A report back on a report back. (plus notes)

First, a report back I sent to some BICN people.

I should give out a report of the event for Basic Income week I conducted in Toronto on Monday the 15th.

It was a rainy night, which might have effected the attendance. This was less than I hoped but more than I feared. It is very difficult to get people out to an event discussing BI in Toronto.

In fact it is getting harder to promote any kind of event due to the rise of social media, which tends to silo people. This is why I want to start going out to all these "anti-poverty" events with leaflets, urging these people to take another look at the poverty problem.

But before doing that, some kind of discussion forum must be developed. What we have so far is inadequate; there is no real moderator. The noise to signal ratio is extreme.What kind of people are you trying to attract with that?

But here is how the presentation went. I have attached the slides I used for it.

It took me 45 minutes to go through my presentation and I did okay. My voice held up. I kept my small audience rapt. I think I actually rather like standing up and talking to people and I am going to try to do more of it.

The problem I used to have with my voice has greatly eased with better treatments for my medical conditions. I have better concentration now and thus more confidence. When I used to do some speaking my voice would crack up and people could not hear me. If a fibrofog came on I would have trouble remembering what I was saying unless I had it all written down.

Then we were able to get Robyn's antique projector to work with her antique laptop, with some help from the wonderful staff at the Ralph Thornton. So we downloaded a couple of youtube videos.

I showed them the Enno Schmidt clip and spoke briefly about him. Then, the clip of Kelly Ernst talking about the BIG plan. I then did a short comparison of the two strategies. Sorry if this offends some people, but BIG push is a bit overblown.

Compared with this is Enno's slow, careful building of a Basic Income organization. He has spent years at it, and learned how to sell the idea by talking to ordinary people.

I have been advocating against poverty and for income security for over thirty years. I have seen many groups come and go. People get excited, they want things to happen in a hurry. When they discover that they are not going to get a big push toward what they want, that it is going to take years of patient building, they lose interest. Or worse, start fighting with each other.

The BIG plan is the wrong way around. You do not try to get a lot of people to buy in before you have figured out what it is exactly that you are advocating. You first of all get a core group of dedicated people together, you work out what you are proposing, and when you are ready, you ask for mass support.

I also explained that if you are not clear about what you are saying, and are inviting everyone from everywhere to start speaking for you, what will usually happen is you get hijacked. I have seen this over and over.

In fact, I think I should attach the whole article from John Knox-Davies. One way or another, we will have a Basic Income; it is the only way out of the economic dilemma of automation. But BI can be liberating or repressive. If you do not understand what the point is of a BI, you will likely get something that is bad.

So, that is how my evening went. Robyn also thought it was a pretty good shakedown run. Now we know we can do this. We just need bigger audiences.

However, one of these days I would like to get my own laptop and projector.


Second, an excerpt from my presentation, including a quotation.

However, BICN has some serious problems, too.

I believe it has developed an approach to organizing which is the wrong way around and is going to lead to disaster. Briefly, they want to start out by developing a big following and funding base. Then they want to have a subsidiary in every major population center. Then they want to figure out what they are really proposing.

No. First they need to draw together a really competent group of people, committed to a Basic Income as such. Then they need to work out exactly what they are proposing, and they need to stick to it until there is a good reason to amend it without compromising basic principles.

Only, then, when you have something to say to people, do you start looking to build a mass movement.

I have been an advocate for Basic income by whatever name you call it, for about thirty years. I have seen the same thing over and over. People want to start a crusade to end poverty like tomorrow, they get excited, they start fighting, the whole thing blows up. The worst thing is the people who can't understand that the idea of a Basic Income can be a repressive as well as liberating idea. The differences among BI advocates are not miscommunications or different approaches, but utterly conflicting aims.

There is BI for human liberation from capitalism, there is BI to subsidize labor for capitalism, and there is BI as an excuse to wipe out all other social programs.

There is an article on my web site I think all BI enthusiasts should read before they become BI activists.

James Knox-Davies: The Basic Income 'n' Switch

Some of these plans don't stop at starving the poor. Basic income is such an elastic idea that you can claim you're supporting it while giving tax breaks to the rich. No plan is complete without mentioning how it will reduce administrative costs by ending the "patchwork" (it's like every third article that uses the word "patchwork") of existing programs. That's why we should, they suggest, take the current welfare spending and distribute it equally across all tax brackets. Yeah, it's as regressive as a flat tax, but no more having to pay bureaucrats to do math! Never mind we're running a backwards Robin Hood, we are saving, so sayeth the lobotomized.

Now, I am going to show you some movies. I think these two show the flaw of the BIG push approach as opposed to the way they went about the referendum on BI in Switzerland.

Ernst wants to start this big, top down crusade. Schmidt and his associates got together a good bunch of people, then took a slower approach and actually listened to people.