UBI: Why print money to buy groceries, when you can buy the farm?

by Jehu

In the National Review, another call from the fascists for the latest Leftist-failure-in-the-making known as Universal Basic Income. I have been holding it back, intending to do a piece on it at some point, but I never got around to it. This morning, however, @socialismical asked an interesting question about how to stop capital flight:

Socialismical: “Should the state subsidise a business to prevent it from moving elsewhere?”

Here is the problem: the loss of jobs owing to capital flight has a horrendous impact on communities like Detroit. In principle, communists should be standing for free trade and no barriers to the movement of workers and capital between countries; on the other hand, communities are devastated when a plant shuts down and moves to Mexico, China or wherever.

Moreover, as we have seen, fascists like Trump and social-fascist reformers like Sanders take advantage of this to fuel their own rise to political power.

Can communists offer a viable alternative that is consistent with free trade?

Yes and, unfortunately, No.

I say “No” because for the most part communists have very little imagination and chase behind every sop capitalists toss to the working class. If free trade necessarily led to devastated communities, the lack of imagination on the part of communist would be unavoidable, just salt in our wounds. But free trade need not necessarily lead to devastated communities, it also sharpens the class contradictions of capitalism and this is where the lack of imagination hurts us.

The latest sop tossed by the fascists in our direction is a program known as Universal basic Income. Communists from the anarchist David Graeber to the Marxist Kathi Weeks have latched on to this inane idea and won’t let it go. Listening to the clamor for UBI is like watching those commercials for so-called erectile dysfunction:

“UBI will cure unemployment, overwork and has been proven to reduce the Protestant Work Ethic in 85% of cases. Ask your doctor about it.”

I am not buying it.

In first place, it is well known that UBI is a scam directed at low-information voters that was invented by the fascists. According to Iain Murray, UBI is said to be the brainchild of Charles Murray and was explicitly marketed by him as a means to end the so-called welfare state — what I call ‘food-stamp’ socialism.

Among its attractive features for the National Review author include the following bullet points:

  • First, the fascists intend to use it as a pretext to “restructure” (read: abolish) welfare state programs. In line with this aim, workers would not be free of the necessity to labor, but would have to supplement their meager UBI allotment with selling their labor power to capital. And you can pretty much forget the nonsensical idea that UBI would make it possible for people to live free from labor or promote unionization. The fascists would be setting the rules here, not Graeber and Weeks.
  • Second, poor people when suddenly offered what amounts to publicly finance capital would all become petty capitalists. Which means we can all  look forward to the opening of more nail salons and tanning spas. Oh, joy!
  • Third, charity will make a comeback once all the welfare state bureaucrats are gone … What the fuck? Wait a minute, if UBI cures poverty as some on the Left argue, why will charity make a comeback? What the fuck am I missing?
  • Fourth, problems of the disabled and other “deserving poor” who fall through the cracks of this fascist utopia can be addressed by healthcare, charity (again?) and mutual aid. (Think: three families sharing the same double-wide trailer!)

Of course there are risks for the fascists. All this free money could spin out of control unless UBI was made indifferent to political pressure just like so-called full employment policies were made immune to political pressure by being turfed off to the Federal Reserve technocrats. Second, UBI sets a bad precedent of throwing coins to the peasants, who may come to expect it. On the plus side, it sure beats the alternative: guillotines and Jacobin terror, right?

Why, you may ask, am I against an entitlement that promises to rid society of a collection of programs that I often refer to as fascistic food stamp socialism?

Well, because, in first place, unlike Graeber and Weeks, I don’t fucking trust the fascist state as far as I can throw the Washington Monument — that’s why. If a fascist told me it was a sunny, bright day, I would immediately put on my pajamas and climb into bed for a good night’s rest.

So when fascists like the writers at National Review tell me UBI is a good idea, I know it is another fascist trap  and I look at Graeber and Weeks as if they were the dumbest couple of communist academics to ever write a book.

In second place, I am not buying it because of a simple thought experiment:

If I had almost unlimited access to cash would I use this huge fucking fortune to buy groceries or buy a goddamned farm? Would I buy a gallon of milk or a cattle ranch? Would I buy a nice shiny new car, or General Motors?

Yes, we are poor. So our greatest desire after hitting the lottery is to buy a bazillion gold chains, a Bentley and a sixty room mansion. The first thing I imagine when I think about winning the lottery is that I would be ghetto-fucking-fabulous, with a mouthful of solid gold grillz to top it off.

This is how we poor people often think. So, when the folks out of the MMT school suggests the fascist state faces no fiscal constraint on its spending, we jump for joy.

“Gold chains for everyone in the working class!,” We holler. “Whoopdeedoo!”

If, indeed, the state faces no prior constraint on its fiscal policy, and you really wanted to do something for the working class  beside give them all a mouthful of solid gold grillz, buying the means of production is far more useful than buying groceries. If you can print up fiat currency and pay everyone $25,000, you can print up currency and buy the entire industrial infrastructure of the US.

And it would not matter if the capitalists wanted to sell or not. You could make them an offer they cannot refuse: eminent domain. You buy the industrial infrastructure and — surprise! — no more capital flight. The factories would be turned over to the working class to manage as a public trust.

Meanwhile, the capitalists take their valueless currency and try to find a place to invest it when a world market is already awash in trillions of dollars of excess capital. (Good luck finding some place to invest the loot, guys. Even Apple is unable to find something productive to do with the measly $135 billion or so of excess capital it has.)

I am always astonished by how time after time communists can get their attention diverted by meaningless baubles. But, of course, we are all poor and that is how poor people think. I guess I will just have to accept this fact until capitalism collapses on its own.

… while we are all standing in line waiting for our allotment of food stamps.