Andrew Yang makes a powerful case that we are undergoing an industrial revolution, that it will displace millions of workers, and that basic income is the best way forward.
Andrew writes, “The real test of the impact of automation will come in the next downturn. Companies will look to replace their call centers and customer service departments with artificial intelligence and hybrid bot-worker arrangements. Fast food CEOs will experiment with robot burger flippers… Cost-cutting knives will come out, turbocharged by new automated tools. Productivity will then shoot up in the worst way possible as companies accomplish the same tasks with many fewer workers.”
David Graeber’s Bullshit Jobs: A Theory is the perfect compliment to this, as he demonstrates that around 40% of jobs are “bullshit,” in other words, they are inefficiencies in the labor market that could be automated away. If we instituted a basic income, companies would be pressured into cutting a lot of these nonsense jobs, which would (a) cushion us against the people who drop out of the labor force and (b) provide more workers to take up difficult and dangerous jobs still remaining (Oil rig worker, correctional officer, etc.), jobs which would probably become part time (and therefore we’d need more people working in those occupations) and high paying if everyone was receiving $1000 a month and had freedom to choose how much they worked.
Bearing Graeber’s thesis in mind, if 40% of occupations are nonsense and there are 155 million working adults in the United States, then it follows that 62 million adults are working “bullshit jobs.” This is a source of enormous political power to enact basic income. If just one out of every sixty two bullshitters called in sick or quit their jobs and went to Washington DC to demonstrate for basic income, even getting arrested if it meant it, we would easily have basic income. Picture one million bullsh*tters marching on capitol hill! Politicians could not say no to them, both their physical presence and the social media reach of a million people would be far too much for any politician to resist. Unlike many homeless and working poor, it would be relatively easy for those working decent paying bullshit jobs to pick up and travel to Washington for a week and take on a bit of personal risk by quitting one’s job or being thrown in jail for a day or two. Only those who are bold and farsighted enough to see that such a political action would be bulletproof and that history books would name them as heros would participate. The question is: Does that describe even one out of 62 Americans? How could we bring them together to make this happen?
Yang discusses the need to renovate and repurpose America’s malls. Malls were originally designed by a utopian thinker to be convenient places where people would live, work, and shop. Why not create apartment space in or near old malls and make the “live, work, shop” dream a reality? It would be green and would save people transportation costs.
Yang proposes a “time dollar” program where people interact online and swap time doing odd chores and favors. I think it’s a good idea, definitely similar to man’s original economy of swapping favors with credit given frequently. It would probably increase social cohesion and would be economically efficient (you fix up my phone, I clean your pool, nobody gets charged a fee by a business for either service).
The War on Normal People is a beautiful feast of ideas for helping America move out of its dark and unstable years and into the bright new future that it deserves. No more idle working age men, no more financial instability, no more bullsh*t jobs, no more high suicide and depression rates, sky rocketing drug use or juggling multiple jobs inside the richest country on earth during a time of astonishing technological innovation.