RE: More Green Party

From: Damien Broderick (
Date: Thu Jun 29 2000 - 22:50:25 MDT

At 02:06 PM 29/06/00 -0700, James Rogers wrote, lucidly as usual:

>Among my objections to government welfare is the enormous amount of waste
>involved. I decided to look up the relevant US figures for 1990 (a year
>with readily available stats), and the figures are disturbing. The amount
>spent per recipient was almost *twice* the income poverty line. We could
>save 100 billion dollars just by cutting every recipient a check equal
>to the official poverty line.
>I think far more people would be helped if we just abolished the thing and
>gave people the means to help each other.

Quite. This is one of the main motives for supporting a guaranteed income
floor, or negative income tax, or some such measure (in so far as one
continues to live in a community with taxing and redistributive powers).
According to analyses I've read, this is cheaper than more bureaucratic
interventions, less offensive to the recipient, more likely to lead to
small local efforts. In the short term, anyway, before pre-Singularity
earthquakes screw *everything* up. (Robin Hanson has indicated that he
disagrees with this, which does give me pause.)

>Another statistic that should bother the more-or-less pro-welfare crowd:
>Over the long-term in the US, as the amount spent per person on welfare has
>increased, the number of eligible recipients also has increased.

Your implication is that leeches breed leeches, or encourage would-be
leeches. But a confounding factor you've apparently ignored, of course, is
that the entire economic base has skewed enormously in that period.

The glory of late-industrial/postindustrial civilisation is that so much of
the horrendous toil of the world's work has been replaced by machines; the
corollary is the devastating loss of work and earned income by those
displaced and untrainable for the new jobs. If some leeches crawl into that
category, it's still cheaper to let them scam the system minimally than to
police and hound them out (or so I gather).

Better still, of course, will be the (re)invention of local community and
fresh, non-destructive, satisfying ways for people without wage-earning
toil to spend their days. That's something I'd like to see more extropians
and transhumanists thinking hard about. But maybe real solutions will have
to bubble up emergently from within those moieties.

Damien Broderick

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