Is basic income a formidable model for rising unemployed levels?

With AI, robotics and automation rapidly being deployed across various global industries, the assumption that unemployment levels will increase dramatically seems to be a foregone conclusion. As we enter this acutely diseased phase of capitalism -- I say acutely diseased because the effect on humanity will be catastrophic -- it seems to me that discourse on this subject is severely lacking. BI (basic income) is one plausible solution. Yanis Varoufakis talks extensively about BI. My question is: in your opinion, do you feel that BI is a formidable model for rising unemployed levels and, if so, how could it be calculated to adequately support peoples' needs?

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Catherine, thank you for your question. The problem with capitalism has always been that on the one hand it stimulates tech change, although in directions that prioritize profits far too much. On the other hand, capitalism distorts the application of technical change to maintain the dominance of capital and capitalism. So if you are right about how AI, robotics, etc will reduce the need for labor (much as many earlier tech changes in capitalism did), then what capitalism will likely do is condemn millions to unemployment and all its horrors while others work overtime and the richest become richer still. A non-capitalist application of AI, robotics, etc would very differently reduce the workday for all, rather than dangerously divide populations into those workings and those living off BI etc. I would approach handling reduced need for labor without accepting the constraints of a capitalism than which the human community can do better, much better. Hope this helps, Catherine, my best.

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  • responded with submitted 2016-07-08 17:42:09 -0400
  • published this page in Ask Prof. Wolff 2016-07-07 08:12:56 -0400


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