Scenario 2 – What if Basic Income Goes Badly
It is the year 2040. We are in the United States of America. In some periods in history the past is not discussed, and in this particular 2040 United States all people live in a shiny, wonderful present. Everyone is in total agreement the US is the most wonderful place on the planet, and they never had it this good. By any standard of the imagination, this particular vision of the US is a dictatorship, and for the last 60 or so years US society has been steadily evolving toward an impositional Utopian panopticon.
Problems started in 2000 the election of George W. Bush. In retrospect everyone knew that Bush was not formally elected, but rather appointed to deal with the terrified anxieties of several corporate elements in the top of the US. Specific right wing circles had defined the “Next American Century” as destined to become a unipolar world governed by enlightened globalist capitalist, white angolsaxon (moderately christian) values. Behind the scenes those in charge were becoming increasingly desperate about peak oil. The narrative in 2040 is that the corporate sector saved the US from democracy, and in this particular vision of the US the catchphrase democracy has become just as much a contemptible historical atavism as was “socialism”or “communism” political incorrect in the 1960s US. Behind the scenes Neoconservatives and corporate Oligarchs had just had enough of personal freedom. From their perspective they were completely correct – the United States had become a zoo at the turn of the 21st century and in the decades that followed this became progressively worse.
The status quo (which were represented in significant part by an ever more absurdly rich elite element of society) were not just concerned about them losing their massive and absurd privilege – they were resentful of other people getting smarter and more uppity and threatening this privilege. The process about which that uppityness of US commoners was addressed is of course not addressed in the US of 2040. In this particular vision of the US all internet is carefully monitored and censored, and references towards 9/11 truth are of course all foreign propaganda. It took several decades of DHS and FBI and CIA and ATF and IRS and TSA to teach average americans a less in humility. Gradually but surely the US moved towards a police state and this was by intentional design.
It was touch and go there. The US was very close to systemic collapse in the 2010s. The whole world was falling apart, and it was well known the dollar would implode very soon. So when it did, many actors in the US geared in to motion and martial law was declared. For over 20 years the US has come under permanent martial law.
This didn’t mean anything real got addressed. The situation in the US has of course consistently lacked any coherent vision and in effect the United States has gravitated steadily towards a societal paradigm most akin its most bitter North Korean adversary.
This formulated a new social contract, where its most loyal and productive citizens became favored, and there would be constant surveillance and threat of incarceration for everyone else. In 2020 it ws hard to precisely demarkate who was living in a ghetto, who in the US was in a formal state of detention, who was being rehabilitaed, and who was more or less free. In effect 25 million people were part of the correctional process at any time. This process was increasingly being automated and it became the new normal. In fact prison conditions were sharply improving, as it was considerably cheaper to provided “interns” with land, consensual monitoring, automated systems, the means to produce their own food, their own lines of consumer goods and their own technologies to produce sustainable living.
In essence the US was doing anything it could to ration consumption, in a frantic attempt to avoid having to ration the few percentile extremely privileged at the top. And consequently the 1% of the 1% at the top of US society became hundreds of times as rich as the average american in the 2010s, then thousands as times as rich in the 2020s and eventually ten thousands times as rich in the 2030s. The social contract reflected this in imposition of all kinds of state force to coerce citizins in to either passive low consumption compliance, refraining from showing any sense if dissatisfaction and protest, and generally – to not expect much in fear of punishment. It is no surprise (even though in 2040 very few Americans would actually believe this) between 2015 and 3035 five million Americans died “discretely”, most of them non-white hispanics or african americans, in complex and intricate and often very painless forms of expedient attrition. It wasn’t as vulgar as German nazi style entlosing by means of concentration camps, but rather more a subtle societal marginalization, institutional violence and exposure. To ascertain a food balance between stick and carrot the US had to evolve a mechanism of rewards.
In 2022 the US congress implemented a rehabilitation premium. This was in effect a very low basic income. At this time unemploykment in the US was close to 35% average, while youth unemployment (under 25s) was well over 65%. The rehabilitation program was initially mean for NewTowns – completely isolated communities for NewCitizens, where people lived very happy, fairly pleasant, extremely sustainable and extremely indoctrinated lives of near constant surveillance. These communities were selected on health and behavioral modesty of their new constituents, but the only goal was explicitly to make everyone outside these communities (where people lived in significant squallor and violence) want to live in these “arcologies”. People inside these communities were no longer engages in capitalism, consumerism and societal competition – they were directed towards euphemism “neocapitalism”, “gregarianism” and Competition was directed in finding the most effeicient and sustainable means to live in enclosed compounds, suburbs and arcologies. The cornerstone of these communities was in large part based on mind control, the near universal use of highly effective euphoric substances and antidepressants, a pervasive religious ethic and sex. Most people selected for these communities were selected on appearance, and if they weren’t fully suitable plastic surgery was made available to create competitive communities of very pretty and pretty much hyper-docile people.
It is not deniable the US was extremely effective and by any definition this social project was a success. People in the US strongly believe they are very happy, and the amount of people living “the extreme moral degeneracy of private life” has shrunk to 70 million of of 280 million Americans. In twenty years the private sector is assumed to have been mostly dismantled and the sparwling old cities of the 20th century will have been dismantled, replaces, paved over and forgotten as nothing less than a toxic hangover migraine is quickly evaporated by a cocktail of xanax and valium.
And yes- in this future everyone in the US receives a basic income, since by and large they’d tear the place apart if they didn’t. There’s by instant massive revolution. So the 0.1% is giving everyone the bare essentials to survive rather than risk being lynched.