Precarity is the new normal

Granted. OTOH, I was diversified and conservative enough that my investments are essentially still on track – I lost a few years of growth, but even with that factored in I’m still well ahead of the long-term growth rate I need to retire on time, and that’s planned for retiring with enough buffer that I’ll be living only on the returns without tapping the principal (rather than planning that the money doesn’t outlast me by too much, which is more common).

I’ve certainly been lucky in not being overinvested in anything which tanked badly. But I’ve also been careful to avoid being overinvested in anything, and to plan for the long term, and not to succumb to the temptation to try to beat market rate of return.

You are obviously very virtuous and therefore immune to chance or bad luck or occasional mistakes. Godspeed you lucky bastard.

Mathematically speaking, how much would it cost us in North America (say, US and/or Canada) to have a guaranteed minimum income for every resident? And how does that compare to what we currently spend on fripperies like missiles and bureaucracies built to exclude people from accessing basics?

Would it be cheaper to make sure everyone has enough than to make sure most people don’t?

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I feel like it would be cheaper, but it would require a huge cohort of people to stop being assholes (and I don’t see that happening). It would be nice to see some math about this, though.


Could well be that I’m simply luckier than I deserve.

OTOH, I’ve seen enough folks with decent paychecks borrow themselves into trouble that I think we need to do a bit more educating about actually managing money even when things are looking good. The tech boom, and the housing boom, undid a lot of the learning that took place in our society since the last depression; we removed safety nets both at a social level and individually because we believed we’d never need them again. We were very, very wrong, and we need to go back and fix that in both domains or we’re looking at it happening again.

In some ways, yes. But that would be lowercase-s socialism, and there are still a lot of people who freak out about that concept, and who are desperately trying to dismantle what few social supports we do have.

It’s also been proved extensively and repeatedly that cutting budgets doesn’t automatically make things more efficient; it tends to either result in less being done or the cost being shifted to another budget. Or, commonly, both. If we make things more efficient – which may require spending more in the short term to develop the better solutions – THEN we can cut budgets. But that’s too rational, and doesn’t play well to voters who have been promised an instantaneous fix.

Re: those defense contractors and war profiteers. You might want to ask where the basic research that NASA used to create its’ tech came from. In fact, you might want to note that the very same contractors that you decry as “profiteers” also built all the NASA tech. . .

Exactly, I’m 52, and jobs are increasingly hard to get.

Oh, and Technogeekagain: I was on track for that. Until I got really sick, and within weeks of getting out of the hospital, but NOT back to work, getting the layoff letter in the mail (I was one of about 15000 laid off by Boeing in the winter of 2009-2010. Try looking for a job, when the MOMENT you were barely well enough to work again. . . .a two-week counter to layoff began. That. plus the bills that weren’t covered, set me back 15 years’ worth of savings and growth. . .


And when we’ve researched technology for space directly instead of researching it to buy missiles we know we’re not even going to use, maybe we’ll get something accomplished. In the mean time …

Uh, I hate to break it to you, so I’ll be gentile.

  1. The Space Age would only barely be starting NOW, maybe, in your world.

  2. In the REAL world, however, Wars and Military Research have driven technology ever since Grogg figured out to use a tree branch to hit Ogg’s tribesmen on the head, so they could drag Ogg’s tribeswomen back to Grogg’s tribe’s caves.

In fact, I would submit that history shows that the normal state of mankind is at war. We have deduced that a state called “Peace” exists, because there have been, from time to time, intervals between wars. . .

In small groups (within the pack), human interaction is hedonic. Status is derived from “Look what I can do!” and “Look what I can do for you”.

In large groups (between packs), human interaction is agonic. Status is derived from “I can beat you up.”

Amazingly, we’ve come far enough that many inter-government interactions are hedonic. Not all, by a long shot.

The space program was an instance of taking agonic activity – the ICBM investments were going to be made anyway – and turning it toward a hedonic purpose. Salgak is absolutely right, without the motivation of fear we would almost certainly not have been willing to make that investment. On the other hand, we did in fact achieve the higher goal of pure science, and that higher goal is what spurred us to an unprecedented lead in the sciences and technology by setting a standard that half the students in the country actively wanted to live up to.

And Salgak is wrong about the normal state being war. The normal state between tribes/packs is posturing. Actually killing each other in significant numbers is an aberration. Sometimes unavoidable, but it really isn’t our natural state; it’s inefficient, and nature is biased toward efficiency.

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From Wikipedia’s article on Basic Income:

A 2004 taxable basic income benefit of $7800 per adult could be afforded without any tax increases by replacing welfare, unemployment, and core Old age services.

That was for Canada. I assume it mentions adults only to get rid of the incentive to have a bunch of kids just to get the extra money. For some reason, Statistics Canada separates the ages into 10-14, 15-19, and 20-24, which makes it hard to figure out the number of people who are 18 and up, but let’s say 28 million. And to make it easier, let’s say $10,000 per adult. That’s $280 billion. I found a chart saying Canada’s total government spending in 2009 (I think for all levels of government) was $631 billion. Social services was $190 billion of that, so $280 billion isn’t an insane increase. There’s a line on that chart that says “Protection of persons and property” is a bit under $51 billion. I assume that’s the military, police, and firefighters.

I’m not sure if $10,000 per adult would really work best. A higher number might be better, though tougher to sell to the general public. Something to keep in mind though is that if you add $10,000 or $20,000 to the income of everyone, a bunch of that will just come back in income tax from higher earners and sales tax from everyone who spends it.

The downtrodden do not arise. The underestimated do.

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I will merely note that history tends to disagree with you, but as a check, take a look at the highest-grossing films of all time. You don’t find any that AREN’T violent in the top ten. (Until a few years ago, this was more simply stated that the highest-grossing picture of all time wasn’t named “Star Peace”. . . [evil grin] ).

You have a more optimistic look at the species than I do: I assume we’re all utter bastards from the start. . .

Entertainment and actual human behavior are very different things. The way you make entertainment exciting is to present something surprising and exaggerated – ie, NOT what normally happens.

The same bias occurs in news media. “Man pets dog” isn’t newsworthy; “man bites dog” is, precisely because it’s abnormal. Unfortunately the fact that the abnormal makes up the majority of the news, and that it’s now breathlessly reported far from where it happened, makes these relatively few incidents seem much more common than they are.

We agree that our base assumptions about the species are extremely different.

I look at it as a reflection and a safety valve: the same goes with popularity of shooter games. We are a killer species, we’re just learning to do our killing vicariously, rather than in real life.

It wasn’t ALL that long ago, historically, that “killing your man” was considered a fairly normal rite of passage. Then again, war has gotten sufficiently destructive that we are now evolving strategies OTHER than open conflict. I submit the rise of corporate in-fighting and raiding as an example of this. . .

I strongly suspect this has been exaggerated/romantacised by our fascination with the idea of the Noble Savage (who usually wasn’t as savage as the “civilized” people liked to think).

But I’m not an anthropologist, so that’s a semi-uninformed opinion.

You’ve backed me into the corner of HAVING to quote James T. Kirk (grin)

We’re a Killer Species. But we can choose not to kill. Today.

(However, given management, that may be an optimistic expectation … .)

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