[p2p-research] Towards a post-scarcity New York State of mind

Paul D. Fernhout pdfernhout at kurtz-fernhout.com
Thu Aug 6 16:33:37 CEST 2009

Michel Bauwens wrote:
> So you would just give the cash to families? How would you insure they do
> not spend it on something else, unless it were vouchers? 

As any teacher would say, if they were honest, there is no point putting a 
kid in a classroom chair (as far as learning anything useful to the kid) if 
the child is hungry, sick, tired, cold, worried about their homelife, and so 
on. So, even if parents spend money on the basics, that is not a problem 
IMHO and a kid will be better off.

Now, one may question other ways parents might spend the money. But, I'm 
also questioning how school spends the money. :-)

As I just pointed out on the open manufacturing list, quoting Gatto:
Looking back, abundant data exist from states like Connecticut and 
Massachusetts to show that by 1840 the incidence of complex literacy in the 
United States was between 93 and 100 percent wherever such a thing mattered. 
According to the Connecticut census of 1840, only one citizen out of every 
579 was illiterate and you probably don’t want to know, not really, what 
people in those days considered literate; it’s too embarrassing. Popular 
novels of the period give a clue: Last of the Mohicans, published in 1826, 
sold so well that a contemporary equivalent would have to move 10 million 
copies to match it. If you pick up an uncut version you find yourself in a 
dense thicket of philosophy, history, culture, manners, politics, geography, 
analysis of human motives and actions, all conveyed in data-rich periodic 
sentences so formidable only a determined and well-educated reader can 
handle it nowadays. Yet in 1818 we were a small-farm nation without colleges 
or universities to speak of. Could those simple folk have had more complex 
minds than our own?
   By 1940, the literacy figure for all states stood at 96 percent for 
whites, 80 percent for blacks. Notice that for all the disadvantages blacks 
labored under, four of five were nevertheless literate. Six decades later, 
at the end of the twentieth century, the National Adult Literacy Survey and 
the National Assessment of Educational Progress say 40 percent of blacks and 
17 percent of whites can’t read at all. Put another way, black illiteracy 
doubled, white illiteracy quadrupled. Before you think of anything else in 
regard to these numbers, think of this: we spend three to four times as much 
real money on schooling as we did sixty years ago, but sixty years ago 
virtually everyone, black or white, could read.

So, to be frank, even if *all* the parents gamble *all* the money away, the 
children may be better off. :-( At least in the USA.

But, I suggest, almost all parents will spend that money in ways that 
benefit their families, of which investing in a good education is an 
important part of hope for the future. (And if they don't, what does that 
say about their prior schooling?)

The thing is, schools as an idea have so usurped the notion of education 
that we have forgotten what is possible or how many aspects there are to 
intelligent kids. Health is a key aspect of a productive intelligence. 
Stephen Hawking is stuck in a wheel chair and has a brilliant mind, true, 
and aspects of his brilliance may even relate to his physical confinement 
(as genius often is a response to unusual obstacles), but in the main, the 
healthier people are, the smarter they are. Still, tests have shown that 
children of divorced families tend to do better on standardized tests, in 
part because they need to be smarter to survive the turmoil. So it is true 
that, to the extent families are happier, test scores might decline 
slightly. But I don't consider test scores the ultimate arbiter of healthy 
intelligence or a healthy society.

I'd suggest, that in general, as a result of wealthier families (as oppoed 
to wealthier schools) we'd get happier citizens more engaged with the world 
around them (in part because they would spend more time in the world around 
them than in classrooms). Out of that would flow many good things. And that 
is the ultimate goal of education in a democracy, is it not? A healthy 
engaged citizenry?

I know it may not be the goal of a hierarchical state of course, who may 
actually benefit from sick uneducated fearful slaves being easier to control.

> Why not a basic income instead of $20k?

I'd prefer a basic income instead, agreed, and at that level in the USA.

This is just a way to put the beginnings of basic income in place in one US 
state using the existing social and legal framework we have. And, it 
includes the idea of perhaps a class action lawsuit related to 
discrimination to force compliance by the state with this plan (if the state 
resists what may soon be an absolute undeniable necessity in an age of 
jobless recoveries and collapsing economies and massive unemployment like in 
Marshall Brain's Manna).

The irony is that this proposal is counter-intuitive to current disastrous 
economic policies of low taxes. Those current policies go counter to the 
historic boom in the USA from high taxes during and after WWII at a 94% 
marginal tax rate (since free markets only function well if wealth is spread 
around, so they become more like peer networks than monopoly networks). So, 
I have a New York State specific bit of humor in the middle that may be hard 
to follow for those not knowing recent New York politics. :-) Tom Golisano 
is a billionaire who has been lobbying for low taxes, recently helped shut 
down the New York State government for days, and left the state to avoid 
taxes. The basis of his fortune is putting accountants out of work through 
automating payroll processing, which would be a fine thing to do, except if 
the economy collapses because all the wealth stays centralized with Tom 
Golisano and the ex-accountants are left unemployed and destitute without a 
basic income to get their share of the commons that underlies all this 
wealth. So, I tried to reverse his role with that of the current NY governor 
who wants to raise taxes, but years in the future, after raising taxes worked.
"In June 2009, Golisano took partial credit for the Republican seizure of 
control in the 2009 New York State Senate leadership crisis. Golisano, who 
had supported a number of Democratic Party candidates during the 2008 
election, was dissatisfied with, among other things, the Democratic plan to 
solve the state's budget crisis by raising taxes on New York's wealthiest 
residents. He orchestrated the defection of Democratic senators Pedro Espada 
Jr. and Hiram Monserrate, who voted with Republicans to reinstall Dean 
Skelos as majority leader."

I mention the basic income idea later in the essay indirectly, by suggesting 
a natural progression of extending this $20K amount to earlier ages and 
later ages, all the way up to age 65 or so when Social Security in the USA 

Essentially, it is a way to put in place Marshall Brain's proposal in 
"Manna". :-) But starting from New York State instead of Australia, and 
without the corporate aspect, but instead using democratic means, including 
public law related to schooling.

Or, to paraphrase that famous saying about hammers and nails, if all you've 
got is a property-tax-funded public school system, every basic income plan 
looks like an education policy. :-)

--Paul Fernhout

> On Thu, Aug 6, 2009 at 1:53 AM, Paul D. Fernhout <
> pdfernhout at kurtz-fernhout.com> wrote:
>> Michel Bauwens wrote:
>>> such a voucher system
>> While I can see how it may at first fit into that mental category, giving
>> US$20k per child to the families to spend as they wish is not a voucher
>> system, since vouchers are transfers of small amounts of money to other
>> schools.
>>  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/School_voucher
>> "A school voucher, also called an education voucher, is a certificate
>> issued by the government by which parents can pay for the education of their
>> children at a school of their choice, rather than the public school to which
>> they are assigned."

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