Andrew Yang’s presidential campaign has brought even greater media attention to the issue of a universal basic income (UBI).
Yang’s plan is outlined on his campaign website:
“Andrew would implement a Universal Basic Income, ‘The Freedom Dividend,’ of $1,000/month, $12,000 a year for every American adult over the age of 18. This is independent of one’s work status or any other factor. This would enable all Americans to pay their bills, educate themselves, start businesses, be more creative, stay healthy, relocate for work, spend time with their children, take care of loved ones, and have a real stake in the future…
PROBLEMS TO BE SOLVED:
Technology is quickly displacing a large number of workers, and the pace will only increase as automation and other forms of artificial intelligence become more advanced. ⅓ of American workers will lose their jobs to automation by 2030 according to McKinsey. This has the potential to destabilize our economy and society if unaddressed….
End poverty in the most direct manner possible: giving people money
Move our economy into its next stage of development – human capitalism – with a focus on improving everyone’s quality of living
Prevent the massive disruption that will accompany the rapid development and adoption of automation and other AI technologies”
Yang’s plan has received support by prominent members of the Alt-Right, including Richard Spencer, who has favorably contrasted Yang with the slavish devotion to “free markets” seen on the mainstream right. While the Alt-Right support for a seemingly “left-wing” idea like UBI might seem puzzling, UBI does have a radical right-wing pedigree.
William Dudley Pelley, leader of the fascist Silver Shirt movement in 1930s America, promoted a plan very similar to Yang’s. Pelley even used the term “dividend” to describe his version of UBI, and like Yang he framed UBI as an organic compliment to capitalism. In his book No More Hunger Pelley describes his proposal for a “Christian Commonwealth,” arguing that the entire nation should be turned into a “gigantic Corporation” in which citizens would own stock:
“these Common Stockholders, as one of their inalienable rights as citizens of the United States, [would] each arbitrarily and permanently receive a basic annual dividend from such ownership of Common Stock payable to them in twelve monthly allotments or ‘credits’ of sufficient size to supply them with the crude necessities of life and forever remove the Hunger Duress from their habits of economic thinking. This Common Stock dividend shall come to them, regardless of sex or marital status, determination of the amount to be based relatively on the Gross National Product.” (No More Hunger, page 47)
However, even though UBI is not necessarily antithetical to a right-wing worldview, we as Christian nationalists should be highly skeptical of the concept.
First and foremost, UBI is in conflict with Biblical law. The constitution of ancient Israel did guard against perpetual poverty and hunger, but it did so by guaranteeing the opportunity to work, not by handing out free money. Those who were too poor to have fields of their own were allowed to glean from the fields of their more successful neighbors (Leviticus 23). Gleaning, however, was hard work. No able bodied person was just given free money or food. The Jubilee law (Leviticus 25) guaranteed that every fifty years all productive farm land would revert back to the original family to which the land was granted following the conquest of Canaan. In a largely agrarian society like ancient Israel farm land was the most important form of wealth, and the Jubilee law did prevent the concentration of this wealth in the hands of a small oligarchy. However, farm land is not money, rather it is a resource that can be used to produce valuable goods. Hence Yang is incorrect when suggesting that giving people money is an effective way to fight poverty. Giving people real, inalienable rights to resources that can be used to produce wealth is a much more effective way to fight poverty. Only when such resources, or means of production, are widely distributed throughout society can real freedom and self-reliance exist. This was one of the great insights of G.K. Chesterton and his fellow distributists. Chesterton pointed out that the distinction between private and public property is meaningless unless we specify who gets to control this property. For example, in Marxist dictatorships all property might legally be public (that is, belong to the state), but it just so happens that the top party officials get to decide how this property is used. We must keep this principle in mind when considering UBI. As AI and automation account for an ever greater percentage of wealth generation, the means of production (i.e., real economic power) will become concentrated in fewer and fewer hands. UBI would just be a form of pacification. UBI would give money to the general population, but it would not give them any productive economic power. From the perspective of sheer power (the perspective from which politics should always be viewed), UBI would weaken the general population and strengthen the oligarchs. If we are truly concerned about the serious social threat of automation, we must push for the actual distribution of both the ownership and the practical control of machines, not government handouts.
We must admit that economic ignorance on the dissident right is a major problem. I can think of no other explanation for why Spencer and his followers would support UBI other than sheer ignorance. It is very naive to think that Yang cares about the working class, white or otherwise. Yang is a successful and intelligent entrepreneur, and I have no doubt that he understands the long-term implications of UBI, as do the Silicon Valley CEO’s who also back the idea. There is already an open discussion about how UBI could be used to pacify displaced workers:
“Experts say that the tech industry is growing more aware of its role in driving future automation and displacement, and companies don’t want to be at the heart of any backlash from workers.
‘That is a factor. The concern that suddenly public enemy number one will be robots and they (tech firms) will be in the firing line,’ Guy Standing, professorial research associate at the School of Oriental and African Studies, told CNBC by phone.”
It would appear that these technocrats simply want to avoid a Yellow Vest type uprising while on the road to the obsolescence of human labor, and they feel that UBI might be the best way to do that. Once automation has advanced to a certain point (with a fully automated military/police force), mass uprisings like the Yellow Vest movement will no longer be a threat to the system. Human resistance to those who control and program the machines will simply become impossible.
Spencer is correct to point out that the deplatforming of right-wing voices by big tech is one of the most serious problems facing the dissident right, and yet Spencer supports the same economic program as the Silicon Valley technocrats who wish to silence us. I suspect that the leaders of Silicon Valley have a better understanding of economics than Richard Spencer, and that is one of the best reasons to oppose UBI.