Universal Basic Income + Automation + Plutocracy = Dystopia

Universal Basic Income + Automation + Plutocracy = Dystopia. By Caitlan Johnstone.

Americans are discussing the possibility of a universal basic income (UBI) more seriously than ever before, largely due to the surprisingly popular campaign of Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang. Yang has made UBI the central issue of his platform, promising a “Freedom Dividend” paid for by a Value Added Tax on businesses which would give every American between the ages of 18 and 64 an unconditional $1,000 a month to help offset the looming crisis of automation replacing US jobs.

“In the next 12 years, 1 out of 3 American workers are at risk of losing their jobs to new technologies — and unlike with previous waves of automation, this time new jobs will not appear quickly enough in large enough numbers to make up for it,” Yang’s campaign site argues. “To avoid an unprecedented crisis, we’re going to have to find a new solution, unlike anything we’ve done before. It all begins with the Freedom Dividend, a universal basic income for all American adults, no strings attached – a foundation on which a stable, prosperous, and just society can be built.” …

Yang is absolutely correct that automation is going to be replacing the jobs of many people in the very near future … But … a universal basic income  will necessarily lead to an oppressive oligarchic dystopia unlike anything we’ve ever seen before.

Do you know who supports the implementation of a UBI besides Andrew Yang? Billionaires. Lots of billionaires, especially the new money tech billionaires who are positioning themselves to inherit the earth in the transition to a new paradigm dominated by automation and artificial intelligence. Billionaires like Jeff Bezos, Pierre Omidyar, Mark Zuckerberg, Jack Dorsey, Elon Musk, Richard Branson, Bill Gross, Tim Draper, and more moderately Bill Gates have all been seen advocating for a policy that is now being popularized as one which would level the economic playing field and take power away from the billionaire class. …

This increasingly powerful class of new money tech plutocrats are not pushing to give power away, they’re pushing to secure more. …

Dystopia beckons:

Imagine what will happen in a society where people are no longer necessary and have nothing the powerful need. Imagine what will happen when people become dependent on a subsistence UBI set up by the already plutocrat-controlled government to sustain them when plutocrat-owned technologies render their labor completely moot. Imagine a world where a few increasingly consolidated automation firms produce more and more of the goods and services once provided by human labor and re-collect all taxes they have to pay into the UBI from a public forced by their subsistence wages to buy automation-made products and services.

That would be total oligarchic control. Not what we’re seeing now; what we’re seeing now is not total oligarchic control. Our current predicament pales in comparison to how bad it could get.

Think about what would happen in that situation if people decided they weren’t being treated fairly by the existing system. What recourse would they have? They can’t organize labor strikes if they have no labor. They can’t boycott if everything is made by the same corrupt system. Mass demonstrations and civil disobedience would go unnoticed by a power structure that needs nothing from its populace. Violent revolution would be an unwinnable game as security systems protecting the infrastructure of the powerful would also become automated. People would cease to be active participants in their society, and would instead be merely along for the ride at the whims of the oligarchs, for as long as the oligarchs deemed them not too inconvenient to keep around.

Because our last bargaining chips would have been taken away from us. … The workers can’t unite if there are no workers. … Attempts to vote the problem away will be laughed off by a political system that is even more oligarch-controlled than it already is. …

Our current rulers, the billionaire class, are currently working on unlocking the secret of immortality in a number of creepy ways, and they’re working on addressing the problem of the public in the way I just described. Someday Jeff Bezos and his ilk hope to become the first rulers in history who get to rule without the threat of losing it all to death or to revolution.