A notable guru of the Basic income movement, whose twitter feed I still sub to, has just cowritten a book. He even made it a free to download e-book. Alas, all it is about is another university first and second year philosophy level synthetizing of the usual dead white men, over property rights and the state.
I went through university in late middle age and got really sick of the way philosophy was taught, until at the very end I got into the post modern folks. At last, some white men who are alive or were alive during contemporary times, talking about issues that make some sense in these times!
Thus I am not much interested in what most of these “age of enlightenment” people said. At least Hobbes, Hegel, and Hume, even Machiavelli, had a few ideas which are still relevant. Locke is offensive; he was some sort of public relations shill for powerful interests of that time. He was paid to create justifications for what were called “the enclosures”, the theft of public land. Somehow someone like that is supposed to have something to say about the ethics of private property?
All these people lived in preindustrial times. They also had no actual knowledge of people living in a ‘state of nature’. They were talking about issues of their times and for the interests they represented.
The title of this work is “Prehistoric Myths in Modern Political Philosophy.” http://library.oapen.org/viewer/web/viewer.html?file=/bitstream/handle/20.500.12657/31750/625284.pdf It is really about 17th and 18th century myths about prehistory. As one other big cheese in the BI movement has asked, “What does the stone age have to do with us”? It really has nothing to do with us.
Referring to how stone aged people lived is supposed to prove points for or against the benefits of civilization. Was life ‘nasty, brutish, and short” back then, as in Hobbes? Or were they living in an idyllic paradise, according to Rousseau?
We have enough examples in the present world of people still living in a mesolithic or neolithic economy. They are as variable as are urban industrial societies. Some of them get along pretty well, or did until outsiders interfered with them. Some really are nasty and brutish, with cannibalism and blood feuds going on.
The thing is, most people brought up in a modern, urban environment, where most people Iive today, would not adapt well to that kind of life. Limited technology means a limited lifestyle. We are not going back there, so why talk about it?
I admit to having only read this tome superficially. It is over 200 pages. I found what I have skimmed to be very predictable. It is as I said, the same kind of endlessly recycled Dunce Scotus style academic glonk turned out by philosophy students in mediocre universities the world over. They even made me grind out some of it. They didn’t like what I ended up with.
Yet I have had a slight urge in the back of my mind to make the point I will try to make here, in some of these forums on Basic Income. This is the problem with BI, especially the BIEN style of BI. The whole subject got taken over by philosophy professors. Thus the development of the idea has not moved forward in 35 years, in fact has gone backwards.
Only in recent years, as the economic downturn and pandemic start to wreak social havoc in modern societies, has the examination of the BI idea started to move forward. The discussion has started to move off of recycled debates from the 18th century and into the contemporary world. It also gets into a refutation of the Libertarian idea, which is partly about some people wanting to go back to preindustrial times. So it drags up a lot of the sociopolitical blather from those times.
There are corporate interests which are threatened by the way the world is heading and want to brew up a movement against modernity, on the idea that government interferes with rights. My point is this; that any anti government notion is a complete dead end. We are not going back to any previous state. We are going to live from here on in an urban, technocratic society. We will not be able to survive without a very well developed government apparatus which can organize the material conditions for this kind of life.
If someone insists that we can have this kind of civilization without an effective government I am done talking with him. The vast majority of people will be as well. That does not stop these people from trying to drive their agendas through very well funded coercion and deception. Usually what these people are really shilling for is some idea of private businesses taking over areas of cities, creating some form of technofeudalism.
Private property in the modern city is a dead issue. In terms of real estate, it has created some incredible messes, with inappropriate development everywhere. It is a matter of time before most land is confiscated, so that rational city planning and provision of services can become possible.
As for private ownership of means of production, that is pretty much at a dead end. As technological advance reduces production costs close to zero, it becomes impossible to make ‘economic’ profits from it. People will not tolerate private monopolies in provision of utilities and cannot afford them.
So, the Lockean ‘privatarian’ side of this discourse is at a dead end. The Hobbesian ‘contractarian’ side of it does not really hold water either; who are we making a contract with? We do not owe obedience to anyone in particular. The sources of authority and protection are remote and diffuse.
The state is a huge organism which has grown up to provide us with the conditions for existence in the post industrial world. It is far greater than the sum of its parts. We cannot live outside of it and few people would want to try. So, the ideas of the state as an oppressive force or else something to be given deference to, really are not of the time or place in which we live.
This gets me to where the discussion really should start, not end. I am not going into it here. That is, how should the state be governed? If you want a democracy, what does that actually mean? You want ‘free enterprise’ to run everything? How is that going to work? You want the best and brightest to have full control? Who decides who those people are?
So, to conclude my little non review of this e-book, I ask what was worth over 200 pages to get to a place which the post modern world has largely moved on from? To bring it back to the Basic Income concept, is “maybe the world really does owe you a living” even an issue anymore? The only people who are saying ‘no’ are thus implying that much of the population is not fit to live.
So, rather than keep recycling ancient ideas, we could start moving the idea of a Basic Income forward by getting into discussion of how a state should be organized so as to best deliver the material conditions of existence to everyone in the framework of this century. There! Now that I have got my own point about premodern political philosophy myths out of my system, I do not intend to go back to it again.