I don’t think “universal” is a wildly radical idea.
These days it seems like everybody thinks that any idea that includes everyone isn’t good for anyone. But if I say we should all know love in our lives, there aren’t many people who would disagree with me. If I say everyone deserves love, however, I might be stepping into a bit of new-agedness. If I say the universe needs more love, or that love should be a universal state we all strive for, many might even assume I’m on drugs.
The same can be said for other aspects of humanity. For example, we know that people need health care. Lives are long, and often troubled. And when troubles occur, to our mental or physical states, we need help. So we can all agree that everyone, at some point or another, needs health care. 100% alignment on that. Now, if I say that everyone deserves health care, we begin to see a split because I just used a word that reminds some folks of “entitlement” and entitlement, to them, means lazy people get something for nothing. Furthermore, if I say there should be universal health care, that word “universal” throws a good third of the population into fiery fits.
I can take this a step further.
The modern world is all about money. There was a time when it was all about hunting and gathering. There was also a time when it was all about farming and craftsmanship and exchanging goods for goods (or services), but those days have passed. Some five centuries ago humans entered the age of capitalism. It’s a brilliant system that creates a physical or imaginary note (or nugget) of universal value. Instead of saying that my 10 goats are roughly equal to your 25 bushels, we can agree on a monetary value of each and I can go sell a chair to raise money to buy your bushels and still keep my goats.
So, it’s neat and nifty. And we can agree that, in the modern era, everyone needs money. Just like love and health, we need money. Here’s where the split begins again. If everyone needs money to get by in the world today, to pay for their food, their shelter, their clothing, and their Kings tickets, then everyone deserves some money. To say they don’t only invites the idea that not everyone deserves food, or shelter, or clothing, or Kings tickets. We could probably argue the absolute necessity of the human need for one of those, but not the other three.
So knowing that everyone needs money to exist in the modern era, and everyone deserves the rewards we can only purchase with money, I don’t think it’s too radical an idea to ensure a universal income for everyone.
The sick, the healthy, the hard-working, the lazy, the white, the black, the brown, the red, the princes, the paupers, the farmers, the hunters, the gatherers, the conservatives, the liberals, the Christians, the Muslims, me, you, mom, dad, the kids, and that weird cousin Freida, as well.
They all need love. They all need medicine. They all need money. And there’s plenty of it to go around. Plenty of love. Plenty of medicine. Plenty of money.
There wasn’t, always. But we live in an age of abundance. Modern science and modern technology have created the means with which we could wipe out things like famine and massive, society-slaying diseases. We can produce food like no other era in history. We can produce clothing like no other era in history. We can produce shelters like no other era in history.
There are still only so many Kings tickets, though. We’ll have to decide who gets those with a lottery.
The angriest among you right now are frothing. You can’t wait for the last words so you can tell me how it isn’t fair for the hardest workers to have to support the laziest ones, which I equate, by the way, to telling me that healthy people shouldn’t have to put up with sick people. Some folks get sick, sorry. Some folks work harder than others, sorry. You’re going to have to learn to love them all, universally.
Because the time is coming. We are entering an era of even greater abundance. Even greater technology. Within half a century the production cost of producing almost anything will essentially be zero. And when that happens we’re going to have to decide if that means that those with the most wealth simply get more of the most stuff, while those with the least wealth get even less, or if there’s a better way.
I think there’s a better way.
We don’t have to wait until tomorrow to start. Knowing like we do that this era is coming, we can start now. We can ensure that everyone has enough to cover their basic human needs. We can ensure that everyone has health care. Everyone else has already done that last part, America.
The next part might be trickier. A universal basic income is still a bit radical, or perhaps premature, even by my standards. But there are still ways that we can revolutionize the system of distribution. In the most modern era, most of society’s gains have ended up in the hands of the few, by design. Trickle-down illusions trickled up, instead. Keynesian influences gave way to neoliberal deregulations. Unions shattered. Wages stagnated as corporate profits soared. We paid the price; they reaped the gains.
We can reverse a lot of that. This way of thinking, that somehow making the rich richer will make the poor richer, too, is an illusion of the past four decades alone. We saw the result. We’ve seen the outcome. No mas. We won’t be fooled again.
We’ve been fed a line of bull. We can’t afford universal health care, they say, even though we’re among the richest countries in the world, and the rest of the world is affording it just fine. There isn’t enough money to go around, they want us to believe. There is. We just distribute it badly.
It’s time to get radical now, people. To really think different. It’s time to think about all of us.
It’s time the idea of “everyone” had universal appeal.