A short blog post today (Wednesday and all). I am working on the revisions to our Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) textbook that will be published by Macmillan-Palgrave in November 2018. We have all the editorial and external reviews available now and are working through the editorial process to complete the final version. Mostly clarifications and style issues. There will be a slight rearrangement of chapter order and emphasis but nothing major. In the meantime, some thoughts on UBI and some music for today. A more detailed blog post will come along tomorrow.
CEO and Basic Income Guarantees
I read an excellent article by Chris Hedges (April 1, 2018) – The Oligarchs’ ‘Guaranteed Basic Income’ Scam – which was published by Truthdig.
His argument is that:
A number of the reigning oligarchs … are calling for a guaranteed basic income. It looks progressive. They couch their proposals in the moral language of caring for the destitute and the less fortunate. But behind this is the stark awareness, especially in Silicon Valley, that the world these oligarchs have helped create is so lopsided that future consumers, plagued by job insecurity, substandard wages, automation and crippling debt peonage, will be unable to pay for the products and services offered by the big corporations.
That is such a strong opening paragraph.
Among the many relevant articles I have written about this topic, here are two from 2017:
1. A basic income guarantee is a neo-liberal strategy for serfdom without the work (April 5, 2017).
2. Why are CEOs now supporting basic income guarantees? (March 28. 2017).
See other entries under the – Job Guarantee – category of my blog.
We were writing about this topic in the 1990s when the Basic Income Guarantee (BIG) movement was gathering steam within academic circles.
In our first National Unemployment Conference (hosted by my research centre – the Centre of Full Employment and Equity (CofFEE) in 1998) – there were ‘progressive’ voices calling for the introduction of a BIG and opposing our espousal of a Job Guarantee.
They were interesting debates but I was never convinced that BIG was anything more than a scam to absolve the government from its responsibility to create full employment.
I also considered BIG to lack any semblance of a progressive macroeconomic stability capacity, which is a feature of the Job Guarantee and makes it intrinsic to Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) rather than an add-on – take-it or leave-it according to your preference.
As the decades have gone by more progressives have jumped on the BIG wagon, not understanding the macroeconomic implications, and thinking it will unleash an outpouring of creativity and freedom.
All it will unleash are impoverished consumption units, denied access to jobs, with an increased sense of social alienation.
More recently, these CEO dudes have started talking about it, which motivated me to write the two cited articles above around this time last year.
The case presented in Chris Hedges article is similar to that made in my blog post (No 2. above).
He notes that:
The oligarchs do not propose structural change. They do not want businesses and the marketplace regulated. They do not support labor unions. They will not pay a living wage to their bonded labor in the developing world or the American workers in their warehouses and shipping centers or driving their delivery vehicles. They have no intention of establishing free college education, universal government health or adequate pensions. They seek, rather, a mechanism to continue to exploit desperate workers earning subsistence wages and whom they can hire and fire at will. The hellish factories and sweatshops in China and the developing world where workers earn less than a dollar an hour will continue to churn out the oligarchs’ products and swell their obscene wealth. America will continue to be transformed into a deindustrialized wasteland. The architects of our neofeudalism call on the government to pay a guaranteed basic income so they can continue to feed upon us like swarms of longnose lancetfish, which devour others in their own species.
A poetic and stark appraisal of what is going on.
The CEOs are engaging in the time-immemorial strategy of working angles “to reconfigure the habits of a society to absorb the surpluses”.
They don’t want to create sufficient, well-paid jobs.
They don’t want governments to use there fiscal capacity to ensure there are enough jobs.
They just want to maintain people who are being left behind as ‘consumption units’ to make sure they can keep buying their stuff.
But even then that doesn’t work because the sort of BIG stipends they propose are too low for mass consumption to continue without further credit expansion.
That lock-in, vicious cycle – suppress real wages and employment, push credit onto workers instead to maintain consumption, bankruptcy, house loss, crisis, public bailout, continue – is the exemplar of the neoliberal period.
Privatise the massive speculative gains while they are there but when the whole show collapses turn to government for the bailout, just to start again.
So with realisation crises becoming more frequent, the neoliberals turned their attention to new ways to create surplus value and profit.
As Chris Hedges notes:
Profit in the “empire of consumption” is extracted not by producing products but by privatizing and pushing up the costs of the basic services we need to survive and allowing banks and hedge funds to impose punishing debt peonage on the public and gamble on tech, student debt and housing bubbles.
Chris Hedges calls the ‘Gig economy” – “a new form of serfdom” – a topic I covered in the blog post 1. cited above.
The CEOs calling for a BIG is part of that narrative.
They hide behind a faux concern for morality and welfare but their practices reveal nothing of the sort.
The BIG is just a transition for them – to push some cash into the hands of those who haven’t any because they have been rendered unemployed by the flawed economic policies that the CEOs have lobbied hard in support of.
It isn’t a progressive story at all.
And their short-termism, just coming up with anything that will keep their profit machine rumbling along, reminds me of Jim Morrison’s monologue at the end of the live version of Roadhouse Blues:
..Alright! Alright! Alright!
Hey, listen! Listen! Listen, man! listen, man!
I don’t know how many you people believe in astrology…
Yeah, that’s right … that’s right, baby, I … I am a Sagittarius
The most philosophical of all the signs
But anyway, I don’t believe in it
I think it’s a bunch of bullshit, myself
But I tell you this, man, I tell you this
I don’t know what’s gonna happen, man, but I wanna have
My kicks before the whole shithouse goes up in flames
Here he is live:
Reclaiming the State – book review
There is a new review of our current book – Reclaiming the State: A Progressive Vision of Sovereignty for a Post-Neoliberal World (Pluto Books, 2017), published by the Irish Village Magazine (March 30, 2018) and written by Anthony Coughlan, from Trinity College Dublin.
It is a very nice consideration of our work.
I will be speaking at two events in Ireland in October. The first will be in Dublin (tentatively Wednesday, October 3, 2018) and the second in Galway (Thursday, October 4, 2018). When more details emerge of these events I will clarify.
There will also be possible speaking engagements in Portugal, Norway and the UK in early October 2018. Again, more details when I know them.
Also, see below for discounts currently being offered by Pluto Books.
Music – Chapter One: Latin America
This is what I have been listening to while working this morning.
After a decade of playing free jazz, Gato Barbieri – started his series of albums devoted to Latin American fusion.
I had purchased his earlier free jazz albums in the early 1970s (bugging the import shop guy to get them in from the US).
But this one was my favourite (apart from the album that immediately preceded it – Bolivia) – of his Latin jazz era.
This track – To be continued – was recorded at Odeon Studios im Rio de Janeiro.
The album has been called “one of the all but forgotten masterpieces in 1970s jazz”. I play this record regularly.
What a collection of great players this is!
Here is a Rolling Stone obituary (April 3, 2016) – Gato Barbieri, Latin Jazz Great and ‘Last Tango in Paris’ Composer, Dead at 83.
Reclaiming the State – Big Discount
Pluto Books has gone mad this Easter.
All their stock is being offered at a 50 per cent discount, which is better than the author’s discount I can get normally.
That means you can purchase our new book – Reclaiming the State: A Progressive Vision of Sovereignty for a Post-Neoliberal World – online, for half price (and the Paperback version comes with a free e-Book).
The offer ends on April 9, 2018.
That is enough for today!
(c) Copyright 2018 William Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.