Thomas Mulcair and his socialist NDP party are ahead in the polls for the upcoming federal election, hot on the heels of the NDP Albertan sweep. Of course, polls are only slightly indicative of the political temper, but they do signify something.
What this signifies is more than just ‘politics’ or some vague partisan loyalty or dissatisfaction with Stephen Harper. Rather, there is a cultural shift at work, the genesis of which is found in our schools, universities, media and the very mindset of almost everyone whose principles are formed by these entities (which includes just about every Canadian, unless they actively resist such a formation). The socialist policies espoused by the NDP, and by all of our political parties to one degree or another, are not just economic. They rather embody a whole different approach to life, work, family, morality, and everything subsumed under the all-embracing term ‘culture’.
Allow me to address just one policy that sums up their view, the notion of a minimum income, also known as ‘mincome’. So far, only the NDP in PEI, as well as, curiously, the mayors of Calgary and Edmonton, have publicly espoused this notion, which has been debated for a large part of the previous century, and should be distinguished clearly from minimum wage. A minimum wage guarantees that an employee must receive a certain amount (usually per hour) for work done. But one must first have a job to receive minimum wage.
A minimum income guarantees (again by law) that every citizen of a given age will receive a salary from the government of some sort, whether he has a job or not.
I do not think that in this brief column I could enumerate the problems with this socialist folly, but we can make a start.
Minimum income was actually tried in Canada as an temporary experiment, in Dauphin, Manitoba in the 1970’s. The brief five-year study seemed to show that people continued to work, and that life actually improved under the mincome scheme. From a cursory glance, however, corroborated by subsequent analysis, the experiment did not offer the full long-term effects of putting everyone on a basic wage (not least, everyone knew it was temporary, and that they were being studied). For something more real, consider the current welfare system in our modern society, which functions like minimum income. Can one really argue that those on welfare are better off, and that dependency on welfare has produced good effects for society? On the contrary, welfare, which was never intended to be permanent, but rather a temporary, emergency measure, has created what John Paul II called in Centesimus Annus a permanent and entrenched ‘Welfare State’ , a particularly pernicious drain on a society’s resources.
By intervening directly and depriving society of its responsibility, the Social Assistance State leads to a loss of human energies and an inordinate increase of public agencies, which are dominated more by bureaucratic ways of thinking than by concern for serving their clients, and which are accompanied by an enormous increase in spending. (#48)
The worst harm of this intervention by the State bureaucracy is not economic (which is bad enough), but personal. As the same Pope wrote in his encyclical Laborem Exercens (On Human Labour), we as human beings are perfected and enobled by work. To keep grown men (and, now, women) on permanent fixed incomes for doing nothing leads to a stunting of their development, and an infantilization of the populace. Adults will be turned into permanent wards of the State and its bureaucracy, bored, listless, unfulfilled, watching Netflix and playing Minecraft.
The notion of minimum income is an attempt to put a fig leaf on the growing plague of unemployment and welfare, which is reaching crisis levels here, and more so in many other countries. No longer will there be any ‘welfare’ or ‘unemployment’, for everyone will now be happily employed doing whatever they want to do! Oh joy, oh bliss, as we frolic in pastoral settings waving our government cheques…
But several questions come to mind:
Who is to determine what kind of work is being done, or whether any work is being done at all? Could I receive a minimum income for cycling around the Madawaska Valley, or, ahem, writing a blog? If there is oversight, presumably this would be by government officials, basically turning every citizen into a slave of the State, not to mention also a burden to the State.
Who furthermore is to pay for the near-unimaginable cost of this endeavour? They talk of taxing those of ‘higher income brackets’, but that will not even nearly cover what this will entail, in a country hundreds of billions of dollars in debt.
There is also the problem of incentive. Proponents of minimum income ‘reason’ that people will work harder so that they can increase their incomes, but this is, in general, fallacious. Even Emperor Nero realized that the vast majority of people are content with panem et circenses, with their bread and circuses, which today we might call the internet, beer, pizza, cheap cigarettes. Why would they work harder? This becomes especially relevant if the harder you work ,the more you will be taxed to support the continued growth of the welfare society ‘beneath’ you.
I stopped in to see my mechanic the other day, to tighten the lugs on my car, and in our brief conversation, he mentioned that his other mechanic quit, and he is having great difficulty finding a replacement. Automechanics, he said, is becoming ever-more difficult as cars get more complex, and very few are going into the field.
I thought, hmm, who would want to work in a hot, sweaty garage, covered in oil and grease, toiling away on the undercarriage of vehicles? Unless, of course, one was nicely paid for doing so.
But, if someone can make a decent, or at least a living, wage making paper airplanes or writing the great Canadian novel while sipping coffee in their jammies at home, or, for the more highly inspired, landing some highly-compensated paper-shuffling government job in an air-conditioned office, the answer seems obvious. What would inspire the automechanic to work to pay for all this?
Hard work should be highly compensated so that at least some are inspired to go out there into the field to build and maintain what we used to call an ‘economy’. Saint Paul was right that he who does not work should not eat, for without work, there is no society, no culture, really, no nothing. Unless necessity dictates otherwise (i.e., you are a child or incapacitated), we should all pay for our own bread and circuses.
June 15, 2015