A Personal UBI Appeal: The Downside of Life-by-Jobs

I think that, in order to arrive at a better civilization, we must rid ourselves of the slave-mentality that is structurally built into our economic system of job-slaves and job-masters. We must do so because it makes us subservient to the ruling class which grossly abuses its power. We must also rid ourselves of this slave mentality because it ruins our individual lives by creating a desperate willingness to accept jobs that aren’t good matches. This willingness often has us even try very hard to convince employers that bad job matches are GOOD matches, simply because we don’t want to starve and go homeless. The threat of poverty has become what the chains and whips were during the days of plantation slavery. The modern form is wage slavery. And it comes with fears, coercions, and unhealthy conditions that ruin our individual lives and our entire societies. 

For example, as someone who has had many jobs and professions, my job search — into which I am forced by monetary need and a conditional rather than unconditional social safety system — tends to constantly run into a wall. Besides a slew of disgusting job openings I must consider, I run into openings I feel I could live with and actually bring useful skills and talent to; but I know that I will be up against competing applicants who are younger, have a straighter line of specialized qualifications (since life hasn’t yet had the time to toss them around as much as me), and who possess an aggressive eagerness for building a financially well supplied professional future they envision — a ship which by now has already sailed for me.

In conclusion, I have no chance, even though I could be the best applicant in terms of my broad as well as deep mix of skills, talents, knowledge, professional experience, life experience, integrating ability, creativity, vision, and personality. After all, employers are looking for the most obviously slot-matching slave they can find, and with the least effort on their part. They are looking for the exact match of a narrow job description, with job-skill boxes to check off.

The hiring managers are themselves chained in the job-economy and want to make their odious job-tasks as simple and painless for themselves as possible. So a narrow job description with boxes to check off are much more enticing to them than a more laborious search for someone whose company they might enjoy and who could even take their firm or institution onto exciting new paths. I never see a vacancy ad for a broadly experienced polymath who could energize a company or institution with new ideas and heretofore unexplored developmental pathways. In fact, many co-workers would fear the arrival of such a person (and have pushed me out of some jobs) for fear of losing standing in the workplace their incomes depend on. Everybody just tries to hang on to their job, defend their turf, and drag themselves through their daily drudgery with as little personal input as possible, because we do it all just for the money.

So, at least in my experience, older folks with a broader background or acquired special abilities that might rock the boat hardly get a chance, even as the government institutions that may keep us alive for at least a while with things like unemployment insurance payments keep cracking the whip on us to make us search for jobs we can’t get into.

In the end, I may be required to flip hamburgers or greet customers at a Walmart entrance with all my education, professional experience, creativity, passions, and humanity going to waste — even as those who did get the jobs I might have been a good fit for would much rather do something else than what they fought so hard to get. And they, too, in our ever more precarious labor market, will soon enough end up in my situation. All this because our current system drives us through existential desperation to fake interest and abilities and take jobs we really have no inclination for and that may hurt our professional résumé in the long run.

Therefore, reducing the current financial pressure through a universal basic income (if it’s high enough to guarantee survival and housing, but not so high as to completely eradicate a wish for more money) would not only function as a survival insurance but also a liberty insurance, enabling us to realize the dream of our founding fathers of liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We would become more free to decide under less pressure.

It would give us the freedom to say NO to awful jobs, including questionable jobs such as turned my professional resume into some kind of roller coaster hodgepodge quilt of many different professions and widely diverse jobs I have held throughout my life. If my survival had been assured trough a UBI, I could – for example – have spent time on training new skills to stay in the field of web development and land a new job in it after the web development labor market eventually recovered from the dot-com bubble burst that struck at the turn of this century.

With my basic financial survival insured, I could have done that instead of slipping into work with retarded children for which I was in many ways both overqualified and unqualified, and in which I was therefore not happy. Or, after my first career, in academia, was sabotaged by professorial infighting, I might have realized my idea of back then to privately continue my research in a garage. I could never realize that idea since I was never able to realize getting a house (and garage), not even a small one in the boondocks, and never had the required leisure time and energy either, as I had to drag myself from one tiresome job treadmill to another all my following life (except for my hiatus as a starving musician that wasn’t structured as employment). Who knows what scientific advances humanity has missed out on (I had some really cool ideas!), just because I had to earn money for sheer survival in our wage-slavery system. That drives us perforce into jobs of questionable value.

Or lets take a look at my potential as an educator (my last career having been in teaching). There are two special teaching activities in which I truly excelled during my teaching years: (A) explaining the basics of physics, chemistry, and biology in everyday language and simple-as-well-as-fascinating terms bringing the daily world we live in to life with scientific understanding, and (B) teaching the finer points of the German language to German AP students (so that 100% of them passed the AP exams!).

However, I am blocked from most school jobs where I currently am, because my teaching credentials come form another geographic location (a regulatory means by which turf warriors protect their income-generating jobs from potential competitors); and even if I did get such employment, I would be tasked with doing much more mundane, run-of-the-mill teaching where the special abilities I have developed would never come into play.

In a more flexible world of human work, one where we wouldn’t just drag ourselves through a hated daily drudge for sheer survival — one where we might feel happy and safe enough to experiment with improvements — there could be enough enthusiasm in our places of work to maybe share me around among a bunch of schools to do the two things I do best.

Furthermore, if I had a UBI keeping me financially safe, I could offer my services to private schooling initiatives (such as parents might start) who might not be able to afford giving me a full-time salary, but under a UBI wouldn’t have to. Especially if free healthcare for all would also not force me into an unwanted full-time job, either. A gig economy could flourish and give us all more flexibility without the current drawbacks if all incomes were propped up with a UBI and other important things like free healthcare for all would round out the security we need to be truly flexible. Workers, entrepreneurs, and society as a whole could benefit from such flexibility.

These days, I am the most passionate about spending my remaining years on Earth to research, develop, and disseminate ideas that can lead us from the Hell on Earth we currently have, and the downward path we are on, to the Heaven on Earth we could easily realize with the right ideas and attitude. Unfortunately, I don’t get paid for this, and probably never will. It’s another reason for me to wish for a kind of basic income guarantee that doesn’t place a boss before me who decides what I can and cannot do with my time. Only a UBI would do that.

So, when I consider how the rich have all this freedom all their lives because of their unearned income, and that this unearned income is so large that – if it were more fairly distributed – we all would have enough income for financial safety, I see the realizability AND desirably of a universal basic income brightly shining before me.

There are many other reasons for it, just as there are also many good reasons for federal job programs, even a Federal Job Guarantee; but today’s article has run its course presenting one of them (reducing financial pressure to give us more flexibility and end our slave mentality), which is all that I as a writer, and probably you as a reader of this article, had time for. Gist: We need a UBI for greater flexibility, more liberty, a more idealist society, and as a medicine against our slave mentality that keeps us locked in our must-have-a-paid-job-and-work-for-a-master thinking which ruins our lives and makes us subservient to our ruling class. Only when we break our mental subservience, can we break our chains. Just think about it: how able are we to walk tall, how willing to stand up for ourselves, when we spend our entire working lives cringing and knuckling under in existential fear, and even begging for enslavement? What does that do to our heads?

Note: To paraphrase Lee Camp: “Normal” today is two-hour commutes to work and hating your life. “Normal” today is exploitation and hoarding of resources. Those are very “normal” things now, and we need to start acting not normal. (taken from Security Robots Already On U.S. Streets)

~

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4 thoughts on “A Personal UBI Appeal: The Downside of Life-by-Jobs

  1. A personal appeal for a Universal Basic Income is an understandable but rather myopic petition without regard to macroeconomics. As a stand-alone plan, it is nothing more than the Negative Income Tax proposed and advocated by the father of Neoliberalism, Milton Friedman. As a Neoliberal plan, a UBI gives Paul Ryan and his ilk a reason to end Social Security and Medicare and replace them with vouchers. “Job-Masters” would use a UBI as an excuse to cut wages, since everyone would be receiving checks of various amounts each month.

    I agree that there is a place for both a Job Guarantee for those underemployed and unemployed but want to work and a UBI for those unwilling or unable to join the workplace. But, as an answer to your personal appeal, only a fully federally-funded, community distributed JG would provide the solution. Each community would determine its own tasks from a participatory process. Your request to provide extracurricular tutoring for your own community would be based not on the geography of your credentials, but on community need. Unemployment offices would become neighborhood Employment Offices that would be tasked with matching community needs with resident’s abilities and skills.

    There are many more benefits to a JG, many of them listed in your appeal, but this comparison was better made by an actual academic economist, Dr. Pavlina Tcherneva, in her response to another blogger/journalist, Matt Yglesias. The bigger picture becomes clear when both are presented together. My “personal appeal” is a Job Guarantee for the willing and able coupled with Social Security expanded to cover the unwilling and unable with an income based on two-thirds of the local JG wage. Dr. Tcherneva’s response follows:

    http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/21451-sixteen-reasons-matt-yglesias-is-wrong-about-the-job-guarantee-vs-basic-income

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    1. > “My “personal appeal” is a Job Guarantee for the willing and able coupled with Social Security expanded to cover the unwilling and unable with an income based on two-thirds of the local JG wage.”

      That sounds to me exactly like what I am arguing for, expect possibly more generous with regard to the size of a UBI. 😉

      This makes me wonder, of course, why your comment comes off as oppositional, at least at the start and in other parts, Mark. I do find both measures necessary, sort of like two legs instead of just one leg to stand on. Both can make up for each other’s shortcomings.

      > “Your request to provide extracurricular tutoring for your own community would be based not on the geography of your credentials, but on community need.”

      Hah! That’s where I am far less trusting of gatekeepers and lawmakers than you are. I have been denied my dues far too many times to be so trusting. My merits have been thrown into the trash by selfish and/or negligent or even criminal gatekeepers far too often. I am speaking from experience, not mere speculation here.

      Also, you overlook that while teaching to my strengths would be a lot better than greeting customers at Walmart, my true passion and desire in this phase of my life is to fight for a better world by researching, developing, and disseminating ideas and narratives, repairing our brainwashed language and mentality, and help build a bold vision for the future. I find it highly unlikely that a job guarantee program would pay me for that. I have been forced to live a life that wasn’t by my choosing all my life which will soon be over, and I am tired of that and have therefore turned rebellious. As a slave who has never come free of his chains, I want to spend my remaining days to break the chains of my successors.

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  2. I’m looking into a mirror here when I read about how your resume has become a “patchwork” of various jobs/professions that doesn’t help you now at a “certain age” find a job that matches your skills and interests (or even puts a roof over your head). This is the best reason why we as a society need some sort of UBI. I can’t think of any better. Power to the unemployed/underemployed people!

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    1. Yes, there comes a time when a FJG can no longer help (just as it can’t help minors… see my next article just posted). A UBI and FJG both have great benefits when done right. But together they form a synergy that’s bigger than the sum of the parts. For someone like me, and you apparently, a UBI would be the real help, and so I argue for it with a clear personal preference, but not as an alternative to a FJG but as a companion measure.

      I do wonder why I often hear a passionate opposition from MMTers to a UBI, a veritable demonization of it. I haven’t heard good arguments to support this demonization. When I have some time, I will check out Mark’s link to Pavlina Tcherneva’s response to a UBI, in case I haven’t read or watched it, yet. I doubt, though, that I will find support to demonize it there, since what I have read and heard from her so far never went that far. She is a bit myopically focused on macro-economics, but – as far as I recall – in principle kind of for a basic income or at least income guarantee.

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