In Western societies, there is a tendency to wax lyrical about freedom in relative terms. ‘We in the free world’ is a term often used by Western leaders to differentiate democracies from autocracies. But the freedom it alludes to remains
in real terms, far from absolute.
Societal construct’s demand conformity. That is, the freedom to succeed within the confines of an imposed hierarchical system.
For those whose attributes yield success in this system, there is definite advantage. They may realistically covet and attain the finer things of life.
And why not?
After all, it is the system that they thrive in, that has made the finer things available to those who can afford them.
What politicians have always failed to address, is what should happen to those whose attributes are not accordant with success in this system.
The only alternative the system presents to success are degrees of failure.
But this is itself, a failing of the system.
There have been attempts to address this failing, invariably born of welfare models. The problem with such models, is that they are in conflict with the system rather than integral to it.
This inevitably leads to an insoluble tug of war between the left and right of politics.
What is, and has always been needed, is a system that delivers a baseline living to all. A form of Universal Basic Income (UBI).
There are many forms UBI may take (Every man, woman and child or all adults of working age. etc) together with much concomitant politics to consider.
These details and arguments, as well as many arguments opposing UBI are widely available elsewhere.
Western society, increasingly homogenised as it has become, has casually indoctrinated its citizenry in to relinquishing their birthright.
One of the arguments against UBI, has been the notion of paying people to be idle. But this is a misrepresentation.
Firstly, it suggests that such payment would be a beneficent gesture from the state. But beneficence can only be claimed if those distributing the resources are the owner of those resources. The state, is not the owner of the resources, but simply a resource manager employed by the collective citizenry of the country.
Secondly, in Western democracies, there is much proud talk of valuing human rights. But can there be a more fundamental human right than that of food and shelter?
If the basic requisites of life are human rights, then a state that purports to value such rights is obliged to uphold them.
After all, human rights are by definition, inherent not earned.
And third, as increased mechanisation and artificial intelligence change the way we do business, a substantial decline of the labour market is a
reality we must get used to. When labour is no longer required, it becomes ridiculous to talk of idleness.
‘In False Industry (1836), Charles Fourier attributed to each individual a right to housing and food to compensate his/her compromised primal right to hunting, fishing, gathering and using pastures.’
Joseph Meyer ‘Thinking Differently-the unconditional basic income’ 2007
In much of the West, many freedoms that one might imagine were the ‘birthright’ of all sentient beings, are curtailed.
Who would deny a mouse, the right to build a shelter or forage food?
Its birthright is self-sufficiency, utilising the natural resources of its birth land.
In many Western societies, a man cannot build a shelter on common land, light a fire when cold or catch a fish when hungry.
Of course, growing populations and the consequent urbanisation it brings, inhibit the prospects of ‘living off the land’, and such a lifestyle has been made increasingly impractical to offer to all, even if it were desirable.
But as was pointed out in 1836 by Charles Fourier, if the land is taken from the people, then it is the people who should collect the rent.
It is not being argued that opportunities beyond subsistence, should not be encouraged or indeed, widely available.
Nevertheless, these fundamental birthrights are the baseline essential to real freedom. After all, what is freedom if not the right to attain and maintain the requisites of life without incurring the wrath or impediment of the state?
There are many additional arguments in support of UBI including evidence that such a system leads to a reduction in crime and a corresponding reduction in the cost of law enforcement/criminal justice proceedings.
UBI, is at least, a partial solution to an old, as well as a very modern problem. That such a system is necessary is becoming clearer by the day.
For myself, the form it should take would be limited to adults of working age, and a
proportion would come with specified spending restrictions (grocery, pharmacy etc).
Others believe that it should come with no caveats at all.
Trials are taking place in a number of countries already. And this data will be essential to determine the form UBI may take as the economic model of a manual labour 20th century that ended with a population of 6 billion, increasingly fails to serve the requirements of an automated 21st century projected to end with a population of 11 billion.