Earlier this week, the Greens proposed the establishment of a universal basic income (UBI) for all Australians, envisioned in a post work, futuristic context.
Somewhat surprisingly, this announcement drew a chorus of negative reactions from the political establishment, with many alleging the Greens lacked seriousness and a fitness to govern.
While I would ordinarily outright reject Greens’ positions set forth, this policy is not ‘leftie pinko nonsense.’
There remains concerns over expenditure, and the tremendous cost of supplying every Australian with $23 000 per annum. Any UBI would need large simultaneous cuts to existing welfare in ensuring viability, which was not the case here.
In the current context where work for humans remains relatively abundant, a UBI would also disincentivize work. This would likely create a permanent underclass of people, who will never achieve financial independence, never possess a drive to improve themselves and their families lives, and will know no better circumstances than those dictated by big government.
The end of working life as we know it, will be more difficult than Leftist utopians imagine. People will not go quietly from being hunters, farmers, explorers, builders and white collar workers, into becoming drip fed, dispensable units of flesh. Work provides people with an identity, a passion, and in some cases a reason for existing. A UBI that would replace the necessity of work in 2018 would be soul destroying, and detrimental to our national wellbeing.
Yet, whilst a UBI particularly of the Greens sort would be undesirable today, we may have it one day, even if dragged kicking and screaming.
There must be some discussion about the potential of a UBI into the future, as artificial intelligence threatens to automate millions of jobs in an unprecedented manner.
Given the rate of human technological development thus far, it is arrogant, or short- sighted, to believe as many in the Liberal Right do, that artificial intelligence cannot ultimately render humans redundant in the workplace.
Overall on this issue, while the specifics and context are off, the Greens appear ahead of the political curve.