This post is inspired from exchanges with Robert Stark of Stark Truth Radio and is part of the lead-up to our next podcast.
I recently proposed that in a post-labor-scarcity state, a basic guaranteed living ought to be available to everyone, on condition they give up most participation in the market economy. But I also recognize that basic differences among humans must be taken into account.
The majority of humanity requires a clear role and task given them by society to function. So most people on a guaranteed state living would be kept busy.
However, there are those with good intellects and high levels of personal autonomy who are better suited for the leisure economy. They would relinquish money like ancient thinkers did and focus completely on their work.
It may sound at first like a fantastic alien social arrangement from an episode of Star Trek with wrinkly nosed aliens-of-the-week in crisp white robes, but we may consider the very common phenomenon of under-employed highly-educated people.
They “live in their parents’ basement” or small apartments and remain “underachievers” working low-paid jobs well into their 30s. Sometimes we call them NEETs, not in employment, education, or training, even though they may already have multiple college degrees.
They become market underachievers because they value their access to leisure more than careers which are hard to get anyway. There may be an element of sour grapes in that assessment, yet it is true enough oversaturated competition for “professional” niches makes the whole experience a soul-crushing slog for all but the most “ambitious.”
Part of the torture of “making it” is you spend most of your time for the rest of your life around “ambitious” people. If it’s not your natural community, it literally siphons off your spirit until you’re a lifeless husk.
I fit this profile myself and there are times when I actively chose a life of hardship and uncertainty. I worked the lowest jobs to get by, but I also knew I could quit them any time so long as I could save up some money and no one had me completely by the balls. I didn’t have to care and that, I found, is one of the greatest powers on earth.
The tradeoff is, of course, no one gives you a real slice of the pie in this life until they know you’re invested somehow. Whether it’s ritual scarification in the Papua New Guinea highlands, “making your bones” in a gang, or overpriced 4 year degrees, it’s all the same idea. At some level all NEETs are choosing to trade earnings for autonomy.
In my case, I found ways to make even the hours spent working yield some benefit. Nothing tortured me so greatly as spending my scarce time alive making someone else rich. Even back when I was a nearly broke wanderer stocking shelves I was listening to e-books the whole time. I was burning through a 1000 page book every couple of weeks. I became aware in my time as a NEET working alongside lumpenproles that my psychology and motivations were so alien to them as to make me for all practical purposes a specimen of some other species.
I quickly learned I had to hide I was listening to books and to watch my word choice carefully or I’d be ostracized and treated like crap until I quit and went to the next place. I practiced this kind of slash and burn employment until I gradually learned how to make enough small talk with even the simplest normies in their own language to keep them from leaping at my throat.
My experience tells me it would be very easy to distinguish lumpenproles and underclass from stoner underachievers with useless degrees. Most of the time you can tell just by looking at someone or talking to them for 30 seconds or less. We can pretty safely assume some dude wearing a white wifebeater with his pants hanging down isn’t going to write the next great American novel. Perhaps there would be various qualifications and shibboleths to see who gets in and in what capacity.
More importantly, the guaranteed basic living for SWPL dropouts with decent IQ would just have to be unattractive to the masses. It would be tailored for personal freedom at the expense of low IQ creature comforts and that alone would help repel most of those who are not suited for it.
Lumpenproles don’t want autonomy, especially when they must sacrifice security to get it. Their mentality is the exact opposite of the NEET mindset. Living under the control of their betters in the hierarchy actually comforts them, kind of like how dogs enjoy being kept in a closed-in cage at night.
Many of them I’ve worked with actually take pride and comfort in working long hours doing simple tasks as the routine gives them a steady place in society and occupies their energies that would otherwise go into daytime TV, drugs, and petty crime. They really have nothing else better to do with themselves and are happy so long as their stomachs are full of flavored corn-soy soylent and soft drinks.
NEETs on the other hand already spend large amounts of time on video games and TV shows, but they also read books and surf the internet, contributing to the great online discourse.
They already live with one foot out of the market game and would probably be the first to bail entirely if they had an alternative. The market already fails to harness their energies beyond the barest minimum, even at the gunpoint of starvation, shaming, and incelitude so why not let them channel all their energies into a leisure economy driven by passion rather than demand?
It’s easy for us to think that anything done for free lacks value, but how about we consider what it would have cost to write wikipedia and constantly update it with paid personnel?
The collective activity of the editors, however small or great their individual role created on their own initiative a project that would have cost billions of dollars had it been done as a corporate or state project with market capital. Sure enough, encyclopedias produced by market forces have been made all but obsolete. The leisure market effortlessly outperforms the best “competition” can produce.
A leisure economy co-existing with the market economy has made possible immense public resources. As of now it is the wild-grown fruit of people’s free time.
However, when everyone has to focus most of their energies on jobs, many of which are net negatives to society, the focus and depth to which any one person can pursue a project is limited. This keeps the discourse at a fairly superficial level and you’ll rarely see something like a book-level treatment of a subject from someone who isn’t getting paid for it. This is a big reason why newspapers are being driven out of business but books remain firmly under the establishment.
Of course the leisure economy would need some intelligent limits. Perhaps those who produce more or higher quality work get more freedoms to pursue their passions. Many would no doubt be useless high IQ layabouts. Their life of idleness could be strategically soured to provide them some motivation, but we should remember, they’d just be serving coffee if they were forced back into the market and all the state gives them is food, shelter, books, and internet. Even in these worst cases the leisure economy could act as a pressure valve on wages to boost the prospects of those who are dependent on market participation.
31 replies on “NEETs, Lumpenproles, and the Leisure Economy”
Great ideas here. Your description of the different psychologies and interests are very interesting.
The trouble is that there is no such thing as a free lunch.
In this society, if you are not doing something with other people, then your nothing.
Have you ever heard or read anything by Celia Green?
She is like your NEET.
She said that, when she was in school she “gave up belief in society”.
She mocked Dawkins once by saying that he should have written a book called “the Society Delusion.”
What she wants is a “hotel environment”, in order to carry out “research”.
Ever been to a hostel?
They are pretty cool in China.
Imagine a “hostel” that served the demand for the kind of thing your describing?
All the menial stuff is taken care of by “servants” and “staff”; there is a sleeping room, shower, toilet etc. There are kitchens, but also a cafe and a “pub”. There are quiet rooms, a library, and an argument room. An argument room is like a Yeshiva only it is devoted to whatever people want to argue about.
How to make money but, beyond whatever you pick up?
It could serve as a philosophy school, so people can pay for lessons in philosophy, and other things such as this kind of thing:
So, it could have a lot of stuff devoted to knowledge – theoretical and practical.
It could serve an a kind of cryto-anarchist tech centre with paid lessons, or where people go to get custom “tech” done. It could also serve as a site to mine bit-coins or whatever else is useful.
It could also serve as a base for online political activity (thus, it could receive political donations).
It could also serve as the modern equivalent of a monastery, where the monks work on “online” information databases and other projects.
You could have a range of rooms with a range of prices.
People can come and go, they can do work out of the hostel, or come there to just to chill and relax, read, argue, teach, talk or whatever.
Suppose you create some philosophy + psychology + (secret) + (ingredients) you could package it as some kind of new style therapy for profit. Also, crucially, it would serve as an group identity or, as you say, “making your bones” into the club.
Does not have to make a great deal of money at the start, it is more of a “start up” alternative place. However, with time, you can expand the franchise. Then, you scale up and start building tower-blocks and then create your own security team (to protect your property) and then create your own “bit-law” system with your own “bit-courts” which operate according to fees.
Mostly, this is all going to be men right?
One idea, though it is quite different, is gated communities for families.Where you have everything, mostly in one place. You would need a huge tower block to do this kind of thing.
How would Steve Jobs or Jeff Bezos or Donald Trump do it?
In any case, these are just random ideas.
Clearly, there is a quasi-demand for what your writing about. So, how can that demand be met in a way that can be vertically integrated and profited from and then expanded?
I’ve stayed at hostels all around West to Central Europe and in South Korea once. In my experience, you get a bunk and maybe a flimsy locker hoping your stuff doesn’t get stolen by broke Australian drug addicts.
The places you’re describing with the servants and the libraries sounds awesome. They should put that in a fantasy novel.
As far as demand I note what people are already doing. People like me are willing to give society the finger and do whatever the hell they want even if it would have been strictly more rational to bow and scrape until they got “a living.”
A worldwide travel network for dropout SWPLs just might work because lumpenproles and true underclass don’t value travel. All underclass gangstas want is power in the neighborhood where they’re at.
It probably would be a mostly male pursuit like anything at the extreme edges of production and that would be fine because it would drive away posers who just want to get laid as situational alphas.
I do worry though that these guys would be incels, and I would want them to pass on their genes somehow. Western monasteries produced lots of good works but I can’t help but suppose they were highly dysgenic.
My experience of hostels in China was usually always positive.
The “hotel” environment is far from being a “fantasy”, but it does require funding.
The idea is not as far fetched as it sounds:
Anthony Garrett Lisi also came up with the idea of a “Science Hostel”:
en dot wikipedia dot org/wiki/Antony_Garrett_Lisi#Science_hostel
sifter dot org/%7Eaglisi/sh.html
halfbakery dot com/idea/Science_20Hostel
However, what he really meant is a “Science Brothel”:
www dot pacificscienceinstitute dot org
Have you ever collected unemployment?
Even though it is less than an hourly wage, you can do quite well. You don’t have to commute or spend as much on lunch out.
Even most right wingers (traditional Republicans) don’t think you are leeching off the system. Only the libertarian tough guys and feminists think that an able bodied man not scrubbing floors is “oppressing” everyone.
And when you have to re-enter the workforce, you casually mention that you were “laid off,” it doesn’t carry the stigma of quiting due to stress or being fired “for cause.”
I once collected Maryland food stamps for a few months just for shits and giggles. I never followed any of the instructions and abused the hell out of my allowance and they still kept giving it to me for awhile.
I blew most of it at whole foods to test how far it would go. I got myself smoked salmon, goose liver and port pate, extra-aged gouda, dried dates and figs, organic rosemary crackers, mineral spring soda water, Irish grassfed butter, Icelandic drinkable yogurt, Californian Kombucha… To my amusement it wasn’t until I got ultra fancy prosciutto that cost $9.00 for 6 oz that I finally had to pay with my own money.
I’ve never worked a serious enough job to even worry about unemployment. I got 5 days paid vacation for the first time in my life in the last year and I have a car. More luxury than I’ve ever had. My “time off” during my 20s was in between jobs. I’d spend a few months smoking cigars and drinking X.O. Armagnac until I got the next crap job to fill in the gaps. I really didn’t care about this piece of shit society or my own life within its pathetic bounds. Now, I have another 20-30 years or so to do major stuff and then it’s a steady descent into senility and death. Should be plenty of time. I now have more sense of purpose and hope that we can do more than just “enjoy the decline.”
haha, anytime someone mentions Wholefoods, I think of this…
Free range gluten, lol!
[…] Source: Forward Base B […]
I guess I am a highly self-directed NEET or something – I´ve spent most of my 20s building up a software company so I can have autonomy AND income.
But I totally get the underlying psychology and I can relate to those stories of doing warehouse work while listening to e-books.
If the NEET can direct SOME of that energy into “self-improvement”, then great things can happen.
I listen to lectures at work. People think I’m listening to music, but it’s always something educational and interesting. I thought I was the only one.
The solution for us though isn’t universal income. It’s social respect for the work we ARE doing. We only respect the top of the pyramid. That’s why janitor is a job that “Americans won’t do.” Immigrants don’t have that cultural problem, so they come in and slide effortlessly into those slots. If you’re an American working a low-end job but are a good person, saving a little money, paying your bills on time and staying on the straight-and-narrow, you’re still a nobody. Unless you make 6 figures, fuck you. Only the most ambitious top 5% are going to see value from that arrangement. The only modern utility of intelligence is making money. Why be smart otherwise? It’s a pathological mindset, and it will be the death of us.
I was talking with a programmer friend recently about github and open source in general and asked him how/why it worked. It all stunk to me because everywhere you turn it’s about being free and open, and the biggest pushers of this narrative are Intel and other international corporations.
He said that there is actually money involved, but open source in general is pushed because the benefits of open-source are too great – a sort of “all ships rise with the tide”. Even though IP lawsuits “make” tons of money, somewhere along the way it was understood that development speed is simply too slow if everything was closed source. Some companies apparently set aside time or otherwise put some of their code up for the public after completion, plus there’s apparently a non-insignificant proportion of programmer types who just like to do things in their free time. All of this would be lost resources if open source wasn’t a thing. This kind of cost exists in traditional market economy fields too, everyone’s just decided that it’s a cost worth bearing.
The money part comes from: taking a bunch of open-source code, adding your own 5~10% on top, then closing it off and putting a brand on it. e.g. Linux is now Android.
Both of which also appear in videogame mods, which ran into this really big kerfuffle a couple years back when paid mods were implemented on Steam for Skyrim. The system was changing to allow mod uploaders to charge money, some percentage cut which would go Valve and Bethesda. A number of modders went switched, and as a result a lot of other mods stopped working because of dependencies – dependencies which didn’t matter in the past. Some mods which were free as released by the original modder were re-uploaded by someone else behind the paywall. Everyone came out with pitchforks (there was quite a bit of “you’re just poor” accusing going around too) and I’m pretty sure any modder which switched never recovered.
Gabe Newell came out of being a hermit for once in a reddit AMA or something about the ordeal and said, among other things, quote:
“Actually money is how the community steers work.”
to which a 3-starred response came
“Funny, the community successfully steered modding work in Elder Scrolls for about ten fucking years with nothing but goodwill and thanks, before you guys got involved.”
Steam reverted paid mods quickly, but they make noises about it every once in a while because gatekeeping is how they print their money, so everything looks like a gatekeeping opportunity. Put enough gates on it though and it looks like a corporation, and we can see what that looks like: Bethesda games are barely worth playing with enough of the right mods, and are complete trash without. In my opinion, every cent they do make selling Skyrim, Fallout etc. are thanks to the modders who make their game more attractive. In their opinion, modders creating stuff on their videogame is losing them additional money they could’ve had.
If the modders made enough money though they’d probably just go ahead and sue. Like Blizzard. Or Nintendo. Or, in a slightly different field, Monsanto.
The fact that something like Linux (ignoring for a moment all the money IBM has pumped into it) can work better than the free market should give us a clue that “the free market” is not the be-all end-all system – volunteer work (again, ignoring external funding which is still orders of magnitude lower than something like that “should” cost) should be a rounding-error, yet it is of the world-changing order.
Linux is a major anomaly in the free-market paradigm, in other words, which hints at massive productivity gains to be had if certain constraints and incentives are aligned to further unlock creative / cognitive reserves that exist in the broad-masses. Ie Deep Work is the new structural unemployment (eg a potential that is underutilized merely due to the way the system is set-up, not due to any “natural” market incentives).
Opensource and linux are free market solution. It is people’s own free choice to work on opensource and it is the companies’ calculated commercial interest to use and release opensource. GPL explicitly use IP laws to forbid others from deriving from the work without releasing their improvements.
“Opensource and linux are free market solution. ”
They are free market in a legalistic sense – but really, whatever they are deserves a new label.
“…on condition they give up most participation in the market economy…”
BIG mistake. What does it hurt you if someone works on some far out idea that might make money some day? Not at all. You should set it up that even billionaires get the basic income. Yes they will only be getting back the money they put in but it makes it universal. The Harry Potter books were written when she was on welfare. Would you have her forgo profits from them? This would also allow people who don’t just live in their minds but like to build things an opportunity to drop out and try to create something new. It would be a BIG boost for technology and for very specialized products. People could make highly individualized one of a kind things that would maybe only sell one every five years or so but they might be also be highly inventive. Rube Goldberg engineering masterpieces. People could also work on highly advanced processes that take a lot of thought and experimentation but not a lot of money. Transistors were first made in basically garages. Sony was started in a shack in Japan by buying a license to produce transistors which he produced himself to make miniature radios and hi-fi tape drives.
This would also raise marriage rates. First Women should never ever be able to take the basic income from Men. Not for child support or anything else. If they could then we would just be back to where we started and it would become a subsidy for Women. This means that Women would be more likely to stay in a family as two can live together much cheaper than one. Also no one can lay any claim to the basic income for any reason at all. The only reason would be if you were in jail but there would be some time period before you got out that it couldn’t be taken. Say a month or so. That would mean you wouldn’t be destitute when you got out of jail and if so inclined could carry on with your life maybe not screwing up. (Some people will never learn but it’s the ones that can that the policy is for. The ones that never learn can’t be punished into compliance or least can’t be punished in a manner that we now consider moral.) All other debts could never touch the basic income.
It might help raise population rates as Men and Women would be much more likely to live together then it follows some will get pregnant. With tiny houses instead of McMansions you could get by easy. People used to live in smaller houses they just told the kids to go outside. With the rise of cheap electronics lots of books and other amusement are free.
This would really help poor people while letting them work to better themselves. The fact that they could always live off the basic means that they would be less likely to be exploited as you noted they could tell the boss to fuck off.
It would eventually lower crime with a change in the way we handled criminals. When you can live without crime then there’s no excuse. We could be ruthless to criminals and pan handlers that make public areas inaccessible to average law abiding people who don’t want others menacing them.
Where would the money come from? Basic income of $16,000 a year would be $4.8 Trillion. Budget is currently $3.9 Trillion.
$1 Trillion is SS so basic income could be substituted for that so we would need $3.8 Trillion. Tough. We need another Trillion dollars to do it.
So I looked up average SSI check and it’s $14,160 a year. So not much difference from the $16,000 basic income. I say get rid of the FED and print the extra Trillion. I think that the economic gains from people having a basic income would raise revenue to counter. In actuality why have income tax at all. Just print whatever the government needs but there has to be a way to stop the government from being 100% of the economy or they’ll make it that way. So you would need to limit it to a percentage of revenue.
It’s going to be tough to do this without printing money. The reason is looking at this graph it seems you can only get 20% revenue no matter how much you tax and no matter what you tax.
OK I found another graph and SSI, welfare and food assistance all comes to around $2.45 Trillion. So that comes to $8,166 per person but I don’t know how many people that covers already as they would all be moved to basic income. It’s the rest that would have to covered.
Cool idea session, a blog post by itself. The biggest problem I see here is if everyone gets basic income, prices simply rise to adjust for that. Look at the effect universal college loans have on tuition or the insurance industry on healthcare.
Also if you suddenly created another trillion dollars you’d end up with massive inflation of the currency but no change in real value.
I’ve been thinking the state should control the banks directly but the main means of economic control is easier loans for sectors you want to grow, kind of like selectively watering a garden.
Great article. The bohemian lifestyle has its advantages but I wouldn’t recommend free government money. Best to find a patron, or if you’re reasonably good looking, a rich woman. Go to Miami or other hangouts. Lotsa rich, lonely women out there who like striving artistes. Go for it. Read Clifford Irving. However, protect yourself, a place no one can touch.
What you are suggesting can only be done in a small country with a small population like say Switzerland. Anything bigger and it will be a mess due to too many uncontrollable and unknowable variables.
Big countries have to figure out social and economic systems that make sense in a post-industrial world. I suppose it is possible they fail at it and maybe we have another dark age.
A big country is just a bunch of smaller ones. In a big country if you have a basic income people could move all around and find themselves a place that would work for them. I think it would be easier to make it work in a big country except that of it failed it would be a BIGGER failure.
A big country is a bunch of smaller ones only if it is decentralized and states as well as municipalities get to make their own laws and operate with autonomy without much interference from the center. This, however is too much to ask for. Look around you and tell me what you see?
As of now, there is no single big country (with a population over 20 million) that is decentralized. Power, having a logic of it’s own, always tends to centralize. And Central/Federal authority always loves to impose it’s will on people living thousands of miles away about whom it knows little and about whom it cares even less.
Dunno, Sam J. and Giovanni. This seems like an intractable problem to me!
I’ve definitely thought of this problem and it’s lead me to think of the way society is developing in the information age as neo-tribalism. Better communication is allowing smaller, more organic group strategies to scale much larger than before, which neutralizes the beueaucratic state’s main advantage: sheer size. That’s pretty much what we see happening with alt-populism vs. the establishment.
“…Dunno, Sam J. and Giovanni. This seems like an intractable problem to me!…”
You may be right.
Societies always contest resources, and the resource most contested is freedom.
Forward Base B needs a virtual army of avatars to fight other websites.
What? Like 4chan raids?
I like the idea! IRL I already call-out prole behaviour, risking my neck in the process!
The intellectual who operates in a leisure vacuum away from the firestorms of ordinary life relies primarily upon the respect of his position. In Ancient Greece, there were plenty of ordinary Joe Slobs sunning themselves on the beach and thinking about pussy and ouzo, while the philosophers worked in the shade, but the philosophers — in a mass media-absent society — were given prime place of culture. Look at Plato, fer God’s sake, he was fed just enough ego-worship from fellow citizens that he wanted himself to take over everything. Is there a philosopher today, no matter how arrogant and vain, who would write the same proposal seriously? Stalin would have him shot, the American Founders would have him exiled (or duel-shot like Alexander Hamilton, the only one who compares). Mass media elevates the rock star, the A-list celeb, and the porn star. Enjoy the days of brilliant ruminations as Lil Candy of xvideos (do a search of her, she’s cute) fellates the team.
The observation you make here is a reason why I’ve written a lot about caste systems or other social buffers to protect quality output from getting flooded out by low-brow mass popularity.
19th century books were written with a way higher standard of literacy often with passages in Greek and Latin if only because proles couldn’t read yet.
Or we can look at computer games before everyone had PCs at home.
Early adventure games often had puzzles and nerdy humor you’d never find in a mass market release now.
Even shooters like wolfenstein 3D or Doom didn’t have arrows guiding you towards the next checkpoint. A surpsingly large amount of time was spent searching for keys, nudging around boxes to jump on, and finding secret passages.
We just need less crude methods than random conditions of scarcity and ignorance.