In my last blog where I looked back at the election, I included a short discussion about universal basic income being part of the solution to the continued automation of jobs. While, I think that Universal Basic Income will really help address a large number of the issues we’re seeing due to automation, it will not solve all of them. This is multifaceted, but partially it’s because the people that need it the most in rural areas won’t accept it.
No, it’s not because they are dumb, but it’s because they don’t want hand outs. The right has been demonizing “entitlement” programs and the taxes needed to pay for them for decades now. Universal basic Income will be the largest such program ever. So, the first step would be to get them to accept the program. Which will be difficult. Jobs every where hold a measure of self worth and a way to define who you are. If there are no jobs, because all the long distance trucking jobs were automated, then these folks are going to have serious reservations taking money because they can’t find jobs. In some rural communities your job defines you in ways that don’t happen in large cities, mostly because everyone knows you in these small towns. In a large city, you can more than one completely different group of friends that have no connection to your professional career. You an have hobbies that are 30 minutes away from your house or your job and still be in the same city. In rural towns, a 30 minute drive may take you to three different towns without relatively closed communities.
So, let’s say we get all these folks to accept taking this government money, then what? How are these people going to be spending their time? We’re already having something of an epidemic of small town drug over doses that are heart wrenching. Children are in the car while their mother is passed out in the front seat from a drug over dose in the Wal-mart parking lot. In other cases they passed out in the aisle at Dollar Store.
In a large city, it’s easy for you to find hobbies to spend your time. You can volunteer, go to classes at one of the many local colleges or training centers to learn new skills or keep yourself occupied. Rural areas have a significantly smaller amount of opportunities like that. Even if people in rural areas decide to learn new skills, many of those skills may not lead to jobs in the same area. The jobs for those skills may be in a city which a lot of people that live outside of cities wouldn’t like. There is a reason why they still live outside of cities, they have no desire to live in one. They enjoy being able to go out to the woods, not to see anyone else. Love hunting and fishing or simply do not enjoy being around people that much.
Finally, even if every accepted universal basic income, it doesn’t mean that the sense of hopelessness will go away. It may make it worse because there is a dependence on someone else for everything. Furthermore, it’s not like universal basic income will be enough to allow you to buy a home or buy a space that’s yours. It will help you live and live above poverty, but not truly comfortably.
In the long run we will have to figure out how to make life meaningful when people are living on basic income.