On today’s episode we’re going to be talking about Uber’s legal troubles in Europe and Asia, Uber and Lyft drivers facing recategorization in the U.S., the Evolution exit scam, AB-1326 update, and last, but certainly not least, Greg Slepak and Scott Santen join the show to talk about basic income.
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Basic Income Links
Content for today’s episode was provided by John Light, Greg Slepak, and Scott Santens
Music for today’s episode was “Curbside Killers” by Pskov
Episode Transcription by P.H. Madore
[John Light] Greg was a guest on episode four of the podcast and is joining us today as a guest host. Scott is a leader in several communities which advocate for basic income, which we’re going to be learning more about today. Thank you both for joining the show.
[Greg Slepak] Thanks John.
[Scott Santens] Happy to be here.
[John Light] Scott, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got interested in basic income?
[Scott Santens] Sure. My background is actually pretty various. I’ve been a freelancer, you know, website design, graphic design, writing, you know, a bunch of different things, so, I mean, I’ve been a long, long time user of Reddit and, you know, before that, Digg. You know, but I came over to Reddit and at one point in late 2013, something made it to the front page of Reddit that was basically about how unaware people are about how advanced technology is at this point. That, you know, the stuff that we think of as science fiction, years ahead in the future, is actually happening right now.
And in that thread, on Reddit, there was a link to Marshall Brain’s Mana, saying, you know, you guys should read this. So, I read that, and it – you know, that really got me thinking and I also recommend Robotic Nation, his three-part essay, and in this, he talks about a basic income. He actually really sets the bar high and he says that we need – or we should and can do something [indecipherable] like a $30,000 a year base income. And that may sound kind of crazy, to think, let alone of free money for everybody, but also of something to that amount, but if you read it, it’s got some very good examples of how to hand out this money, and just all the ways that we aren’t raising revenue already and how we could raise revenue, and, basically, it’s a means to leverage the technology that we’ve developed, and are continuing to develop to benefit everybody, instead of just a select few.
You know, that really got me passionate about this idea, I mean, it just seems something that once you hear about, you might kind of think of as a little bit crazy at first, possibly, but once you really start to dig into it, it just makes so much sense that it just becomes seemingly incredibly important that this is something that may not only get going in the future, but something that we should already have. And when we do that, we can actually remove the brakes that we’re putting on ourselves from, you know, more automation than what we’re already seeing.
[John Light] Thank you for that explanation. One of the first questions that comes to my mind at least, and I’m sure comes to other people’s minds, is where does the money to pay for a basic income program come from?
[Scott Santens] Yeah, that’s a very, very common question, and there’s a few ways of looking at this.
For one, we’re already spending a lot of money on our current – and if you look into it – entirely broken and horribly ass-backwards welfare system. And if you look at even the current taxes and transfer, like, people will say, oh, how ridiculous is that to tax the rich and then give it back to them – well, again, we’re already doing that too. We’re, on average, taxing and transferring about ten thousand dollars per income quintile – so, right now, the rich receive about ten thousand dollars, the richest 20% receive about $10,000 per year in transfers. Of course, these transfers are in a different form than we kind of imagine them as being for the poor. So it’s more like subsidies and stuff like that. It’s not so much cash assistance. But it’s still cash assistance. And they’re getting this and so is everybody else – they’re getting this already, too. So there’s already a lot of money that’s being taxed and transferred, that it would just make far more sense to make visible and give it to everyone to cash.
So no more subsidies, no more deductions. Close all those, close all the loopholes. Simplify the tax system and just give people cash. So that’s actually a way of saving a lot of money.
So, we say, okay, this is going to cost like three trillion dollars. Well, it doesn’t cost three trillion dollars. If we subtract everything that we’re already doing and roll these programs into it, it costs somewhere more like an additional $1 trillion. So that’s a lot small than what people usually talk about.
Now, on top of that – so where do you come up with the extra trillion, is the question. And this also involves – okay, so where is this money coming from? Like people will say, okay, this is coming from the rich, it needs to come from the rich. And, you know, that’s true, that’s where the money is – but it’s not so much the incomes of the rich, you know, it also can be – you know, why do they have so much? Why do corporations have so much? Why is it that corporations are actually giving – are actually responsible for about half of the taxes that they used to do, you know, back in the day? Where is all this money going?
You know, it’s all going overseas. It’s being held in tropical islands. It’s just being hidden. The question also is – how do we get this money from them at the top and why do they have so much?
A good way of looking at this, I think, is Alan Watts has this great talk, you can look it up on Google, just Google like Alan Watts Money, Guilt, and the Machine, and in this talk, he talks about how you’ve got all this technology and at some point it’s eliminating so many jobs that you’re going to get to the point where you have to give people money in order to afford what the robots are making. Like, machines are making stuff, and if they’re taking the jobs, then in order for a consumer society to function, you have to give people a non-labor income.
So the question is – where is the money coming from? Well, it comes from the machines. You know, the machines are what’s creating all of this – or, not all of it – it’s creating a large amount of this inequality towards the top. You know, over the decades, we’ve seen more and more money become concentrated at the very top, and it’s concentrating largely in part because of technology and globalization. And these things go hand-in-hand.
So think of it as – as – as a car manufacturer, let’s say, look at Ford versus Tesla. Ford had hundreds of thousands of employees. Tesla doesn’t. They just have hundreds or thousands. It’s a much smaller amount. And they’ve got a lot of robots. It’s really interesting to look at pictures of the Tesla factory, and it’s just robots after robots after robots. So what happens there is these are robots that are working instead of machines – I mean, robots instead of people. And that’s great, I mean, we want robots to work instead of people. But the thing is that those robots aren’t owned by everybody. They’re owned by just a small percentage. So it’s essentially that you’ve got a small group of people that are growing in equivalency to more and more total workers, and all the money is going to them instead.
So the question is – you know, how do you get out of this? How do you shift this so that the benefits of technology are spread out more among everybody instead of just one small percentage at the top? That’s a big point of this, of basic income.
[John Light] Excellent. Thanks for explaining that. Greg, do you have any follow-up questions to that?
[Greg Slepak] I do. The robots thing is actually interesting, because you said that there are these robots producing value and it’s somewhat unfair that, you know, there’s almost like a monopoly on robots, a very small percentage of people are able to benefit from this value. And it sorts of feeds this cycle of the rich getting richer.
But what exactly – what sort of solution do you envision? Like are you – is there a robot tax? Or what do you have in mind?
[Scott Santens] Yeah, so – that’s a good question. So, some people will say, well, we can’t just have a direct robot tax. I mean, yeah, you don’t want to tax what we want, so, you know, you don’t want to say every robot costs a certain extra amount, because then all of the people, will be like, well, let’s choose human workers. So that’s a tricky thing. You don’t want it to come directly from robots. Like if you replace – if Applebees buys a bunch of robots, then, you know, there shouldn’t be an extra tax on those iPads for your replacement of these workers. But you want to get at this revenue in a way that makes sense. So what I like is – Peter Barnes just came out with a book about dividends for all. This is looking at the Alaska model. And it – I don’t know if you’re familiar with Alaska’s annual dividend, but this is a dividend created from royalties on the oil that’s owned by Alaska, and is therefore considered the commonwealth of all the residents of Alaska.
So what I believe we should be doing is applying that model in lot more areas. So instead of just oil that is considered commonwealth, it’s a lot of other stuff. It’s water. It’s our air. It’s even big data. It’s pollution. There’s so many different things that we can consider as all of us owning.
So it’s not so much a tax that we should be looking at, but we charge a rent on the stuff that everybody can be considered as owning. And that would actually generate a whole lot of revenue. We’re looking at about five or six thousand dollars a year, purely from that kind of setup. So you combine that with your elimination of current programs and you’ve got yourself a basic income.
[Greg Slepak] So it sounds like – one source of revenue for basic income doesn’t directly or even and very much indirectly, per se, but it sounds like maybe, correct me if I’m wrong, the purchasing habits of the wealthy who benefit – are you saying that they will be spending their money on other things and those other things, like land, air, you know, whatever it may be, that can be the source of revenue.
[Scott Santens] Yeah, so, essentially it’s not taxing the after profits, it’s reducing the profits that they get through charging fees for corporations in order to use that stuff. So, in a way, it’s reducing their profits, but it’s before, instead of after, and that makes a big difference. In Norway, they charge about – it’s a 50% royalty on the oil that get out – in order – like, they charge an oil company 50% in order to get that, and also an additional 28% for corporate taxes. And the companies still do it because there’s still so much profit to be made. So the difference in Norway, everybody gets to benefit from the oil that’s being drilled up from these oil companies, versus in the US, except for in Alaska, in the US, all these oil companies, they’re just getting massive amounts of profit and are even leveraging loopholes and so that they can pay zero dollars in taxes, like Chevron and stuff. So it just makes far more sense – instead of letting them help lobby for laws to get out of these taxes, we just charge them up front.
Say, hey, if you want the oil, then you’ve got to pay everybody in the US a percentage of what you dig up, because it’s all of our oil, not just yours. You didn’t create it. You know, you are adding value by taking it up out of the ground, but you did not create the oil, so therefore it just makes sense that they should pay a small fee for getting at it.
[Greg Slepak] That makes it clearer, thank you.
[John Light] Doesn’t increased automation bring consumers lower prices?
[Scott Santens] That’s another common argument, is to think about price deflation through automation. And in a lot of ways, it does, but in a lot of ways, it also [indecipherable], what’s going down in prices, there are certain things, like, you know, like say, washing machines, computers, you know, stuff like that, getting cheaper, but they still do cost money, I mean, all of this technology costs money. Like a 3D printer, like, yeah, that’s going to be great that people are going to be able to create their own goods through printing them, you know, need some shower curtain rings? Print those. Need a screwdriver? Print that. There will be all sorts of things that we could print, but the technology itself, it still costs money to build, it still costs money to get the plastic that we can make out of these things. So technology that is very powerful, can do a lot of great things, but there’s an amount of money that people need. That actually takes me to – I really want to talk about the peer-to-peer aspect of basic income, and I think that leads right into it.
[John Light] First, I would ask what does peer-to-peer mean to you?
[Scott Santens] Well, I actually, I – I – I really like thinking in terms of systems thinking, systems theory, and there’s just such a big difference between looking at, say, a bunch of trees and seeing a forest. Like, there – there is so much more going on with all these individual trees that – there’s emergent phenomena through the forest. Peer-to-peer, the internet, when you’re looking at nodes in a network, our brains, our neurons, like, we’re so much more than just a bunch of neurons, and we’re so much more than this because all of the connections between those neurons. With the Internet, I mean, it’s all just a bunch of connected computers. But look at all the stuff that’s emerging from the Internet. I mean, there’s just, there’s so much more that happens emergent phenomena from systems.
And we want that, we need to empower the nodes of the system for the system to work better. As far as what I was talking about with peer-to-peer and basic income – people like to say that, that you know, they hear about basic income for the first time, and they’ll think, Oh my gosh, that’s communism. And of course, then you have to get into definitions between, say, state capitalism and communism and all this other stuff, but their thinking is that this is somehow a greater control of the market. But it’s actually the opposite of that. This basic income means that there’s so much more, there’s so many more members of the total system, there’s so many more nodes in the network, so to say, that actually can voice signals – and that’s what you want, is you need these – you need every node in the network to be able to signal.
So if you’ve got a network of, say, 300 million people and say, you know, tens of millions of them have no means of connecting to the other nodes in the network, you’re going to have a weaker network. By actually expanding that and by – in our case, it’s money is what provides the signal, by providing a larger amount of money at the bottom so that everybody in the network actually has like a minimum amount of voice in order to signal, then all of a sudden you’ve got a better functioning, more distributed form of capitalism than what we have right now.
If you look at capitalism and communism – and I mean, specifically communism in Russia that we talk about as being communism, it’s the other side of capitalism. So it’s even – it’s farther away from communism than even capitalism right now. It’s a more distributed, more peer-to-peer form of capitalism that allows better price signals. It allows a better communication between the different nodes in our network that we call American society.
[John Light] That’s a really fascinating perspective, and I can definitely see where you’re coming from because it seems like right now, the welfare, and benefits, and entitlements system is very top-down.
[Scott Santens] Yes.
[John Light] They kind of dictate where the money goes, they dictate, the government that is, dictates where the money goes and what it can be spent on and things like – like the WiC programs, there’s very specific things that you’re allowed to buy.
[Scott Santens] Yes.
[John Light] –with this money, whereas what you’re saying, is no, let’s give people a kind of lump sum of cash and then let them decide what’s most meaningful for them to spend that cash on. Now, the technocrats in society are going to say, well, especially the people who already don’t have a lot of money right now, they probably don’t have a lot of money because they make poor decisions about where to put the money that they do have. So how do know that they’re not just going to squander this money that we’re air dropping onto them?
[Scott Santens] Right, well, what I like to say – as the saying goes, you know, the proof is in the pudding. Or the proof in the pudding is in the eating. So this is talking about evidence. You know, where is the evidence? Where has this been tried? Let’s not just think about what we think about what people without money do. Let’s look at what happens when we give people without money, money, and see what actually happens. And we actually have a strong amount of evidence for this.
Alaska in itself is already good evidence, where the Alaskan dividend has been functioning for decades and we actually see great effects from this, but as far as specifically looking at the poor and as far as their perceived inability to spend money, you look all over the world, like – I mean, the Nubian pilot is fascinating. I recently found out about a newer program, it wasn’t a basic income program, but it took place in Bome, Liberia, and this also, it actually raised, it gave people, absolute poorest of the poor, it gave them enough money to be equivalent in incomes to the average GDP per capita in the country. So, I mean, imagine that. Like, just giving, you know, finding some homeless people on the streets and giving them, you know, $50,000 per capita GDP, right?
It’s just an insane amount of money. And what did they do with it? Well, get this. In Liberia, a third of these ultra poor started their own businesses. Like, that – that to me is just an amazing, amazing finding. And we see this also in the basic income pilots in Amebia, we see it in the basic income pilots in India. It just seems to be a – it’s a common thing, that when people are given money, that it’s – it’s – prior to that there was a scarcity of money that they weren’t actually able to do anything. It wasn’t that they screwed up and that they somehow ended up poor. It was that there’s a certain scarcity of these resources or access to these resources. And when you give people access to resources through money, what do they do? Well, they start their own businesses. They – they – they learn – they interact – they become more a part of their community. They do not actually increase their alcohol or drug usage. This is a fascinating finding, it was a meta-analysis that was done over more than a dozen different studies, and there’s just no support for people increasing goods such as alcohol – they don’t do that.
What they do instead is they actually spend money on their housing. They spend money mostly on food. They spend it on their kids’ educations. Just – the stuff that seems like common sense.
[John Light] Yeah.
[Scott Santens] When you read this stuff, you’re just like, well, of course they spend it on that. But we don’t think that. Like so many – so many people think that they’re not going to do that. Like, oh, why would you give money to a drug user, because they’re just going to spend it on drugs? Well, no, it’s actually the opposite. Often times, people without any other access to anything resort to drugs and when you actually give people – when you actually increase the environment, they actually don’t use drugs anymore.
I mean – there’s studies on this that have been done as far as even crack users. You know, you think, well, that’s impossible. If you – they’re – crack addicts aren’t going to be able to make up their own minds. Well, even crack addicts have to eat. For some reason we think that drug users don’t eat every day. That they don’t require 2,000 calories a day. Well, every human being requires about 2,000 calories a day in order to live, and guess what, they want to actually live, so they spend the money that they’re given on food. It’s just a normal finding.
[John Light] Yeah. Those are fascinating findings. Greg, do you have any follow-up questions about – on that topic?
[Greg Slepak] Yeah, I’m curious. Is it really the case that the studies have generally been as – as flowery – flowerly as you described them? Or – they’re – are there any edge cases that people should be aware of? Could you give us, basically, in other words, like – you know, to – not to rip off on Fox News, but a more fair and balanced kind of overview of the entire study landscape?
[Scott Santens] Oh, sure. Well, let’s say – one of the more interesting findings – I think it was from the Indian experiment. There were people that weren’t happy with that. And they were the moneylenders. So – depending on who you’re looking at, there are going to be people who don’t like basic income. And in the case, again, common sense, when you have a basic income, you don’t take out as many loans, and you pay off the loans that you have, you increase your savings. That’s the findings.
And of course, you’ve got moneylenders who are upset that that hurt their business, and you also have people who [indecipherable]so you’ve got farm owners who require farm hands to do their work for them. Well, because one of the common effects of basic income is entrepreneurship, then you have people becoming self-employed. So, given the choice between self-employment and working for someone else, they opted for self-employment, and you had people that had more – that needed workers – that had fewer workers to get. So again, in that case, they’re going to need to pay higher wages.
So depending on how you look at that, that can be a good thing or a bad thing. Now, I think most of us can recognize that is a positive thing, but, of course, there are going to people who think that’s a negative thing.
[John Light] That brings up an interesting question, which is that if – if we take that micro-effect, okay, a farmer needs farm hands, the farm hands he used to hire are now using their basic income to employ themselves and so therefore they have more bargaining power – maybe all they’re good at is really just being a farm hand, and so what they’re doing is they’re just collectivizing into a union or something like that, to – to collectively bargain for higher wages because they can. They could always go and do something else with their basic income if they want, but since they know how to farm hand, they’ll be farm hands, they’ll just do it for higher prices. If we take that micro-effect and we extrapolate it into the macro and assume that something like that is happening at the margins of every low-cost or kind of unsexy kind of labor industry, if the goods or services providers, the farmers, the factory owners, et cetera, have to pay their workers higher prices because suddenly they have bargaining power, wouldn’t that just raise the cost of the goods or services that are ultimately being provided in society, and ultimately, in the long run, counter-act this money air drop that you’re giving to people?
[Scott Santens] I’ve written about this as far as basic income and the effect on rising prices actually, in an article, and I talk about this. And this particular example, this is one of the fascinating effects of basic income, is that, yes, people were going to have to increase wages for the jobs that people don’t want to do. However, on the other hand, there are also going to be jobs that people really love doing and those actually might go down. So there are going to be increases in wages and decreases in wages, so you’re looking at what kind of business is this?
Now, if there’s a business that also gets to choose between – let’s say – let’s say right now they can automate and make it – let’s say – they can either, right now, choose to employ a worker for $20,000 a year or they can choose to employ a robot for $25,000 a year. So right now, they’re not going to choose the robot. If suddenly they get the choice between a $25,000 a year robot or a $30,000 a year human, they’re going to choose the robot.
[John Light] Okay.
[Scott Santens] So what this is going to do, this is going to remove the current obstacles we have to automation. We want automation to accelerate, but only as long as everybody benefits. So this is a way for robots to become the better choice and this is also – because we know that technology does get cheaper, that, especially over expanding, economies of scale, then you actually get the prices cheaper of robots. Those are going to get cheaper and cheaper over time, as is usual with technology, but humans aren’t. Human labor doesn’t get cheaper and cheaper over time, unless there’s a certain amount of desperation involved, which is what we’re seeing right now, there’s a certain amount of desperation involved.
[John Light] Right, there’s a bit of a race to the bottom, whereas –
[Scott Santens] Yes.
[John Light] People only have so much time in the day but if there’s an increasing labor pool available due to unemployment and a decreasing amount of work, then human wages go down even though –
[Scott Santens] Right.
[John Light] The amount of time that we actually have to work remains the same. Whereas, robots, they’re just robots, they run as long as their batteries last.
[Scott Santens] Right.
[John Light] And as you said, there are economies of scale. The more that are produced, the cheaper they get to produce. So that’s really interesting. I want to talk a little bit about the implementation of this. What is the political reality of basic income? Is this a fringe idea? Do you actually think that it’s something that’s politically feasible? Does it start in a small area and then we try it on a national level in a decade or two – how do you see this actually working?
[Scott Santens] Well, I personally am of the opinion that we’ve already got sufficient evidence. I mean, even in the US, I mean, we did experiments in the 70s when we almost passed it then. And this is something a lot of people don’t realize either, is that we did have something called the American Income Maintenance experiments.
And these took place in the late 60s, early 70s, and this took place all over the country in different places. It took place in Seattle and Denver, Gary, Indiana, you know, rural Pennsylvania, like, there was a bunch of a different locations they did this at. And – but they were really working on was the disincentive effect, and they found that there was a small work disincentive effect, and this varied according to how high that the amounts were. Which, again, they varied because they were testing this. They wanted to see what the effects were, based on different levels, so 50% of the poverty level, 100% of the poverty level, 150% of the poverty level. And they wanted to see what’s the effect on married men, on married women, on unmarried single mothers, and so they wanted to see all of this. And what they found is that there was a small reduction in total hours of work, but not in a way that people actually freak out about. So if you don’t read the actual details of these experiments, you’d think that, Oh my gosh, you know, so and so, this group decreased work, or whatever, and they don’t understand that the people who decreased their hours by 20% were, let’s say, a married 70s housewife. And so this was someone that, you know, women had just come into the workforce, and suddenly they had an extra money, and they’re like, well, I don’t – I don’t really need to work as much now. So they reduced their hours.
And also when it – say, they reduced their hours by 20%, then it’s like, well, if you’re only working say, you know, ten hours a week, and you reduce your hours by one hour a week, then you’ve reduced by ten percent. Ten percent might sound big to somebody, but it’s also only one hour. So what you want to look at is the primary earners. And these were the primary earning males in the 70s.
They decreased their labor about 3%. Now, this actually wasn’t still in reducing their actual hours worked at their job, but it was more that they spent a longer amount of time between jobs, looking for jobs, so again, this is – this is an effect that we want. If you’re – we want people to find the jobs that are better suited to them. So if there’s desperation, you’re going to take the first job that comes along. And this is going to result in lower productivity and it’s also probably going to be a lower wage job.
If someone can actually – has the freedom – to wait and look for the better, they can find a job that they’re going to be more productive in and that they’re going to earn higher incomes in.
[John Light] Yeah. So you see that there are a lot of arguments in favor of it and a lot of evidence that points to the fact that this is something that could be politically feasible just because people’s worst nightmares have not come true, at least to the degree that you think would pose any sort of political road blocks. So going forward, then, what do you see as a good path to implementing this at a society-wide scale. Is it limited to national borders, is it something that you think could extend to be transnational, how do you actually see this playing out?
[Scott Santens] Oh, sure.
Well, I mean, there really are – there are so many different strategies. And I support, like, all of them. I mean, if you can come up with an idea that will get people money that is not attached to work, then that’s a good thing. I suggest and I believe that we really should look at the Alaska model. So I think that as a strategy, also to show people that giving people money and especially showing them that it’s theirs, as their own commonwealth, and that the effects are good. Follow the Alaska model. So try to get states – and 26 states have the ability to do this – and they’ve done this for marijuana legalization in Colorado and Washington. What you want – get states – people need to get together and get signature petitions, get these initiatives going and try to get a somewhat similar Alaska dividend in their countries, in their states. Get a Washington dividend. Get a Colorado dividend. Get it so that everybody in these states gets a, you know, $500 a year, $1000 a year, $1500 a year.
You know, last year the Alaska dividend paid almost $2000. So this is a good strategy.
[John Light] Okay, so, now Greg, I brought you onto this show because you and I have had some interesting discussions as it relates to not only our work at the okTurtles Foundations but just on the topic of basic income generally speaking, and you have some interesting ideas about how to implement basic income technologically without necessarily having to overcome the political hurdles that are required to get it to everybody on the planet. Do you think you could talk a little bit about some of your ideas there?
[Greg Slepak] I think that Scott, in bringing up in Alaska, points out that there are ways, there are many different good ways of doing UBI. And doing it in a way that’s government-sponsored does require political will and convincing of that sort. There are ways to kind of sidestep that issue, which is the cryptocurrency route, and that has its own set of challenges, which are, I believe, are all overcome-able. But on the other hand, as we’re discovering in California and as they’re discovering in New York, just because you have a cryptocurrency doesn’t mean that it is immune from the effects of politics. It’s possible for legislatures to pass laws to try and regulate things that are very difficult to regulate, and they do this all the time, and that can still create road blocks. So I think that cryptocurrencies are worth exploring for doing UBI and at the same time that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t also be politically active in this sphere.
[John Light] Do you have any ideas on that particular strategy, Scott?
[Scott Santens] Well, actually, what I’d really – I like to talk about a version of this that’s being done in Germany as a way of spreading the idea in Germany of basic income, and again, this is a way of getting around government. And I think it’s a genius way of going about this. Okay, so what it’s like is – you know how when you use a credit card, you get, depending on your credit card, you can get say, two percent cash back?
[John Light] Yeah.
[Scott Santens] So, in Germany, they have – it’s like a combination between that and let’s say your card that you use at, say, your grocery store. So, you know, before you pay for something, you scan your card and then you pay for it. So what this is is – between all these companies in Germany, they all use this card, so someone goes in, they scan their card, they pay for it, and then they end up later getting, say, a one percent cash back, is what they have there. And because you’re able to use this at all these different businesses, then, you know, people can get like say, $50 cash back, $100 cash back, at the end of the year. Now, what the people in Germany did is they copied this card, they duplicated one card – so it’s like a hack of this system – they created thousands of this one card with one account number. And so the people there can choose to use this card, and so of course, because all these thousands of people are using one account number, this builds up money quickly. And what they’re doing is they’re setting up people with basic incomes using this. It’s almost like a – a random system where people can win a basic income through the use of this card.
[John Light] Wow.
[Scott Santens] And they’ve so far given, supplied about over ten people basic incomes so far, and I think in there it’s about $10,000 per year, not quite sure what the level is, somewhere around there, but they’re giving people basic incomes based on this. So this is definitely a way that you can show that it’s – it’s possible. And it gets around government, it’s purely voluntary, and it provides basic incomes to people.
[John Light] That’s really fascinating, it kind of reminds me of this subreddit that I heard of the other day that does random air drops of money onto people. Have you heard of this?
[Scott Santens] Yeah, I have heard about that, yeah.
[John Light] Yeah, so I think they’re using Bitcoin, I’m pretty sure that’s how it works, but everybody basically throws money into a pot and then somebody who throws money into the pot randomly wins the lottery basically. And they get –
[Scott Santens] Right.
[John Light] A bunch of, all of the money – it’s just really fascinating some of the things that people are doing to try and implement this themselves on a small scale. Now, one thing that you are doing is – you have a Patreon campaign.
[Scott Santens] Yes.
[John Light] That is basically for all of your different content that you produce on basic income and the different community leadership work that you do. You say, hey, if you support my work on basic income, then I would like you to be a patron of my Patreon campaign, and pledge to provide me, essentially, with a basic income. And your Patreon campaign is interesting because what you’re doing is, you yourself have taken a pledge and you are encouraging other Patreon creators to take a pledge to cap the income that they receive from Patreon and pay the rest, everything over the cap, forward to other creators. Can you talk a little bit about that program and what you inspired you to do that?
[Scott Santens] Yeah, yeah, so I call that idea the Big Patreon Creator Pledge. And what – what I want to do is I want to encourage people to do as I’m doing and crowd fund their own basic incomes. And I’m amazed, actually, so far, it’s just – it’s – it feels so good to be supported by people who really like your work and – I feel like I’m already feeling some – the effects of a full basic income. I mean, people are just – I’m doing what I’m doing because I’m passionate about it, it’s something that I love doing, and it’s rewarding. There’s intrinsic motivation involved and people are enabling me to do that. And that’s what I hope that we can do with basic income because people like to pursue what they want to do.
With the Patreon pledge, I want people to take the same pledge to create – and they don’t even need to specifically create content for basic income. They can do anything they most want to do, but it just needs to be capped at – on Patreon I have it as $1,111 per month because they take about ten percent – but $1,000 a month is what I feel is a good basic income to start at in the US, so I will stop at $1,000 a month, and I hope other people will stop at a thousand dollars a month, and then we can share anything over that with each other, so that we can create more people with more basic incomes.
[John Light] Kind of one of the last questions that I have about basic income kind of relates to this idea of a – of a cap or a floor, depending on how you look at it.
[Scott Santens] Yes, floor.
[John Light] And that is that the cost of living is different in different areas, so a thousand dollars might be suitable as a basic income to cover basic expenses for some people in some areas, but maybe it’s nowhere close for other people, like people in New York or San Francisco, or other places that are among the highest cost of living in the world. How do you kind of reconcile that discrepancy?
[Scott Santens] What I believe is that – right now because of the fact that we are requiring people to work in order to get an income, that people are condensed, they’re concentrated around areas of employment. You’ve got, you know, major cities have gone – it’s much more expensive to live there because everyone needs to live there. If you create a national level basic income then, because people no longer have to live where they currently have to live, there’s going to be a decrease in the high-density areas. You’re going to see people going to more – to less dense areas. You’re going to want to save your income. I mean, no one wants to spend, you know, $800 of their $1,000 a month basic income on rent. So the question becomes – if you’re in a two-person household, that’s double. So many people are already, like in New York, they’re already sharing rent. You’ve got three people, four people in a place. All these people have basic incomes or will have basic incomes, it suddenly makes it – it’s a different picture. If you want to live alone in a very expensive area, then that’s more of a choice you have to look at.
[John Light] Yeah.
[Scott Santens] It seems to me that if you want to live alone and not work for any extra money, then it should be somewhat difficult, right? I mean, most people in New York are employed, and those who aren’t employed are going to be better with basic income, they’re going to get money without having to jump through any hoops, without having any bureaucracy, and they actually can earn incomes on top of that. Whereas, right now, a lot of the administration is involved in making sure people aren’t working, which doesn’t make any sense.
[John Light] Yeah.
[Scott Santens] So, again, like you said, it’s the difference between a cap and a floor. People are far better off with a floor. You have entire days free. You have zero obligation, zero hours of obligation to do anything else, if you have a basic income. So you get an open schedule, you can get a job, you can do part-time work, you can do freelance work, you can do gig economy work, you can – there’s all these ways of earning more incomes above it than what’s possible right now.
[John Light] Those are all really good points, and we could certainly continue having this discussion, it’s a very fascinating topic to me and to Greg as well, I’m sure, but we’re all out of time today. Scott, Greg, I want to thank you both for joining me for this special episode of P2P Connects Us, and I look forward to continuing the conversation later in the future.
[Scott Santens] Right, well, thanks for having me.
[Greg Slepak] Thank you, John.
[John Light] Listeners can find links to all of Scott’s work on his website at ScottSantens.com.