Most people view the economy we live in as a viable mechanism to sustain our society for the long term. Let me begin by alerting those that this is not the case. Economics as we know it today has no lifespan beyond that of our fossil fuel reserves.
An economy that doesn’t want to serve all
What will remain true is that people can share, they can trade or they keep stuff to themselves. This is what we usually see as our economy, the network of people and institutions sharing, trading and keeping stuff to themselves. Today, in that system, there is a slow decline in the willingness to share because of several factors. First the main productive resource, fossil fuels, is increasingly hard to come by (even if it is cheap, it is about who owns them first and about not being dependent on oil from others, so the price is low because of reluctance to buy). Second the manner of production requires less and less human intervention, and because humans have a higher fossil fuel cost to maintain than machines, machines are pusing humans out of a job.
At the bottom of our economy you see the jobless with no income. They should be considered economic anomalies as will be explained below. They are painted as useless eaters because of the greed for said fossil resources amongst those that run companies and are able to drive politics. Some now say that the ones without income should have a basic income so they can live decent lives, a bit like social security in Europe and the US, but permanent and without the shaming. This seems a good idea but it runs in a fundamental political problem : You are suggesting using fossil fuels to sustain economically ‘unproductive’ lives. That fuel could also be used to produce goods for higher earing people, thus the lobbying companies lose income due to such programs. They object! This is in fact a repeat of humans competing with fossil fuel against machines, but this time without them actually trying to do the work of the machine.
Sustaining ourselves requires energy, not jobs necessarily
We think that the above is the correct context to view autonation, joblessness and basic income. You have to look at it in terms of energy/resource efficiency and recognize that people want to attain more neatness, cleanliness and luxury in their lives and sharing resouces with people that don’t supply anything one needs to attain luxury is not desired, in fact it is fought strongly.
This perspective also provides the answer : Energy has to be more abundant and cheap, then people can receive credit to buy stuff made with the abundant and cheap energy and nobody complains, like nobody did when oil was super abundant and we had a luxurious social system in place (in Holland for example). Where do we get cheap and abundand energy? From renewables!
Renewables can sustain much more lives and jobs than can fossil fuels
Renewables are already creating jobs, but jobs are not what we need, we need the resources to take care of the people that make up our society, whether they have jobs or not. Renewables allow us to do that much easier than fossil fuels, because the price of renewables is highly predictable. Renewables can be added far beyond the capacity needed to sustain our present population, in fact, we can sustain many hundreds of times more people with the renewable potential. That is times, a factor compared to oil. We can have more than 2000 Americas with solar energy, exactly as bustling as the one we have today.
The current news and opinion items about robots taking more jobs and people becoming powerless and useless eaters is nothing more than fossil fuel propaganda. If we stay with fossil fuels, then it becomes hard to sustain people that do not help those that have the most power in the system, namely those that turn over most fossil fuels. If we abandon any ambition to use fossil fuels but instead focus on using renewables (as this is the more permanent solution to the energy need) we suddenly see that automation is not a problem, that sustaining people that do not help produce things we need is not a burden on anyone except the machines.
Can the poor drive the needed transition?
To transition one needs to have some ability to change things, and the people that are out of work and don’t earn and are made to feel ashamed that someone replaced them with machines, or outcompeted them with help of big financiers, is incapable of initiating the growth in renewables. That growth is necessary to make the cheap and reliable energy available that can sustain a basic income. So slows down the transition.
Can the transition succeed in a globalized economy?
Another factor that slows down the transition to renewables is their local nature. So for instance a solar powerplant of reasonable size only serves a small town. It is unlikely that food is being produced in that town because that can come from all over the planet due to economic forces that always try to increase interdependence and lengthen supply chains. So how is that village going to use the renewables to sustain a basic income locally? The way it should work is that the energy generated locally is allocated through basic income credit to the producers of food and other stuff people need. But if those producers are far way this is not possible.
Can the current economy transition gradually in the renewable one?
We are in an economy in which the dominant (fossil fuel inspired) political view is that the poor are a burden. Simply demanding to make fossil fuel available for the poor is no solution, because it increases fuel scarcity it only strengthens the lobby against it. Also because the current economy still maximizes the use of fossil fuels (because this maximizes cashflows) any intitiative within it can only remain marginal and temporary. The bigger the need for remaining fuels the easier to rally political support against alternatives. This leads us to conclude we can not use the economic system to transition to a renewable based economy. They are fundamentally at odds with each other.
The basic income economy
There are no doubt countries that can introduce basic income under a fossil fuel driven system, but they won’t last long as they will be theathered to the fossil fuel markets and fought by climate restrictions. To introduce a renewables based basic income some principles of economic thought can’t be sustained (without negative consequences for anyone by the way). New rules are :
- Generate energy resources locally
- Produce goods and services locally
- Enable people to allocate (energy) resources proportial to how much can actually be allocated.
To make this work the normal currency system can’t be used. This is because this would require banks or people to make credit available from the fossil fuel economy. The renewable or as we call it Roboeconomy has to use a different currency with one differentiating quality : It is created with the producers of fundamental resources like energy (if the energy source is privatly owned), or in the hands of people as basic income if the energy source is communally owned.
If you create money with those that need it and let it disappear when it is ultimately spend on energy you create a system where there is always exactly the right amount of money (as it is related to actual local renewable energy capacity). You eliminate banks as first owners of the money who can determine to whom they lend it, something that gives them a huge amount of power over what happens in society. We think it should be a task of the tax office to create this type of money, call it the Joule. This has the added advantage that tax can be deducted right away, so nobody has to pay them later. Like governments have done for ages, the tax office simply creates money for itself that can be used to buy renewable energy.
Ultimatly, if enough renewable resources are build this money created by local tax administrators can become a basic income that nobody has to sacrifice for, one that is born out of the ability of the local area to support people through its solar and wind potential (and geothermal etc.).