The following question is for people who are broadly in favor of substantial economic redistribution, and more specifically in favor of a basic income or some similar plan. If you’re opposed to those things, your responses here will not shed any useful light.
Let us suppose, hypothetically, that our Wise Social Scientists – I guess you should imagine some awesome Hari-Seldon-esque figure – made the following determination with a high and convincing degree of certainty:
The upper and middle classes will never go for an egalitarian redistribution scheme, because it is too damaging to their social identities. And they have the clout to prevent any such scheme from being enacted. Seriously, give it up, it’s not going to happen. The well-to-do will allow society to crumble and decay, they will throw away their own futures, before they let the government just start handing out money to everyone as though everyone is equally deserving of it.
But they can be bought off. They will accept redistribution, they’ll even cheer for it, so long as it acknowledges and preserves the basic class structure from which they draw their validation.
Someone proposes a tiered system. Maybe there’s three tiers – the UBI (Universal Basic Income) for regular plebs, the somewhat-more-generous GPI (Gentleman’s Public Income) for anyone with a college degree, and the positively-lavish ASI (Aristocratic State Income), which goes to anyone with a family member who’s paid some large total amount in taxes. Or maybe you organize it some other way. Maybe the size of your public income is linked to your SAT score. Maybe there are actual goddamn blood castes.
(For Extra Discourse Fun, we could do it racially.)
One way or another, the basic effects of the system are the same:
* Money is still flowing from the rich-as-a-class to the poor-as-a-class, in very large amounts. The particulars of redistribution are a little wonky, and obviously suboptimal in utilitarian terms – and certain classes of people, probably including overeducated niche artists/intellectuals and the less-capable children of the elite, make out like bandits – but, fundamentally, what you’ve got is a system where everyone gets paid and it’s all coming out of the taxes provided by the upper and middle classes.
* The government is symbolically acknowledging the supremacy of some groups over others, even within its universal welfare system.
It’s…not what you want. But it’s the only offer you’re going to get.
How do you feel about this scenario? What are the correct decisions? What details make an important difference?