Wènhòu, Faithful Readers!
Okay, so imagine if the government started paying every adult in Canada a living wage of $2000.00 a month just so they could spend their lives doing what they wanted instead of slaving away at some job they don't care about in order to avoid freezing and / or starving to death? Well, that's exactly that the Swiss are thinking about doing right now.
Depending on where you are (both mentally and physically) this either sounds like emancipation from modern capitalist serfdom or the rankest form of SOCIALISM. Ewwwww.
If anything else, it illustrates the philosophical gulf between Europeans and North Americans. In Europe this proposal could be regarded as the next logical extension of the social safety net that's already set in place. In the United States just voicing this idea in a public forum would probably get you run out of town by a mob of yahoos armed with torches and pitchforks.
Now, I'm not sure what Americans think socialism is but many of them pronounce it with same sort of distaste a literate person would use if they were forced to say the word "coprophagia". Maybe they just assume that its evil because it ends with "-ism" like "fascism". Notwithstanding the the fact that capitalism also ends with the same three letters, I really want to ask these people what they think farming assistance, unemployment benefits,Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid is. You like those programs, right?
"Wrong!" comes the obstinate reply.
Um, o-o-o-o-kay, why not?
"Givin' people a free lunch makes 'em weak, unmotivated an' dependent. And I don't wanna give a red cent to anybody who ain't gonna pull their own weight!"
Okay, but what if the shoe was on the other foot? What if the cracker factory you work at in Frog Balls Arkansas suddenly gets bought out by some wealthy conglomerate who then decide to move the whole operation lock, stock and barrel down to Bogata in order to wring a bit more profit out of it and give their shareholders a money-boner™? Suddenly the job you held down for the past eighty-four years is gone, you find yourself unceremoniously dumped out into a ruinous economy with barely any contemporary skills and you've gotta turn to Food Stamps to support your family.
Lemme give you another scenario: what if you're a single mom who works two jobs and can't afford health insurance and one day you get plowed down in the crosswalk of a four-way intersection because someone's idea of "multi-tasking" is texting, putting on makeup, eating a McGriddle and driving all at the same time? Well, if you have the misfortune of surviving, it's very likely that you'll be buried under an insurmountable crush of medical bills that you may never be able to extricate yourself from.
Since there's clearly a victim in both of these scenarios, wouldn't it make sense if society as whole chipped in a little bit to help mitigate this misfortune? And if you decided to accept this help would you see it as badly-needed assistance in a time of need or the start of your unending spiral towards becoming an entitlement junkie?
Or, to put it in the inexplicable words of actor / Republican / oblivious chowderhead Craig T. Nelson:
Wow, just...wow. Even Glenn Beck looks like he's thinking 'Oh, God, did he just say what I think he said? Who booked this (oxy)moron?'
For a bunch of self-righteous blowhards who constantly rail against "takers" who exist only to score their next government handout, many star Republicans seem pretty durned quick to snatch up these benefits themselves when given half the chance. Take fiscally-conservative tub-thumper / unblinking Skeletor understudy Michelle Bachmann. Despite decrying Obama for foisting "socialism" on a weakened American populace like a drug pusher, her family farming operation leeched almost two hundred and fifty-two thousand dollars from American taxpayers between 1995 and 2006. And, trust me, she's not the only hypocrite.
In fact, all Republicans and Conservatives want us drones to unquestioningly worship at the feet of whatever corporate golden calves that are kind enough to grant us a future. Well, if we're to believe that corporations are people now and we should look up to them, shouldn't they all be paragons of fiscal responsibility and independence?
Nope. Wait, let me double ch...ah, nope.
And that's why I think the Swiss are on to something.
"But Dave!" I miraculously hear some of you out there saying, "If you give people a free basic living allowance they'll never do anything productive. People are inherently lazy and, if given half a choice, they won't work a day in their lives!"
To which I reply:
- You must be hanging around the wrong people! Everybody in my circle would go totally batshit nuts if they remained idle for too long, present company included.
- Eventually automation and technology will force this issue and there'll too many people and not enough crappy McJobs.
- Honestly, who cares if some people don't want to work? If humanity applied itself, only about five to ten percent of the world's population would need to work in order to keep this wacky globe a-spinnin'.
So, what if we could set up a system that both generous humanitarians and selfish assholes could both get behind? Welp, here's what I'd institute if I was ever voted Emperor of the Planet:
- "People need food, water, shelter and access to basic healthcare in order to live. Okay, with that truism established, I'm just gonna give every legal adult $2000.00 a month just fer bein' you! I call it the B.L.E.S.S. or the Basic Living Expense Survival Supplement. Now, don't spend it all in once place; I'll be back in about a month or so to check up on ya!"
- "Hey, how're you doin'? Man, I can't believe that it's already been four weeks since I gave you your first B.L.E.S.S. so I just wanted to pop by and see what you've been up to! What's that you say? You've been doing nothing? Just sittin' there watching one Vanderpump Rules marathon after another, huh? Well, um, okay, but if you really want the full experience of watching a snooty British entrepreneur berate her pretty-but-dumb-as-a-bag-of-hammers waitstaff on a high def T.V. then you might wanna go out and get a job. But, hey, whatevs."
- *knock, knock* Yo, Jessie I'm here to...OH MY GOD!!! What the hell did you do?!? Okay, okay, lemme get this straight...you took all of the money I wanted you to spend on bread, milk and pizza and blew it on meth?!? Okay...no...no, relax, dude, chill out...stop crying...no, we're not gonna throw you in jail. And no, we're not going to cut off, alright? Clearly you've got a problem so we're just run you through the same drug treatment program that Portugal's been using to good effect. Even if it takes more then a month, don't worry dude: we've got an endless supply of opportunities to get your head screwed on straight! Eventually I know you'll come around...
- Good day, random flaky artsy person! I just wanted to see what you've been doing with your B.L.E.S.S. money and all of that free time! Well, well, looky that...I see that you've painted a picture / written a story / made a movie and / or composed and then learned how to perform an original dubstep song on the theremin! Well, here's this month's B.L.E.S.S. and, remember: if you manage to make some cheddar from your creation, it's all pure profit! That's right, you can cash that royalty check knowing that it's not just gonna get swallowed up by the inexorable rent monster!
- So, you say you want to live in something larger then your basic domicile? You want clothes with some stupid brand name printed on it? Enough kids to start up your own basketball team? A fancy new motorcar? A timeshare in Lisbon? Do you have an irrational desire to habitually dine at an expensive restaurant named SUR? Well, then you better keep your job at the cracker factory, pal! Now, don't worry, if you decide to keep working I'm not gonna claw back your B.L.E.S.S.! To the contrary, all of the money you bank from work will be pure, unadulterated profit my covetous friend!
- Wow, hey, check you out! Through your hard work, discipline, initiative and perseverance you've become an entrepreneur / brain doctor / atom-smasher / star of a series of oddly profitable direct-to-pay-cable-giant-shark-based-monster-movies! Oh, but what's that you say: you don't want to share your tax dollars with "deadbeats" who don't work as "hard" as you do? Hmmmm, well, I can see by our records that that this stance of yours certainly hasn't precluded you from cashing those B.L.E.S.S. checks every month. Remember how that money paid your power bill while you were putting together your business plan? Do you recall how many text books it paid for? What gave you the chance to really drill down on that Sharkaconda vs. Gorillarantula script instead of bussing tables at Spagos? And, yes, I'm referring to the Spago in Windsor Ontario, by the way.
- As long as you keep living fairly frugally then you won't have to pay a lot of taxes. But if you start buying yachts, Ferraris, forty-thousand dollar bottles of wine or island in the Cyclades like a dee-bag, then yer gonna get dinged for some mondo sales tax.
So, is my system perfect? Hardly. Switzerland might be able to pull this off but that's just because of their shady-but-undeniably-strong international banking economy. Oh, and they also have a population of only about eight million people, who are already predisposed to the notion that social programs can actually improve the quality of life instead of signalling inevitable imprisonment on a work collective.
Even though it would be a lot harder to institute a paradigm shift in North America and you'd get a lot of push back from hordes of uninformed morons who erroneously equate socialism with communism, I still dream that one day we'll all come to our collective senses and actually try something new.
'Cuz, let's face it folks, the system that we're using right now is just plain broken.
EPIC DOC You think that I'm a dreamer? Check out futurist / social engineer Jacques Fresco's proposals for The Venus Project. Pity that there's no chance in hell that the whole of humanity will ever rally behind this great idea because reasons.
EPIC INTERVIEW Our very own George Stroumboulopoulos gets some great observations out of comedian and political satirist Bill Maher. Pay particular attention to what he says at the six minute mark and beyond.
REALITY FAIL Fox News continues to be the "news" equivalent of that drunk racist uncle of yours who's always ranting and raving about the "moocher class" at family dinners. Seriously, if you hitch your wagon to these idiots then you deserve to work sixty hours a week at two jobs in perpetuity and have the same quality of life as a medieval serf.