Notes on 2020 Democratic Presidential Candidate Andrew Yang Part I


I. Candidate Yang’s Universal Basic Income platform: unconditionally give $1000/month to everyone (citizens only?) between ages 18-64, no strings attached and untaxed.

II. Rooting for Yang. His Universal Basic Income platform needs to be debated on national stage, but not endorsing him.  Disagree with many of his policies.

III. Don’t agree that automation will significantly shrink workforce.  Automation has been happening for awhile now — ATMs, self-checkout, etc. — yet there’s a severe labor *shortage* as I write this.  I support Universal Basic Income, just not for the same reasons as Yang’s.

IV. Yang cites labor participation rate of 62.7 percent as evidence of automation shrinking workforce.  So that’s down from 67 percent in 1996.  Is that supposed to be a big deal?  Context: labor participation rate has decreased since economic recovery;  labor participation rate has decreased as unemployment rate has decreased.  Yet Yang envisions doomsday.  I see people choosing to be stay-at-home moms and dads because they can finally afford to do so and a bunch of people who are either unemployable or employed in the black and grey markets (eg. sex work, etsy, ebay).

V.  Automation doesn’t destroy jobs, it only makes people more productive.  Just because Artificial Intelligence (AI) can do the job of a corporate lawyer better and faster doesn’t mean we don’t need most corporate lawyers anymore.  There’s a bottomless backlog of shit that needs to get done.  Once done, there’ll be unimaginable new frontiers to explore. So AI doesn’t mean fewer radiologists or police officers or lawyers.  It just means more of what needs to get done gets done, and at a lower cost to consumers because shit gets done faster and more efficiently.

VI. Next stage automation — Artificial Intelligence Economy — won’t happen as quickly as Yang predicts (10-15 years).  Technological change is as much a social and political issue as it is an economic one.  People will eventually get used to driver-less cars and trucks, just as people got used to using elevators. But it’ll take longer than Yang thinks and the changes will be gradual rather than radical.  Americans don’t like radical change.

VII. Universal Basic Income will help keep unemployable people out of the work-force.  That’s a good thing because there are a lot of people who produce negative value.  Meaning, their screw ups cost a lot of money to fix.  Then there are those — most of the workforce — who produce little value above what they’re paid. Best to not let them work too much.

VIII. Critics say that work is how one builds good character.  Let’s assume that’s true. But why does everyone need to have good character?  We keep useless, lazy pets around and aren’t concerned about their moral health and lack of grit.  So why should we be bothered and concerned if someone doesn’t want to work, especially if we don’t need that person to work?  Let them be and give them enough money to stay off the streets.

IX. Yang mentions Alaska as a test case.  Alaskans get a dividend each month and that hasn’t resulted in societal breakdown and rise in slothful behavior.  Same with other UBI pilot projects around the world.  Link here to pilot outcomes

In fact, have shown improvements in physical and mental health, increase of IQ scores, higher graduation rates (ugh, that’s not necessarily a positive outcome) and reduction of crime. A UBI experiment in Canada saw hospitalization rates go down 8.5%.

X. That makes sense because the lack of economic security is a source of poor mental health, which often leads to poor physical health and nutrition.

XI. Nutrition in US will improve if UBI improves mental health.  Inability to cope with anxiety and depression, not lack of financial resources and access to nutritionally dense ingredients, is why people have poor diets.

XII.  UBI won’t help the poorest of the poor — doesn’t matter how much money you give them, they’ll figure out a way to fuck it up.  But it’ll help the working poor and up.  It’ll especially help the upper-middle class to become more entrepreneurial instead of playing it safe.

XIII. Use UBI to pay off student loan debt.  Then get government out of business of subsidizing student loans.

XIV. Welfare requires a complicated bureaucracy of social workers, administrators, and fraud prevention officers.  So much money intended for the poor is wasted.

XV. Welfare is psychologically crippling, UBI is emotionally uplifting.  Welfare stigmatizes, UBI exculpates.  Welfare racializes poverty, UBI humanizes poverty.  Welfare disincentivizes work, UBI encourages work.  Welfare is invasive, UBI is unconditional.  Welfare invites fraud, UBI is fraud proof.  Welfare requires bureaucracy, UBI is automated.








1 thought on “Notes on 2020 Democratic Presidential Candidate Andrew Yang Part I

  1. Joseph

    the effect of automation on jobs is easy to underestimate. in the past, lost jobs have been replaced by other jobs. will that happen again? frankly, nobody knows, but the fact that it happened once is weak evidence that it will happen again. this time, the transition has the potential to be so much faster and more severe. An analogy: compare facebook with the invention of the printing press. The scope of these two technologies is actually sort of similar if you sit back and mull it over. the printing press made the reproduction of written information hundreds of times cheaper and faster (and higher quality). the scale is what matters. it’s not that the spread of information on facebook is now fast-ER, or cheap-ER than ever before. it’s instant. and it’s free (almost). In the case of self-driving trucks, i agree that the transition will not be instant. But what about cell-center workers? bartenders at casinos? the list goes on and on. and yes, radiologists are absolutely gonna lose billable hours in aggregate.


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