FOR AN UNCONDITIONAL BASIC INCOME
MORE PROSPERITY FOR EVERYONE
By Thomas Straubhaar
[This article published on 3/9/2017 is translated from the German on the Internet, www.abendblatt.de. Thomas Straubhaar is an acclaimed German economist whose new book is titled "Radikal Gerecht."]
Why an unconditional basic income is the best answer to the life reality of the 21st century
Everything changes – suddenly and abruptly. First, it was globalization. Now it is digitalization. Robots and artificial intelligence replace human labor. Work is done around the clock, untiring, flawless and without an extra charge for night- and Sunday work.
There are two possibilities of countering the immense changes. Some want to make the new world suitable for an old system. Others are striving to adjust old systems to the new world.
The defensive strategy wants to hold to a social state model whose pillars were driven by Bismarck in the 19th century. Political proposals suited for this include turning back the wheel of labor market reforms and facilitating early pensions even though life expectancy is rising and strengthening protection against unlawful termination when the world of work demands protecting "employability," not "employment conditions."
The offensive strategy will orient the social state to the life reality of the 21st century. It relies on the enormous chances that result from globalization and digitalization. It will create presuppositions that people may be active and live ever longer, healthier and different than today. An offensive strategy creates possibilities for timeouts and room for personal development, continuing education and reorientation while preventing burnouts.
Understandable fears of changes should be confronted with a basic security. This basic security should be granted to everyone for the whole life without preconditions, whether with or without employment, young or old, so no one need fear an incredible economic crash. People will be empowered to keep up. Actively promoting potentials in advance and not letting problems arise is a wiser policy than correcting problems afterward with an "activating" social policy.
Yes, a basic income expects motivated persons to achieve something. Germany's future depends on persons willing and able to achieve. The international competitiveness of firms and the macro-economic prosperity level will be determined by creatives, innovators, and achievers. They must be encouraged to protect the weaker against distress and misery.
Many are against a basic income out of principle or ideology. But what is their real reason? Unions and social democrats need not have any worries! Representatives for employees are needed more than ever – but in a different form than in the past. Resist discrimination of people against "robots." A machine tax could hurt workers more than it could benefit them. A value-added tax is a much better answer!
A leftist fights for a just social system that doesn't only reduce the income of dependent employees for today's social security. The income of the higher paid, independents, officials, congresspersons, and landlords should be included like interests, rents, dividends, royalties and business profits. Revitalize the social civil market economy! The unconditional basic income frees the labor market from social-political redistribution tasks. The basic income corrects the distribution effects of the labor market. It takes something from the higher paid to give to those who earn little or nothing.
The challenges of the future are not decorations. It is incomprehensible and irresponsible to cling to outdated ways of thinking out of ideology. Germany deserves more, namely an unconditional basic income for everyone!
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