A Great Idea – UPDATED

This is the best idea I’ve heard in a long time.  Of course, it could never work in America — the parasite class, both inside and outside government, is simply too large to ever implement it — but in less ridiculous polities than ours it might just work.

Maybe some municipalities could try it.

UPDATE:  This started as a reply to Nate Winchester, but needs to go on the main page.

Nate forwards a link from Bayou Renaissance Man, who makes excellent points about “Basic Income.”  I agree with them all.  Problem is, his objections assume that we still live in a republic.  We don’t, and we haven’t, for at least 150 years.

Once you accept the basic premisis of managerialism — that residents of a nation are problems to be managed, rather than participating citizens — you’ve abandoned democracy.  You can’t be both a citizen and a subject.  They’re opposites.  It’s unpossible.

28228-Thats-Unpossible-Ralph-wiggum-PcuIThe United States made its choice 150 years ago.  Thanks to the Pension Act, Union Army veterans got to vote on how much they’d be compensated for their disabilites, as well as what counted as a “disability” in the first place. As Union vets were the largest recognizable voting bloc in the Gilded Age, the easiest way to buy votes was to expand the pension laws… which government after government did, right up to the turn of the 20th century

We’ve been trying to square the citizen/subject circle ever since, and failing.  Every welfare program faces the same fundamental contradiction — you’re letting people vote on how much the government should pay them.

Note that it doesn’t have to be this way.  Great Britian’s 1834 Poor Law disenfranchised those who took public assistance.  If you want to be a ward of the state, you don’t get a say in how the state is run.  The inmates don’t get to vote on the asylum’s policies.  If, at any time, you wanted / were able to try your luck in the labor market again, you got your vote back.

In a rational polity — or even one less ridiculous than ours, like Finland — this would be part of the national discussion on citizenship.  We don’t let H1-B visa holders vote, even though — we’re routinely informed — their labor is so vital for the American economy.  We assume they’d form blocs and rig things in their favor, as they have only short-term personal interests in American politics.  They have no reason to take the long view, so they won’t.

Government assistance can — and should — work the same way.  We’ll never do it, of course, but since Trump et al are forcing us to at least kinda sorta nibble around the edges of the national question, we should at least bring this up as a live option.  Time was, we understood that rights entail corresponding duties — fail to discharge the one, lose the other.  If “welfare is a right” — as we’re so often told by Our Betters, the Liberal — then it’s the wefare recipient’s duty to bow out of elections.

And be honest: How many of you are truly bothered by the idea of a Welfare Queen as such?  Anyone with any experience of life knows that there are certain people who are just going to be parasites  They won’t work, and they’re going to go to the dogs no matter what incentives you hold out, or penalties you threaten.  Think of Huck Finn’s dad.  Those people are the bedrock on which the managerial state is built.  I for one don’t have a problem with paying taxes to get them a basic food ration.  It’s only when they get to team up and vote on how much to tax me that I get irate.

Finland is a Scandinavian country, so they don’t have such a…. diverse…. parasite class as we do.  So $900 a month or whatever will probably work for them.  And, logically, they’re willing to tolerate the natural Darwinian end of the incorrigible few who will spend all their allowance on booze and hookers.  Americans won’t do that either, but, again, be honest: If we could keep ghetto dysfunction in the ghetto by means of a food ration, some disposable cash, and Hamsterdam, wouldn’t you take that deal?  They don’t get to vote, and they get stomped by the cops if they bring their shit out of the ‘hood… and, of course, they get both the franchise and a get-out-of-a-cop-stomping card if they choose to leave their old ways behind.  Americans have no idea what goes on in the inner cities anyway.  Gang violence and ODs don’t bother us, because thanks to the Goodthinkers in the media, we don’t have to see them.  Again, in a rational polity a place like Detroit would be a burning national shame.  Fred Reed has written a zillion words on this topic; go take a gander.

And yeah, I’m well aware that this is “not who we are,” “not our values,” etc.  But look: I’m a historian.  We havent’ been who we are, or true to our values, since the War of Northern Aggression.  Disenfranchsing welfare recipients is, yes, cruel, awful, and of course racist.  But it’s also the only way to resolve the citizen / subject dilemma.  Agree to be managed, and take the consequences — again, I’d be happy to pay my taxes for this, and I suspect that you would to (be honest!).  Finland is giving it a whirl.  If they succeed… well, given what’s coming down the pike when the next financial bubble bursts, we need to at least think it over.

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6 thoughts on “A Great Idea – UPDATED

    1. Severian

      I don’t think they have much of a problem with that. Who wants to live in Finland? 🙂 Seriously, the few Finns I’ve known have been great guys, but it’s Arctic up there….

      1. Nate Winchester

        For $900 a month? Doing NOTHING? Just free bonus cash? I’ll grab some extra blankets and move there right now!

        I do note on your link it says: “every Finnish citizen and legal resident.”

        I guess if I was forced to choose a public welfare system, rather that than some of the edifice we have now. But you’ll still have the problem you always have: Eventually you’ll run out of other people’s money.

        1. nightfly

          I suspect it’s meant to replace all the other things they do, on the theory that it will cost them much less money each month. On that principle it seems sound – almost like insurance payments. We pay X per month so that, should the worst happen, we don’t get stuck with a six-figure bill somewhere down the line. Finland’s citizens will pay X per month for a similar reason.

          The trick is making the money enough to keep body and soul together if one trims all the fat – ALL of it. $900 per month isn’t a lot of margin. Heck, in many places in America it would barely get you an efficiency apartment in a shady place in town, and that’s before you even shell out for food or clothes.

          Those who have jobs will be paying back a hunk of it in taxes, so that’s all right, and it will be coming out of one’s taxes in the first place. I can well imagine everyone coming out ahead, even the fully-subsidized… because they’ll have every incentive to be less-subsidized as time goes on.

          The temptation will be, after ten years, someone getting the bright idea to index this to inflation and increasing the monthly stipend, or adding other stuff on top of it to correct some real or imagined injustice. But I think it’s still worth trying. Nothing else is working right now.

  1. Nate Winchester

    Note that it doesn’t have to be this way. Great Britian’s 1834 Poor Law disenfranchised those who took public assistance. If you want to be a ward of the state, you don’t get a say in how the state is run. The inmates don’t get to vote on the asylum’s policies. If, at any time, you wanted / were able to try your luck in the labor market again, you got your vote back.

    Was that eventually rescinded? Because given the NHS, it seems like Great Britain there should be nobody voting on anything.

    Though that could explain some things about England. It’s a clever step to tyranny you have to admit. (like I tried pointing out to someone who insisted corporations were government entities and had no rights – what then was stopping the government from declaring any individual a corporation [which can be the case, you can incorporate by yourself] and then yanking away their rights?)

    1. Severian

      Was that eventually rescinded?

      Yep — one of the various Reform Acts, I think. And in 1834 it didn’t really matter, because the kinds of folks who would qualify for Poor Law assistance most likely wouldn’t have had the vote anyway. But even the bleeding hearts who passed the Poor Law (the most advanced and humane public assistance law in the world at the time) realized the principle of not letting the inmates run the asylum.

      Ahhh, common sense… where did you go? Britain used to have a whole bunch of commonsense laws on the books. For instance, anti-suffragettes pointed out that, if you can’t physically fight in the armed forces, you shouldn’t get to vote on sending those armed forces off to war. So either prepare to get drafted, ladies, or don’t vote. The more I learn and the longer I live, the more I think the high Victorian period was the absolute apex of human civilization.

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