Titles which will not convince

If I were writing a piece advocating Universal Basic Income, I would not call it “Why Free Money Beats Bullshit Jobs.”

That is from Rutger Bregman, though please note he may not have chosen the title.  I believe such a title would not appeal to the people who have…bullshit jobs…and who are being asked to finance the free money.

This economist so transparently pandering to Trump also will not convince.  And here an actual Satanist is not so convinced by some recent claims about Ted Cruz.


I suppose how convincing the title is depends on whether you're the one providing the free money, or the one receiving it. Though I think one good reason to support a universal basic income is because it doesn't take away your incentives to work. So it's more like free money plus a bullshit job beats just having a bullshit job.

It doesn't take away the incentive to work!? For a lot of people wouldn't the following be true:

[basic income + untaxed home production + intermittent paying gigs + extra leisure] beats [basic income + full-time BS job]

The 'Mr Money Mustache' extreme early retirement formula was 1. Build a nest egg, and 2. Retire young by living cheaply, doing a lot of home production, and picking up a few occasional paying gigs. Wouldn't a BI eliminate the need for step #1?

Arent untaxed home production and intermittent paying gigs still work?

+1, although it doesn't take much away from Slocum's point.

The thing that most undermines MMM is that, at least in this country, earning money is so easy that going to extreme lengths not to have to earn seems a bit nuts. I still have respect for MMM, though. He's doing his thing with commitment.

It's not work in the same sense at all. It's doing what you want when you feel like it -- no boss and no schedule. Don't underestimate the appeal of that to people who aren't great at tolerating authority and tend to have the kinds of jobs where employers -- who have to deal with lots of such employees -- have implemented strict disciplinary measures (get written up 3 times for being late and you're on probation, etc, etc). And there are no taxes (certainly not on home production and probably not on occasional gigs either). Think of the behavior of folks on SSDI now--they live cheap, enjoy a lot of free time, and find little, off-the-books ways of supplementing their income. It must not be too intolerable, because people who get on SSDI rarely ever get off.

Where do you get to live cheaply?

Especially if you have medical problems that, for example, prevent you from standing over a grill like you did for decades as a short order cook in a diner serving miners or factory workers, mines and factories now closed?

[basic income + untaxed home production + intermittent paying gigs + extra leisure] beats [basic income + full-time BS job]

Yes it does, but doesn't it also beat it for society? What is the point of insisting on someone working a totally BS job? Just because working is good even if it is BS?

Note this doesn't apply to someone who is young. A BS job like flipping burgers is still worth taking if you're, say, 19, because it puts you on track to a lifetime of better jobs as you build experience. Sitting around collecting a smallish 'guaranteed income' really costs you money in the long run.

But suppose you have someone who is 55 and not in great shape anymore...but not quite so bad that he qualifies for disability (assuming we are going to be honest and not play games with the rules) and too young to get social security. Is it totally vital that he work some job just so we can give him help via something like the Earned Income Tax Credit even if the job adds very little marginal value to the economy or his life?

How is flipping burgers a BS job? People need to eat. People like to eat burgers. If burgers are being cooked, someone needs to flip them.

Maybe you could argue that no one should be eating burgers at all as they are so unhealthy. But, if everyone converted to eating whatever the latest health food diet is,then there would be jobs to steam brocoli or shred cabbage or whatever. Low-skill, boring, but not BS.

Haha, indeed: I didn't write the title myself :) I hope the piece itself is more convincing. Or here's the book: https://thecorrespondent.com/utopia-for-realists/

Are there "titles that convince"? I think not.

However, there are "titles that get generate publicity and get more people to read the article".

11 Reasons Why Free Money Beats Bullshit Jobs (You Won't Believe #8!!)

Where's the link? I can't find it! I WANT to see #8

Why would it appeal to anyone? It goes contrary to all our experience - which is bullsh!t jobs teach skills and attitudes which are useful for later in life.

Sitting at home on the couch, surfing for porn and smoking weed does not.

Why is it modern American authors have to butch up their CVs with bullsh!t jobs if they do not have some sort of cachet? Everyone does it these days.

Let's face it, creating does not pay. BS jobs is where the money's at. Gate keepers and appointment makers earn good money (IBM secretaries used to earn $100k a year over a decade ago; policemen who rarely if ever fire a shot in anger make $200k a year, ditto firemen). A study once found inventors make less than 5% of the value of their creations to society (the UK inventor of the hovercraft complained about this once, and it's the rule not the exception).

Then you wonder why there's a Great Stagnation and quants work on Wall Street?

Factoid: Goldman Sachs profit margins during the 2006 housing bubble was over 25% From a insider's look at GS by Steven G. Mandis, a former GS associate.

Policeman is a BS job because the police hardly ever shoot people? This is some comment gold right here.

Yes, they seldom do shoot people. That's why there's a media frenzy when they do. In fact, there's little reluctance on the part of law enforcement to shoot people. They want everyone to know that failure to follow instructions will inevitably result in a number of metal capsules being driven through the body of the disobedient. That realization tends to enforce compliance with their orders.

Well said. I've bought stock in Tazer, made a small profit, but never could figure out why more police departments don't use non-lethal force. I guess it's habit.


Don't forget that Ray Lopez lives in the Philippines. I think they judge the success of their police department based on the monthly kill counts.

Policemen make 200k? Goddamn, I picked the wrong gig.

No, seriously though, "Free Money Beats Bullshit Made-up Income Numbers".

$200k has probably been done, probably not common. The game is to (1) structure a contract around overtime compensation, and then (2) schedule a lot of overtime under contractual rules. That can put a diligent Sergeant much higher than stated salary.

In Nassau County (NY) cops regularly make $150k and I believe that is base pay. NYPD earn $90k without overtime in their 6th year. And they only need 2 years of college, so they get that $90k by age 26. Meanwhile, adjuncts are on food stamps.

Ray's 200k number probably is a TCC number which includes benefits, in which case it is pretty likely in many jurisdictions.

In Chicago it is common as total compensation for captains and for those who schedule a lot of overtime (it's not clear whether the overtime is actually worked). Rookie cops make a lot less, but they're not the ones about to collect pensions.

"I believe such a title would not appeal to the people who have…bullshit jobs…and who are being asked to finance the free money."

But this article isn't aimed at the average taxpayer. This article is aimed at the chattering classes and Silicon Valley technorati, both of whom need a citizenry with sustainable consumption power more than they need ZMP labor.

Hard to believe that someone who would call it "free money" is wanting it to be taken as a sincere argument.

However, the arguments within the piece have some merit. So perhaps is designed to preach to someone other than the choir. Hard to tell what drove the decision ...

Hey, you were asking the other day who in the world would ever talk about welfare being better than work.

Here you go. He even signed his name on it.

I never said that. I might have said that, even after basic needs are met, that most people would still like to earn additional money. It's a much better work incentive than welfare, where marginal tax rates considering clawbacks are higher than for billionaires, but then only get very low wages for their efforts.


Comment 152.

a) it's a lot easier to reference by time. You don't have to count all the comments to make a point (which actually disproves the original claim).

b) Is this the comment you're referring to? "Who says welfare is better than work? Are you so unaware of the argumentation on the other side of the spectrum that that’s how it seems to you?"

He's painting me into an extreme position, and one that is not remotely similar to what I said unless you contort it completely.

The comments are all numbered on the right...

The pandering economist? Narayana Kocherlakota, the former chair of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis who was the very loud voice opposing monetary stimulus during the Great Recession (because he knew, just knew, run away inflation was right around the corner) only to do an about face and support not only aggressive monetary stimulus but also fiscal stimulus. Okay, wisdom too often never comes, so one ought not to reject it merely because it comes late. On the other hand, I can appreciate that Kocherlakota's former friends (Cowen?) in the inflation caucus feel betrayed by his about face. Kocherlakota: "Would Hillary Clinton, the leading contender for the Democratic nomination, be as willing [as Trump] to pursue a policy of low taxation, high government spending and low interest rates to address the country’s economic ills?" I suspect he lists his favored policies in the order of priority, which is all one needs to know about Mr. Kocherlakota. And his new best friend.

Speaking (or is it Speaker) of betrayal, who would have guessed that, after Boehner had his Merlot Moment at Stanford, the NYT would come along and rescue the target of his betrayal, Ted Cruz: nothing to see here (where's Lucifer!), it's just Boehner being Boehner. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/29/us/politics/out-of-office-ex-speaker-john-boehner-gleefully-releases-mute-button.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=first-column-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news

Enpixelating more money hasn't led to inflation because consumers, already in debt up to their eyeballs, haven't gotten a hold of it yet. There's no limit on how much money can be created out of the ether if it stays in the electronic equivalent of Scrooge McDuck's money silo. The relatively small percentage of it that's been lavished on bank executives and corporate CEOs has so far only driven up the price of property in the Hamptons and chic Colorado ski resorts, high-tech automobiles and fancy retro wristwatches. The price of gruel remains pretty much the same.


Inflation is based on the velocity, as well as quantity, of money. If it's not trickling down, or starting at the bottom, then it's not affecting anything.

Velocity is just the ratio of some measure of output over money supply. It doesn't have any explanatory power.

Actually U S consumers are not "in debt up to their eyeballs." In fact, quite the contrary.

Household Debt Service Payments as a Percent of Disposable Personal Income has declined very substantially over the last 6 years and now stands at its lowest level in 30 some odd years.


Unless the four debt percentages listed in the St. Louis Fed tables are covering the same thing, the total of disposable income devoted to debt is 35.52%.

I only see 3, two of which appear to be overlapping, but it still comes out as a 30-year low

Nancy Pelosi beat him there -


For years, the standard-issue conservative critique of the tax break for employer sponsored health insurance was that it discouraged people from leaving their jobs and imposed a particularly high price on entrepreneurs or small business owners who need health coverage but lack the bargaining power of a large employer to get discounted premiums. It has been fascinating to see not only how some conservatives have completely abandoned this talking point in the aftermath of PPACA but actively ridicule the premise.

While some conservatives have pushed against it, on the (IMHO misguided) grounds that any tax break is a good break, the biggest pushback against the Cadillac tax has been from the left, not from the right.

Maybe you posted this in the wrong spot, because the linked article wasn't attacking the Cadillac tax.

Here is the Heritage Foundation on John McCain's 2008 health care proposal: "The McCain health care tax proposal would address these problems by:... Linking health care tax breaks directly to the indi­vidual rather than to the place of work, which would go a long way toward facilitating worker mobility and portability of coverage." [emphasis added]

Apparently worker mobility and portability of coverage are bad now because, Pelosi.

Pelosi's context was that you could become an artist or something along that line because you would not need to worry about producing enough to pay for your healthcare.

Has Boehner read Paradise Lost? Satan gets all the best lines and is a baller speaker, inspiring as hell, especially on his (naive and immature) beliefs about freedom. I'd run him for president in a heartbeat. *If only* Ted Cruz were Lucifer.

Why not, it worked so well in Venezuela.

I hope Bernie adds that to his stump speech.

C'mon, Prof. Cowen. Don't call a spokesman of The Satanic Temple an "actual Satanist". These guys are Atheists who seek to marginalize all who believe in God through their strident and obviously deceptive rhetoric. http://theconversation.com/can-a-burgeoning-satanic-movement-actually-effect-political-change-57619 They seem to think themselves clever. I see them as enemies of pluralism and enduring culture. Loud mouths and attention seekers. Dangerous in substance, not because they made the boogey man their mascot.

Rejecting the personality of the Devil seems down the road to agnosticism at least.

Frame of reference. To them he is the boogey man. My belief in God is quite irrelevant to my point.

Matthew, I agree that the Satanic Temple is a giant troll to break laws that allow religion in the public sphere, but it's become a strange beast indeed. It was started as an obvious troll, but actual satanists have joined so it's become neither fish nor foul.

As a son of a bitch, I can vouch for the fact that Ted Cruz is indeed a miserable sonof a bitch.

That doesn't distinguish him from the other candidates. Every election year, I'm amazed that out of 300 million people, we can't find anyone better than the folks we get as presidential candidates.

No surprise to me, who the hell would want that job? What kind of person would want to go through all you have to go through just to have the most stressful, difficult job in the world? People like Donald Trump.

[insert zaphod beeblebrox reference]

I thought that we had reached maximum quantity and lowest quality of basic income screeds.

I was wrong.

If we all call them bullshit jobs and everyone who has them thinks they are bullshit, then free money and degeneracy may not be such a bad alternative.

I think we would do better in terms of people's happiness if we tried to give all work and all the people who do it some dignity. Even if the precise job you do is bullshit, the outcome from that work - being an independent, self-supporting (or family-supporting) citizen can be a means of deriving satisfaction. I think my job is bullshit, but I am the sole breadwinner for a family of 4, and that occasionally gives me some satisfaction, and makes me feel like a good person by the standards of the culture I was raised in.

Agree entirely with your second sentence - I have come to the same conclusion and it's a much better way of looking at life.

There is nothing undignified in a dead end job if it puts food on the table, in principle. But it's still a bullshit job, and a lot of those people have to put of with a lot more undignifying bullshit than people generally do in much more highly paid positions.

And while I strongly agree with your sentiment, and especially as highlighted by Urso, I think there's a certain "risk" in the situation being like when someone says to the wife something like "you're sooo good at washing the dishes and cleaning up everything. I respect you so much for it and thank you so much ... " but really, it's just trying to make someone happy with a subaltern position.

There's a sort of contradiction - you don't want people to feel like nothing because their job isn't amazing, but at the same time, it's good to encourage people to reach higher and not to "praise" them in ways which as a matter of fact may contribute to keeping them down.

I mean, I would be totally stoked if my wife was really good at cleaning and organizing and parenting. That would be super useful. She is a good cook which is also quite helpful. I certainly wouldn't call those things BS nor do I consider it low status for a woman

The great dichotomy in America isn't between Democrats and Republicans, bourgeoisie and proletariat, capitalist and socialist. It's between white collar and blue collar. http://nailheadtom.blogspot.com/2015/05/blue-collar-vs-white-collar-conditions.html

I thought it was Cavaliers vs Roundheads? Or whites vs invading darkies?

Out of curiousity, why do you think your employer hired you if your job is BS?

Because BS jobs are somehow insanely lucrative.

Univision owns Fusion.

The article misses the biggest problem with basic income - paying for it.

Every analysis I've ever seen of a UBI that looks at paying for it concludes that a UBI requires either drastically cutting payments to the poorest, or raising taxes sharply, or depending on your definition of 'drastic' and 'sharp', both.

I think you ALL miss the point. Universal Basic Income should be taken as a political concept. It simply means that the government pays the citizens to become active political actors. For developing countries it could be applied to mobilising people for voting (not selling their votes), it could also mean that people get a chance to fund federal programs directly with the received money and not like it is done now (budgeting process). It also means getting rid of the state pension and education system. It can improve control of tax avoidance, shadow economy etc.

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