Good evening. I'd like to talk to you about the most important justification for universal basic income, one that doesn't get discussed enough, which is sad, because it is THE argument for UBI.

So, gather round the camp fire!


We're taking a look at the "The Enslavement Of Labor" chapter for the book PROGRESS AND POVERY, the seminal work by an American named Henry George.

If you wanted a brief introduction into "Georgism", this is it, and, #YangGang, this can really help you sharpen your arguments.
One of my goals in this thread is to provide both the UBI advocate and the yet-to-be converted a better answer for the "why" of universal basic income, and a justification for universalist policies in general.

George expanded on the ideas of Thomas Paine.

Both men saw the Native American, wandering the land and surviving totally on his own efforts, as in a state between that of white landowners and that of white wage laborers.
But Henry George was trying to solve a deeper mystery.

He was trying to determine why material and technological progress was accompanied by a growth in poverty.

You could call this "wealth inequality."

And he proposed a remedy.
George did not propose a universal basic income, but he proposed something like UBI that was appropriate for his time in the late 19th Century when most people still worked - and knew how to work - the land for their own survival.
George proposed a land-value tax, and, while I will mention that here and there throughout this thread, that isn't really the point of the thread.

The point is to talk about how "the enslavement of labor" through land monopolization is the justification for UBI, as Paine argued.
This brief chapter is full of profoundly useful insights.

Our current "wage slavery" - yes, you can use that term, as I hope that you learn from reading this - is merely a different and less directly violent form of slavery.

Exclusively owning land makes one a slave master.
This is why I so often say to anti-UBI people, "you didn't create the Earth."

No person created the Earth. We must always point this out.

Therefore, nobody has any authority to come between another person and needed, life-sustaining resources.

That is #geoism.

To survive, you need food and shelter, but you do not have legal access to the land from which these materials come.

A few persons own all of what only nature - or God - created.

To exclusively own land is to own the people who need the land.

As much as I want you to read what George says, I want you to notice what he is NOT saying.

There's no mention of "capitalists."

George saw the labor-vs-capital conflict as hopelessly misguided. He believed that labor and capital should be naturally allied against landowners.
Are you beginning to see why other arguments for universal basic income are paralytically weak?

Think about what you are trying to accomplish - and why you're trying to accomplish it - by enacting UBI.
Understand, please, the insight here.

At one time, if you could not live freely because others already controlled the land where you were, you could just go to where there were no or fewer people.

George was writing at a time when this option was quickly disappearing.

Today, I am a wage slave. (Again, yes, you can use that term.)

However, at the time that George was writing this, most of my ancestors were not wage slaves. Most of them owned land from which they subsisted.

Please read this little thread.
It's very simple.

Universal basic income is merely the modern equivalent of the "free land" that so many of our (white) ancestors were legally allowed to own, because modern technology means that it no longer makes sense to live and PRODUCE that way.
"Owning the land on which - and from which - people must live is virtually the same as owning the people themselves." - Henry George

This is why universal basic income is a matter of JUSTICE.

It's NOT a "gift" or a "handout."

Our current slavery "originates in the appropriate of land."

Want food and shelter? You're not allowed to do that yourself. You have to "get a job."

"Ownership of land gives absolute power over people who cannot live except by using it."

There are a few insights here.

The first is that "ownership" and "property" is *supposed to* refer to things that one has created, produced, or earned.

But no human being created or produced land; therefore, no human being can earn land.

The second is right in the middle of the paragraph.

Success and freedom - and access to life's necessities - does not go to who actually works more, produces more, or behaves better.

Success goes to who is best at muscling others out of what NATURE created.

What is described here, then, is the Malthusian "survival of the fittest" argument.

You hear this as a common defense of the status quo, of poverty.

But "survival of the fittest" doesn't justify taking for everyone else what no person created in the first place.

"For it is to be had, not by production, but by appropriation."

There are, today, scads of professional workers - like some attorneys and property managers - whose job is not to create or produce things but MAINTAIN control of nature for its exclusive owners.

This is rent.

Today, the most privileged people in our society get paid - and live by - not by producing things but by owning things and charging access to them.

This is why we say . . . . #TaxTheRent.
Henry George understood that the "vices" that were associated with poor people were effects, not causes, of their poverty.
Clearly, you are better off than a chattel slave, because, for one thing, a chattel slave couldn't leave the property - the "freedom to move about" mentioned here - and take a weekend road trip out of state, or leave one job in one area for another job in another area.

but . . .
how free are you when you must submit to the demands of those who stand between you and the material that you need to survive? especially in times when they don't?

George was suggesting that traditional legal rights were not enough to qualify us as truly being free.
"except enough to support a bare existence."

This was written in the 1870s.

Do you see why a narrow focus on raising the minimum wage to a "living wage" but not being for EMANCIPATION of the wage earner in the 21st Century is so repugnant?

There is PLENTY to discuss with this excerpt.

First, note that owners of chattel slaves had a far greater incentive to ensure that their slaves' basic needs were met than modern employers, who can more easily shed unwanted laborers and find new ones, have.

Think about that.
More deeply . . .

"It does not seem to be one human being who drives another," and "for this, no one in particular is responsible."

Recognize the profound meaning there? how it explains our present powerlessness and self-blame? because we have no clearly-defined oppressor?
It's the invisible nature of the way that the oppressive hands of the system works that leads so many of us to accept the idea that, if we would like food and shelter, "well, then, go get a job!"

as if it were like going to kill a deer and cut down trees to make homes.
We accept this as the natural state, that we should be out "in the streets" if we fail to comply, even though there is nothing at all natural or just about it, as the owners of the land - and, again, land is created by no person - are under no such obligations.

"It does not seem to be one human being who drives another," and, "for this, no one in particular is responsible."

So, if you're homeless and starve and die, because you aren't even allowed to go pick nuts and berries somewhere, well, it's just your fault then, right?
There is plenty to unpack here.

It's important to remember what the real reason for the Republican Party's opposition to the *spread of* chattel slavery to the West was: the western territories were an outlet for white people to escape the wage slavery spreading in the North.
Remember that a sizeable minority of the Union Army was comprised of dirt-poor immigrants, mainly from Ireland and Germany, living in the growing squalor of Northern cities.

They had no land of their own.

Have you noticed that I often refer to us today as "landless people"?
The original Republican Party opposed the *spread of* slavery to the west because it would mean that much of the best land in the plains would be monopolized by plantations, crowding out the small, individual, land-owning subsistence white farmer.
and, what that meant was, the sons and daughters of land-owning subsistence farmers in Ohio and Pennsylvania would have been more likely to become downwardly mobile and end up in wage slavery, since not every offspring could stay free on the family farm.

While the abolitionist movement did exist at the time, it didn't comprise a majority even of Republicans.

The Republican Party's opposition to the *spread of* chattel slavery was more motivated by white people's desire to avoid having *their* children fall into wage slavery.
I just shake my head when people say "I don't understand why there are monuments to the losers of a war" in regard to #ConfederateStatues.

Henry George is telling you why those are actually victory monuments.

Only the form of slavery changed in the South.

You might have heard life for black people in the postbellum South described, variably, as almost as bad as [chattel] slavery, as bad as [chattel] slavery, or, even, worse than [chattel] slavery.

There were many reasons for that, but one is manifestly obvious.

I strongly suspect that one reason that the Progressive Movement keeps losing elections and failing to unify the polity is that it seems to treat modern employers, who are often landless people themselves, as if they were plantation owners.

The portions of the modern Progressive Movement that are opposed to UBI (or LVT) seem to care more about better treatment for slaves than about emancipation of slaves.

Is it any wonder they continue to alienate even the dispossessed self-starting people?
"intermediate gradations"

Think about what that means TODAY, more than a century after George wrote it.

One thing that it means is "employers," many of whom are, like their laborers, struggling to survive due to their own dispossession from land.

Today, as soon as a young, certified electrician wants to hire a helper so that he can contribute to society and feed himself and his family, much of the modern Progressive Movement seems to treat him as though he has the same power that a plantation owner has.

Their concern is over the power dynamics in employment relationships, and, while that is a VERY LAUDABLE concern, they seem to ignore all of the other power structures that cause that one employment relationship to have such power dynamics in the first place

and . . . .
George addresses this when he talks abt "modifying influences," the "intermediate gradations" between landed and landless, and how relations are "indirect and general."

The modern Progressive Movement would do well to understand that one can be both an employer and a wage slave.
In other words, people tend to see their employers like slave masters, due to their proximity, but that is myopic, because, in most cases, the employers are just slaves of a higher position.

George understood that, and that is what he is explaining here.
We *feel* freer today because we actually are somewhat freer, as we have choice in the "intermediate gradations" - i.e., employers.

But the basic structures of feudalism and plantationism remain; a few people own all natural resources that NOBODY created and that all of us need.
"while before they were direct and particular."

During feudalism and chattel slavery, the enslaved either dealt directly with their masters or dealt with maybe one intermediary person.

Nowadays, we mostly don't know who our masters are.

But masters they are.

I urge you to read this essay explaining Henry George's ideas.

Seriously, read this.

George was basically a capitalist for things that people created and a socialist for what nature created.

Again, the Republican Party's opposition to the *spread of* chattel slavery was more motivated by white people's desire to avoid having *their* children fall into wage slavery.

Here, George is telling you one factor: the frontier, the "escape valve," was closing quickly!
There's plenty to unpack here!

"It drives people to acts barbarians would refuse."

YES! This is part of what we mean by the "Scarcity Mindset" that plagues society, and it is due to the ARTIFICIAL scarcity that our system of land ownership creates.

George wanted to remedy it.
Note the mention of the "Boston collar manufacturer."

It makes me think of that saying that you often here:
"if your business can't pay a living wage, then you shouldn't be in business!"


Again, does the Progressive Movement WANT to continue to lose elections?
George is saying that the same force that compels people into employment in order to survive compels employers to not pay them enough to survive.

George thought that they should form a natural alliance against landowners.

But modern "progressives" pit them against each other.
This is such a backwards way of thinking!

In our modern, technologized society, most employers are not plantation owners!

because the "if you can't pay your employees a living wage, you shouldn't be in business" charge would make sense on a plantation, which necessarily would have to be able to supply - grow and harvest - all food that all persons there ate.

But we no longer live and work that way!
So, we come to the end of the "The Enslavement Of Labor" chapter in Henry George's PROGRESS AND POVERTY.

We live in a fundamentally abusive culture.

We have been so terribly conditioned to think that we must justify our own existence to those who stand between us and Nature.
Our Declaration Of Independence?

Our Bill Of Rights?

All of these are hollow if many human beings must still comply with the demands of a few human beings who have taken Nature and not compensated us.

Are we, then, truly a "free country"?

The #AndrewYang campaign is, apparently, striking some people as gimmicky, and I think that that would be far less true if he'd talk about this critical factor more often (or at all.)

I hope that, with this thread, I have helped convey why the automation argument is so weak.
This land discussion is needed, because even many basic income ADVOCATES seem to think that our enslavement is natural, and the automation-taking-jobs reason for UBI seems to stem from this.

But it's not natural. It's a political choice.
If you're saying that you need UBI because automation might take your job, you're not saying that the uncompensated monopolization of the land that no person created is why you're forced to do a job that robot could do in the first place.

Do you see the difference?

Yang doesn't really talk about this. He often mentions *that* Thomas Paine argued for UBI, but he doesn't say much about *why* Paine argued for a UBI.

He talks about UBI *as* a human right but doesn't talk much about *why* it is a human right.

Your body is not the property of any other person.

The Earth, which no person created, is also not the property of anyone, since no person created it.

But we need exclusive land *control* in order to sustain modern production levels.

And this is why we need UBI.

There are many things that I hope that you take away from this explanation, but one of them is that the land dispossession argument is really about the only airtight argument for universal basic income.

I welcome feedback.

Some have questioned the use of the word "slavery" here.

I urge you to watch this video.

All, even most of those employed and with homes, but the independently wealthy are on a spectrum that causes some to be homeless or the victims of human trafficking.
You can follow @JamesRobichaux.
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