/)

Anant Agarwal - the CEO of edX, a joint partnership between MIT and Harvard University that offers free online learning - sees the benefits of recording lectures and then making them available to a large amount of students. He says: "Of 155,000 students that took the course, about 5 percent passed the course and earned a certificate. So that was about 7,200. That is a big number. If I were to teach on campus twice a year, both in the spring and fall semesters, I would have to teach for about 40 years before I could teach 7,200 students."

On the other side of the table,  you have arguments such as the one formulated by Shyam Sharma from Stony Brook University: "In our discipline, the objective of students learning is not to basically learn the content of the discipline, but instead to use the content as a context to engage in intellectual discussions, to develop their positions, intellectual positions, to debate and argue and develop critical thinking skills. And that oftentimes requires the expertise and guidance and mentoring and close connection, one-on-one support to the students."

Having had the 'pleasure' of receiving tertiary education in a classroom on a campus as well as through online courses, with some subjects being the same, let me share my perspective.

Comparing the content-material of the subjects I took both at the campus college and through the online course - I can say it was largely the same. So, from that perspective, the 'quality' of the online course was no different than that of the campus college. Differences were mainly due to the fact that I attended the campus college in Europe and the online education in Africa, so case-studies and examples were local and therefore quite different. Considering that the core content was the same, which did I prefer? If I have to choose between sitting in a classroom with hundreds of other students where the professor is standing at the bottom with a microphone, or comfortably sitting at home and going through the material at my own pace, I have to say the latter is my preference. Video lectures can be paused and re-winded so a student can make sure he/she hears all the information. This luxury doesn't exist in a classroom, where one can get distracted by other students, or simply miss information as one is splitting one's concentration between hearing what the professor is sharing and writing it down simultaneously.

To attend classes I had to either travel from my home town to the campus each day, spending time and money to be able to sit in the class room, where most of the time I had to hear the professor repeat what was already explained in the textbooks - or I needed to rent a room on campus/close to the campus to not waste the time traveling between home and campus - but this obviously came at the extra cost of paying rent. It was the fact that 'the professor might share information that is not already covered in my books' that required me to attend, in order to make sure I had all the material necessary to prepare myself for assignments and exams. I didn't find that for the subjects that I took in both scenarios - which were largely theoretical - that I gained anything from sitting in the class room - the amount of students that attended the course were plentiful, not really allowing for any one-on-one support in any case. For some subjects I was sitting in a room with a thousand other students. Rather then, make one lecture that can be used by many universities - and professors can add their own insights, examples, exercises and notes to provide their personal touch. This was exactly the format that was used in my online education.

Now, there were subjects I attended on the campus college that were very different in nature from the ones I attended online, where the focus of the subjects was to develop practical skills such as working in teams, making presentations, going out in the field, interviewing people, etc. For such subjects where you require to produce and present a project through team-work, there are benefits to physically sitting in the same room and having a personal relationship with your co-students. It is in these instances that I would say it is worthwhile having an actual campus with professors assisting students to develop these skills.

When it comes to 'developing critical thinking skills' as an argument for class-attendance - I have to disagree. Critical thinking should be a focus in primary and secondary education. If a person is supported from an early age to develop a clear vocabulary and to develop common sense, then whether one is at home going through material or sitting in a class room - one can view the material in a critical manner either way. Online platforms such as forums can be utilized for students to exchange views on subject material as well. I personally engaged critically with all the material I was presented with throughout my online education, of which the Economist's Journey to Life blog is a clear testimony.

So, I believe that campus college education has been romanticized and been given more credit than it actually deserves. A large part of college and university courses can be provided online. This would reduce the cost of the education and make it accessible to a larger audience. Why have professors - experts in a certain field - spend their time every year giving the same lectures over and over again - when they could record it once and then make it available to students to watch at home? Surely, humanity would benefit if professors were able to dedicate a larger portion of their time on research and developing solutions to current problems? Reducing the cost of tertiary education, more students could afford it and avoid the trap of student loan debts. Some degrees can then be followed online entirely, whereas for others a mix would be optimal, to have some subjects/courses online and have classes in education centers/on campuses for practical skill development.

08 July 2014

Day 262: Democratization - Put your Money where your Mouth is with LIG - Pt3

This blog-post is a continuation of the blogs

Day 260: Democratization - Put your Money where your Mouth is with LIG - Pt1
Day 261: Democratization - Put your Money where your Mouth is with LIG - Pt2

where we've been investigating what exactly stands in our way from living the principle of Democracy in its true form - with government of the people, by the people and for the people. Herein we identified two crucial factors that require to be addressed in order to bridge the gap between the people and government, being:

1. Education
2. Ownership of Economic Influence

The point of Education was discussed in the previous blog, where it became clear that for individuals to develop political capital in order to become effective participants in direct democratic decision making, we require to invest in the people through a Living Income Guaranteed.

Within this blog we look at the second problem:

Ownership of Economic Influence

In the first part of this blog-series we stated that:

"Instead of politics being a one-party system - in the sense that only one party is involved: the people - we are working with a three-party system - there is the people, there is the elected government officials and there is those with the financial means that participate in rent-seeking to influence policy to their own advantage, regardless of public opinion."

Most are aware of the role of lobbyists in politics - but here some points of clarification:

"A lobbyist is an activist who seeks to persuade members of the government (like members of Congress) to enact legislation that would benefit their group."

"The highest paid lobbyists know that they can charge top dollar for their services because they can offer their clients access and influence at the highest levels of government. Not surprisingly, these firms' client lists are a "Who's Who" of the corporate scene; hiring these firms is simply beyond the reach of most organizations and special interests."

Those who can afford to hire the best lobbyists are able to affect change at the highest levels of government. This shows a simple equation: more economic power equals more political power. One can ask if lobbying shouldn't be made illegal - it definitely sounds fishy - but it is justified under the principle that anyone can make the government aware of their interests and ask to consider them in policy making. Some people are obviously better at this than others - and as with anything in a capitalist society - if there is a demand for services of a particular skill, the private sector will start to supply it according to the rules of the private sector. So - it seems that we will just have to compromise on the original principle - which is not meant to discriminate against who is able to/can afford to lobby the government - if we at the same time wish to retain a capitalistic free market system.

However, the Living Income Guaranteed proposal implicitly formulates a solution to this conundrum. The proposal suggests that every citizen of a country become shareholder of human rights companies (such as water provision, electricity, telecommunications, media) and natural resource companies (eg. mining companies) in their country, under the principle that such points should never be owned by  private persons as they should operate in the benefit of the whole of society. Such an adjustment would change the economic landscape from a political perspective quite drastically - whereas previously all huge corporations that can affect change through lobbying at the highest levels were owned by the elite in society - many big corporations would now be owned by the people and would become a source of effective economic influence and a vehicle for political participation on a level that simply did not exist before.

For a political dispensation to become democratically correct - we require to not only level the political but also the economic playing field because policy is determined as much by government as by the economic elite. So for those who have given up on democracy in the true meaning of the word: a Living Income Guaranteed would put an end to the compromised political systems of representation we have today.

There is one more objection to direct democracy that is still being raised - though in today's world it is so laughable I almost forgot to mention it. But here it is anyways: 'Direct democracy is not possible because it would just be too expensive and too difficult to get all the citizens in one place to rule the country.' In a world with the technology we have today - it is silly to still think of 'coming together' as a physical event. Facebook proves that it is possible to daily vote on issues - we're already doing it by the simple click of the mouse: 'Like'. So all that requires to be done is use the technology that has been developed and create online platforms for political participation.

So - there we have it: Education, Ownership of Economic Influence and Technology - all three points no longer an obstacle with the implementation of a Living Income Guaranteed. Will we come up with more excuses - or will we realize that for the first time in the history of man we have the privilege of living in the day and age that the means and ability for implementing and practicing real democracy are available? Since everyone seems to agree that democracy is the best form of government, we at the Equal Life Foundation say: Put your money where your mouth is! It is not enough to call oneself a democrat or to support democracy 'in principle' - it requires investment in the people and an adjustment in ownership of economic influence - it requires us to ACT. Money makes the world go 'round and politics is herein no exception.