Sunday, March 9, 2008

Elect Eve Hubbard in 2008

To be honest, I haven't paid that much attention to the election race this year. The good news is that there's a candidate I really like. The bad news is that she's a fictional character: Eve Hubbard from the late Robert Anton Wilson's Schrodinger's Cat Trilogy (ISBN 0-440-50070-2). A full review of this book will have to wait, because I want to talk about Ms. Hubbard's economic platform.

The cornerstone of her platform is raising productivity and combating the negative effects of unemployment. To accomplish this, she would offer a prize of $50,000 annual income (let's say $100,000 in today's money; the book was written in 1979) for any worker who invents a machine capable of replacing him or her. Any other workers replaced by the machine would be granted incomes of $30,000 annually (probably $60,000 in today's money). Any income awarded by this policy would continue for life, even if the worker got another job. An especially motivated worker could invent themselves out of multiple jobs.

I normally would be against anything that even remotely smells like the Free Lunch Party, but this is different, so hear me out. The productivity gain is obvious, but consider this: any job capable of being done by a machine is by that very fact guaranteed to be only slightly more interesting than watching grass grow. The worst case scenario is given in the book:

The majority of the unemployed, living comfortably on $30,000 a year, admittedly spent most of their time drinking booze, smoking weed, engaging in primate sexual acrobatics, and watching wall TV.

When moralists complained that this was a subhuman existence, Hubbard answered, "And what kind of existence did they have doing idiot jobs that machines do better?"

Again, that's the worst case. But you wouldn't do that, would you? If you were of that type of person, you certainly wouldn't be reading a blog devoted to recovering from materialism; you would be one of the materialists who don't want to recover. Instead, you might go back to college and get a degree in a subject you found interesting, as opposed to one that would help you get a job. You might become an artist or musician (I know there's a surplus, but you can never have enough good ones). You might become an amateur scientist and fill one of our most pressing needs: scientific research that is unencumbered by the requirement of satisfying whoever is supplying the research grant.

So where would we get the money to pay for this? First, any beneficiary of this program won't need Social Security later. Second, we could reserve our defense spending for securing our borders. Any other country who needed our services would have to pay.

Of course, it would be a cold day in hell before this happened. I'm sorry I even mentioned it. I'll go back to doing book reviews now.

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