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InvisibleEdame
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Registered: 01/14/03
Posts: 1,270
Loc: outta here
The RICH economy
    #2356235 - 02/19/04 08:23 PM (13 years, 5 days ago)

I was just on usenet reading about Brazil adopting a Basic Income Guarantee (which sounds like a pretty good idea to me). An article by RAW called The RICH Economy was also mentioned as it deals with the ideas behind things like BIG (called Guaranteed Annual Income in the essay). I found this online and thought some of you might like it.

Quote:

The RICH Economy
by Robert Anton Wilson
from The Illuminati Papers

If there is one proposition which currently wins the assent of nearly everybody, it is that we need more jobs. "A cure for unemployment" is promised, or earnestly sought, by every Heavy Thinker from Jimmy Carter to the Communist Party USA, from Ronald Reagan to the head of the economics department at the local university, from the Birchers to the New Left.

I would like to challenge that idea. I don't think there is, or ever again can be, a cure for unemployment. I propose that unemployment is not a disease, but the natural, healthy functioning of an advanced technological society.

The inevitable direction of any technology, and of any rational species such as Homo sap., is toward what Buckminster Fuller calls ephemeralization, or doing-more-with-less. For instance, a modern computer does more (handles more bits of information) with less hardware than the proto-computers of the late '40's and '50's. One worker with a modern teletype machine does more in an hour than a thousand medieval monks painstakingly copying scrolls for a century. Atomic fission does more with a cubic centimeter of matter than all the engineers of the 19th Century could do with a million tons, and fusion does even more.

Unemployment is not a disease; so it has no "cure."

This tendency toward ephemeralization or doing more-with-less is based on two principal factors, viz:

1. The increment-of-association, a term coined by engineer C.H. Douglas, a meaning simply that when we combine our efforts we can do more than the sum of what each of us could do seperately. Five people acting synergetically together can lift a small modern car, but if each of the five tries separately, the car will not budge. As society evolved from tiny bands, to larger tribes, to federations of tribes, to city-states, to nations, to multinational alliances, the increment-of-association increased exponentially. A stone-age hunting band could not build the Parthenon; a Renaissance city-state could not put Neil Armstrong on the Moon. When the increment-of-association increases, through larger social units, doing-more-with-less becomes increasingly possible.

2. Knowledge itself is inherently self-augmenting. Every discovery "suggests" further discoveries; every innovation provokes further innovations. This can be seen concretely, in the records of the U.S. Patent Office, where you will find more patents granted every year than were granted the year before, in a rising curve that seems to be headed toward infinity. If Inventor A can make a Whatsit out of 20 moving parts, Inventor B will come along and build a Whatsit out of 10 moving parts. If the technology of 1900 can get 100 ergs out of a Whatchamacallum, the technology of 1950 can get 1,000 ergs. Again, the tendency is always toward doing-more-with-less.*

Unemployment is directly caused by this technological capacity to do more-with-less. Thousands of monks were technologically unemployed by Gutenberg. Thousands of blacksmiths were technologically unemployed by Ford's Model T. Each device that does-more-with-less makes human labor that much less necessary.

Aristotle said that slavery could only be abolished when machines were built that could operate themselves. Working for wages, the modern equivalent of slavery -- very accurately called "wage slavery" by social critics -- is in the process of being abolished by just such self-programming machines. In fact, Norbert Wiener, one of the creators of cybernetics, foresaw this as early as 1947 and warned that we would have massive unemployment once the computer revolution really got moving.

It is arguable, and I for one would argue, that the only reason Wiener's prediction has not totally been realized yet -- although we do have ever-increasing unemployment -- is that big unions, the corporations, and government have all tacitly agreed to slow down the pace of cybernation, to drag their feet and run the economy with the brakes on. This is because they all, still, regard unemployment as a "disease" and cannot imagine a "cure" for the nearly total unemployment that full cybernation will create.

Suppose, for a moment, we challenge this Calvinistic mind-set. Let us regard wage-work -- as most people do, in fact, regard it -- as a curse, a drag, a nuisance, a barrier that stands between us and what we really want to do. In that case, your job is the disease, and unemployment is the cure.

"But without working for wages we'll all starve to death!?! Won't we?"

Not at all. Many farseeing social thinkers have suggested intelligent and plausible plans for adapting to a society of rising unemployment. Here are some examples.

1. The National Dividend. This was invented by engineer C. H. Douglas and has been revived with some modifications by poet Ezra Pound and designer Buckminster Fuller. The basic idea (although Douglas, Pound, and Fuller differ on the details) is that every citizen should be declared a shareholder in the nation, and should receive dividends on the Gross National Product for the year. Estimates differ as to how much this would be for each citizen, but at the current level of the GNP it is conservative to say that a share would be worth several times as much, per year, as a welfare recipient receives -- at least five times more.

Critics complain that this would be inflationary. Supporters of the National Dividend reply that it would only be inflationary if the dividends distributed were more than the GNP; and they are proposing only to issue dividends equal to the GNP.

2. The Guaranteed Annual Income. This has been urged by economist Robert Theobald and others. The government would simply establish an income level above the poverty line and guarantee that no citizen would receive less; if your wages fall below that level, or you have no wages, the government makes up the difference.

This plan would definitely cost the government less than the present welfare system, with all its bureaucratic red tape and redundancy: a point worth considering for those conservatives who are always complaining about the high cost of welfare. It would also spare the recipients the humiliation, degradation and dehumanization built into the present welfare system: a point for liberals to consider. A system that is less expensive than welfare and also less debasing to the poor, it seems to me, should not be objectionable to anybody but hardcore sadists.

3. The Negative Income Tax. This was first devised by Nobel economist Milton Friedman and is a less radical variation on the above ideas. The Negative Income Tax would establish a minimum income for every citizen; anyone whose income fell below that level would receive the amount necessary to bring them up to that standard. Friedman, who is sometimes called a conservative but prefers to title himself a libertarian, points out that this would cost "the government" (i.e. the taxpayers) less than the present welfare system, like Theobald's Guaranteed Annual Income. It would also dispense with the last tinge of humiliation associated with government "charity," since when you cashed a check from IRS nobody (not even your banker) would know if it was supplementary income due to poverty or a refund due to overpayment of last year's taxes.

4. The RICH Economy. This was devised by inventor L. Wayne Benner (co-author with Timothy Leary of Terra II) in collaboration with the present author. It's a four-stage program to retool society for the cybernetic and space-age future we are rapidly entering. RICH means Rising Income through Cybernetic Homeostasis.

Stage I is to recognize that cybernation and massive unemployment are inevitable and to encourage them. This can be done by offering a $100,000 reward to any worker who can design a machine that will replace him or her, and all others doing the same work. In other words, instead of being dragged into the cybernetic age kicking and screaming, we should charge ahead bravely, regarding the Toilless Society as the Utopian goal humanity has always sought.

Stage II is to establish either the Negative Income Tax or the Guaranteed Annual Income, so that the massive unemployment caused by Stage I will not throw hordes of people into the degradation of the present welfare system.

Stage III is to gradually, experimentally, raise the Guaranteed Annual Income to the level of the National Dividend suggested by Douglas, Bucky Fuller, and Ezra Pound, which would give every citizen the approximate living standard of the comfortable middle class. The reason for doing this gradually is to pacify those conservative economists who claim that the National Dividend is "inflationary" or would be practically wrecking the banking business by lowering the interest rate to near-zero. It is our claim that this would not happen as long as the total dividends distributed to the populace equaled the Gross National Product. but since this is a revolutionary and controversial idea, it would be prudent, we allow, to approach it in slow steps, raising the minimum income perhaps 5 per cent per year for the first ten years. And, after the massive cybernation caused by Stage I has produced a glut of consumer goods, experimentally raise it further and faster toward the level of a true National Dividend.

Stage IV is a massive investment in adult education, for two reasons. (1) People can spend only so much time fucking, smoking dope, and watching TV; after a while they get bored. This is the main psychological objection to the workless society, and the answer to it is to educate people for functions more cerebral than fucking, smoking dope, watching TV, or the idiot jobs most are currently toiling at. (2) There are vast challenges and opportunities confronting us in the next three or four decades, of which the most notable are those highlighted in Tim Leary's SMI2LE slogan -- Space Migration, Intelligence Increase, Life Extension. Humanity is about to enter an entirely new evolutionary relationship to space, time, and consciousness. We will no longer be limited to one planet, to a brief, less-than-a-century lifespan, and to the stereotyped and robotic mental processes by which most people currently govern their lives. Everybody deserves the chance, if they want it, to participate in the evolutionary leap to what Leary calls "more space, more time, and more intelligence to enjoy space and time."

What I am proposing, in brief, is that the Work Ethic (find a Master to employ you for wages, or live in squalid poverty) is obsolete. A Work Esthetic will have to arise to replace this old Stone Age syndrome of the slave, the peasant, the serf, the prole, the wage-worker -- the human labor-machine who is not fully a person but, as Marx said, " a tool, an automaton." Delivered from the role of things and robots, people will learn to become fully developed persons, in the sense of the Human Potential movement. They will not seek work out of economic necessity, but out of psychological necessity -- as an outlet for their creative potential.

("Creative potential" is not a panchreston. It refers to the inborn drive to play, to tinker, to explore, and to experiment, shown by every child before his or her mental processes are stunted by authoritarian education and operant-conditioned wage-robotry.)

As Bucky Fuller says, the first thought of people, once they are delivered from wage slavery, will be, "What was it that I was so interested in as a youth, before I was told I had to earn a living?" The answer to that question, coming from millions and then billions of persons liberated from mechanical toil, will make the Renaissance look like a high school science fair or a Greenwich Village art show.



* I cannot spend more space on this point here. Those who want more evidence of the doing-more-with-less phenomenon should consult Fuller's Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth and Alfred Korzybski's Manhood of Humanity.




--------------------
The above is an extract from my fictional novel, "The random postings of Edame".
:tongue:

In the beginning was the word. And man could not handle the word, and the hearing of the word, and he asked God to take away his ears so that he might live in peace without having to hear words which might upset his equinamity or corrupt the unblemished purity of his conscience.

And God, hearing this desperate plea from His creation, wrinkled His mighty brow for a moment and then leaned down toward man, beckoning that he should come close so as to hear all that was about to be revealed to him.

"Fuck you," He whispered, and frowned upon the pathetic supplicant before retreating to His heavens.


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Anonymous

Re: The RICH economy [Re: Edame]
    #2358183 - 02/20/04 07:51 AM (13 years, 5 days ago)

"The inevitable direction of any technology, and of any rational species such as Homo sap., is toward what Buckminster Fuller calls ephemeralization, or doing-more-with-less. For instance, a modern computer does more (handles more bits of information) with less hardware than the proto-computers of the late '40's and '50's. One worker with a modern teletype machine does more in an hour than a thousand medieval monks painstakingly copying scrolls for a century."

"Among the most viable of all economic delusions is the belief that machines ... create unemployment...

This fallacy is still the basis of many labor union practices...

Not only must we be causing unemployment with every technological improvement we make, but primitive man must have started causing it with the first efforts he made to save himself from needless toil and sweat.

To go no further back, let us turn to Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations, published in 1776. The first chapter of this remarkable book is called "Of the Division of Labor," and on the second page of this first chapter the author tells us that a workman unacquainted with the use of machinery employed in pin-making "could scarce make one pin a day, and certainly could not make twenty," but that with the use of this machinery he can make 4,800 pins a day.

So already, alas, in Adam Smith's time, machinery had thrown from 240 to 4,800 pin-makers out of work for every one it kept. In the pin-making industry there was already, if machines merely throw men out of jobs, 99.98 per cent unemployment. Could things be blacker?

Things could be blacker, for the Industrial Revolution was just in its infancy. Let us look at some of the incidents and aspects of that revolution. Let us see, far example, what happened in the stocking industry.

New stocking frames as they were introduced were destroyed by the handicraft workmen (over 1,000 in a single riot), houses were burned, the inventors were threatened and obliged to fly for their lives, and order was not finally restored until the military had been called out and the leading rioters had been either transported or hanged.

Now it is important to bear in mind that in so far as the rioters were thinking of their own immediate or even longer futures their opposition to the machine was rational. For William Felkin, in his History of the Machine-Wrought Hosiery Manufactures (1867), tells us (though the statement seems implausible) that the larger part of the 50,000 English stocking knitters and their families did not fully emerge from the hunger and misery entailed by the introduction of the machine for the next forty years.

*

But in so far as the rioters believed, as most of them undoubtedly did, that the machine was permanently displacing men, they were mistaken, for before the end of the nineteenth century the stocking industry was employing at least a hundred men for every man it employed at the beginning of the century.

Arkwright invented his cotton-spinning machinery in
1760. At that time it was estimated that there were in England 5,200 spinners using spinning wheels, and 2,700 weavers -- in all, 7,900 persons engaged in the production of cotton textiles.

The introduction of Arkwright's invention was opposed on the ground that it threatened the livelihood of the workers, and the opposition had to be put down by force. Yet in 1787 -- twenty-seven years after the invention appeared -- a parliamentary inquiry showed that the number of persons actually engaged in the spinning and weaving of cotton had risen from 7,900 to 320,000, an increase of 4,400 per cent...

In the depression of 1932, the game of blaming unemployment on the machines started all over again...

*

If it were indeed true that the introduction of labor saving machinery is a cause of constantly mounting unemployment and misery, the logical conclusions to be drawn would be revolutional, not only in the technical field but for our whole concept of civilization.
*

Not only should we have to regard all further technical progress as a calamity; we should have to regard all past technical progress with equal horror.

Every day each of us in his own capacity is engaged in trying to reduce the effort it requires to accomplish a given result. Each of us is trying to save his own labor, to economize the means required to achieve his ends. Every employer, small as well as large, seeks constantly to gain his results more economically and efficiently -- that is, by saving labor. Every intelligent workman tries to cut down the effort necessary to accomplish his assigned job. The most ambitious of us try tirelessly to increase the results we can achieve in a given number of hours.

*

The technophobes, if they were logical and consistent, would have to dismiss all this progress and ingenuity as not only useless but vicious.
*

Why should freight be carried from New York to Chicago by railroads when we could employ enormously more men, for example, to carry it all on their backs?

Theories as false as this are never held with logical consistency, but they do great harm because they are held at all. Let us, therefore, try to see exactly what happens when technical improvements and labor-saving machinery are introduced. The details will vary in each instance, depending upon the particular conditions that prevail in a given industry or period. But we shall assume an example that involves the main possibilities.

Suppose a clothing manufacturer learns of a machine that will make men's and women's overcoats for half as much labor as previously. He installs the machines and drops half his labor force.

*

This looks at first glance like a clear loss of employment. But the machine itself required labor to make it; so here, as one offset, are jobs that would not otherwise have existed.

The manufacturer, however, would have adopted the machine only if it had either made better suits for half as much labor, or had made the same kind of suits at a smaller cost. If we assume the latter, we cannot assume that the amount of labor to make the machines was as great in terms of payrolls as the amount of labor that the clothing manufacturer hopes to save in the long run by adopting the machine; otherwise there would have been no economy, and he would not have adopted it.

So there is still a net loss of employment to be accounted for. But we should at least keep in mind the real possibility that even the first effect of the introduction of labor?saving machinery may be to increase employment on net balance; because it is usually only in the long run that the clothing manufacturer expects to save money by adopting the machine: it may take several years for the machine to "pay for itself."

After the machine has produced economies sufficient to offset its cost, the clothing manufacturer has more profits than before. (We shall assume that he merely sells his coats for the same price as his competitors, and makes no effort to undersell them.) At this point, it may seem, labor has suffered a net loss of employment, while it is only the manufacturer, the capitalist, who has gained.

But it is precisely out of these extra profits that the subsequent social gains must come. The manufacturer must use these extra profits in at least one of three ways, and possibly he will use part of them in all three:

(1) he will use the extra profits to expand his operations by buying more machines to make more coats; or

(2) he will invest the extra profits in some other industry; or

(3) he will spend the extra profits on increasing his own consumption. Whichever of these three courses he takes, he will increase employment.

*

In other words, the manufacturer, as a result of his economies, has profits that he did not have before. Every dollar of the amount he has saved in direct wages to former coat makers, he now has to pay out in indirect wages to the makers of the new machine, or to the workers in another capital industry, or to the makers of a new house or motor car for himself, or of jewelry and furs for his wife. In any case (unless he is a pointless hoarder) he gives indirectly as many jobs as he ceased to give directly.

But the matter does not and cannot rest at this stage. If this enterprising manufacturer effects great economies as compared with his competitors, either he will begin to expand his operations at their expense, or they will start buying the machines too. Again more work will be given to the makers of the machines.

But competition and production will then also begin to force down the price of overcoats. There will no longer be as great profits for those who adopt the new machines. The rate of profit of the manufacturers using the new machine will begin to drop, while the manufacturers who have still not adopted the machine may now make no profit at all. The savings, in other words, will begin to be passed along to the buyers of overcoats ?- to the consumers.

But as overcoats are now cheaper, more people will buy them. This means that, though it takes fewer people to make the same number of overcoats as before, more overcoats are now being made than before. If the demand for overcoats is what economists call "elastic" -- that is, if a fall in the price of overcoats causes a larger total amount of money to be spent on overcoats than previously -- then more people may be employed even in making overcoats than before the new labor-saving machine was introduced. We have already seen how this actually happened historically with stockings and other textiles.

But the new employment does not depend on the elasticity of demand for the particular product involved. Suppose that, though the price of overcoats was almost cut in half -- from a former price, say, of $75 to a new price of $50 -- not a single additional coat was sold. The result would be that while consumers were as well provided with new overcoats as before, each buyer would now have $25 left over that he would not have had left over before.

*

He will therefore spend this $25 for something else, and so provide increased employment in other lines.
*

In brief, on net balance machines, technological improvements, automation, economies and efficiency do not throw men out of work...

Yet it is a misconception to think of the function or result of machines as primarily one of creating jobs.

*

The real result of the machine is to increase production, to raise the standard of living, to increase economic welfare.
*

It is no trick to employ everybody, even (or especially) in the most primitive economy.

Full employment -- very full employment; long, weary, back-breaking employment -- is characteristic of precisely the nations that are most retarded industrially..."

-Henry Hazlitt


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OfflinePhred
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Re: The RICH economy [Re: ]
    #2358297 - 02/20/04 09:01 AM (13 years, 5 days ago)

Henry Hazlitt is da man.

pinky


--------------------


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InvisibleXlea321
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Registered: 02/26/01
Posts: 9,134
Re: The RICH economy [Re: ]
    #2358869 - 02/20/04 12:17 PM (13 years, 5 days ago)

Full employment -- very full employment; long, weary, back-breaking employment -- is characteristic of precisely the nations that are most retarded industrially..."

Disregarding for the moment the fact that your monster cut and paste job had very little to do with the point of Edames article and you should stop being a troll...

How does Henry explain the fact that, for example, Iraqs unemployment rate (and that of many third world nations) is very high?



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Anonymous

Re: The RICH economy [Re: Xlea321]
    #2358886 - 02/20/04 12:26 PM (13 years, 5 days ago)

Disregarding for the moment the fact that your monster cut and paste job had very little to do with the point of Edames article and you should stop being a troll...

the arguments in the article edame posted are based on the fallacy that technology puts people out of work. the more we can do with less resources, it argues, the less people will be employed. i posted the article i did because it directly addresses this fallacy, not because i have a personal problem with edame and i want to harass him.

How does Henry explain the fact that, for example, Iraqs unemployment rate (and that of many third world nations) is very high?

that has nothing to do with this. the exerpt i posted addresses a certain economic fallacy... that being that more efficient modes of production mean less employment. it doesn't attempt to identify the causes of unemployment, only to show that efficiency is not one of them.


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InvisibleEdame
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Registered: 01/14/03
Posts: 1,270
Loc: outta here
Re: The RICH economy [Re: ]
    #2360240 - 02/20/04 06:05 PM (13 years, 5 days ago)

the arguments in the article edame posted are based on the fallacy that technology puts people out of work. the more we can do with less resources, it argues, the less people will be employed. i posted the article i did because it directly addresses this fallacy, not because i have a personal problem with edame and i want to harass him.


I don't agree that it's a fallacy, people in the examples from your article lost jobs due to technology. The author argues that this is offset by employment gained elsewhere (which sounds reasonable to me given he's talking about the industrial revolution), but technology still puts people out of work. Arguing that new jobs will be created also seems like a bit of a moot point when the other person is encouraging unemployment.

It's hard for me to say a lot more than that, because as Alex has already touched upon, it really doesn't have a lot to do with RAW's essay (I think it's addressing an entirely different argument).

RAW is talking about an advanced technological society, not one getting used to cotton spinning machinery. He is suggesting a complete change of viewpoint on unemployment, because one day soon we're likely to have machines than can build and repair each other. Why should we continue to do menial/dangerous/repetetive work if technology can do it for us?


--------------------
The above is an extract from my fictional novel, "The random postings of Edame".
:tongue:

In the beginning was the word. And man could not handle the word, and the hearing of the word, and he asked God to take away his ears so that he might live in peace without having to hear words which might upset his equinamity or corrupt the unblemished purity of his conscience.

And God, hearing this desperate plea from His creation, wrinkled His mighty brow for a moment and then leaned down toward man, beckoning that he should come close so as to hear all that was about to be revealed to him.

"Fuck you," He whispered, and frowned upon the pathetic supplicant before retreating to His heavens.


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