MONEY CHANGES EVERYTHING. We know this. But, not necessarily for the better. We know this too. That’s why we need to think long and hard about blindly jumping on the UBI ( Universal Basic Income) bandwagon.
Not only because conservatives will work hard to twist it to serve their own selfish ends. (I’m looking at you Hugh Segal.) And, not because putting money into the hands of people who have too little of it, in a society that runs on it, is necessarily a bad idea. But, because the idea of handing out money to fix problems created by money defies common sense.
It’s a remedy that focuses on the trees and not the forest. It focuses on income inequality and not on capitalism. We didn’t make this mistake when it came to health care. We didn’t give people more money to pay doctors and hospital owners; we took direct ownership of the whole health care delivery system.
We invented “socialized medicine.” We took over ownership of the means of health care production.
We saw health care as a universal need that a truly civilized society should, could and would want to provide for all its citizens as a basic right. The reality of other universal needs leads us to—or should lead us to—the recognition of other basic rights: such as, the right to a decent job that will provide food, clothing and leisure; the right to a decent place to live; the right to a quality education; the right to a worry-free old age; and the right to freedom from poverty.
A UBI would provide the basis for freedom from poverty—but no more. All our other universal needs and rights would remain unrecognized and untouched.
Worse still, using money to fix a problem only reinforces the idea that creates the problem—namely, the idea that capitalism (an economy based on the endless pursuit of money) can cure all ills. Evidence to the contrary engulfs us.
A better way to go
Our Medicare model shows us the better way to go. We must takeover direct ownership of the means to produce broad public good. We must use the government—our government—to declare and then deliver jobs, housing, education, and a secure old age as basic human rights, guaranteed to all citizens. We must “nationalize” our own well being.
Do that, and the need for a UBI would diminish and maybe even disappear. Human values would replace money values. What a concept!
For more thoughts along these lines read “A basic income would be a major concession to the capitalist takeover of everyday life”
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