Charlie Stross on A Nation of Slaves

Charlie Stross ponders the nature of “bullshit jobs” and “wage slavery”, and has some harsh words for George Osborne:

Meanwhile, jobs: the likes of George Osborne (mentioned above), the UK’s Chancellor of the Exchequer, don’t have “jobs”. Osborne is a multi-millionaire trust-fund kid, a graduate of Eton College and Oxford, heir to a Baronetcy, and in his entire career spent a few working weeks in McJobs between university and full-time employment in politics. I’m fairly sure that George Osborne has no fucking idea what “work” means to most people, because it’s glaringly obvious that he’s got exactly where he wanted to be: right to the top of his nation’s political culture, at an early enough age to make the most of it. Like me, he has the privilege of a job that passes test (a): it’s good for him. Unlike me … well, when SF writers get it wrong, they don’t cause human misery and suffering on an epic scale; people don’t starve to death or kill themselves if I emit a novel that isn’t very good.

Stross’ solution is something an increasing number of people from right across the political spectrum have been advocating of late, but has yet to appear on mainstream politics’ agenda: a basic citizen’s income.

The idea is that instead of running a complicated and often demeaning welfare system, everyone gets a basic income, sufficient for a no-frills lifestyle. Any income you earn over and above that will be taxed, but what’s left after tax is yours to keep.

Yes I’m sure there will be plenty of misanthropic disciples of Ayn Rand or John Calvin who will dismiss the whole idea as unworkable – give the masses “free money” and they’ll do nothing but watch TV, drink beer, and breed.  But the present system isn’t working too well either in that regard, is it? One thing a basic citizens’ income would do will be to kill the so-called “Poverty Trap” where people are financially better-off recieving benefits than working in low-paid employment. There is at least a chance that it will end the waste of human potential caused by our present system.

There are bound to be all sorts of unintended consequences, and it’s likely to have all sorts of knock-on effects on pay rates if people are no longer dependent on work for survival. One likely effect may be to make it much harder to recruit people to work for low pay in unskilled but unpleasant or soul-destroying jobs.

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