Sunday, November 29, 2015

Fwd: see below

Dear ANS group  -- This is forwarded from one of our readers.

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: <
Date: Thu, Nov 19, 2015 at 8:17 AM
Subject: see below

France Vows To Take In 30,000 Syrian Refugees, Makes Republicans Look Like Cowards

Author: November 18, 2015 11:35 aIt has long been said that the true definition of courage isn't the absence of fear, but rather the ability to take action in the face of fear. In the wake of a horrific terror attack in the heart of Paris, France's actions are about as courageous as could ever be asked of its people.

Despite the fear-mongering and the pressure from right-wing elements in both France and the United States, France's president Francois Hollande renewed his vow to take in tens of thousands of Syrian refugees and urged Parisians not to allow a few terrorists to stop them from living their lives to the fullest.

"30,000 refugees will be welcomed over the next two years. Our country has the duty to respect this commitment," explaining that they will undergo vigorous security checks.

Hollande noted that "some people say the tragic events of the last few days have sown doubts in their minds," but called it a "humanitarian duty" to help those people … but one that will go hand in hand with "our duty to protect our people"We have to reinforce our borders while remaining true to our values," he said.

The French people have been remarkably brave throughout the harrowing ordeal. It's the right-wing elements in America, thousands of miles away, that have truly succumbed to the fear. In state after state, Republican governors announced that they would be attempting to block any Syrian refugees from being resettled there. In Congress, the GOP quickly drafted up legislation that would – depending on who was writing it – ban all refugees or ban all refugees but the Christian ones.

All of this was done directly in the face of the evidence emerging from the Paris investigation. In fact, no Syrian refugee has thus far been named as one of the terrorists. They principally came from the EU itself. A Syrian passport made to look like a refugees turned out to be a fake – possibly planted by ISIS to sow confusion.

Refugees more generally have a remarkably low chance of being future assailants. Out of the 784,000 Muslims taken in by the United States since 9/11, one has been arrested for being involved in terrorism. The facts are clear: refugees do not pose a threat. They are rigorously screened, interviewed, and checked. You wouldn't know any of this if you simply listened to what Republican leaders are saying. Chris Christie recently swore he would block even "5-year-old orphans" from coming into his state, because he didn't want to take the "risk." Ted Cruz, whose father was a refugee from Cuba, is actively trying to ban non-Christians from being allowed into the United States. A Tennessee politician is now working on deporting the Syrians already living in his state and "politely take them back."

Thankfully, President Obama and many Democratic governors have stood firm against this growing xenophobic rhetoric. Like Hollande, Obama has vowed to uphold the United States' moral duty by helping averting the humanitarian crisis unfolding in the Middle East. At a recent press conference, he called out Republicans for their not-so-brave stances in the face of unfortunate victims of strife.

"At first they were too scared of the press being too tough on them in the debates. Now they are scared of 3-year-old orphans. That doesn't seem so tough to me."

If they ever want to get serious about being tough, Hollande just gave them an perfect example of how to do it.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

ANS -- Simply Red: The Con-Man Behind the Rightwing's Starbucks Cup Freak-Out

Here's an article about who is behind the supposed right wing outrage about Starbucks' all red Christmas cup not being Christian enough (they left off the snowflakes and Santas!).  It's about a con man.  Interesting.  

Wednesday Nov 11, 2015  1:50 PM PST
Feuerstein: Conning for Jesus

When I read that the latest persecution of the rightwing Christian involved Starbucks changing their cups to red for the holiday season, I thought that the War on Christmas had officially hit rock bottom.

The MSM jumped all over the story about a video from a "pastor" saying the red cups Starbucks is using for the holiday season aren't Christmas enough and that Starbucks literally "hates Jesus". Video goes viral and rightwing is outraged.  This whole thing is beyond stupid, even for them. 

Are you guys REALLY upset over the color of a cardboard cup?  If the color red upsets you so much, wouldn't you logically be more upset with every other franchise out there that isn't even bothering to change their damn cup color for the holidays?  Ya know, because it's freaking expensive and stupid!?  Besides, all of the past Starbucks holiday cup designs have been pretty darn secular—so why are you pissed now?

It wasn't until I finally read one of the articles that I came across the name of the man who spawned this latest freak-out:  Joshua Feuerstein.  In none of the countless articles does the  MSM bother to discuss who this clown is.   So allow me:

Joshua Feuerstein is a self-described evangelist and "social-media personality".  I recognized his name because he is the same asshat who harassed one of my local bakeries (and illegally recorded the phone call) because they refused to fill a fake order for an anti-gay cake.  His followers bombarded their Facebook site with Ben Carson-like yarns of their supposed "bad experiences" with the bakery.  Astoundingly, all of these reviews happened immediately after the date Joshua posted his hate-filled video.  The bakery had to temporarily close in response to the harassment, which included death threats. 

In response, I asked people in this community to fight back.  You did. The bakery raised needed cash to offset their losses, got a lot of Likes on their Facebook page to offset Joshua's minions, and a boatload of new customers.  (The owner also made this 5-tier delicious smack down.)

As despicable as this guy was, I took him at his word that he was just a preacher with an obvious persecution complex.  However, I have since learned that Feuerstein is much worse than that: he's a con artist.

First off, he is an entitled brat who, according to this video, apparently lives quite well sponging off of his mega-rich parents.  Yet he is not above e-begging his duped followers to raise money for a $20,000 camera that he claimed he absolutely had to have to make YouTube videos.  His followers, unable to think of anything better to donate to, gladly gave him the money and Joshua utterly ****** thanked them. Yet his videos since he has raised the funds, from the bakery harassment video to his latest red cup diatribe, seem to have been shot on a cellphone.  Peoplerightfully asked where the camera was that he promised to buy.  He was even confronted directly and admitted he didn't buy it after all.  Meanwhile, his social media is filled with pictures of outrageously expensive shoes, jewlery and watches.  I mean VERY Expensive Watches.

On his site, you can buy T-shirts, DVDs, and even apparently become a monthly "partner" where he asks that you give him 50 dollars a month so he can supposedly stop people from committing suicide.  I have no idea what kind of suicide prevention requires a monthly installment plan, but then again, I'm not a con-man.

None of the articles I've seen mention any of this, but instead take his nonsensical rant at face value and allow him a ton of exposure as some sort of representative of the discord among Christians today.  It is not real.  I don't buy for a second that a man like him was driven bonkers over a stupid red cup.  What he saw was an opportunity to gin up the faux outrage machine and grow his pool of poor suckers, while the media obliged without the slightest insight into his past. 

I get very sick of the media's complicity. In my own neighborhood last year, news channels swarmed at Carillon Elementary where a child was supposedly told she was not allowed to pray.  Most of the media reported it breathlessly as such.  The man who "broke the story" was Todd Starnes.   No one witnessed the incident.  The man whose child this happened to?  Marcos Perez, who was in charge of promoting Todd Starnes'  latest book that coincidentally was on the imaginary assault on Christianity.

To be sure, there is a very real threat to Christianity.  Yet it is not atheists, homosexuals, Muslims, or even red paper cups that threaten Christianity. 

It is shysters.

People with no soul who prey on Christian followers and rob them financially and spiritually not only hurt their flock, but give all religion a bad name by making it unpalatable for so many who see things like this and equate those seeking strength through faith as paranoid and stupid. 

Want to know why religion is on the decline, Joshua?  Look in the mirror.  No man of faith would ever want to face the afterlife after scamming susceptible followers in Jesus' name.  I sure as hell wouldn't want to be in your shoes, and not just because they are so damn ugly.

Thursday, Nov 12, 2015 · 2:38:17 PM +00:00 · SemDem

The backlash Joshua is getting isn't an attack on Christianity, as he would have you believe, but a defense of it.  There is a facebook page called Exposing Joshua Fraudstein that doesn't have many nice things to say about him. Here I learned there is a real charity for Christians who face real persecution called Voice of the Martyrs.  However, may we recommend that you donate directly to them, as opposed to raising money off their name and saying you will give them money.

Friday, November 27, 2015

ANS -- I asked psychologists to analyze Trump supporters. This is what I learned.

Here's another article about the psychology of conservatives.  It's interesting.  Someone needs to compile all the real info on this and get deeper into it.  In the meantime, this is worth reading. 

I asked psychologists to analyze Trump supporters. This is what I learned.

(Rachel Orr, The Washington Post)

CALL him whatever names you like. A clown. A Know Nothing. A political greenhorn who can barely complete a sentence. A nativist, a racist and -- worse -- a New York liberal with a comb-over

You can call him a blowhard if you want, but -- to the consternation of the conservative elite and to the surprise of just about everybody else inside the Beltway -- Donald Trump won't blow off.

The press mocked his rambling, hour-long speech at the launch of his campaign, in which he disparaged Mexican immigrants as "rapists." Few thought he could remain popular after saying that Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), imprisoned for more than five years in Vietnam after his plane was shot down, was "not a war hero." Political scientists forecast that Trump would fade.

But as the summer of Trump lingers into autumn, the real estate magnate remains the front-runner in the Republican presidential primary. The political establishment is flummoxed, and at least one of its members has concluded that Trump's supporters are just insane.

"What he did was, he fired up the crazies," McCain said after Trump held a rally in Phoenix.

From a psychological perspective, though, the people backing Trump are perfectly normal. Interviews with psychologists and other experts suggest one explanation for the candidate's success -- and for the collective failure to anticipate it: The political elite hasn't confronted a few fundamental, universal and uncomfortable facts about the human mind.

We like people who talk big.

We like people who tell us that our problems are simple and easy to solve, even when they aren't.

And we don't like people who don't look like us.

Most people share these characteristics to some degree, but they seem to be especially prevalent among Trump's base. Trump's appeal certainly has other sources, too, such as the nostalgia he so skillfully evokes, his financial independence from special interests, and the crucial fact that he had his own reality TV show. Some Republicans like Trump's anti-establishment approach. And many support Trump because of his substantive positions -- his views on immigration, his antipathy toward China, his defense of Social Security, or his opposition to tax deductions for wealthy bankers.

But given the gap between public support for Trump and elite opinion, it may be worth thinking about the ingrained predilections for confidence, simplicity and familiarity that are just a few of the reasons that psychologists gave when asked to explain exactly how Trump got yuge.

"Really, we're not giving people enough credit," argues John Hibbing, a psychologist at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. "We have to take this seriously. You can look down your nose if you want to, but these people aren't going away."

We like big talkers

"If you're running for president, you should not be allowed to use a teleprompter," Trump likes to say. He doesn't on the stump. As a result, his typical speech is a congeries of tangents and digressions.

Even if Trump showed any strong inclination to speak in complete and eloquent sentences, though, his wildly cheering crowds wouldn't let him finish one.

Trump doesn't give the kinds of speeches that political consultants are used to hearing. He certainly doesn't deliver lines that are carefully formulated for applause and for prime-time sound bites. His style has been called a "word salad."

Still, he is an effective speaker, psychologists say. In fact, decades of research show that charisma has more to do with a person's demeanor than what he or she is saying, says Stanford University's Jeffrey Pfeffer.

In one series of well-known experiments conducted by the psychologists Nalini Ambady and Robert Rosenthal, subjects were able to predict how students in a college classroom would evaluate their teachers at the end of the term, based on 30 seconds or less of soundless footage of the instructor. The subjects in the study couldn't hear the words coming out of the instructor's mouth, but what mattered for the students was gesture and affect, not substance.   

Voters listening to politicians on television are just like the students in those classrooms, says Pfeffer, a psychologist who studies leadership.

"Most of the electorate would not pass a test on what anybody's positions are on anything," he said. "Nobody cares." Conservative voters, for instance, seem not to mind Trump's favorable comments on national health insurance andeminent domain.

What can win over voters is what Pfeffer called "narcissism."

"They're responding to dynamism, to force, to movement, to smiling, to facial expressions that convey authority," he said. Trump "does it with more force. He does it with more energy. Energy is contagious."

Arie Kruglanski, a psychologist at the University of Maryland, compares Trump's campaign to President Obama's in 2008. The two men have different styles, but both have animated their supporters with confident claims about the future.

"It's the audacity of those promises in those circumstances that really carries a lot of weight," Kruglanski said, "and it's the emotional, as opposed to the kind of deliberative, rational appeal that carries the day."

Both conservative and liberal voters can be susceptible to this kind of thinking. In other ways, though, psychologists believe that conservative and liberal minds work differently, which could help explain Trump's success with Republicans.

We want answers

The world can feel like a complicated place. There may be no good answers to the problems we confront individually and as a society. It is hard to know whom or what to believe. Things are changing, and the future might be different in unpredictable ways. For many people, this uncertainty is deeply unpleasant.

"People are just inclined to say, 'Okay, to hell with it. I'm not going to figure it out,' " Kruglanski said.

That desire is especially strong among social conservatives, research shows. They want answers, more so than other people.

One way that psychologists measure these preferences is by giving people a questionnaire that poses statements such as, "It's annoying to listen to someone who cannot seem to make up his or her mind," "I dislike it when a person's statement could mean many different things" and "In most social conflicts, I can easily see which side is right and which is wrong."

Conservative subjects are more likely to agree with these statements, whether psychologists give this test in the United StatesGermanyItalyBelgium orPoland.

Over the years, conservative commentators have objected to this characterization of their beliefs. They argue that conservatism isn't a psychological condition, but a set of ideas with a rich intellectual history, developed across generations through rational deliberation.

For their part, psychologists have responded that they aren't dismissing conservativism as irrational. After all, just because people are predisposed to believe something doesn't make them wrong. Saying someone is more likely to find an argument persuasive because of their psychology doesn't invalidate the argument. As psychologists see it, the desire for simplicity is just a fact about the way people think — one that several decades of research has now confirmed.

Hibbing of the University of Nebraska says this need for clarity is important to understanding Trump's support.

"People like the idea that deep down, the world is simple; that they can grasp it and that politicians can't," Hibbing said. "That's certainly a message that I think Trump is radiating."

Hibbing believes there may be a genetic reason for the differences between liberal and conservative minds, but the explanation is more of a hypothesis than a conclusion.

At Hibbing's laboratory, he and his colleagues study how conservative and liberal subjects react to unpleasant images, such as insects and injuries. They use cameras to track the motion of their subjects' eyes and place electrodes on their skin. Other researchers study the contractions of facial muscles and electrical activity in the brain.

These experiments show that conservative subjects react differently from liberal ones. They sweat more heavily when shown a picture of a dangerous animal. Their pupils focus on disgusting images, and they don't look away.

It's evidence that we don't develop political affiliations just by rationally evaluating competing philosophies and ideologies. Our opinions also have origins beneath the level of conscious thought, in our bodies and our brains.

In that sense, the desire for simplicity could be physical. And Trump has a way of responding to complicated questions as though the answers were so obvious, he is dumbfounded that no one else has figured them out yet.

A recent interview with Bloomberg News reveals this approach.

After nearly allowing himself to be drawn into a debate about whether women should be able to have abortions early in their pregnancies, he brushed the question aside.

"I'm pro-life, but with the caveats. It's: Life of the mother (very important), incest and rape," Trump said.

"Say a woman is pregnant, and it's not in any of those exception categories and she chooses to have an abortion," Bloomberg's Mark Halperin said.

"It depends when," said Trump, interrupting him.

"Let's say, early in her pregnancy," Halperin said.

Trump did not answer the question about timing. Perhaps he realized he was about to enmesh himself in nuance.

"Mark, it's very simple," he said. "Pro-life."

And Trump just dismisses experts on security who say his plans to build a wall along remote stretches of the Mexican border would be extremely expensive, if not practically impossible.

The wall "is absolutely buildable and can be built for far less cost than people think," he said when asked about these criticisms. "It's not even a difficult project if you know what you're doing."

We put ourselves into groups

Following Obama's victory in his last election, the Republican National Committee produced a report calling on the party to do a better job of appealing to voters of color, especially Hispanic voters. More specifically, the Republican Party has long argued that if the economy is larger, everyone will be better off. Republican proponents of immigration reform often cite studies predicting substantial gains in economic performance.

Trump has done the reverse, appealing to people who could be especially averse to the presence of immigrants in their communities. The notion that improving the lives of immigrants would also help people living here already is profoundly counterintuitive, experts say, and that could be one reason that so many people find Trump's anti-immigration rhetoric so persuasive.

"Humans have a kind of tribal psychology," said Joseph Henrich, a biologist at Harvard University who studies the species's evolution.

In particular, humans tend to assume that if one group is getting more, another group must be getting less. We have a hard time understanding that two groups can both be getting more of something at the same time. Call it a cognitive blindspot, or a psychological illusion.

Henrich believes this zero-sum outlook could be a result of millennia of competition among our ancestors for limited resources such as land and mating partners. "You can find some degree of it in every human society," he said. "It varies dramatically across societies and populations, but it does pop up everywhere."

There is also evidence that this possibly ancient predisposition is shaping American politics today. Michael Norton, a psychologist at the Harvard Business School, has found that on average, whites now view discrimination against members of their own race as a larger problem than discrimination against blacks.

His explanation is that whites see competition between groups as zero sum. Whites assume that they must be worse off, since the legal and economic situation for blacks has improved. Research also suggests that white voters with stronger prejudices against African Americans are more likely to support the conservative GOP faction known as the tea party.

Norton speculates that antipathy toward Latino immigrants has the same psychological source.

"What Trump is tapping into is the mindset of a zero-sum game," Norton said, which he called an "intuitive" way of looking at the economy and society.

"It's hard to imagine that if we're eating a pizza, that adding more people would somehow give us more pizza. It takes a much-longer-term perspective," Norton said.

The presence of immigrants could also compound other psychological responses, such as how conservatives deal with uncertainty. Kruglanski of the University of Maryland and his colleagues found that in the Netherlands, residents were less comfortable with uncertainty the more Muslims lived in their neighborhoods.

While immigration is good for the economy on the whole, there is some evidence that it can reduce the wages of unskilled workers born in the country. Trump draws heavily on less educated, blue-collar white voters for his support. Some people in this group may be right to see immigration as a zero-sum game.

Economists fiercely debate this point, but in any case, their arguments probably have less influence over voters than do the facts of human psychology.

It's not just Trump, but human nature

Trump has lost several percentage points in the polls recently. Maybe the infatuation is wearing thin, or maybe not. Either way, his candidacy has already revealed something important about this country, about the Republican Party and, above all, about who we are as people.

To win the nomination, he will have to win over some voters who now support his rivals, which he might not be able to do. If Trump can't gain support, though, he may also not lose it, either. He is, in part, the product and the image of our species's unconscious and its unchanging predispositions.

Human nature, though, is not destiny -- or so argues Hibbing of the University of Nebraska. Our innate propensities can be overcome through persuasion and principled leadership in the long term, he said.

He compares the human mind to an ocean-going tanker. Changing the ship's direction takes time, and a map with the new course clearly marked. Instead of dismissing them as crazies, political leaders will have to acknowledge their constituents' biases against all that is complex, uncertain and unfamiliar.

"I don't think we can pretend that that's not who we are," Hibbing said.

Max Ehrenfreund writes for Wonkblog and compiles Wonkbook, a daily policy newsletter. You can subscribe here. Before joining The Washington Post, Ehrenfreund wrote for the Washington Monthly and The Sacramento Bee. 

Saturday, November 14, 2015

ANS -- A High Income Isn't Enough to Truly Join the Capitalist Class

This is a short excerpt of an article.  I am sending it because it has a clear definition of the difference between being rich and being a capitalist.  The question: is it immoral to be a capitalist?

A High Income Isn't Enough to Truly Join the Capitalist Class

Before we begin, let me reiterate the example I provided in Class in the United States to illustrate the difference between merely having a high income and truly being a member of the capitalist class.

Imagine two men, Greg and John. Greg is a medical doctor and earns $300,000 per year. He has to show up to work regularly, using the rare skills he's acquired through a very expensive medical school education and years of on-the-job training. If he dies, or goes into a coma, his family will receive little or no income because he's unable to work. John, on the other hand, owns a $3,000,000 limited service hotel that generates $300,000 per year for him.

He doesn't have to run it or be involved in any way because he pays a management firm to set rates, staff the property, and maintain the standards required by his franchise agreement. If John suddenly passes away or is incapacitated, his property will continue to mint money, drowning the family in cash. The family also has the option of borrowing against the equity they have in the property to acquire another hotel or expand, increasing profits further.

I've always said that the purpose of investing is to make your money work for you so that it generates cash regularly instead of (or in addition to) you having to sell your labor. In this case, John is truly a member of the capitalist class because he owns assets that generate cash for him as a result of providing needed services to the economy. In other words, John is not important or respected because he is rich; he is rich because what he has built fills a necessary need in society and the money is evidence of that. Greg, however, is very well off and experiences a standard of living among the highest in history. But he is not a true member of the capitalist class. To be, he would need to take his earnings from practicing medicine and build a collection of cash generating assets that could work alongside him, pumping out money as he focuses on healing people at the hospital.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Fwd: ANS -- Why the Left Isn’t Talking About Rural American Poverty

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Peter Cross <>
Date: Thu, Nov 12, 2015 at 5:20 PM
Subject: Re: ANS -- Why the Left Isn't Talking About Rural American Poverty
To: Kim Cooper <>

Here's formatted copy-- if it attached itself in the forwarding

On Thu, Nov 12, 2015 at 3:58 PM, Kim Cooper <> wrote:
Here's an interesting perspective, suggested by Sara Robinson as a worthy article.  How is rural different from urban?  How can we include rural people in the discussion?

ANS -- Why We Should Give Free Money to Everyone

This is a really interesting article about what would happen if we gave everyone a basic income.  It turns out, there have been a lot of studies and experiments on this, and the results are the opposite of what one might guess if one listened to the current public culture.  Please read it.  Let me know what you think.
It's been translated from the Dutch, and some of the phrases are a bit off.  

Why We Should Give Free Money to Everyone
By Rutger Bregman /

London, May 2009.  A small experiment involving thirteen homeless men takes off. They are street veterans. Some of them have been sleeping on the cold tiles of The Square Mile, the financial center of the world, for more than forty years. Their presence is far from cheap. Police, legal services, healthcare: the thirteen cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands of pounds. Every year.

That spring, a local charity takes a radical decision. The street veterans are to become the beneficiaries of an innovative social experiment. No more food stamps, food kitchen dinners or sporadic shelter stays for them. The men will get a drastic bailout, financed by taxpayers. They'll each receive 3,000 pounds, cash, with no strings attached. The men are free to decide what to spend it on; counseling services are completely optional. No requirements, no hard questions. The only question they have to answer is:

What do you think is good for you?

Gardening classes

'I didn't have enormous expectations,' an aid worker recalls.

Yet the desires of the homeless men turned out to be quite modest. A phone, a passport, a dictionary - each participant had his own ideas about what would be best for him. None of the men wasted their money on alcohol, drugs or gambling. On the contrary, most of them were extremely frugal with the money they had received. On average, only 800 pounds had been spent at the end of the first year. 

Simon's life was turned upside down by the money. Having been addicted to heroine for twenty years, he finally got clean and began with gardening classes. 'For the first time in my life everything just clicked, it feels like now I can do something', he says. 'I'm thinking of going back home. I've got two kids.'

A year after the experiment had started, eleven out of thirteen had a roof above their heads. They accepted accommodation, enrolled in education, learnt how to cook, got treatment for drug use, visited their families and made plans for the future. 'I loved the cold weather,' one of them remembers. 'Now I hate it.' After decades of authorities' fruitless pushing, pulling, fines and persecution, eleven notorious vagrants finally moved off the streets.  The Joseph Rowntree Foundation did a study of this experiment.

Costs? 50,000 pounds a year, including the wages of the aid workers. In addition to giving eleven individuals another shot at life, the project had saved money by a factor of at least 7. Even The Economist concluded:

'The most efficient way to spend money on the homeless might be to give it to them.'

Santa exists

We tend to presume that the poor are unable to handle money. If they had any, people reason, they would probably spend it on fast food and cheap beer, not on fruit or education. This kind of reasoning nourishes the myriad of social programs, administrative jungles, armies of program coordinators and legions of supervising staff that make up the modern welfare state. Since the start of the crisis, the number of initiatives battling fraud with benefits and subsidies has surged.

People have to 'work for their money,' we like to think. In recent decades, social welfare has become geared toward a labor market that does not create enough jobs. The trend from 'welfare' to 'workfare' is international, with obligatory job applications, reintegration trajectories, mandatory participation in 'voluntary' work. The underlying message: Free money makes people lazy.

Except that it doesn't. 

Meet Bernard Omandi. For years he worked in a quarry, somewhere in the inhabitable West of Kenya. Bernard made $2 a day, until one morning, he received a remarkable text message. 'When I saw the message, I jumped up', he later recalled. And with good reason: $500 had just been deposited into his account. For Bernard, the sum amounted to almost a year's salary. 

A couple of months later a New York Times reporter walked Read the NYT article here. around his village. It was like everyone had won the jackpot - but no one had wasted the money. People were repairing their homes and starting small businesses. Bernard was making $6 to $9 a day driving around on his new Bajai Boxer, an Indian motor cycle which he used to provide transportation for local residents. 'This puts the choice in the hands of the poor, and not me,' Michael Faye, co-founder of GiveDirectly, the coordinating organization, said. 'The truth is, I don't think I have a very good sense of what the poor need.' When Google had a look at his data, the company immediately decided to donate $2,5 million.

Bernard and his fellow villagers are not the only ones who got lucky. In 2008, the Ugandan government gave about $400 to almost 12,000 youths between the ages of 16 and 35. Just money – no questions asked. And guess what? The results were astounding. A mere four years later, the youths' educational and entrepreneurial investments had caused their incomes to increase with almost 50%. Their chances of being employed had increased with 60%. The study: 'Experimental Evidence from Uganda'.

Another Ugandan program awarded $150 to 1,800 poor women in the North of the country. Here, too, incomes went up significantly. The women who were supported by an aid worker were slightly better off, but later calculations proved that the program would have been even more effective had the aid workers' salary simply been divided among the women as well. And the other study from Uganda.

Studies from all over the world drive home the exact same point: free money helps. Proven correlations exist between free money and a decrease in crime, lower inequality, less malnutrition, lower infant mortality and teenage pregnancy rates, less truancy, better school completion rates, higher economic growth and emancipation rates. 'The big reason poor people are poor is because they don't have enough money', economist Charles Kenny, a fellow at the Center for Global Development, dryly remarked last June. 'It shouldn't come as a huge surprise that giving them money is a great way to reduce that problem.' Read his article here.

In the 2010 work Just Give Money to the Poor, researchers from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) give numerous examples of money being scattered successfully. In Namibia, malnourishment, crime and truancy fell 25 percent, 42 percent and nearly 40 percent respectively. In Malawi, school enrollment of girls and women rose 40 percent in conditional and unconditional settings. From Brazil to India and from Mexico to South Africa, free-money programs have flourished in the past decade. While the Millenium Development Goals did not even mention the programs, by now more than 110 million families in at least 45 countries benefit from them.

OECD researchers sum up the programs' advantages: (1) households make good use of the money, (2) poverty decreases, (3) long-term benefits in income, health, and tax income are remarkable, (4) there is no negative effect on labor supply – recipients do not work less, and (5) the programs save money. Here is a presentation of their findings. Why would we send well-paid foreigners in SUVs when we could just give cash? This would also diminish risk of corrupt officials taking their share. Free money stimulates the entire economy: consumption goes up, resulting in more jobs and higher incomes.

'Poverty is fundamentally about a lack of cash. It's not about stupidity,' author Joseph Hanlon remarks. 'You can't pull yourself up by your bootstraps if you have no boots.'

An old idea

The idea has been propagated by some of history's greatest minds. Thomas More dreamt of it in his famous Utopia (1516). Countless economists and philosophers, many of them Nobel laureates, would follow suit. Proponents cannot be pinned down on the political spectrum: it appeals to both left- and right-wing thinkers. Even the founders of neoliberalism, Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman supported the idea. Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) directly refers to it. 

The basic income. 

And not just for a few years, in developing countries only, or merely for the poor – but free money as a basic human right for everyone. The philosopher Philippe van Parijs has called it 'the capitalist road to communism.' A monthly allowance, enough to live off, without any outside control on whether you spend it well or whether you even deserve it. No jungle of extra charges, benefits, rebates - all of which cost tons to implement. At most with some extras for the elderly, unemployed and disabled.

The basic income - it is an idea whose time has come.

Mincome, Canada

In an attic of a warehouse in Winnipeg, Canada, 1,800 boxes are accumulating dust. The boxes are filled with data – tables, graphs, reports, transcripts – from one of the most fascinating social experiments in postwar history: Mincome. 

Evelyn Forget, professor at the University of Manitoba, heard about the experiment in 2004. For five years, she courted the Canadian National Archive to get access to the material. When she was finally allowed to enter the attic in 2009, she could hardly believe her eyes: this archive stored a wealth of information on the application of Thomas More's age-old ideal. 

One of the almost 1,000 interviews tucked away in boxes was with Hugh and Doreen Henderson. Thirty-five years earlier, when the experiment took off, he worked as a school janitor and she took care of their two kids. Life had not been easy for them. Doreen grew vegetables and they kept their own chickens in order to secure their daily food supply.

One day the doorbell rang. Two men wearing suits made an offer the Henderson family couldn't refuse. 'We filled out forms and they wanted to see our receipts', Doreen remembers. From that moment, money was no longer a problem for the Henderson family. Hugh and Doreen Read more about their experience here.entered Mincome – the first large-scale social experiment in Canada and the biggest experiment implementing a basic income ever conducted. 

In March 1973 the governor of the province had decided to reserve $17 million for the project. The experiment was to take place in Dauphin, a small city with 13,000 inhabitants north of Winnipeg. The following spring researchers began to crowd the town to monitor the development of the pilot. Economists were keeping track of people's working habits, sociologists looked into the experiment's effects on family life and anthropologists engaged in close observation of people's individual responses.

The basic income regulations had to ensure no one would drop below the poverty line. In practice this meant that about a 1,000 families in Dauphin, covering 30% of the total population, received a monthly paycheck. For a family of five, the amount would come down to $18,000 a year today (figure corrected for inflation). No questions asked.

Four years passed until a round of elections threw a spanner in the works. The newly elected conservative government didn't like the costly experiment that was financed by the Canadian taxpayer for 75%. When it turned out that there was not even enough money to analyze the results, the initiators decided to pack the experiment away. In 1,800 boxes.

The Dauphin population was bitterly disappointed. At its start in 1974, Mincome was seen as a pilot project that might eventually go national. But now it seemed to be destined for oblivion. 'Government officials opposed to Mincome didn't want to spend more money to analyze the data and show what they already thought: that it didn't work,' one of the researchers remembers. 'And the people who were in favor of Mincome were worried because if the analysis was done and the data wasn't favorable then they would have just spent another million dollars on analysis and be even more embarrassed.'

When professor Forget first heard of Mincome, no one knew how the experiment had truly worked out. However, 1970 had also been the year Medicare, the national health insurance system, had been implemented. The Medicare archives provided Forget with a wealth of data allowing her to compare Dauphin to surrounding towns and other control groups. For three years, she analyzed and analyzed, consistently coming to the same conclusion: 

Mincome had been a great success. 

From experiment to law

'Politicians feared that people would stop working, and that they would have lots of children to increase their income,' professor Forget says. You can find one of her lectures here. Yet the opposite happened: the average marital age went up while the birth rate went down. The Mincome cohort had better school completion records. The total amount of work hours decreased with only 13%. Breadwinners hardly cut down on their hours, women used the basic income for a couple of months of maternity leave and young people used it to do some extra studying.

Forget's most remarkable discovery is that hospital visits went down by 8,5%. This amounted to huge savings (in the United States it would be more than $200 billion a year now). After a couple of years, domestic violence rates and mental health also saw improvement. Mincome made the entire town healthier. The basic income continued to influence following generations, both in terms of income and health.

Dauphin, the town with no poverty, was one of five North-American basic income experiments. Four U.S. projects preceded it. Today, few people know how close the US was in the sixties to implementing a solid social welfare system that could stand the comparison with that of most Western-European countries nowadays. In 1964, president Lyndon B. Johnson declared a 'war on poverty.' Democrats and Republicans were united in their ambition to fundamentally reform social security. But first more testing was needed.

Several tens of millions were made available to test the effects of a basic income among 10,000 families in Pennsylvania, Indiana, North Carolina, Seattle and Denver. The pilots were the first large-scale social experiments differentiating between various test and control groups. The researchers were trying to find the answers to three questions. 1: Does a basic income make people work significantly less? 2: If so, will it make the program unaffordable? 3: And would it consequently become politically unattainable? 

The answers: no, no and yes.

The decrease in working hours turned out to be limited. 'The 'laziness' contention is just not supported by our findings', the chief data analyst of the Denver experiment said. 'There is not anywhere near the mass defection the prophets of doom predicted.' On average, the decline in work hours amounted to 9 percent per household. Like in Dauphin, the majority of this drop was caused by young mothers and students in their twenties.

'These declines in hours of paid work were undoubtedly compensated in part by other useful activities, such as search for better jobs or work in the home,' an evaluative report of a Seattle project concluded.  A mother who had never finished high school got a degree in psychology and went on to a career in research. Another woman took acting classes, while her husband started composing. 'We're now self-sufficient, income-earning artists', they told the researchers. School results improved in all experiments: grades went up and dropout rates went down. Nutrition and health data were also positively affected – for example, the birth weight of newborn babies increased.

For a while, it seemed like the basic income would fare well in Washington.

WELFARE REFORM IS VOTED IN HOUSE, a NYT headline on April 17, 1970 read. An overwhelming majority had endorsed President Nixon's proposal for a modest basic income. But once the proposal got to the Senate, doubts returned. 'This bill represents the most extensive, expensive and expansive welfare legislation ever handled by the Committee on Finance,' one of the senators said.

Then came that fatal discovery: the number of divorces in Seattle had gone up by more than 50%. This percentage made the other, positive results seem utterly uninteresting. It gave rise to the fear that a basic income would make women much too independent. For months, the law proposal was sent back and forth between the Senate and the White House, eventually ending in the dustbin of history.

Later analysis would show that the researchers had made a mistake – in reality the number of divorces had not changed.

Futile, dangerous and perverse

'It Can Be Done! Conquering Poverty in the US by 1976', James Tobin, who would go on to win a Nobel Prize, wrote in 1967. At that time, almost 80% of the American population was in favor of adopting a small basic income. Here is an interesting article about this episode of American history. Nevertheless, Ronald Reagan sneered years later: 'In the sixties we waged a war on poverty, and poverty won.'

Almost 80% of the American population was in favor of adopting a small basic income

Milestones of civilization are often first considered impossible utopias. Albert Hirschman, one of the great sociologists of the previous century, wrote that utopian dreams are usually rebutted on three grounds: futility (it is impossible), danger (the risks are too big) and perversity (its realization will result in the opposite: a dystopia). Yet Hirschmann also described how, once implemented, ideas previously considered utopian are quickly accepted as normal.

Not so long ago, democracy was a grand utopian ideal. From the radical philosopher Plato to the conservative aristocrat Joseph de Maistre, most intellectuals considered the masses too stupid for democracy. They thought that the general will of the people would quickly degenerate into some general's will instead. Apply this kind of reasoning to the basic income: it would be futile because we would not be able to afford it, dangerous because people would stop working, and perverse because we would only have to work harder to clean up the mess it creates. 

But wait a second. 

Futile? For the first time in history we are rich enough to finance a robust basic income. It would allow us to cut most of the benefits and supervision programs that the current social welfare system necessitates. Many tax rebates would be redundant. Further financing could come from (higher) taxing of capital, pollution and consumption.

Eradicating poverty in the United States would cost $175 billion – a quarter of the country's $700 billion military budget. 

A quick calculation. The country I live in, Holland, has 16,8 million inhabitants. Its poverty line is set at $1,300 a month. This would make for a reasonable basic income. Some simple math would set the cost on 193.5 billion euro annually, about 30% of our national GDP. That's an astronomically high figure. But remember: the government already controls more than half of our GDP. It does not keep the Netherlands from being one of the richest, most competitive and happiest countries in the world.

The basic income that Canada experimented with – free money as a right for the poor – would be much cheaper. Eradicating poverty in the United States would cost $175 billion, economist Matt Bruenig recently calculated – a quarter of the country's $700 billion military budget. You can find his calculation here. Still, a system that only helps the poor confirms the divide with the well-to-do. 'A policy for the poor is a poor policy,' Richard Titmuss, the mastermind of the British welfare state, once wrote. A universal basic income, on the other hand, can count on broad support since everyone benefits.

Dangerous? Indeed, we would work a little less. But that's a good thing, with the potential of working wonders for our personal and family lives. A small group of artists and writers ('all those whom society despises while they are alive and honors when they are dead' – Bertrand Russell) may actually stop doing paid work. Nevertheless, there is plenty of evidence that the great majority of people, regardless of what grants they would receive, want to work. Unemployment makes very unhappy. 

One of the perks of the basic income is that it stimulates the 'working poor' – who are, under the current system, more secure receiving welfare payments - to look for jobs. The basic income can only improve their situation; the grant would be unconditional. Minimum wage could be abolished, improving employment opportunities at the lower ends of the labor market. Age would no longer need to form an obstacle to finding and keeping employment (as older employees would not necessarily earn more) thereby boosting overall labor participation.

The welfare state was built to provide security but degenerated in a system of shame 

Perverse? On the contrary, over the last decades our social security systems have degenerated into perverse systems of social control. Government officials spy on people receiving welfare to make sure they are not wasting their money. Inspectors spend their days coaching citizens to help them make sense of all the necessary paperwork. Thousands of government officials are kept busy keeping an eye on this fraud-sensitive bureaucracy. The welfare state was built to provide security but degenerated in a system of distrust and shame. 

Think different

It has been said before. Our welfare state is out of date, based on a time in which men were the sole breadwinners and employees stayed with one company for their entire careers. Our pension system and unemployment protection programs are still centered around those lucky enough to have steady employment. Social security is based on the wrong premise that the economy creates enough jobs. Welfare programs have become pitfalls instead of trampolines.

Never before has the time been so ripe to implement a universal and unconditional basic income. Our ageing societies are challenging us to keep the elderly economically active for as long as possible. An increasingly flexible labor market creates the need for more security. Globalization is eroding middle-class wages worldwide. Women's emancipation will only be completed when a greater financial independence is possible for all. The deepening divide between the low- and highly educated means that the former are in need of extra support. The rise of robots and the increasing automatization of our economy could cost even those at the top of the ladder their jobs. 

Legend has it that while Henry Ford II was giving a tour around a new, fully automatic factory to union leader Walter Reuther in the 1960s, Ford joked:

'Walter, how are you going to get those robots to pay your union dues?'

Reuther is said to have replied:

'Henry, how are you going to get them to buy your cars?'

A world where wages no longer rise still needs consumers. In the last decades, middle-class purchasing power has been maintained through loans, loans and more loans. The Calvinistic reflex that you have to work for your money has turned into a license for inequality.

No one is suggesting societies the world over should implement an expensive basic income system in one stroke. Each utopia needs to start small, with experiments that slowly turn our world upside down — like the one four years ago in the City of London. Switzerland may be the first country to introduce a basic income. One of the aid workers later recalled: 'It's quite hard to just change overnight the way you've always approached this problem. These pilots give us the opportunity to talk differently, think differently, describe the problem differently.'

That is how all progress begins.


Translated from Dutch by Tabitha Speelman.



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