At a recent talk that I was giving about my second book, Our Second Chance, I was sharing my supportive views on the concept of Basic Incomes. Afterwards, I was reviewing the valuable comments in the Chat room, and found this gem:
"Futurist Douglas Rushkoff had espoused UBI (Universal Basic Income) in two of his books, but has since retracted his endorsement of the idea as he had come to realize that UBI without a deeper paradigm shift will only amount to increasing the rate of extraction, exploitation and consumption of earth's resources. This is Douglas Rushkoff describing his rationale for no longer supporting the concept of UBI here."
The first 10:30 of the linked podcast is a monologue in which Rushkoff outlines his serious reservations with a Basic Income scheme - namely that it merely amplifies the population's role as consumers. Giving money to the people at the bottom will not create economic justice, he says, since that money will simply pay for increased consumption, thereby (a) continuing to line the pockets of the upper echelon capitalists, and (b) making our resource extraction and environmental degradation even worse.
Knowing that Rushkoff, a well-respected author, was changing his tune on Basic Income, led me to give his new position very careful consideration. It is indeed a worrying proposition. We all know that any attempt to raise the overall standard of living for a large number of people will entail a greater consumption of planetary resources - at least in the short-term. Does that mean we are doomed to choose between widespread social inequity versus resource destruction?
Changing the Rules
"It's not too late for us to start companies, cooperatives, commons where we all, everyone, owns a stake in the thing. And then we can change our role in the economy from mere consumers to stakeholders; our role in society from consumers to citizens; and our role with each other from competitors to partners. Now, the only substantive change we can make to our economic operating system is to distribute ownership, control, and governance of the real world to the people who live in it."