Contra Musk: There are Other Futures Besides a Governmental UBI

by Nick Ford

You’ve likely heard of Elon Musk, he’s a huge venture capitalist who helps run companies such as Tesla, SpaceX and SolarCity. Being such a huge name in the tech industry and especially Silicon Valley the things he has to say about the future of…well anything, is likely to garner some attention.

Back in November, Musk stated that:

“There is a pretty good chance we end up with a universal basic income, or something like that, due to automation,” says Musk to CNBC. “Yeah, I am not sure what else one would do. I think that is what would happen.”

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The Full Extent of Subjective Valuation

Nominal libertarians regularly invalidate their own claims to support the socio-economic understanding of subjective valuation when they focus simplistically on profit (in the capitalist context) as the main axiomatic goal of economic exchanges, and talk of systems of private property as pure enclaves of individuality. These two systems, which seemingly define modern libertarian thought, are taken to be foundational and static in their conceptual makeup, rather than as constituted systems which involve political and social wrangling. They become conceptually conceived as positively anti-state, which is nonsensical rubbish when looking at the historic developments of these systems. Private property is not just simply protected by the state, but also created through processes of enclosure and the purposeful privatisation of ground rent. That is not to say private property cannot exist in a stateless society, but that it cannot exist outside a social context. Similarly, profit can be something developed through generally consensual means as the product of one’s labours, but its existence as a subjective axiom means it is realisable via the state. Our modern rentier economy is a testament to this inconvenient truth. Continue reading

Privatised Keynesianism and Social Reproduction

The effective privatisation of social reproduction and the creation of mechanisms of debt and marketisation have meant that the burden of crises have been placed on those responsible for the reproduction of society: households and the families and women that inhabit them. “The privatisation of the economic crisis”[1] has led to the legitimation of structural adjustment programs, purposeful ‘deregulation’ and the smashing of social commons in favour of marketised systems. The welfare state, engendered as an imperfect form of commons, provided the means toward shared social reproduction between the family and the community, with the costs of childcare and healthcare offset by communalised subsidies. However, neoliberal doctrine has ended such a general system, pushing instead debt-based safety nets that have created a form of privatised Keynesianism, whereby consumer-debt instruments have overtaken communal provision. Continue reading

Basic Income as a System of Control

“Basic income – in both the north and the south – all depends on how we frame it. Will it be cast as a form of charity by the rich? Or will it be cast as a right for all?”[1]. This quote encapsulates both the promise and potential consequences of a basic income. Much has been made of the radical potential that a universal basic income inculcates in our sclerotic neoliberal societies, supposedly able to end the necessity of work and make wages a tool of social policy rather than simply an economic consequence of the labour market. It is easy to see the potential when labour markets are extremely sticky, with low-pay staying low and wages continuing their decoupling from productivity gains. Technological unemployment presents the dystopia of a world where further productivity that is reaped from machines is controlled by a transnational capitalist class of international investors and corporate megaliths, continuing the monopolisation of the economy and entrenching a precarious form of wage labour relation. Continue reading

Fully Automated Luxury Individualist Anarchism

This essay presents an interesting pathway for radical politics that has both directionality and purposeful action, something rarely seen in modern discursive practice. A plurality of future-oriented technological paradigms of production and consumption is important when thinking of a postcapitalist future, as is the social purpose of technology in its integrable capacities. Berger offers a lot in the way of a direction for postcapitalist political economy and how technology as an innovation of the social can lead us in that direction. (by the blog author)

by Edmund Berger Continue reading

Corporatism and Capitalism

Libertarians seem to believe that the semantic debate over capitalism is settled by the use of one term, corporatism. The highly complex nature of capital accumulation, based around different structures that involve both competitive and planned dynamics, is made simple by differentiating between corporatism, a bastardised form of crony capitalism where monopoly dominates and the state’s regulatory apparatuses are at their most coercive, and a pure capitalism, “a world of perfect competition among enterprises who are all market price takers (none has the power or size to shape markets), where no advertising enables producers to shape the desires of consumers, where all workers bargain individually for their wages, and so on”[1]. Continue reading

The Precariatisation of Work

With changes in work and employment patterns in 21st century there has been a precariatisation of work, where employment contracts are de-securitised, low-pay dominates and there is an increasing individuation of work-life, alongside a blurring of work and leisure. Developments like the sharing economy and the move toward a self-employment in-name-only represent a significant economic reorganisation of work. While this precariatisation has certain elements that have become universalisable amongst developed and developing nations, this essay will focus primarily on workforces in the post-industrial West. Continue reading

‘Pure’ Capitalism is Pure Fantasy

by Richard Wolff

As the global economic meltdown drags most of us through its sixth year, one kind of explanation is heard often and from several sides, including the libertarian right. The crisis since 2007, we are told, is not capitalism’s fault or flaw. That is because capitalism is not the system we now have; it is not the systemic problem the world now faces. If only we could ‘get back to’ something like ‘pure’ capitalism, our economic woes would disappear. Proponents envision ‘pure ‘or ‘real’ capitalism as a world of perfect competition among enterprises who are all market price takers (none has the power or size to shape markets), where no advertising enables producers to shape the desires of consumers, where all workers bargain individually for their wages, and so on. It is the capitalism of the introductory economics textbook, the one that seamlessly delivers efficiency, prosperity, and optimal growth. Continue reading

A Justice-Based Proposal for Basic Income

An unconditional basic income has become an increasingly relevant and important proposal in the past decade. There is an increasing automation of work in manufacturing and services, a limitation of trade union involvement in worker’s lives, and the development of an increasingly large precariat[1] of semi-employed workers. This has led to an increasing decoupling of productivity and wages (due both to technological developments which decrease skilled work[2] and the destruction of trade union influence[3]) as well as the development of a rentier economy, where income earned “does not compensate productive activities”[4]. Of the current tranches of wealth found in the global economy, 74% comes from economic rent[5]. Much of this rent derives from monopolistic tendencies, including intellectual property[6], network externalities[7] and the concentration of wealth through technological innovation[8]. The modern economy is extremely unequal, with the majority of people having little access to these tranches of rental income. This is the opposite of a truly free society, where one’s “opportunities are being leximinned subject to the protection of their formal freedom”[9]. Such a society is one that guarantees a level of security while allowing for self-ownership and the attainment of leximin opportunities i.e. “some can have more opportunities than others, but only if their having more does not reduce the opportunities of some of those with less”[10]. Continue reading

The Social Constitution of the Gold Standard

The gold standard regime in its international character existed from the late 19th century through to the First World War. As a system, the gold standard is generally conceived as a monetary system represented, directly or indirectly, by gold. While having elaborate systems of coinage and paper money surrounding it, the main element was that gold backed these forms of monetary media. This itself was subject more to belief than concrete reality though, as actual backing by gold was largely irrelevant. “For paper to represent gold, it must be regarded as equivalent to a given quantity and purity of gold. In general, this equivalence is achieved by “convertibility,” the commitment to exchange the notes for gold on demand”[1]. It was the belief in convertibility, rather than the reality of its being done. Such a system can be seen as integrated, with many flows and pathways, but with gold at its centre as the fulcrum of this regime. It was “a truly international system based on gold”[2]. Continue reading