Two Books That Will Help Us Go Cruising—Part 2

In Part 1 I wrote about a practical nuts-and-bolts book on personal finance and retirement that just might help us to get out there, or stay out there, cruising.

But what about those of you who are struggling to stay financially secure in a world where the good and relatively plentiful jobs available when we boomers were in our best earning years are long gone, replaced with an economy where a few attain huge wealth and the rest live in a precarious state of temporary jobs and/or possible layoffs?

That brings me to my second reading recommendation in this two-part series:

Basic Income: And How We Can Make It Happen by Guy Standing

I have long thought that if we are going to make a better world, or even prevent the world we have from sinking back into the horrors of feudalism due to ever-rising income inequality, that a universal basic income for every citizen, regardless of whether or not they work at a traditionally defined job, is probably the best option, but Standing makes the case much more effectively than I ever could.

Now, some of you may immediately assume that this reading recommendation means that I’m some kind of a far left socialist wanting to take everything from the successful via taxation and give it to the lazy. Nothing could be further from the truth.

(By the way, studies have shown that just working hard is not guaranteed, or even that likely, to make a person successful. We also need parents who had a secure financial situation, and some luck, too—the idea that all, or even most, poor people are lazy is simply not true.)

I digress, back to where I’m coming from: I’m hardly a socialist. In fact, when I was younger, I used to describe my politics as “a little to the right of Attila The Hun”. But, as I have aged, I have mellowed and moved further to the centre, assisted not a little by the pinko commie I married—just kidding, My Love—to the point that the closest label that fits me now would be what we call in Canada a Red Tory: fiscally conservative, while still believing that those of us who have been fortunate, and God knows that applies to Phyllis and me, have a responsibility to those who haven’t. (I’m not a classic Tory since I abhor the class system based on birth.)

I share this personal information with some trepidation, but I think it’s important for me to do so to make clear that supporting a basic income for all is not just for those on the far left.

That said, I certainly don’t agree with all that Standing has to say, particularly when he starts making totally unrealistic, and verging on confiscatory, taxation recommendations. But that does not change the very good job he does of showing that the current means-tested social programs used in most of the developed world are demeaning and fundamentally flawed, and could be replaced with at least a modest universal income without taxing the fortunate into the ground or wrecking the economy.

He also does a great job of blowing away the oft-repeated myth that a universal basic income creates lazy, substance-abusing layabouts and criminals—pilot study after pilot study has shown the exact opposite is true.

Anyway, whatever your politics, I strongly recommend reading this book with an open mind. And if, when you have done so, you don’t agree that a universal basic income is the best way forward, I would challenge you to at least come up with (and support) a better idea.

As to letting things go on as they are—with the rich getting ever richer, the middle slipping slowly behind, and many of the poor left to fend for themselves—we should all remember that “let them eat cake” didn’t end well even for the modestly well off.

Applicable to Cruising?

OK, at this point, based on previous experience when I write about social issues, some of you are foaming at the mouth and screaming “off topic, off topic!”

Not a bit of it. Do you really want the world of offshore cruising to end up being populated only, or even mostly, by the super rich and their mega yachts? No, me neither.

That said, will a small universal basic income make it so everyone who wants to can get out there cruising on their own boat? No, of course not. But I do think that it could be one foundation block of a reversal in the steady decline in offshore voyaging, and maybe sailing generally.

If nothing else, a person who knows that their basic needs for food, shelter, and health care (yes, we need that too) are covered (or even partially covered) for life will be much more comfortable taking time off to go voyaging, particularly when younger. And the young and tough can cruise on surprisingly little money.

And further, I think there may be ways in which the cost of going cruising could be reduced hugely from what it is today. More on that after I have cogitated some more.

By the way, if you want proof that a universal basic income would help people go voyaging, just look around at any anchorage where cruisers gather and note the disproportionate number, particularly of younger cruisers, who are Scandinavian. No, they don’t have a universal basic income, but they do come from countries that provide their citizens with a good basic level of security for life.


If you have any suggestions for other books dealing with personal finance and/or economics that have a bearing on getting out there cruising, or that you think are just socially important, please leave a comment.

However, if you want to tell me why I’m an idiot to support a universal basic income, please don’t, because I won’t engage, other than with my standard reply: “Got a better idea?” Of course, if you do have a better idea, I’m all ears. Or to put it another way, let’s be positive here.


The link to this book is not to any affiliates program, and neither I nor AAC will receive any benefit if you buy it.

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Meet the Author


John was born and brought up in Bermuda and started sailing as a child, racing locally and offshore before turning to cruising. He has sailed over 100,000 miles, most of it on his McCurdy & Rhodes 56, Morgan's Cloud, including eight ocean races to Bermuda, culminating in winning his class twice in the Newport Bermuda Race. He has skippered a series of voyages in the North Atlantic, the majority of which have been to the high latitudes. John has been helping others go voyaging by sharing his experience for twenty years, first in yachting magazines and, for the last 12 years, as co-editor/publisher of AAC.

63 comments… add one
  • Marc Dacey Feb 27, 2018, 1:44 pm

    Interesting premise. Having been born in 1961 and having a wife younger than 45, I identify more with the so-called “Gen-X” experiences of her life than those of the demographic I’m ostensibly in. In other words, the gig economy/sole proprietor/freelancer is not new to me, and this is also true of a lot of sailors of any age, I’ve found. While I’ve saved for retirement, I don’t plan to actually ever retire, because I suspect pensions will forever be out of reach. A basic income for all may be, as well. Certainly, my recent experience attempting to sell my first boat suggests that fresh blood in the cruising or even just day-sailing lifestyle is severely lacking: the average age of my YC’s membership is right at your age, John, not mine, and I shouldn’t still be a “young one” after 20 years. It seems that only attrition of other YCs in our area is getting our member numbers to even close to stable. And that’s even with a very active Junior Sailing program and (I would imagine) younger people inheriting the nearly indestructable Good Old Boats of their aging parents.

    I’m not sure a guaranteed basic income suggests a way to owning even a modest boat. The only people who seem to go that route are liveaboards, and they are a miniscule fraction of boatowners here.

    However, I may be wrong. Andy Schell has mentioned in his podcasts that young Swedes and other Scandinavians (all objectively more egalitarian societies than those in North America) tend to scrape together boats and sail on the cheap to the South Pacific for a few years before starting full-time employment. So perhaps there’s hope. But the links of that particular chain aren’t being forged to judge by the number of unsold at any price boats on the market.

    • John Feb 28, 2018, 7:28 am

      Hi Marc,

      Yes, the aging of the yacht club demographic is certainly an indicator. I was shocked to learn that in the CCA I’m still a youngster since the average age is 73!

      That said, I think that this is not only because of the increase in age of the average boater, but also that many, probably most, clubs have not done a good job of appealing to younger people.

      • Marc Dacey Feb 28, 2018, 9:20 am

        Part of the barrier to that may be simply visual: it’s hard to get the feeling you belong when you are 28 and the bar’s full of fitter-than-customary seniors. It’s like walking into a Legion hall.

        The funny thing is that I see a lot of young people as racing crew (at least at our club, which is still about 40% racing-orientated), but they don’t “graduate” to a mooring or a dock very often. Boats are ridiculously cheap to acquire, but dockage is less so, and “club” costs like initiations, dockrights and mandatory restaurant monthly fees, where applicable, mean a 26 footer costs more to keep than to buy. We always considered our boat as “the cottage that moves”, because owning a cottage was out of the question, but I can see that a young person paying 50% of their take-home pay to just be in a tiny condo might look at the water and simply never consider taking up boating. I’m not sure how one can surmount that at the club level over the long-term.

  • Dick Stevenson Feb 27, 2018, 5:27 pm

    Hi John,
    Nice article and an interesting slant on things.
    I personally do not know of any young or even middle age couples from the US out cruising, although I am sure they exist, while I can name a handful of Scandinavian and EU couples/families. This likely reflects where I have been hanging out, but supports your observation.
    The support for basic income guarantees (along with related basic supports such as health care) is growing and the evidence accrued in the various experiments I am aware of reflect a win-win situation for all. There is little, if any, evidence of advantage-taking, quite the opposite, while much evidence that the recipients end up contributing back to their communities/society more than what was invested. If memory serves, there was an overall savings to the community, because of far less need for emergency support programs: homeless shelters, urgent care use, etc and all the personnel that must staff these facilities.
    I also agree that the more egalitarian (with respect to income distribution in particular, but in other respects as well) a country is the more likely recreation that demands some funding, healthy interest in activity, interest in the world around, and individual initiative is likely to flourish (as opposed to recreation that revolves around a TV set).
    Thanks for the book suggestion, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

    • John Feb 28, 2018, 7:30 am

      Hi Dick,

      Yes, that’s the key point isn’t it: universal basic income seems to be a win, win, with really very few downsides.

  • Ann B Feb 27, 2018, 7:37 pm

    As reported in the Toronto Star a few days ago, Ontario is currently running a three year pilot program of a basic income program.

    • John Feb 28, 2018, 7:32 am

      Hi Ann,

      Yes, good news. That said, I hope we can move past pilot programs into something more widespread. After all, the first pilot programs in Canada were, if memory serves, some twenty years ago, so I would say it’s time to just get on with it.

  • Dick Stevenson Feb 27, 2018, 7:47 pm

    Hi John,
    Just a technical FYI. I posted my comment 2 hrs or so before Ann’s and, although the site says I am subscribed to the comments on this post, I did not receive anything from AAC as yet. I will tell you if it comes through as I am in a different time zone so am unsure how long it has been since Ann’s posting. Dick

    • John Feb 28, 2018, 7:36 am

      Hi Dick,

      Thanks for keeping an eye on this. You are subscribed to answers to your own comments, which is now the default, not all comments to the post, which must be specifically selected in the pull down menu above the submit button.

      This is a new feature in the plugin. I can turn it off to revert to the old single check box, but thought this might be a better way to go since it will cut down on the clutter in peoples inboxes.

      • Ernest Feb 28, 2018, 9:32 am

        As for me, I actually like that “clutter” as I usually am reading the comments to articles I’m interested in simply using my mailbox.
        The possibility to choose is fine but the default should be on “all” instead of “my comments”, reflecting the previous behaviour.

        • John Mar 1, 2018, 8:13 am

          Hi Ernest,

          We could go back to the single check box that provides all comments via email, but I don’t think many of our readers would be happy if we defaulted to that. Also, depending on how you read it, this could get us in trouble with the Canada Anti Spam Law.

      • Dick Stevenson Mar 1, 2018, 10:50 am

        Hi John,
        I am sure there are those who comment on a particular topic who do not want the comment stream for the whole topic (just those comments to their own comment), but I suspect most who post on a topic are interested in the whole topic and all comments on the topic. I know I am. I do not find the volume of AAC posts annoying, and most give me something to think about. When not interested, they are quick and easy to delete. In fact, I would appreciate getting the whole AAC stream as there are posts where I have interest, but have never posted myself.
        My best, Dick

        • John Mar 2, 2018, 7:33 am

          Hi Dick,

          You can still get all the comments to a post, even if you, yourself, have not commented. That has not changed. The only change is that it now defaults to sending answers to your own comment only, rather than the old way where it defaulted to sending nothing at all. To get all the comments, just select that from the pull down menu. (The old way was to click a check box, so no real change in difficulty.)

  • PATRICK LAINE Feb 28, 2018, 3:17 am

    In your intro, you say there is a “steady decline in offshore cruising.” That surprised me (based solely on the number of YouTube sailing sites). How is the decline you mention measured/observed? Many thanks. Patrick

    • John Feb 28, 2018, 7:46 am

      Hi Patrick,

      I believe there are some pretty solid statistics, for example the number of boats going through Bermuda (and other cruising choke points) in a season, has dropped off. Also, we here in Atlantic Canada have seen a very large drop in cruising boats. This is both supported by statistics from places like the St Peters Canal (I asked them this fall) and our own observations. For example, during our cruise to Newfoundland and Labrador last year we did not see one boat from the US, whereas a few years ago we used to cross paths with many US boats. (We did meet several French and European boats, which would seem to back up our assertions in the post above.)

      My guess is that these are more reliable indicators than YouTube, given that the latter did not exist a few years ago, and so there is no basis for comparison.

      • PATRICK LAINE Feb 28, 2018, 8:04 am

        OK, thanks. I was not aware of a downturn (other than the 2008/9 economic crisis). Interesting. Best regards

      • Brian Russell Feb 28, 2018, 3:33 pm

        According to an “article” I saw on , yes, YouTube, according to Google Metrics there has been a steady decline in searches related to sailing, sailboats, cruising, etc, since the mid-aughts. There were discernible bumps from searches for the type of boats that YT stars like LaVagabonde and Delos sail, including LaVagabonde’s new cat.

  • Reuben Mezrich Feb 28, 2018, 8:03 am

    Amazon reports “This title is not currently available for purchase”. this is for the Kindle edition. Soft cover is available from some book stores in England. These days I only read digital.
    I did enjoy the first book you recommended and found it helpful, excepting his belief that “old” people – people over 65 and for sure those over 75 – are too feeble-minded to manage their own finances and should put their money into annuities. Having just turned 76 I resent the attitude, but on the other hand after watching the actions of our president and much of congress, too many of whom are over 70, perhaps he is right.

  • Jim Evans Feb 28, 2018, 9:00 am

    I agree whole-heartedly with John on most of his comments, particularly those on social inequality. There certainly does seem to be an increase in the number of mega yachts that seldom go anywhere.
    I would make one comment, though, and that is that this site and others like it may unwittingly be a contributor to the problem of declining long-distance cruising. One often gets the impression that one needs a custom 40- foot minimum yacht with all the latest gear to venture offshore. Curiously, just before I read this article I was reading about Robin Knox-Johnston’s Suhaili: hardly a vessel that would tick all John’s boxes. One of my favourite books is “Shrimpy”, Shane Acton’s tale of a circumnavigation in a 24-foot plywood boat.
    I’m not suggesting minimum cruising is for everyone, but there are a lot of cheap boats out there that will do the job at a pinch; after all, we are talking about attainable ADVENTURE cruising, aren’t we?

    • Colin Speedie Feb 28, 2018, 9:47 am

      Hi Jim
      I agree with what you suggest, but I’m not sure that problem is easily analysed.
      During the time I spent as manager of the Golden Globe Race project I visited many boatyards in the UK and US to look at boats on the market of just the ‘Suhaili’ type, many of them in reasonable shape and at attractive prices, just, in fact, the sort of craft that one might imagine a young couple taking off in – and there were lots and lots of them out there.
      But not selling – I even asked one broker in the US how many boats he had on his books that were like this and simply not selling, to which he replied ‘dozens’. So I asked why the owners didn’t simply bite the bullet and give them to some keen youngsters to do up and get out on the water? He said ‘they’ve tried, but once the youngsters get wind of the maintenance and slip costs, insurance etc., they don’t want to know!’
      It’s the same with cars, these days – so many people simply don’t want the cost and hassle of ownership, at least here in the UK. The world has changed and the simplicity we enjoyed when young seems to have lots some of its allure. So maybe John is right – and a major shift in income values is required.
      Best wishes

      • Jim Evans Feb 28, 2018, 10:54 am

        Point taken regarding wooden boats, Colin. I couldn’t afford to maintain one, either. But there are a load of fibreglass boats out there that may not be the perfect long-distance cruiser but that would do the job.
        I’m thinking of a friend’s old Beneteau Oceanis 36 on which I’ve done a lot of cruising. It’s far from perfect but it IS a solid boat that will stand up to some nasty weather a lot better than you might think.

        • Colin Speedie Feb 28, 2018, 11:31 am

          Hi Jim
          I should have made myself clearer – not one of the boats I looked at or heard about was made of wood – they were all heavily built GRP. The problem is (I think) partly that there are fewer people around now who have the skills or drive or cash to take on an old boat or project.
          I remember that myself and my friends would go to sea in just about anything forty odd years ago, but between us we had wood/GRP/mechanical and welding skills, and I just don’t see that around any more.
          I’m absolutely with you, though, a good boat is all that you need. Not a perfect boat necessarily. The adventure is in the taking part – not in watching others envy your ride!
          Best wishes

          • Jim Evans Feb 28, 2018, 5:21 pm

            Absolutely, Colin, although judging from my motorcycling acquaintances there do seem to still be lots of skills around. I am one of these lucky folks who live somewhere you can just stick a mooring out in the river, but I do recognize the high cost associated with marinas. The downside of living where I do (Prince Edward Island) is that there are very few professionals with any knowledge of yachts, although there are lots who know fishing boats, so I have to do most things myself. I guess it’s lucky I always have, as I’ve built up some skills over the years.

          • Stein Varjord Feb 28, 2018, 6:04 pm

            Hi Jim and Colin
            It’s tempting to say that young people are too lazy or demand too much comfort or lack the skills to fix anything. It’s fun to tease them by saying they can’t use anything that isn’t fully operated by a touchscreen. Some young people may fit those descriptions, but they are clearly exceptions. I think there might be another reason:

            Some decades ago, boats were technically very simple. If you had zero knowledge, you could still figure out how most items on the boat worked. You could fix them, or find a way to keep sailing without that item. The fault normally wouldn’t affect any other functions of the boat. A similar observation fits with cars that are from the sixties or older. There is no fear of failure with these types of boats. There is no intimidation.

            Modern boats, however, are the absolute opposite. They are full of complicated systems. The task of understanding how it works is massive or even close to impossible. If one small piece has trouble, the whole boat might be on strike. The cost of fixing it is as massive as the amount of knowledge needed to avoid some of the cost. The whole boat seems built with one purpose: To intimidate the owner into using professionals or buying a new boat/a new product. Push us into consumerism. I happen to think that this impression is no accident… and that it might be an essential cause for the diminishing numbers of young people in cruising.

            As a young person, you get a clear (even strict) message: If you want to cruise, you’re an irresponsible parasite! That’s only ok if you’re really rich! If you’re not rich, and want to sail in a cheap boat with limited equipment, you’re sailing dangerously! That is a crime against humanity, since the ocean is extremely dangerous!

            So, to sum it up: Young people stay away because they see only boats that are meant for fat old rich guys, often made to fall apart at the one year birthday. They see a cost image adapted to the above mentioned customers. This served chilled on a bed of big fat lies about the real life on boats.

        • Wilson Feb 28, 2018, 8:36 pm

          I agree with Jim’s comments about the over-complication of boats. My first long cruise was aboard an H-28 named Lizzy Belle that was built for my father, named for my grandmother and inherited by me at an absurdly young age. I went to the Bahamas and home in the mid 1970s on a budget and with equipment that would be laughable in current terms. I am thrilled that the Lizzy Belle is still being sailed adventurously with little in the way of substantial changes and, allowing for inflation, nearly the same budget. This short movie made by the second-last owner a is well worth your time:

          The current owners, a young, enthusiastic and capable pair, took possession in Guatemala and sailed to Florida with many adventures. Lizzy Belle has just arrived back in Nova Scotia on a truck and will be sailing in home waters again this summer. There is hope.

    • John Mar 1, 2018, 8:03 am

      Hi Jim,

      I agree completely on the benefits of simple boats. And small ones too. (Just because I own a bigger boat does not mean that I don’t see the benefits of small boats. (My first cruising boat was a Sea Sprite 23.)

      That said, I think Colin’s right that just a large availability of small, cheep and simple boats is not the answer. Rather I think that if young people felt even a little bit more secure about how their lives will look as they get older, a lot more of these boats would get used.

      • Jim Evans Mar 1, 2018, 9:45 am

        I certainly agree with that, John.

  • Ernest Feb 28, 2018, 10:29 am

    Interesting to read about some “off topic” social issues on a cruising website (not at all off topic IMHO).
    With digitalization on the rise outlaboring “simple” jobs that can better and cheaper be executed by robots or software we are effectively facing a scenario where there will be not enough jobs for all. Thus society may walk in two different directions: engaging in poverty wars, or distributing the “automatically generated” welfare to all, which basically means taxing machine labour and spreading this money as a basic income for everyone.
    I wholeheartedly support this idea, however I doubt mankind is intelligent enough for that, taking a look at the latest developments in the US (presidency) and Europe (with the rise of the right-wing politics). Populism unfortunately is on its rise, and populists use fear and envy to consolidate their follower base. It would come as a very welcome surprise to me if the current drifts would change, but realisticly I don’t believe this will come during our lifetime.

    Having less than four years to retirement I hope to enlarge the cruising community by a number of 1 then, unfortunately not substantially lowering the age average…

    • John Mar 1, 2018, 8:23 am

      Hi Ernest,

      Yes, I think you are right about the future of employment in an increasingly automated world. (My guess is 30-50% unemployment, or at least under employment, in the developed world within 20 years.

      You may also be right about the hopelessness of adopting a universal basic income, however, I have lately made a conscious decision to make my approach to these things a positive one. I just don’t want to become one of those doom and gloomers that are constantly talking about how the world is bound to hell in a hand basket. The point being that if the world is in fact going to hell, me thinking and speaking negatively will not help anything. On the other hand, the worst case for staying positive is that it will make me, and maybe even the people around me, feel at least a bit better while on the way to hell.

  • Crazy Horse (AKA RDE) Feb 28, 2018, 11:00 am

    The tribes of the Pacific Northwest used to have a tradition that would solve a lot of homo sapien’s current problems. They lived in a very rich land– salmon, berries, and shellfish free for the taking. The cedar trees provided impressive religious totems, sea going canoes and longhouses. Prestige was earned, not by building the biggest longhouse or acquiring the most slaves, but by throwing the biggest party and giving away the most stuff.

    If we would implement the Potlatch system in contemporary North America it would look something like this: By law the richest 1000 individuals would be required to give away 50% of their wealth- stocks & bonds, mansions, mistresses & Ferrari’s– on April 15 of each year. Penalty for failure to comply— death by 100 arrows. The wealth collected should then be distributed equally among all citizens when they reached the age of 25. They could use it as a nest egg to start their lives as full adults– or spend it on crack if that is the fate they prefer.

    The Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos of the world could still acquire wealth beyond imagining in a Potlatch world, but they would also earn prestige instead of hatred!

  • ED WHITE Feb 28, 2018, 2:49 pm

    Being older and owning a small old boat makes me realize how extremely fortunate I have been being born in a first world society where we can consider such things as universal wage. Once in Malawi I watched as an entire village made their living by harvesting aquarium fish for European collectors. Digressing, I being a bit of an Iain Banks fan, like the bright Elon Musk…I think that our only possible saving is the development of AI to the point where the imagination of Mr. Banks puts it in the not so distant future. “Of course I still love you” and “Just follow the instructions” are a couple of examples of floating items that derive their names from said author. Frankly I cannot imagine this world’s politicians ever coming together with a cogent workable plan that would involve more than a handful.

  • Wilson Feb 28, 2018, 5:32 pm

    Hi John

    I have had some exposure (professional not personal thankfully) to the tangled world of income supports and transfers for people in need here in Nova Scotia. The current systems are a contradictory and counterproductive mess. They are much better than nothing but I concluded years ago that single guaranteed annual income system, properly designed, would be an infinite improvement. Now that I am retired and have time on my hands (ha!) I should get on the bandwagon and start writing letters.

    While I am on the blower, and because there is no place for general comments on the AAC website, let me take this opportunity to say that this is far and away the best source of information about boats and sailing available anywhere and the occasional forays into tangential issues are not mis-placed. Keep it up!

    • John Mar 1, 2018, 8:27 am

      Hi Wilson,

      At one point I was a fan of means testing any universal basic income on the theory that fortunate people like us should not get it. One of the most important things I learned from Standing’s book is what a dumb idea that was. Good to have your real world confirmation of that.

      And thanks for the vey kind words, much appreciated.

    • John Mar 2, 2018, 8:16 am

      I should add to the above that I’m not suggesting that people as fortunate as I am should actually keep the UBI payments. I favour some kind of clawback or progressive tax system that would insure that those who are already well off keep little or none of the UBI. To me this is the only way to keep the costs reasonable, in the same way that the clawback helps keep Canada’s old age security system viable.

  • Nel Mar 1, 2018, 9:09 am

    Hi CrazyHorse
    Not sure that Bill Gates deserves the full 100 arrows.

  • Downeaster Mar 1, 2018, 11:41 am

    We should remember that poverty is not only, or even primarily, a matter of material well-being. If it were, the money earmarked for safety-net spending per person below the poverty line, the presence of air conditioning and cable television and cell phones in the majority of such households, even the obesity epidemic ravaging low-income communities, would all be signs that the war on poverty via social safety-net means is nearly won. But we also care about social as well as material conditions, and we care about upward mobility. By these measures, I fear UBI, while improving the lives of some people, might just make things worse for society as a whole.
    I am reminded of the late Billy Graham’s admonition: When wealth is lost, nothing is lost; when health is lost, something is lost; when character is lost, all is lost.

    • RDE Mar 1, 2018, 12:02 pm

      Hi Downeaster,
      The contemporary USA ranks nearly as far down the list of countries for upward mobility as it does for health care.

      Not doing too well on that social cohesion scale either—-.

  • Crazy Horse Mar 1, 2018, 11:52 am

    Hi Nel
    Giving your money to a foundation that you control doesn’t count! In Potlatch World the money goes to every 25 year old so they can buy a cheap boat and sail the world! Or buy a house and start a family. Or start a company that invents teleportation or reverses ocean acidification. And like John alluded to, the way to cut bureaucratic costs is to eliminate bureaucracy. Everyone gets their coming-of-age stipend— Bill Gates’ kid included.

    The purpose of mandatory compliance is to point society toward a change in values. If we celebrate the (coerced) Potlatch behavior of our rich and famous, perhaps the lesser rich will begin to emulate them! Without arrows! One can only dream.

    • John Mar 2, 2018, 8:11 am

      Hi Richard,

      The lump sum idea is an interesting one, but Standing convinced me in the book that a regular income is a better way for both the individual and society since it smooths out the consequences of the stupid stuff we may do when young. Some of the decisions I made in my 20s look pretty ill advised, and that’s putting it kindly! But, as a boomer, I lived in a world where I could fix the consequences later in life. Today, not so much.

      • Crazy Horse (AKA RDE) Mar 2, 2018, 8:34 am

        Hi John,
        As you no doubt surmised, Potlatch World is more a tongue in cheek statement about how twisted the values of our ruling class have become, rather than a serious proposal to end the world’s problems. The unsustainability of technological civilization is the core problem for the planet’s biosphere, and more equitable distribution of late-stage capitalism’s rewards is no solution.

        • John Mar 3, 2018, 8:05 am

          Hi Richard,

          Yes, I knew you were kidding, that said, having also read Capital in The Twenty-First Century I’m a firm believer that if we are to realistically address income inequality, we will need to have some kind of tax on very large stores of capital, which is a bit like your Potlatch World, but without the arrows.

          • Crazy Horse Mar 3, 2018, 4:16 pm

            Hi John,
            “Control of large stores of capital” always results in control of large portions of political power. True in the medieval feudal economic system of the 14th century, the contemporary state capitalist system in China where the “sons of the Long March” rule, and the Global Military Empire kleptocracy in the USA where elections are a circus held for the diversion of the rabble and have little more influence on national policy than the result of a football game.

            In the absence of “arrows” there has never been an example where a dominant economic class has voluntarily surrendered its power. So there never will be a revolution in economic distribution through the implementation of a tax on the rich unless a revolution in political power happens first or economic collapse undermines the foundation of ruling class wealth. There is still a possibility in a much more democratic and egalitarian political system like that of Canada, but the power of the elites will still have to be tested in battle to see if economic re-distribution is achievable.

          • John Mar 4, 2018, 8:31 am

            Hi Richard,

            I agree that getting to UBI and sensible progressive taxation will probably, and sadly, only happen after some pretty undesirable events. That said, one ray of optimism: in the seventies the country with the most progressive taxation system in the world was your own. (Source, Capital in The Twenty First Century.)

          • Crazy Horse (AKA RDE) Mar 4, 2018, 11:16 am

            Hi John,
            In 1970 the US was a middle class society with a high degree of social mobility. It’s tax structure was highly progressive although in practice less so once loopholes are take into account. It’s two political parties represented different class interests to the extent that voting represented real choices. And most importantly it was the largest producer of oil in the world, facilitating dynamic economic growth until it reached its inevitable peak and decline.

            48 years later the US has evolved into a global empire waging permanent warfare at the cost of perhaps a trillion and a half dollars per year. 800 overseas bases, 17 domestic and international spy agencies, and bottomless expenditures on high tech weapons that don’t work. (Lockheed F35). For all of it’s trillions in waste and graft it is defenseless against the checkmate of superior Russian weapons developed at a fraction of the cost. The USA’s stated war fighting policy calls for first strike use of nuclear weapons— indicative of the extent to which madness rules among its leaders.

            Almost all of the spoils from the global empire and the productivity bonus from the computer revolution have gone to a class consisting of 1%–or more realistically .001% of the population. Real median wages have hardly budged from the 1970’s. The wealth of the elites is used to play casino fraud games on Wall Street while the manufacturing base is hollowed out and shipped overseas to whatever country offers the lowest slave wage and the most corrupt leadership.

            Rather than offering a ray of hope that we might return to the 1970’s, the history of the USA over the past half century is a verification of my thesis about the merger of economic and political power.

            Probably best to stop flailing against this Leviathan and return to more pleasant topics like sailing!

  • Doug Mar 1, 2018, 5:43 pm

    Considering that basic income would most likely replace EI, CPP, OAS, and Welfare, it makes sense.
    Where I live the cost of housing has far outstripped earnings, young people can’t afford basic housing, let alone a boat.

    • John Mar 2, 2018, 7:48 am

      Hi Doug,

      Yes, the cost of housing is a separate, but related problem. One thought is that a UBI would allow people to move away from the expensive cities to places where housing is still affordable. For example, there are still plenty of places in Atlantic Canada where houses can be had for very reasonable prices. And perhaps that, in turn, would strengthen some of the small rural communities that have lost so much to urbanization and relieve the pressure on the large centres like Toronto and Vancouver—a win, win, if ever there was one.

      • Marc Dacey Mar 4, 2018, 1:31 pm

        That’s the whole logic of us selling our Toronto house and seeking a place down east for a “base camp” of your type, John. Although I have concerns about leaving such a place unattended or in the hands of renters while we are off sailing, the fact remains that the “arbitrage” of selling up in Toronto not only covers the cruising kitty for five years, but, properly husbanded, might allow more or less permanent cruising, should desire and health and seacock maintenance allow. I find myself rather unsentimental on the topic, actually.

  • Doug Mar 1, 2018, 6:24 pm

    LSE III | Professor Guy Standing | Basic Income: And How We Can Make It Happen

  • Robert Muir Mar 1, 2018, 7:25 pm

    I agree that some kind of UBI will be needed in the near future. The “gig economy” is fine for what it is, but it is also flimsy. Self-driving cars, (boats?), are arriving VERY soon and companies from Uber to Pepsico to FedEX, long-haul trucking etc. will be jumping on that bandwagon faster than anybody can imagine. What’s going to happen to those millions of drivers? Ned Lud will be back with bells on.

    Anyway, the current Amazon US Kindle version is here:

    Amazon Canada:
    Another excellent book covering this subject is:
    Martin Ford’s “Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future”

    • John Mar 2, 2018, 7:42 am

      Hi Robert,

      Thanks for the links and I’m totally with you on how quickly self drive cars and trucks will be a reality and the huge consequences to society when that happens.

  • Mark Tilley Mar 1, 2018, 11:18 pm

    Funny, when I was younger I used to describe the John Birch Society as a bunch of pinkos (!), but I’ve been beating the UBI drum for close to 20 years now any time major social reform comes up in a conversation …

    Well, actually my drum has been tax reform, but UBI fits nicely into the government revenue obverse / personal welfare reverse coin.

    The thing is, a big part of UBI is the case for making welfare distribution efficient and sending out cheques to people who don’t need them is obviously a waste.

    Also, our tax system already has a likeness of the UBI in the form of the basic personal deduction.

    All we need to do is marry these two forms, and this is how you do it, and in the process we’re also going to correct a lot of the problems in the income tax.

    One could argue that this isn’t really a UBI, it’s a negative income tax, and that it is. But if you have a true UBI, then you don’t need a basic personal deduction (or maybe any personal deductions) for your income taxes. Which means you’ll be taxed on the first dollar earned, and you have a situation where UBI cheques are being sent out while at the same time taxes are being deducted. So, whether you want it or not, the UBI will in effect be taxed back whether you administer it as a pure UBI or as a negative income tax.

    Therefore, I propose that the basic personal exemption be 30K (per ADULT) and the tax rate be 35% (combined federal/provincial or state) and so the UBI would be 30K x 35% = $10,500.

    This would be clawed back then at 35% (much less than today’s welfare clawback rates which can exceed 80%) and once someone is off UBI (i.e. when they’re making more than 30K), then their tax rate stays at 35%.

    That’s much higher than the current lowest rate, but then again, the basic exemption is much higher, so those at that level are still ahead on an after tax basis. If fact, that rate makes it easy to use as a completely flat rate for all income and the way to make that equitable (since it’s lower than the current highest rate, at least in Canada) is to tax all income the same, including investment income. Capital gains would be adjusted for inflation for investments held for more than one year before also being 100% taxable. (It’s the market’s job, not the government’s, to make sure you’re getting enough ROI.) Also, adjusting capital gains for CPI would remove the need to distinguish between capital gains and ordinary investment income.

    Given the huge increase in the basic personal deduction, it would be the ONLY personal deduction and would replace current deductions for such things as dependents, tuition, charitable and political donations, seniors’ age etc..

    I said the basic exemption would be per adult, but whether you transferred your basic exemption to a higher earning spouse or collected yourself even if your spouse was a high earner, would make no difference mathematically because of the flat rate. Also, it negates family income splitting problems because minors would get no basic exemption (nor be eligible for UBI). Minors, by definition, are dependent on adults. The numbers are big enough to work for families. It also means marital status would have no effect on taxation.

    For those who aren’t supporting a family, you may be a student, senior, or saving to start a family. The beauty of this is that everyone gets the same, and it’s up to you to manage what you have, rather than the government trying all sorts of so-called boutique tax deductions or credits to encourage you to do what they think would be good for you (besides voting for them …).

    Since the UBI would be integrated into the tax system there would be no need to send out cheques to everybody since payroll calculations would just use that single basic personal exemption like they do now.

    All adults would be eligible for UBI, but it would be administered by the tax department. That way, only one department would be responsible for keeping track of them, and once people were in the system for basic income purposes, they’d also be in the system for tax purposes and less able to evade taxes in the future.

    Also, it’s not like you can live the high life on $10,500 per year. That too, is part of the point of a reasonably low UBI.

    The tax reform would be fairly revenue neutral believe it or not (I’ve downloaded the Canadian tax data and crunched the numbers).

    In Canada, the UBI would replace more than just municipally administered welfare. It would also replace HST (VAT) credits for low income earners, old age security, the seniors guaranteed income supplement, and even conceivably unemployment insurance. It could also be used to justify abolishing the minimum wage and let the market determine how much incentive someone needs for an hour’s work when they already have a decent basic income, although that’s an option I haven’t fully thought out.

    Paying UBI directly to people could also justify a huge reduction in federal transfers to provinces, since provinces and municipalities would no longer need to fund and administer welfare.

    Would there be an overall increase in benefits paid, or would the efficiencies gained be enough to pay for whatever increase there was? I don’t know, but I think that the system would be far more equitable, and that’s worth a lot.

    • John Mar 3, 2018, 8:00 am

      Hi Mark,

      Sounds like a plan! I too think that the tax system needs a complete rethink. Much of what you suggest is in Standing’s book, although he is not a fan of the negative income tax and explains why. Anyway, I certainly agree that UBI introduction needs to be packaged with tax reform, and above all, tax code simplification.

  • Doug Mar 2, 2018, 12:21 pm

    “Also, it’s not like you can live the high life on $10,500 per year. That too, is part of the point of a reasonably low UBI”
    The whole point behind UBI is to meet basic needs, $10,500 per year wouldn’t do that, also would need to keep CPP and OAS. I like your idea, it’s more hybrid.
    I wonder what effects UBI would have on inflation? Is it not possible that any benefit of UBI could be erased by inflation? More money available to chase the same goods…..

    • John Mar 3, 2018, 8:16 am

      Hi Doug,

      Standing addresses the inflation worry in the book. His view is that it’s not a problem, and he explains why very well.

  • Frans Muys Mar 2, 2018, 8:55 pm
    • John Mar 3, 2018, 8:17 am

      Hi Frans,

      Yup, just not a pretty picture. And I think it will only get worse.

  • petter ;) Mar 8, 2018, 6:23 am

    The Finnish are testing the idea of universal income. Here is one report of the results from a source where I believe there is little fake news;


    • John Mar 8, 2018, 8:21 am

      Hi Petter,

      Thanks for the link. It’s an interesting article, but, at least according the Standing, it’s a bit inaccurate in that it implies that there is not much real data about the affects of a UBI. In fact there have been pilot studies going on for over 20 years, so we already have some pretty good data.

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