No, he doesn't want to solve problems

Glory be, Joe Biden appears to be planning to run for President at the next election. It’s certainly gonna be fun to see the Clinton Camp running again without the charm, intelligence or competence. There is one more interesting point to note here. Which is the manner in which interventionists prefer to insist on the necessity for continued intervention rather than actually solving a problem once and for all. We see this with climate change for example. The economics profession is pretty much united in let’s just have a carbon tax and be done with the subject. No politician is willing to so argue – my somewhat cynical explanation for this being that that’s no fun. Why go to the effort of being a politician and actually solving a problem? Vastly better to insist upon not solving it so that there’s lots for politicians to do. Thus no carbon tax but year after year of mithering with trivial matters like used coffee cups and the like.

So with Joe Biden:

My guess, both from what’s in the media and talking to insiders, is that former Vice President Joe Biden is going to make a 2020 run for the Democratic presidential nomination. (He’s the very slight favorite, according to PredictIt.)

A minor point of interest – one we might open book upon actually – is which British politician will he plagiarise in which speech? Assuming he doesn’t just dust off his Kinnock again. but it’s this which is a guide to his political ambitions:

Americans don’t want a no-strings-attached check from the government, like the universal basic income proposal pushed by some leaders in Silicon Valley. They want work that provides dignity and a sense of community as well as a good paycheck. To deliver on that, we need policies that support work and ensure workers can succeed in a changing economy.

It’s not Americans that don’t want it – it’s politicians who don’t.

A universal basic income essentially solves a number of economic problems. We get the welfare state sorted out. We transfer a goodly amount of economic power from employers to workers. We raise reservation wages. We abolish the need for a minimum wage. And once we’ve done it we’re done. All of these things are solved, we can go home and do more interesting things like consider the dog’s nail fungus. Americans might be just fine with that.

American politicians, or more importantly here interventionist American politicians like Joe Biden, won’t be just fine with that. For we’ll have solved all those issues once and for all. If we do that, what need have we for interventionist American politicians like Joe Biden? Further, what fun will the interventionists have when the problem is solved? It is, after all, fun to tell other people what to do.

Yep, that’s right, just as with the environmentalists in Washington State killing off the carbon tax solution to their claimed problem of climate change, so too Joe Biden is against a universal basic income. Because it solves the problem – and what’s the point in solving things when it’s so much fun to utilise political power to not solve things?

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  1. What will be even more entertaining than the inevitable gaffes and inscrutable rhetoric of a Biden campaign, is to watch the left hurriedly dismantle the #MeToo campaign. The push against sexual harassment began, with calls for lifetime shunning even against people who “enable” abusers, solely because Trump was a womanizer and famously fantasized about mistreating women. If Gropin’ Joe is nominated, abuse of women will suddenly return to being something merely personal that everyone does, as it was in the days of Monica Lewinsky and Mary Jo Kopechne.

  2. ‘The economics profession is pretty much united in let’s just have a carbon tax and be done with the subject.’

    And this will stop the climate changing?


    In any case the climate crazies don’t want to have done with the subject, it is sustaining them after the fall of Communism, failure of acid rain to destroy all trees, failure of the predicted population explosion and food wars, peak oil delayed indefinitely. What’s a Cause Monger to do without a Cause?

    • It won’t stop the climate changing, and it won’t quiet the crazies; because what’s a Cause Monger to do. Tim has written about a proposed tax on disposable coffee cups, because of the loathsomeness of tossing them in a landfill, despite the landfill tax because of the same loathsomeness, and despite current experience showing it will have little effect.

      So a carbon tax concedes the crazies’ point – that we know what the optimum climate for Earth is and that human achievement is measurably altering it – and did not shut up the crazies, who came back (in Paris) clamoring for more wealth redistribution to again cure the global problem they cannot measure. This is why the economics profession is hardly united, except that a tax seems economic, while going all the way to enslavement would be handled over in the Sociology Department. Stop conceding to the wrong-headed, it doesn’t work, it doesn’t shut them up, they cite it as a victory in their fundraising letters, and you will wake up some day as a Republican.

    • If we were to put in place a mind experiment where the climate was affected by mankind emitting CO2 then we could easily formulate a reason for a carbon tax, and a reason that the tax would work.

      A carbon tax, priced at the current value of the future harm from emissions, does not, in itself, reduce emissions. What it does do, however, is price the harm into the cost of whatever it is that you are producing. So if you are producing something of minimal worth then it could be that the additional price stops you from producing it any more. Similarly if you have two manufacturers selling similar products but one makes it in such a way that the carbon emissions are low but more expensive then it will make their product more competitive.

      Over time it will encourage investment into ways of manufacture (or generation) that reduce the cost of carbon tax.

      The problem with carbon taxes though (again, ignoring that mankind’s effect on climate is negligible) is that politicians are in charge of it. They will therefore set the rate to keep the filthy lucre coming in and/or to ensure that their favoured industry lobbyists still invite them to nice dinners.

      • In other words, the carbon tax poses a problem and leaves it to individuals in their respective situations to devise the most efficacious solution to the problem. But, no sir, a “mind experiment” is not a “reason for a…tax.” Nor is a computer simulation that projects climate change two centuries into the future. Proof of harm might be.

        Then again, America is experiencing a “mind experiment,” in a crowd of chanting 14-year-old minds with instant victim status, as a reason for a new campaign to crack down on legal gun owners.

        The problem with carbon taxes is not that the political system is managed by politicians. (There is no other way.) It is that citizens turn to it on the flimsy basis of a “mind experiment” – in other words, “I feel this will work.”

  3. Biden’s suggestion that people “want work that provides dignity and a sense of community as well as a good paycheck” is probably better stated as that they need such things. This is the basis of Trump’s desire to bring manufacturing back to the US.

    It may well be that a universal basic income essentially solves a number of economic problems – those problems mainly being the intellectual constructs of economists. Real live human beings have different problems. A major one seems to be a sense of purpose, or lack thereof. It seems that having food, water, housing, transport, education, entertainment, etc, provided for “free” has a tendency to turn people into worthless, malicious drek who at best want to get fucked off their tits on dangerous drugs, and worse find terrible things to do to other people.

    Unless people can be trained to achieve s.f.a. and still retain a sense of purpose, and of self and societal worth, then it may be that a level of economically inefficient (even pretend) production is necessary to make consumption satisfying.

    I, however, would be quite adept at being economically idle, so please send cheques payable to…

  4. You don’t make people middle class by giving them money. Rather than trying to abolish welfare by giving people money we try something else – we arrest everyone who does not make a minimum income. We could copy the Swedes and sterilize them perhaps.

    The problem is that if you subsidise welfare, people will raise their children to be on welfare. If you punish idleness, people will not be idle. Preventing them having children will take a generation or two but in the end there will be a lot of hard working industrious people. Whose children do not decide they want to be poets or musicians and spend their twenties in their parents’ basement smoking weed. Or decide to go to university to do Grievance Studies.

    After all, how much poverty is there in America among Swedish-Americans?

  5. Also the purpose of the Democrats is to take money from productive Americans and give it to non-productive Americans. Mainly based on racial categories.

    If you have a uniform national colour-blind system, no one would vote for the Democrats.

    It is much cheaper to buy 51% of the vote than it is to win on the arguments with 100% of the voters.

    • I take exception only to your “Mainly based on racial categories.” The Democrats are assembling a coalition of misbehavers and many of them are white. If you wish to overstay your visa, or to sacrifice your job by Speaking Truth To Power, the Democrats do not care about your racial category. They will accept you and wind you up to believe that your situation owes not to your past behavior but to an inherent secret conspiracy of overachievers armed with “information the establishment doesn’t want you to know” but the Democrats will disclose to you.

      Agree that no one seeks a political agenda that appeals to 100%. No agenda does, because of our diverse ideologies; and straying beyond the 51% that you need to win an election dilutes your mandate to do the things that made you enter politics in the first place. If Party X got a filibuster-proof majority, they would spend it in purges and ideological purity until it got down closer to 51%.

      On your previous post, it would be rare and excellent if the nation arranged its rewards and punishments toward producing productive citizens rather than virtue-signaling about ourselves. You must not be a politician.

  6. The problem with the basic income is that is becomes “bread and circuses”. I don’t think that the the Democrat party could resist the appeal of saying to the downtrodden, “vote for us and we will raise the basic income”. Or “no one can afford housing in San Fransisco with the current basic income; it must be raised for all”, because fairness.

    It would have to be set at the level of basic survival in the cheapest parts of the country. If you can’t afford rent in New York, you need to move to to Memphis. Maybe this could repopulate the heartland.

  7. Coupla things, Tim.

    1) Biden would be a better choice than Hillary, he’s likeable enough, served under a still-popular President, and has none of the baggage Hillary Clinton does.

    2) He won’t get the nomination because he’s a heterosexual white man in a party which is now a grievance coalition of chippy brown people, permanently raging feminists, and sex perverts.

    3) Biden is factually correct in saying Americans don’t want a no-strings-attached check from the government, like the universal basic income proposal pushed by some leaders in Silicon Valley. They want work that provides dignity and a sense of community as well as a good paycheck.

    Americans don’t want it, but Americans are fast becoming a minority in America. My guess is the esses and cholos and clit-snippers from the Horn of Africa will take whatever the white man’s foolish enough to give them, while they can get it.

    Regarding the benefits of universal basic income, it’s one of those boffo libertarian ideas that would work great if we lived in a society full of people who behaved like Dr. Milton Friedman. In practice it would mean extending the perverse incentives of the welfare state to every single citizen, and turn every single election into a referendum on whether we want a pay rise.

    What could possibly go wrong?

    • Universal basic income is hardly a “libertarian idea,” unless you are using libertarian as a synonym for kook. Libertarians understand that that income first has to be seized from people who earned it, using the implied threat of armed force of the government.

      Americans, despite a widespread impulse to help people “in need,” or better yet, have a bureaucracy that does it for them, are acutely aware that the bureaucracy and its desire for larger caseloads and better human props is out of control and providing perverse incentives. However, there is nothing we can do about it, as true reformers (and even fuzzy reformers like Trump) are successfully labeled haters.

  8. Spike – Universal basic income is hardly a “libertarian idea,” unless you are using libertarian as a synonym for kook.

    A little bit from column A, a little bit from column B? Friedman proposed a negative income tax, which is along the same lines. I’ve seen a few libertarians argue UBI is better than the current welfare state, because they naively assume a more efficient system means we’ll be able to get rid of all the jobsworths currently running the welfare state.

    UBI is more of a fetish for people who like to talk about The Singularity and how we’ll all be rich as nazis thanks to robots and AI, and nobody will have to work and Google Glass is a really neat idea. Hence Uncle Joe’s reference to the bugmen of Silicon Valley. Dunno if they’re libertarians so much as they are autistic nerds living in a soy bubble, either way it’s a bad idea.

    • Then at that moment, Friedman was being a kook. Newt Gingrich is someone else who has has affairs with libertarianism but would rather be thought of as an innovator.

      UBI is not “better” than the welfare state; like a carbon tax, it is a surrender to the premises of the welfare state. “Conceding that the government must do [x]….Can I play too?”