The Seven Questions of Basic Income Implementation

From the first meeting of our Implementing a Basic Income in Australia group, I presented my outline of what I think are the fundamental questions which need to be answered before a Basic Income can actually be implemented.

In order to answer these questions we want to organise a range of experts on social and economic issues into working groups so that they can discuss the consequences of each decision and how it will be beneficial or detrimental to society, economics, welfare, well-being, employment, power imbalance, freedoms, etc.

The questions are:

  1. How Much / How Often?
    $1 – $10,000+ / Paid daily – Paid annually
  2. What scale is it implemented on? Where?
    Small town? Council? City? State? National.
  3. Who gets it?
    Everyone? Citizens? Residents? 18+? Based on tax return submission? etc
  4. How is it funded?
    Local government? Federal Govt? Increased taxes? New (resource?) taxes? Debt? Transaction tax? Charity? Crowd funding? New money straight to the people?
  5. How long will it run for?
    2 years? 10 years? Indefinitely? 5 years on, 5 years off, etc?
  6. What does it replace?
    Replace all welfare? Just unemployment benefit? Nothing? Minimum wage? Wait and see?
  7. Will there be a transitional period? What will it look like?
    Instant implementation, or gradual implementation over time?

(Have I missed any? Please leave a comment below if I have!)

The answers to each of these questions often influences the answers to others. For example, if you want a National (Q2) Basic Income, it will be virtually impossible to fund that through Charity of Crowd sourcing (Q4), but there is a chance that you could fund a Partial Basic Income (Q1) for 2 years (Q5) in a small remote town (Q2) via charity (Q4).

Of course, a partial income in a small remote town isn’t the ultimate goal, so then we’re talking about a first step implementation. A trial, or a demonstration of value, hoping that it will grow to other towns or else convince enough of the population to enact a nationwide Basic Income. In this case, we’d have to design the best “initial test case implementation” and then a second “Ultimate goal implementation” and perhaps even design the strategy which will take us from the initial test to the ultimate goal.

Whether we want a small test case first or not is still to be answered. I don’t believe the NHS, medicare, welfare etc had incremental steps to implementation, so perhaps it is an error to think that a Basic Income would need it. Perhaps we should instead be focusing on the best possible design for Australia, and then fight for grassroots support of that system while lobbying political parties and getting the support of influential think tanks.

This is all just a first step. We still need to reach out to existing Basic Income organisations (BIEN, QUT, Utrecht University (BIParty NL) etc) to see what information, research and conclusions they are able to share with us which will help inform our answers to these questions.

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The problem with the new atheist movement is…

I had a short conversation with a good friend yesterday which consisted of him (an atheist) telling me that the problem with the atheist movement is that they don’t provide an alternative option to replace the role that religion has fulfilled in our society for so long.

I often have atheist friends tell me that the new atheists are doing it wrong. That they should be doing X other thing instead of what they are doing, or that they should also be doing Y, or that they are wasting their time because some particular philosopher destroyed the notion of God hundreds of years ago, so this is all old news.

All of these sorts of criticisms of the new atheist movement strike me as exceedingly odd.

It is like claiming that climate change activists are doing it wrong because they aren’t personally replacing the coal and petroleum industry with an alternative energy infrastructure. It is like claiming that websites like Skeptical Science are a waste of time because climate scientists have known for decades that climate change is caused by humans. I never heard climate change advocates making these arguments because it is obvious that they are nonsensical. The alternatives exist independent of the activists, and the scientific consensus isn’t reflected in public opinion – therefore the activism is still needed! The atheist movement is no different.

So, when I hear that the new atheists should provide an alternative structure to religion, I think: No, that already exists. It comes from philosophy (morality), science (explanations of the world), sports teams, family, hobbies groups, etc (community). The atheist agenda isn’t to transform society – it is simply to fight for representation in a society which has clearly declared that non-belief is unacceptable, untrustworthy and to be despised.

My understanding is that the atheist movement as we currently know it was basically started by Dawkins giving this TED talk. I think he very clearly outlines why we need this movement, and what its objective is. And I agree completely with him.

Religions cause people to make decisions which harm themselves and people around them, and they do so because they believe that the creator of the universe commands it. They don’t do it because they are intentionally trying to harm people, or because they are necessarily biggoted – they do it because the book commands it.

Yes, there is overlap. Yes, sometimes bigoted people will use the bible to justify their bigotry (as if that is much better), but just as often people will be bigoted just because they believe that the creator of the universe has commanded them to be!

How do you rationally argue against that?

You can’t. You literally cannot make a single argument against “I have to be a bigot, because the creator of the universe has told me that I must behave this way.” The basis of the position is not founded on rational thought – it is founded on authoritarian command. Therefore the only way to correct the erroneous bigoted position, is to undermine the authoritarian command itself. You have to show that the belief in the commander is false. It is the only viable option.

Let’s make this crystal clear. At the very same party where this criticism of the new atheists took place, another good friend pointed out that she was a feminist prior to discovering christ herself and becoming a true believer. In doing so, despite it going against everything she felt and believed, she knew that because God was real and because the Bible was his true word, she must submit herself to her husband, she must see gay people as sinners, and other such commanded positions. These were not positions she wanted to hold – it was just what the bible very clearly told her.

Multiply that experience across the population, and you now have a basis for terrible laws and government policy which leads to vilification and sexism.

Or, lets look at another example of religion doing harm. As I write this article a news story is running about a Jehovah’s Witness family denying their son a blood transfusion. This will kill their son. Do you think they actually want their son to die? Do you think they have some sort of weird bigotry against blood transfusions?

No. They just believe that the creator of the universe has commanded them to do this, so they are obeying the command.

You cannot rationally argue against this position. You can only rationally argue against the underlying belief in a universal creator and master.

And that is what the atheist movement is all about. Fixing the actual problem.

For too long religion has influenced politics, law and social convention despite evidence. And as the “Nones” have grown in number over the decades, their influence has stayed non-existent. This is the problem. This is what the atheist movement cares about.

If you too are worried that the atheist movement might be wildly successful, and leave devastation in their wake as millions of people wake up without religious structures to prop up their meager existence – then go and start your own Humanism Organisation which provides everything religion does, just without the God stuff, and fill that gap. Just don’t be surprised when you find out people are surprisingly capable of filling the gap all on their own with the innumerable other options which already exist.

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Following up from my last post: In College and Hiding From Scary Ideas

Almost perfectly following up from my last post I came across this article today which expands on what I was saying and looks specifically at the University side of things, and on our growing fear of upsetting people.

I think personal relationships require a lot more delicacy when it comes to offending – these people are your friends and you don’t want to hurt them. But when it comes to higher education, there really should be no question. Challenging ideas and confronting concepts should be part of the experience.

In College and Hiding From Scary Ideas

Probably best to just read the whole article, but here are a few of my thoughts on this:

“I was feeling bombarded by a lot of viewpoints that really go against my dearly and closely held beliefs,” Ms. Hall said.

Of all of the things to ‘get used to’, I would think that this would be one of the good ones.

We should not live in a society were we should grow accustomed to murder, or rape or the sight of starving people in the streets. We should rage against these things, and make them disappear entirely from our world experience so that everyone feels shocked and confronted by such sights.

But learning to deal with viewpoints which go against our dearly held beliefs… this is something we should be encouraging in everyone. Everyone needs to develop the coping mechanisms necessary to express and receive ideas which challenge their being.

And a few of my other favourite excerpts:

A junior named Adam Shapiro decided he didn’t want his room to be a safer space. He printed up his own flier calling it a dangerous space and had that, too, published in the Columbia Daily Spectator. “Kindness alone won’t allow us to gain more insight into truth,” he wrote. In an interview, Mr. Shapiro said, “If the point of a safe space is therapy for people who feel victimized by traumatization, that sounds like a great mission.” But a safe-space mentality has begun infiltrating classrooms, he said, making both professors and students loath to say anything that might hurt someone’s feelings. “I don’t see how you can have a therapeutic space that’s also an intellectual space,” he said.

why are students so eager to self-infantilize?

And the conclusion:

A few days later, a guest editorialist in the student newspaper took Ms. El Rhazoui to task. She had failed to ensure “that others felt safe enough to express dissenting opinions.” Ms. El Rhazoui’s “relative position of power,” the writer continued, had granted her a “free pass to make condescending attacks on a member of the university.” In a letter to the editor, the president and the vice president of the University of Chicago French Club, which had sponsored the talk, shot back, saying, “El Rhazoui is an immigrant, a woman, Arab, a human-rights activist who has known exile, and a journalist living in very real fear of death. She was invited to speak precisely because her right to do so is, quite literally, under threat.”

You’d be hard-pressed to avoid the conclusion that the student and her defender had burrowed so deep inside their cocoons, were so overcome by their own fragility, that they couldn’t see that it was Ms. El Rhazoui who was in need of a safer space.

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Making enemies out of allies

I learned something this week. I learned that I was wrong when I thought that the following image was hilarious, and an effective parody of a ridiculously untenable position held by some moronic members of the US congress. I was wrong to laugh at it and wrong to think it a useful public statement, because instead of finding humour in it and understanding its intent, I should have been outraged.

we should ban life jackets rape analogy funny joke haha

I should have been outraged at how this “joke” makes light of the serious nature of drowning. Do the makers of this joke not care that 10 people die of drowning every day? Do they think that is funny!?!? Are they ignorant of this fact, or do they just not care?

You might try to tell me that I am over-reacting. That they aren’t really making fun of drowning, but are just using it as tool to make a point.

That doesn’t matter, because as someone who has suffered from two near-drowning events in my life, let me tell you that I personally find this image incredibly offensive. I could have died to drowning. Proper real end of life actual death…and you think that that trauma is irrelevent? You think I should have to spend the rest of my life letting people make light and “fun” out of something which really did happen to me and was traumatic? How about instead of that, everyone else on the planet stops being so insensitive!?!

I also learned that I should imply that the creators of this image are active representatives of whatever organised community they are part of, and imply that that whole community are anti-drowning-safety. Because if you find this image funny, then you basically drown children. There are no half measures when it comes to this sort of thing, you are either as outraged as I am that some “comedian” makes light of an issue as serious as drowning kids, or you drown kids.


OK, enough stupidity and hyperbole. Yes, I was exaggerating, but this is how I feel when people react to a “#grapeculture” joke made by someone talking about a good night out with friends having drinks (presumably, wine, which is made from a “grape culture“)

#grapeculture tweet outrage

So when someone not included in the (publicly visible) conversation decided to take offense at the use of the #grapeculture hashtag and invite herself and her opinion, outrage and judgement  into it, I couldn’t help but feel very quickly like the whole thing became a parody of the very thing the joke was making fun of.

Despite the initial reaction of @vitabrevi which was to imply that @rjblaskiewicz and @cherryteresa  thought that rape itself was funny, it seemed quite clear to me that the tag was (at the most) a parody of people who use hashtag activism to accuse people of perpetuating rape culture. ie: it is no wonder vitabrevi felt attacked by the joke, it was probably aimed at people like her. But the shocking thing is that she bit. She bit with all of her might, accusing @rjblaskiewicz of supporting rape, misogyny and representing the entire skeptic community. Is there any world where that is a reasonable reaction to a #grapeculture joke?

How is it any different to my hyperbolic example above, where I claim that I should get desperately offended by the maker of this life jacket joke, and accuse them (and any communities they represent) as being supporters of people who enable the drowning of children?

This is why I made the reference to 4chan raids which aim to make the feminist movement look moronic by taking ridiculous positions and claiming to be feminists. I wonder if @ViteBrevi isn’t one of the, because if she isn’t, everyone can tell 4chan that they need not bother, some people are doing a fine job of making the movement look moronic all on their own.

And this upsets me.

The feminist movement is bloody important. Fighting the rape culture which is present in our society is incredibly important to me. But instead of actually doing that, we have counter-productive people out there claiming to be feminists who are busy sticking their nose in other people’s conversations, interpreting jokes to meet a pre-defined outrage sore-point, projecting their own suffrage on those comments, and inciting outrage and attack in their friends and colleagues. All to what end? All it does is make enemies out of friends.

I’ve met the people @VitaBrevi was attacking with her projected victimhood and offendedness. They are NOT the people we need to deal with. The people we need to deal with are abundant enough without picking fights with allies. The #grapeculture guilty are allies where it matters. They are feminists and want equal opportunities and freedoms and rights for people independent of sexuality, race and gender. But apparently being an advocate and champion of equality and a progressive society isn’t enough – they have to be super-sensitive to every possible sensibility that every person on the planet might have. They have to double check their language at all times, and avoid ever making jokes which might trigger traumatic events from the pasts of people they have never met nor talked to.

How about instead of that, people take responsibility for their own lives and emotional states (which may or may not include getting help from friends, family or trained professionals)? I’m not saying “suck it up”, I’m saying that we all have to take responsibility for our own lives, and that most certainly does not involve forcing the rest of the world to behave a particular way.

accept responsibility
Expecting the word-part “rape” (as in Grape) to be forever out of bounds as a tool in jokes is literally the sort of thing that fascists actually do. It is the core control mechanism in the book 1984: Control the language, and you can control the people. I am all for ending rape culture., but I want no part in ending our ability to use words, or our ability to find humor in things – even the morbid or the upsetting. (not that this even was – it was a joke at the (slight) expense of people doing this sort of thing! by making a pun about how wine is made).


So anyway, yes @VitaBrevi, you definitely seem to be “determined to be offended” – this is why you went into someone else’s conversation and chose to interpret their use of a phrase in a way which offended you, rather than 1. not paying attention to their conversation 2. not interpreting their joke as diminishing the experience of being raped 3. accepting the words of the several people who pointed out that the joke was about slacktivism, not rape 4. not projecting your outrage on an entire community which has nothing to do with one #hastag chosen by two individuals which didn’t even mean what you decided it meant  …or any other of an infinite other possibilities which didn’t involve you being mortally offended and justifying your outrage at their chosen method of interacting and attacking them (and everyone who defended them).

It is bad enough that reasonable people have to fight against tradition and socially conservative people who want to keep things ‘the way they have always been’ regardless of the fact that things used to be terrible for most people. But it is so incredibly disheartening when we also have to fight against extremist nut jobs who make reasonable objectives look crazy. It just gives the traditionalists and social conservatives material to use to undermine the real movement.


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Gender Differences and Why They Don’t Matter So Much

Well, it looks like i won’t need to rewrite my post from the other week about how men and women are different, because someone has managed to write out basically what I was thinking, and make it sound good already:

Great job Harriet!

It definitely makes some points I didn’t make, and even corrects some things I said (without being about my non-event of an article of course) – but as a doctor who has actually looked at recent studies (and cited them!) in her article, I find myself agreeing with her article much more than I even agree with my own. I like making progress.



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Follow up thoughts on differences between men and women…

So I had a few discussions because of the article I wrote yesterday which was a brain dump of some of my thoughts on the fact that men and women are almost certainly different (mentally and emotionally speaking). Over the course of some of these discussions, new thoughts emerged, and I wanted to get them down this morning. This was largely why I wrote the piece – just trying to get my own thoughts on a complicated and confusing subject together.

New Simple Argument

So, first of all, here is my new 1 sentence basic argument against anyone who believes that men and women are innately mentally, emotionally and/or behaviorally identical:

“So men and women are different genetically, developmentally, biochemically and physically – but mysteriously they are identical mentally?”

Transsexuals Might Disagree?

The fact that some men want to be women, and some women want to be men doesn’t contradict my position here – it in fact validates it. Because it shows that the identification of a sexuality is not merely socially constructed. We have here people who have been raised as one sex, given all of the same toys as everyone else, and shown the same sexual propaganda as the rest of us, etc and in spite of it all, something in their brains screams at them so loudly that they FEEL wrong behaving the way everyone expects them to, that they instead choose to deal with some of the most atrocious vilification our society hands out in order to feel comfortable in their own skins.

So your choices (as best I can figure) to deal with the sexual-identification issue, is that either every single transsexual person has had some anomalous environmental pressure in their early childhood which made them flip their sexual identity – OR – you accept that sexual identity is something which was programmed in to them genetically, developmentally and/or biochemically.

Surely No One Thinks that…

I got this response from a few people, a few times. Of course no one thinks that men and women are the same! Well…I wouldn’t have bothered writing the article yesterday if it wasn’t the case. It seems to be surprisingly common, with several people encountered the other night who seemed quite certain of it, as well a few comments in my discussion since which also reported their own experiences of people refusing to acknowledge that men and women might be different.

One interest tweet response I got made reference to the point I raised about how people used to argue that the different races were different – but no longer do, so maybe this line of argument I am making is just as erroneous as those old ones! Of course I disagree completely, and I think my 1 line argument above alone is sufficient reason why. Races have slight variations on superficial physical features as their only point of difference – but otherwise are genetically, biochemically and developmentally similar. Hence there is no reason to suspect that races are particularly mentally different from each other either. Men and Women, of all races, are persistently and constantly different across all of these things in significant ways.

Ought from Is – The Naturalistic Fallacy, And Judging the Sexes

And my final thought for now on this, is to make a very strong note that at no point in any of this have I set out to prescribe what should be. There is nothing about the fact that men and women are different which prescribes a way they ought to be, or how people ought to be treated. More importantly perhaps, there is also no value judgement being made about these facts. I absolutely reject the idea that any one sex is better than the other. Although I do generally find myself liking women a lot more than men, so maybe I think women are better?

But seriously, the idea that x and y are different means that x must be better than y is a complete non-sequitor. There is zero connection between difference and ranking! And the idea that one sex or another could be better, or more valuable, or more important is as absurd to our society as it is biologically. You can’t have one without the other!

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Feminism, Sexism and Biology

I attended a panel discussion last night at Soho Skeptics called “Challenging Geek Stereotypes” – specifically female-geek stereotypes.

I think I have mostly avoided feminism issues for most of my life, but over the last couple of years I have become more and more involved in it. Just incrementally. But now I think I am on the cusp of full blown involvement because I not only care about equality, but I worry that large portions of the feminist movement are very seriously shooting themselves in the foot.

To cut straight to the chase, I noticed last night listening to this panel that it seemed like there was a pervasive implicit agreement that Men and Women are fundamentally the same. In the way where a debate about racism would have everyone agreeing that Black and White people are fundamentally the same, skin colour isn’t important – so too penis vs vagina isn’t important and we’re the same deep down. Unfortunately, I believe, biology just flat out contradicts this. Men and Women ARE fundamentally different, and if I am correct in this fact, then pretending they are not and trying to work from a ‘blank slate’ origin towards equality will create more confusion and difficulty than not.

Are Men and Women Different?

On one level, obviously they are. For a basic introduction to this, the wikipedia article on ‘Sex Differences in humans‘ seems as good a place to start as any. However when talking about being the ‘same’ in this context what we are really talking about is emotionally. Mentally. Instinctively. Are our personalities fundamentally different? Or is all of the difference we see in our society a function of our cultural conditioning?

It is the confusion of our cultural conditioning which makes it a hard question – because no one is brought up a blank slate. Everyone is influenced, and groomed, and manipulated – we can’t be sure what traits are ‘nature’ and what ones are manufactured through precise ‘nurture’. So it is a challenging question – however, i think an understanding of evolutionary theory and biology is enough for anyone to see that Men and Women are necessarily different. Different Emotionally. Mentally. and Instinctively.

It IS all about Sex

One of the first people I spoke to after the talk about this observation of mine kept pulling me up when I mentioned the sexual reproductive strategies used by either sex in an evolutionary context. She complained that I was focusing on the sex as if it was of core importance, when she didn’t think it was. So I am going to start there – Sex IS of core importance.

We are a result of evolution. This is certain. Evolution has crafted us to the ultimate reproductive tools. And reproductive success is EVERYTHING to evolution. Nothing else matters. And reproduction is about 1. Having offspring, and 2. Ensuring those offspring survive. This is a biological fact, and just as applicable to humans as it is to every other sexually reproductive species.

So everything evolution selects for is about successful reproduction. Sex is the method of reproduction in all vertebrates, and so sex is central to everything about us. Everything we have evolved, whether it be balance, strength, speed, endurance, a digestive tract – ALL OF IT is so that we can achieve reproduction via sexual intercourse – and in some species – continue to provide for those offspring to a degree.

Successful Sexual Strategies

So we have two sexes. In humans, and all vertebrates. The definition of the sexes really just comes down to which one provides the greater or lesser investment to sexual reproduction. Females provide the greater investment in terms of cellular material. When we specifically talk about species which also involve internal gestation, then the consequence of sex for the two sexes is immediately starkly different. Males spend mere seconds engaging in sex, and are not committed beyond that. Females on the other hand risk committing themselves to months worth of sharing their limited energy and nutritional supplies with a parasitic organism, inability to mate with ‘superior’ males during that time, and potential risk of complications which could result in death. The difference between these two realities is stark!

This disparity is very physically real. And contrary to popular desire to discount the affect of evolution on the mind – evolution made our brain! It is the thing which created the nature of our brain which is open to the affects of nurture! btw, in case you were wondering, the answer to the Nature vs Nurture debate, it is Nurture VIA nature. It always has been both, but if it wasn’t for evolution crafting the malleable brain, there would be nothing for nurture to act upon! And thus it is here. yes, we are malleable creatures. Yes you can manipulate people in to certain patterns. It seems incredibly unlikely that Pink is somehow inherently Female, from a biological perspective – but that does not mean that there aren’t innate differences! Particularly when it comes to innate desires towards sex, and reluctances to participate in sex!

When there is clearly a biological disparity between successful evolutionary strategies of the two sexes, it makes sense that each sex will approach the problem of ‘Who do I mate with?’ differently! Males have endless sperm and can mate freely without risk. Females suffer from months of inability to select new superior mates when pregnant, are forced to give up large percentages of their limited nutritional and energy supply to a parasite organism, and worse than that, they risk death in child birth – all from engaging in sex. The idea that women would think and feel about sex exactly the same as men is absurd!

But in our modern world, we can choose to be…

Yeah yeah yeah. We’re all enlightened clever intelligent persons now aren’t we? We are no longer victim to our animalistic past are we? Of course not. That is why we all choose to ignore our programming and rationally think through the fact that we have contraceptives, antibiotics and abundant food, and spend all of our spare time engaging sex with numerous partners, often people we don’t even know. right?

Oh, you don’t want to do that? Why not?

See, it is easy to justify what you want, but you still haven’t choosen what it is that you want. Our evolutionary past controls us more than any of us want to admit.

“Human beings aren’t rational, but rationalizing, animals.” -Robert Heinlein

I want to stop eating Chocolate, and carbohydrate rich foods. But damnit, my brain keeps telling me they TASTE SO GOOD! Why don’t I just choose to stop enjoying them? We are slaves to our evolutionary past until we can actually change our biology – or so comprehensively agree to ‘train’ each new generation to act and think the ‘right way’ that it looks like it is natural.

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