Due to the economic fallout of COVID-19 a city in South Korea decided to create its own kind of universal basic income. Instead of just getting cash, the payouts are done on a special credit card that only works with local owned businesses, meaning you have to spend locally and help your local businesses survive the economic downturn. In the video above you can see how successful this program has been and that one federal politician is hoping to make the program national.
To stimulate its pandemic-hit economy, a province in South Korea has been experimenting with universal basic income programs by regularly giving out cash, no questions asked. Now, some politicians want to go national with the concept.
How can we make sense of governments around the world taking on more debt during the COVID-19 pandemic when beforehand they were repulsed by the concept of going into debt? Step one is to look at our assumptions of debt.
About a decade ago David Graeber wrote a book called Debt: The First 5,000 Years which explores the history and cultural practices around debt. If you don’t have time to read the whole book you can watch a summation of the main points in the talk he gives (embedded above). Trust me, it’s worth your time to at least watch his presentation.
While the “national debt” has been the concern du jour of many economists, commentators and politicians, little attention is ever paid to the historical significance of debt.
For thousands of years, the struggle between rich and poor has largely taken the form of conflicts between creditors and debtors—of arguments about the rights and wrongs of interest payments, debt peonage, amnesty, repossession, restitution, the sequestering of sheep, the seizing of vineyards, and the selling of debtors’ children into slavery. By the same token, for the past five thousand years, popular insurrections have begun the same way: with the ritual destruction of debt records—tablets, papyri, ledgers; whatever form they might have taken in any particular time and place.
Enter anthropologist David Graeber’s Debt: The First 5,000 Years (July, ISBN 978-1-933633-86-2), which uses these struggles to show that the history of debt is also a history of morality and culture.
In my life team I have seen nearly every public service get defunded except the police, meaning people who would otherwise be housed, have mental care, or otherwise not be neglected end up in confrontations with the police. This is not working well for anybody. Yet defunding the police is an idea that people reject.
A website was built this past summer which showcases the absurd amount of money we give to the police throughout North America compared to social services that can actually help people.
The city of Toronto spends just over 25% of taxpayer dollars on funding the police. That’s a cost of $1.13 billion dollars.
This is comparable to the tax dollars spent on public transportation, the library, children services and public health combined.
Toronto is spending just under $3.3 million dollars per day on police services.
Toronto police are present in some—not all—schools in the Toronto Catholic School Board.
Chuck Feeney became a billionaire by founding and running Duty Free Shoppers, and since he collected his unimaginable wealth he made it a point to give it all away. This month it has been revealed that Feeney successfully gave away billions of dollars to charitable causes and will die an average person like the rest of us. Of course, if there was a wealth tax or similar then he would not have found himself in such an inequitable situation and the money would have been spent democratically. Regardless, it’s good to see that this (now former) billionaire recognized the inequality in our world and did something about it!
Over the last four decades, Feeney has donated more than $8 billion to charities, universities and foundations worldwide through his foundation, the Atlantic Philanthropies. When I first met him in 2012, he estimated he had set aside about $2 million for his and his wife’s retirement. In other words, he’s given away 375,000% more money than his current net worth. And he gave it away anonymously. While many wealthy philanthropists enlist an army of publicists to trumpet their donations, Feeney went to great lengths to keep his gifts secret. Because of his clandestine, globe-trotting philanthropy campaign, Forbes called him the James Bond of Philanthropy.
The recent strike by NBA and WNBA players has shown that reactionary and direct labour action can make meaningful change beyond just the workplace. In the WNBA & NBA, the workers (players) refused to play in protest of police bracingly killing non-white people, the strike resulted in basketball arenas being used as a voting station in the coming American election. The media attention the workplace action got can’t be ignored either.
In the world of academia a similar action is happening today. Scholars across North America will put down their work to draw attention to the racial injustice happening on campuses. They won’t stop teaching though, you can attend online session today to learn about the troubles facing radicalized individuals and precarious workers on the front lines of postsecondary education. One such event is embedded above.
Scholars across Canadian universities are outraged at the relentless anti-Black police killings of Black people in the U.S. and in Canada. As athletes have done, so, too, must academics. We will be joining thousands of academics in higher education in a labour action known as Scholar Strike to protest anti-Black, racist and colonial police brutality in the U.S., Canada and elsewhere. Scholar Strike for Black Lives in Canada will take place on Sept 9th & 10th, 2020. For these two days, we will pause our teaching and all administrative duties. We will use this time to organize public digital teach-ins on police brutality and violence in our communities from both historical and contemporary perspectives.
The program of public digital teach-ins through Sept 9 & 10 and other relevant resources will be released soon. We have confirmed a key note address by journalist and activist Desmond Cole and cross-campus digital teach-ins that will bring together activists, artists and scholars from York University, University of Toronto, Ryerson University and OCAD University.