Hayek, Nietzsche, Aristotle & the mincome

So, I was talking to some people about the mincome last week. I sorta support it, but with Hayek’s condition: in order to have the largest amount of wealth to redistribute we have to remove (practically) all barriers to production. I told them the objection that gives me pause was essentially Nietzsche’s objection: what kind of people would such a society produce? What would happen to their souls, character, etc? I was told that we’ll have a society of artists.

It might seem as though supporters of a mincome could plausibly rely on Aristotle for support. In the Politics, he said that leisure is the goal of society. But he asked my question, or rather I ask his: leisure for what?? The Ancient Greeks, after routing the much, much larger forces of the Persians and thereby defending their freedom became obsessed with the idea that they themselves were the literal defenders of their freedom. The main object of their leisure was training to prepare for the next time they would have to defend it. They loved fighting Persians so much that many of them hired themselves out as mercenaries just to go on “leisurely” expeditions fighting the Persians.

The instinctive link between self-defense and freedom is not really something that is popular in our society. The mincome represents a delegation of all the brutal necessities of life to some unseen benevolent power—but aren’t we really that power? Isn’t society the people that live in it? It seems quite likely to me that the mincome will be the hospice for our society. We will not survive long after that. The Greeks did not have this problem, or at least not in the clear way that we have it. It is much easier to say that they perished because of civil war. After all, they were only united against the Persians and the Persians were no match for them, so eventually they returned to fighting among themselves.

And yet, with mechanization, it seems inevitable that there will be a mincome—if you can really say that there isn’t one already.

The question is, will our society survive its affluence?

Categories: commentary

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