The economic game is enormously fun for far too few players, and an increasingly miserable experience for many others.
Tim has correctly identified that the key issue is “Asking the right questions?”
And while he has asked some interesting questions, there are others more important and more interesting that he hasn’t yet asked.
While I can sympathise with Alan in a sense (the sense of resisting threats to freedom), there is a far greater and deeper sense in which the existing accepted rules have become a greater threat to a greater value – that of life itself (the value upon which liberty is predicated).
If one wants to fly, one does not deny either gravity or air resistance, one understands both and uses them to create machines that allow us to fly. By acknowledging the systemic necessities of reality, one can create almost any outcome.
The process of inquiry, of testing assumptions, of looking to the rules that seem to actually be at play, those that are necessary and those that are not, leads to a series of view changes (seemingly potentially infinite).
Many people have confused the notion of markets with the notion of liberty – that is an error with existential level risk implications.
In this world we find ourselves in, some things are available in universal abundance, some are not.
For most of us, air is the single most important substance for our existence, yet the fact of its universal abundance means it has no exchange value in a market.
The fact that markets cannot give a positive value to universal abundance incentivises the erection of barriers to universal abundance – all of our Intellectual Property (IP) laws now fall into this category. In most cases today (given the internet and digital copying of information) the only reason for IP laws is to create scarcity, and thence market value – for the benefit of the very few, and at cost to the great majority.
The fact that our information technology is on a double exponential expansion of capacity, and is now moving from purely information more deeply into matter manipulation, means that an exponentially expanding set of goods and services are now joining the class of things that can be provided in universal abundance, and the only reason they are not is the fact of the economic (measured in dollars in markets) impact of doing so.
Thus, clearly, economic values and human values are now directly in opposition (for the vast majority) in an exponentially expanding set of of instances.
Thus, while it is possible to make a strong case for the historical association of freedom and security with free(ish) markets; that case cannot be sustained into the future.
What we do about that is the great question of our age.
I hold individual life, and individual liberty as my highest values (applied universally).
And holding those values, in a knowledge set based in science and history (evolution, biochemistry, cosmology, quantum theory, relativity, economics, complex systems, far from equilibrium explorations of infinities, etc) demands of me responsible action in both social and ecological contexts.
I am clear beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt that both indefinite life extension and abundance of all reasonable essentials of life and liberty can be made universally abundant, and that demands responsibility from each of us.
Unlimited expansion of population is not a viable option. The closer we get to 1 child per couple for people on this planet, the better off we will all be, as one example. We can sustain higher breeding rates for those prepared to leave earth in space ships (large habitats capable of sustaining millions of people in abundance) for a thousand years or so, but even then there are limits that we will hit. Long term, we need to be responsible for such things.
Right now, responsibility must express as some means of delivering a reasonable probability (something very close to unity) of life and liberty to all.
In the short term, as we transition from scarcity to abundance, some sort of universal basic income seems to be the most viable strategy (least risk) – and it can only be a temporary transition strategy – longer term something else is required.
The major focus of intellectual activity must be on creating fully automated production systems that are not self aware, but are under human control, capable of delivering all the essentials of life.
Development of full Artificial General Intelligence is a very different issue – one for separate discussion and development. The current economic imperative for a headlong rush in that direction is a substantial source of existential risk (in our current social state of clearly not valuing human life or human liberty very highly at all – as any objective look at the social condition of most people clearly demonstrates).
So the major issue is not how to improve market economics, but how to go beyond market economics, and into a form of management of our global (and beyond) house (Oikos – all 3 senses). UBI is a step in that direction in that it demonstrates in practice that sapient life has a value simply because it exists – rather than our existing practice of predicating the value of life on its productive capacities.
If ethics has any meaning at all, this step cannot be avoided.
We are getting into some very complex territory.
There are ecological limits, that we need to be responsible for, and are not yet doing a great job of. Simply increasing money supply without environmental safeguards could be a recipe for disaster.
Coal will soon become one of our most valuable commodities, and we will regret the amount that we wasted by burning (it is the most condensed source of carbon and hydrogen, two elements rare on the moon and required to build living habitats in space). The sooner we move to solar power (either direct photovoltaic or second hand wind power) the better.
UBI at $60/day would be a good start.
We are not short of jobs that need doing.
Giving people real choice about the sort of job they might want to do seems a reasonable response. Most people do want to do something meaningful.
[followed by – Grumpy replied to my post, then deleted his reply – which prevented my reply below being posted]
A few things seem to be missing from your scenario, which is why I can agree with what you say, if that was implied in what I wrote, but it wasn’t.
The thing few people yet get is that automation makes the very notion of employment redundant, and delivers in practice the degrees of freedom implied in the famous 1978 conversation between Milton Friedman and Edward Lupinski – where the notion was raised that socialism can only work if everyone has two servants, including the servants.
I am not a socialist.
I am more of an eclectic individualist who acknowledges that my individualism is only possible in social and ecological contexts (thus demanding of me social and ecological responsibility in my choices of action), and is clear that my individual security can best be guaranteed in the long term by ensuring that everyone has such security. Advanced automation makes that possible. And it raises some very high level issues as to the nature of freedom and the nature of responsibility, that appear to be potentially infinitely recursive through levels of abstraction.
Both my epistemology and my ontology are based in evolution and probability in spaces of complex information systems that have “fuzzy” non-deterministic boundaries, and contain unknowable and chaotic aspects.
I do not want to get into details of who gets to create money and how in this conversation, as they are temporary details. I see no way of creating any sort of long term stability in any market based (money based) systems. I see UBI only as a transition strategy to a post scarcity (post money) existence (so such temporary details are almost irrelevant in a very real sense). That post scarcity existence will require some quite profound conversations between very different paradigms, and would seem to demand consensus, rather than majority, decision making in all but the most dire and immediate of existential threat situations (anything less seems to itself pose existential level threat – one of those recursive systems I have pushed through several levels and am now very confident of).
Our security demands indefinite life extension.
Our security demands advanced automation, including automated construction of large orbiting habitats made largely of matter from the moon (accepting that most carbon and hydrogen – as coal) will need to come from earth to create the ecologies within those habitats.
Both of those technologies become relatively trivial in the quite near term – based on existing exponential trends in computational ability.
The geology of this planet and the cosmology of this solar system pose risks that cannot be effectively mitigated by any lesser sets of technologies.
The biggest issues are not technical, they are conceptual.
Our existing cultural paradigms largely force most people to accept simplistic heuristics to survive (ideas like Truth and God and Patriotism). Reality seems to be so complex that it takes decades of study (tens of thousands of hours) to get a reasonable handle on the sorts of things that are actually present in the complex systemic and strategic mix that is our existence.
I am not in any way trying to oversimplify that complexity, and I acknowledge the reality that all individuals need heuristics that allow them to make decisions in the face of that complexity – me as much as anyone else.
My heuristics come at a cost of many tens of thousands of hours. Few people have the luxury of such “free” time – most are forced by economic conditions of employment to devote their attention to other issues.
Envy politics and faux economics are side issues.
All economics is faux in the sense I am pointing to.
That particular emperor is clearly without clothes.