Capitalism, Economy, Issues, Socialism

Mark Zuckerberg’s ‘universal basic income’ would herald the end of capitalism


Since 1997 labor participation among working age adults —16 to 64 — peaked and has been steadily dropping, accounting for roughly 9 million Americans who did not enter the labor force but would have had participation remained at the same rate, according to data compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Image Credit: Brian Solis CC by 2.0

Overall, the number of 16 to 64 year olds not in the labor force increased 16.5 million in that time, to 55.2 million.

During that same period, the U.S. economy has dramatically slowed down. It has not grown above 4 percent since 2000, and not above 3 percent since 2005.

The issue is not a matter of virtue. Americans did not suddenly become lazy. Most of the decline occurred after the financial crisis in 2008 and 2009, which eliminated millions of jobs. What followed was the worst recovery in American history, with fewer jobs now available per capita.

But it could get worse, as some observers see this as a long-term trend.

Factors such as increased automation plus globalization and outsourcing loom large as leading the decline, and raise the prospect that as economies reach their advanced stages, individuals in the U.S., Japan and Europe will simply be working a lot less in the future.

If so, then how will Americans increasingly make a living? For most Americans not born into luxury, almost everything families take for granted — housing, food, clothing, transportation, etc. — all depend primarily on a steady, stable source of income.

So, what to do, if not work?

Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg had an answer for Harvard graduates at the 2017 commencement address on May 25: “We should explore ideas like universal basic income to make sure that everyone has a cushion to try new ideas.”

The idea is that the federal government would just cut checks, say, starting at $10,000 as proposed by the American Enterprise Institute’s Charles Murray, for every single American. To be fair, Murray calls for such a system to replace the current system of government programs including those for the elderly like Social Security and Medicare.

Zuckerberg, however, made no such distinction. The implication, then, with his broad, vague call for “universal basic income” is as a sort of add-on for the already existing structure of hundreds of billions of dollars of taxpayer-subsidized supplemental income and retirement programs.

Say, the $10,000 figure was applied to 254 million Americans over the age of 16. That would cost an extra $2.5 trillion a year. Think that might put a little strain on all the other government programs, particularly those directed at seniors? The national debt, already $20 trillion, would double in about 6 years.

Which, if the economy does not get moving — the last 10 years were the slowest average annual growth recorded in U.S. history, even worse than the Great Depression — may ultimately be the future that awaits the American people, whether they like it or not.

A future, that is, where jobs become rare and the calls for guaranteed income grow, for once an entitlement is granted, after a century of experience, it will never be rescinded.

Never mind the fact that the idea simply defies human nature for individuals to take care of their own families.

Or that the American people, including millions of Millennials who Zuckerberg pretends to represent, just voted, not for welfare, but for jobs in 2016 under the platform of President Donald Trump, who promised to bring work by to the U.S.

Or that no level of automation could truly replace the need for individuals to work.

Or to the extent that as universal income gradually replaces a significant percent work, to the extent that individuals wind up making less than if they had been working, it would reduce consumer expenditures — becoming a net drag on the economy.

It would truly be the nanny state, forevermore, with declining standards of living.

Then, elections would revolve around not how to best grow the economy or create jobs in the private sector, but how much everyone’s annual stipend should be increased. Both businesses and individuals would clamor for more, since then more goods and services could be bought and sold — a vicious cycle of ever-increasing dependency.

Ultimately, individual welfare will become corporate welfare, affirming the end of capitalism as we know it and confirming that the American system is no longer one of innovation, but of subsidy.

Zuckerberg joked at the Harvard commencement address that Millennials do not need to find their purpose, that they try do that instinctively. He believes that a little extra income would create room for innovation, and incentivize individuals to become producers. But just the opposite would occur.

Instead, guaranteed income would crowd out other potential opportunities in the economy, disincentivize risk-taking and reward complacency — wrecking individuals’ sense of purpose. Individuals, working less, would transition to simply being consumers.

After all, why take risks and try to invent something when the government will take care of you for free and you can sit around watching streaming movies, playing games, or worse? Surely, such a system would create more opportunities for leisure activity. Yet, necessity is the mother of all invention. Remove need and what remains?

Again, there are already 55.2 million 16 to 64 year olds not in the labor force, an increase of 16.5 million since 1997 as labor participation declined. How many more would join those ranks under Zuckerberg’s plan?

Ultimately, like utopianists of the years past, Zuckerberg’s political program of “universal basic income,” if implemented, will be judged by what it led to. If his vision leads to even less growth, fewer jobs per capita and lower incomes, combined with declining living standards and more debt, it will end up on the same ash heap of history as other failed ideologies that couldn’t keep their promises.

This is a guest post by Robert Romano senior editor of Americans for Limited Government.
  • Robert

    I do suppose Zuckerman is trying to do what will be here before the next 200 years anyway, a universal wage world over, and in less than 400 year no borders as we know them today, everyone will be able to go live work or play any place they like. Wars will be a think in history books that will be seen as stupidity.
    Get used to it, it is called EVOLUTION which started a t the onset of time, the natural changes in civilization.
    A universal world, where everyone is equal in the eyes of the World Government. including our colonies on other planets.

    • Ben

      Wow, Robert! You really are some kind of stupid!!!

      • Robert

        Why do you think I am some kind of stupid when everything I posted has been forecast for years if you went to a good College and studied history, history tells the future by studying the past events.
        Every thing forecast in college in the late 1950s has come to be including a Black President, we missed the man in space by 5 years, it happened 5 years sooner than forecast.

        • Ben

          You’ve already have disqualified your self by your statement, “Everything forecast in college in the late 1950s has come to be…” because it hasn’t. Some has and some “predictions” have totally missed the mark. Trying to quantify all of this by talking about good colleges and the study of history doesn’t impress either. There are many, many educated idiots in the world today that have graduated from so-called “prestigious” universities, but all they do is spew the progressive party line, which is what you are doing if you really believe that there will one day be a Utopian universal world where we’ll all be equal (except for the ruling elite, of course). That idea was already promoted and implemented in the last century and has cost the lives of 100’s of millions of people. Like I said before and stand by the statement even more after your response. You really are some kind of stupid!!! So smart that you are stupid, which is the worst kind.

          • Robert

            I do not know where you went to college but everything we discussed in Yale for the future has come to be I mean everything, and it looks like our thousand year prediction based on history will be on target also.
            The future will be no more of a utopia than the present is, no matter what is there are people it will not please, go back to the starting of this country some historical research you will find that maybe not a majority but a lot of the people here did not favor a revolution, and it was the same with the Civil war it was only about 60% supported in the South, mainly by the rich plantation owners.
            If you think I am so stupid look at the progression of the world just from the time of Christ and you will see the wheel tracks the world is in, and there is no backing up, we went from individuals or families roaming to villages to cities to empires, everything combining and the UN was started in 1948 just for that purpose to be the World Government, and it has progressed more in 60 years than the USA did in 150 years, HAVE A GOOD DAY

          • Ben

            I guess you forgot about this illustrious alumnus.

            “Stocks have reached what looks like a permanently high plateau.” -Irving Fisher, economics professor at Yale University, 1929

          • Robert

            You are right on one count could not remember the name until I did some looking and I briefly remember some things but not much, I was in Law school and there was not much in economics that I really can remember, after 60 years a lot of stuff that I was not directly involved in is lost in paradise. I remember so much of my stuff because I still have all my papers and look through them to make sure I am remembering what I think I remember that is why I know the things we decided would happen have happened. I have that listing framed on my den wall and I suppose when I am gone it will go to my only hope is my great grandson 7 years old will fill the void I leave,
            I do not know after reading how anyone would think that anything had reached its highest plateau in this world. How could the man be fixed in his assumption, when the world is ever changing but at the same time staying the same.
            HAVE A GOOD DAY

  • Janis Tobin

    Universal Basic Income…Wow…Is Mark on drugs? Did he ever take Econ 101? Give people money, some will spend, some will save, and incomes will be right back to where they started from…Geeze

  • Joe R

    Let’s start by confiscating Zucky-boys $billions, redistribute, and see how he likes it.

  • CMS

    Wow! Follow the yellow brick road! We’re off to see the Wizard (Robert)!

Sign up for our FREE newsletter!

Sign up to receive daily updates, political news, action letters and additional messages from Conservative Republican News

View our Privacy Policy

Join our FREE Newsletter!