Thursday, 21 April 2022

For Your Consideration

     Some questions were raised about a parenthetical remark in a previous post, about preferring a minimum income to a minimum wage, that I'd like to address in greater detail, which may take a couple of posts. So in this one, I'd like to address the issue raised by the first comment, paraphrased thusly: "What is the value of money given 'free of charge'?"

    This is a common objection to minimum income plans, that they amount to giving people something for nothing. The most obvious counter to that is: So what? What's wrong with giving people something they didn't earn? People inherit wealth they didn't earn. People collect rent and interest and other income just from owning stuff, without actually doing anything beyond merely being the legally recognized owner of something, whether or not they did anything to deserve it. In our free market capitalist system, we don't object to people making money through the ownership of capital, including capital they merely inherited. So what exactly is the harm in giving people money they didn't do anything to deserve?

    But I want to argue that, in fact, we do deserve it, all of us, because of our collective ownership of the enterprise we call the state. And what is it that we have paid for our ownership, or as we say in contract law, what valuable consideration did we provide? I argued in an earlier post about the liberty dividend that we invest our liberty, but that's a rather abstract and intangible thing, even if it does count as good consideration at law. When we agree to do or not to do something that we might otherwise have done, such as in a non-disclosure agreement when we agree not to exercise our freedom of speech in a way that reveals someone's secrets, that is a real and valuable consideration capable of supporting contractual obligations on the other side. 

    So what I want to argue here is that what we give the state in exchange for our share includes something much more tangible: everything that anyone else owns, that it is possible to own. I mean this literally, because the entire concept of ownership is a creature of the state, of society. What prevents you from using "my" property? You may say it's your morality, and that's all well and good, but people's moralities differ, as do their ideas of who should own what, and it is the courts, applying the laws of the state, which will decide that. In other words, I have surrendered my freedom to use (or attempt to use, and probably end up fighting over) everything in the world that is deemed by the state to belong to someone other than me. Now, the state might deem that there are things which belong to me, which  this means that you, too, have surrendered to the state the freedom to use my stuff (again, a subset of all of the stuff that belongs to people other than you).

    Therefore, since it is the state which exercises ultimate authority over who owns what property, we have each of us invested all the property in the state. We don’t usually speak of it this way, but this is exactly what sovereignty is: the exclusive right to make and enforce rules or policies about who can do what with what. In free countries like Canada, the state generally delegates much of the decision-making to individuals by defining in its laws what we think of as private property rights, but these are ultimately conventions, subject to legislative or judicial amendment, and thus in a very real sense we have endowed the state with all the property there is.

    I claim, then, that for this reason every citizen of the state should be considered a shareholder in it. When, as in Canada, the Crown retains the rights to natural resources like forests, fisheries and minerals, it should manage these assets to the benefit of its shareholders (citizens), whom it own a fiduciary duty closely analogous to that owed to a corporation by its board of directors. The shareholders are entitled to a voice in management, which usually involved electing delegates to represent them and advance the policies they favour.

    I do not intend to argue here that issuing regular dividends from the proceeds of the corporation is a good idea. I’ll probably address that in a later post. All I mean to establish here is that doing so would not at all be giving people “money for nothing”. We obtain our shares in the state not “for nothing” but by virtue of being bound by its laws, which is good and valuable consideration. And owning a share in the state means that any dividends that state may issue (such as a universal basic income, for example) are not charity, but a duly earned benefit.


  1. I agree with your argument that many affluent/privileged Citizens get something for which they did not 'earn' it, yet, if something is given to the average/poor Citizen, all of a sudden it's people who have more that seem to take the most issue with those Citizens receiving anything not 'earned'. I think some contention comes about when distribution isn't equitable. Example, I Retired many Years ago from Corporate Lives and my Social Security 'earned' benefit isn't much more than someone receiving SSI for the Disabled, who may have never worked and will be entitled to receive benefits I could never qualify for. Many people in that same situation feel shorted... yet, I don't since the affluent with huge Inheritances did nothing to 'earn' any of it either, just good fortune of Birth Rights. Life ain't Fair or Bras wouldn't come in Sizes.

    1. \\Life ain't Fair or Bras wouldn't come in Sizes.

      Fine remark.
      Only, that is not question discussed here.

    2. Getting something not 'earned' seems to be question discussed here to consider. I think why most resent something being given that is not 'earned' is their 'take' on 'Fairness'... which is why I made that parallel. But, Life is rarely 'Fair'. And Money is often the one thing Humans get the most contentious about... it doesn't matter how adequate resources are if not equitably distributed. Most of the time it is not a lack of resources that is the most problematic, but the inequitable distribution of them... and of Wealth in general.

    3. You made short comment... but what a lot of hairy stuff it relates to...
      Well, despite my designation as a "troll" here, I will not try to dig into details with arguments and criticism here.
      Unless you yourself would deciide to... ;-)
      Only about that part:
      "Getting something not 'earned' seems to be question discussed here to consider."

      Oviously, that is not question here.
      As we, general knowledge it is, *already* have a lot of redistribution of unearned stuff everyday and almost everywhere:
      from that same lame beggars,
      to charity of all kinds,
      different NGOs,
      and even governments spreading food stamps and etc.

      So, reducing/expanding(?) it to discussion of "is it moral to give people something unearned?" -- that'll be unproductive,
      and obviously beyond context of previous discussions.
      Which was about ONE SPECIAL kind of redistribution of unearned -- around our splendid host economic idea(s?).

    4. It was NOT obvious that you weren't objecting to the idea of giving people money they hadn't earned, and in any case, even if that wasn't one of your objections, it is certainly a common enough objection to UBI/mincome/etc. that I felt it worthwhile to address it directly.

      If it wasn't your objection, then we have nothing to argue about here, and I'll get to work on another post addressing what I now take to be your actual objection: how do we pay for it?

    5. I just trying to wrap my head around your idea(s?)

      As ever, you remain evasive of direct clarifying questions.
      Well, I account it as result of methods you are using, and not try to thrug off criticism. Still. ;-)

  2. \\ I'd like to address the issue raised by the first comment,

    Good if true.

    \\paraphrased thusly: "What is the value of money given 'free of charge'?"

    \\ This is a common objection to minimum income plans, that they amount to giving people something for nothing. The most obvious counter to that is: So what? What's wrong with giving people something they didn't earn?

    That is not the question.
    You must be know what mean "money taken out of thin air", are you?
    That mean inflation.

    Or what, you have some other theoretical base for your this thoughts -- one which do not see money as just another type of tradable goods, as was instantiated by Marx and AFAIK was not disissued in any rational take on economy science still?

    1. What do you mean, "money taken out of thin air"? I haven't suggested, in this post, anything about simply printing money to pay the dividend. I called it a DIVIDEND, implying that it is a share of the profits generated by the activities of the state. I even referred to some of those activities: managing the Crown assets of forestry, fisheries, minerals, etc. This generates revenue, as the Crown usually collects royalties from the companies seeking to extract resources from the land.

      I will talk about printing money in another post (and I think I've probably written about it before, though not exactly in this context). All I wanted to establish in THIS post is that recipients of a citizen dividend are entitled to that income in the same way that a shareholder in any other profitable company is entitled to their share of the profits.

    2. \\What do you mean, "money taken out of thin air"? I haven't suggested, in this post, anything about simply printing money to pay the dividend.

      You previously eloquently explained your methods.
      Well, I cannot claim that I do it perfectly your way, but still.

      There is simple dichotomy -- if one suggest giving money "for free", there is properly TWO possibilities how to accomplish it:
      "printing" more of fiat money
      some kind of taxes.

      So. If we eliminated "printing money" here, there need to be some taxation.
      That lead as to next perfect dichotomy.
      That either:
      need to be some NEW taxes, as it is new additional spendings
      that'll be redistribution of previously collected taxes...

  3. A guaranteed minimum income is highly efficient and actually saves government a great deal of money in the form of administration of a large number of social safety net programs. No need for new taxes at all

  4. Hope that is boredom and not some other reason keeps you off your blog...