Many of the most pressing problems all nations face are a result of failing to adequately tackle our increasing level of global interdependence.
Mobilized capital can play the tax-regime of one country off against another with ease, such that there is a race to the bottom with respect to the corporate tax revenues which might be expected from even the wealthiest transnational corporations. Such economic arbitrage is possible precisely due to the propagation of widespread variations in the distribution of social justice across the planet. There are no national solutions to such problems, which ultimately require the more equitable distribution of social justice on a global scale.
Even when faced with structural unemployment due to advances in automation, unconditional universal basic income on an individual state-by-state basis would do nothing to challenge structural geographical inequalities on a global scale – it would simply share the ill-gotten gains of inherited colonial and ongoing neo-colonial centres of capital accumulation amongst those ordinary citizens who are fortunate enough to be born in their immediate orbit (predominantly in the global north).
Furthermore, many on the left argue that this amounts to little more than a capitalist ‘sticking-plaster’: a reformist measure intended to redistribute private wealth to the minimum extent necessary to avoid a popular uprising amongst the poorest in society. Although such arrangements might well provide a valuable safety-net for the less well-off in the short term, it is indeed important to recognise that, as per traditional social security arrangements, such limited redistribution of private wealth is not at all sufficient to tackle the deep-rooted morbidities of the capitalist mode of production: i.e. class, neo-colonial and ecological exploitation of those who do not share ownership of the means of production, including the robbery of a sustainable future from the young, and those who are yet to be born. Instead of the ‘sticking plaster’ of basic income, something much more radical would instead be necessary in order to avoid the continued existence of a separate capitalist class which would otherwise retain the economic power to continue exploiting natural and human resources (ultimately land and labour) to destruction for their own short-term gain.
Instead, what would be required is some kind of unconditional universal citizen’s dividend based on the shared ownership of the means of production (perhaps most easily worked out in terms of fractional land ownership) as a birth-right rather than as a state/corporate handout – and on a necessarily global scale. Furthermore, it is reasonable to expect that this might even conceivably reverse migration flows in the direction of those areas which are most impoverished (where a globally equitable income would be worth more), thereby tending towards an amelioration of global economic inequality.
To illustrate further the futility of nation-by-nation legislation in the face of the widespread problems which face us all on a global scale, consider the following example: It is widely understood that the African continent is disproportionately resource-rich even though their populations are disproportionately impoverished compared to Europe and North America for example. Now just say that we are all to switch to electric cars in order to reduce carbon emissions and other pollutants. A fairly modest new electric car in the UK can be purchased for around twenty five thousand pounds, and reliable second-hand models can be picked up for well under ten thousand. It is a conventional aiming point for many, if not most households, that they might expect to have access to at least one car – and not least as cultural status-symbols.
It is also widely understood that the batteries for electric cars are manufactured from raw materials which are all-too-often mined by impoverished children whose labour is exploited to the detriment of their health (in the African continent and elsewhere). As the motor industry transitions to electric cars this situation is only likely to get worse. The only way we can circumvent such a scenario is to question our culture of individual car ownership whilst simultaneously working towards the homogenisation of social and economic justice on a global scale.
In order that the rare-earths necessary for these batteries might be mined professionally by well-paid, properly trained and equipped adults (whose children might thereby be freed from such labour) these twenty five thousand pound vehicles should actually cost much more – perhaps even starting at around one hundred thousand pounds or more. Furthermore, instead of being parked uselessly in driveways (other than as static exhibits of a household’s capacity to keep up with the proverbial Joneses), it is reasonable to propose that such vehicles might be owned and operated by community car pools, where they might be utilised much more efficiently and affordably.
There are always creative solutions, but they require us to leave behind many of our inherited habits of thought and expectations, and in the context of much wider allegiances than those to which we are all too often conditioned to subscribe. Hence my objection to localism, anarcho-primitivism and nationalism.
Having said all that, it is clear to me that an INTERdependent Scotland functioning within the European Union, which is (for all its faults, and at least at its best moments) a tentative move in the direction of such post-national thinking, is much more preferable than remaining within an isolationist UK, and even more so a UK which is likely to become even more of a neo-colonial American lapdog than it already is.
Brexit is just the latest episode of a century-and-a-half old culture war between US robber baron liassez-faire capitalism and the European model of a social-market economy geared towards the needs of the many before the profits of the few. I know which side I’m on.
From the archives:
Debate: Basic Income: A Way Forward for the Left? (excellent debate pro and con UBI)