Using Technology to Deepen Democracy, Using Democracy to Ensure Technology Benefits Us All

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Keeping the Rabble in Line

How are the people going to kick up a fuss when they're exhausted and demoralized from working two or three jobs and in constant fear of losing those?

Endlessly reward elite failure, endlessly impose discipline on the vulnerable victims of that failure. The old games are the best games.

From ThinkProgress:
Today, Rep. Eric Cantor (VA), the chief deputy Republican whip in the House, unveiled his proposal to stimulate the economy. His legislation — the so-called Middle Class Job Protection Act — does nothing for the middle class. Instead, it reduces the corporate tax rate by 25 percent.

At a press conference today unveiling the stimulus proposal, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) justified the conservative plan to give tax breaks to corporations — instead of working Americans — by arguing that people actually like working long hours: I am so proud to be from the state of Minnesota. We’re the workingest state in the country, and the reason why we are, we have more people that are working longer hours, we have people that are working two jobs.

Bachmann’s version of the American Dream is apparently working two full-time jobs and struggling to get by…. Bachmann may be taking her cues from her bosom buddy President Bush, who on Feb. 4, 2005, told a divorced mother of three: “You work three jobs? … Uniquely American, isn’t it? I mean, that is fantastic that you’re doing that.”

Almost the whole secret of peer-to-peer Netroots democratization in my view has been that it has lowered the personal costs (in terms of time, effort, money) of education, agitation, and organizing enough to facilitate citizen participation even by a deeply precarious, harassed, exhausted, distracted, terrorized citizenry.

The generosity, competence, commonsense, creativity, intelligence, sense of justice, and progressive sentiment have always been there in the American people as in great majorities of people all over the world, all just waiting to be tapped in the service of shared solutions to problems and proliferating lifeway diversity, planetary progress to peace and justice... but always beaten down by the lies, the bad faith, the guns, the money of fearful greedy parochial reactionary incumbent interests.

Against the politics of incumbency that would control the abundant diversity of human enterprise through socially engineered precarity and discipline, progressives must advocate for a basic income guarantee that secures basic needs, ends our fear for our lives and so opens our energies to the project of freedom, and, quite literally, subsidizes the practices of peer-to-peer democratization, problem solving, and creative expressivity which represent as much as anything else for our generation the very substance of freedom itself.

8 comments:

De Thezier said...

I would be careful of promoting a Basic Income Guarantee as a panacea.

When prominent figures of the Quebec neoliberal Right recently began promoting BIG, prominent figures of the Quebec progressive Left pointed out that the Right may use BIG as a pretext to reduce the envelopes and the gamut, already deteriorated, of basic social protections and liberate employers of their responsibility to ensure a decent salary. Therefore, we must discuss the level of any proposed BIG. Would it cover all the essential needs of everyone? We should also discuss, at the same time, labor laws, notably the minimum wage: does it allow an exit out of poverty?

Therefore, I think a technoprogressive campaign fight for a BIG needs to be intertwined with a technoprogressive campaign for a SRA - a Social Responsibility Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

http://www.tikkun.org/community/social_responsibility_amendment

Dale Carrico said...

Two comments.

First, I do think that basic income deserves to be a dem-left priority, but that isn't the same thing as treating it as a panacaea. When you warn me against the latter I assume you have specific reason to do so, and I welcome details. The fact is that providing a basic income guarantee simply would

(a) subsidize wider participation in democratic processes, it simply would

(b) function as a permanent strike fund protecting workers right to bargain for better conditions and protecting them from exploitation, it simply would

(c) eliminate the stealthy conscription of the poor and vulnerable to make military service truly volunteer, it simply would

(d) eliminate the basic insecurity that typically duresses contracts between non-equals, including the stealthy wage-enslavement of the poor and vulnerable in prevailing employment contracts, and, finally, it simply would

(e) function to limit the further concentration of wealth via automation, outsourcing, and crowdsourcing and faciitate thereby a wider, fairer, more democratizing distribution of the benefits of technodevelopment.

Those are reasons for dem-left progressives and technoprogressives to advocate BIG.

It is true that the few advocates of big on the right often do so as part of their argument to dismantle the welfare state, a move inspired by an argument by Milton Friedman. I don't agree that BIG advocacy is more vulnerable to these sorts of dishonest schemes of the right than anything else is, and I don't agree that right-wing voices are really that prominent in BIG advocacy in any case, and I think it is quite paranoid and weird to propose (if I am right to hear this charge in what you are saying) that BIG advocacy is actually a "pretext" for neoliberal privitization politics. That cerrtainly is not my impression in general, and I would want to see much more than vague insinuations to take that charge seriously.

By the way, if this is an argument you believe I wish you would just state it as such without bringing unnamed figures, whether "prominent" in your estimation or not, into the picture. If you have a link to something you think I need to read, provide the link, if you have a claim you want to make, make it.

Anyway, you say we should also discuss labor laws, be clear about the definition of "basic" in basic income, and many other things. Of course I already agree with all that, and I'd be curious to know what would make you think otherwise, given my explicit and elaborate statements to the contrary. I don't get what you're getting at, I guess.

Second, the advocates for a Social Responsibility Amendment obviously have their hearts in the right place and I have little doubt that their politics are in many respects close to my own, but I have to say that I don't feel much inspiration in their particular proposal. Campaigns to require corporations to renew their charters every 20 years, to demand that corporations work for the public good in some construal, and -- among other things you didn't mention -- exist only for finite terms and in connection to particular specified ends (completing a particular bridge, or a space elevator, or what have you), all of these things are actually part of the history of the corporate form and could be so again, as could a repudiation of corporate personhood, money as speech, and so on. I don't agree that an Amendment makes much sense as the way to fight for such campaigns, neither am I sure that "social responsibility" is easily quantified (as we know from many discussions of comparable efforts, like, for example, the Triple Bottom Line, which is lovely in general but rather bedeviling in the details).

If I had to choose whether to invest my educational, agitational, and organizational energies in the service of either the implementation of a basic income guarantee or a social responsibility amendment I have to say I wouldn't hesitate a second to choose the former or the latter as the more substantial long-term radical political campaign to get behind.

As you say, one doesn't want to propose either campaign as a kind of facile panacaea, but for me advocacy of BIG is conducive to many progressive ends at once, it is very easy to communicate as an idea, it seems to me more practically attainable than comparable proposals for emancipatory structural change, and -- precisely to the contrary of your worry -- it seems to me less vulnerable to appropriation by incumbent interests. Basic income is basic income, I mean, provide it and the money is what it is, the security is what is it is.

In my view, a universal inalienable non mean-tested basic income securing the basic conditions of life for every citizen, and eventually for every human being on earth, as an equal birthright would do more to ensure equity and facilitate diversity and so substantiate the dem-left progressive aspiration for consensual democratic multiculture than any other single campaign on offer. BIG is the radical dem-left alternative to socialist revolution. I advocate p2p democracy because I think p2p participation will eventuate in BIG.

For me it really is and deserves to be a priority, but I hardly think of BIG as a panacaea, as an end to politics (I see it as a facilitator for more democratic politics, if anything), or as some broad brush replacement or surrogate for the actually fraught details of dem-left legal and welfare administration or the interminable process of technodevelopmental social struggle.

De Thezier said...

I do think that basic income deserves to be a dem-left priority, but that isn't the same thing as treating it as a panacaea. When you warn me against the latter I assume you have specific reason to do so, and I welcome details.

I guess I wasn't warning you as much as much as I was warning all technoprogressives not to treat BIG in light of the possibility that it may get co-opted by the Right.

It is true that the few advocates of big on the right often do so as part of their argument to dismantle the welfare state, a move inspired by an argument by Milton Friedman. I don't agree that BIG advocacy is more vulnerable to these sorts of dishonest schemes of the right than anything else is

I wasn't arguing that it was.

and I don't agree that right-wing voices are really that prominent in BIG advocacy in any case

They are in the Canadian province of Quebec.

and I think it is quite paranoid and weird to propose (if I am right to hear this charge in what you are saying) that BIG advocacy is actually a "pretext" for neoliberal privitization politics. That cerrtainly is not my impression in general, and I would want to see much more than vague insinuations to take that charge seriously.

uh, I think this is another one of the instances where you reading way too much in what I wrote. ;) As I explained, the Quebec progressive Left applauds the Quebec neoliberal Left for promoting BIG but warns that they will use it as a pretext for privatization politics. All I'm saying is that technoprogressives should be not only aware of this possibility and acknowledge it in the rhethoric for the advocacy of BIG in order to neutralize it's co-option by the Right.

By the way, if this is an argument you believe I wish you would just state it as such without bringing unnamed figures, whether "prominent" in your estimation or not, into the picture. If you have a link to something you think I need to read, provide the link, if you have a claim you want to make, make it.

Do you read French? ;)

Anyway, you say we should also discuss labor laws, be clear about the definition of "basic" in basic income, and many other things. Of course I already agree with all that, and I'd be curious to know what would make you think otherwise, given my explicit and elaborate statements to the contrary. I don't get what you're getting at, I guess.

I know you are quite clear. I guess I'm really talking to other technoprogressives who are reading your blog who might not be as clear as you.

the advocates for a Social Responsibility Amendment obviously have their hearts in the right place and I have little doubt that their politics are in many respects close to my own, but I have to say that I don't feel much inspiration in their particular proposal. Campaigns to require corporations to renew their charters every 20 years, to demand that corporations work for the public good in some construal, and -- among other things you didn't mention -- exist only for finite terms and in connection to particular specified ends (completing a particular bridge, or a space elevator, or what have you), all of these things are actually part of the history of the corporate form and could be so again, as could a repudiation of corporate personhood, money as speech, and so on. I don't agree that an Amendment makes much sense as the way to fight for such campaigns, neither am I sure that "social responsibility" is easily quantified (as we know from many discussions of comparable efforts, like, for example, the Triple Bottom Line, which is lovely in general but rather bedeviling in the details).

True.

If I had to choose whether to invest my educational, agitational, and organizational energies in the service of either the implementation of a basic income guarantee or a social responsibility amendment I have to say I wouldn't hesitate a second to choose the former or the latter as the more substantial long-term radical political campaign to get behind.

Ironically, I feel the same way.

As you say, one doesn't want to propose either campaign as a kind of facile panacaea, but for me advocacy of BIG is conducive to many progressive ends at once, it is very easy to communicate as an idea, it seems to me more practically attainable than comparable proposals for emancipatory structural change, and -- precisely to the contrary of your worry -- it seems to me less vulnerable to appropriation by incumbent interests. Basic income is basic income, I mean, provide it and the money is what it is, the security is what is it is.

In my view, a universal inalienable non mean-tested basic income securing the basic conditions of life for every citizen, and eventually for every human being on earth, as an equal birthright would do more to ensure equity and facilitate diversity and so substantiate the dem-left progressive aspiration for consensual democratic multiculture than any other single campaign on offer. BIG is the radical dem-left alternative to socialist revolution. I advocate p2p democracy because I think p2p participation will eventuate in BIG.

For me it really is and deserves to be a priority, but I hardly think of BIG as a panacaea, as an end to politics (I see it as a facilitator for more democratic politics, if anything), or as some broad brush replacement or surrogate for the actually fraught details of dem-left legal and welfare administration or the interminable process of technodevelopmental social struggle.


Exactly what I wanted to hear. ;)

Dale Carrico said...

I still don't quite understand what it is about my position that made it necessary to warn me against advocating BIG as a panacaea, but I'm glad you're persuaded now that I'm not.

De Thezier said...

I still don't quite understand what it is about my position that made it necessary to warn me against advocating BIG as a panacaea, but I'm glad you're persuaded now that I'm not.

Putting aside the fact that our rhetoric may sound utopian whether or not that is our intention, I wasn't warning you as much as I was warning your readers not to see BIG as a panacea.

militantprogressive said...

A basic US subsistence level for US residents must include the following elements:

- minimum wage x 80 x 52 per year, tax-free;
- free healthcare, tax-free;
- free education at all levels, tax-free;
- A bonus of minimum wage x 80 x 2 once per year for vacation, tax-free;
- A 10% bonus to the basic income benefit payable to all non-white/minority residents pro-rated monthly, tax-free;
- A 10% bonus to the basic income benefit payable to all female residents pro-rated monthly (non-white/minority females thus receive 20%), tax-free;
- A one time bonus of 100% of the basic income benefit for all residents who seek and obtain US citizenship, tax free.

If you think the right is going to get behind this for *any* reason you're sorely mistaken.

Dale Carrico said...

I would advocate universal free healthcare, free education, programs of restitution and affirmative action for women and immigrants and people of color as programs separate from the universal non means-tested basic income guarantee.

Of course the right won't get behind that, being right. They hated the New Deal and the Great Society and have fought to dismantle them, such as they are.

One must marginalize the incumbent interests through a replacement of industrial models of production, media, culture, and agriculture for p2p models, and through a progressive taxation of income, investment income, and real estate so that their special interests aren't able to achieve hegemony, pretend to common sense, and organize the manufacture of consent.

I pin a lot of hope on p2p formations myself to do this necessary work of education, agitation, organization, and free culture.

De Thezier said...

militantprogressive said:

If you think the right is going to get behind this for *any* reason you're sorely mistaken.

I think you missed the point I was making. I'm not suggesting that the Right going to get behind a radically-left-wing BIG proposal such as the one you articulated.

I am simply suggesting that we should aware that the Right might advocate a BIG for their own ends.