Here are some hackneyed statements. Economic issues are not experienced in the same way by the same people. Western nations have an “Ownership Class”. These are the people who own the bulk of the capital and make their living primarily through the use of that capital rather than through the use of their own labor. This situation produces conflicting interests between the ownership class and a nation’s regular working people. Certain circumstances that benefit capital are detrimental to labor and vice versa.
Immigration, offshoring and automation are three examples of circumstances where the interests of the ownership class conflict with those of labor. The unfortunate truth about each of these circumstances is that labor (the little-guy) very often has reason to come out on the side of inefficiency and backwards thinking.
Immigration Serves The Ownership Class
Who hires immigrants? Do you?
Or are you more afraid of them taking your job?
Make no mistake. When an immigrant “steals” your job, that immigrant is playing by the rules of the free market. That immigrant has beaten you at the Capitalist’s game. If you have a problem with it, your problem is with the free market.
I am not going to sit here and pretend that immigration does not have a negative effect on the little man. Liberals have too often exposed themselves to a lot of justified anger by smugly pretending that immigration only affects “losers”. I don’t intend to copy that mistake. What I am saying is that the problem is not so much the immigrants but the fact that the regular person is usually not in a position to benefit a great deal from the increased output that immigration can bring.
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The real problem is that the rules of free-market Capitalism are not tailored to meet the needs of a nation, as such. They are tailored to serve the interests of those who possess capital. They are designed to give maximum scope for action to the ownership class. This being the case, your happiness will depend entirely on your ability to serve the interests of the ownership class. When an immigrant takes your job, guess what? They serve the interests of this ownership class better than you do. So, sad day for you. If, however, you possessed a significant share of the nation’s economy, you would be in a position where immigrants served your interests. This, unfortunately, is not the case for most people.
Offshoring Serves The Interests Of The Ownership Class
Here is an irony. While immigration is a big bugaboo for conservatives, offshoring has become the target of liberals. It is strange how liberals will chastise the Right for not being sympathetic of economic migrants, while, in a separate conversation, show no sympathy for foreigners who receive jobs as a result of offshoring. Yes, these are usually terrible jobs, but there is a reason folks are willing to take them. I guess liberal sympathy only extends to those whom liberals meet on a daily basis.
All of that said, the basic function of offshoring is hardly different from immigration. In the latter case, jobs are exported to take advantage of cheaper labor elsewhere, while in the former case cheaper labor is imported. It all ends the same. The natives lose out, those who supply the cheap labor receive employment and the ownership class gets more of what it wants for less. This arrangement is entirely natural for the free-market, because the free-market exists to serve (to say it again) the interests of the ownership class.
Automation Serves The Interests Of The Ownership Class
Does this need to be said at this point? The principles deciding when and how automation will be used are exactly the same as those deciding when and how immigrants and offshoring will be used. If it benefits the ownership class, it will be used. If it does not benefit them, it will not.
If a machine can do your job cheaper and more efficiently than you can, you should expect to be replaced by a machine. It is that simple.
Make no mistake. Technology only exists to benefit you to the extend that you can afford to pay for those benefits. If you own a multi-billion-dollar company, congratulations! You are a member of the ownership class and technology (like immigration and offshoring) exists for your pleasure. If you currently earn minimum wage, well that sucks for you. The market was not designed with your interests in mind.
A Basic Income Would Make Us All The Ownership Class
Immigration, offshoring and automation are, of course, great for productivity. Immigration and offshoring are also great for the foreign nationals who benefit. These items cannot be ignored. The truth is, as a society we should be able to cheer every time someone finds a more efficient way to accomplish a certain task. A win for a nation’s economy should be a win for the nation. That often is not the case, however. A win for the nation’s economy is a win for the ownership class and, at best, a peripheral benefit to everyone else.
An intuitive answer to the problem would be for every citizen of a nation to become a member of the ownership class. There is, fortunately, a remarkably simple way to accomplish this. Implement a universal basic income for all citizens. Guarantee every citizen a certain standard of living.
What would be the result of this guarantee? Well, all the productivity of a nation and its people would contribute to the benefit of everyone. If it happens to be more efficient to employ a machine to perform a job, no problem. Everyone would receive a cut of the machine’s productivity because everyone would be guaranteed some share of the nation’s economy. If an immigrant sought citizenship in a country, it would be more easy to gauge the costs and benefits of granting citizenship because every current citizen would have a share in the economy. Theoretically, immigrants can increase the pool of resources available to everyone, but currently the benefits go to the top. With a basic income, the benefits of immigrant labor could be weighed against the costs of providing a basic income to immigrants. Of course, there is the humanitarian aspect, but this is more easily dealt with when everyone belongs to the ownership class on some level and everyone has a more equitable stake in the outcome.
How much ownership would a basic income grant citizens? Well, in the case of a $10,000 annual basic income, the same amount of money would represent the interest returns on about $100,000 invested in a good mutual fund. In the case of the United States, this would equate to a $32 trillion share in the nation’s economy, assuming every man, woman and child received this basic income. That is some serious ownership. As a side note, $30 Trillion is the amount of inheritance expected to change hands over the next 30 years in the United States. I am assuming folks can put two and two together.
Jason Calhoughny writing for the Apollo Institute of Reason AIR Review©