It is becoming stylish to talk about “living wages” or “guaranteed basic incomes.” It is thought by some that giving every living person a guaranteed income might free them from worrying about money, and allow them to pursue a rich and fulfilling life. Artists, for example, would no longer worry about creating art for markets, allowing them to produce more creative artworks. The same idea might apply to musicians, writers, inventors, and others who work in the creative arts, sciences, and technologies. Imagine the outpouring of creativity and invention!
Opposed to this idea, are those who point to spoiled and entitled children of the wealthy and powerful — such as Paris Hilton. People who never had to work or to learn marketable skills or talents in order to make a living, have often become little more than drug-addled wastrels who present a danger to themselves and frequently to society at large.
It is possible that the advanced nations are moving into a new era of abundance, where it might be possible to actually provide a guaranteed living stipend to legal residents (“>more). New developments such as molecular assemblers, advanced 3D printers (including bioprinters), DIY amateur genome editing and biohacking, automated home gardens for fresh food, and the automated home creation of drugs and a wide range of other chemicals etc. might allow most households in more modern and affluent nations to provide for their own basic needs.
Relatively small, home-based machines could make one’s clothes, furnishings, transportation vehicles, housing, and other necessities — including other machines, and robots for hands-on assistance. Machines would repair the machines, and the main need for cash would be to pay for raw materials to feed the machines.
But that particular scenario of “abundance” is still a form of pampering entitled citizens, although with a more decentralised form of meeting basic needs than is utilised by the guaranteed basic income approach. Most residents are still likely to end up as non-productive, entitled wastrels.
Given machines that provide basic needs, most humans might opt to live on a basic diet of drugs, alcohol, and a range of decadent entertainments — much like the children of today’s wealthy. Others would try to create more good things in the world. Human nature and human biodiversity guarantees that different groups will diverge from each other, even under conditions of initial abundance and “equality” of assets.
The “Machine Buck” Stops Somewhere
But even if your machines are making and repairing other of your machines, eventually you will come to a broken machine that can’t be made or repaired by the other machines in your possession. Who do you call?
Why not call your own competent little self? For most people, the difference between a competent child, adolescent, or adult, and a perpetual adolescent stuck in lifelong incompetence, is the way the child was raised and educated.
Most modern children are loaned out to daycare, preschools, educational systems from K-12 to university, and so on. In such settings, young minds are conditioned to think much the same way as other immature minds — meaning other students, but also most teachers and professors. This conditioning takes place at school, at home in front of the television, and under the auspices of other cultural institutions and purveyors of entertainment.
In other words, for most children there is no opportunity for them to develop personal competence or individual skills necessary to deal with unexpected breakdowns and other unfortunate occurrences or threats. After a while, an entire society becomes “a victim society” or “a diseased society,” where everyone sees himself as either victimised or as having a serious diagnosis or disability of some kind.
All of this can happen even in the presence of “abundance” — or even because of abundance in the absence of purpose, motivation, grit, or early childhood training in skills and competencies.
Competent persons can run an isolated homestead with only a rare need to call for outside help to build, repair, or heal. In societies of competent people, one would call a plumber, electrician, or other repairman only if one were too busy to attend to the problem himself. And one would not have to look far to find a competent and trustworthy person to do the job. That will be particularly true as assemblers, 3D printers, repair and helper robots, and other enabling home machines become more ubiquitous.
Widespread affluence and abundance are quite possible future scenarios for the more modern nations of the world — as long as they do not unwittingly turn themselves into third world nations via suicidal immigration policies. But if the human substrate of such affluent societies lacks the character, grit, competence, and purpose needed to create future generations equally able to move into an open and expansive future, long-term prospects for such societies would be poor.
Self-confidence and genuine self-esteem come from personal competence, and the knowledge that one is capable of meeting the challenges one is likely to confront. Most pampered and entitled wastrels do not have that competence, and too often fall into destructive habits and lifestyles.
This is so whether under a monarchy, a democracy, under socialism, under theocracy, under ethnic separatism, etc. etc. Human nature requires early guidance to achieve lifelong competence, and humans who are pampered throughout their childhood and adolescence — into early adulthood — are unlikely to make the cut.
Governments and institutions are important, by all means. Dysgenic idiocracies of the type emerging in Europe and the Anglosphere make it more difficult to instill competence in offspring and other youngsters in the community and society.
But dysgenic idiocracies tend to emerge precisely in societies that have neglected the careful upbringing of their children. Societies that loan their children out to institutions for most of their formative years, are likely to emerge into a dysgenic idiocracy sooner or later.
Such society-level incompetence is what pushes many people to become survivalists or preppers, living on well-stocked compounds waiting for the world the collapse around them. But even these well intentioned people fail to understand what it takes to make a civilisation — no matter how large or small — sustainable over many generations. They are in fact thinking almost exclusively about themselves, and possibly their children, but not beyond.
Economics as we currently know it, must obey laws of supply and demand. That is why arriving at the appropriate “minimum” or “living” wage is fraught with so much risk for the jurisdictions who attempt such things.
Too many people who write and speak about political economics or utopian economics have never done a day’s productive work in their lives, and do not understand what is required for a sustainable modern technological society to function. This is even true within the “Dark Enlightenment” community.
Economists of abundance such as Julian Simon or other optimists listed on the sidebar, believed in abundance through hard work and constant innovation. Any other theories of widespread abundance will suffer a credibility deficit. That is equally true for utopian socialists as it is for utopian futurists who seem to be relying on a techno-singularity solution.
Hope for the best. Prepare for the worst. It is never too late for a Dangerous Childhood.