We are all Dependent

One common criticism against Universal Basic Income is “people shouldn’t be dependent on the government”.

I agree, in an ideal world we should all be as self-sufficient as possible. Everyone should contribute to humanity, whether that be via harnessing and utilizing some skill, or even simply being a good parent and respectful citizen who doesn’t infringe on the lives of others.

What people fail to realize, is that the world has become so technologically advanced and complex that we are all dependent on each other, more than people seem to want to admit. As technology advances, this will only be more and more the case going forward.

The vast majority of Americans don’t grow their own food, build their own homes, generate their own electricity, build their own water plumbing system, design and manufacture their own shower heads, transport their garbage to landfills, install their own fiber cables to connect to the internet, invent WiFi, solder circuit boards and literally build their own laptops from scratch. You probably didn’t pave the roads you drive on, or build the cars, buses, and trains you raid in.

Technology has gotten so advanced that it is no longer possible to be a Leonardo Da Vinci type polymath expert on everything.

We are born as children dependent on our parents, and then we become adults who are dependent on our employers for a paycheck, and dependent on everyone else who knows how to do all of this stuff that our paycheck can purchase.

Yet people walk around this enormously-inflated sense of perceived independence and entitlement because the market happens to pay them six figures to fiddle with Excel spreadsheets or be a code jockey in an air-conditioned office for 8 hours/day. Many of these office monkeys don’t even know how to cook for themselves.

Don’t get me wrong there are certainly jobs that are very valuable. Somebody grows the food you eat and designed + manufactured your smartphone after all. But as I’ve said time and time again, most jobs today are meaningless. In the 21st century, most people are not working those “important jobs” like growing your food or being a doctor, they are buying Facebook ads to market gluten-free pet food subscription services.

Your software engineering job fixing bugs on a spyware ad-stalking midget porn app might make you a six figure salary that funds your anime toy collection, but that doesn’t make you or your job more valuable to humanity than some organic farmer who grows food for their community and makes furniture in their spare time. If a nuclear apocalypse were to hit, I’d actually put my money on the farmer when it comes to survival odds.

The amount of money you make does not correlate to your contribution or usefulness to humanity. For example, consider snake oil salesmen and hedge fund managers. If they were to cease to exist, the world would continue on just fine. But if farmers were to disappear we’d all starve to death. It’s sad that I even need to say this because it should be obvious, but neoliberal brainwashing seems to have convinced Americans that your income = your contribution to society.

I’m not trying to argue that dependence is good, I’m simply arguing that dependence in today’s technologically advanced age is inevitable. Unless you’re Amish and live on a farm, you are not as self-reliant as you think. You depend on others for food, shelter, technology, your money retaining its value, the law, and everything else we take for granted in today’s world.

Of course the more money you make the more independent you can be, but you’re still reliant on the goods and services that that money can purchase, as well as the infrastructure (utilities, roads, bridges) that we take for granted. Without farmers who have the knowledge of how to grow food and the physical ability to engage in the labor, there is no food for you to purchase and your money won’t save you from starvation. Without the interstate highway system, there’d be no 1-day shipping in the U.S.

We could eliminate dependence and adopt 100% self-reliance – everyone is free to move to the woods, build their own home out of sticks, and hunt deer for food. But that would be a reversion to the stone age.

Most people are dependent on their employers for the money that magically provides them the comforts of the 21st century. This is all fine, except that 1. not everybody who needs a good job can get one 2. it creates a power dynamic where your employer can dominate you and you can’t do anything about it because you depend on that paycheck.

By providing citizens the safety net of say a Universal Basic Income, you accommodate those who can’t obtain a good job and even out the power dynamic between employer and employee. The world becomes a place where people do things less just for the money, more because they actually want to.

We’re already dependent on the government for law enforcement, military defense, and any government-related operation. Financial “dependence” is simply another extension of that that empowers the people to have freedom over their work and time, rather than being slaves to the market.

It’s time to get rid of this myth of the “self-made man” and admit that we’re all dependent on each other and standing on the shoulders of giants. Just because you happen to have a specialized skill that some corporation will pay you money for doesn’t make you self-reliant. Your employer can drop you at any time, and only then is the true test of self-reliance.

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