Here’s where we jump into science fiction, because the only answer I can see is: become servants. And that is how the Flat Century dies. Upstairs, downstairs isn’t just our past, it’s our future. Because in a world where production of goods and routinized service is increasingly dominated by robots and AI, the social role of servant as a person who takes orders will increasingly be the only thing that an unskilled person has left to offer above the economic level of digging ditches or picking fruit.
I fear that with the reappearance of a servant class the wonderful egalitarianism of the America we have known will fade, to be replaced by a much more hierarchical and status-bound order. Victorian homilies about knowing your place will once again describe a sound adaptive strategy. The rich will live in mansions again, because the live-in help has to sleep somewhere…
This prospect disgusts me; I’m a child of the Flat Century, a libertarian. But I’ve been increasingly seeing it as inevitable, and the genetic analysis I previously cited has tipped me over into writing about it.
Some people who seem dimly to apprehend what’s coming are talking up universal basic income as a solution. This is the long-term idiocy corresponding exactly to the short-term idiocy of the $15-an-hour-or-fight campaigners. UBI would be a trap, not a solution, and in any case has the usual problem of schemes that rely on other peoples’ money – as the demands of the clients increase you run out of it, and what then?
Given the nature of money creation in this country- based as it is on debt creation, one may be able to construct UBI in a way that is actually more stable than our current situation. That is, reduce debt, especially private debt. Public debt may not be good, but it doesn't screw with the economy the way private debt does. And instead of having the Fed meddling in markets it doesn't understand at a high level, let it dole out money at the lowest levels.
The right wing (and I include libertarians in a vast, non-aligned right wing conspiracy to get people the hell off our collective lawns) really ought to figure out how to do this sort of thing. Because you know the left is going to push some idiotic thing through, and it will probably be more pernicious. ESR's idea is a sensible one, but I fear it draws too heavily on historical reality. First, the underclass is not going to like being servants. Second, due to innovation, the elite class is going to find they have no use for these servants.
Another likely approach- the proliferation of walls. Keep the more numerous underclass on one side while the wealthy pay a hell of a lot of taxes to live on the other. There's a lot of potential here, since we've got Empire level military industry. How do you stop them from causing wars and destabilizing a country that wants to end the wars? Sadly, you need to give them something to do... If you just fire them, well, that's kind of begging for destruction.
And left is likely to be just fine with the walls too, though they'd probably add ideological tests at the checkpoints and throw you into the outer darkness if you voted for Trump. Basically, we've got to think like it's 1990 and we've got this crystal ball, and it's telling us about Obamacare. If that had happened, hopefully we would realize we need to get out ahead of the thing and figure out how to head it off at the pass. It's 2018 and the quality of American healthcare is total horseshit because of this stuff. We kept playing a hands off game, and the left kept doing what it does, and people are suffering and dying now because of this garbage.
UBI is no different. Someone is paying good money on a campaign for it. They are in it for the long haul, and if the left implements what the left wants its probably going to suck. How do you head it off? Don't just pretend like it isn't going to show up.