The UBI is Finnish-ed

But where’s the lie?

Okay, it’s not actually and I just really like puns.

So I’ve been sitting on this story for a bit and want to share the round up of (old) news on this.

Apparently Finland is going to (starting next year) have a small scale UBI that targets around 10,000 individuals to see how effective the UBI is and how it affects income, employment and welfare benefits.

It was being decided on for a while but was more recently given the go ahead and I’m very interested to see what will happen. The UBI isn’t unconditional as it’s partly determined by how much income you are making and what your job status is but as a start it’s interesting and certainly worth paying attention to for anti-work advocates.

That being said, the UBI doesn’t get me going like most of its supporters and some fellow anti-work advocates.

For myself I only half-way support it and mostly because it cuts down on a lot of state bureaucracy and has some modest data to support the notion that it could be beneficial (at least in the short run) for folks. That said, make no mistake that this is still a state program with state officials controlling how much people are given and why.

As an anarchist I simply can’t morally condone such a program (even if it could be a step in the right direction) but it may also be more effective than the bureaucratic nightmare that often prevails. Obviously my knowledge of Nordic countries isn’t vast to say the least and I don’t claim to be an expert. Perhaps this initiative will work out marvelously and more people will get the free time they need to do what they want in life.

If that happens, then great!

But I think relying on the government for that is a mistake. The government is a monopolistic institution that doesn’t operate on the incentives of prices or people’s desires but stolen money through taxation as well as bribery from large business leaders and lobbyists. As such I’m reticent to think very positively of state programs, even if (again) they may indeed be improvements to one extent or another over the status quo.

I’ve written previously about the UBI here and (more recently) here and still remain skeptical. I wish Finland the best of luck and of course hope it goes well for them, but I shall remain vigilant in my skepticism even if it does.

On another note, Chris Shaw was gracious enough to allow me to republish his article which mentions a stateless conception of the UBI which I found really fascinating:

Outside statist/governmental action, a UBI is still possible. In cryptocurrencies there are mechanisms built in which encourage the development of a basic income amongst its users. Altruism is developed within tight-knit networks of consumers and producers who use the currency for transacting[8]. In Bitcoin protocols, there exists the ability to “periodically pay dividends to all of its members” through “an opt-in method of efficiently distributing funds free of coercion”[9]. These are based around webs of trust and certification that get recorded on the Blockchain. Such schemes allow for risky entrepreneurial activity in an environment where banks aren’t even lending to conventional small businesses.

I had abstractly thought of the UBI in a stateless context before but never too hard. But Chris’s idea here is brilliant and I’d love to see it practiced today. Because, to be clear, it isn’t that I have something against the UBI itself but the way it is supposed to be enacted is a liberal reform of the welfare state. And sure it appeals to both “left and right” sympathies because it promises to cut down on state bureaucracy while better supporting poor folks, I get that.

But as we should all know by now, politicians are people too. And politicians tend to respond to the same incentives plenty of other people respond to, except that politicians have much more power than most of us do. Now, ordinarily this wouldn’t be a huge issue if politicians had some sort of good incentive structure to work with, but the fundamental nature of government that I alluded to earlier (that it relies on subsidized rent via taxpayers instead of price signals) weakens and cheapens the good incentives it could potentially get to run more efficiently.

To their credit, the Nordic models move away from this problem slightly by giving a sort of “direct democracy” but on a massive scale. Finland for example has direct referendums and a certain amount of petition votes would get anything (again I recognize my ignorance here so please correct me if I’m wrong) on the ballot initiative for the general public.

This method got same-sex marriage finally legalized in Finland during 2013 which is obviously a good thing. But at the same time it’s still majoritarianism and treating people’s rights as if they’re simply a transitive property based on the amount of people who like or dislike something.

So even with this step in the right direction I’d rather see communities become more independent as time goes on and practice their own direct democracies that are flatter, more horizontal and stateless. Which isn’t to say such a system would be perfect or that I think it should be the only system in place.

For example, I think anti-capitalist markets based around low to zero interest, minimal rent and profit being largely reinvested in communities (which then go back to individuals) would also be a valuable thing. Partly because having a sort of “meta-anarchy” whereby many different systems are competing with each other seems most desirable to me. That way each social system can act as a sort of check and balance on each other, ideally speaking.

Anyways, we’re sort of moving away from my basic point which is that puns are great and I’m going to watch Finland with interest but unflinching skepticism.

I mean, what good is your skepticism if it’s going to flinch, right?

Puns are funny, dammit.

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