Richard Wilkinson, Trish Hennessey, and Erik Olin Wright

Now, to finally finish up on that very long first day of the conference.

After a break to go snag some "cocktail" thingees while standing up and walking around, looking for people to talk to, we trudged back into the rumble cavern as darkness settled outside, to listen to Richard Wilkinson preach to we the converted about "Why Equality is Better for Everyone".

He is another one I might have thought to bring my copy of his book to be signed. He did not bring copies of his book "The Spirit Level" to flog, either. He has extended his ideas a bit from the book, and seems to have a new section for it.

The original point was that in any society, it is not the total wealth which matters but how it is distributed. The spread of incomes is a huge indicator of many negatives, such as child mortality, health, crime, and an interesting indicator, trust among people. The more equality, the higher the percentage of people who believe that other people can be trusted.

The U.S. does very badly at this indicator, and Canada is not that far ahead of them. It is interesting that Japan is up at the top right of the distribution chart. Ireland is about in the middle of the pack, Sean and Bridget.

Trish Hennessey

And that was it for Saturday. Friday I arrived late and only caught the last bit of Trish Hennessey's presentation about challenging orthodoxy. I caught part of it from the twittering about the conference. Apparently she got into explaining the Overton window.

This is about how those who own the media are able to take control of public debate and move the parameters of what is legitimate discussion to left or right as they please. One of the best ways to move the window is to give an audience to an extreme point of view, making it something that can be thought of, therefore moving the window in that direction. This explains much about what American "primary" politics is about.

But it also explains how to move the window back the other way. This has much implication for Armine Yalnizian's thesis that Basic Income is an idea that is not yet ready to be accepted. The idea of a Basic Income was acceptable at one point. In fact, it seemed like it was about to become policy.

Then the right wing reacted and moved the window. Victorian work house era rhetoric about the deserving and undeserving poor, about a supposed "moral hazard" in giving people "something for nothing", was resurrected. The left never seemed to respond to this and I think a couple of other speakers have commented on this; that in the 70's and 80's the left became obsessed with holding onto what they had gained even if it did not work well. That is, even if it was really abusive and coercive and thus detested by the people it was supposed to help.

Now, we have "social media" or "The Net". The elite do not control the "Public Voice" so much anymore. We can start moving the Overton window to where it can picture a Basic Income.

We should also follow Trish's advice about refusing to talk about cost. Armine, Chandra Pasma, and people from the old orthodox left can't accept this idea, they are into negotiating dispensations from the powers that be. Something as antithetical to the ruling ideology as is BI, will not be granted, it will be taken.

Any kind of "we can not afford this" talk should be met with something like "We don't give a flaming fuck what you cannot afford. We can afford it very well. We do not want to have to afford bank bailouts, corporate subsidies, under- taxing of the rich, and imperial wars any more.

Erik Olin Wright

Erik sees Basic Income as a basic building block of a post Capitalist system. He sees Capitalism as against any conceivable system of justice. It removes most decisions from public discussion. It removes people's control over their own lives.

Capitalism violates democracy. Private wealth affects access to political power. It allows work place dictatorships.

Basic Income is a frame work for exploring alternatives in and beyond capitalism. The problem of most socialisms is that they focus on the state instead of on society. Right, Armine? Right, Chandra?

There are three kinds of power, three ways of making people do things. You bribe them; that is Capitalism. You force people; that is Statism. You persuade people; that is Socialism.

All systems are hybrids. It is a capitalist system when the capitalist element is dominant. But Erik gets fairly complicated from here. I won't relate it all.

There are seven power configurations. He showed where BI fits into them all. But what he favors is a "cooperative market economy". This is one on which social power regulates state power.

However, I found a "participatory socialist economy" to be more interesting. This is where social power regulates state power. This is because I am also very interested in participatory democracy.

But what about putting all these together? He has power point diagrams of them all, and the final slide does combine them and it is quite a mess of arrows around this triangle of social, state, and economic power.

Erik also gets into the question of maximum and minimum incomes. He notes what I have heard before from several sources; that there is a consistent ratio in cooperative societies or organizations about the ratio of the highest and lowest paid. It is six to one.

Erik also discussed the history of cooperative ideas. Proudhon, the founder of anarchism, thought that worker's cooperatives would out-compete private businesses because they would attract the best workers. Marx ridiculed the idea at first, then came partway around.

The empirical evidence favors Marx. Coops rarely expand beyond their original founders. But why? He does not go into this in depth, but notes that it is hard to start a coop, and a BI would make it easier. It would give people some start up capital.

Erik also has an interesting response to the idea that a Basic Income would "disincentivize" the rich. This is the "why should I work hard to pay taxes for lazy people to blah, blah". He says that disincentives to the rich are a good thing; they should all get out of the way. We need to go from capital accumulation to social accumulation.