Patience may be a virtue, but frankly I have waited long enough for others – whether the International Working Class, Wall Street Occupiers, the Tea Party, or some other Subset Of Society – to prepare a viable proposal for a better world and put it into action. It seems mother was right. If you want something done in this world, you have to do it yourself. So, I have taken it upon myself to announce the next step in our evolution as a species. If what follows seems too easy to be true, it is only because it still falls far short of where we should be heading. It is, at best, a humble beginning, or perhaps a stepping stone on our way toward liberty, equality, fraternity. The modest proposal is in five parts: 1) The Clean Slate; 2) Temporary Reorganization of Labor; 3) New Currency, Tax Obligation, Basic Income; 4) Free Stuff; 5) Democratic Determination of Priorities, Environmental Standards. I consider it a blight on my character that initially I thought it safer to file this post under ‘Humor’, solely on account of its audaciousness in stating what is rarely spoken but both simple and obvious. It has now been moved to the more appropriate category of ‘Future Society’. My only consolation is that the enemies of liberty, equality, fraternity will find very little to laugh about in what follows.
1) The Clean Slate
At the moment, there is a lot of private debt, an unequal distribution of wealth, and plenty of jobs and management positions that would be unnecessary in a more rationally organized economy. This is to end immediately. Here are the details:
The current monetary system is finished.
Private debt – and public debt for that matter – is over. Never to repeat.
Financial wealth and private ownership of capital and property, including intellectual property, are forever forgotten.
Whatever house or apartment you happen to be living in right now, it is under your stewardship, at no charge, at least for the time being. If you had additional houses or apartments, you can forget those for the moment. The homeless will be provided with housing pronto, at no charge, out of the existing housing stock. (Excess housing will come back into play later in the proposal.)
Workers and managers in the following obsolete industries are to be liberated from their current employment immediately: finance and private banking, real estate, private insurance, the military, secret service, advertising and marketing, as well as any middleman corporations not needed in the age of the internet, such as publishing houses and record labels (we have YouTube now).
2) Temporary Reorganization of Labor
The obsolete industries currently employ w% of workers and managers yet add zero, in most cases, and sometimes negative amounts, to general living standards. Their disappearance will have no impact on the availability of the necessities and luxury items of life. Food, clothing, shelter, entertainment, and so on, can all be supplied in the same amount even though w% of workers have been freed from the daily grind.
At the same time, as much as possible, existing production should be mechanized. Anything tedious and repetitive – and therefore easy to mechanize – should be mechanized. This will free up another x% of workers.
Currently, there are also y% of workers who are unemployed, even before the elimination of the obsolete sectors and mechanization.
So there will be w + x + y = t% of workers temporarily freed from employment.
This means that, temporarily, only (100 – t)% of workers will be employed. These workers will no longer be paid by their employers. They will, however, receive an income, to be explained in the next part of the proposal.
Of these workers who are currently employed, some of them might prefer to work less, especially now that they will not be receiving pay from their employers. Any who fit this category can register their desire. In total this will result in u% of labor hours being registered unwanted.
The unwanted hours will then be evenly distributed among the (t + u)% of workers who have been temporarily freed from employment or are unhappily employed.
Numerical Example: In country A, w = 50% of workers are employed in obsolete industries, x = 10% are in roles that can be readily mechanized, and y = 10% are unemployed. So, under the proposal, t = 70% of workers would be temporarily freed from employment. Of the 30% of workers who are fruitfully employed, half of them enjoy their jobs and half would prefer not to do them. That leaves 15% of current potential labor time to distribute evenly among the t + u = 85% of workers currently not happily, fruitfully employed. Easy.
Since the (t + u)% of workers will have very few compulsory working hours, which we can think of as the minimum labor-time commitment, they will be free to pursue other activities, including productive activities of their own choosing, the rest of the time.
Note that the right to employment is guaranteed. If anyone not currently in the workforce wishes to enter it, they can do so and share in the unwanted jobs. Otherwise, they can remain outside the workforce. Either way, they will receive an income, as is about to be explained.
3) New Currency, Tax Obligation, Basic Income
The government will introduce a new currency, tax obligation, and basic income payment to be administered through Special Accounts from which direct consumption expenditures can be made.
Each citizen’s Special Account will be topped up each fortnight to a level calculated as follows:
Average Payment to Special Account = Aggregate Sales Revenue / Population
Each citizen shall be free to make purchases directly out of his or her Special Account. Enterprises producing goods and services will adjust supply to demand. The level of demand will indicate the appropriate level of investment in capital equipment by each enterprise and government will issue funds accordingly. This will work as follows:
Payments made by citizens out of their Special Accounts will go into Receiving Accounts that the government will set up for the enterprises selling the goods and services. All amounts in the Receiving Accounts will be unavailable to enterprises but help the government determine the appropriate issuance of investment funds for the enterprises. In the case of investment, government will credit the Receiving Accounts of the enterprises producing the investment goods. In effect, the amounts in the Receiving Accounts represent the tax obligation.
So, everybody gets a basic income through the Special Account, whether a worker, a manager, a housewife/husband, a volunteer worker, a politician, a retiree, a student, a small child, an infant, or whatever. Production responds to demand but is not for profit. Investment costs are footed by the government, but in the case of enterprises producing consumption items, reflect demand.
It is impossible for citizens to accumulate private savings because their Special Accounts are merely topped up each fortnight. This is okay, because private saving is unnecessary, as will be explained later in the proposal.
Numerical Example: Country A has a population of 10 million. Citizens receive a maximum of $1000 each fortnight in their Special Accounts. In a particular fortnight, it so happens that citizens on average spend $800 and have $200 remaining in their Special Accounts. The average payment for the next fortnight would be $800 to top up the accounts. As already mentioned, this can also be calculated as:
Average Payment = Sales Revenue / Population = $8 billion / 10 million = $800
The $8 billion sales revenue goes into the untouchable Receiving Accounts of the enterprises supplying the goods and services. As already mentioned, it constitutes the tax obligation as well as guiding the government’s issuance of necessary investment funds.
4) Free Stuff
Since it is impossible to save or accumulate financial wealth, it may seem that there is no way for anybody to acquire more expensive items. Not so!
These things are provided free of charge as they become possible to provide, and represent real income over and above the goods and services purchased out of Special Accounts.
As already mentioned in part 1, housing is free. New housing, if and when it is deemed necessary through the democratic process, will be commissioned by the government. Construction workers are part of the employed workforce and will undertake a succession of projects according to social objectives. Investment will be handled in the same way as for all other enterprise.
Consumer durables, such as washing machines, dishwashers, televisions, computers, etc., will be provided free of charge, with the amount provided increasing over time in line with the level of economic development and the political will.
All levels of education and training are free for all.
Health care is free for all.
There is free public transport.
There is free internet access, including open access to all known books, journals, newspapers, musical recordings, and anything else that can be published online.
Each citizen is entitled to a certain number of free vacations to holiday destinations each year.
Eventually, the tyranny of being confined largely to one geographical location will be removed. A large surplus of free accommodation in major cities, regional centers, coastal resorts, country retreats, and so on, will be kept fully furnished and serviced so that anybody, on a whim, can relocate for a time to another location for the sake of it.
Resources necessary for the pursuit of creative, productive or leisure pursuits will be made freely available on an increasing scale as economic progress continues. Access to some resources may be limited in accordance with proficiency or need, but the degree of any such selectivity will reflect democratic priorities and environmental considerations and, as far as possible, diminish over time as economic progress continues.
Plus, any other free stuff that has slipped my mind will be made available to all as it becomes feasible to do so.
5) Democratic Determination of Priorities, Environmental Standards.
Investment priorities are to be determined democratically in a dual sense. On one level, there is democratic determination of priorities over public infrastructure, education, and accommodation. On another level, the investment of individual enterprises is determined according to the spending decisions of citizens who possess equal purchasing power, courtesy of the basic income provided in the form of Special Accounts.
Environmental standards and other regulatory mechanisms are also to be determined through the democratic process, informed by the best available scientific evidence.
It must be reiterated that this proposal represents merely a first, small step in the right direction. Thanks to a minimum labor-time commitment that is small compared to current average working hours, the proposal gives individuals more free time, which they can use both for productive and leisure pursuits of their own choosing. This, over time, will increasingly separate income from labor time, a process already underway with the introduction of the basic income provided through the Special Accounts.
Income equality is also achieved, including for those not currently in the workforce, such as individuals performing unpaid housework, child care and aged care, as well as individuals undertaking volunteer work. The introduction of the basic income puts these individuals on the same footing as those currently in the workforce. It also eradicates the gross injustice of school children and university students laboring over their studies without pay, and soothes the oppressed infant on the verge of a dummy spit.