Buck a Beer Trumps Compassion for the Poor and Disabled

By Dr David Laing Dawson

“Buck-a-beer” as proposed by Ontario’s new Premier, Doug Ford (and brother of the infamous Rob) is simply a very silly adolescent political promise. With all that is going on in this world our premier comes up with “buck-a-beer”. I am embarrassed.

But now his government is discontinuing the basic income pilot project.

I have always been astonished by the gap between what we know of human behaviour and how our governments function. Especially, for example, how so many leaders think “punishment” in the form of sanctions will change the behaviour of dictators.

But back to the issue of basic income for all.

There are far too many variables to know how each and every recipient of a basic income will behave. For some, will a basic income simply make their lives better? Will their health improve? Will they develop more or less incentive to work? Will the cost to taxpayers be, ultimately, less or more? Will the increase in basic income be offset by a decrease in health care, social service and correctional system costs?

For those who could in theory work or be retrained for work would it be an incentive or a disincentive? And ultimately, for our economy, would that matter?

Surely in our society in 2018 it is simply cruel to force people to live on $700 a month. So the humanitarian argument is easily won. It is the other arguments that go on and on. Incentive, disincentive? Can we afford such a program? Will the taxpayers tolerate such a program costing them money? Can we prove to the taxpayers that it will cost them little?

I know the fear our inner Ayn Rand holds is that some of the recipients will take advantage of “the system”. They will pocket the money, buy booze and drugs with it, and continue in their sloth-like ways.

But we are, I like to think, a rich, modern, caring and scientific community. So, let us study the problem. Let us choose 4000 people to receive basic income and compare this to a matched sample of 4000 people who receive the usual services. Let’s give this a few years and then let’s study the results down to the penny. At all levels. Health care costs, trips to emergency, social service costs, police costs, alcohol and drug addiction, part-time and full time employment, effect on next generation, income tax paid, volunteer hours…

A difficult component to track I am sure (but maybe economists can) would be the effect on the broader economy. Every extra dollar a basic income recipient receives will be spent (note: in Canada, and not on a luxury yacht made in New England). The money will go round and round, and at each stop it will increase the income of others and shed a small percentage to taxes.

And I gather that is what we were doing, though I have little idea about the details of this pilot project and the extent of the evaluation. To stop it now is Trumpian, allowing ego, prejudice, ideology, and politics to Trump truth and compassion.

More to come

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4 thoughts on “Buck a Beer Trumps Compassion for the Poor and Disabled

  1. Ditto. Do as you would be done by . Clearly Ford and Trump waft their power unwisely. Noteworthy yesterday was milano’s parents getting citizenship via the route that TRuMPO decries What a horrid character .

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  2. Very thoughtful post.

    If I may, I would like to submit the following:

    Finland also recently discontinued its Universal Basic Income trial after two years. And, Premier Ford’s reactionary neo-conservative agenda along his own delusional belief (like President Trump) that he and his brother were somehow victimized by the entire world as well as his bias as a white man who has grown up in wealth, reflects an important step backwards in Canadian society. Premier Ford’s actions or intentions are hardly new, we had a decade of Prime Minister Harper, but at this point in human history, the normalization of cruelty, intolerance, and bigotry are once again openly voiced by politicians, religious leaders, business entities, the media, and the general populace. The advent of phones, CCTV, and social media have simply shone a 24/7 light on humanity, there is no change in our race, we have always and will always struggle with these ingrained realities.

    Returning to the idea of a guaranteed basic income, it cannot be a singular policy. There are no easy answers for humanity in Canada or globally. We must think critically, and then accept the fact that what we do today or tomorrow or centuries from now will always have failures and we must adapt continuously to the changing and evolving human condition and environment.

    I believe that every human being has a RIGHT to the following:
    1. Safe, clean, comfortable, and well-maintained permanent shelter
    2. Sustenance and healthcare
    3. Secular science and fact-based education from Kindergarten to University
    4. A purposeful life contributing to society which is matched to their abilities and disabilities

    And, we as a race must accept the fact that everyone is NOT in fact equal. That obese people (like me) are obese, that unsophisticated people are unsophisticated, that unintelligent people are unintelligent, that those who are disabled by emotional, psychiatric, or physical issues will need accommodation, that cruelty, bigotry, and hate will always be part of humanity, and that each of us have evolved to be selfish but we must be trained to think and act collectively.

    Egalitarianism may never be achieved but that does not mean that it is not an essential goal for humanity that is both morally as well as ethically superior to that of capitalism, democracy, socialism, communism, social Darwinism and Ayn Rand philosophies, religion, or the self-obsessed narcissism, and morally ambiguous current state of our society.

    If we are to build an egalitarian society we must start now and accept that the fruits of that change will not be realized for generations or perhaps even centuries. It will take that long to build a proper base of humans that will have the education, intelligence, morality, ethics, and collectivity to dedicate themselves to the ideals that religion, politics, and social movements have espoused since the dawn of man.

    Structurally, we must establish, a link between the individual and all “his fellow men”:
    1. Education from primary school to university is not just a right but a responsibility. Humanity cannot advance if purposeful ignorance, lack of intelligence or lack of education is seen as a badge of honor (i.e. Make America Great Again, Antifa, Black Lives Matter, Alt-Right, and all their related incarnations)
    2. Medical care from cradle to grave must be a right. An individual or family living with illness or dying unnecessarily simply due to a lack of economic or geographic access to 21st century healthcare, medication, or support, will logically never be able to put aside their own concerns for that of the reshaping of our kind.
    3. Every profession, entity, and individual must face the same form of sanctions that are placed on them by China, if a business person, government, engineer, lawyer or doctor, face very serious sanctions for not fulfilling their professional duties, then there will be immediately a much higher level of compliance than at present. IN 2018, an individual who uses a bat in a robbery faces 10 years in Canada and life imprisonment in the US, however, a lawyer who defrauds his client, a doctor guilty of malpractice or a CEO who steals billions leaving tens of thousands penniless, face less than 3-18 months in a “white collar” facility.
    4. Taxation needs to be recast in our collective mindset not as an unjust burden imposed by elites but rather our investment in the betterment of our own individual lives We must step away from the liberal economically unsustainable attitudes of taxation or the conservative “Reaganesque” styled beliefs. For generations after WWII the Americans have broadcast to the world a contrived fiction about the self-made cowboy society, while the reality is that America was never built by the hard work of their founders. Instead, Great Britain provided the infrastructure and investment, the First Nations lands and people were subjected to a holocaust and dispossessed, slaves, women, and the marginalized were used for labor, sex, and cannon fodder to build the “greatest democracy in the world”. And most importantly, nothing in the US or indeed much of the modern world from Mecca to Cape Town or Beijing to Moscow or Ottawa to Buenos Aires has changed in the past two centuries. The powerful still allow for the marginalization, enslavement, and devaluation of more than half of the population. The myth that the poor, foreign, or disenfranchised are just born lazy and dishonest has allowed everyone from the Greeks to the Ottomans and from Roosevelt to Marie Le Pen, to build a society of purposefully self-deluded Nietzsche “supermen”.

    I believe mankind is capable of great good. However, present times have taught us once again that an individual’s or nation’s ethics are easily overtaken by shadows of self-interest which allow one to create rhetoric, politics, religion, academic analyses, or other beliefs that can be used to shield self-interest by establishing a collective hate of “the other”.

    We are better than this, and if we are not, than the future of humanity seems bleak.

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