The End of Work (As We Know It) Part 2: The RICH Economy

In my previous essay Bullshit Jobs and the End of Work (As We Know It) I discussed the economic phenomenon that David Graeber coined as “bullshit jobs,” how the (transitionary) solution he suggested was to establish a universal basic income (UBI) and embrace automation leading to the end of work as we know it, and how this mirrors the ideas of fully automated luxury communism. Anarchist science fiction writer, Robert Anton Wilson (RAW), helped to popularize a related economic theory known as the RICH Economy.

According to RAW, The RICH Economy “was devised by inventor L. Wayne Benner (co-author with Timothy Leary of Terra II) in collaboration with the present author [RAW]. It’s a four-stage program to retool society for the cybernetic and space-age future we are rapidly entering. RICH means Rising Income through Cybernetic Homeostasis.” The RICH Economy, put in relation to the previous essay, is a path towards achieving our Fully Automated Luxury Gay Space Anarcho-Communist future.

“Stage I

is to recognize that cybernation and massive unemployment are inevitable and to encourage them. This can be done by offering a $100,000 reward to any worker who can design a machine that will replace him or her, and all others doing the same work. In other words, instead of being dragged into the cybernetic age kicking and screaming, we should charge ahead bravely, regarding the Toilless Society as the Utopian goal humanity has always sought.”

This could be achieved via the state, as more or less suggested in RAW’s essay through his fictional example, or via the free market with corporations and other businesses offering rewards for such employee contribution toward the advancement of job automation. Either way, this is an interesting idea that has merit and is worth discussing in relation to the implementation of a UBI. Of course others, such as those in the tech industry, are also incentivized by the market to work toward the automation of various industries and jobs they have never otherwise worked. So offering these types of rewards is something that should be encouraged among businesses on the free market, but a state tax-funded reward as a means towards accelerating automation is an unnecessary step in my opinion.

“Stage II

is to establish either the Negative Income Tax or the Guaranteed Annual Income, so that the massive unemployment caused by Stage I will not throw hordes of people into the degradation of the present welfare system.”

The Negative Income Tax has been suggested by libertarian economist Milton Friedman as well as many Green Party candidates and progressives and would be a great first step if it were to be implemented and includes the implementation of a UBI, or Guaranteed Annual Income, as part of the plan. Whether or not we go the Negative Income Tax route, UBI should be implemented as Stage I states in its own terms. UBI has gained popularity with candidates including former Democratic presidential candidates Tulsi Gabbard and, most notably, Andrew Yang bringing it to popular attention and many more beginning to demand one in the face of the pandemic and related economic disasters. Andrew Yang suggested funding a UBI via a Value Added Tax (VAT) whereas others, such as the Georgists or geoists, advocate other funding methods, such as a Land Value Tax in the case of geoists, Carbon Taxes, or a Fair Tax which mixes a regressive flat tax with a UBI. Obviously some of those plans are more desireable and/or popular than others for various reasons.

“Stage III

is to gradually, experimentally, raise the Guaranteed Annual Income to the level of the National Dividend suggested by Douglas, Bucky Fuller, and Ezra Pound, which would give every citizen the approximate living standard of the comfortable middle class. The reason for doing this gradually is to pacify those conservative economists who claim that the National Dividend is “inflationary” or would be practically wrecking the banking business by lowering the interest rate to near-zero. It is our claim that this would not happen as long as the total dividends distributed to the populace equaled the Gross National Product. But since this is a revolutionary and controversial idea, it would be prudent, we allow, to approach it in slow steps, raising the minimum income perhaps 5 per cent per year for the first ten years. And, after the massive cybernation caused by Stage I has produced a glut of consumer goods, experimentally raise it further and faster toward the level of a true National Dividend.”

Gradually raising the UBI to a livable level is usually the goal of most UBI plans and the RICH Economy is no different. This is a good idea, especially as automation continues to progress. Of course, this should only be a temporary solution with individual and cooperative agorist entrepreneurship, the sharing and circular economies, collective ownership of automated businesses, and communization of post-scarcity resources being more important long term goals as we work towards completely dissolving the state, and the UBI, along with it.

“Stage IV

is a massive investment in adult education, for two reasons.

People can spend only so much time fucking, smoking dope, and watching TV; after a while they get bored. This is the main psychological objection to the workless society, and the answer to it is to educate people for functions more cerebral than fucking, smoking dope, watching TV, or the idiot jobs most are currently toiling at.

There are vast challenges and opportunities confronting us in the next three or four decades, of which the most notable are those highlighted in Tim Leary’s SMI2LE slogan — Space Migration, Intelligence Increase, Life Extension. Humanity is about to enter an entirely new evolutionary relationship to space, time, and consciousness. We will no longer be limited to one planet, to a brief, less-than-a-century lifespan, and to the stereotyped and robotic mental processes by which most people currently govern their lives. Everybody deserves the chance, if they want it, to participate in the evolutionary leap to what Leary calls “more space, more time, and more intelligence to enjoy space and time.””

Some social anarchists believe, like a lot of socialists, that as long as the state exists it should provide education for all. Democratic socialist and progressive candidates have run on universal cradle to college education. While this can make education slightly more accessible, it is still under the control of the state educational system and based on their propaganda. Doing something similar to what Mike Gravel proposed when he ran for president as a Libertarian Party candidate, and having a cradle to college universal voucher system, might allow for greater access alongside greater choice and autonomy. Such a voucher could go to fund a private student-led learning program or unschooling or even an anarchist free school or homeschooling cooperative. It could fund day care, trade school, community college, online schooling, certification programs, and so much more. Universal education partnered with a UBI would allow people to seek an education for the sake of an education and truly explore their passions, instead of worrying about a career. By pursuing their highest educational potential and putting those skills to use exploring new fields and making new developments in art, philosophy, science, technology, and more, people could contribute to the continual advancement and hopeful improvement of society. Whether or not we get vouchers, we can create educational cooperatives, unschool our kids or our comrades’ kids, and advance the accessibility of the many alternatives which exist to traditional public educational propaganda and discipline.

With a focus on SMI2LE, RAW embraces anarcho-transhumanism and promotes, again, ideas which mirror Aaron Bastani’s Fully Automated Luxury Communism ​​​​​​​in spirit. ​I can appreciate this drive, especially in terms of medical science and technology, environmental survival, and human advancement and collective flourishing. I believe that the RICH Economy plan holds up as a decent guideline, alongside David Graeber’s and Aaron Bastani’s, as possible paths toward achieving the end of work as we know it.

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