April meetup – talking about types of basic income

Candice, Sharon and I (Anemone) met at Hub Mall this evening for about 2.5 hours, talking about the different types of basic income (BI) and their pros and cons (and about a whole lot of other things, too). Here is a basic summary of our discussion of different types of basic income, with some of my own thoughts. Feel free to add your thoughts in the comments.


There are two main types of basic income: a universal demogrant (UD) and a negative income tax (NIT).

A Universal Demogrant (UD) is tax-free money that everyone gets, regardless of what they earn. Higher earners pay higher taxes on their other earnings, and will end up paying more in income tax than they receive as a UD, but they still get the UD up front.

A Negative Income Tax (NIT) is money that some people get, based on their previous year’s tax return. Everyone who earns below a certain amount would have their income topped up by the difference between what they earned and the threshold in the following year.

Negative income taxes can come in various forms, depending on what happens above the threshold. Continue reading

Guy Caron campaigning on Basic Income

Guaranteed Basic Income on Verge of Take-off in Canada. It holds appeal across the political spectrum. Plus, Elon Musk is sold.
Susan Delacourt, 2 Mar 2017, at The Tyee, reposted from iPolitics.

Guy Caron is promoting basic income in his campaign for the NDP leadership:

“The problem with the NDP is we were never able to submit an economic platform that would actually make people dream, inspire people. This is what I want to do,” Caron said on CBC’s Power & Politics. With a basic income, he said, “people (could) actually think of their future rather than thinking of what they will have to eat.”

Hat tip to Fred Douglas for the link.

Meet-up April 18

Our next meet-up is on Tuesday April 18th (two weeks from today). We’re going to meet at the University of Alberta, in Hub Mall in the LRT Lounge (the area with tables near the south end of the mall on the west side, just up and across from The Tea and Coffee Company), at 6:30 pm. We’ve decided to talk about the different models of Basic Income, so feel free to do some advance reading (or not).

Reminder – meet up on Tuesday


This is just to remind people who are on the subscription list that some of us are meeting in Hub Mall, University of Alberta at the LRT Lounge (near the south end, west side, near the Tea and Coffee Company), on Tuesday March 21, and you can arrive any time between 6 and 6:30 and not be late. (We’ll pick an official start time for next time.) Parking is free in the area after 6pm and paid in the lots next to the mall. I will be there for 6pm, and I am the one who wears all green and does not wear shoes. 🙂

If anyone else wants to join us you are more than welcome, and if you think you might be late email me ahead of time, just in case we move somewhere else before you arrive.

See you then.

(Edited to add the date)

Meetup March 21

Candice and I will be meeting March 21, at HUB mall at the University of Alberta, in one of the lounges, sometime in the late afternoon or evening (after 4:30 pm). If you want to join us (please do!) and a particular time works best for you, you can reply to this post or email me at info@basicincomeedmonton.org. Also, if you have a favourite lounge, let me know. We’ll probably meet at the one across from the coffee shop that’s open in the evening, at least to start with. I don’t remember what it’s called but will update when I do. We’ll probably also meet at 6pm because that’s what we did before, but we can change it to suit whoever’s coming.

I think we need to go back a bit, and just talk about what we want to do and where we’re at.

Also if anyone wants to meet me at another time to talk about basic income or the group, I’d be happy to meet with you.

Silicon Valley is right—our jobs are already disappearing

MOVE OVER, HUMANS. Silicon Valley is right—our jobs are already disappearing

Read that last sentence again: we’re confident that between two and three million Americans who drive vehicles for a living will lose their jobs in the next fifteen years. Self-driving cars are the most obvious job-destroying technology, but there are similar innovations ahead that will dislocate cashiers, fast food workers, customer service representatives, groundskeepers, and many many others in a few short years. How many of these people will be readily employable elsewhere?

Okay, you’re thinking. But isn’t this all still in the somewhat distant future, since unemployment is only 4.6% according to the headlines? Actually, automation has already eliminated about four million manufacturing jobs in the US since 2000. And instead of finding new jobs, a lot of those people left the workforce and didn’t come back. The US labor force plummeted by about 10 million during the same period, down to levels not seen in decades. The labor participation rate is now at only 62.7%, a rate right below El Salvador and right above the Ukraine:

Book Review: The Spirit Level. Why greater equality makes societies stronger

The book: RIchard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett, 2010. The Spirit Level: Why greater equality makes societies stronger. Bloomsbury Press. Foreword by Robert B. Reich.

I knew already that absolute poverty leads to higher health care and policing/justice system costs. What I didn’t know is that relative poverty also does this. This book sets out a strong case for income inequality being bad for society and for everyone in it, not just the poorer members. Continue reading

Speenhamland: An early experiment in basic income

Sources: Karl Polanyi, 1944. The Great Transformation.; Fred Block and Margaret Somers, 2003. In the Shadow of Speenhamland: Social Policy and the Old Poor Law.

Late 18th century Southern England was having a hard time of it. Rural labourers were losing access to land to support themselves because of enclosures. Cottage craft industries were losing ground to manufactured goods from the North. And grain prices spiked due to the Napoleonic Wars.

In 1795, authorities introduced the Speenhamland Law to help workers cope with all this, implemented at the parish level. Some parishes provided a basic income, with a 100% clawback. Others provided workfare, unemployment insurance, and other variations. Support was geared to the price of wheat, going up and down with wheat or bread prices. It went on until 1834, then was replaced with the workhouse – an institution that separated families and gave them make-work projects for their survival.
Continue reading

More research on automation

This paper: Arntz, M., T. Gregory and U. Zierahn (2016), “The Risk of Automation for Jobs in OECD Countries: A Comparative Analysis”, OECD Social, Employment and Migration Working Papers, No. 189, OECD Publishing, Paris. http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/5jlz9h56dvq7-en

Frey and Osborne published a paper in 2013 estimating that 47% of American jobs could be lost to automation in the next ten to twenty years. This paper is in response to that. These authors argue that it’s better to analyze jobs by tasks, rather than entire jobs, and that with most jobs, only some of the job can be automated. Their calculations indicate that only 9% of jobs are at risk, rather than 47%.

According to FO [Frey and Osborne], people working in the occupation “Retail Salesperson” (SOC code 41-2031) face an automation potential of 92%. Despite this, only 4% of retail salespersons perform their jobs with neither both group work nor face-to-face interactions.

You may already see the problem. They assume that jobs will remain when some job tasks (group work and face-to-face interactions) can’t be automated: that those un-automatable tasks are essential to the job. For example, shopping in person involves the salesperson doing a lot of things that robots can’t do. However, anyone who has shopped online knows that at least some of the time, those things don’t matter that much – you can read the reviews online to get equivalent service. (It depends on what you’re buying, of course.) For many jobs, there are tasks that robots won’t be able to do, but those tasks aren’t necessarily going to matter, either to consumers, or to employers who automate the jobs regardless of what consumers want.

So I suspect that their estimate of 9% of jobs lost to automation is an underestimate.

Regardless, in my opinion, we need a basic income now. We already have far too much precarious employment. I’m not sure what is going to happen in the future really matters.

Report: Working Without a Net: Rethinking Canada’s social policy in the new age of work

Two researchers from the Mowat Centre in Toronto have published a report on the future of Canada’s safety net, given current and likely future changes to the job market.

Sunil Johan and Jordann Thirgood: Working Without a Net: Rethinking Canada’s social policy in the new age of work.
webpage, pdf of actual report
(This is the report I linked to in the previous blog post.)

This report explores the implications of new technologies on Canada’s economy and labour market and the adequacy of current social programs and policies supporting workers. It proposes key considerations policymakers need to keep in mind as the nature of jobs evolves to ensure that they are designing policies that lead, and don’t lag, rapid changes to the nature of work.

Continue reading