The corporate interests in our society are beginning to see the inevitability of Basic Income. They understand the potential it has to uncouple labour from their capital, which is the backbone of the system of ‘wage slavery.’ The corporate media will respond by pretending we are in a negotiation. They will try to convince us to give up the minimum wage.
The National Post’s Andrew Coyne framed the argument concisely in his piece ‘Guarantee a minimum income, not a minimum wage.’
“Indeed, it wouldn’t bring in a minimum income in addition to the minimum wage, but as its replacement, acknowledging that, just as the estimation of what is the decent minimum anyone should be expected to live on is a collective judgment, so the fulfillment of that objective is a collective obligation. It’s simply not good enough just to fix wages, cross our fingers, and hope for the best.”
The argument is intellectually appealing. It points out the absurdity of a minimum wage to a society under a minimum income. Why should employers and employees not be free to set labour at whatever price they agree, so long as the employees have an adequate safety net in place to fall back on?
The effects of Basic Income
There’s plenty of optimism surrounding Basic Income. It has been tested, with positive results. I personally believe it will revolutionize the society we live in. Basic Income is a social policy that gives the disenfranchised hope. But I can’t feed my family with hope. I don’t pay my bills with hope. I don’t submit to a system designed to destroy me because I like it. I do it because it works, if only barely. While Jack got away trading his cow for a bag of beans, I don’t see why we have to make a choice at all.
Not a Negotiation
The wealthy of our society have gained their riches by abandoning everyone else. Wages have been stagnant for over 30 years. Shipping jobs overseas is an utter betrayal to the idea that we live in a society. Poverty is climbing. Precarious labour is rampant. Corporate power has done nothing to us but enrich a tiny group of shareholders, and impoverish the rest. Even beginning to engage in the debate concedes power.
Ultimately, it gains us nothing. We have the power – those of us who are not representative of corporate Canada. They are scared of us. Corporate power’s attempt to deal with us is a sign of their desperation and weakness. Under no circumstances should we even start to consider their positions because this isn’t a negotiation.
Divide and Conquer
The Fight for Fifteen movement is powerful. It has seen major successes across the continent. They are Basic Income’s natural allies. The people who are organizing and pushing for a livable working wage have every reason to join us to extend a livable existence to the whole populace.
It is in the best interest of corporate power to keep us competing with one another in the marketplace of ideas, rather then showing support for the sake of social solidarity. When the idea reaches the House of Commons or the U.S. Congress, they will be screaming this debate through their propaganda machines. Solidarity for the sake of solidarity is more important then being technically correct on an economic issue.
Once you stop pretending that this issue exists in an academic vacuum, you can see exactly how crazy it is. Millions of people rely on the minimum wage to feed themselves, and their families. They’re all holding on by their fingertips and now they’re being asked, by the very people who put them there, to let go of the only thing keeping them alive?
This is a question being posed by a group of people who do not understand what desperation does. We are living in a political climate where Donald Trump has a good chance of being the next American president. People are furious, people are rioting, and we’re talking about removing the minimum wage? This is the definition of an out of touch educated elite who refuse to understand the plight of the poor.
If the argument is sound, then let’s talk about it after we are living under a fully mature Basic Income. The debate is interesting and there are points worthy of conversation. I look forward to having that discussion after the needs of the populace have been addressed, and not a moment sooner. There is simply too much at stake to do otherwise.
We are moving, at a rocket’s pace, towards a society that embraces Basic Income. Discussing its impact on the minimum wage before then is nothing but guesswork. Giving up a minimum wage to get it is insanity.
— Jon Sanderson is an actor and writer currently living in Toronto. He is the founder, and organizer of Basic Income: Toronto.