Keith — I am really pleased by your eagerness to engage on this topic, but the comment stream of a blog post is not really adequate to fully engage with all of the points you raise. However, as before, I will try to give some very brief replies. Some of them are questions, since I do not understand all of what you are saying.

(1) A thread running through all of your points, unless I misunderstand you, is an admiration for goods-producing jobs and a relative contempt for service jobs, which you seem to regard as inherently low wage. However, when you look at actual data on wages, you find that average wages in goods-producing and service sectors are nearly the same ($26.92 vs. 26.64 as of May 2018) I don’t quite understand what you are getting at.

(2) You keep talking about AI and robots. Are you envisioning a world in which mainly goods-producing jobs are automated, or in which both goods and service jobs are automated? The latter seems to be the actual trend.

(3) I am not quite sure what you are talking about when you write “20 years since we became a net importer.” The US has been a net importer for almost all of its history (including all of the high-growth 19th century) with a few brief exceptions. Furthermore, I am not aware of any data that consistently link the level of wages, or the distribution of income, to whether a country is a net importer or net exporter. What are you getting at here?

(4) I don’t understand your reasoning when you write, “Once employers are freed from the obligation of providing basic needs in pay packages wages will drop like a rock on a calm day.” Without the colorful language, this seems to say that you expect a UBI, other things being equal, to depress wages. I do not understand your reasoning. If anything, it seems to me that once a UBI frees workers from the threat of absolute starvation if they remain idle, they will be able to pick and choose the jobs they want, not take any job at desperation wages. In short, I would expect a UBI to cause raises to rise, if anything.

(5) Finally, you write that “Working and contributing is in our DNA and is essential to the advancement of society. We should be looking to Maslow’s pyramid of needs and not simply how best to shovel income to people.” Good, the importance of Maslow is another point where we agree. But although it is true that many people find self-actualization in their employment, but that is by no means the only route. The poet or dancer who can’t support herself with her work, but waits tables to pay the rent in order to write or dance in her spare time is the stereotypical opposite case, but there are others as well. The parent who finds self-actualization in cutting back work hours to home-school a child; the wealthy business executive who takes early retirement to climb mountains, or enter the priesthood — examples are limitless. You need to broaden your horizons. Try reading read the excellent book How Much is Enough? By Skidelsky father and son. For a short idea, including the relevance to Maslow, you can start by reading my review of the book here:

I know I’ve skipped over some of your points, but this is enough for today.

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Economist, Senior Fellow at Niskanen Center, Yale Ph.D. Interests include environment, health care policy, social safety net, economic freedom.

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