My earlier discussion of cult behaviour by advocates of the Basic Income (BI) in Holland was re-posted on BInews.org. The tally showed about 70 new readers. The re-posting showed openness of mind but the comments there fit the cult behaviour again. Is cult behaviour contagious ?
Before discussing those comments, let me further clarify the situation in Holland.
- Dutch readers may look at my criticism on BI in 1994. On the website of the Dutch BI association we even find a 1995 reference to part of my criticism, see this link and footnote 36. The latter link uses a search on my name, so that you can confirm that only part of my analysis is mentioned, without reference, and that there is no attention since 1995. (Nowadays better search on Colignatus.)
- This does not only hold w.r.t. my work but also w.r.t. others. There is a fine discussion by Michel Verbeek 2013 (whom I didn’t know before and whom I haven’t met) on the Sargasso weblog, that shows that the BI is costly & counterproductive and that there exists a better alternative in full employment and (rejuvenating) the Welfare State (which is my position as well). A search on the Dutch BI website on Michel Verbeek’s name remains negative. A search on Sargasso (which isn’t logical) renders an overview article in which his article is listed. That overview article however misstates his argument. The BI adherent argues that the Welfare State is being redressed because of its inherent problems, so that the Welfare State cannot be the answer. However, the true reason why it is being redressed is politics. Politicians like Reagan and Thatcher were not interested in adapting the Welfare State to the 1970+ challenges, but let it implode and took the opportunity to start abolishing it. As scientists we can only respect political decisions but we must protest when false arguments are given, by Reagan, Thatcher and BI-advocates alike.
- I asked the chairman of the Dutch BI association last month whether their website could post links to my 1994 criticism and 2014 weblog. He answered that he had transferred that question to a research committee, and that he himself was too busy advocating BI. It should be obvious that there is little to “research” on this. The BI might have some complexity, but if you don’t understand it, then you should not advocate it. A chairman who advocates BI should be able to understand the criticism put forward by me and indeed also Verbeek. A chairman should be able to understand what criticism on cult behaviour entails, and react with alarm instead of putting the ostrich head ever deeper in the Dutch clay.
Last week professor H.J. Witteveen, former IMF-director, gave a fine lecture on the IS-LM model. His idea is that much more can be done on Dutch unemployment. See my former weblog entry on his lecture and my comments.
In composing those comments, a google also gave an article in The American Prospect, “History’s Missed Moment“, September 2011: “The epic financial crash of 2007–2008 should have produced a massive political defeat for the conservative ideology whose resurgence began three decades ago.” Well, this weblog Boycott Holland is essentially scientific, and hence neutral on conservatism or progressivity. What matters here is that issues aren’t stated with false arguments. In that TAP article, I actually also saw quotes from Paul de Beer, professor in Amsterdam, who also featured prominently in the said BI cult behaviour criticism:
“In the neighboring Netherlands, Labor Prime Minister Wim Kok brokered a grand bargain in 1999. Employers got more discretion to hire temporary and part-time workers, but these workers were supposed to be accorded the same protections as those with regular contracts. Unemployment fell. “He was hailed as a miracle worker,” says economist Paul de Beer of the University of Amsterdam, “but it had a lot more to do with North Sea oil and favorable macroeconomic trends—higher worldwide growth, low interest rates—than with Kok’s reforms.”
(…) The overall consequence of these shifts is declining security and declining earnings. Among young Dutch workers, fully 61 percent have low-wage jobs. Meanwhile, the center-right government, which took power in 2002 with Labor as a junior partner since 2006, has acted to splinter other welfare-state programs. “Health insurance used to be mandatory and fixed,” de Beer says. “Now everyone has to insure themselves, there are many different kinds of policies, and companies engage in cherry-picking.” This story is all too American. What’s surprising is to find it in the Netherlands, much less as the partial handiwork of a labor party.”
It is up to the TAP reporter what questions are asked and how De Beer is quoted. Nevertheless, I maintain that De Beer blocks my ideas from further discussion by others like The American Prospect. He could have explained to the TAP reporter that there was a sensational new approach to tackle unemployment. He could have explained that he himself at that Dutch PvdA labour party had blocked that approach from discussion since 1990, after which that party and its leader Wim Kok started to use false arguments to deceive the public and help abolish the Welfare State, in a neoliberal delusion that also Europe’s social-democrats suffer from.
Let us now look at BInews.org. There are four comments on my protest on BI cult behaviour in Holland:
(1) LUI (Lui Smyth): “The title alone suggests he’s a crank, and he rails against censorship but then doesn’t allow comments on the blog. Which is just as well, because his whole argument hinges on the spurious claim that we can return to full employment simply by eliminating the “tax void”…which appears to be a reference to the income tax paid by on minimum wage.”
(a) Commenting is off, since it would take too much time eliminating spam. You cannot construe this as censorship itself.
(b) The claim is that we can return to full employment. Full employment in 1950-1970 wasn’t a fluke but derived from economic conditions that can be identified, and that are subtler than mere “restoration after WW 2”. Read carefully: abolishing the tax void is not sufficient, as DRGTPE clearly points to the Economic Supreme Court and National Investment Banks as well. The abolition of the void is however presented as an eye-opener to that analysis.
(c) The tax void is not “the income tax paid by on minimum wage”. See here.
(d) LUI doesn’t read well and starts slandering. LUI presents himself: “I am a postgraduate researcher in UCL’s anthropology department studying the Bitcoin community.” Don’t they teach anthropologists at UCL manners ?
(2) Timothy Roscoe Carter: “I was hoping there would be real critique of the basic income here to respond to. But this is just an academic who is upset that an academic committee with a BIG advocate on it it ignoring his personal theory that he thinks will help more people than a BI. Whether his theory is right or wrong, this really has nothing to do with a basic income.”
(a) It was not “an academic committee with a BIG advocate on it”. My text clearly described the Wiardi Beckman Stichting as the scientific bureau of the Dutch labour party PvdA. It advised Wim Kok (PvdA) who advised German Kanzler Schröder (SPD) who now embraces and advises Vladimir Putin.
(b) “just” and “personal theory” is derogative: the theory is up for scrutiny by the scientific community (except for the censorship that I seek to be lifted).
(c) Inconsistent: “theory will help more people than BI” and “this really has nothing to do with a basic income”. It is an important element for the BI that it is not only attractive in itself but also it should also be more effective.
(d) TRC appears to be a disability and taxation attorney in San Francisco (CA). He likes Science Fiction, and might appreciate my SF book. He wrote: “The One Minute Case for a Basic Income“ (2013). He lists 11 “one minute” arguments for the Basic Income “to promote the abolition of poverty.” However, my argument was that the Basic Income will rather increase poverty.
(e) Hence Timothy Roscoe Carter would fit that question: Isn’t this pure evil ?
(3) The BInews.org moderator US BIG doubts whether I am an academic. Well, I am a researcher and worked mostly at research institutes and indeed a short period of two years also at the regular “academia” of a university department. Why “doubt” when my cv is available (though needs updating) ?
(4) Jonah: “To investigate critical perspectives on BI is important. But the “pure evil” talking blogger is really just a crank. Nothing substantive there.”
(a) My weblog entry focussed on BI cult behaviour in particular in Holland and did not elaborate on an evaluation of BI compared to other arrangements. The Jonah response is non sequitur and slander.
(b) If Jonah thinks that “critical perspectives on BI is important” then he could have looked at DRGTPE that I referred to. Why didn’t he do so ? Perhaps he didn’t like the discussion on censorship and BI cult behaviour in Holland, but that is no reason to throw out the baby with the bathwater.
(c) There is no further link to identify who Jonah actually is. A google on “Jonah Basic Income” generates this article by Jonah Goldberg, also at the American Enterprise Institute. I hope that Jonah comes forward and that he doesn’t have to apologize at AEI for above behaviour.
Goldberg proposes: “According to Rector, 100 million Americans receive aid from the government at an average cost of $9,000 per recipient. Surely some of them are equipped to spend that money better than the government. Why not give them a shot at proving it? If they fail, they can always switch back to the old system.” The suggestion that this would be better is nothing but a newspaper article and the flash of some new idea, not supported by research. Possibly the below-$9000 will step out and ask for the full $9000 ? Or, let a recipient squander the money in the first day, visiting Las Vegas, and then for the rest of the year he or she would be a bum on the street: is that the goal ? This does not really get better if you do this on a monthly base. Basically, Jonah Goldberg proposes that the current monitoring system is replaced by one that monitors monitoring. This merely means that the system might be improved a bit, by a bit more freedom for dependents. My response is that it would be better to return to full employment and create a Welfare State that works.
Apparenly nobody at BInews.org was able to check this out themselves. Nobody defended my work against these absurd responses. The Dutch BI cult behaviour is either contagious or perhaps only an example of a wider world phenomenon. Indeed, Goldberg refers to Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman, and it is well-known that these economists didn’t really study the Basic Income and only mentioned it as an element in their ideology.