« Making Sense with Sam Harris

#130 — Universal Basic Income

2018-06-18 | 🔗

In this episode of the Making Sense podcast, Sam Harris speaks with presidential candidate Andrew Yang about "universal basic income" (UBI). They discuss the state of the economy, the rise of automation and AI, the arguments for and against UBI, and other topics.

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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
Today, I'm speaking with Andrew Yang Andrew has been a ceo and co founder and executive of several technology in education companies. And this year he announced his candidacy for the presidency of the United States in twenty twenty and the central plank to his platform is universal basic income, Now many people have been asking that I do a podcast on this topic. And Andrew does a fantastic job representing it and he is running for president, so that obviously has interest as well and a book titled the war on normal people, which we talk about in this episode,
and we really cover every related matter here we talk about what you be. Is they principle arguments against it, whether it would be difficult to implement or not what it's likely consequences would be. This is a good tour of the issue and I don't think this issue is going away. Oh now, without further delay, I bring you Andrew Yang. I I'm here with Andrew Yang Andrew thanks for coming on the podcast I mean it's a pleasure to be here SAM, so I will have properly reduced you in my intro here. But briefly, you have written a very interesting book
I told the war on normal people, which is your case for universal basic income, which will be talking about in this podcast. I've had many requests to cover this topic and- and you cover it so well in your book and so urgently, so that I'm sure will be the the topic of conversation, but you also happen to be running for the presidency of the United States in twenty twenty, and that is an extraordinarily novel thing to be doing before we get in. You Bri, but how is it that you come to be running for the present and how does one even think about making that decision, because I mean yeah, I think it must seem like an incredibly quixotic thing to attempt. Even if someone already has a huge national platform, which I suspect you don't yet give us your background and how you,
come to find yourself in this position. Sure so I'm a serial entrepreneur I ran a national education company that help people get into business school, and I personally thought- endless classes at Goldman Sachs Mckinsey, Jp Morgan. I saw all these smart, energetic young people who hated there why they were doing what they were doing so then, when company was acquired by the Washington Post in two thousand and nine. I thought about that. Problems of the world and the biggest problem to me at the time was that we had so much talent doing things that were not going to drive our society forward in meaningful ways: they're going to become investment, bankers management, consultants, Corporate lawyers like I was for five months and that wasn't going to be what we needed. So I started a nonprofit called venture for America to help create businesses around the country and channel are talented young people too, comments like Detroit or Baltimore, and New Orleans or Saint Louis, to help rejuvenate regional economies.
And so I saw a lot of the country I think, you're from the West coast of from the EAST coast. I had never been to Detroit or Cleveland or Saint Louis, to these places before starting at your. America and our goal was to create american jobs, which we we did. We've helped create about three thousand jobs to date, but I was in my role as founder and ceo of Venture for America for six one slash two years and the more I saw the more. I realized that our economies changed for good, for away so many jobs. So imagine saying it was your job to create jobs, and then you She lives at a certain point that you, pouring water into a bathtub that had a giant hole ripped in the bottom and so from there I went on a quest to figure out what the heck you do about the hole in the bottom of the bathtub. And then concluded that a universal basic income was the most realistic and a fish
solution that one could implement in our reasonable time frame essentially before the truck drivers get sent home is going to be a massive problem and I'm sure we'll talk about that, and so then, when you go to the drawing board- and you say hey, how am I going to get universal basic income across the finish line? reality into five to ten years. We have before the truckers Jobs get automated, then running for president becomes. Really the only logic, thing to do. If you're trying to solve a problem and and that's what I do is an entrepreneur is, like you see, a problem trying to solve for it. So this to me was that the clearest past and how do describe yourself politically. You know, I suspect you and I are kind of similar- that I've traditionally been very democratic, leaning I consider myself something of an independent at this point, though I line up with liberals on most social priorities, I think I can,
actually I I'm I'm like many Oxford errors where, like I, I feel like like there are a lot of things that you need private industry to tackle, and I am I am concerned about the fact that the government is not excellent at a lot of things that we wish. There were excellent at you've written this incredibly urgent book about universal basic income, also known as you be I, The case you make for the kind of economic emergency that is coming upon us is pretty dire and we'll run through your analysis, but What is the let's just define you be for those who who haven't heard of the concept a fairly old idea. I wasn't aware that it was as old as you discuss it to be in in the book. What is universal basic income Well, universal basic income is a policy where
every citizen of a country gets a certain amount of money from the government. No questions asked every period. Essentially, every month, and, as you say, Thomas Paine Way back in the day, understanding of the country and it's been baked into our country's dna for decades, where Martin Luther king was for it Milton Friedman was for it for it. Richard Nixon was even the housework but it was in nineteen, seventy one and then stalled in the Senate because of uh, of Democrats, I wanted to higher income threshold, then was being proposed, but uh signed a letter in the be economy and society, it's a policy where ever gets a certain amount of money to be basic needs every month. There's something you tackle
in the book? I I wanna going to just get into the ethics here, because I, I think, there's a very strong bias, especially among conservatives, but I a you know: it's a bias that I I seem to encounter everywhere against this idea of giving everyone this this free hand out, and it's it. It's tied to this. This notion that there's some kind of work ethic, that will be undermined here and what will talk about the objections to it? But there's this, I guess what I would call the illusion of a meritocracy that you deal with early in the book and at one point you say that this is a quote. The logic of meritocracy is driving us to ruin, and then you go on to talk about how it's leading to this assumption that if someone isn't succeed,
in in today's economy, it's their fault right to the blame is on the the person who is still poor, given all the opportunity that is available, and it ignores the fact that it was some people are are simply luckier than others across every variable that that is open to difference that that people aren't responsible for sorry it in you describe your own background. You talk about how your academic success was almost entirely the result of you being smart and good at taking tests, and these are not qualities about you that you created in yourself and they're, not the result of hard working there, not the result of character, and I would you know, I would argue if you know anything about my view
one free well, I would say that a person's capacity for hard work and their characters also not something that they create. That's the last trench in which the people for the meritocracy are fighting, but these domino's, I think, should fall pretty quickly. But how much? How much can we blame someone who isn't as smart or happens to be bad at taking tests for not being able to fully capitulate the success you have found in your own life and of course, as you discuss the book, the differences don't end there. There, the other people have two parents, their people have won their people, have none some people and their
please enjoy perfect health, some just get absolutely devastated by by the bad luck of of illness and injury. We know that all of these stresses and the kinds of scarcity associated with them, our band for people they're bad. They they they compete for cognitive band with, as you describe at some length in the book. So let's talk about the the ethics of the situation, the kinds of resistance you get to the idea, based on a sense that it's just simply wrong to hand out. Money to people well. One of the points I make is that it's not as if the truck drivers are about to get dumber and lazier overnight. It's just that their trucks are going to start driving themselves. You know, there's nothing to do with their character and work ethic. It doesn't matter if they're good truck driver a bad drive truck driver. Particularly, it's just that we can save one hundred and sixty eight billion dollars if we automate their jobs and probably thousands of lives. Because that's how die every year, so it
works on both sides of dimensions. As you point out like I certainly attribute most of my success. Through my early years, just the fact. I was really good at filling out bubbles on scantron sheets and the opposite, you for other people where, if you were not good to qualities that are academic system prizes. And you will be increasingly marginalized and beaten down and told that you know you should think about like a like a second grader you're like way of life yourself and that's what's appropriate, so did he. The meritocracy is about to. Breaking down around us, because people are catching on, but more than that, right now. We rely upon the marketplace to assign an attribute certain values, that people's time and the references I made to a group I spoke to last week was, you can have a radiologist who spent a dozen years in education, hundreds of
is a dollars worth of training spent ten years becoming excellent at detecting tumors on films, and then tomorrow or literally right now, my computer going to be a lot better at that than that well just because it can see shades of gray, that the human eye can't detect and it can reference millions of films instead of hundreds or thousands, so that the crudeness of the mark it as an effective allocator or value to our time is about to be exposed to people, and so the we have to involve the next form of capitalism as quickly as poss
or up, or else we're going to find ourselves in almost unimaginable circumstances very, very soon. Yes, this market failure to value time is is a huge problem. I think at some point the book you list all of the things that are important to us, obviously important to us that the market currently doesn't capture capture well and as the that includes things like the environment. Includes teaching and childcare. It even includes journalism, and- and you know, I would argue that it in it includes digital content almost in its entirety. Just the way we have failed to fund quality online and we're now behold into this advertising model. That is that it
advise in all the wrong things and driving as Matt on social media. With all of these are market failures and, as you point out there, that we're not only talking about blue collar jobs, were talking about white collar jobs and traditionally high prestige jobs yeah, like, as you say, a radiologist or your doctors across the board of it. We we could argue that the profession of of nursing is more secure than the the profession of oncology with respect to come in advances in AI, so yeah there's a kind of this. This barbell picture of very low and low prestige, low compensation, service jobs and super high and creative jobs that will be most likely spared, certainly in any near term time frame, but in the middle you basically have everything from many service jobs and basically any job that has a significantly repetitive routine.
In characteristic- and I think at one point- he was Mackenzie. That said, that seventy three percent of food prep jobs can be automated and if the Federal Reserve categorized forty four percent of all jobs as routine and yeah susceptible to automation, this is kind of a coming apocalypse for jobs that is get it get. It can happen very very quickly in the radiology. Wanted is super poignant because it's just the next software update could achieve just at the purse cancellation of that kind of job, yeah and, and one of the most shocking things are covered in researching for the book was that this is no longer speculative we're in the middle of it and we're doing with it in the worst way possible, which by ignoring it ignoring. It is pretending it's not happening where, if you look at our labor force participation rate today, it's down to sixty two point: seven percent, which is a multi decade low at the same levels as L Salvador Dominican Republic. Our life expectancy is the car,
time for the last two years, because middle aged Americans are killing themselves in record numbers where seven people die of opiates every hour and Disability rate is climbing to a point where. Now they're more Americans on disability than work in construction. When I I'm trying to find out what happened to the manufacturing workers that lost their jobs in the Midwest. It turns out that half of them. Just let the work entirely hiring the of that group about half when on disability so I studied economics in college and what classical economics says. What happened is completely not happening if you actually dig the numbers So this is no longer or something we can like. Look ahead to and say what are we going to do? This is ripping our society apart. The reason why Donald Trump is our President today is because of the spreading dysfunction
and right now the countries locked in a struggle between functioning and dysfunction reason, an unreasoned and scarcity and abundance and he is winning and that's what we have to reverse through universal basic income. It's our best way forward. So I want to talk more about just what what this would mean and how it could be implemented and what is the the likely Effects would be, but I want to deal with one objection up front because there's this kind of free market fundamentalism that one runs into and seems especially in Silicon Valley at the mall, there's a lot of libertarians in Silicon Valley and actually I was at lunch with some people and one of these one of the people included a very successful entrepreneur and VC. Now. But we were talking about you by, and I told him I was going to have you on the podcast and then
he sent me an email and incredibly generous detailed email, offering a good reasons to doubt this whole premise, and even many of them you will have heard before It was very comprehensive and I won't read the whole email, but I just want to get at what was his central concerns here, because I've heard them many times, and no doubt you have- and I think it's. This is the kind of first objection that you just have to figure out how to ram through, if you're going to get people to take you by seriously. And so it's this notion, which you've just expressed, that it really is different. This time that, because we have obviously lived in a world for at least one hundred and fifty years or so where we have noticed This effect of breakthroughs in technology, where something
comes online and it destroys jobs. We we find new efficiencies in some labor process, and people can't envision what key replacement jobs will be, and so this kind of this is a luddite delusion and what we're saying what you're saying certainly is that this time is different. But some would argue here is that one? This is a failure of imagination in this. If you could, if you could have gotten into a time machine and stood with the luddites and share their delusion and not seen what jobs would would come in the wake of all the jobs that were being destroyed, there's this conviction that there will always be things for people to do. There will be jobs for as long as there's anything in this world that people want. You know I
I find this line of reasoning just so lazy and ridiculous and frustrating where otherwise educated people will actually cite the industrial revolution say, but look one hundred and twenty years ago we went through something similar and things like that. That's actually the argument, but saying that there will always be jobs, as long as there are needs fails to take into account how the market values human labor. Thank you. If you folks the disintegrates in Michigan? And then there are thousands of people out of work and don't money to somehow relocate to San Francisco or someplace and if they did that there would be no way for them to actually manage the cost of living I mean, like I, I spent the last six one slash two years: walking the Midwest and the south in other places, and it's yeah just like that kind of ideological oversimplification just ignores realities on the ground like no one actually goes and hangs out. That was actually
part of the picture he sketched here. He thinks the onus is really on the difficulty that people find and moving to new centers of growth and the zoning restrictions that make it so costly to bring on new people in cities like San Francisco, where it where the boom is happening. He thing so we want to help people we have to make it easier for them to move, but fundamentally not treat them as liabilities would have to be paid for, but to treat them as assets, because the in his you they will always people always be assets and at his count, is counterpoint. Also does boil down to this that if we weren't destroying jobs through breakthroughs in technology, that would be synonymous with it with the lack of material progress. This is like this is all Always the process that has to be hope for destroying jobs and if we're not destroying jobs in the medical sector,
There's no way will people be able to afford medical care in the future, because, if there's no way to bring the cost down so this is it is this kind of creative destruction picture of a finding new efficiencies, but he thinks that the solution would be to just make it as easy as possible for people to relocate in. Find the the new areas of growth? Well, that's something I'm very much in favor of, and that was something that universal basic income would help a great deal with where, if you look at the current rate of interstate relocation in this country, it's also The multi decade low, even as the opportunities are shifting, people are moving less and not more they're hunkering down and that's a massive problem in as president. I would pay for people to move giving them universal basic income actually does a lot of the same thing where we need make our labor market much more dynamic, in mobile, it's I will say, though, that trying to say essentially,
it will get it right and we just need to push everyone to say, market mobile and market competitive. Will breakdown mean it it's already breaking down and imagining that it's going to be a constant because as you said, there's going to be massive job polarization where, if you look at the five most common job types in the country, retail and sales, clerical and administrative food services, food prep, truck driving in transportation and manufacturing they're, all going to shrink immensely and many of those people will not realistically be able to identify new opportunities. Those five categories I just named are about half of all american jobs. And most of those people have high school educations, the medium truck drivers, forty nine years old, ninety four percent- male, retail worker is thirty nine. Brief email about sixty percent, so we're talking about
people who are working at twelve one thousand four hundred and fifteen or in our jobs and then having those jobs disappear. It would help if they could magically move to. Another part of the country would help a great deal, but it's it's a multifaceted problem, that's very deep in human, so yeah. Let's tackle this poster issue here, of trucking, because he actually sent me an article, I you might have seen this article in the Atlantic that offers a counterpoint to this fear. There been many studies that suggest that, as you said, trucking will be one of the first jobs and and one of the most consequential to be decimated by automation, but this Atlantic article. I think, citing a study that was somewhat, fully funded by uber. That does not automatically disqualify it. But I guess we should add a few grains of salt. It suggested that
Not only will trucking jobs not be hurt, but they are in fact might be more people working in that industry, because the cost of freight will go down and they'll be more demand and for the longest time It will be impossible to automate the final miles so that you'll still need a person in a truck. You know who will be better rested, will be able to do many other things, but who will have to now Forget that final mile into a crowded city and many of the other other facts that people worry about like tiny town is being bypassed by the now sleeping truck drivers. There are Connery's will be affected, but what do you say to this notion that that this fear is fundamentally incorrect? It no no, no matter how much we automate truck in there will still be other jobs and a they even that the very same truckers would be doing because we're just not actually picturing how much truckers
you apart from pushing the pedals and steering the wheel on a truck. Well, tell me the truth is in the numbers where, if you see the number of truck drivers in this country is about three and a half million again four percent male average age. Forty nine majority of some kind of early chronic health problems like obesity or diabetes, or high blood pressure, because it's deeply unhealthy to in a truck for eleven hours a day four days a week and then There are another five million workers and truck stops motels diners retail establishments serving the truckers. You cannot overstate the importance of freight to many communities around it country where I was ten percent of all. Workers in the state of Nebraska are working in support of trucking. So if you play out how this is going to happen,
you're, going to have human truckers for a long time, but you're also going to start automating their jobs very quickly, where there's going to be a human driven truck and then two robot truck trailing behind, it is going to be. A human driver and then there are definitely going to be human drivers that get into the truck in the last ten miles before it goes into the dense, populated urban area of what's that re going to be the research so I'm going to be under one, because if that was the case, then like a lot of drug I was just hanging out outside of cities waiting to get to a truck the my free in Silicon Valley tell me that there model is going to be to have, operator sitting in a warehouse. In Nevada or Arizona where they take control of the robot truck whenever the computer is not sure what to do. But again, and ratio going to be. It's certainly not going to be one to one. So
and if you were to be conservative and say hey, you might still need two million truck drivers, Adam three one slash? Two million- I mean you still talking about one one, slash two million mid age men, most of whom don't have marketable skills, were going to go from making about forty. Five thousand dollars a year to making some fraction in that next to nothing? And so to me. You know you just use your head and look at the numbers and say hey five million retail workers like how many of them are going to still be needed when the trucks don't stop anymore. If you have half million truck driver here's, how many of them are really really going to need if they only have to get into the cab for the last ten miles, so we're in. For you know another thing that people are like: oh it's going to be five years: it's going to be figured everything out in ten years. So, like the like, you can just look at it and see that it's a disaster in the making and.
Only thirteen percent of truckers are unionized, but there's not going to be much of a conversation to be had. This is just going to happen to them yeah and at one point, the book used. Cytostatic forget what the sources, but eighty percent of LOS, manufacturing jobs. Since two thousand are due to automation, are you aware of that being a controversial figure, or is that a widely accepted idea that automation is the reason why our manufacturing jobs, eighty percent of them Lausd yeah, that there are different estimates, but people agree that it's the vast majority, so you could argue for seven hundred instead of eighty, so it's not simply that they've been sent over she's. No most of its due to automation, and if you go into a factor you can see that play out where Where, once there were were rows and rows of humans now they're just a handful of humans, ministering machines of robots. So this sir, I I want to talk about the EC
picture here, that's already fairly dire mean that the stats on wealth, inequality and income inequality- you present are troubling, even if we were not facing this coming transformation of industry and and information technology with with a I and automation, but I think the the picture you just painted is is hard to doubt and I'm I'm a little mystified that people still doubted so strenuously that this It's just the fact that whatever new jobs do get created and undoubtedly some new jobs will be created. There's this general trend toward those being fewer jobs than the jobs that got destroyed. And they in the main, what will require more specialized skills, not less, and so you any so. You have this picture of
even if it was one to one, even if for every job that got cancelled a new job opened up. You have this picture of this retraining. Bird which seems totally unrealistic here, you just have to picture millions of truckers being retrained to in you know the ex the extreme case be software engineers. You know that that's not going to happen and as long as there's this general trend toward more specialization, the burden of retraining is, it does seem insurmountable for many, if not most, of these cases. Yes, if you look at the data, on the efficacy of government funded retraining programs. They range between zero percent and thirty. Seven percent in independent studies,
and this is when the government actually spend thousands of dollars trying to retrain people, which is generally does not it's not like when the mall closes at thirty percent of balls are going to close in the next four years. It's not like when a mall closes, there's an army government re trainers surrounding the mall saying we're here to retrain. You mean that's ridiculous, so expecting these workers to be rich. Ignores many, many very obvious realities and I have to say so I've been having these conversations and it's been shocking to me how often otherwise very intelligent, educated people adopt the very, very lazy, the fact based arguments
where, instead of doing what I feel like they should do, which is to say. Oh, that's interesting like let me explore that like what are the facts around this, where the facts about that? Instead there's this very reflexive instinct around market based solutions and retraining and everything is going to be fine and industrial revolution and I've had it so many times now that I think, there's something much deeper at work. It is amazing because it well there is this there, a few heuristics or analogies that are doing an inordinate amount of war. In people's thinking, thinking and one. We just covered the analogy to previous moments of technological unemployment, as though that, Could just keep going on in the face of any conceivable technological breakthrough, and is it it's just? It should be obvious and you would think it would be obvious but it isn't that a I is- and I think you say that at some point in the book it might be a might be a quote from Ben Bernanke
from someone that that a I is not analogous to an internal combustion engine the way in which an engine replaces labor, is not at all. All the way in which true ai will replace human labor, and it's just a it's just there's a category shift in what is being accomplished with this with this new technology- and there is just it is no. No, where written into the the book of nature, that there must always be things that we value and are willing to pay for that humans will be able to do best, and certainly it's not written anywhere- that there always be an equal number of things that we will. We will be willing to pay for that humans do as well as any other technology hey when compared to any point in the past, and so that you had the idea that
this is a stable situation. When we are envisioning a time when we will be able to build machines that are better than us at in the ultimate case, everything we do right and then then it's just what is. Left for humans will be guided merely by our preference to be in the presence of humans. Even if they're doing this, this job worse than machines, can do it. It's a very short list of things. Thank you will insist, be done by human. You know you could probably put massage therapist on the top of that list, You know it's certainly not oncology. I am. I am at like you mystified by the the skepticism here. So what what it? Let let's talk about, the picture of our our economic situation, as
is now and then we'll talk a little bit more about the objections to you be. I admitted it I'll. Just give you a few facts from your book. One that was startling to me is that that ninety four percent of new jobs created between two thousand and five and two thousand fifteen or contractor temp jobs, so that this already were seen the the gig economy, change the face of human employment and that has obviously negative implications for for the social safety net and people sense of their own job security. During this time, most of the wealth gains and the and the and the and the productivity gains have gone to the the top one percent, as as is well known, the top twenty percent of people. Ninety two percent of the stock market, so so the bottom eighty percent owning the remaining eight per
end of the stock market. So what we see in the stock market is affecting, for the most part, the top twenty percent of american society, and then you get into some facts about what's happening to young men and the twenty two percent of men in their twenties, with less than a bachelor's degree, have done no work in the previous year and that's up from nine percent in the year two thousand and seventy five percent of the time they used to spend working is now spent on the computer and that's mostly play video games. So we have this picture of a people falling out of gainful employment, or at least delaying their entry into the workforce for a very long time and fall into some kind of almost like an Aldous Huxley level arrangement,
their priorities where they're just playing video games and not figuring out what to do with their lives. I guess one obvious objection here is when you focus on that picture. Why? Wouldn't you buy exacerbate this problem if we're paying people? one thousand dollars a month, why isn't that going to usher in some truly disk open reality, where you have just it all People who are in their mothers basements playing video games now we're just we're subsidizing them to do that in a way, that's totally dissed, well. But the main reason is that if you had so I'm trying to put myself in the shoes- and I used to like video games a lot when I was younger- where, if you were getting one thousand dollars a month. Then you're much more likely to get out of your parents' basement and visit friends and things to do that are are somewhat more social and external facing
in a lot of the reason why these men are retreating is because there's no real economic security or path forward for them and they feel much served by going online and hang out with their friends and progress in a measurable way, at least in there I gaming environment. So you could certainly trying to catch a work requirement to it, but one of the the dangers to me is that, like the the work requirements to me actually pushed much more more towards a dystopian reality where, as you, you point out like what are the jobs going to be, are they going to be distributed? In particular, geographically and a lot of parts of the country, because we are in the diverse economy, where certain- and I you know I felt like I was traveling between worlds- are dimensions when I would lie between like to try to clean St Louis back to New York or San Francisco, very often so The reality is that that it's going
be a generational challenge to find ways to engage men particular young men without college educations in productive ways that further society and that's going to be something that we grapple with for decades, press which just sketch how this would be implemented, because this is, I think the picture here is of some bizarre social experiment which has been untested. But, as you point out in the book, this is actually been tested in various places, and so we have some data on the effect of you by, but it also seems akin to socialism and and even communism for people. But one thing is clear: this need not and in fact does not entail, creating any more government bureaucracy, so so talk about just what it would mean to have a universal basic income and and and how would be affected
so that the great thing about universal basic income and what makes it so powerful is that it would flow to the bottom line to do these individuals and families and households in a way that would enhance their quality of life almost immediately where, according to the data, child nutrition and graduation rates go up, mental health improves, Sequence goes down, hospital visits go down, mobility goes up, so the the wonderful thing is that the government could actually get this done in a way that it could not do many of the other things that we claim it. It might be able to do like educate all America Topps the future impossible. Just end up. You know not not well, as you can tell by the numbers, so
A friend in Eastern who used to run the largest labor union. The country says that the government is not great at many things, but it is excellent and sending large numbers of checks, a large numbers of people promptly and reliably, and it does that to great effect, every month about half of Americans right now receiving Some kind of income support from the government, so the wonderful thing about universal basic income, is that it's something that government can do, which is send dollars a month to peoples. Bank accounts are their mailbox and then people would use it to improve their qualities. Life quickly. I am in Alaska, where the petroleum dividend is better than a fact. The last thirty six years, you can see some of the of facts where a child nutrition improves, created. Thousands of jobs in the quality is lower. Many many things that make that petroleum dividend wildly popular and that was implemented by republican Governor thirty six years ago
so in the last of the deep red state. So it's clearly possible to do this in the United States in conservative environments, but as a counterpoint to that. What would you say about the example of a place like Saudi Arabia, which is a kind of you buy situation? Obviously they're pulling their petroleum money out of the ground and handed it out to people I don't know the specifics currently there, but this is a way of this- is generally viewed as a highly negative outcome, not just for Saudi Arabia before virtually every state that has been able to rely on petro dollars, is greater situation where they, the government no longer has to be responsive to any kind of democratic process or the needs of of people, because it just you can just MA. Find them with these payments. Do you see any negative analogy there to be drawn for you? I
Well, that's one reason why the universal basic income level that I'm advocating for is one thousand dollars a month of freedom, dividend for twelve thousand dollars a year which puts you at below the poverty line in the entirety of the United States, the power. Level of the US is twelve thousand seven hundred and seventy dollars or so so, if you can imagine, who right now, maybe they're a server in restaurant in there making eighteen thousand dollars a year and they're getting it one thousand dollars a month, they're not going to quit their jobs on that, because that would mean a pay cut up. Thirty three percent, whereas if they keep doing their jobs and will make thirty thousand, then maybe they can start saving a socket so one of the issues with some of the international comparisons that the income level is truly meant to be something of a work placement, as is the case in in some of the Middle Eastern.
Countries, whereas one thousand dollars a month, is going to end up being a supplement and mobility enhancer, but would not be a work replacement except at the most extreme situations. One of the conundrum here Why is so if this is we're in this situation, where automation is already decimating jobs in a way that is unacknowledged and it's only getting worse, why is unemployment currently solo, and why is productivity also acknowledged to be low 'cause? It would seem of necessity. It should be high if automation is in fact exerting its effects. Yeah so- and I write about this in the book where the unemployment level really is highly misleading, because it relies only upon people who are currently in the labor force looking for work, so it doesn't account for the fact that our labor force participation rate has gone down to multi decade, lows in ninety five,
million Americans have left the workforce entirely and it also doesn't account for under employment, which the New York FED now measures to be forty four percent among recent call. Graduates. So as long as you have a job, even if it's below what your skill level. Your education would indicate that doesn't show up in headline unemployment employment productivity number is a little bit trickier least one journalist Ryan even proposed- and I agree with this- is that, because of the success of technologies, you have more and more people doing jobs that are frankly not that productive, because people just have to do a job, a job in order to put food on the table. So then they end up doing job they don't have much to productivity number, because they're kind of jobs that are somewhat economically superfluous, so
One of the things I propose in the book as Well- and this is something that scares me stiff, which is that really we can't tell what's going on until the next downturn, which is when the knives are going to come out and the companies are going to start automating and cost cutting to a much higher degree. As as a former ceo myself, you don't always march around trying to to cut costs when times are supposed to be good in an expansion. You really start drilling when there's a recession and then- and you look at the historical pattern of when layoffs occur. When there's a recession, then we're really going to see the reality of how many workers these companies need. So let's tackle this idea, which you kind of flag. Briefly, what we're talking about the dystopian generation of gamers, which almost certainly is a
is a kind of myth, the the idea that could mean in is to be found in most of the jobs that people are doing, and I either you have a a quote by an historian hide ever heard of Benjamin Hunnicutt which is rather amusing, but he let me say he's said that if a cashier's job were video game, we would consider it the most punishingly boring game ever designed and yet magically when we call a job politicians praise it as a as a source of meaning and dignity and fulfillment and really become the only conceivable source. That's like what would this person be doing with their life if it weren't a cashier drive is home with me.
From this job, and yet SAM Honey cut, says that Justin, meaning and identity and fulfillment and creativity and autonomy. These are things that positive psychology has shown us to be necessary for a well being, but these are absent in many, if not most jobs, and certainly what we would consider the average job. Yet there is this problem of meaning the people need to find something to do with it with their lives. That is for failing to one another degree, and it is. It is just the fact that, because virtually everyone has to work to survive, work is the placeholder for that project and in the absence of real the Says city and even over? The fear is that you be. I would would undercut this this real necessity. We will have millions of aimless opiate abusing alcohol abuse in people who have to
become unmoored. Yes, and that really is the massive child. People say to me: hey: if we're, really automating the jobs away, universal basic income is not the solution which I completely agree with. And if you look at the data, it's the case that if someone doesn't have a job, especially if they're man, they tend to disintegrate into antisocial and self destructive behaviors mean that's just again. Facts and data So the goal is to try and get people into environments where they're, not all cashiers It is really but the to me, like one of the dystopian futures, to avoid is that the government comes around and says: hey you like you can make enough to live. If you do, this make work nonsense. Job in like stand there in the park, yeah play tour guide over the act like the the subsistence job of the day for the unskilled. So that that to me is what we have to avoid and the major
sounds really is what does provide the structure and purposes fulfillment that we imagine work to provide? to millions and millions of Americans every day, so the universal base. Com has the main has certain incredible virtue where it puts more people in position to be able to make that determination. It would create, according to the Roosevelt Institute, four and a half, million new jobs, our economy, because if people have more money to spend, then they're going to end up, spend in local businesses and on tutoring and car repairs and everything else, and that's going to create jobs, and then it also puts people in position to perhaps see what it is. They want to work on think about even the business they want to start mean. I'm a serial entrepreneur and one of the things that courage is me. The most is that if you look at the rates of business formation in the US also down to multi decade, lows and response. The nurse chip among millennials, the lowest of any
creation in modern history, and a lot of this is because of economic insecurity, but it's also because people don't have A real sense as to what they want to work on, and if you had even some basic income coming in every month, then you might think about the business. You want to start the organism. And you want to sound and that's how we end up creating more meeting in more fulfillment for people in part. But we need to do more, and one of the things that I recommend in the book is that we need to implement a new digital social currency, that maps to some of the things that we care about. That would be backed by the government, because I need some sort of real monetary value to drive meaningful behavior. Yes, say more about that What do you mean by digital social currency? So that is really the project. As you look around and say: okay, our labor force participation rate is already down to sixty. Two
seven percent, we already have one out of five men in their 20s, not in the workforce in meaningful ways, and that is the problem. That's just going to get worse and worse. So there are three ways to address this. In my opinion, one to do nothing, which is our current plan two- is to try and pay people to do things which has its own set of problems, and then the third is to create a new currency that access points and meaningful activities are, we hope, they're meaningful for people to do things that we know are valuable that right now? monetary market decides to evaluate zero, so that list could go something like in care of the elderly. Improving. Environment nurturing our children, arts and creativity, infrastructure journalism, things that many? people would like to do if they had an opportune
you do something that it was somewhat remunerative. So we create a new currency that matched to those values we make it locally based, so that it's not something that's run as friends centrally and we try. Create more opportunities, engagement, opportunities for people at different skill levels around the country, but just to be clear, This is an idea, that's distinct, you buy, you buy, entails nothing other than sending people checks and having them spend that money on whatever they want. What you're envisioning now is some other innovation that creates some new currency. So she ate it with people's time and philanthropic impulses and kind of almost like a a barter and exchange system, where I think it's called banking would already exist, someplace right where people can volunteer hours of time to help their neighbor move in or, you know, haul trash or whatever it is, and- and they can be
drawn some other neighbors banks time to to help with some project they have, and this seems to leverage is the different ways people feel about exchanging in their time and at the end of a different socio Asians with that than simply paying for things and this is what you're going on was calling for a day, a different part of the human mind and- and you can be human social glue where it's the you know, and everything is no longer strictly mercenary, but you're, creating an economy of of time and and attention. Exactly right? It is based on time banking, where you can earn a time dollar by doing something for someone for an hour and it's it doesn't matter what your education or skill level is one of the premises that everyone's time has value, and we need to support that kind of behavior in a huge way, because
our community ties are breaking down around the country in every measurable dimension and expecting that to reverse itself in the face of what we're seeing economically uh is obviously unrealistic, so we need to invest in it and the best way to do so would be through a new currency. So back to you the eye for a moment, how would you pay for it? This also happens to be one of the first concerns. One hits this seems extravagantly, expensive and in a world where we find it difficult to pay for anything else. We want. How is it that you liberate the funds whereby you can pay every american one thousand dollars a month for the rest of his or her life. Yes, so the great thing is that our economy has grown in nineteen trillion dollars in total of four trillion in the last ten years alone and we have the money we have. Plenty of money is just being very, very poorly managed and allocated right now so
freedom dividend of one thousand dollars per adult between eighteen and sixty four would cost about one one: slash two trillion dollars. Four year on top of what we're already spending on welfare food stamps, disability in the lights, and the way that I would fund. This would be. True value added tax at half the european level, because the track we're in right now is that income taxes are terrible, and generating revenue from ai and software and machines, because the beneficiaries tend to be large tech companies who, just funnel, through Ireland or someplace obamas their favorite tax shelter. Choice, and so I value added tax would be much better to extracting the gains and r Tell me is so large that evaluated tax at half the european level would get us eight hundred billion dollars, which gets us too about two Slash three of the
just the freedom dividend, then the other third we'd get, because if you projected the economy is going to grow by between one and two trillion dollars, because you're putting this money into the hands of american consumers the revenue to GDP ratio in the US is about twenty five percent. So we'll get back two hundred and fifty to five hundred billion increased tax revenues and then the last thing is that we're going to save 10s millions of dollars. On the money we already spend on healthcare incarceration homelessness, drug another service is that we would get less of that. This is actually a much more cost efficient way to move society forward, because things get very expensive when people become dysfunctional and hit our institutions when they wind up incarcerated or on the streets or in our emergency. That's when things get very very expensive, so this is actually eminently affordable.
And will enable us to grow the economy by a corner. The Roosevelt Institute about two one slash two trillion there's per year in perpetuity and create four and a half million new jobs. Is there a savings coming from aspects of the social safety net as a is currently structured to get replaced by you be or you just imagine. This is on top of the existing structure, and we don't. We don't change that layer at all at least initially well. My plan is to make it opt in so if you're currently receiving food stamps or other benefits, you can keep everything exactly as is, or you can opt for the freedom dividend of one thousand Cash, so if you're getting less than one thousand dollars will probably take the cash getting more than you might keep things as they are, but the one of the six hundred billion we currently spend dollars end up reducing the cost of freedom dividend because, if you're already getting, let's
say: one thousand three hundred a month on disability: we're not going to give you another one thousand dollars on top of that. But would you mad it being more efficient. If, if we could just rewrite the the software of society from scratch, would you want to see you by being the only social safety net. Or would you would you still want things like food stamps and other welfare Well, it would end up replacing a lot of it even now, because a lot of people who are currently on food stamps and other programs would prefer the cash. But one story, I'll tell is that a friend of mine has a sister on disability. The disability, turn rate or the levels at which people get off of disability once they on is literally zero percent? No one ever gets off disability and my friend's sister is even afraid to volunteer in her community because she's afraid that someone's going to think she's able, bodied and then report her and then take her disability benefits away. But no
no one will ever hazard a lifetime of guaranteed money for a tenuous part time, job and so right now we're sending the worst possible messages to people which is like hey stay at home. Be disabled here. So that's the kind of thing that we need to replace. We need to replace all of these perverse incentives that debilitate people really or keep them. You know keep in these poverty traps, and it does so that the goal is that over time, universal basic income would replace many of those programs. It's a fascinating topic and is important as a looming in more and more each day, and it's it's just. It's amazing that it's not a front page discussion, but hopefully with your effort in industry over the next couple years. It will be tell me what your life is. Looking like as a presidential candidate, this point: how are you spending your time
and what sorts of things are you doing to make this conversation more prominent? You know it it's more fun than I thought it was going to be SAM whatever president, so you ask before what it takes running for president is almost entirely a social construction, as are most thing that turns out like money but so my days are spent talking to people Not always people like you, but like people about what's possible on the fact that universal basic income in a democracy is something that we can make happen. Most people regard it, as you know, like a fantasy like it's too good to be true again ignoring the fact that it was conventional political wisdom, number but not that long ago, like in nineteen, seventy one and I passed the house so my days are spent talking to people raising money getting the message out
spreading the word that one we have. We are going through the greatest technological and economic shift in human history and we need to get our heads out of our asses and start trying to tackle it and address it. There's like a freaking elephant in the middle of the room, just tearing the place apart and everyone's like like just trying to pretend it's not there. So that's number one and the number two letting people know that we actually can All these problems. We can build a better society for ourselves that involves valuing ourselves in our time. In a way that's independent of the market, we can build a new type of economy. We need new types of measurements because he is a terrible mess that we just invented lost a hundred years ago, and now it's keep rising even as more and more Americans get pushed into economic oblivion. So we need to have measured
it's around the economy that actually tell us how we're doing like median income, mental health and freedom from substance abuse, child his success rates, proportion of elderly these situations, environmental quality things that were actually Kate, how we're doing as a society so around telling people that we need to build this economy and we do not have much time. I'm a parent. Just like you are SAM and I am freaked out. About the country that we're going to leave our children, and so that's what I my day is doing is freaking people out a little bit, but then also galvanize energy around meaningful solutions because they are not beyond us. Yet your book is great in the way that it has both those points, because there's a there's an a lot in there to freak somebody out in a very scary picture just wait. What the status quo is now and where it's all headed, but the solution is, as you say so easily accomplished. This is something that
we know, can do well, unlike everything else. The government attempts to do Actually, it's like one of the only things that the government is really really exceptionally good at and when you look at what has happened in you, give these kind of potted portrait places like Youngstown, Ohio and Gary Indiana and Camden New Jersey and just what happens when jobs disappear. It's incredibly grim, and it is a kind of perfect storm- four people wear. The onus is not on them to figure it out. It's just like a wrecking ball is swung through their lives and perfectly good, confident people get pulled over by these. What are essentially an abstraction, and it's is very easy to see how they they're not resilient, and
our society crumbles in the face of that and what what we're doing now is. It is mystifying because the many of these changes are visible if you simply want to look and yet the conversation we're having it's. Starting to become relevant Mister Lee a AI is a topic of fascination for people, but the idea that this isn't a full court press on this topic and that this conversation is is even novel, is pretty startling because, as you say, you know five years ten years fifteen years. These are short increments of time. When you look at how hard it is to turn the dreadnought of death, of our political conversation in the right direction. Yeah one thing I say to audiences: I said: look, let's say: hypothetically Mackenzie comes out with reports saying thirty percent of jobs are subject to automation by two thousand and thirty, which is
years. From now being comes out with the same report that says twenty to twenty five percent calls with a great transformation says it's going to be four times faster and more vicious than the industrial revolution which itself caused mass riots, The unrest. President of MIT comes out and says: did either now is to help prepare society for the transition. These things actually happened. All of those things are real is just are He is out to lunch tracking down our idiot President tweet of the day like it's insane, and so, if you Please start looking at what's happening in real life. I mean the reason why Trump is our Prez today is 'cause. We automate away four million manufacturing jobs in the swing states. Why isn't Like the main topic of conversation and the Democrats, like running around trying to figure out what to do about that and I'll tell him exactly what we are going to do about it. We're going close up reading dividend give everyone a thousand dollars a month at starters and then we're going to
the new kind of economy that people can participate in independent of other region and their skill level and that's a generation. Long project is going to be massively it's going to be massively challenging honestly, but, like the the alternative is the unthinkable. The alternative is to witness the disintegrate Navarre society over the coming years- and we are there like we are on the cost aware I saw an interview with you, SAM, when you talk about how you can't believe you still can't believe this guys are. Our president, like this country, is being torn apart by a struggle between abundance. Versity and reason and unreason and functioning at this functioning and, I have to say unreasoned, reason, dispose, TIM scarcely they're, all winning. Fifty nine percent of Americans cannot afford an unexpected five hundred dollars bill there, just stepping from week to week and paycheck to paycheck lurching toward an uncertain future, and so expecting them to be politically funk.
So uh isn't realistic. You know the way that we're going to reverse that is we're going to secure their future, and then we can fix our political discourse, invigorate our government and state and then start solving the real problems. So that's the challenge, that's the revolution, that's what I'm trying to lead, and I know we started this conversation. You are saying like hey. How does one arrive at this? But when you think it all through you realize we don't have a choice like the choices either this or people like you and me just start like planning for, like bullet proof, cars for kids you know all the guatemalan package deal mean. I have no interest in that, I'm, like I'm and I'm a patriot, I'm a I'm like a problem. Solver like I'm, not going to watch this society like slip down the tubes, while our our institutions, all just like sit there on their hands, will listen. Andrew. Having read your book and hearing you speak now, it is
the juxtaposition of you and your ethical intends and your willingness to think through these problems and innovate. The juxtaposition of the obvious serve your mind and and ethical intelligence, and the current occupant of the oval office is fairly heroin, but also inspiring. So I iribe I'm wishing you the the best of luck in the next couple of years, and please tell us how we can help you direct people to your website, any other resources you want them to know about online a stamp. Thank you. So much for so the campaign's website is young, twenty twenty dot com or you can just google my name Andrew Yang, but we need the forces of reason to prevail, and if you go to the website, you can sign up. We have a campaign called one for humanity where, if you donate one dollar, that's like a sign that you believe in these ideas and that we need to build a more advanced form of economy about we need to fight
for this, and I certainly love for anyone. Listening to this join you find out more you'll see. I have seventy two policy proposal on the website that address not just automation, universal basic income, but many other ways Ford and would certainly love to have. You join me in this I need your help, but an we can do it. We still have the capacities, but we do not have that much time and we need to act Well, it's been a pleasure Andrew and I will put links to all those resources on on my blog, where I bet this podcast and I have. I certainly hope our listeners will find out more about you and support you and spread the the memes we've touched on here, because just increasingly, I think this is the the unavoidable topic of conversation. So best of luck and
please keep it up and make as as much noise as possible. Thank you. Sam look forward to meeting in person and maybe we'll have an event. I hear you draw crowds wherever you go, so hello I'll, be in touch to be continued. If you find this podcast, bible. There are many ways you can support it. You can review it Itunes or Stitcher or wherever you happen to listen to it. You can share, social media with your friends, you can block about or discuss it on your own podcast or you can support it directly and you can do this by subscribing to my website at SAM Harris, DOT, org and there you'll find subscriber only content which includes my ask me anything up. So it's he also get access to advanced tickets to my live events as well as streaming video of some of these events, and you also get to hear the bonus questions from any of these interviews
Transcript generated on 2019-11-13.