People think the talk of basic income is ridiculous. It’s a crazy socialist idea that will never be needed or practical, they say.
The one idea that leads me to the opposite conclusion is a simple one: one of the biggest expenses to most corporations are the people who work for them.
People demand significant pay. They need healthcare. They get sick. And they can sue you when things go bad. In short, they’re horribly expensive and a constant drain on the business’s wellbeing.
For this reason alone it should fail to surprise that we keep losing jobs in America. It’s not a temporary dip; it’s a change that’s completely in-line with corporate desires.
The only reason hundreds of millions of people in the United States—and elsewhere in the world as well—have jobs at all, is because companies have not yet solved the problem of human employment.
Read that again.
For most businesses, employing humans is a problem in need of innovative solutions, e.g., artificial intelligence, robots, etc. And happily for them, those breakthroughs are finally starting to happen.
So the next time you hear something about basic income, and you roll your eyes, remember one thing:
The only reason so many millions of people have jobs right this second is because their employers have not yet found a way to fire them.
And they’re searching.
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With all the power of today’s technical revolutions, the corporations of the world are actively searching for ways to eliminate their human workforces.
And if you’re inclined to say, “Well, that’s dumb, because that would be bad for everyone if nobody had jobs.”
Guess what? It’s not the job of corporations to provide jobs. The only reason people had jobs is because companies had this “problem” of not being able to do their work without people. Once that goes away, so does the concept of human employment.
The purpose of businesses is to make money, and whatever makes more money is precisely what they will do. It just so happens that this includes eliminating most jobs in the United States.
This is a clear example of how the goals of business and the goals of society are not necessarily in sync. Society needs people working in order to create value and feel productive. Businesses don’t need any of that. What they need is for their work to get done for as little money as possible.
So, no, basic income is not theoretical. It’s the type of idea that we’re going to have to explore in order to address the very peculiar fact that people doing work is only good business when there aren’t better options.
The better options have started to arrive.
There are obviously exceptions to the rule of businesses not wanting or needing employees. Some businesses thrive on creative work that machines are not yet close to replicating, and employees there serve not just as a burden but as the critical engine to the business. But most businesses are not like that.
It’s also worth noting that once corporations solve this problem, the solutions will move down market into small business, e.g., stocking shelves, cleaning floors, answering phones, taking money at a register, etc.