Among the multiple delusional promises President Trump made during his campaign, that was one of the most amusing to me. The guy who built part of his brand on making “losers” out of people on his TV show by firing them was telling us we were all going to win so much that we’d get tired of it.
The truth is that many of us are already sick of winning – fake winning.
This is a society already obsessive/compulsive about teaching its children that “everybody wins.” A society where too many of those in charge apparently never realized it was a joke when Garrison Keillor ended his Lake Woebegon monologues with the refrain, “… all the children are above average.” A society where so many students make the honor roll that it is meaningless. A society that gave my kids so many trophies just for showing up for youth soccer that they would dump them in a box in their closets the night they got them, at the end of the season.
So I guess it is no surprise that we have “progressed” to the point where there is now a movement to give everybody a “trophy” without even having to show up – just for existing.
It’s the UBI – universal basic income – movement promoted by billionaire luminaries including Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who made a pitch for it during his commencement address at Harvard last month.
I didn’t notice him offering to fund it out of his personal wealth, but he promoted it as a way to “make sure everyone has a cushion to try new ideas.”
Bring it on, Mark. I could definitely use another cushion, and I’ve got a great new idea I want to try – to see if I can marginally improve my golf game by playing a couple of times a day at somebody else’s expense.
Indeed, the “innovation” pitch is just a cover for a twisted view of compassion. Since everybody can’t “win” at the level of a Zuckerberg or other corporate titans, and artificial intelligence (automation, machine learning, robotics) is expected to eliminate not just low-level jobs but “knowledge” ones, as well, then society “owes” everybody enough to provide the basics.
Zuckerberg is a gifted businessman. But that doesn’t make him and his fellow compassion warriors gifted sociologists.
There are so many things wrong with UBI, it is hard to know where to start.
First, we already have multiple programs to provide the basics for those described as “the most vulnerable” or “the truly needy.” That is, mostly, a good thing. If people really can’t provide for themselves, society should provide for them, although I remain convinced that churches and charities, not government, are the most effective and efficient agencies to do that.
But UBI would replace the existing safety net programs by handing everybody a check every month.
That is fraught with complications. Who will get to define what is “basic” income? Will those in San Francisco or Manhattan get five times what those in southern Illinois get, so they can afford just as nice an apartment, even though nobody forced them to live there?
Second, doubling or tripling the number of recipients of government welfare will obviously cost billions more. Who among those who are crazy enough to keep working is going to be OK having his taxes double or triple so he can support all those who are trying new ideas? Most working Americans don’t mind seeing a portion of their taxes going to those who can’t provide for themselves. I doubt they will feel the same about providing for those who could provide for themselves.