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comment by Dave Lindbergh (dave-lindbergh) · 2020-09-25T19:51:13.434Z · score: 17 (10 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Every policy proposal needs to be compared to the status quo and not to some utopian ideal.

It seems likely that a well-designed UBI would be vastly more efficient than our existing hodgepodge of welfare and other subsidies for the poor. It would eliminate the overhead of figuring out who should receive them and limiting fraud, and eliminate the disincentives to productivity that we have in place now. Neither is a small gain.

A UBI might also go some way toward settling our vast political bifurcation, by making people feel the world is a bit more "fair".

An increase in entrepreneurial activity would be nice, but doesn't drive the case for UBI.

Highly recommended: 

comment by AllAmericanBreakfast · 2020-09-25T20:13:23.843Z · score: 13 (8 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

With UBI, one thing that would happen is probably decreased demand for high-interest payday loans, budget rental properties, emergency room trips due to neglect of routine medical care, and crappy jobs taken because the risk and expense and energy demands of further education was prohibitive. This is the poverty trap.

If you believe in the poverty trap, then the way that UBI helps our economy become more efficient isn't by unlocking our entrepreneurial potential. It's by breaking us out of our first-world poverty trap that keeps us underinvested in our communities and in ourselves.

Of course, Americans don't like to think of themselves as poor. We like to think of ourselves as entrepreneurs, self-made, strivers. So wrapping a social benefit in that language is a canny political move. And it isn't exactly wrong, either. Although most people won't launch a company, there's not that sharp a distinction between a self-employed person and somebody who's got enough demand for their skills that they can jump from employer to employer in pursuit of higher wages and better work.

This is my story for how UBI can make our economy more efficient. Of course, you have to modulate that by the possibility that allowing people to live off their UBI or blow it on frivolous spending will cancel out those good effects. That question is beyond my pay grade, and I suspect nobody really knows.

comment by betulaster (raman-malykhin) · 2020-09-27T23:07:15.628Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Of course, you have to modulate that by the possibility that allowing people to live off their UBI or blow it on frivolous spending will cancel out those good effects. That question is beyond my pay grade, and I suspect nobody really knows

This makes me think of something. Can't we look at what people who experienced windfall gains spent their newfound money on? Looking into lottery winners seems like an easy enough to obtain sample, although not unproblematic - it takes a certain kind of person to participate in a lottery in the first place. But if we can break that sample down by some demographic factors - maybe cultural factors, or education level, or something like that - maybe there can be some emergent pattern that tells us how many of those people and which will go "fish", or use that money to propel themselves out of the poverty trap, or blow it on frivolous spending.

comment by AllAmericanBreakfast · 2020-09-28T00:46:53.288Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Another one I heard recently is re-enlistment bonuses in the US military. Soldiers can get up to around $100,000 for signing up for another tour of duty. They're apparently notorious for blowing it on stupid shit almost immediately. But maybe that's just the vivid stories. I'd like to see empirical data before I made up my mind.

comment by romeostevensit · 2020-09-25T19:52:44.432Z · score: 9 (7 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Acting as if a 40% success rate is low for something declared to be very difficult seems weird.

comment by Timothy Johnson (timothy-johnson) · 2020-09-26T02:22:58.250Z · score: 7 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

There are only two ways I could see a marriage working longterm between two people in their early-to-mid twenties:

  1. They grow as individuals and as partners together, and remain a great match even after both of them change drastically over time.
  2. They decide to each sacrifice their own pursuits of personal growth for the relationship.

"Personal growth" can mean a lot of different things to different people, but my experience is precisely the opposite of what you suggest.

I'm 28, and happily married for two years now. One of the things I like most about my wife is the way that she encourages my personal growth, and I think she would say the same about me. That both makes us better people and makes our relationship stronger.

Being married does come with a few tradeoffs. For example, since my wife is in academia and I'm in software engineering, I'm committed to move wherever we need to for her job. (When we got married that seemed like a sacrifice, though COVID has made it kind of a moot point now.) But any logistical difficulties are far outweighed by the fact that I like who I am much better when I'm with her.

We haven't had kids yet. When we do, I expect that I'll have to scale back at work. But I also think having kids is one of the best ways to push myself to become more patient and selfless, which to me is worth more. (And my workplace, like others in BigTech, is pretty supportive of family life.)

I do feel very fortunate to have the job and the marriage that I do. But at the same time, I think most LessWrongers are capable of having the same if they want it. What part of your personal growth do you expect you would need to sacrifice to maintain a marriage and/or a family?

comment by remizidae · 2020-09-26T16:15:10.425Z · score: 4 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think what OP is getting at here is that personal growth often involves some pretty dramatic changes in personality and lifestyle. An example would be someone who started out polyamorous and became monogamous, or vice versa. People might decide to have kids or more kids when they thought they didn't want them. Religious beliefs change, so do career plans and income levels. Or big life changes, such as having kids or changing jobs, might cause personality changes. 

Even changes that seem positive often end relationships. For example, people who quit drinking or doing drugs often see their relationship end. And most people who undergo weight-loss surgery will see their relationship end, according to what I've read. It seems odd—isn't losing weight or overcoming an addiction good?—, but the thing is, when you change one big foundational aspect of your life, other aspects of your life tend to change as well in ways that neither you nor your partner may have predicted. Maybe the person who lost weight is suddenly a social butterfly, when previously he was happy staying home most of the time. Or maybe the person who quit drinking has more clarity about her life and now wants to quit a well-paying job for something more meaningful. 

>What part of your personal growth do you expect you would need to sacrifice to maintain a marriage and/or a family?

This is the wrong question to ask, because we cannot plan out our personal growth trajectory in advance. I expect some of the changes I've listed seem like they will never happen to you or aren't relevant to you, but the thing is, when making a lifelong commitment, things will come up that you never would have predicted. Where my opinion differs from OP is that I think it's possible for people to stay married through these big life changes and end up better off than if they had divorced or never married. But...I'm not sure. 

comment by remizidae · 2020-09-25T19:45:47.714Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

You make two very different points here, and I think the point about marriage might have better been its own post.

That said, I'm in violent agreement that entrepreneurial types tend to overestimate the extent to which other people are enterpreneurial. Or assume that non-entrepreneurs are just stupid or conformist. Being an entrepreneur requires a very high tolerance for risk and unpredictability, and not everyone has that. Personally I'm very happy knowing exactly what my next paycheck will be and knowing it is very unlikely I will lose my job. I take the limited downside risk, even though it does mean my upside is limited, e.g., I am unlikely ever to be a billionaire.

There is a possibility that SOME people who are currently held back by poverty might become entrepreneurships if given an extra $1000/month. That's not convincing as the sole argument for UBI, but then I've never seen that framed as the sole argument for UBI.

comment by Viliam · 2020-09-26T21:56:02.992Z · score: 5 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

My opinion on marriage is conservative -- people should get married when they want to have kids. They don't sacrifice to each other; they together pay the costs of creating a good environment for their kids to grow up in.

If you don't want to have kids, you can have sex or live together also without marriage, and divorce made marriage kinda useless as a signal of commitment. (Okay, there are other reasons, too, such as tax benefits.)

From this perspective, I am quite surprised that you see marriage as an opposite of growth mindset. Making a commitment to radically change your everyday life for the next 20 years, and taking responsibility for challenges you never experienced before, knowing that there is no way to stop this train without someone getting hurt...

Similarly, strategically making a sacrifice counts as "growth" in my books. (Jordan Peterson agrees.)

Not knowing your friend's buddy of course makes it impossible for me to guess whether his decision was a result of maturity or... something completely different.

They don’t want to take the risky leap in becoming fishermen. As long as they keep receiving enough fish, they’ll tolerate the misery.

Who knows what would happen if the risk became smaller, e.g. thanks to the UBI. You seem to assume that people who don't accept risk now, they simply are the type of person who would never take a risk. But maybe many people consider some smaller levels of risk acceptable (e.g. "there is a chance I will spend three years working on something that ultimately fails, and if I switch to a regular career later, I will be three years behind my peers"), and some higher levels of risk unacceptable (e.g. "there is a chance I will lose my lifelong savings and live in poverty, or get sick without having good healthcare"). And maybe too many people live in a situation where trying something revolutionary would require the unacceptable levels of risk.

By the way, some people work in corporations because they need to accumulate the capital necessary for starting their own company. And some people work in corporations because their company failed and now they have to pay their debts. Both of these can take many years.

comment by Filipe Marchesini (filipe-marchesini) · 2020-09-26T09:31:02.778Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Getting an extra $1000/month wouldn't suddenly create a bunch of entrepreneurs and revolutionize the economy

Obviously it will. You are just underestimating the number of people on bullshit jobs because they lack the capital or motivation for anything greater. I will not focus on the obvious justifications for UBI like "the fact that technological unemployment is only going to get worse. Nearly half the population is employed in jobs that could be replaced by automation, and that number will only get higher as time goes on".

Sometimes, people just need help. Especially the elderly. Maybe they're sick and can't afford medicine. Maybe they're just lonely and don't have many family members to speak to. Maybe they've been out of work for so long that they've fallen off the grid. A simple cash payment could help alleviate some of the stress they're feeling. Now, this isn't to say a basic income would fix all these problems. Construction for a building can't begin until all the materials have arrived. A basic income would alleviate some of the stress of poverty, but it can't be the only solution. People still need access to medical care, and they need other sources of support. However, a UBI could help provide that support when those services aren't available.

Maybe you are focusing on the fishermen thing too much, what about focusing in "countable happiness points"? What about counting the number of people that spend 180 hours monthly cutting a bread in half (Subway workers)? What about counting all these works that require 180 hours in sub-human conditions to just have the minimum condition to ask for food for other members? Then we get sick and no one cares, beg for food if you have any friend to help you, this is fairly common on my country. Not even 40% workers on my country earn more than $167.0 dollars monthly. These are 54 million people on probably bullshit 180 hours monthly jobs. Just shut up and multiply

For my friend that is driving Uber for 12~14h each day to get $400.00 monthly on my country. Even though he started studying HTML, CSS, etc, and getting on the path to get something bigger, he needs the money now. He can't focus on building his online business. His father died and no one cares about him. He does bullshit things (like driving Uber) to get money and to afford the basic bills: rent, electricity, food, internet. The next time he gets sick he will ask me for help, and what about me?

I can't focus 100% on solving real world [? · GW] problems and also creating online businesses because I have to spend a lot of time begging for money to pay the bills that my father was used to pay and to help the peers that no one helps. It includes creating bullshit softwares for random people on online freelancing websites, online math/physics private lessons for high school students. If everyone were getting basic income, I would be studying, programming and inventing new things 100% the time, not trying to get the next $5.00 to pay the monthly $150.00 impossible to negate bill and wouldn't need to be working all the time to help the members that earn less than me and don't have any formal education and no idea how to get money. I am basically wasting my hours because otherwise the higher earning members of my tribe would call me "an useless member that is trying to understand how to solve these unimportant [? · GW] problems", and they wouldn't offer me existential protection (roof, bread and support when sick). 

My partner spends 140 hours to get $200.00. If she could spend 140 hours studying and doing free random search on the internet monthly, she would be discovering, creating and contributing, instead of complaining about how life is shit and suicide is an option to overcome problems. 

Every peer of mine is doing bullshit because everyone just wants a roof, a bread, a bed and the internet connection. How can you desire anything other than that when you don't have even that guaranteed?

Maybe they pick up a part-time job, like at the grocery store where they can bag groceries in the evenings. Maybe they start doing nails out of their house once a week. Maybe they buy a single-user franchise business like a cupcake truck. Maybe they create profitable lemonade stands on every corner. My mom decided to sell candies. The point is, a basic income for these folks doesn't just increase their quality of life - it also vastly increases the economy. The more money people have, the more they spend. And a UBI would give everyone more money, even if just enough to cover their basic needs.

Do you want a bunch of entrepreneurs? Give people enough leisure time (by giving money), then you will see what happens. Just bet with me [LW · GW].

comment by Mary Chernyshenko (mary-chernyshenko) · 2020-09-26T05:58:57.142Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Suppose the UBI is implemented, most people don't become entrepreneurs, and more people get married (although if all UBI amounts to is more/better Christmas presents and the like, I don't think many people will bother). Doesn't that mean that the exact hoped-for consequences do occur? If most people aren't fishermen, why not let them build their lives?