Miscellaneous material to start your week.
- Rebecca Vallas, Melissa Boteach and Shawn Fremstad write
about the need for a new social contract. And Drew Nelles takes a look
at the role of a guaranteed basic income in ensuring a fair standard of living for everybody:
Although implementing basic income would undoubtedly require a reorganization of social assistance provision, with some programs being eliminated or absorbed, it cannot be used as an excuse to dismantle what’s left of the welfare state. Instead, it’s a hopeful idea because it could act as just the opposite: the beginning of a turn away from the anti-tax, anti-social-spending policymaking that has dominated the West since the 1980s.
Indeed, I suspect that the idea of basic income has caught on for the same reason that Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century
became a bestseller earlier this year. It neatly distills the era we live in: it reflects our burgeoning concern about class disparity, and it represents a symbolic reversal of the ideology that got us here. The post-recession, post-Occupy age has seen people—if not politicians—begin to reckon seriously with the threats of income inequality and wealth concentration. Basic income is an appealing solution in its simplicity and elegance: why not just give people money? Even if it remains, for now, more of a thought experiment than a concrete policy proposal, basic income is valuable for that reason. It forces us to ask what we owe each other.- Meanwhile, Natasha Singer discusses
how the "sharing economy" is serving as the latest cover for increasingly precarious work:
Technology has made online marketplaces possible, creating new opportunities to monetize labor and goods. But some economists say the short-term gig services may erode work compensation in the long term. Mr. Baker, of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, argues that online labor marketplaces are able to drive down costs for consumers by having it both ways: behaving as de facto employers without shouldering the actual cost burdens or liabilities of employing workers.
“In a weak labor market, there’s not much of a floor on what employers, or quasi employers, can get away with,” Mr. Baker contends. “It could be a big downward pressure on wages. It’s a bad story.”
Labor activists say gig enterprises may also end up disempowering workers, degrading their access to fair employment conditions.
“These are not jobs, jobs that have any future, jobs that have the possibility of upgrading; this is contingent, arbitrary work,” says Stanley Aronowitz, director of the Center for the Study of Culture, Technology and Work
at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. “It might as well be called wage slavery in which all the cards are held, mediated by technology, by the employer, whether it is the intermediary company or the customer.”- On the other end of the spectrum, Joseph Heath notes
that some within the 1% are now stashing their children as well as their tax-sheltered money in the Cayman Islands to avoid the mere general public. And Darwin offers
yet another thorough debunking of the Fraser Institute's spin on taxes.
- Alison examines
Canada's international arms sales, including weapons exports to both sides of conflicts in the Middle East.
- Finally, Robyn Benson previews
this weekend's People' Social Forum. And for those who haven't yet seen Canadians for an Inclusive Canada
- a group which is seeking to coordinate action against the Cons' anti-family immigration policy - it's well worth a look (and a signature).