Threads of contemporary discourse are strange when viewed independently but if woven together with the right mind can create a wonderful tapestry. Even the most absurd or odd comment or news announcement can fit into the greater picture when connected. Our current media and education environment is planting the seeds for the implementation of the Virtual Option.
Take four figures and tell me what three have in common: John F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and Donald Trump. Three served in wars, Trump did not. True. Three openly discussed reforming the intelligence services, Reagan did not. Three wanted to structurally reform the federal government, and JFK was shot because he went straight at CIA-The Federal Reserve-AIPAC. There are ways to connect figures and statements that we may not see at first look, and so it is with the seeds for the Virtual Option’s future.
In short, the Virtual Option was a thought experiment from ten years ago by the writer Mencius Moldbug. It was about taking humans made obsolete per the rising tide of automation and technological advancement and providing them a wonderful sequestered life well fed, housed and cared for with all the technological toys one could imagine. It would be pod life as Moldbug wrote, but we can envision it more like dorm life.
Recently there has been media memes on the need to have fewer kids for the environment, the need for fresh air for our urban citizens, urban citizens enjoying post-scarcity consumer goods but still angry, Iphone addiction, atomization, and declining TFR. The dystopian news releases and hot take essays also include children raised on auto-generated YouTube videos, algorithms inserted into everything, virtual/augmented reality improving, the growing power & capabilities of Amazon, and the wonderful introduction of UBI into political discourse. Everything right there is the Virtual Option. We just have to weave it.
Universal Basic Income even at a small $1,000 per month nugget for all is too expensive. At $4 trillion dollars per year, it would be too much to fund sans other welfare cuts without destroying the economy. Candidate Yang’s proposal is to use UBI as a replacement for welfare, which unless he can find a way to secure the Democrats voting signal power matching their institutional power is dead on arrival. No way will they destroy the sinecure patronage network and change welfare to be better than it is today. Replacing welfare and its requirements with UBI means there is no longer an incentive for a pregnant single woman to kick a man out of a house as President Nixon put it.
How difficult would it be though to cut that $4 trillion price tag down by making it a voluntary enrollment program wrapped in with the other welfare provided and maybe collecting only 25% of the American population. What if it is $1 trillion per year but with housing and food stamps wrapped into it, we do not see much of a bump? Want food stamps and section 8, you also need to sign up for the UBI program. We would shed some people from SNAP and section 8 rolls due to not wanting to go into the dorms. If a global warming fighting sterilization deal can be added to the contract, then (alert the Cato crowd) the return on investment will only rise.
The dorms are key. By making this an infrastructure project, we could keep some of the costs down by applying a federal property tax on the future urban real estate that would suddenly open up for development. That unlocked economic value is not a rent that must all be captured by urban developers, but the taxman can collect a share to pay for making it all happen by hoovering up the undesirables into the dorms.
Amazon is already preparing for drone delivery. These dorms could be a distribution hub. Like a college campus, there would be some areas of economic productivity, green space, debauchery and walled off areas. There would need to be a medical center or at least clinic of some sort on hand for simple needs and insulin distribution. Family units could be had but this would be best fit for the singles out there. The ones that already live a bug like existence in cities.
Despite the stereotypes of underclass moms and broods of children, the average economically disadvantaged woman still only has two children, maybe three. It will not take much to talk these women into this idea. The atomized and lonely who fall for those 419 Nigerian scams and other catfishing schemes will sign up. It will not take much to talk the poor living in squalid conditions to take the Amazon dorm plunge. The opioid addicts looking to escape their miserable lives for four hours on smack will get to escape to a clean virtual reality palace. Phone addicted lonely cat ladies? Forget how many sign up, but think of how many will say no. This gets easier to see from a demand perspective.
Supply is right there, too. It is better to look at large welfare programs for where the money ends not who it goes to initially. Amazon can become the feudal lord to these UBI serfs. Amazon has the power to provide the goods from a variety of sellers to meet individuals’ needs. They will have the technological capabilities to do so. Amazon also soon will have the Pentagon cloud computing contract and cement its place in the power structure of the empire.
All Amazon needs is a government mandate to put these people into one location. Not even a mandate but the knowledge that each person brings a UBI check with them for entrance. Members get a discount on all Amazon purchases. They will take their cut just as other vendors will providing the official food, water, etc of the dorms. With the number of government employees we could lay off and money freed up, this could even solve the pension crisis. These people will not need cars so the negative externalities of crime and affecting our schools is gone. What self driving car is going to allow them outside their Amazon dorm mandated areas.
This is where we must admit that these people are government wards and that others do not want to face the world and adult responsibilities. They now live their lives through a palm sized screen they hold two feet from their face. We must further admit that the negative externalities of these individuals can be dealt with in manners that progressive governance does not allow. Our cities could be clean and safe, but we cannot harass the progressive overlords’ vote banks.
Let them discuss UBI. Watch where this gets steered. The Yangbux of ’20 through corporate co-opting and the right candidate can turn into the Amazon Dorm you see in the distance driving down I-95.