A 4th Era of Capitalism

A century ago in 1916, after decades of deadly protests, union railroad workers won the right to an eight-hour a day, six-day work week. Other workers would not earn the same rights until 1933.

The latest trend in corporate management today is unlimited vacation time. Employees at Netflix, where the concept was made famous, take on average almost five weeks a year. The world is changing.

Capitalism evolves. That evolution is beginning to take us in some strange directions. A vastly freer, wealthier, and better informed world is putting new pressures on governments and businesses. As governments struggle to adapt, corporations are taking on a social role that few would have imagined for them in the past.

A new era of capitalism may see businesses behaving less like rapacious machines and more like other social institutions. Our continuing devolution of power away from traditional institutions is creating an odd and awkward market pressure on businesses to operate under a broader, smarter balance sheet. We may be entering an era of social capitalism, in which ruthless, narrow-minded profit-optimization simply fails to compete successfully in the marketplace.

Defining the characteristics of an era is an imprecise business, like trying to attach a personality to a generation. Looking back at the interactions between business and politics over time, it is possible to see an outline of changing interests. Those changes are often punctuated by wider historical forces, making it possible to describe fairly discreet periods in which one set of traits were particularly dominant. Using this approach we can roughly describe three historical eras of capitalism and perhaps perceive the emergence today of a fourth.

War Capitalism

War capitalism was an economic order built on the violent expropriation of land and labor to secure newly valuable commodities. This economic order fed the development of the next by tearing down the pillars of feudalism and creating conditions in which mechanical production methods could begin to emerge. By disrupting a long-established political and economic order that had squashed previous efforts at technological development, war capitalism opened a door to the industrial age.

Industrial Capitalism

Out of the new commodity surpluses and political upheaval rendered by war capitalism emerged industrial capitalism. This is the form of capitalism we most associate with the term “capitalism” itself, as industrial capitalism produced Karl Marx and the academic field of Economics.

Industrial capitalism is defined by the use of machines on a mass scale to convert raw materials into products. Where the most valuable output under war capitalism was still commodities, the most valuable capital was still land, and the labor force was mostly enslaved, industrial capitalism changed the equation in ways that had serious political impact.

Under industrial capitalism the most valuable outputs were consumer goods and, eventually, other machines. The most valuable capital was machinery. Labor was not bound to any particular producer, and we began to see the emergence not only of skilled labor, but of a very small tier of engineering labor with the rare potential to become capital owners in their own right.

For our purposes the most important factor distinguishing the industrial age from the brutality of war capitalism is the demand for a relatively more skilled, disciplined work force, and the need to divorce capital owners from a requirement to permanently support and maintain that labor force. Our memories of that era are marked by reference to cruel working conditions, but that only becomes apparent with a backward-looking view. Compared to war capitalism, common laborers experienced a degree a power that had never before been seen.

Industrial demands fed the growth of the activist nation-state. Trade protections, education, transportation infrastructure and other demands necessary for the growth of large business enterprises could only be delivered by a strong state. That demand fed the central conflict of the industrial age, a power struggle between laborers and capital owners over control of that state.

Building a political entity with the requisite size and power to meet industrial demands strained the legitimacy of hereditary states. Delivering the broader legitimacy needed to maintain the strong state that capital owners wanted, simultaneously eroded the political power of capital owners. This cycle set up near-constant internal conflict between an increasingly powerful labor pool and capital owners.

Most of US history, and in fact the US Constitution itself, is shaped by the need to maintain both of the earliest forms of capitalism inside the same political union. By the end of the 18th century Northern states had already begun their industrial development while the South remained committed to war capitalism. Political distortions that rose from that complex collection of tensions have never been fully reconciled.

Knowledge Capitalism

Rising demand for skilled labor, and especially skilled engineers led capital owners to sponsor the development of mass education and technological advance. By the second half of the 20th century in the US an entirely new category of capital enterprise had emerged in which the firm’s most valuable capital was information.

Perhaps the earliest example, born deep in the Industrial Age, was General Electric. By the 1950’s companies like IBM, HP, Walt Disney, Texas Instruments and Hughes Aviation had upended the older labor/capital relationship. These new firms enjoyed massive profit margins by leveraging creative capital.

Sometimes their products were tangible, but their capital pool was based largely on human talent. Labor working in these firms enjoyed material rewards beyond anything workers had earned before. With that wealth and importance came mass political power, exercised with a quality and information level that had never before been achieved. Though democracies had existed in the past, real political power had never been so broadly distributed in previous civilizations.

More importantly, these new firms would finally sever the ancient relationship between wealth and land. By doing so, firms engaged in knowledge capitalism became uniquely global in a way that had been impossible before. Where capital had helped to build the nation state in previous eras, now it was beginning to dismantle state power. With a new working class more powerful and wealthy than any that had previously existed, the mass demand for powerful nation-states began to weaken.

The regulatory state, set up to satisfy the needs of an industrial labor force, is at constant tension with the disruptive tendencies of capitalism, accelerated to a blur by the growth of technology. Those with sunken investments in old, antiquated capital often leverage the regulatory state which they once so loathed to protect their ability to collect rents from capital whose value would otherwise be depleted by competition with technology. In knowledge capitalism a large portion of the former working class is now fiercely at odds with the big government infrastructure their parents and grandparents helped to create.

While knowledge capitalism, which continues to dominate life in the US today, introduces better working conditions than industrial laborers dared imagine, it suffers from a disturbing flaw. A global trade in creative capital has a bent toward fantastically unequal outcomes. While rhetoric has focused on the 1%, the real disruption in knowledge capitalism is the way it has sheared away the old middle class political consensus achieved in the industrial era.

There’s nothing new about a few hundred families achieving extraordinary wealth. The political problem undermining knowledge capitalism is the way it has massively enriched the top quarter or so of the former middle class, aligning their lifestyles and interests much more closely with the traditional rich rather than the remaining working class. It was a middle class ideology that brought stability to industrial capitalism. That ideology no longer makes sense under knowledge capitalism, but it has not been replaced. Tensions rising from an anachronistic understanding of the role of the state are perhaps giving rise to a new era of capitalism.

Social Capitalism?

We may be experiencing a new era in business and capital development. Over the past thirty years, how many of the most pressing social problems in our world have been solved by political action? How many have been solved by corporations?

What has been the role of corporations in responding to climate change, AIDS, racial injustice, women’s rights, mass education, access to water, food, housing or health care? America’s largest ever reduction in greenhouse gas emissions was achieved thanks to the fracking boom of the past decade. Our next great step in carbon reduction is coming from solar technology and electric vehicles developed by Silicon Valley firms.

An older stereotype of the corporate bully seemed to be confirmed recently when a wealthy hedge fund manager bought the rights to a critical AIDS drugs and hiked its price. Within a week a competitor emerged charging $1 per dose.

Social capitalism is an economic order in which social and political forces come together to cause market transactions to more competently incorporate formerly “external” costs. Industrial capitalists paid no price for polluting a river or destroying a forest. Under social capitalism, an increasingly equal distribution of power across a society provides methods to force those costs to be factored into market mechanisms. Under social capitalism, the division between labor and capital blurs to near-irrelevance. Meanwhile, an expanded commercialization of nearly every valuable resource leads to a sort of “commodification of everything.”

A strange thing happened earlier this year when the State of Indiana tried to legitimize anti-gay discrimination in the marketplace. One big tech company, Salesforce.com, immediately stood up against the move, triggering a cascade of similar actions from other tech companies. Indiana’s political leadership was so blindsided by this unprecedented move that it reversed course within weeks. Understanding why a tech company would do this while industrial companies were mostly silent helps explain the meaning and importance of social capitalism.

Salesforce had nothing to gain from this move in terms of its appeal to customers, access to capital, or direct profit impact. Here’s what Salesforce’s CEO said about the move:

Today we are canceling all programs that require our customers/employees to travel to Indiana to face discrimination.

That statement identifies the hinge on which social capitalism turns – the power of employees. Understanding what drives the relatively more humane and responsible behavior of corporations under social capitalism means recognizing the massive devolution of power from capital owners to employees.

Salesforce took that move because it could not tolerate a situation in which its employees might be mistreated on the job. They could not tolerate that situation, because they cannot afford to lose an employee. Under war capitalism, labor was performed by slaves. Under industrial capitalism labor was performed by barely skilled, poorly paid, largely interchangeable individuals who could be disposed of and replaced by a broken cog. Under knowledge capitalism employees began to emerge as a resource in their own right, with their contributions converted into capital which they might accumulate on their own. Under social capitalism that increased economic heft is converted into political influence. That political influence finally begins to reshape the economic climate so that formerly external costs in form of pollution, violence, discrimination, and resource destruction finally find their way onto the corporate balance sheet, making businesses begin to function like political partners rather than rivals of labor.

What will be the greatest weakness of social capitalism? A relentless libertarian ethic may demolish critical social institutions. Social capitalism places a remarkable new premium on creativity, but it dangerously devalues every other value from family to religion to public service. It is early, but it appears that by splitting up the middle class more or less finally, it threatens to create a dangerous social disruption.

Social capitalism is in some ways fairer than previous forms of capitalism. However, in driving inequality much deeper into our society, it is tearing away many of the older social bonds we once relied on to soften economic outcomes. Not everyone gets to participate in social capitalism. Its benefits flow disproportionately toward those who actually work for information-driven firms. That’s a large minority, but still a minority. As technology breeds advanced automation, that minority is likely to shrink.

The destruction of older forms of social capital is weakening communities and ultimately shaking the foundations of the democratic nation-state. The ultimately question seems to be this: will the emergence of the social capital business model alleviate enough of the previous order’s injustices to justify its own flaw. Alternatively, will the political systems of the old Western democracies adapt fast enough to recognize and minimize the destruction brought by this exciting new development?

Evolution is relentless. Each new development is paired with new demands. There is no Nirvana, no Utopia. Happy outcomes depend on aggressive, intelligent adaptation. Are we ready to adapt to a new age of capitalism? Someone will. Some won’t.

Chris Ladd is a Texan living in the Chicago area. He has been involved in grassroots Republican politics for most of his life. He was a Republican precinct committeeman in suburban Chicago until he resigned from the party and his position after the 2016 Republican Convention. He can be reached at gopliferchicago at gmail dot com.

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107 comments on “A 4th Era of Capitalism
  1. […] A Fourth Era of Capitalism, October 2015 […]

  2. Garrett Antista says:

    Hola! I’ve been following your blog for a long time now and finally got the courage to go ahead and give you a shout out from Dallas Texas! Just wanted to tell you keep up the good job!

  3. […] the trend toward extreme outcomes we see today was already in motion by the late 50’s. An economy built more on talent than on muscle respects only one color – green. Racial preferences were standing in the way of a new world of […]

  4. […] is now primarily a white rural problem. We have misidentified the biggest winners and losers emerging from this stage of capitalism. Our politics and our public narrative need to adapt to this volatile emerging […]

  5. […] Authors of our Constitution were limited in their high-minded ambitions by one frustrating reality. Their project could not hope to survive and take root unless it could preserve, at least for a time, an awkward and untenable alliance. Northern states dedicated to a proto-capitalist merchant economy must somehow exist under a common legal framework with a violently regressive collection of plantation settlements committed to an older form of war capitalism. […]

  6. Anse says:

    Speaking of the role corporations have played in affecting some aspects of social progress, this is why I don’t quite understand some conservatives’ fantasy of having a “CEO President.” I got into a long conversation about Facebook yesterday with some Republican friends, and the subject was Donald Trump. I made the point, and I don’t think any of them really responded to it or took it seriously, that Trump is not an idealist. Most of them are looking for an idealist, a Tea Party True Believer who will do whatever is necessary to realize the right wing dream. A business man is not going to be that person. They are more likely to do what works. Trump is a loon, but I don’t think he’d ever support something like using the debt limit as leverage in negotiations. And look at how many Houston business leaders are coming out in support of HERO, currently the most-hated idea among conservatives in this area in a long, long time.

    • 1mime says:

      Solid thinking, Anse. It’s why Repubs who want government to work, if given a choice between Trump and Cruz, should choose Trump. If they want things turned inside out and don’t really care if basic governmental operation is destroyed in the process, Cruz is your man….He’s working the delegate vote which as Lifer indicated, is how the party picks its nominee. He’s running a smart, stealth campaign which would be impressive if he weren’t such an absolute prick. Cannot imagine that man running our country.

      • Anse says:

        There are some industries that are very solidly Republican and conservative, like oil and gas. A good friend of mine works for a large oil company and he never, ever talks about his political views. He’s a Democrat and he’s quite positive it would have a damaging effect on his career. But he is pretty sure there are a few others like him. It’s just too sensitive a subject to dare bring it up.

        But yeah, most corporations are only politically involved to the extent that it impacts their business. Discrimination is bad for business. Not renewing the Import-Export Bank is bad for business. Not raising the debt ceiling, etc. Why do they put “Happy Holidays” on their promotionals? Because inclusion is too important to give in to Bill O’Reilly’s stupid “War on Christmas” shtick.

  7. objv says:

    Apartment Rating: One star

    If you like loud music, partying and doing drugs until 3 in the morning Sunday through Saturday, this is the place for you. Maintenance never gets done, because management can’t seem to keep employees for long. Teens roam around unsupervised. Forget leaving anything remotely valuable in your car. A lot of the people that live here don’t seem to have a job. Avoid living here at all costs. I couldn’t wait for my lease to end. It was hell on earth. I do not recommend.

    ——————————————————

    One of my kids was looking for a apartment recently and trying to find something affordable on a grad student’s stipend. Looking over online reviews, I’d see ratings like the above occasionally.

    Welcome to what life living on a minimum income.

    • Crogged says:

      Then why do children ever leave? The loudest voices regarding ‘dependency’ usually are successful people telling other successful people about those layabouts stealing their money.

      You are correct, a minimum income will result in some people not having a job and wandering about-which is different from now in what way?

      Lifer brought up this idea long ago-and the origins. Strangely it wasn’t from wild eyed liberals, but from people such as Milton Friedman-a ‘negative’ income tax. We already have the means and tools (government people and computers) collecting and sending out the various revenue streams and hordes of lawyers fighting over the details. Now we add a further level of relatively useless jobs in micro managing these paltry sums we parcel out to our unemployed, underemployed and wanderers. We give them vouchers for soylent green (not purple), demand they not use drugs, and praise ourselves for our virtue and hard work.

      Donald Trump only needed a million dollars from his diddy and a guaranteed minimum income would be cheaper than that. This thing we call a ‘market’ isn’t a thing or a force of nature, but a group of people. If the market invested in the people, wouldn’t it grow?

    • RightonRush says:

      Has he tried campus housing? I know that some of the better colleges offer low cost housing to their grad students.

    • 1mime says:

      Welcome to life without mommy and daddy…..who in all reality, are still there to pick up the pieces…..except that some of the kids don’t have that security blanket.

      For many students who have always lived on minimum income or in a minimal environment (parent/parents had minimum income), they’ve been scaling this wall for a long time. It’s a shock to kids who come out of nice,secure, middle class homes but sooner or later, life happens. As parents, we want to protect our kids always. Ultimately, the grad student may have to either get a loan, get a job (or two), or a room mate or two to afford a better situation. Campus housing is notoriously expensive. Try living on a minimum budget and going to Berkeley, or Stanford, or…..

      Still, it’s good to know, right?

  8. 1mime says:

    I have been concerned about “what” a Ryan Speakership might presage. He is not a crazy rightist but he is definitely about as fiscally conservative as it gets. (his social positions are very conservative as well) He has demonstrated he “could” work across the aisle, but one wonders if he will feel the need to given the GOP majority in the House and the TP and HFC breathing down his neck. Here’s Huffpost’s take….See what you think of Mr. Ryan’s potential to shape national policy (through the budget…bill control, etc)

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dean-baker/paul-ryan-wants-to-shut-d_b_8395344.html?ncid=txtlnkusaolp00000592&ref=yfp

    • vikinghou says:

      Ryan’s worship of Ayn Rand and objectivism should provide most of the clues necessary to determine his budget philosophy.

      • 1mime says:

        Believe, me, Viking, I understand what he is capable of. I’ve been watching him for a very long time…He will finally be in a position of power and procedure to facilitate converting his personal beliefs into legislation. This well may be the opening that Lifer discussed as holding hope for the Republicans. For many of the issues where Lifer holds a broader view, not so much. Couple him with a Kevin Brady whose views are ultra pro-business and tax reform a la GOP is coming soon…..(he was a Chamber director before he got into politics….altho all of the chamber directors I have ever been around were deeply involved in politics in that position.)

        For the record, I don’t oppose tax reform as long as it is not one-sided. The Republican’s record of fairness on issues like this is poor.

    • 1mime says:

      Paul Ryan……..keep him in your sights..

      “…the House Ways and Means Committee chairman criticized how the deal to extend the government’s borrowing limit and increase spending came together, saying ‘this process stinks’ in the interview televised on CNN.

      “Under new management, we’re not going to do business like this,” he said. “As a conference, we should have been meeting months ago to develop a strategy on this.”

      http://thehill.com/policy/finance/258188-ryan-says-budget-process-stinks

      NOTICE: “we should have been meeting months ago to develop a strategy on this.” Do you understand what Ryan just said? A “strategy” to pass a budget (for expenses already approved by Congress) and raise a Debt Ceiling (for expenses already approved by Congress and being spent by virtue of Congressional approval), to fund growing expenses for defense because “needs” throughout the world require it….while ignoring domestic needs that also require it?

      Am I the only person here who finds this concept of “strategizing” the budget of the United States unacceptable? Did you note Ryan’s stipulation of the term “conference”…Note to all: Watch him to see “who” composes this “conference”…Think he’s talking bi-partisan here?

      Be forewarned. Anyone, ANYONE, who could appease the TP and HFC members is not going to be balanced in budget preparation. How could they?

  9. Rob Ambrose says:

    Opinions may differ in n if America hasba race problem or not. One thing it definitely has though, is a cop problem.

    This is a child in school who was being disruptive.

    http://m.nydailynews.com/news/national/sc-high-school-officer-beats-student-arrest-article-1.2412147

    • 1mime says:

      A little action on the House floor tonight regarding reauthorization of the EX-IM Bank….as reported by Politico. As you may recall, there are several TP House members who oppose the EX-IM Bank and finally succeeded in blocking its reauthorization in a committee chaired by Jeb Hensarling. There is huge support for the bank (90 years in existence) from members who are strong business proponents. Here’s some detail about tonight’s action:

      “Supporters of the expired Export-Import Bank succeeded tonight in using a rare parliamentary maneuver (a discharge petition) to force the agency’s proposed resurrection onto the House floor, over the opposition of conservative Republicans.
      The overwhelming 246-177 (bi-partisan) vote sets up a series of further actions later tonight that are expected to lead to a final House vote tonight or Tuesday on reauthorizing Ex-Im. But the export credit agency still faces an unsettled fate in the Senate. (McConnell opposes re-authorization and may not allow it to come up for a vote.)
      The agency, which promotes exports by U.S. companies, expired this summer after conservatives denounced it as an expensive giveaway to special interests. Supporters say its loan guarantees support more than 160,000 U.S. jobs.”

  10. vikinghou says:

    Excellent post which immediately reminded me of the film NETWORK during which the Ned Beatty character performs a classic monologue concerning issues you brought up.

  11. 1mime says:

    OT but never far from my mind, this NYT editorial on gun violence and the push to expand concealed carry.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/26/opinion/the-concealed-carry-fantasy.html?emc=edit_ty_20151026&nl=opinion&nlid=41048410&_r=0

  12. Rob Ambrose says:

    Don’t agree with everything Chomsky says, but I think he’s bang on about the sickness that is the current GOP.

    http://www.salon.com/2015/10/26/noam_chomsky_nails_the_gops_sick_priorities_dont_do_anything_or_bomb/

    At the end of the day, the GOP (establishment) could care less about the social issues it seems they’re obsessed with. They are first and foremost the party of the 1%. The issues they REALLY care about are things like union busting, holding the line on minimum wage, basically anything that prevents the working class from gaining any more share of the pie.

    But being the party of the 1% has a fundamental mathematical problem. You can’t win elections because you’ve only got 1% of the vote. So they searched for a bloc with enough numbers to enact their policies. They found it in the Evangelical Christian vote. They realized that if they pay lip service to things like abortion and gays and Jesus, these people would vote for them no matter how much their votes hurt them personally. Its why things that should have nothing in common move in lockstep (why would the correlation between opposing marriage equality and opposing Obamacare be so high? The two have nothing to do with each other. Except them make perfect sense when you consider one is a priority of one bloc, and the other a priority of the other).

    The problem is that the rubes don’t know they’re rubes. After several decades of being fed lies about the real motivations of the Republican party, we end up with what we have now: a base that despises both parties, despises governance and has nothing but contempt for bedrock institutions such as congress and SCOTUS and the office of the POTUS. Theyre starting to catch on, and now they’re just so mad they’re happy to watch the whole thing burn.

    Also, a funny thing happened along the way, in that the rubes started to become integrated into the party, such that the lines began to blur between who was pulling the strings. Like a virus, the religious right has slowly taken over the host, and the GOP is the GOP in name only. Basically the inmates have taken over the asylum.

    • 1mime says:

      Outside of the GOP contempt for the body politic (Congress, President, SCOTUS), what is especially sad and concerning is that th GOP constituency no longer believes in government. How do they think America will “run”? Or, is their thinking so incredibly self-serving that they don’t care about anything except that which they ‘perceive’ impacts them. Therein lies the problem…..one may ‘gate’ off their homes; socialize within a narrow group; work in a protective environment; practice their faith in churches that reinforce their moral views….but sooner or later, they have to interact with the everyday man, and they won’t have a clue what to expect or how to engage. They go to the movies, out to restaurants, sporting events…all public arenas. What we have is societal dysfunction on steroids.

      Years ago, our community was embroiled in a turning point in our public education system. Due to growth, districts changed with the end result that the courts became involved via rezoning. This prompted great discussion with people who resisted change and decided to place their children in private education rather than work within the public schools. (It was a good public education system, generally.) I will never forget the comment of a woman I knew socially on her reason for removing her children from the public school system. Her goal, she said, was to raise her children to become employers of those she said attended public schools. Her children wouldn’t have any social need to know public school kids either then or in the future. Their lives would function at a much “higher” level.

      This is what you are dealing with with the current GOP fringe. I asked earlier, are they the tail wagging the dog, or have they devoured the dog? It was rhetorical.

    • 1mime says:

      Rob, I was surprised by Chomsky stating that the 2016 Presidential election didn’t have any anti-war candidates. That is not accurate. Bernie Sanders clearly is anti-war, and even though he expresses singular praise for Sanders, he seemed unaware of his anti-war stance. That is kind of odd, don’t you think?

      • Griffin says:

        Sanders is moderately anti-war and is arguably the least interventionalist candidate in this race (with the exception of Rand Paul) but still not to the extent Chomsky is. Sanders was in favor of invading Afghanistan and is in favor of keeping troops there, for instance, while Chomsky was not.

    • Griffin says:

      Chomsky actually summed up the radicalization of the GOP pretty well along with the fight between the Establishment and the base.

  13. johngalt says:

    There is a basic premise in the artificial division of capitalism into distinct phases that “things are different now.” The only thing exceptional about this sort of exceptionalism is how wrong it always is. Keynes’ grandchildren are not working just 15 hours per week, nor will his great-great-grandchildren. For salaried employees, the work week is getting longer, not shorter. Our materialism is not going to change and is not going to be sated at the possibilities available at 15 hours a week. Most people do not want to work a couple of hours a day and then find leisure activities for the rest (what the hell would you do all day?). There exists fulfillment in accomplishment; finishing yet another book or running yet another race comes with diminishing returns (and, ironically, providing all these leisure activities is hard work).

    We worried that automation would throw farm workers into destitution. It didn’t because they found other things to do. We worried that cars would throw carriage-drivers under the bus (so to speak). We used to go to war to secure commodities. We (mostly) now recognize this as a fantastically inefficient way to go about that.

    This is not to say that change does not bring disruptions and hardships, because it does. The knowledge economy does have a hole in the middle and we haven’t figured out what will fill it, but I expect that will happen in some means. Ironically, Chris spends some time union bashing (deservedly so some of the time), but the difference between Robber Baron capitalism of the turn of the 20th century and the halcyon days of the 50s-60s; the difference between the factories of Sinclair’s Jungle and those that enabled two cars in the garage and two weeks at the beach each summer was unionization.

    • goplifer says:

      I’m not sure that’s true. For example, my work week is certainly a lot shorter than by father’s. That said, it’s still long and he was doing blue collar work. What’s remarkable about my career arc versus white collar workers of a previous generation is not the length of my week, but the length of my career and where it leads.

      Keynes’ 15-hour workweek may turn out to be true if you average it over the 45+yr career that people once expected to work. My post-education career is unlikely to last 25 years. Through it all I will never work the kind of hours my dad put in at the junk yard. And my career is not among the more successful in my generation. i can’t tell you how many people I know whose real career ended in their thirties. Many are still “working,” but it’s little more than a paid hobby.

      If you count time I spend responding to emails in the evening or on Sat, my workweek is a little longer than previous generations, but it is also lighter. A lot lighter. In a million little ways my job is easier today than the traditional white collar job I performed briefly in the 90’s (attorney).

      A couple of other notes:

      ***We worried that automation would throw farm workers into destitution.***

      It did. Many of them committed suicide rather than face the new world. Others adapted and moved on, but their world disappeared. Almost no one in this country supports themselves on a family farm. A small number of large farmers own and farm their own land. Almost all of them have an income of some sort (wife working?) from town.

      The most powerful changes in the world come on incrementally. We only recognize them in our rear view mirror. You are absolutely right about the artificiality of trying to label “eras,” I referred to that briefly in the piece, but I think the changes we are experiencing are more transformative then most people recognize.

      • 1mime says:

        Chris, “success” is measured differently by people. Doing something you enjoy for your job or your hobby, being surrounded by people you love, helping others, having financial security, decent health, a curious mind……these are the things that really matter. It must be very satisfying to you to reach so many people through your blog. “Giving back” can be achieved in many different ways and has the wonderful benefit of bringing joy to both the recipient and the donor. Money and status will become less important as you age, which I am certain you figured out many years ago. Some of the most memorable conversations and friendships I have experienced in my life have been with people who would be considered quite ordinary by many. To me, they are extraordinary and unforgettable in how they touched our lives with their kindness and generosity of spirit.

      • johngalt says:

        The concerns accompanying technological development have generally been that [insert profession here] will vanish and there will be nothing to replace it for the displaced workers. This has not proven true, for farm hands, for carriage drivers, for seamstresses, for anyone really. I don’t mean that individuals are not displaced and have trouble finding suitable employment; this clearly happens. I mean that we mechanized and consolidated farming so that it went from 70% of the labor force to less than 1% in a century, yet 69% of us do not wander the streets idly looking for handouts.

        You may be working less hard than your father but that’s an anecdote, not a statistic. I know a few people who have quit working in their 30s and 40s to ride the coattails of a successful spouse (oddly, more men benefitting from their wives than the opposite). Two-high-earner couples, particularly if they are childless, can probably make enough in 20 years to last the rest of their lives. This marks a difference from 40 years ago because now there are two income couples. My parents averaged probably 23 years work each, distributed as about 43 for my father and 3 for my mother. My wife and I are not likely to hang up our spurs after 23 years each (not the least because that’s when our youngest will be heading off to college, which should cost about $175,000 per year by then) and I don’t see a stampede of 55 year olds headed for the exits either.

      • goplifer says:

        All valid, but let me offer this counterpoint. We started to officially measure labor force participation rates in the 1940’s. Apart from the appearance of new groups who had never been allowed to participate in the past, that rate has always been in long term decline.

        Those declines have no extended to groups who initially propped up rates when they joined the labor force, like minorities and women.

        My grandmother started working nearly full time as soon as she was old enough to carry the egg pail, at about age 5. That was true of everyone she knew. No one does that anymore because our overall need for labor has been in long-term decline for centuries. And that decline has begun to accelerate dramatically over the last half century or so.

        Each new way of earning a living demands less in the way of work than the one before it. Over time, that is leading to some concentration of opportunity. It is that concentration of opportunity that marks the change between an older paradigm where work is mostly just changing, with only a small replacement rate (the wagon driver becomes a cabbie) to an emerging paradigm in which human labor is largely disappearing globally.

        I can’t see that process reversing. Time may prove me wrong and you make the best case for why I might be wrong.

      • 1mime says:

        “Each new way of earning a living demands less in the way of work than the one before it. ”

        Unless one is poorly educated and dependent upon manual labor….whose wages (hourly) are fairly limited, they must work more hours to meet their family’s growing needs. Now, one hopes that “their” children will work fewer hours for more pay than we did, but the real opportunities for this are greatest for those fortunate enough to have privileged backgrounds or be born with some pretty amazing grey matter.

        We’ve talked before about population declines. Maybe all of these factors will align; maybe not.

      • johngalt says:

        The declining labor force participation rate is largely due to demographics. As generally calculated, it includes everyone over 16, including retirees. Increases in life expectancy mean that people spend increasing time outside the labor force at the end of their lives, and this drives down the participation rate. You mentioned your extensive schooling – mine lasted a decade – and so this cuts into participation on the other end, despite being economically useful activity.

    • duncancairncross says:

      YES
      Unions!!
      Without Unions to balance the power we are like the little kids handing over our lunch money to the big bullies

      • goplifer says:

        How do unions help when capital and labor become almost indistinguishable? Look, unions did their job. They no longer have a job.

        Leaving aside emerging tech work. do you honestly think that employees at Starbucks and Chipotle would get better working conditions under a union? They don’t seem to think so.

        http://www.seattletimes.com/business/union-struggles-to-reach-recruit-starbucks-workers/

        http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/01/chipotle-salary_n_2601611.html

      • 1mime says:

        Starbucks unions, no. Dow Chemical, yes. The need for unions is more targeted but I disagree that they no longer have a purpose. There are many businesses which lack sufficient corporate responsibility combined with insufficient government supervision, that play fast and loose with worker safety and work conditions. Just this week, a judge ruled against J.Crew who (like some others in the retail sector) was putting its people on 24 hour call, calling them in then not working them but an hour or so before sending them home, or terminating them if they failed to show up when called. This is not as egregious as what has happened in our coal mines, or chemical industries, or in the oil field, but it still happens. If management uniformly accepts a responsible role for its relationships with its employees in a host of areas, unions will not be needed. Unfortunately, they still are.

      • duncancairncross says:

        I agree entirely
        In a properly run company the union becomes the organisation that organises the annual day in Blackpool
        But you do need it in the wings as good management is not eternal and bad managers keep appearing

      • duncancairncross says:

        YES YES
        They would do better under a union
        Not a pissant modern union but something like my grandad’s union
        – You will join the union or we will break your legs –

        The fact that after 40 years of non stop propaganda the workers don’t understand why they need a union is irrelevant

        They definitely WOULD benefit from a union – as would the rest of us

      • goplifer says:

        When people seem to be voting against their own interests, the most likely explanation is that I have failed to understand their interests as well as they do.

      • 1mime says:

        Is this your answer to those of us who believe that there is still a place for unions in our society, Lifer?

      • duncancairncross says:

        Nonsense!
        The American worker has been voting against his interests for years!
        Why else does the 99% vote for a party that is like a reverse Robin Hood unabashedly devoted to robbing them and giving the money to the rich.
        Hostility to the unions is just part of the propaganda package

      • Rob Ambrose says:

        As long as managers/corporations are willing to exploit labor and spend enournous resources in order to create political action designed to hurt workers rights/compensations (I.e. never) there will be a role for unions.

        The role may shift as the economy shifts. And unions need checks and balances too. But unions are the most important check and balance on corporate malfeasance, and will likely remain so as long as corporations exist

      • Houston-stay-at-Homer says:

        Duncan – I’m generally on the opposite side of Lifer on this topic, but he makes a very valid point with:

        “When people seem to be voting against their own interests, the most likely explanation is that I have failed to understand their interests as well as they do.”

        I’m really hesitant to conclude that all those folks are just too stupid to see what they are doing. They very likely have valid reasons for voting the way they vote, even if I do not understand those reasons, or more likely, I do not value those reasons as much.

        One could easily argue that as dual-income high earners, I regularly vote against my interests by voting for the more liberal side of the equation that wants to raise my taxes. I live in a ridiculously White part of Houston with good schools. I greatly benefit from the status quo and deck stacked in my favor, yet I vote and have positions contrary to those interests.

        Some would argue that i’m being stupid for doing so when in reality, my “interests” are best understood by me rather than by someone on the outside.

      • 1mime says:

        Could it be that those who hold different economic beliefs than yours are wrong? Moral issues aside, as they should be personal (and kept that way), it seems to me that the conservative beliefs that are likely prevalent in your residential area are not good for the American economy – generally. If you are voting against these narrow economic policies which you know run counter to what is best for our country’s economic future, may I suggest that you are not wrong, they are.

        Bully for you, Homer, btw.

      • duncancairncross says:

        Hi Guys
        Voting against your own economic advantage may make perfect sense
        Especially when there are only two options and some parts of the package one party offers may be more important to you than your own finances
        However in this case I stick to my guns
        The GOP has very consistently promised one thing and delivered the direct opposite
        They claim to the best for;
        Economics, Defense, Keeping Immigrants out,
        While actually historically achieving worse outcomes

    • Rob Ambrose says:

      JG, I think the inevitable transition en masse to renewable energy grid will go a very long way towards filling that hole in the middle. Ironically, the thing the GOP fears will “destroy” the economy is the very thing will probably save it.

      This will be a massive, multi decade infrstactural shift that will likely cost trillions of dollars and create millions of non exportable jobs in the construction and maintenance of massive wind/solar/nuclear/whatever future technology will be discovered farms.

      and although it will be very capital intensive, once built, the energy will be basically free (minus maintenance costs) thus freeing up enournous capital to focus on other massive, humanity progressing projects, such as space colonization. The fact is, harnessing the energy of the natural world to produce clean, free and (for our needs) limitless energy is 100% necessary for mankind to take the next big leap. Fossil fuels powered the industrial revolution and represented a huge leap from our agrarian existence prior. Fossil fuels, however, have become an anchor around our necks that will need to be cut free before we can take the next huge leap forward.

      The shift will be bigger then the infrastructure shift of the industrial revolution. THAT cost a lot of capital too. It didn’t destroy the economy. The extreme opposite, in fact. It created what we think of as the modern world.

      I think this shift, which has already begun, will be in full force within the next 20 years.

  14. Creigh says:

    “Not everyone gets to participate in social capitalism”

    That is the fatal flaw, ultimately. The biggest problem facing us, economically, is the increasing number of people who are economically irrelevant in our current capitalist system. The socially corrosive effects of that fact can’t be swept under the rug. I can’t see where that problem will be solved by free markets, and while I think a guaranteed income might be better than nothing, the Devil will still find work for idle hands.

    Maybe I’m naive, but I think people have a need to be useful. If capitalism doesn’t answer that need for significant numbers of people, then it is failing. We can’t measure the success of capitalism by capitalism’s own standard of profit alone. Chris, you keep implying that government can’t be the answer, but what other hope is there? We have to keep struggling for better government, and for an economic system that serves us, not one that demands that we serve it.

    • flypusher says:

      ” The socially corrosive effects of that fact can’t be swept under the rug. I can’t see where that problem will be solved by free markets, and while I think a guaranteed income might be better than nothing, the Devil will still find work for idle hands.”

      We do have a lot of infrastructure that needs fixing. Would some 1930s style public works programs reduce that problem?

      • Creigh says:

        Absolutely. And we “pay for it” by using unemployed labor, of which we have plenty.

        Also, we need to expand our definition of economic usefulness beyond capitalism’s narrow definition of “that which makes a profit for capitalists.”

      • duncancairncross says:

        There are a ton of “things that need to be done” that are NOT being done
        (And Chris they DO need a lot of people)
        The reason that they are NOT being done is a shortage of the money that is needed to do them
        Our social body is short of blood because the 1% is hogging it all
        The big toe is keeping all of the blood in a blood blister and the rest of the body is struggling

    • goplifer says:

      ***Maybe I’m naive, but I think people have a need to be useful.***

      That’s a really important statement not just because it’s true, but because of how many assumptions sit behind it. I’m talking about creating an environment in which my “need to be useful” is severed from my need to eat. Let me suggest that you are taking an unnecessarily dim view what people would do to find meaning once they no longer had to labor for their existence.

      And the alternate plan fly describes takes it a step further. People need to be useful, so we should hire several times more of them than we need to push a broom around. Institutionalized uselessness.

      Yes, we need infrastructure work done. No, we don’t need a lot of people anymore to accomplish those tasks. I think we should set people loose to decide what makes them useful rather than conscripting them into ersatz work just to maintain the illusion of meaning. To me, that’s the best way that social capitalism can share its rewards with those who do not, for whatever reason, get to or choose to directly participate.

      • 1mime says:

        A big “AMEN” to that, Creigh! (need to expand our definition of economic usefulness beyond capitalism’s narrow definition of “that which makes a profit for capitalists”) I’d like to explore how this thought applies to our aging process and potentially millions of people who have much to offer in terms of ‘usefulness’. Economic usefulness conceptually applies not just to the young, but to all who have something to offer. Most here can relate best to traditional employment, but Creigh is correct that there are many ways people can contribute to society.

        Think for just a minute about our aging population, who are living into their eighties and nineties. The years between retirement and death are expanding. How are people using this time? In a NYT best selling book “Being Mortal”, author and physician Atul Guwande focuses on latter years when health and age begin to limit options. He found that there are three principle problems faced by the elderly: purpose, loneliness, and boredom. It used to be that the elderly were maintained until death in the homes of their children, where they defied the “PLB” trio described by Dr. Guwande. The elderly helped as they could, were respected and part of an active home environment. In a word, “engaged”. Contrast that with today’s solutions for our elderly…the booming, capitalistic, profit-driven (certainly not resident-driven) business called “assisted living” and, later, “nursing homes”.

        You might ask what this has to do with social capitalism and economic usefulness. How many people have to withdraw from the workforce (either short-term or permanently) to care for the sick and elderly (or children)? Are they being “economically useful”? Absolutely, but in a different way, caring for someone in a home environment rather than in a government subsidized institution….providing a nurturing, loving start to life for a newborn, via paid family leave if it is available…….caring for the ill, at whatever stage of life….Are these roles economically useful? Yes. Do they make a profit for capitalists? No, because there are needs in life which cannot be measured by how much profit is generated but in how much usefulness is required. May I humbly suggest that in America, we’ve worked much harder at making capitalism profitable than we have at making life better for more people.

        Maybe Chris’ idea of “social capitalism” is simply a response to societies’ deeper needs. I hope so.

      • 1mime says:

        “we should set people loose to decide what makes them useful rather than conscripting them into ersatz work”

        The way we achieve this admirable goal is to provide a strong base of quality education, financial stability, and health care for all people. Then, and only then, are people truly able to do what makes them useful.

      • Creigh says:

        I don’t think the CCC and WPA and other New Deal people who built Timberline Lodge and Old Faithful Lodge and Hoover Dam as well as schools and public buildings and parks all over this country saw it as institutionalized uselessness. (BTW have you looked at the photographic documentation of the Depression sponsored by the Farm Security Administration on the Library of Congresses website?)

        It’s not just a matter of setting people loose to decide for themselves what is useful. For some people that works, for others there will still be a need for some direction from outside. And there are plenty of needs outside infrastructure, like caring for the young and old and for the environment, that are at least underaddressed by for-profit enterprises.

      • 1mime says:

        Wow, Creigh, parallel thoughts to the very second! I don’t know your age, but assume you are younger than I but wise beyond your years.

      • Tuttabella says:

        Chris, using your logic of separating personal “usefulness” from the need to work, would you suggest that people who don’t truly NEED to work should quit their jobs and find another way to feel useful, and open up their jobs to people who need to work in order to eat and put a roof over their heads?

        This reminds me a bit of the old policy of not hiring married ladies, or letting single ladies go once married, because they didn’t truly need to work, since the husband was the official breadwinner. After all, wives could be useful at home caring for the family.

      • goplifer says:

        No. I think people should do pretty much what they want.

      • tuttabellamia says:

        Mime, my boss allowed me to work part-time from home for about 3 years while I cared for my mom, who had dementia and was in diapers. There was no guarantee that I would get my full-time position back and I didn’t know how long my mom would need me, so I felt out of sorts as a “caregiver,” but over time I became comfortable in that role, plus I made the point to keep my mom’s mind engaged, so I also enjoyed my role as “teacher.”

        I knew I was “useful,” but not in the conventional way, so I had to make an attitude adjustment.

      • 1mime says:

        It’s great that your boss made it possible for you to care for your mom and work. That is not the case for many. I don’t doubt for a minute that if it had been necessary for you to quit work to care for your mom, you would have. Some things just have to be done because they are the right thing to do. No regrets, I’ll bet.

      • tuttabellamia says:

        Fortunately, I’m still in the same job, by the way. It’s been over 25 years now.

      • Griffin says:

        Yes I don’t see why peope who need to work jobs they hate to keep food on the table would be more mentally healthy than someone doing the job/hobby they love. At some point hobbies are going to become indinguishable from “jobs” and that’s a good thing, because then each “field” will be worked by people who actually care about their work. Obviously the minimum income would help with this.

        However some people don’t have much drive or grew up with low expectations and they really do just want an alright paying job for their family and to have a little hobby on their own time. For them I think their should be government job guarentees. Also everyone who is put out of work due to being replaced by automation should receive subsidies from the government, even if just temporarily. That would accelerate the drive to automate the economy without hurting people and in the long run would probably save money.

      • Pseudoperson Randomian says:

        Lifer, my concern is for the people who “don’t get to participate”.

        Do you think the govt has any role to play in higher education?

        A lot of artistic and sporting talents have a low barrier to entry, but the highly skilled, irreplaceable labor that is a core feature of social capitalism has an extremely high barrier to entry.

        Universal basic income makes sure no one is in poverty, but that in itself says nothing about social mobility when what’s required is (expensive) specialized skills or luck.

        What’s preventing the formation of two classes of society. Those who participate and those who don’t, with stuff like college education limited by cost to those who participate as they can pay, probably, an order of magnitude more.

        Can parents who weren’t part of the social capitalist system get their kids the training necessary so their kids can participate?

        Or will bank loans be enough? I found out recently that your educational loans aren’t wiped when you declare bankruptcy. (Though I wonder if there would be a perverse incentive to declare bankruptcy right out of college if they were…)

    • Pseudoperson Randomian says:

      That’s the whole point behind the universal basic income.

      Once you can disassociate the “need to feel useful” and “need to earn money to eat and stuff”, people will find “paid hobbies” that will be appreciated.

      A lot of artistic, sporting fields fall under this. Painting, blogs, books, webcomics, physical sports, esports.

  15. flypusher says:

    OT-Carson’s latest interview:

    http://www.rawstory.com/2015/10/ben-carson-opposes-abortion-for-rape-victims/

    Sounds very familiar, doesn’t it?

    • Rob Ambrose says:

      I like his bit about how slaveowners used to control everything to do with their slaves. This, abortion = slavery. Simple!

      Actually, on second thought, wouldn’t the State making women’s medical choices for them and forcing women to carry their rapists baby be a much closer analogy to slavery?

      And at the end where he says about how all the “successful people who have come out of these situations” as proof its wise policy. Leaving the impact to the woman COMOLETELY out of the picture. Forcing women to carry a child they can’t/don’t want tocare for is a life destroying move. And much more often then not, if you destroy the mothers life, the childs story will not have a happy ending.

      But I guess it’s all about personal responsibility. If those wimmin’ couldn’t take care of a kid, they shouldn’t have asked for it by wearing those short skirts.

      I’d love to ask the moronic men who support this how much they’d be willing to raise a baby fathered by another man if their wife was rapwd. Imagine if it were a black baby? Something tells me they’d be making a surreptitious visit to the local clinic. But of course, that’s standard fare. Forcing their “morality” on others is only for them. These people are righteous enough. Its the heathens they’re trying to save.

      What a morally/ethically bankrupt movement the entire right wing has become.

  16. 1mime says:

    “Under social capitalism that increased economic heft is converted into political influence. That political influence finally begins to reshape the economic climate so that formerly external costs in form of pollution, violence, discrimination, and resource destruction finally find their way onto the corporate balance sheet, making businesses begin to function like political partners rather than rivals of labor.”

    As you noted in a subsequent paragraph, the ultimate loser may well be the middle class. Certainly, the existing income divide reinforces that those with economic heft are using the political process for their own ends. These forces may price in the costs of pollution, violence, discrimination, and resource destruction while not changing the outcome…Then what’s left?
    A whole new social order and both the old and new challenges?

    Well, it has been said, rather recently, that “corporations are people, you know”. The question will be, what kind of people?

  17. duncancairncross says:

    Hi Chris
    We used to have “Social Capitalism”
    In fact in places like Germany they still do

    But sometime in the 70’s a weird meme infected anglo capitalism
    The idea that the ONLY possible aim was shareholder return

    Companies used to work for all “stakeholders”
    Shareholders, Workers, Local area, Customers

    The idea that shareholders are not only an important stakeholder but THE ONLY stakeholder needs to be buried deep
    I think that will require a change in the law

  18. John Houser says:

    As a source of carbon free energy, I would add the safer, more fuel efficient 4th Generation nuclear reactors. There are variants of the molten salt reactors that are “walk away safe” and can use reprocessed nuclear wastes from the older Pressurized Water Reactors as fuel.

  19. Bart-1 says:

    “It dangerously devalues every other value from family to religion to public service.” This is NOT really a major concern to Social Liberals is it?

    • 1mime says:

      If social capitalism devalues family and public service, that is significant. Let’s talk a minute about the current dysfunction in public service via elected office. To say that “good” people are hard to motivate to run for office these days is a given. The breakdown in civility, compromise, and governing is appalling, and, promises more dysfunction going forward. How would one “manage” an economy like that of the U.S. without a government structure? Now, it may evolve to a different kind of structure than what we presently have, and, that’s fine – IF – the changes are to improve operation for the benefit of the people whose needs are also changing, versus for the benefit of a select few or a particular institution or party.

      Family is core to being able to center one’s moral purpose….whether it is an extended family for single people, or, a nuclear family construct with spouse/children. It helps define us individually and collectively. It lends purpose to existence. It grounds us. That new, smaller work week possibility offers wonderful egalitarian opportunities to men and women in the workplace but significantly, at home with their families.

      Religion is a bit trickier. That more people are secular in their views today is fact. Religion for many people is very important to their core values and indeed their personal peace. The religious right today have done great harm by their narrowness of inclusion, rigidity of belief, and the merging of religion and political activism. This may be more destructive than the other two, IMHO, because it tears our society into bitter, self righteous camps who by their very beliefs, cause great harm.

      I applaud the action of Salesforce.com. I applaud the retraction of a donation to the Anti-HERO campaign by one of Houston’s leading citizens due to misrepresentation of purpose. I applaud business becoming more appreciative of and sensitive to the needs of its workers. Call it whatever you wish, if this is the “new normal” and “Social Capitalism” is its name, I’m all for it. Ultimately, society has to attain balance in how its people live and interact. Otherwise, the forces of destruction will emerge and the outcome may be far different than anyone thinks possible.

    • Griffin says:

      Liberals don’t care about families? What?

      • EJ says:

        It’s a dog whistle. Translated, it might read something more like:

        “Liberals often choose not to enforce a narrowly-defined set of gender roles or to browbeat their fellow citizens into following a strict life script; this has the result that fewer people are coerced into a traditional mode of living. If all that one cares about is maximising the number of people who follow that traditional mode, then liberalism can be seen as a foe because it does not contribute to that maximisation.”

    • flypusher says:

      ‘ “It dangerously devalues every other value from family to religion to public service.” This is NOT really a major concern to Social Liberals is it?’

      Some friendly advice- DON’T come here to troll.

      Most social liberals actually have families and/or have some type of religious belief and/or value public service. Most of them are also down with an honestly earned $ and the nice things you can buy with them.

    • unarmedandunafraid says:

      Excellent post! Very thought provoking.

    • Turtles Run says:

      For those unfamiliar with Bart, he is a troll that has nevered offered anything positive to the conversation.

  20. Griffin says:

    “Alternatively, will the political systems of the old Western democracies adapt fast enough to recognize and minimize the destruction brought by this exciting new development?”

    What policies would even help “minimize” the impact? More wealth redistribution to maintain a quasi-middle class? Empowering Labour unions? Subsidies for churches? I’m just spit-balling here but as far as I can tell no politicians are proposing something that would help. I really wish some politicians would start proposing basic incomes, that seems like one of the more obvious solutions.

    Hopefully when the GOP disintegrates and something smart takes its place that entity can propose some new ideas, because the Democrats don’t have much incentive to be creative when they are guarenteed victory.

    “There is no Nirvana, no Utopia”

    I think the potential near-final stage of capitalism of post-scarcity (if it could still be called “capitalism” at that point) would be a Utopia to us, just as social capitalism would be a utopia to someone who grew up under war capitalism. I do wonder how many more stages we’d have to go through to reach that point (if we ever do), though I suppose it won’t happen in our lifetime regardless.

    • goplifer says:

      ***I really wish some politicians would start proposing basic incomes***

      Bingo. The most important adaption of the social capitalism era will be the basic income.

      • Hainous says:

        Hi Chris,

        Basic incomes sound great, but I’ve always thought there was a big elephant in the room – what happens to the person who squanders their income? Be it through addiction, coercion, or simply foolishness, it’s easy to see how people could waste the money they have. Will they be left to starve? or freeze? If the answer is no, doesn’t that encourage irresponsible spending? Food stamps and subsidized housing require bureaucracy, but are at least targeted.

      • what happens to the person who squanders their income?
        Same as now – they end up in homeless centres and the like – the current system does not help them, private charity helps a bit

        Here (NZ) that would be easy to fix
        Set up a bank account for everybody
        Have the UBI paid in daily – then you could easily save but you can only be broke for one day before the next days money comes in
        It’s all electronic so it doesn’t cost anything

      • 1mime says:

        How would a daily payment deposit system work for those who lack bank accounts and transportation/computers?

      • duncancairncross says:

        That is why I said it would work here
        Almost everybody has a bank account and most transactions are done using your ‘EFTPOS” card
        Even a 50 cent payment is more likely to be by EFTPOS – I don’t carry money

        If I was setting up a UBI a bank account would be part of it – the default would be Bernie’s Post Office Bank with people able to change to other accounts if they wanted

      • 1mime says:

        I believe Unarmed’s suggestion about a debit card is easiest. Many poor people in America lack transportation and the U.S.’ mass transportation is spotty…Amazing that America is so advanced in so many areas, yet our rail system is so limited.

      • duncancairncross says:

        Yes a debit card would work – that is what EFTPOS is – and it could be automatically loaded every day

        EFTPOS gives the advantages of a full bank account rather than just a card

        I’m in favor of a simple system – every citizen gets a UBI – all the same – no nonsense about cutting it down as money is earned – that effectively becomes a regressive tax system

        The actual tax system is where you get it back – for simplicity I would have an individual tax free allowance equal to the UBI – then tax on a simple progressive system

        If I was in charge the progression would go up quite fast at the high levels

        $20K – UBI
        $20K – $40K – 10%
        $40 – $60K – 20%
        $60K – $100K – 30%
        $100K – $200K – 40%
        $200K – $400K – 50%
        $400K – $800K – 60%
        $800K – $1.6M – 70%
        $1.6M – $3.2M – 80%
        $3.2M – $6.4M – 90%
        $6.4M – $20 – 95%
        Everything above 98%

      • 1mime says:

        Wow, Duncan. Your tax plan would be D.O.A. in the U.S. The wealthy object to 38% as a cap….

      • unarmedandunafraid says:

        mime – it could be applied electronically to a debit card. Inexpensive. Secure.

      • 1mime says:

        Good point, Unarmed. I didn’t think about that.

      • Griffin says:

        Basic income would go alongside subsidized housing. It would mainly replace social security (but with less bureacracy involved) as a way of affording it, alongside new taxes on financial transactions and other movements of capital.

        Perhaps the basic income and the minumum income could exist alongside each other? The basic income for every citizen to have some extra cash in a system where capitalism is overflowing and the minimum income for those who have the least. How about $4,000 dollars for all citizens for the basic income, and 50% of the difference between $22,000 and the citizens income if it falls under the $22,000 bracket? That way everyone has a piece of the system but we can still afford to pay out more to those who really need it, and the least a citizen could have is $15,000, above the poverty level but not enough to discourage much work.

      • flypusher says:

        I went back to an earlier post to refresh my memory on what Chris had proposed:

        “Scholars meanwhile have kept the idea alive. Charles Murray, of all people, has formulated what may be the best plan. It involves paying every adult, regardless of need, a minimum monthly income sufficient to stave off poverty, probably about $10,000 a year.

        There would be no needs analysis, no application, and no bureaucracy to decide who gets what. Everyone would receive a basic income on a monthly basis.

        Income tax and a surcharge to recover the grant would start at around $25,000 in earnings. This would avoid work disincentives and the complex qualification standards that plague current welfare measures. The surcharge would end at the first $75,000 in individual income, taxing away only half of the grant.”

        So if I’m understanding this correctly, everyone would get between $5000- $10,000, solely by virtue of being a citizen. On a purely selfish level, I’m down, because an extra 5-10K a year would be very useful to me. But I share Hainous’ concerns. So do we have a bare subsistence safety net for those who blow their $ and don’t work? Something like a cot in the public flophouse for the night and gov’t surplus food to prevent starvation, but nothing better than that?

      • 1mime says:

        I’m wondering how they could implement the flat payment and eliminate SS at the same time. Seems that they would need to have a tiered program, honoring SS for those of a certain age. Like you, many people will take a hit from the SS they had planned on receiving and had worked for. As interesting as this idea is, I wonder if paying a living wage for those who can work isn’t the place to start, then phasing in the basic income. I’m willing to bet that I won’t see this new plan in my lifetime.

      • johngalt says:

        If India can launch a program to open bank accounts for a billion people, I think the U.S. could manage it here.
        http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-28962762

      • 1mime says:

        I’m sure America “could”; however, may I point out that India has a parliamentary form of government…Not to be negative, But – America is having trouble just filling pot holes.

    • 1mime says:

      Griffin, I don’t believe Dems are ‘guaranteed’ election success – not at all. Further, Dems have been pretty busy over the last 8 years addressing many basic needs and social wrongs – These may not qualify as creative ideas but they are necessary to maintain a functioning society. . Some of our nation’s best and most creative ideas were developed out of impending crisis – the New Deal, others from our creative, entrepreneurial spirit – the space program, others from our military genius coupled with a rapidly expanding nation – our interstate highway system, and so on. They emerged as circumstances made them possible and/or necessary or desirable. In our capitalistic society through all of its iterations, (as Lifer proposes above) people, business and government have evolved and they will again. We’re seeing more emphasis presently in the social arena which hopefully will sort itself out as our nation comes to its senses. The sooner, the better.

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