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The Almighty Buck Government

Dutch City To Experiment With Paying Citizens a "Basic Income" (theguardian.com) 474

BarbaraHudson writes: The Guardian is the latest to report about experiments with a basic income, in this case in Utrecht. The idea has been around for more than 2 centuries, and has become a bit of a hot-button topic on slashdot. It seems to be gaining political support now that job insecurity has become the new normal. "To those who say it is an unaffordable pipedream, Westerveld points out the huge costs that come with the increasingly tough benefits regimes being set up by western states, including policies that make people do community service to justify their handouts. 'In Nijmegen we get £88m to give to people on welfare,' Westerveld said, 'but it costs £15m a year for the civil servants running the bureaucracy of the current system. We will save money with a "basic income."' Horst adds: 'If you receive benefits from the government [in Holland] now you have to do something in return. But most municipalities don't have the people to manage that. We have 10,000 unemployed people in Utrecht, but if they all have to do something in return for welfare we just don't have the people to see to that. It costs too much.'"
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Dutch City To Experiment With Paying Citizens a "Basic Income"

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  • if they all have to do something in return for welfare we just don't have the people to see to that. It costs too much.

    How about if they have to be the people who see to that. Seems obvious to me.

    • That goes only so far. You can employ capos, but you also need a few real wardens at the top of the chain gang.

      • True, but you can also assign those people to all the menial task jobs, street cleaners, park and rec workers, road work crews, politicians, secretaries etc

        The types of jobs where intelligence doesn't matter.

        • It's not about intelligence, it's about working itself. What kind of incentive does your capo have to do his job right? Worse, what incentive do the others have to follow his orders? Or to keep the tools you gave them in order? Accidents happen, you know, and whoopsie, we hit the gas pipe, awwww, can't dig any more 'til that is fixed...

          • What incentive does the average minimum wage worker have to not screw up? The answer is none. $0.10 an hour raise isn't a huge incentive to make burgers faster.

            What incentive does anyone earning less than 50k a year have to do a good job. Answe nothing. Their bonus? Is maybe $200 a year.

            Most people don't get a bonus equal to 20% of their paycheck. Or like banks they don't get bonuses even if the company declares bankruptcy.

        • True, but you can also assign those people to all the menial task jobs, street cleaners, park and rec workers, road work crews, politicians, secretaries etc

          The types of jobs where intelligence doesn't matter.

          With an attitude like that, maybe you'll eventually figure out why you don't seem to be able to get past the receptionist and secretary to see the boss. When I was working as one, one of my jobs was to make sure you never got any further. When a boss really wants to know what's going on elsewhere in the business, he doesn't ask the yes-men around him - he asks the people whose "intelligence doesn't matter."

  • It will fail (Score:3, Insightful)

    by rossz ( 67331 ) <ogre AT geekbiker DOT net> on Tuesday December 29, 2015 @04:31AM (#51200437) Homepage Journal

    Since they admit to not having the people to manage a system where you have to do something in return for the money, you are going to just give it away? No questions asked? And is there a system that requires you to be a resident for a minimum time before you are eligible? If not, you will attract a lot of people who want free money. That can not be sustained. You will run out of "other people's money". Either because people move away because they don't want to keep paying for a perpetual welfare machine, or because you've raised taxes to pay for it to a point that it destroys your local economy. Or a combination of the two.

    • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Tuesday December 29, 2015 @04:44AM (#51200483)

      Actually I'd expect the opposite to happen.

      I agree that it would depend on people having to have been residents for a while, but I'm pretty sure they have thought of a system that takes care of it. But even if not, let's ponder for a moment how it would work, shall we?

      First, I don't know of a single such "free money" idea that could make you rich in the short or long run. We're talking a few 100 bucks a month, barely enough to sustain yourself. In that way, it is by no means different than the unemployment money already in existence. Just without the bureaucratic overhead behind it. You're still way better off having a job. Be honest, would you WANT to live on a few 100 a month just so you don't have to work? If so, get another job.

      The more important aspect is, though, that these people who now have money also need to exist. They need housing, they need food, they need clothing, they need various other things, and all of them have to be provided locally. You need to live there (for obvious reasons, or you won't get no money). And it's fairly unlikely that people who barely have enough money to get by would drive around in fancy cars to go shopping abroad. That creates jobs. Someone has to build those houses and keep them in repair (not to mention that property value would probably go up with increased demand), someone has to work in those grocery stores to sell them food. And that entails a whole lot of other services that are simply required, and then also requested because there are people who can actually pay for these services.

      It is in the end the customer that creates jobs. No shop owner "creates" a job because he feels so generous and wants company. The job is created out of the necessity because more customers demand goods and services, and only then the shop owner has to employ someone to meet that demand. Without demand, no jobs will come into existence.

      And demand depends on money being available on the side of demand. Consumers need money to consume. And without consumption our economy will not thrive.

    • you are going to just give it away? No questions asked?

      The money is already assigned. The only difference is now people don't need to do meaningless busywork to qualify and less resources need to go into managing the situation. End result more money to the people and slightly more garbage in the parks and streets.

      This alone is not something that will determine if it will succeed or fail. (I personally think it will fail too, but for other reasons)

    • Since they admit to not having the people to manage a system where you have to do something in return for the money, you are going to just give it away? No questions asked? And is there a system that requires you to be a resident for a minimum time before you are eligible?

      First I will point out that I am a huge free market fan. Free To Choose and all that.

      A mistake made by armchair economists and even some professional ones is a mistaken focus on money instead of goods and services. Currency is just a proxy for goods and services. All governments that I know of provide some basic level of goods and services, and yes its often through the violence of taxation (but thats another debate.)

      The important factors are which goods and services, and how much to provide. The first

  • FYI (Score:5, Informative)

    by bytesex ( 112972 ) on Tuesday December 29, 2015 @04:48AM (#51200493) Homepage

    Famous right-wing rag The Guardian had a piece not so long ago on why basic income doesn't work:

    http://www.theguardian.com/com... [theguardian.com]

    • Re:FYI (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Tuesday December 29, 2015 @05:01AM (#51200533)

      Their main argument being "the sky is falling if people get into long term unemployment". Newsflash, Guardian: There ain't enough work for everyone anyway. Yes, I can understand that we all like to have more people fighting over the few jobs available so the race to the bottom continues, but somehow I cannot sympathize.

      Then their example of how new moms got back into work as soon as they were forced to. Well, duh. And duh again that mothers valued staying with their children in the earliest moments of their lives higher than money. Who would have thought that? They really want to tell us that this is comparable to ANY other situation? Seriously? Are they so detached from any kind of human emotion to seriously consider this a sensible example?

      Oh, wait, they even admit it. Quote: "It is hard to see why this lesson would not apply equally to a basic income scheme." Yup. Sums up pretty well how much they know about human nature.

      Sorry, but to take this drivel serious, I first have to have a sizable portion of my brain removed. It should include the areas for emotion and logic at least.

      • Re:FYI (Score:4, Insightful)

        by gweihir ( 88907 ) on Tuesday December 29, 2015 @10:01AM (#51201577)

        Indeed. Low- and medium-qualification jobs are vanishing. High-qualification ones continue to do well, but they are a small sub-set. In the end a lot of people have to be able to get enough money to be able to live decently and many of them will not be able to do it via a job. Of course, you can say "tough luck". What you get in addition with that stupid, egotistical attitude is social unrest and crime, both major cost factors for an economy. Hence the "tough luck" attitude does not even qualify as capitalist, it is just unmitigated stupid.

        My take is that there is just a type of small-minded human being that cannot stand that anybody gets something for "free", no matter how beneficial that is overall. These people believe everything needs to be earned the hard way and that everybody has to constantly struggle to make ends meet. This is basically fundamentally misanthropic, and anti-society. This is the "if everybody cares only for themselves, everybody is taken care of" crowd. Unfortunately, there are many of those people and if they determine where society is going, it can only go to full collapse sooner or later.

    • Re:FYI (Score:5, Insightful)

      by thesupraman ( 179040 ) on Tuesday December 29, 2015 @05:15AM (#51200585)

      Ah yes, even as a 'right winger' myself, I wonder if you realise just how silted and contrived that 'article' is.

      What is basically boils down to is the story you will hear from both sides of the political fence these days -
      'For your own good, we know best - and we need more control! trust us! fear each other!'

      People have forgotten that there are two axis to politics, left/right, and Totalitarian/libertarian.
      Do we so quickly forget the second axis because the labels are 'harder'?
      You can certainly have left and/or right totalitarian regimes, and we seem to be busy constructing quite a few at present.
      You can also have left and/or right Libertarian regimes.
      (For the Americans in the audience, Libertarianism is confusing to you I know, it has very little to do with your liberal party, or
      your odd view of political/religious matters, so try and allow for that).

      That article is a pretty simple attack in support of the new Totalitarianism - what a surprise. The message is 'You need us, your
      government, to force the nogoods to do the right thing, or they will take advantage of you! give us more power!' Because apparently
      society itself is incapable of social pressure - oh how times have changed, apparently.

      On the idea of basic income? why not, the transition would be the problem - but I doubt we will see it in any major implementation for
      a long long time, because governments worldwide are on a power trip right now, and giving up an area of control of their people is not
      part of that playbook now, is it.

      One of the more interesting parts however of a solid basic income package, which hardly ever gets mentioned, is removal of minimum
      wage. This frees up a whole pile of minor jobs which are simply not economic (looking after the neighbors kids after school, mowing lawns,
      etc) and are often now done under the table.. minimum wage becomes much less needed, as there is less 'force' for people to have a job
      at any cost.

      But hey, it doesnt help grow state control, so good luck with that. We are better worrying terribly about the reds under the bed - oh sorry, I
      mean ISIS, or whomever they choose in another year or so.

      • Re:FYI (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Tom ( 822 ) on Tuesday December 29, 2015 @06:58AM (#51200851) Homepage Journal

        a whole pile of minor jobs which are simply not economic

        Why are they not economic? I challenge the base assumption. Why should a simple job such as mowing lawns be paid a starvation salary? Why can't someone who mows lawns for a living not make enough money for a simple life?

        I will tell you why, the real reason: Because then the minimum-wage jobs would need to move upwards in salary. Someone who does something a little more qualified than mowing lawns would have to be paid slightly more. But that means the tier above that also needs to move up.

        In other words: If you would cut out starvation salary jobs, and enforce minimum wage, all salaries would have to increase.

        And now magic happens: People who couldn't afford to pay the cleaning lady or the lawnmower man a decent salary now can. Because they are making more money as well.

        All this additional income will, of course, have to come from somewhere. There are two possible sources. One is inflation - which would create a self-reinforcing cycle because then you would have to raise wages to compensate for inflation. The other is less profits for those who own the companies, i.e. who make their money not out of salaries.

        Guess who has in the past, is currently and will in the future spend millions and millions to both politicians and media to ensure that real minimum wage with no loopholes and exceptions doesn't happen.

        • Re:FYI (Score:4, Insightful)

          by ThosLives ( 686517 ) on Tuesday December 29, 2015 @09:08AM (#51201279) Journal

          Why can't someone who mows lawns for a living not make enough money for a simple life?

          This is a good example, actually. In the limit, the activity of mowing a lawn does not generate enough production of real wealth to fund its own existence.

          Specifically, I mean this: the increased production of food, tools, etc. from the landscaped lawn combined with the reduction in costs of dealing with rodents, bugs, difficulty of travel, etc. you'd have if the lawn wasn't landscaped is not enough to pay a person "well" for that landscaping.

          Now, you might argue that people may be willing to pay a landscaper excessively to maintain an image, etc. This may be possible for a time, but if you're paying them more than their efforts generate, you're going to deplete your savings and eventually have an issue.

          But this example also shows an artifact of the political methods of assigning people wealth in conflicting ways: "the landscaper should only get paid based on the economic value they directly produce" but "property owners should be compensated for people using their land, even though property owners don't necessarily do any direct work." Or said slightly differently: risking capital is physically different than performing labor, but many systems don't account for those differences.

          • Ah actually, I see I misread the original quote, which was "a simple life." Are you saying that landscapers don't currently lead "simple" lives?

            I know a fair number of landscapers, and they live pretty reasonable middle-class lives. But not luxurious ones. (Excepting the owner of the landscaping company, they live upper-middle-class.)

    • But markets aren’t perfect: most risks are not insurable in private markets – that’s why we have social security systems.

      Uh, say what? They are writing from England, where Lloyd's of London is located, the insurance firm notorious for being willing to insure anything?*

      Of course you can have a separate system that pays for long term disability.

      *Though you might not like the premium.

  • This is not basic income. This is about getting social benefits without validating the receivers on a regular basis.

    A basic income would also be issued to working inhabitants of Utrecht, this is not the case.

    Also, this is a lousy experiment even if all inhabitants of Utrecht would be paid basic income,
    because it is *locally* and not country-wide: the rest of the country simply supports Utrecht in this case
    one way or the other, this is social "dampening" the same way, *without* safeguards.

    It is simply impo

  • by goodmanj ( 234846 ) on Tuesday December 29, 2015 @06:26AM (#51200733)

    Uh, guys? I'm politically liberal and in favor of a basic income, but it really doesn't work on a small local scale with open borders. Utrecht says it's cheaper to pay their 10,000 unemployed people a basic income than to administer a draconian welfare bureaucracy, but if you're handing out money with no strings attached, a lot of unemployed people from around the EU are going to move in to take you up on the deal. How does the cost/benefit look when you're trying to support ten times as many unemployed people as you had before? Sure, the idea is that some of them will get back on their feet and start contributing to the tax base, but that's not going to happen if you can only afford to pay them 1/10th of a basic income, or if you up the taxes on their potential employers by a factor of 10.

    To keep this from happening, you need to either restrict immigration into the basic income zone -- which you can't do in the EU -- or implement it on a large enough scale that the tax base can handle the immigration spike, and national, cultural, and language barriers limit the size of the influx.

    You can do this across the EU or US. Doing it for one small European city is just madness.

    • To keep this from happening, you need to either restrict immigration into the basic income zone -- which you can't do in the EU -- or implement it on a large enough scale that the tax base can handle the immigration spike, and national, cultural, and language barriers limit the size of the

      Or you only give the benefits to Dutch nationals who've lived in the city longer than X years.

      • by ray-auch ( 454705 ) on Tuesday December 29, 2015 @08:20AM (#51201113)

        Or you only give the benefits to Dutch nationals who've lived in the city longer than X years.

        Just like the David Cameron wants to do in the UK... but cannot because it is against the EU rules.

        After as little as 3 months (I believe), they have to treat any migrant from within the EU _exactly_ the same as a Dutch national resident for 50 (or whatever) yrs. The EU migrant can also claim local benefits for non-resident family back home, we know this because they already do it with UK benefits and it cannot be stopped because "EU rules".

        • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 29, 2015 @10:17AM (#51201655)

          Except that it's not true. You have to have the same _rules_ regardless of nationality. But old age pension for instance can be a "saving scheme" where each year of paying tax contributes to the pension. Or have unemployment benefits linked to the length of the previous employment.

          And yes, you can't discriminate on the nationality of family either. If you pay for children, you pay for them. Lack of creativity really. Pay for (local) daycare instead, pay for schools etcetera. Plenty of methods to keep money local.

    • AFAIK, you only get benefits if you are a registered citizen in the town where you apply for benefits. To be a registered citizen, you need to live in the town. No address, no benefits. There's a separate arrangement for homeless people.
      Utrecht suffers from a lack of affordable housing and has long waiting lists, so that will limit the number of people moving in.

      • What's the "special arrangement for homeless people", and does it lock out the economic migrants I'm talking about?

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) <mojo@worl[ ]net ['d3.' in gap]> on Tuesday December 29, 2015 @08:46AM (#51201207) Homepage

      You can't just physically move there, live in a cardboard box and claim a basic income. It's not allowed and you wouldn't get the basic income anyway.

      EU migration is already restricted. You can migrate for work, not for benefits. If you become unemployed you can claim benefits for a while as you look for a new job, but there is a time limit set by each member state.

      Also, it's not "no strings attached". It's "live a very basic life in crappy accommodation or look for work", and experience has shown that when not constantly pressured most people will actually try to better themselves. Those that don't often have other issues that need attending to, such as mental health problems.

    • A basic income, and attempts to make a minimum wage into a livable wage, suffer from the same problem - an assumption that money has a fixed value.

      Money doesn't have a fixed value. Its value is the sum total of all the productivity of your citizens, divided by (roughly speaking) the sum total of how much everyone is paid. Consequently, an increase in real income (amount of stuff you can buy with your income, not the amount of money you're paid) depends entirely on increasing the average productivity of
  • by teg ( 97890 ) on Tuesday December 29, 2015 @06:40AM (#51200787) Homepage

    In Western Europe, there are many government handouts that will replace all or part of your income. Maternity leave, unemployment benefits, retirement benefits, sick leave, disability benefits etc. These are the lion's share of the payouts that the basic income will replace... social benefits to the poor are dwarfed by these.

    These are typically tied to what you have been earning, either as a full compensation or partyly/capped. If all of these were to be replaced by basic income, the levels would be dramatically decreased - and losing your job, getting a child or being sick would imply severe consequences.

    • That's an interesting question, compared to some other rants there. Here in France disability is shit pay so not much change, or just leave an additional pittance for disability.
      There is already an actual small income given to all parents that have children (depending on number, except if you have only one, older than three years..) : allocations familiales. Basic income proposals seem to give quite more, like half an adult's basic income, per children.

      Now for the rest that's a real problem, although I don'

      • by teg ( 97890 )

        You could argue that today's system is just that - insurance, although a mandatory one. And when you pay more, you get more if you need it - e.g. I pay a lot of taxes, but if I get sick or an accident occurs, I get unemployed etc, I get back for in proportion to what I've paid. Insurance and health also seems to be a problematic match - the US pays a lot more in % of GDP than anyone else, despite many not being covered and getting rather poor results. The market seems to deviate too much from a perfect mark

  • We have 10,000 unemployed people in Utrecht, but if they all have to do something in return for welfare we just don't have the people to see to that.

    So let me get this straight.... On the one hand, you have people that are not employed (and thus not earning an income). On the other hand, you do not have enough employees to manage the handing out of dole. Need, let me introduce you to Opportunity. Have you ever heard about the adage of "killing two birds with one stone"?

    It could of course be that said unemployed people are not suitable even to become civil servants... in which case I expect useless dole-seekers soon outnumbering tax payers in your city.

  • "Basic income" is understood as paying _everyone_ the same amount each month. This scheme is only for a small, select group of claimants (and indeed, I read the article). I have a bunch of questions about it:

    1. How will participants be selected? The article gives the impression that people will be selected based on how "difficult" they are; it mentions people that walk out of jobs. Wouldn't this scheme act as a reward for anti-social behaviour?
    2. One of the tenets of basic income is that it's cheaper becaus

  • Amazing. Nobody mentioned the main danger of "basic income": if it is going to be implemented, then the next thing ANY politician is going to do is to advertize for increasing it. Sure way into the office, appeals to 99% of people. Voting against it would be suicide for any politician. So, within a very short amount of time basic income will grow beyond any reasonable control and over budget. It's going to be like recent Greece crisis, but much, much worse.
  • tough benefits regimes penalize work in some case just a higher minimum wage has forced people to cut hours or lose there disability health insurance plans with a work place that can't pay for there own health insurance plans.

  • Nonsense (Score:5, Insightful)

    by zmooc ( 33175 ) <zmooc@@@zmooc...net> on Tuesday December 29, 2015 @09:24AM (#51201359) Homepage

    This is nonsense. What Utrecht and Nijmegen are doing is simple welfare reform. It has absolutely nothing to do with basic income. I don't get how The Guardian failed to see that. Why these politicians keep calling it "basic income" is completely beyond me.

    For real basic income, look at Finland; they're actually doing it.

  • I'm going to ignore the financial and resource related reasons why this won't work and simple focus on the ignorance of the politicians involved.

    We have 10,000 unemployed people in Utrecht, but if they all have to do something in return for welfare we just don't have the people to see to that. It costs too much.

    In Nijmegen we get £88m to give to people on welfare,' Westerveld said, 'but it costs £15m a year for the civil servants running the bureaucracy of the current system. We will save money with a "basic income."'

    So you have 10k people that don't have a job ... and need to have a job ... and you're paying them 88m ... and then employing more people ... at 15m ... to handle paying the first group?

    Why the fuck don't you make some of the people drawing your handouts work for the system by providing those services. You just employed several people and cut 15m off the top.

    Of co

  • I hear lots of groundswell being generated around 'basic income' systems re the OP and in Finland. I'm a very politically conservative person, so it might surprise you that I'm strongly in favor of them. For those liberal-minded folks who claim to be in favor, I suspect that you haven't REALLY thought through the consequences?

    A "basic income" system is generally posited as a more humane and efficient way to deliver services to poor people, rather than a massive, expensive, Byzantine, rules-laden (and thus

  • Autarky enabled by unconditional basic income (aka "citizens dividend") promotes more global socioeconomic resilience than does global interdependence. This happens because the governments distributing the funds are faced with two very practical problems: Keeping the world's population from invading their territory and keeping the economic stimulus from draining, almost immediately, out of the country to pay for cheaper goods and services offered abroad. Both of these require much stronger border control

"I got everybody to pay up front...then I blew up their planet." "Now why didn't I think of that?" -- Post Bros. Comics

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