Guaranteed Livable Income and the Golden Rule
by J.S. Larochelle 2006

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  "What we want is a little money.
You men know that you get as much again as women
when you write, or for what you do.
When we get our rights
we shall not have to come to you for money,
for then we shall have money enough in our own pockets;
and maybe you will ask us for money.
But help us now until we get it.
It is a good consolation to know
that when we have got this battle once fought
we shall not be coming to you any more.  
You have been having our rights so long,
that you think, like a slaveholder,
that you own us.
I know that it is hard
for one who has held the reins for so long
to give up;
it cuts like a knife.
It will feel all the better when it closes up again."

"Keeping the Thing Going While Things Are Stirring" Sojourner Truth, May 9, 1867


If people are not entirely sold on the idea of a Guaranteed Livable Income (GLI), then it must mean they are entirely sold on the idea that Full Employment is the only solution to world poverty.

But the only way to produce 'scientific' (according to followers of Adam Smith) full employment is to make ever more cars, pave ever more roads, drill or dig (e.g. Alberta's oil sands) for ever more oil, and cut down ever more trees to build ever more shopping malls and Wal-Marts and disposable unnecessary plastic crap created in sweatshop slave labour conditions. A status quo definition of 'full employment' is dependent upon an endless cycle of production and consumption.

The imperative to consume was explained way back in 1776 by Adam Smith when he wrote in The Wealth of Nations: "Consumption is the sole end and purpose of all production; and the interest of the producer ought to be attended to, only so far as it may be necessary for promoting that of the consumer.   The maxim is so perfectly self-evident, that it would be absurd to attempt to prove it."

Doesn't it seem absurd to suggest that we must all produce and consume endless amounts of unnecessary products in order to earn enough money to stay alive? Martin Luther King Jr. was merely stating the obvious when he wrote, "I am now convinced that the simplest approach will prove to be the most effective -- the solution to poverty is to abolish it directly by a now widely discussed measure: the guaranteed income."

Each year, the nation's citizenry agrees to pay a guaranteed livable income, through taxation, to politicians.

It seems obvious that politicians would starve or freeze to death without a government legislated GLI with which to buy food and housing.   Clearly, if you told a politician that his or her job was now a voluntary and thus non-paid job, like motherhood, they would tell you that they need a GLI - with an indexed pension plan attached.

It is doubtful that citizens would ever agree to give politicians money ONLY because they need a job to escape poverty. How do politicians justify, then, claiming a GLI for themselves while denying it to others? Why do they insist that others, including mothers and children, must harvest natural resources and sell them for a profit in the private sector's 'free market' in order to stay alive?

Why aren't artists and musicians and philosophers and poets and authors offered a guaranteed livable income? Aren't these the people who create beauty and entertainment for our otherwise rather droll existences?   Isn't every child encouraged to nurture their creative abilities - to draw, and sing, and write?   At what point are our youthful imaginings re-labelled as idealistic nonsense, and why?

Vandana Shiva wrote, "The proposal to solve the ecological crisis by giving market values to all resources is like offering the disease as the cure.   The reduction of all value to commercial value, and the removal of all spiritual, ecological, cultural and social limits to exploitation - the shift that took place at the time of industrialization - is central to the ecological crisis."

Mother Nature Will Thank Us

Without a guaranteed livable income, what choice do we have but to convert nature into commodities to sell for money? In the beginning of his 1960 book The Waste Makers, Vance Packard quoted Dorothy L. Sayers as saying:   "A society in which consumption has to be artificially stimulated in order to keep production going is a society founded on trash and waste, and such a society is a house built upon sand"
(Creed or Chaos, 1952).

Rachel Carson's Silent Spring was published in 1962.   Not mincing her words she warned: "The most alarming of all man's assaults upon the environment is the contamination of air, earth, rivers, and sea with dangerous and even lethal materials."   On the back cover, Margaret Mead wrote: "Not war, but a plethora of man-made things ...   is threatening to strangle us, bury us, in the debris of by-products of our technologically inventive and irresponsible age."

In the preface to his 2002 book "The Enemy Of Nature," Joel Kovel wrote,"Growing numbers of people are beginning to realize that capitalism is the uncontrollable force driving our ecological crisis, only to become frozen in their tracks by the awesome implications of the insight."  

But WHY are environmental and anti consumer activists "frozen in their tracks"?

Given that the demand for 'full employment' means ecocide, not to demand a universal guaranteed livable income is nothing short of the genocide of the poor.   And what makes today's 'death by poverty' especially horrific is that it targets mothers and children regardless of the fact that there is plenty of food and the capacity to grow much more.

Simply put, mothers and children cannot compete for paid jobs to have money to buy the food that already exists.   As Anuradha Mittal put it: "...the world's farmers produce 4.3 pounds of food per person, per day. This includes vegetables, cereals, fish, meat, and grains.... People are hungry because they are too poor to buy food.   There is a shortage of purchasing power,   not a shortage of food." On The True Cause Of World Hunger," Published in The Sun, February 2002

Those of us who live in so-called 'wealthy' countries know full well there is plenty of food here and the capacity to grow a whole lot more. But as Linda McQuaig put it: "Under the market system, there is demand for a product if a lot of people want it -- but that demand counts for nothing if those people have no money.   If they lack money, their demand essentially doesn't exist." (All You Can Eat) (website).

The Universality of Laws, is the Golden Rule

Martin Luther King Jr.'s scientific logic for supporting a GLI was irrefutable: "We must create full employment or we must create incomes. People must be made consumers by one method or the other."  We agree to pay politicians a GLI to solve problems on a universal basis.  

In fact, the 'universality of laws' is the 'golden rule' that so many people have written about throughout time:

"All things whatsoever
ye would that men should do to you,
do ye so to them;
for this is the law and the prophets."

-- Matthew

"Do not do to others what you would not like yourself.   Then there will be no resentment against you, either in the family or in the state."
-- Confucius

"Hurt not others
in ways that you yourself
would find hurtful."

-- Buddha

"This is the sum of duty; do naught onto others
what you would not have them do unto you."

-- Mahabharata

"No one of you is a believer
until he desires for his brother
that which he desires for himself."

-- Sunnah

"What is hateful to you,
do not do to your fellowman.
This is the entire Law;
all the rest is commentary."

-- Talmud

"Regard your neighbor's gain as your gain, and
your neighbor's loss as your own loss."

-- Tai Shang Kan Yin P'ien

"We hold these truths to be self-evident,
that all men [sic] are created equal,
that they are endowed by their Creator
with certain unalienable Rights,
that among these are
Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness ...
That to secure these rights,
Governments are instituted among Men,
deriving their just powers from
the consent of the governed ...
That whenever any Form of Government
becomes destructive
of these ends,
it is the Right of the People
to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles
and organizing its powers in such form,
as to them shall seem
most likely
to effect their Safety and Happiness."

-- Thomas Jefferson

"Everyone has the right
to life, liberty and security of the person
and the right not to be deprived thereof
except in accordance with the principles
of fundamental justice."

--   Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms

* * *

Written by J.S. Larochelle with a little help from Janine Bandcroft,
and research by C.A. L'Hirondelle.

First published in the Victoria Street Newz -- September 2006