Universal Basic Income
First bandied around in the middle of the Petroleum Era, the concept of a basic income as a guaranteed right, has found root in the Atlantic Federation. Two of the factors that drove support for the UBI was a major structural change in the job market (with a growing population struggling over a shrinking pool of jobs mostly due streamlined automation and globalization factors) and evidence that a UBI decreased welfare fraud. The second was widespread abuse of welfare systems, and indicators that such payments were being directed into criminal and subversive activities, such as drug use, prostitution, substance abuse, gambling, and so forth.
In the Cosmic Era, these problems had the potential to become much worse. The use of polyforges changed the industrial landscape, and the demise of the consumer planned obsolescence driven economy of scale meant that that vast majority of businesses and service providers didn't have a chance. This was the end of capitalism, and it's demise is considered the actual end of the Petroleum Era.
Citizens of the Atlantic Federation are guaranteed a basic quality of life. Rather than simply sending money to people, a Universal Basic Credit system was installed. Under the UBCS, each citizen has a worthiness score that allows them to 'purchase' the things that they want and need. This includes utilities, rent on a module in an arcology, food, clothing, access to the CogNet as well as a certain discretionary amount of recreational and hobby involvement. By reducing the benefit from cash to a requisition based credit form virtually eliminated many of the previous abuses. Residents of the Atlantic Federation are not guaranteed the same level of quality of life, and while they still receive the same basic credit from the UBCS, it is a lower rate. The typical citizen has twice to three times the requisition power of a basic resident.
The UBCS score is not fixed, and it can rise and fall, based on a number of internal and external factors.
Things that make the UBCS fall
Widespread economic difficulties, resource shortages, and other problems being faced on a very wide scale. In times of increased military activity, UBCS scores decline across the board as national resources are being shifted from the civilian market to support the military efforts abroad.
Over use of UBCS credit. There is a certain level of activity that is expected, providing sundry and perishable goods, for example, and the somewhat regular replacement of durable goods that have failed, become damaged, or otherwise should be replaced. Exceeding this general level of activity will see the score fall, limited the extent of how much be requisitioned. (This is less of a factor than it would seem, as being post-obsolescent planning, most manufactured goods are made to last for as long as possible) The system typically has leeway for a one to three major purchases a year.
Not having children. Facing a population shortage, people who are not involved in reproduction are consuming resources and not contributing to the next generation.
Being involved in a criminal investigation, being indicted in a criminal investigation, or being convicted of criminal activity. Depending on the severity of the offense, UBCS can be suspended temporarily, reduced by a large margin, and in some instances, completely negated. Should a person be convicted of a particularly onerous crime, their score can be deleted, their property reposessed, and if they are not jailed, they can and might be exiled from the community.
Negative, disruptive, and dissident opinion; with the omnipresence of the CogNet and innate nature of social media, one of the most common measures of UBCS scores is social activity. Citizens and residents who regularly espouse negative stances, support non-consensus topics, engage in trolling behaviours, as defined by the Daily Discourse will see their ratings pruned.
Author's Note: For those who didn't read between the lines there, this is the Thought Police, and supporting certain topics, groups, and opinions is functionally a financially punished crime. Thus, citizens of the Atlantic Federation are very much puppets of the UBCS and the politicians and powers behind it. Smart citizens and residents do not question the government, don't question the subject of social witch hunts (aka two minutes hate) and support whatever the consensus opinion is on a specific matter. If your score goes up, you know you are on the right side.
Things that make the UBCS Rise
Economic booms and 'good times' can see UBCS scores go up. This stimulates upgrading and replacing things in the citizen's households, and can lift opinion and faith polls.
Judicious use of UBCS, citizens who are frugal and wise with their credit use and often make twice the large purchases compared to average citizens, or this can translate over into a much nicer accommodation in the arco.
Having children, while increasing the number of people in a household dictates a mandatory rise in costs and needs, facing a population shortage, people who are reproducing are helping the community and Federation at large. This isn't limited to traditional childbirth, but includes artificial childbirth, and non-robotic offspring (including clones, and so forth)
Maintaining a clean public record and not being involved in any criminal or civil investigation.
Maintaining a clean social profile, supporting consensus opinions, supporting the government, and corporate sponsors.
Working at a government operation. Most commonly this is working at a polyforge center, doing PR/HR work on the behalf of said organization and generally holding down a basic job. This isn't by any means mandatory but the difference between a labor engaged citizen and a non-labor engaged citizen is the same as the difference between a resident and a citizen.
The Plebe Life in Post Scarcity and Digital Abundance
One of the things that is easy to overlook is that the average citizen or resident of the Atlantic Federation is much more technologically integrated than the average person in the Petroleum Era. With entire online worlds, virtual environments, and so forth. While living with a personal vehicle would seem strange and vexing to us, likewise is our peculiar fascination with constantly going places all of the time be weird to the Federation citizen. Most people in the Federation spend their spare and leisure time involved with the CogNet and immersive activities there. Most of the content available is in the traditional freemium model, with free to play users standing in lines, and other moderately tedious things while those with cash have access to more and better features. With social conditioning and steady income, most people are content to jack into the games and entertainments.
Through the applications of Ocaslan planning, protests are rare because the concept of protesting has been changed and neutered, or demonized. With the metered benefits of the UBCS, the wild fluctuations of the market and economies in the past, is just that, a thing of the past. Overwhelmed with an onslaught of programming, entertainment, opinion, virtual sex, and all the rest of the weirdness of the Cosmic Era, the entire system plows forward, instead of challenging itself and examining it's own values, morals, or ethics. These things only come up in the most topical way, and then, only to the benefit of the wealthy, the powerful, and the all might status quo.
The Cash Wall
Old money doesn't die, and it doesn't go away. When the UBCS was being built, it was at the benefit to those people and organizations that held large amounts of old money. Money is quite simply power, and this power was how they shaped the new economic system. The cash market still exists and it still does it's usual thing, but unlike in the Petroleum Era, the common person has almost no ability to influence it. This leaves the realm of the wealthy and ultra-wealthy clear from such plebian concerns, and renders the sheer numbers of the masses pointless. They are all playing on credit.
The MegaCorps and the HyperCorps
The big businesses benefit from the UBCS, they are compensated for the goods they provide to the public, and this is done through contracts and negotiations with the various levels of government. It is a common misconception that the megacorps are military in nature, they aren't. The megacorps are banks and holding companies that exist to hold money and own other corporations. This is where the money exists, and the UBCS doesn't matter.
The Military Industrial Complex
The largest benefactor of federal funding is the military. While not megacorps, the military complex is spread almost cancer-like through the Cosmic Era. The complex is involved in the media, in the government, in the corps, and across almost every industry at some point or level. This isn't cheap, and at most levels, it is highly profitable. Not the sort of profit that the UBCS can even think of matching.
The idea of banning certain people from buying things is a morally reprehensible and discriminatory thing, certainly unthinkable in the Cosmic Era. The UBCS simply is not accepted for certain purchases, only actually currency will be accepted for them. These are the things that the governments and the corps don't want the common person to own, or if they do own it, it's limited and restricted in it's abilities. Some common non-UBCS items include civilian grade firearms, personal vehicles, expensive jewelry, non-toy sized pets, synthetic children, and most things deemed luxury items in the Cosmic Era. This includes things we assume such as gourmet delicacies like fugu, truffles, and foie gras, but also includes things we take for granted like tree fruit, fresh non-cultured meat, leather, and other non-synthic food goods. Fairly obviously, UBCS cannot be used for illicit and illegal activities, such as drugs, illegal goods, illegal services and such. These are typically handled with underground cash supplies, barter systems, or moving through a chinpira middle man
The flow of money and power between governments and the megacorps is very similar to the balance of power that was held between the kings and the landed nobility during the Dark Ages. The Petroleum Era was a tipping point, moving first very strongly towards centralized and powerful federal governments and then reeling back as the corporations bought out the governments bringing everything into a state of flux. With no winners, only losers, in the Second Dark Age, the new paradigm is similar to the old one. The federal governments and megacorps are dancing with each other, with varying degrees of forcefulness and trading places as to who is leading and who is following. Those who are in the cash system, they are the dancers and attendees, while the common masses, with their UBCS aren't paying the bills, they are the floor that the dancers are walking across. The most ambitious and successful of the common folk are the waiters, the valets, and the rest of the staff, working for a little bit of a tip.
In China, your social media activity affects your credit score
Basic Income, now being proposed in several European countries
One of the crises in modern capitalism is the act of showrooming. Customers will go to a brick and mortar store, inspect specific items that they are interested in purchasing, and will then purchase said items from an online retailer at a lower cost, since said online retailer doesn't have the cost of a store to support.
In the Cosmic Era this is how most non-consumables shopping is handled. There are no more brick and mortar stores, and the durable goods providers merely have showrooms for customers to come look at their goods. They can order the goods from the showroom, but there is no stock, no inventory, no servicing, just the showroom. With polyforges and automation, almost everything is made on a Just in Time basis. There are no warehouses or inventory centers fulfilling said orders (there are some exceptions).
After visiting the showroom, the customer uses their multikard to order whatever goods they want. The order is placed, and the items in question are produced. This goes in the face of Petroleum Era commercialism, as it violates two basic tennets: planned obsolescence, and impulse purchases. Most ordered goods will arrive in a matter of hours to days, overriding the impulse purchase with having to wait for the gratification of acquisition. Likewise, in the case of durable and sundry goods, there isn't a cycle of replacing oldness with new hotness. There are upgrades, and additions, but something like replacing a smartphone every 1-2 years is simply offensive. Gadgets are expected to last a decade. Appliances last a generation, and so forth. The wheels and engines of the economy aren't churning out junk to feed a junk grinder.
Trade In, Trade Up
In the Cosmic Era, when someone buys a durable good or gadget, is it generally expected that the previous gadget they owned will be traded in as part of the remuneration process. The old item is taken back and it is either refurbished and resold if it is in good shape, or it is recycled for its components and used to make the next iteration of items. This process lessens the credit cost of the items being purchased, and is part of the materials handling and recycling system inside of arcologies and other megastructures. Hoarding and stockpiling are hard to accomplish, as failure to remunerate goods sees credit scores drop.
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? Responses (12)
4/5 I dislike anything that says there is no(or in this case,limited) cash. The idea that there is no cash suspends my disbelief. HOWEVER the sub is well thought out and if a cashless society did exist it might look something like this
There have been plenty of cashless societies, with Star Trek being a good example of a positive example and the slave based economies of the past being negative examples. And that's what the freemium economy is, it is a form of economic slavery. It doesn't matter what the people do, they cannot do business between themselves, everything has to go to the credit system, to the corporate exchanges and such.
Cash is a relic of the Petroleum Era, and it is offensive.
Asking a resident of the Cosmic Era if they would like some money, some cold hard cash, is the same as asking Native Americans if they would like some trade beads or horse blankets. Capitalism and the personal pursuit of wealth is considered crude, barbaric, and destructive.
Oh Lordy. It's your world, can be whatever you say it is, and I see the impetus for this society based on your many CE posts, but...
This is not the future. Star Trek isn't an 'example', it's one hollywood liberal's fantasy. The Native American analogy makes no sense.
Paint me a disgusting capitalist if you must, but no, this is not a natural evolution of the world economy.
Hmm, looking at my comment by light of day, this probably came across as harsh. Sorry, was just spouting away and 'knee-jerk philosophizing' :-)
Harsh is fine, because harsh is typically honest.
The emergence of the freemium economy is not a natural evolution. It is what happens when you have a coalition of oligarchs, backed by secret societies (the more spook like Anunnaki) and bound by a broken world economy and a population that is small, predominantly socialist, and supported by massive industrial automation and replicator like polyforges.
There is a smear campaign against capitalism, and despite all the bells and whistles, technogadgets and wizardry, the Cosmic Era is functionally feudal in nature. Wealth is concentrated exclusively at the top, and everyone else is a serf (restricted in movement, restricted in what they can possess, stuck in whatever position they are born in). Fitting in with the Ocaslan model, society is made static to ensure longterm stability, and capitalism runs contrary to this. Capitalism allows people to change their economic status, and large numbers of people can force changes in the market, despite each having not that much. This can be a good thing, driving economic engines, and it can be bad like student loan debt and the housing bubble.
So, the past, the economic wealth and prosperity of the capitalist free world is burdened with the blame for the disasters that befell the world, from the Resource Wars, to the environmental disasters that followed. The pursuit of wealth and personal property is shown to be hand in hand with burning the world and poisoning the sky.
Makes much more sense to me now, thank you.
Having said that, this sub is still head and shoulders above most. Love the thinking involved!
Star Trek is an example of 'hypocrisy'. I could list episode after episode from classic trek through the money heavy DS9 of when they used money. They can't just have money dealing with other societies. That's just silly.
Rodenberry was a progressive liberal hippie, and TNG greatly improved when he was no longer hands on involved in the show. While he had some good ideas, like racial integration and international cooperation (it's easy to forget that Uhura was among the first if not the first black female characters in an ensemble cast show, and the Russian Chekov was an officer on what was tantamount to an American spaceship, during the Cold War). He also had some bad ideas that hamstrung the show, like the Federation having a no currency economy, everyone just did what they wanted, and that basic elements of human conflict were verbotten, as a hallmark of his utopian ideals
But it was the first and biggest example I could think of where people did their jobs and there was no paycheck. Federation has rank, but there is no pay grade.
Ugh, latinum, that was a joke.
Ok if I must site Classic Trek episodes....
In the Trouble with Tribbles. Uhura Pays for a tribble
In Mud's Women The dilithium minors are there for cash
Star Trek and money?! That's one of the biggest holes of the show! Must... not... start... discussing.
Anyway. You had me pretty skeptical until the Cash Wall section and then it all made sense. :)
It is so hard for we Americans to imagine a world without money. I've seen it with writers who can imagine a world without money but then have trouble telling stories in that world without bringing in money. I am sure we all tried to a run D&D campaign without money at some point? How many players had a problem with it?
I think the Freemium Economy is very similar to the patronage economy which is how some historians I have read or listened to described the European Economy from about the 7th century to the 14 the century. I don't see a return to such a system unrealistic. I applaud the ambition and imagination of this write-up.
Minor Suggestion: At the end, you make the point about the patronage economy and feudalism (of which the patronage economy was a huge and unremovable peice, but I wouldn't say they are synonyms). That part could be written a little more clearly. Don't reference imaginary historical truths as if your audience was familiar with them. Instead precisely describe the situation. I agree with everyone, Star Trek wasn't realistic. You can't describe every complex problem with a simple metaphor. Drop the dance metaphor and describe how this system works in practice.
I would also start with the references to feudalism in this piece. Since this really is like a thesis: state your conclusion in the beginning and state your conclusion at the end.