On the previous post, B writes
"I agree with everything except the idea that there is necessarily a fixed limit to the amount of unproductive people that a society can support. It is entirely conceivable that technology could evolve to a high enough level that a small amount of productive people could support the rest. The main issue is how to keep stupid and unproductive people (whose unproductivity is mostly contextual and caused by tech-in a tropical climate, given a digging stick and a 5 gallon bucket, they could produce enough manioc to support themselves and a dozen kids) from degenerating morally and making their life and the lives of those around them a living hell."
This is one possibility for the future---fictionalized in 'The Diamond Age'. What has happened in such a scenario is that a very large fraction of the population has become useless from a productivity standpoint. A few people have meaningful jobs but most forms of scarcity, excepting, of course status and positional goods, have been repealed.
In our own time in the US, we've seen a steady rise in the fraction of the public that are unemployable or 'zero marginal product' workers. Indeed the minimum IQ coupled with average work ethic needed to be worth a 'living wage' has steadily risen. As it continues to rise this will inexorably raise tensions between the productive and the combination of the unproductive and those simply not allowed to produce due to regulations, minimum wage, and the like.
My suggestion regarding how to deal with this problem is the following (my recommendation with how to deal with an economic contraction due to a future where cheap energy has gone the way of the dodo is similar):
Repeal pretty much all social safety net programs---medicare, SS, welfare, unemployment, et al.
Eliminate pretty much all minimum wage and similar labor regulations
Guarantee all citizens over the age of majority a citizen's dividend, probably on the order of $10k/year present purchasing power. You can fund this dividend however you like, but I recommend a simple consumption tax or something equally transparent. Treat it exactly like monthly dividends from a corporation like the Realty Income Corporation (O on the NYSE), except it wouldn't be transferable. No means testing would be used and the team to do the distribution could probably be a dozen people or less. Ideally, this would represent 2/3 or so of the governmental budget and the tight connection between taxes paid and dividend received would tend to constrain other budget elements.
Do that and most of the population can find SOMETHING useful to do, and the reasoning behind minimum wages and the like becomes moot. Status striving will insure that most people don't just take the dividend and like a low lifestyle, although such would be an option and necessarily so. The fact that people would be free to work for very low wages---as a supplement to their dividend, much in the way that some retirees work as Walmart greeters and the like to make a few extra shekels---would tend to drive unemployment rates very low. People would also have a strong incentive to maintain the borders and be conservative on legal immigration, since it would directly and tangibly impact their own dividends.
Foundationalism: in praise of vagueness
2 days ago