Guaranteeing a Living Wage – Is It Even Possible?

A living wage is defined “as a wage that is high enough to maintain a normal standard of living.” I found that when I asked the google for a definition. When I asked about a guaranteed living wage I got: “…that all citizens or families have an income sufficient to live on, provided they meet certain conditions.”

I first heard of the concept in the early ’80s when I read Critical Path by R. Buckminster Fuller. He had a whole slew of wonderful ideas in that book, including how to use the power of the sun world around to make sure we had plenty of solar energy. San Diego company Geni ( describes this idea pretty well.

But Bucky questioned the whole idea of the need to earn a living. He said:

We must do away with the absolutely specious notion that everybody has to earn a living. It is a fact today that one in ten thousand of us can make a technological breakthrough capable of supporting all the rest. The youth of today are absolutely right in recognizing this nonsense of earning a living. We keep inventing jobs because of this false idea that everybody has to be employed at some kind of drudgery because, according to Malthusian-Darwinian theory, he must justify his right to exist. So we have inspectors of inspectors and people making instruments for inspectors to inspect inspectors. The true business of people should be to go back to school and think about whatever it was they were thinking about before somebody came along and told them they had to earn a living. “The New York Magazine Environmental Teach-In” by Elizabeth Barlow in New York Magazine (30 March 1970), p. 30

He said something similar in Critical Path I’m quite sure because I’ve never read The New York Magazine.

Income disparity, robots and the ‘net

We’re hearing more about the possibilities of a guaranteed living wage, I suspect, because we’re also hearing more about the growing income disparity not just in the U.S., but around the world. Plus we’re already seeing the impact of robots – and that will only grow.

In June of 2016 Switzerland voted against the idea of a guaranteed living wage. The New York Times indicated various reasons which, in my not very humble opinion, boiled down to fear of a massive change like this.

Scott Santens on Medium poses some truly scary questions about the whole notion of needing to earn a living. Scary or exciting, depending on your view. He’s not the only one to question the morality of forcing people to work for a living. I love his reasoning. He points out that working for ourselves is a truly hard, almost impossible option if there isn’t a living wage to back you up. I agree.

Bloomberg makes it clear that robots will certainly, no are certainly lowering the number of jobs. If there literally are no more jobs, or very few, what’s the morality of being forced to somehow earn a living by working for others? Would it even be possible? What might happen to the whole idea of work?

‘Experience worldwide indicates a pressing need for new and simpler methods of income distribution,’ says says Kalle Moene, director of ESOP – the Centre for the Study of Equality, Social Organization and Performance at the University of Oslo, and his Indian-American colleague, Debraj Ray, who is affiliated to the Centre. Read more at:

I hadn’t even thought of a paycheck being a way to redistribute money, but it certainly is! It may well be that governments could provide its citizens a ‘citizen’ income based on the gross national income (it’s not clear how environmental costs would be included in this number if at all) at a lower cost then the whole industry if you will of providing and maintaining jobs.

How might this work?

I have no clue how this would actually work. I do, however, have an intuitive sense that it could. As I recall, Bucky figured the planet, could afford to pay every person about $40,000 a year – no this is my memory and it’s not adjusted for inflation. After everyone got tired of buying tons of stuff, 10 percent of the folks would start thinking and would come up with the ideas that would support this.

Naive? You bet!

Stop, however, for a moment and let yourself dream a bit. Do we live in an abundant universe or not? Remember this? Bet you can guess my opinion.

What’s yours?

Love, blessings and planetary abundance,

Anne Wayman: When Grandmother Speaks



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