It's August, many are on their way back to work after the holidays – so let me argue about a possible citizen's salary. Citizens' pay – previously proposed by the Liberal Party – can today support the poor and needy, but also those who are outside the wage work itself and who are happy to contribute profitably to society. Not all human activity "pays".
Unfortunately, both the Labor Party, the LO and the Right now appear to be conservative as they put the traditional wage work above all else. In the book Borger Payroll. The idea that changes the game by Ingeborg Eliassen and Sven Egil Omdal [reviewed in MODERN TIMES, October 2018] the authors are somewhat critical of the Right, which prescribes "a strengthened line of work". And Labor Party deputy leader Hadia Tajik, who tells Eliassen / Omdal about the importance of doing her duty: "It shouldn't be a burden to go to work at nine in the morning." She is also skeptical of technology, as "it will change our working life" . And LO leader Hans-Christian Gabrielsen is negative about the idea of civilian pay (see also our book excerpt on page 9 in the newspaper), as it "touches on one of the deepest values of the trade union movement: Labor will pay off".
The bottom line is that the traditional paid wage work that Solberg, Tajik and Gabrielsen emphasize as someone's duty may be out of step with automation technology and new values. And this applies to more than just driverless cars, robots and artificial intelligence.
Why should wage labor still be so central? Karl Marx already criticized traditional wage labor over 160 years ago when he understood the importance of machine automation. Marx writes that “… working time, on which today's wealth is based, is a lousy basis for difference from this new [automated machinery / system] created by the big industry itself. […] Working hours cease and must cease to be a yardstick. ”¹
The point must be the long-term productive power – with shared values and valued differences, individual freedom, mental development and a minimum measure of material well-being.
And 15 years ago, the Italian philosopher Paul Virno problematized A Grammar of the Multitude the difference between paid and unpaid work – between traditional industrial work and active people in the new knowledge society. As Virno points out in line with Marx, has abstract (and scientific) knowledge has become "nothing short of the most important productive force", where traditional and physically repetitive work is only part of this.
For example, the world today has accumulated a collective knowledge that entrepreneurs, programmers, investors and other free moves exchange as new products and services are created. Norwegian economist Kalle Moene also mentions these more invisible societal values we have all contributed to – giving techno-entrepreneurs and investors the basis for success.
More and more economists believe that most of the economic growth the world has experienced in the last few decades does not come from the physical work we put in, but is due to the return of all the generations before we have invested in research, education and development of ever better machines (according to the book Borger Salaries).
Unfortunately, politicians' insistence on the "productive" work – on increasing gross domestic product (GDP) – has meant that instead of taking 100 years of economic growth into more leisure time, we have turned all the gain into increased consumption. As Anarchist David Graeber has clearly described (see MODERN TIMES February 2017), we have received a number bullshit jobs, where produced products no one really needs.
Interestingly, New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will no longer measure social output in GDP, but will steer the country from a "well-being budget". She criticizes GDP and growth for being a poor yardstick for good living conditions. In New Zealand, therefore, the state budget is rather focused on important areas of focus such as mental health, reduced child poverty, minorities, reduced CO2 emissions and major efforts on digitization. Society is measured by 61 factors – everything from solitude, trust in the authorities, and equal access to water resources.
Budgeting based on this is brand new. But Bhutan authorities already launched the Gross National Happiness (GNH) in the 1970s as a more important yardstick than GDP – and it was later incorporated into the Constitution. Today, the UN also issues its annual World Happiness Report, often based on Article 22 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948): "Everyone, as a member of society, is entitled to social security and is entitled to the economic, social and cultural benefits indispensable to his dignity and the free development of his personality. »
Boken Borger Salaries at the same time presents a number of counter-perceptions to unconditionally receiving money. Like it can take away the motivation for someone to work. But why does not a rich country like Norway simplify its enormous bureaucratic control apparatus with pensions, social security schemes, student scholarships, cultural scholarships, parental leave and support schemes – towards citizen pay? We could innovatively lead by example, rather than just sitting on the old work-exhausting carousel of a society.
Is it not possible to finance the citizen's salary with resource rent or basic interest on historically invested joint ownership and the many resources of the earth?
At the same time, one universal civil wages without conditions naive, and hardly sustainable in the long run. And with excessive social benefits, one can end up with double government debt – just as Emmanuel Macron's predecessor, François Hollande, did. The point should be the long-term productive power – with creative power, valued differences, individual freedom, community, mental development and a minimum measure of material well-being. Rather than universal citizen pay, a "negative tax" could be introduced, where those who earn enough pay taxes, and those who earn down to a set "minimum income" (1000 euros / month is proposed), receive step-by-step compensation – often excluded by algorithms at the tax office. As a negative tax, the citizen's salary will be tested for needs.
For example, Italy has now introduced "Citizens' Wage" which can give around 2,7 million people a negative tax or citizen's salary – of around 5000 euros annually. This is available to families who earn less than 9360 euros annually and who make themselves available for possible work. When this was launched, the authorities were surprised that far fewer than expected threw the opportunity.
But how can one finance the citizen's salary? It can wander through resource rent or ground rent on historically invested joint ownership and the planet's many resources. In Norway, power plants pay 33 per cent ground rent tax in addition to corporate tax. Oil companies pay 55 percent special tax to be allowed to recover the values that millions of years of geological development have stored in the seabed. And the aquaculture industry, which today should pay "rent" – also pollutes. One can pick up ground rent to citizen salaries from the use of natural resources, minerals, land plots, or, for example, the airspace of mobile networks? If more people both nationally and jointly and internationally were mentally willing to share more, they could contribute to the "common fund" of the salaries.
Could you imagine that our oil and fish are not entirely "Norwegian"? I am reminded of the anarchists' "Property is theft!" – who owns the water, the atmosphere, the wind and the sun?
Such basic interest rates could also accrue to idealists, helpful people, or creative souls who do not want to live for profit but have chosen "unprofitable" ways. That also Borger Salaries mentions.
And what about all the world's freelancers (in the US half have all or part of this kind of work) and those who are about to be automated by robots and new technology? Or those who are not private heirs in overpriced housing?
Isn't it time to listen to Marx and politicize the importance of new technology and greater diversity? It is time to introduce solutions where many who are unpaid active or prevented from working meet with a solidarity support in the form of citizen pay.
1 Fundamental Criticism of Political Economy, chapter "Notes on Machines," 1858, my translation.
Excerpt of the book Borger Salaries read here.