Jonathan Brun

Was that the Peak?

Every system has its limits. With the current coronavirus economic shutdown, I am starting to wonder if we just saw, experienced and passed the peak of our current economic system. Looking back through history we often see people and societies who thought they were living in remarkable times, but in reality their times were no more or less remarkable than others. That is, we have a tendency to overestimate our own importance and the importance of the times we live in. In nearly all situations that assessment is correct. Things do indeed usually revert to the mean. Crisis after crisis seems at first to be a shift, but within months things are nearly back to the way they were. But when we look closer, each crisis creates a crack in the windshield of the system. In general, the windshield holds, but eventually all windshields break. When that happens there  can be a dramatic restructuring of society. We can only truly determine this after the fact and more often than not these large transitions are driven by war and destruction.

The last truly great world shattering event was the collapse of the Soviet Union and the OECD countries have not had a major structural change in nearly 70 years. The last great social transition in the capitalist world was caused by the two world wars, which one could easily argue were in fact one war with a pause in the middle. The world before WWI was still a world of aristocrats, empires, and a very unequal society. When this world finally came crashing down at the end of La Belle Époque/Gilded Age (1880-1914) it cost nearly a hundred millions lives. The first world war marked a clear and final transition from an agrarian and aristocratic society to a liberal and industrial society. This transition had been ongoing for a hundred years with the inventions of steam power, locomotives and electricity. But it took the war to begin that final transition.

The first world war left many issues unresolved, particularly in Europe. It took a brief time of peace and then another global conflict to conclude this transition to the new world order we still live in. The transition was only complete after the second world war when Europe’s economic capital and its political capitals had be decimated. This opened a financial and economic space for workers and the middle class to rapidly build capital and political power, creating progressive social democratic states that dramatically improved the health and wealth of most of their members. Since this momentous transition we have continued along a path has seen bumps in the road, but whose trajectory has been fairly steady. After the post-war booms, we began to liberalize and privatize our economies all while offering greater  civil liberties for individuals. This trajectory of progress did see a notable economic inflection point in western societies in the 1980s.

It is now very well documented that during the past forty years wealth creation has disproportionately favoured the richest instead of the working population. There has been a slow but steady transfer of wealth from the workers and to the capitalist class – the class of people who own the capital. Workers have kept up their lifestyle by taking out additional debt and by counting on the appreciation of the values of their homes, which have generally increased in value faster than wages – un untenable long term trend. This inversion in the 1980s from a middle class growing in wealth and power to a middle class losing wealth and power is attributable to the social and political structure we have collectively chosen. These structures can change. It is not easy, it is not fast, but when it does happen it can signal a significant shift whose outcome is often difficult to predict.

There was already a general consensus that by 2019 we had pushed our planet to an ecological and financial limit. The stock market was at record highs by traditional metrics (price to earnings) and global warming was galloping ahead at breakneck speeds. The scientific consensus remains that we were and remain on track for global warming that will bring modern civilization to a halt. There are technical solutions available to this problem, but what we were lacking was the political will (and structure) to execute and scale up these solutions. The ecological crisis was in reality a consumption crisis.

Within the metrics of the old economy based on oil and cheap products from developing countries, we were over-consuming and creating excess greenhouse gases (not to mention garbage and resource depletion). In terms of solving this problem of environmental degradation, there are basically two school of thoughts. The first one argues that we should aim for degrowth and live more modestly. This is rooted in a certain belief that the we must live in harmony with the natural world and that, at the end of the day, the planet would be better off without these pesky humans. The second school of thought can be summarized as technological salvation. That is, we can innovate our way to a world where we live within the limits of the biosphere. I am firmly in the second camp.

I believe that there is an economy that allows all people to enjoy a high quality of life, the ability to travel and eat a rich diet, but that is also within the limits of our planet (and other planets too ;-). I also believe that this approach to the environmental crisis is much more palatable to the general public. If you try to tell everyone they need to sacrifice their quality of life for the planet you are unlikely to get widespread support (it has been tried in the past). To get to this world of ecological harmony between human society and the biosphere, we need to combine innovation with finance and politics to drive our civilization forward. This is no easy task. To achieve such a transformation it is critical to understand the foundations of our civilization. I cannot possibly achieve such an explanation in a blog post, but I hope to point out a few key facts derived from others.

Ray Dalio, the founder of the world’s largest hedge fund, has explained that there really four core drivers (video) of the economy and society. Solving these four items or improving them will be the bedrock of any solution we come up with. In order of importance they are :

  1. Inventiveness and creativity (which drives productivity and is fairly stable)
  2. Short term debt cycle (crash every 9 years or so)
  3. Long term debt cycle (crash/restructuring every 75 years or so)
  4. Politics (internal (domestic), external (international), how we deal with each other)

He goes on to explain that there are four key ways to deleverage (reduce the amount of debt as a function of assets) is,

  1. Print Money (central bank)
  2. Write-Off debts (various people can write off debt, but that hits their balance sheets and has knock on effects)
  3. Redistribution of wealth (from rich to poor)
  4. Austerity (has lots of negative side effects)

Of the first four factors in our economy, creativity is by far the most important. Technology – whether it be in the form of machines, business processes, or software is the core driver of human wealth. As people have said, “if we don’t make stuff, there is no stuff” and if we do not make stuff more efficiently than before we are no wealthier than before. Ray Dalio published a review of the last 500 years of GDP, and when you look at it you can barely see the crises that happened throughout the centuries.

Last 500 years of GDP Growth, where are the crises?

The point is that we are living through an economic debt crisis right now, not a creativity problem. Technological innovation and the restructuring of the economy will allow us to change the system for the better and start on a new trajectory that is onwards and upwards.

If we accept that the main solution to our problems is technological innovation, then we need to focus our attention on deploying the technology that will help us continue our growth and improve quality of life. I firmly believe that the path forward is through green, carbon free (or low carbon) technology. We already have a lot of the technology such as electric cars, clean energy, biodegradable materials, etc. The main challenge that remains is mostly political.

We need politics to restructure and invest so that we can deploy green technology on a massive scale. This deployment is akin to the war efforts of WW1 & 2. The Green New Deal is very much in this vein. De-growth is not a solution. De-growth would condemn millions if not billions to a lower quality of life, less education and a return to the dark ages. Growth through green tech is our only path forward, but the obstacles remain political – not technological. To overcome the political barriers there is going to be some pain. The question that remains is who will take on the burden of this transition?

Since the 1980s, inequality has increased while social mobility has decreased. We are now at a point where many millennials and working class families no longer see a path to the “American Dream” of a nice house, cars and a healthy family with a bright future. The rise of inequality is well documented and if you agree with Thomas Picketty’s work (which I do), then we can agree that this growing inequality is not a random event, but it is rather inexorably linked to the capitalist social order that we have chosen. In fact, the inequality is partially linked to these short term and long term debt cycles that allow the wealthy to leverage their money to grow their investments faster than the actual income of people (which is driven by productivity to a certain extent). The debt cycles themselves are based on a deeper social structure that is well outlined in Picketty’s latest book, Capital et Idéologie.

Turning back to the current crisis. I will venture to say that we risk seeing a serious re-evaluation of the things we buy, invest in and do with our time. Much of this will be driven by large factors such as access to capital and debt, some of it will be linked to social changes such as social distancing and some of it will be driven by politics. As an example, China was already slowing last year before COVID took over the scene. With their society past its demographic peak it was somewhat understandable that we had (temporarily) passed a production peak. Due to China’s size this will inevitably spill over into other countries and economies. The COVID cirisis will on exacerbate this trend. The other major factor that COVID will have is the debt challenge. As an example, if commercial real estate is much less in demand, we will see a corresponding decrease in its value. This impacts mortgages, leverage and the health of both real estate holders and their banks. The consequences are hard to predict.

To end on a positive note, I do see an opportunity to use the COVID crisis as a global event that unites us in a common cause. Most nations have a crisis or a war as a central rallying point within their collective imagination. The French have the revolution, the British have the second world war and the Battle of Britain, the Americans have Pearl Harbour, the Russians have Stalingrad, and the Chinese have their own revolution and fight with the Japanese. Until now, there has not been a single global event to unites everyone around the world. If we can place COVID in the collective imagination as a global conflict that we fought and beat together, we may able to leverage this event to work on global challenges such as climate change and our ecological transition. As discussed above, this will take not just speeches, but a true changing of our politics and politicians as well as a financial structure that actually accounts for the degradation of the environment and drives capital to a low carbon, high productivity economy. I remain optimistic that we can make this transition, but it will only happen if we vote and fight for the right types of leaders and institutions.

Published on May 17, 2020

On COVID-19, Crisis, and Basic Income

Cassandra – National Museums Northern Ireland

When the Coronavirus broke out last year in China, it seemed so far away. My wife and I had plans to move to Shanghai in April for two months and I would work from our offices there. We optimistically hoped that China would get the disease under control in January and February and it would all be back to normal in April. Today, in China, business and life are returning to normal and there is a good chance that on April 1st, 2020 it will be business as usual with the streets of Shanghai filled with people moving at a frenetic high and the delicious aromas of street food in the air.

While China is getting back up and running, the rest of the world is in lock-down and chaos. This turn of events is both surprising and highly predictable. It is surprising and disappointing that despite warnings we did not prepare better. The way I look at it, “Western Society” had 100 years to prepare for this Pandemic. Just over 100 years ago, the Spanish flu swept through the world in 1918-1920 and killed millions and taught us valuable lessons. Since then we have developed reams of people trained in advanced risk planning, risk assessment, economists, epidemiologists, and a variety of other professions. We built international organizations such as the WHO. We had numerous recent warnings and practice sessions for a pandemic with SARS, MERS and EBOLA. Despite all this knowledge and experience, western governments have failed miserably in their job to protect their people and their economies. The difference in the actions of China and other countries is often attributed their centralized government with strong powers and a population that is used to following orders. This line of argument was recently highlighted in the NY Times and other publications. While there is an element of truth, it is a gross oversimplification and it is an abdication of our responsibility to maintain organizations, systems and plans for a potential pandemic. If there is one conclusion I can draw from the COVID chaos so far, it is that knowledge is not enough. Governments must actively plan, practice and coordinate their various institutions and governments to ensure they can act swiftly when a new virus emerges. I would suspect that most Western countries felt they were prepared for a pandemic, but our overconfidence has led us down the path we are now on.

While the ineptitude of the west is unpleasant, it is even more remarkable that we are surprised by this crisis. Frankly, I am frustrated in my own failure to see this coming and to sell off my stock portfolio! In our globalized and connected world it should have been clear that a virus that infected tens of thousands of people in China would eventually seep out of the country and contaminate the world. We knew that the virus was fairly contagious, certainly more so than SARS, and yet we kept plodding along as if China was hermetically sealed. Some countries limited flights to China, but we all know that it only takes one person to contaminate a very, very large population. There are certainly mountains of academic papers on humanity’s collective failure to see large events coming when they are perfectly clear in hindsight. Sure, hindsight might be 20/20, but with our experts and highly educated populations, why were more people not ringing massive alarm bells in January 2020? Anyways, moving along…

Perception of the Economy & Money

There will certainly be some positive outcomes from this crisis. First and foremost, people are starting to understand how the economy is in fact just a bunch of people transferring money to each other for services. One person’s expenses is another person’s income. Wow! Holy Moly! Who knew?

Night Of Disaster Painting
Graham Coton

If we shut down one part of the economy the rest comes to a really abrupt halt, all the way down the line. It’s almost as if we are on a moving train with interconnected parts! One surprise, to some at least, is how tightly wound the economy is. A month without revenue – for people or businesses – is often more than they can handle. There is very little buffer in our society which still has a majority of people living paycheck to paycheck and many businesses in a similar situation. Hopefully this crisis will teach us the importance of planning for the future, helping the less fortunate and building businesses, institutions, people and family that can withstand longer periods of rationing. Beyond preparation and coordination, I am optimistic that this crisis will change our perception of money and what the government can do when it wants to.

To try and prevent or mitigate the current train crash, certain governments, such as Canada and the United States, are implementing a form of basic income for those hit by this crisis. Starting in April Canada will offer $2,000 per month to all residents who lost their job or were affected by the crisis. The Canadian government, after a successful petition by UBI Works (with which I am involved), consolidated a variety of programs into a central program that will start April 6th, and begin distributing $2,000 checks by April 16th. This basic income will be critical to stabilizing the economy and keeping people going. While $2,000 is not enough to live on for some, it is a good start. This relatively unconditional monetary issuance will set a new standard for what is possible and I am optimistic that it will break our traditional perception of what government can do. The Globe and Mail outlines how the program is in fact a significant departure from traditional employment insurance programs. Perhaps this emergency program will be the breach in the dam of complex government programs.

I have been active in the basic income movement for nearly seven years and in that time I have seen a variety of advocacy approaches. My take has always been that basic income is much more revolutionary than people realize. It is not simply a transfer of money, it is a transfer of power. By issuing a basic income to all citizens, you are reducing the influence of the rich and eroding their money and power. The consequence is a more even playing field where a larger swath of society have a fair shot in life. However, because basic income takes something away from powerful people it was always going to be hard to implement. My thinking back then and today is that the only way to institute a basic income was during a period of economic crisis. During a time of social and economic upheaval, government and the people could make this radical change without giving the opposition the time to organize a fight. Naomi Klein has written a lot about disaster capitalism where governments privatize industry during times of upheaval. I do think that disaster politics can go in the other direction to, progressive ideas can become mainstream when a crisis takes place. Milton Friedman wrote, “Only a crisis—actual or perceived—produces real change. When that crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around. That, I believe, is our basic function: to develop alternatives to existing policies, to keep them alive and available until the politically impossible becomes the politically inevitable.” The key is to take the temporary and conditional cash transfer Trudeau has created and turn it into an actual permanent and universal basic income. The $2,000 transfer is a key step towards an actual universal and unconditional transfer of wealth to all members of society.

Now that the program is in place UBI Works is pushing for this basic income to become universal and permanent. A real basic income would allow the economy and society to be far better prepared for the next crisis. A basic income would create the buffer that society needs in a time of crisis. It would set a foundation under the feet of everyone and allow us to withstand the future storms that are bound to hit us.

Published on March 30, 2020

On having a child

It is tremendously easy to have a baby. Of course, the hard part is to raise the child and be there for them throughout their life – regardless of the child’s personality, capacity’s and fortune. This past August, I had my first child, Samuel, who has been a true blessing. As I write this, he is trying to learn to crawl on his nearby play-mat.

As with other life events such as love, death of a close family member, bankruptcy, success or health issues – is hard to understand what something means without experiencing it first hand. Unsurprisingly, it is hard to convey what having a child and more importantly, having a human depend entirely on you, feels like until you actually hold one in your hands and stare into the depths of their eyes.

At my age of 36 many friends now have children and I have had the opportunity to spend time with older friends who already have grown or semi-grown children. They all explained the various benefits and challenges of raising a child and in all honesty this helped prepare for my own child. However, when my friends had children over the past few years, I would offer my congratulations and a gift, but the congratulations was not nearly as wholehearted as it is today. When I received congratulations from family and friends upon the news of the birth, I could hear a much higher level of enthusiasm in their voice. Once you have a child, you understand the true blessing that it is and you feel a much deeper sense of joy when someone else has their own child.

I have always felt that there are no shortcuts in life and we cannot reinvent the wheel. To life a full, happy life you need certain key ingredients; a meaningful purpose, a strong partner and ideally, children to take care of. Only through these things can you really experience the full spectrum of the human condition. Of course, some people cannot or choose not to have children and this is not meant as a criticism of their choice. Yet, without reproduction our species would disappear and without child rearing, our children would not survive. Like music, food, friendship, love and hate – there is undoubtedly an innate powerful desire to have and raise children hard coded into the depths of our genetic code.

My wife and I have been blessed with a healthy and easy baby. He sleeps well, eats well and barely cries. We are also in the most fortunate of situations with the presence of many family members who are more than eager to babysit and help. Colleagues and friends who do not have such a strong support system or who have difficult babies face a much, much greater challenge than us. It is therefore absolutely critical that our society continues to support families and especially those with more difficult situations. I am very proud that Québec offers subsidized daycare services for only 10$ a day as well as one year maternity leave, 5 weeks fatherly leave, and our Canadian government offers the world’s most generous child support program – the Canada Child Benefit Program, which offers up to $7,500 dollars per year per child based on your income. These programs make a world of difference and are critical to levelling the playing field for all children; giving them a fairer shot at success. Having a child may be easy, but raising a productive member of society is a huge challenge and this support system is critical to our society’s future.

Children are their own people. While they may look up to their parents until their teenage years, they are eventually on this planet to do their own thing. Too many parents project their own values, goals, and failed ambitions on their children. My modest hope is to empower our child to pursue success and happiness in this challenging world. There are no shortage of parenting articles or books, but my approach is to first say thank you to my wife, who inevitably does more than me, and then to offer a steady hand while our son faces the exciting milestones of life. I look forward to the journey ahead and I hope to encourage others to embark on the same rewarding adventure.

Published on January 6, 2020

Capitalism and a market-based economy are not the same thing

Capitalism and a free market economy are not the same thing. While this may seem evident to many, there seems to be a general confusion that leads to all sorts of challenging discussions. If you aim to change or improve a system, it is first critical to properly understand it. To understand a complex system such as a modern economy you should probably start with some of the core organizing principles. How do we allocate resources among citizens? How free are citizens? How much control does a central authority have? etc. It is clear that we cannot address all of this in a blog post, but I wanted to point out one critical issue that keeps coming up in discussions – capitalism is a method of distributing resources in a society. In contrast, a market based system of exchange of goods and services is a mechanism to force organizations to improve their performance and the value they deliver. While there are strong linkages between the two concepts, they are not the same thing.

When discussing politics, the common refrain is that capitalism and our current form of democracy are the best systems we have and we should be content to keep plodding along. I will put aside the democracy issue for now, as that merits another post. There is a common social acceptance that capitalism was the driving force behind the insane economic growth of the last 300 years. From the industrial revolution to the latest AI startup, we tend to chalk up progress to the existence of capitalism. However, I would argue that we have a strong tendency to conflate capitalism and a market based economy. It is not simply a chicken and egg question (though it partially is). What came first, capital or innovation? Capital over the past millennia was generally stable and then exploded in the industrial revolution. What changed? We still had kings, aristocracy, the church and other organizing forces. Innovation allowed organizations to offer greater value in the form of cheaper goods – kicking off competition, which is a self reinforcing flywheel that has kept accelerating ever since.

Capitalism

Capitalism is commonly defined as “an economic and political system in which a country’s trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit, rather than by the state.” This definition seems fairly clear, but I would argue that it conflates ownership with trade. Capital is a representation of the accumulation of something of value. You can have political capital, you can have social capital, you can have a variety of capital. It is not necessarily monetary, but it is something of value.

Capitalism is a form of social organization that is based on people and institutions with capital making decisions. You could contrast this to Socialism, where it is a society that collectively makes decisions or with Aristocracy where it is the king that makes decisions based on divine right. Some would say that we cannot simplify capital to be a generalized concept of counting “value” as that would be too simplistic and too vague, but let me continue on this tangent. A critical error in the definition above is to limit capitalism to the ownership by private interests. Many countries have state run companies, meaning they are owned by the state. The current Chinese political and economic system is often referred to as state run capitalism because the Chinese government is so active in the economy via the companies it owns and controls. So, capitalism should be better defined as a system where those who own the capital make the decisions – be they state, private or other.

Money

Despite using money on a daily basis, many of us and I did not know that money really is. In most school textbooks, we are taught that money is a tool for exchange – it allows me to buy something from you without trading directly in what I have (chickens for example). However, this concept of the origin of money is utterly false and lacks any substantial anthropological evidence. To learn more, simply consult David Graeber’s essay on debt.

So, what is Money? Money is a quantification of value. Money is a representation of assets (value) and debt. In fact, money was invented by the ancient Sumerian temples who were trying to quantify their assets – cows, grain, wine,… and track who owned what to whom. Money, ultimately, is a score-keeping system. It is, an accounting mechanism. Anyone who has run a business or done complex tax returns will know that the “score-keeping system” we use for managing money is far more complex than a simple point system.

In contrast to scoring goals in a game, money is not created in the same way. Money is issued (today at least) by a central bank. In reality money is not issued so much as created by the issuance of credit. The central bank issues credit, not money. When you hold a $20 bill in your hand, it is a note of credit from the government to you. You do not actually have $20, you have credit and in counterpart the central bank has a debt. However, if we start to look at all of money as an accounting system – which it is – then we can begin to realize that the game is rigged.

There used to be a social movement called the Social Credit (notice the use of “Credit” in the name). Without going into detail, this movement identified how the current accounting system used by businesses and by owners of capital was rigged against wage workers. In short, the way we account costs and revenues is not reflective of the actual costs of production and it is unsurprisingly skewed towards the owners of capital. To take a simple concrete example we can look at the depreciation of equipment. The depreciation rates that businesses can apply to their equipment is usually in excess of the actual depreciation of the equipment. That is, you can reduce the value of the equipment in your accounting of profits and losses faster than the value of the machine objectively decreases. You may depreciate the value of a computer in two years, but it actually has a useful life of five years. By doing this, you capture that difference (3 years) and you can use that hidden value to drive more business and therefore profit from it. Social credit is far more complex than this and I encourage everyone to look into it. But the long and short of it is that money is a representation of assets and credit and that the math we use for accounting is rigged against workers and for the owners of capital.

Free Market Economy

A free market economy is defined as “The free market is an economic system based on supply and demand with little or no government control.” Another way of stating this would be to say that a free market is a competitive market where different actors – private or public – can freely compete for resources and customers. When the aristocratic system fell apart during the industrial revolution (and after), it was largely because the industrialists competed and beat the aristocrats in creating greater value to citizens. They offered work to peasants and produced much more value than the traditional agricultural based system controlled by the aristocrats. My own French family came from an aristocratic family in France that saw their relative wealth evaporate as they stayed centred around agriculture and ownership of land, while new industrialists build factories. Eventually, may family sold their Chateau to the family of are large grocery chain. What has driven the vast majority of the innovation and wealth we see today is not capitalism itself, but rather competition.

Forcing people, companies and governments to compete with each other in order to create as much value as possible is the principal source of our wealth. As with any competition, we must have clear rules and that is where rule of law comes in and it remains a primary function of governments to establish and enforce the rules we use to compete. Different rules will lead to different outcomes and it is therefore critical to select the right rules for the right situation. Capitalism is a series of rules about the ownership of capital – despite being an important rule, it is only one rule among many. However, I wish to highlight that it is the competition among actors that drives our wealth – not simply ownership of capital.

Conclusion

The current political and economic elites have successfully conflated the concepts of capitalism (the private ownership of capital) and competition, telling us that their version of Capitalism is the best system for society. The truth is that the rules we are currently using are not fair to workers or the unlucky. The game is rigged, the house will always win. In Thomas Piketty’s seminal book, “Capital in the 21st Century”, he outlines how owners of capital can generate returns on their capital that is superior to the growth in wages of workers without increasing the value they create. The classic example is the owner of an apartment building or land that generates returns greater than inflation. An apartment building does not create much value, and yet an owner of an apartment building can earn more money than workers. In consequence, the capitalist class (the private owners of capital) can grow its wealth faster than the working class and the gap between the two continuously increases until you have social unrest, war, revolution or some other large event that destroys capital and resets the balance. Social Creditists said as much and proposed interesting solutions, but we did not implement them. In short, there is a fundamental problem at the root of the current capitalist system that needs to be addressed for the good of human society.

If we want to generate more value in society, we need to look for ways to increase competition. We need to look for rules that will enable people and organizations to compete to their full potential and not be handicapped by poverty, disease or bad luck. We need to identify rules that will allow small businesses to scale and grow. Rules need to be found and implemented that ensure international commerce is fair and equitable. We need to improve our accounting rules so that the true costs of environmental pollution, labour, resource consumption and other externalities are included in the costs of production and the cost of goods sold.

In short, our accounting system is broken and it needs an overhaul. There are a number of options and the ones I have advocated for include basic income, affordable housing and free education. Capitalism left uncontrolled will eat itself. It is the role of society and government to constantly update the rules of the game to ensure that society is driven to increase the sustainable value it creates for future generations.

Published on December 22, 2019

Why Andrew Yang is the best candidate to beat Donald Trump

Andrew Yang was the first person to announce his run for the Democratic ticket. An entrepreneur of Asian descent, he often starts his stump speeches by asking “What is the opposite of Donald Trump?” and then replied, “An Asian man who loves math!”. Who could disagree with that? The one person who can beat Donald Trump in 2020 is a down to earth, normal person who speaks coherently and truthfully about the challenges facing America and the world.

Yang’s principle policy is a Freedom Dividend – a $1000 monthly cash transfer to all US citizens. Yang is proposing to institute a true basic income in the United States which would establish an economic foundation under the feet of 300 million people. A $1000 a month is not enough to live off of or stop work, but it is certainly enough to return to school, search for better employment, help your family and invest in your future. For the past six years, I have been involved in the basic income movement in Canada and the science and the politics are clear – we need a basic income to offset the precarity of the modern economy and provide more freedom to all citizens.

Yang has already received the endorsement of Elon Musk, our generation’s greatest technical visionary and entrepreneur. The proponents of basic income span the political spectrum from Martin Luther King Jr. to Milton Friedman. Basic income or a freedom dividend is a policy brings together former Trump supporters who are frustrated with their economic precarity and it also attracts left-wing progressives who want economic justice for all. A freedom dividend is a policy deeply is rooted in the American identify of individual independence and autonomy. Basic income was first proposed by Thomas Paine, an American revolutionary. With a $1000 per month, you would be free to make the choices you know will improve your life and of those close to you.

Financial precarity is a huge determinant of our mental health. Living paycheck to paycheck takes a massive toll on our brains and increases our stress. Yang advocates for a massive investment in the mental health of all citizens through a Freedom Dividend, but also through access to marriage counseling and mental health experts. In short, he proposes a return to a more humane society where we set up the tools and systems to allow people to reduce their mental stress and build a better future.

The other Democratic candidates are professional politicians. You can see it in their schedules, in the way they talk and in the way they spin things. Yang is anything but a politician. For better or for worse, he is willing to tell us the truth. He explains that it is too late to stop global warming and we need to think about mitigation, he explains that mental health is in freefall across the US and that the only way to transition to a brighter future is with a massive cash transfer. Like Trump, Yang speaks from his (very different) heart.

Yang also proposes concrete action on gun reform, universal health care and a suite of other policies. Just watch his recent breakdown (available on YouTube) during a gun reform event where a woman who lost her 4-year-old to a stray bullet asked Yang what he would do. Yang, a father of two young children, could not keep the tears back and anyone could see he was a genuine father who has had enough of gun violence in the United States. Yang is a real person we can all relate to. The United States has a history of swinging the presidencies between radically different people. From Lincoln to Johnson and Nixon to Carter, America has a dual identity it is constantly vacillating between. Yang is the opposite of Trump in every way. If we want radical change and a return to sanity, Andrew Yang is the best pick for the democratic ticket and the future or our southern neighbour.

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I have no affiliation with the Yang Campaign and I am not a US Citizen. This is a personal opinion and does not reflect the opinion of the organisations I represent.

Published on August 23, 2019