Installment five. Armine Yalnizian and Karl Widerquist

The best presentations were on the first day.

Armine Yalnizian kicked it off. As already noted, some people did not like her theme that Basic Income is not ready to happen yet. So what is she doing here? Hmf!

Well , basically she is right. You can see in the room that this is a movement that is just beginning. A BI will not be happening without a long process of building up a movement.

Armine really answers and does not reinforce the libels against the poor. She does not do "fake balance" that plays into dog whistle rhetoric. She talked some about Manitoba mincome and what it showed, although that has been getting a little tired.

You cannot fix the problem until you deal with the top and middle as well as the bottom of the income distribution. Basic Income will not solve anything by itself, is an idea whose time is not yet ready to arrive. This is my view, sorry folks, but I want to work at bringing forward the time when it arrives.

Plutocracy must be challenged, Armine says. We are becoming a society of price takers, wage takers, and job takers.

Someone stood up and challenged her. He claimed we are at a break point; the tax cuts have stopped. The tax increases have not started yet.

Armine says; No one is arguing for GAI yet, they are just trying to hold onto what they have, which does not really work well. They see government as working against their interest. GAI needs to be sold as part of self interest; as everyone's insurance because no matter how great everyone thinks they are, they could fall very quickly.

After this conference there was some tweeting about all this. Armine repeated and tweeted like so: " The idea of the basic income has never quite arrived ...or gone away". She also is quoted elsewhere as saying "People are hungry for big ideas ... The basic income is nothing if not a big idea" Yeah, right, Armine.

She then said "Guaranteed Annual Income could, in practice, become guaranteed annual poverty". Yes, it definitely will if we get the bastard version of it from the libertarians. This is the reason to fight for a real BI.

A bit later she also tweeted something very amusing. "If you want to live the American Dream, move to Sweden (or Finland, or Denmark)". She also calls herself the "Rodney Dangerfield" of academics.

What I sent her was "Okay, Armine, how do we overcome the plutocracy without posing an alternative?" She sent me back a message "You know the drill: Wake Up. Speak Up. Act Up." That is all the exchange I had with her.

I am not sure about twitter. Maybe life is too fast for me in the twitterverse, but I did not feel confident I was catching the whole conversation. It seems like the location of the discussions kept moving to different lists. I did not know exactly who received what I sent.

What I also noted, for whoever was within twittering distance, was that the big problem with Armine is that she works for big labour and cannot afford to really attack the status quo. Believe it or not, what is published in Center for Policy Alternatives is the big labor viewpoint and very much a materialist establishment point of view.

Karl Widerquist

Karl did his presentation after Armine. He says freedom is the power to say no. People want freedom to not take orders from other people. Ergo, freedom is effective power to accept or refuse active cooperation.

As an example of the way capitalism creates coercive environments, he chose to use the British colonization of Madagascar. There, the people used a traditional system of communal land holding and local self sufficiency. The colonists broke it up by creating a poll tax. People were forced to get money in order to pay the tax. Soon the old ways had been destroyed.

Throughout history, Karl says, most people have preferred to work in groups. Capitalists want to break them up into individuals. Resisting this requires not just "self ownership" but a "robust self ownership" meaning, there is something to make self ownership effective.

Labor rights does not do this; this is about bargaining for higher wages, not the right to say "no". However, a BI would be useful for labor. It could be thought of as a giant strike fund. It would work even if the workers were not organized".

Destitution, says Karl, is not a fact of nature. it is the result of the way society has chosen to distribute property rights. This has taken away our ability to feed ourselves, and given us nothing in return. This is no way to live.

So what he is proposing is an "Independarian" theory of justice. People should be able to be independent.

Prompted by questions, he started focusing in on Armine and the labor left view of Basic Income. He says that in the 1960s to 1980s, the left was totally obsessed with defending what it had, never mind that it was not working. This resulted in lost opportunity when even the right was ready to consider reforms.

Now, people are almost ready to start talking about raising taxes again. It is indeed time to start putting forth the idea of a basic income.

Again, what he opposes is a mandatory participation economy, whether it is capitalist or socialist. Poverty is interference with people's ability to do what they want.

Karl also picked Armine apart for using confusing figures. He really has his stuff thought out and moves fast; perhaps too fast, is hard to keep up with.

I talked a little about the two with a friend of mine who has been involved in BI stuff. He does not like the NDP. It is not really progressive. Armine supported the auto bail out.

This is true. Armine left us with no suggestions at all for defeating plutocracy. She works for the labor, social work, NDP political machinery, which is really all about adapting to plutocracy. It is about "bargaining" material conditions, not changing anything fundamental.

What I take from this is that "the left" will not be an ally of a Basic Income movement, but rather its worst enemy. However, people who are too impatient, too optimistic about the obstacles to getting a Basic Income are also a problem.