Saturday, April 28, 2007

Bartholomew, Murray, Worstall and the CBI

It seems that James Bartholomew recently went to a lecture by Charles Murray, author of In Our Hands.
His idea, briefly, is this: that the government should give every person US$10,000 a year in place of all welfare benefits, retirement payments and healthcare. Of this, US$3,000 would have to be used to buy health insurance.

He said he was not primarily concerned that the welfare state costs too much "though it does", nor that it tends to make things worse "though it does" but that it "drains" the life out of people - particularly the spiritual life and sense of meaning.

He believed that people derive a sense of meaning in their lives in one or more of the following four ways: vocation, community, family and faith. For these things to retain their meaning, it was vital that government should leave them alone.

I do suggest that you read James' whole precis, because it is very much worth it. Why? Well, Charles Murray is, essentially, on eof the more famous exponenets of what we would call the Citizen's Basic Income (CBI). Although Murray's specifics, naturally, apply to the USA, his philosophical points apply equally to our own fair isle.

Your humble Devil has constantly harped on about how the state's extortion of money from the poor—and then using such mechanisms as the Tax Credits to make them beg for some of it back—is a disgusting thing; indeed, the Gobblin' King's adherence to these tactics is one of his most egregious aspects (and, let's face it, there's an awful lot to choose from). However, we all know why he does it: to build a client state and thus to perpetuate a Labour government.

But, you see, some of we disgusting right-wing libertarians are not interested in power: we just want to be left alone to live our lives. And this applies as much to the poorest in society as it does to the richest.

The concept of the CBI would allow this to happen, by removing means-testing; not only would this remove the necessity for a massive state bureaucracy invading and prying into people's lives, but it would also restore pride to people by ensuring that they are not penalised for working. Whatever the noble principles of the Welfare State, its implementation in terms of societal health has been a dismal fucking failure. The disgusting marginal deduction rates now present in our benefits system—in some cases, well over 90%—are just one example of this.

As Tim Worstall wrote over at Tech Central Station (in his first article on Murray's ideas):
I'll stick with my basic thought that the reason to oppose statism isn't that redistribution is immoral (although it may be, to your taste) it's rather that the actual way it is done is so hopelessly complicated that it manages not to achieve its stated aims. The Plan, to my mind, neatly sidesteps almost all of these problems. Instead of a web of grants, tax breaks, allowances, subsidies for this or that, there is simply one payment to all. It's not enough to live comfortably on, but it will provide for the basics.

This is really the beauty of the CBI: it's simplicity and (a crucial point) you do not lose the benefit if you get a job. And one would hope that most people would be forced to find employment but, no matter how badly paid that employment, will boost their earnings.

In plain words, people will not be financially punished for going to work.

There is, of course, one or two bonus corollaries (apart from the releasing of thousands of parasitic civil servants so that they can generate money in the private sector); as Timmy wrote in his second TCS article, the CBI will not lead to lower wages, as some have argued, but rather the opposite.
Those who seek education, an improvement in life can do so, those happy to laze on the porch can, as well. But what the Plan might do is to make it possible for all to unlock their potential, if they should so wish.

There is also a more Marxian (that is, using some of the insights of Marx without swallowing the entire pitcher of kool-aid) analysis possible. That economy, especially political economy, is about the analysis of power structures. In Marx's original analysis, still fervently believed by some today, capital will ever conspire against labor and attempt to engender a situation where there is a large reserve army of the unemployed. These unfortunates will have no option but to sell their labor at whatever miniscule price the oppressors are willing to offer, leading to ever fatter profits and the ever increasing immiseration of the proletariat.

If that is, indeed, the view of the world people really believe in, then The Plan is actually the answer. By providing an unconditional grant sufficient to survive upon, this "power structure" is subverted. The unemployed cannot be forced to accept lower wages for they can survive with none.

The second is, of course, that we can expose people such as the Gobblin' King for the power-mad fiends that they are.
It won't come as any surprise to regular viewers of the political scene that there are those who play the game for what they can get out of it. Yes, it happens on all sides, in all parties. You might be slightly more surprised to find that there are those -- yes, again, on all sides and in all parties, however strange this might sound -- who are doing it all out of conviction. They really do want to change the world for the better.

To me the genius of The Plan is that we'll be able to see, on the liberal side, who is who. Those who really are in it to make the world better will support it, for it achieves two desired goals: increases equality of opportunity and inverts the perceived power imbalance between labor and capital.

Those who oppose it we must assume are in one of two other groups. Those in the political system simply for the joy of the power they get to exercise and those in that very same system simply so they can suck at the teat of the public money cash cow.

So, let us all agitate for the CBI and see just how dedicated Gordon fucking Brown is to genuinely helping the poor.


Sisyphus said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sisyphus said...

Sadly, this is one policy that right-wingers don't seem to want to talk about; thanks to DK for highlighting it.

CBI is not some loony left policy, it's one of the ultimate expressions of free-market economics in a half civilised world.

I posted to webcameron (quoted below) on this very topic a couple of months back. Zero responses. Nada. Zip.

Hopefully, somebody will feel like engaging this time around... Here's what I said on webcameron:


A Citizen's Income is one policy that I can't remember senior Tories ever discussing in the media.


It would hit a lot of your 'hot buttons':

* Massive reduction in state bureaucracy and associated costs by scrapping almost all other benefits
* Genuine mechanism for reducing/removing poverty
* Encouragement of prudent financial management by the individual, through removal of means testing
* Provision of a fair and well understood system for all
* Dependant upon level set could be economically cost-neutral
* Actually enhances true freedom within the free-market
* Ought to be universally popular

From a purely party political point of view, I cannot imagine it's introduction being opposed by backbenchers of the other main parties and, equally, couldn't see it being 'borrowed' by Labour as official policy - our beloved Chancellor is too timid and also too keen on redistributive micro-management to propose it.

It's not only the decent, fair and economically beneficial thing to do, but would also cut the legs from under Labour's false claims to concerns about social justice.
---end quote---

Roger Thornhill said...

As I posted over at James B's blog, it introduces a tricky one of ID and the UK being a magnet, but that as a simple solution to so many things it has so much going for it.

Of course, once it is finalised and de-politicised, the politicians will have to deliver real improvements and run things efficiently instead of bribing or threatening the population.

Devil's Kitchen said...

... introduces a tricky one of ID...

A concern, yes, but I don't see why we shouldn't use the already existing NICs database for this.


Little Black Sambo said...

The very simplicity of this plan is what will ensure that it will not be used. There are too many people "out there" who want to boss us about and interfere in our lives and draw salaries and generous pensions for doing so. They don't WANT a simple system. What politicians are going to take them on?

Roger Thornhill said...

Alas, the NIC database is already becoming populated by people who really should not have a NIC. I do suspect the NIC database is being allowed to get muddy so giving more excuse for the ID card.

I hope that this can be sorted, and will HAVE to be if CBI is to be introduced. That, and a very robust immigration and citizenship policy.

Anonymous said...

Where would that money come from? From the pockets of working people

It's a lazy bum, a leech and a parasite who thinks himself entitled to the money of others.

Devil's Kitchen said...


And now, back in the real world, where a total lack of welfare simply isn't a political reality...