June 3, 2017

I'm Back

I didn't leave on purpose. I swear it. I just had things to do. It has been a while. I am sorry. Anyway, I still have crazy thoughts. I still express myself in a stodgy, stiff old manner that people don't really relate to.

Anyway, It has been a while. I think I need to post more often, or delete the whole mess. For now, I will not delete it. I just posted a hair-brained idea I had in response to the latest round of gloom and doom "We are all going to be replaced by machines" articles.

Read it before I published it. Meh. It is a weak attempt to address such issues. Mostly, a lot of blah blah blah. Really. Just look up distributism and then compare it to capitalism, socialism, communism, libertarianism, and fascism, and then keep in mind that all of them are flawed. We have to have a balance of some kind. That might still be a negative thing, if we implemented the negative aspects of each. But if we can find a way to balance the positives, then maybe we might get something worthwhile.

Anyway, I have about given up on ever seeing a real solution for anything come from our so called leaders in government. They don't care about us or what is right. Nobody else does, so why should they, nevermind whatever oath they gave when they took office, everyone knows those are not serious.

Automation and People and Land

I have been seeing a lot of prognostication lately about how automation is coming and robotics and AI is going to replace a lot of jobs. I even read one article saying that the haves will become a different species. I think a lot of these such articles are missing something important. Economics.

If we automate everyone out of a job, who will buy the products? How do we take advantage of economies of scale, if the scale is a handful of super rich. If owners of companies are so rich, and everyone else is so poor, what becomes of the people? What do you do with massive populations of people who don't or can't work, due to the economic and technological realities around them? Do we get to the point that we start wholesale elimination of large populations? Undoubtedly, some will see this and the answer. Genocide of such magnitude is unprecedented, but that is where the thinking of such articles lead.

I don't think it will come to that. People will not be replaced by machines in total. Sure, many jobs and functions will be. It will be painful, but people are creative. AI is not. It is not self aware. It does what it's programmers set it up to do. Again, most programs do things differently from what the programmers intended, but they do exactly what they are told. But what if our technology does get to that level where almost all jobs are replaced?

I am not sure how this whole thing works itself out, but it will have to. To feed such masses of poor will require a significant portion of the Earth's land for their maintenance. Who will pay for it? To resolve such questions will probably get ugly in some way, and the poor will probably have the bulk of the losers. I see a variety of solutions to such a dilemma , none of which are very palatable. Most of them will be some form or another of expansion of the current welfare state. Another disgusting alternative is the re-institutionalization of slavery, based solely on economic standing. I certainly hope that no governments will reach the point of deciding genocide is a good way to go.

One of the welfare state expansions that we are beginning too see is called basic income. Many nations are beginning to experiment with this concept. This money has to come from taxes and fees. If only the rich are making money, they will be who has to pay for everyone else. Still a no-win situation. The poor get an income, but become dependent on the government. They will lose incentive to work and create and make the world a better place. It sets up continued and increased tension between the rich and the poor which will eventually come to a head. The more the poor are displace by technology, the more the rich will be taxed. At some point, the rich will resist or rebel. That would lead to one of those other nasty scenarios mentioned above.

It doesn't have to be that way. Perhaps, there may be other solutions which might be worthwhile to look into. I remember reading about laws that existed in some small island countries many years ago that each family was required to grow and preserve a certain amount of food for each family member. They were required to spend a specified amount of time working their gardens. Those that could afford it could pay others to work in their garden's for them. If we step forward a couple of centuries and add technology into the mix, perhaps we find that there may be wisdom in some of the underlying principles of self reliance. This is a variation off of the theme of distributist thinking.

The key is making sure each person has access to the means to take care of themselves. This probably means some kind of guaranteed access to some required per person amount of land and water resources. It will require people to learn to work. The government would have to create some kind of equitable way of distributing, and redistributing, and redistributing again, the land and resources. It would have to be fair, and yet still make sure everyone had their required minimum. I suppose having rules for land inheritance which are different from other inheritance might be required. At any rate, there are some uncomfortable changes which would have to be made to our policies.

The interesting thing is, if we did establish such a program to support the poor, it won't prevent those who are so inclined from setting their sights higher, and seeking more than the bare minimum. If they fail, well, what better safety net than self reliance. Those who succeed can have that benefit of having other people or machines to their work to meet the requirements of such a system. It also would still provides enough of an economic structure to ensure trade will exist and therefore the capital required to create our modern wonders will continue.

Yes, it is true, there will still be rich and poor. Many will inherit their wealth. They will still have to be taxed to pay for government. The difference is, the poor will be better taken care of, have a better safety net, and still have opportunity. The taxes would not be as onerous as in the basic income scenario mentioned previously. A land distributism program would certainly not address all the problems that exist and getting people to understand and agree on the specifics will be extremely difficult. But it will be better than either hordes of unworking being paid for by massive taxes on a few rich, or the alternatives of mass slavery or wholesale genocide of those viewed as having no economic value.