17 February 2018

The idea of Universal Basic Income

The proposal of a Universal Basic Income (UBI) as a response to jobs 'running out' due to algorithmic automation and as a 'final solution' to poverty has become popular in some quarters.

But does the UBI not display the Usual Bovine Ignorance about the nature of freedom? The phenomenon of freedom can only be disclosed by a thinking that has not cut off its access to the ontological difference that has nurtured Western thinking from its Greek origins on. In particular, as a social ontology shows, the phenomenon of freedom includes the striving for each individual to find and adopt his or her self in a reflection from its world of existential possibilities. Through this self-reflection afforded by the esteem of others, the self gains its own self-esteem — its stand and standing as somewho in the world.

Not only would a Universal Basic Income not address the need and desire for self-esteem, but, like the idea of the welfare state as a whole, would only further undermine the self-esteem of those needing encouragement most of all. Siphoning the poor off into the pool of social losers with misplaced compassion. Whereas, given encouragement, there is no end to what people can do for each other, each within the limits of their own abilities, whatever they may be, hence deriving their self-esteem and self-standing.

UBI seems to be not such a good idea, after all. And that already due to the Usual Bovine Ignorance about the nature of ideas themselves. An idea, namely, is the 'look' a phenomenon presents of itself in the difference between being and beings. Our times pay dearly for the lack of a phenomenology of freedom — and hardly a glimmer on the horizon. Positivist thinking of all shades is consolidating from generation to generation; the ability to think philosophically from the ontological difference is silently, painlessly dying.

CC to CC.

Further reading: Social Ontology


  1. I can see that "freedom includes the striving for each individual to find and adopt his or her self in a reflection from its world of existential possibilities". Aren't all social programs part of the existential possibilities? Of themselves social programs don't guarantee or establish freedom, but an individual can benefit from a social program for her own self-standing in the world.
    Of the 2000 people who've taken part in the UBI trial in Finland, some are sure to make it work and perhaps even gain in self-esteem from the experiment. Interestingly (at least to me), a centre right government in Finland established the trial as an incentive. Results at the end of 2018 will determine the success or failure of the experiment as in incentive, I guess. I'm just surprised you're against the UBI or other social welfare programs per se, since it's not the programs that are the problem, but perhaps the misguided hopes, dreams and desires that some people think the programs are guaranteed to establish such as 'freedom'.

    1. I'm not against social welfare programs per se, but am criticizing the idea of Universal Basic Income per se. If anything good comes of the experiment in Finland, it will be incidental to the idea of UBI per se, as I see it. What is this idea? The state is to provide income to everybody, presumably to cover each everybody's basic needs for living. But what are these basic needs? Income, including UBI, can be spent on anything at all offered for sale. The state pays the income from taxation it raises from society, but not in valuing, esteeming the individual recipient. Where is the esteem and self-esteem in this idea? I build my self-esteem by having others appreciate the exercise of my powers and abilities. This appreciation can come from others valuing, i.e. esteeming my powers and abilities by paying for them. I earn my income and gain also in self-esteem. There are few individuals who have nothing at all to offer to others, with encouragement, through the exercise of their own abilities, modest or otherwise. Having this exercise valued by others is fundamental to gaining self-esteem. Receiving a UBI has nothing to do per se with such valuing and esteeming. What about the idea of UBE, that is, of Universal Basic Esteem? That would address a basic problem of social togetherness directly (instead of perhaps incidentally) and highlight how limited the welfare state is as a vehicle for tackling this problem. UBE cannot be attained through UBI which, if implemented, will most likely end up as a social stigma. That's my guess. The very idea is flawed.

  2. If an individual is able to view the UBI as a welcome social welfare incentive rather than a taken-for-granted handout, I think it can enlighten her esteem, or at least keep it buoyant through a period of transition/change.
    I speak from personal experience as I consider the many social welfare incentives I was able to enjoy that helped me through some difficult times in my life. Without that help, I could've found myself in some nasty down-and-out circumstances from which I may not have been able to get back up.
    That said, I see your point. There are many examples of individuals who get caught up in the 'welfare trap', which over the long run undermines esteem and creates victims who need to be 'looked after'. That is true. I've seen it happen.
    In an ideal world, the UBI could be an interim social welfare incentive to help humanity transition through an age of major technological change. Clearly, it's not an ideal world.
    As for UBE, it's certainly true that self esteem can be nourished via the sale of skills/experience. The downside is sometimes work/talent/ability is not esteemed. You're not paid for work delivered, you're criticised unfairly or wrongly for work delivered, or you're not even given a courteous 'thank you' for work delivered. Or, indeed, you experience what many can relate to today: the skills you've spent a lifetime to develop and sharpen are no longer considered relevant and need to be updated or 'upskilled'.
    UBI or UBE - I'd welcome both as a means to establish and maintain power in my world.
    PS From a political perspective in Oz, given the anti-welfare climate of our present govt, it'd be a cold day in hell before a UBI were considered here. Maybe if our grand master, the US, went down that path. Lol. (As if!)

    1. I was wondering what you meant by "incentive", and now I see. If you're going through a difficult period in your life and need help, transitional income from the welfare state can be what's needed. And that's a good thing, albeit a far cry from the idea of UBI, which is thought as a blanket, permanent welfare hand-out to everybody. But why on Earth?! Transitional help as an incentive to get back on your feet, by contrast, seems to me a good idea.