This article was posted by Ammario Reza on July 11, 2016 under the title 'Those Lazy Jobless Bums' on his Facebook page.

I was having a conversation with a friend who was wondering whether eliminating poverty and the "fear of death/starvation/homelessness" as the motivator for people to "work" would lead to everyone just being "lazy and not working".

Regarding a universal minimum/basic income, for example:

There have already been experiments and pilots done regarding basic income (in Manitoba during the 1970s, for example), and it has proven very successful. [1] The reason it doesn't cause "everyone to just stop working" is because when fear of death, hunger and homelessness are removed, people are actually free to pursue what they want to do, rather than feel forced into doing something they hate (which is the mental-health basis for what we currently perceive as "laziness"- think about it: why do we not consider it to be cruel, abusive and sadistic that we actually live under a system where the main motivator is the constant threat of death and homelessness?) You have to think outside the box and realize that dynamics will shift for people in a way that will change a lot of notions that we currently see as "unavoidable" (or, sadly, “natural”) under the status quo.

It's the idea of the post-work society, also.

Guess what? A basic income ensures that people don't live in poverty, but it doesn't provide for a luxury life-style. If you want to sit back and do nothing (which won’t actually happen, according to evidence)- but if you want to, fine. You should be free to do so. It should not mean that we should lose our humanity and decide that you are an “unworthy” person who deserves death and starvation. [2] If you want something better, however (like a luxury lifestyle), then you would have to "earn" that money.

Also, this would just be a stepping stone, for now.

In the farther future, we are to hopefully transition to a post-monetary society where the way we view the idea of "work" changes completely. It will cease to be defined by "what you do for money". Instead, it becomes whatever you see your purpose in life being. Almost everyone has some passion for SOMETHING, unless they're mentally ill (depression..etc, which by the way, right now is mainly being caused by being forced to do something you hate due to the threat of death and starvation); if they are actually mentally ill, then we treat them the way society should treat ill people, with medical treatment, compassion and humanity. [6]

Imagine that, eh? Being able to do something that you actually enjoy, and are not only doing because you have the proverbial gun of death and poverty pointed at your head at all times! [3]

This is just a tiny tidbit of clarification for why such a society is the way forward, and in many ways, is inevitable. I haven’t even gotten into aspects of this such as automation/roboticization, where a huge number of the jobs known as “the jobs nobody wants to do” will become obsolete as machines take over their functions and change the dynamics of the “labour market” ... ackh, I won’t get into it. That’s for another article, as this one is supposed to be just a quick and short one covering specifically the angle of “but wouldn’t people just decide to not work or do anything anymore if they didn’t have to fear death as a motivation?”.. [4]

We really need to (at the very least) start to shift our perceptions and values away from this notion that your “work” is what defines you- and that, without it, your existence is worthless and you might as well not exist.

“Work”, in today’s society - and indeed for all of history - has been broadly viewed as “ensuring survival”. [5]

Well, just “survival” isn’t enough, anymore. It’s time for humans to be able to actually live, and survival should be something that every human is able to take for granted. Of course, this will not happen right away. There will be a transition period over which our perceptions of this will evolve- but first the process must be started, and this is done by starting this conversation and changing our behaviour and fundamental attitude toward the idea of “work”. It is not unlike someone needing to go through a healing period after they have been exposed to the trauma of abuse for a long period of time.

One thing, though, about the implementation aspect of a basic/universal/guaranteed income: it must be done in a way that is "right-wing-proofed", somehow being able to mandate it in a way that prevents future conservatives with power from using it as a means of austerity by dismantling everything else (in terms of our social safety-nets) and then under-funding the basic income. We'd have to somehow ensure the inclusion of a non-negotiable guarantee into the program, tying the $$-amount to the cost of living, for example, among many other things.

It needs to be an income that ensures - without any exceptions - that nobody nets less than they currently do in monetary and non-monetary income and benefits.

Also (and I have my friend Ray Lankester to thank for reminding me of this), a cap on income would need to be introduced along with a basic income program (a.k.a “maximum income”), where nobody - whether they are a CEO or whatever - can make more than a certain (ridiculous) amount of money. This would ensure that the corporate sector doesn’t just continuously make up for the basic income and thwart its purpose by simply raising prices, to raise the price threshold of everything.

I am absolutely opposed to the notion that a basic income be “means-tested” (i.e only for “low-income” people). I am in favour of universality, when it comes to this specific issue, because (among many other reasons) it would eliminate the classist stigma of “oh, you receive a basic income? You must be a lowly poor person”, which is exactly the same kind of classist stigma that came into existence when our current welfare systems were implemented back in the day. [7]

Universality eliminates that kind of stigma immediately. Think of our universal healthcare system, for example: when it comes to seeing a doctor in Canada, you need your health-card regardless of who you are, and whether you are rich or poor. There is no classist stigma associated with receiving healthcare services that are covered by your health-card, because ALL people - regardless of their income or wealth-status - use the same health-card and pay for those services the same way (through the single-payer universal system). [8]

Universality also avoids the creation of too much red-tape and bureaucracy, as the administration of the program is much simpler when it is administered to everyone, rather than having to means-test every case. [9]

There is SO much more to talk about on this subject, but I think I will leave it here, for now.

THIS is actually exactly the kind of discourse, debate and discussion that our elected politicians should be having in our PARLIAMENT. If they continue to refuse to acknowledge it, then it is up to us to ensure that the Overton Window is expanded to actually include ideas like these to be considered as part of the mainstream dialogue, rather than a “fringe idea”.

Bottom line: poverty is an outdated notion that NOBODY should be experiencing. Not in the future. Not now. Survival should be a right that every human can expect to take for granted.



[1] << see bottom of encyclopedic entry for sources