… for our American friends.

This is a link that blew into my inbox, with an incredible short-story competition about “Basic Income”.  (In Europe the topic is discussed under “unconditional income” and I battle to see the difference between it and “dole”.  But granted, I guess not in every country is the dole high enough to cover basics.)

I was getting seriously excited about the $12 000 prize (yes, you read that right!  $12 Grand!) until I found the little line:  “if you live in the USA”.

So, my USA friends, here is an opportunity for a REALLY big short-story prize.

Shortstory Contest: “Basic Income”

xxx enjoy!



20 thoughts on “Competition

  1. If I were eligible my entry would not be popular. I would recommend a very basic income unless there was almost total disability. None of this nonsense of living off the state in such comfort that overseas holidays are taken.

    • Y’know it’s funny, actually. I don’t understand the concept at all, unless one comes from the POV that the idle rich have sucked the rest of humanity dry of money. They hold literally ALL the money… with the exception of a little bit that we’re allowed to circulate and scramble for. If everyone were paid according to their actual contribution to society, there would be no idle super-rich and only the super-lazy would be poor.

    • No, I don’t mean replace money with a barter system. I have written at length about this elsewhere. Money itself is inert; it is used to represent the arbitrary value capitalism puts on it (hereafter I shall call that value by its proper name, ‘price’, and use ‘value’ in a more appropriate context), and at worst it is little more than the ‘company store’ token that one can only spend to make the rich richer. Barter still privatises labour and production, still involves the arbitrary fixing of a ‘price’. I speak, however, of what I call the ‘intrinsic’ or ‘social value’ of labour. This is not an alien concept – we have it and understand it already:

      If I see someone carrying heavy shopping down the street, and I go and help them, to the capitalist this has a price – the equivalent in porter’s wages for the time spent. But that is a false reckoning, since capitalism depends on the theft of labour. The actual value is a social one, that of helping a burdened neighbour. We do things like this all the time, but in little ways so we hardly notice. When a few decades ago there was a move to make domestic (intra-family) housekeeping subject to a wage, I argued against it, because it was the imposition of a price, when what was needed was an extension on the principle of social value.

      The social value of labour is, if you like, a pay-it-forward system. Because the cobbler mends shoes, everyone eats; because the baker bakes bread, everyone is entertained; because the singer sings, everyone gets a ride into town; because the bus-driver drives, everyone has sound shoes; and so on. It is a co-operative system, based on the Kropotkinist theory that mutual aid was an important factor in human evolution, and that what we see these days is a counter-evolutionary aberration – one only has to look at the effect hierarchies of money and power have done both to human society and the environment.

      I ought to write a book, but I’m only a third-rate historian.

    • This concept does need a book for expansion.. One of the concerns that comes up when considering it is that humans, do not differ from other organisms in being competitive, but they also place a value on competition and success. That is why ‘all people are equal” invariably gets overtaken by ‘but some more than others’.

    • “Because the cobbler mends shoes, everyone eats; because the baker bakes bread, everyone is entertained; because the singer sings, everyone gets a ride into town; because the bus-driver drives, everyone has sound shoes; ” beautifully said!

    • “…humans, do not differ from other organisms in being competitive…”

      A common misconception. We are not naturally so. We are cooperative, as are many other successful organisms. However, the phenomenon ‘competition’ we now see as being somehow god-given or natural is part of a complex interconnection of societal and cultural problems, falsities – rank bloody fatal errors, if you ask my opinion – which go right back to the foundation of agriculture as the basis of human life. Even before the invention of the heavy plough, there was still a communitarian aspect to agriculture, with strip farming keeping people close together as they worked. With the invention of the heavy plough and the division of land into larger fields, labour was divided between the ‘heavy physical’, exterior, non-domestic, end-product oriented, which was invariably male, and the domestic which was invariably female. This altered sexual politics radically. With the production of surplus came the idea of price above intrinsic value, of proprietorship, and the build-up of hierarchies of wealth and power. It doesn’t take a genius to see what a counter-evolutionary blind-alley this has led us down. ‘Progress’ under such a set of systems is illusory. Technology may have become more sophisticated, but in cultural, psychological, and psychic terms human culture has been retrograde. We can’t unmake history, we can’t unmake technology, we CAN realise the magnitude of our cultural and societal error and do something about it. Or we can wash our hands of the whole thing and go to hell in a handcart.

    • Here I have to differ. Humans, as with other life forms, are naturally competitive, as their default state. In common with other living creatures, if they find an advantage from cooperation they will use it, but generally with the incentive and intention of getting one up on other groups or life forms. Thus repression of this instinct only takes place selectively and makes universal cooperation a highly unlikely ideal. It would require a triumph of intellect over instinct, and the former is sadly undeveloped — as daily history shows.

    • What a dire (and in my opinion, false) analysis. Competitiveness is only one shot in our locker, one tool in our kit, and is less important than we think. It is our CULTURE that has persuaded us otherwise, from a point in history when the communitarian urge was suppressed. I notice that competitiveness is typically argued from a position of relative strength and privilege, and as a justification for that position of relative strength. It is trumpeted my the transnationally rich as justification for their success, for their right to dictate to nations, and to choose to despoil the planet if they so wish. It is demonstrably counter-productive and dangerous to our survival as a species. We have two choices: 1] replace this tool in its proper place in the toolbox, and rediscover the vital tool of cooperation, or 2] perish in our own folly.

    • Certainly the qualifications and abilities of those who make major decisions are seriously lacking and lead to the propagation of escalating idiocy. However, competitiveness from positions of strength can be argued as less dangerous than that arising from weakness, which evidences itself as passive or destructive reaction to a perception of disadvantage. Attempts made over the ages to inculcate a sense of mutual cooperation and of striving for the better good at all times can be seen to have been overcome by innately selfish motives.
      South Africa is an example of under-qualified individuals starting on a path of betterment for all, but swiftly becoming overtaken by greed and ineptitude until they became part of the transnationally rich despoiling contingent.

    • I think your concession about competition from a position of weakness, and power in the hands of the unqualified makes my point, without further need for comment from me. You have in fact described the default position of power.

      The lionising of strength/power is precisely what has enabled Vladimir Putin, the revival of the cult of Stalin, Robert Mugabe, etc. etc. etc. to function. It is so clearly aberrant. Seeking power is an automatic disqualification from fitness to wield it.

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