In a country governed by and for the shareholder, the time feels ripe for citizens to call themselves shareholders, demand a dividend, and hire a new CEO. Calling ourselves “We the People” and voting seems to be ineffective, so lets try something new:
“We the Shareholders” demand a dividend.
What is currently unfolding with democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang is a battle for the soul of the internet and the United States as a political, economic, and cultural entity. A potential political supernova is forming swiftly and aggressively.
Yang’s budding movement threatens diverse movements and coalitions simultaneously. He’s a dark horse in this race but a horse that can do lucid and detailed long form interviews in the age of Joe Rogan and has shown the ability to use social media extremely effectively.
Yang is fundamentally a candidate molded by the internet media ecology not the broadcast zeitgeist like a Harris, Biden, or Sanders. Now that the internet leads the social narrative instead of the broadcast and cable zombies, his chances are much better than many realize.
Yang’s leading policy position is the much needed rebranding of Universal Basic Income. Using the phrase “Freedom Dividend” instead of UBI has the potential to shift our mental image away from a picture of unsustainable progressive communism administered by global political activists, central banks, and academics to the image of a national sovereign corporation with an American CEO run for the benefit of its citizen shareholders.
Yang, successfully synthesizes the ever present egalitarian ethos of progressive America with the harsh realities of human hierarchies and the undisputable material gains of the capitalist process. Voters from across the spectrum will find Yang attractive making the distinction between right and left even more un-useful than it already is.
Universal Basic Income
UBI is one scheme that has been offered by those on the technocratic left to address income inequality and the accelerating convergence of capital and technology. Unfortunately, the UBI wording has the stench of a solution concocted by a stuffy UN commission with the typical characters in a cliche modernist building.
The rebranding of Universal Basic Income to the Freedom Dividend provides an opportunity for all Americans to imagine themselves as a part owner in the United States Government, receiving dividend payments every month.
Workers in the United States don’t want to be thought of and organized as workers. They want to be owners and capitalists themselves. I think of this as something that makes Americans great and think that characterization applies to myself. No matter what socio-economic position many Americans find themselves in, we often think of it as temporary and something we will surely overcome. I think this is an awesome impulse even if it can be delusional at times.
“Socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires.”- John Steinbeck
The choice of the word “Universal” is quite fitting for the polite techno-progressives who push for UBI. Thomas Sowell, and Nick Land have convincingly made the connection between progressivism and universalism.
“Basic” implies citizens will be allocated the minimum amount needed to not die and cast another ballot.
“Income” implies the recipient worked for it, which is a lie. It isn’t income and we shouldn’t pretend it is. And to put the cherry on top, UBI has three words instead of the concise “Freedom Dividend”.
“Brevity is the soul of wit” -Shakespeare
In contrast to UBI, the first word in Yang’s Freedom Dividend has an infinite number of positive valences and is quintessentially an American buzzword. No further explanation is needed.
The word “Dividend” is where the real power lies, allowing a reframing of the American political debate.
The word allows us to transcend the dreadful, tiresome, and predictable capitalism vs socialism debate you see on Fox or MSNBC . It shifts our thoughts collectively as citizens away from the divisive counterproductive conversations we usually have and instead has us focus on the distribution of ownership and the flow of money in our society.
The amount of the dividend and how its accounted for is absolutely important but not as important as its presence in the conversation. The concept of a dividend creates a better negotiating position for the citizens of the United States. Citizens can now negotiate with those that hold political capital and those that own corporate shares from our new position as part owner of the US government.
Dividends imply there are shareholders. In the case of Yang’s Freedom Dividend the shareholders are the citizens no matter the class, need, race, religion, ideology, sexual orientation, geography, of each citizen over the age of 18.
Yang’s rebranding has recast the American citizen as a shareholder instead of its current role as collateral for the financial system, parishioner of The Cathedral, and cannon fodder for USAgov’s next military adventure.
Democracy is Vote Buying
If you view this Freedom Dividend “gimmick” as naked vote buying you’re right. Democracy has always and always will be a euphemism for payoffs, payouts, bribes, and bailouts. This is true not only in the United States but everywhere and at every time in history its been en vogue. And although the language I used is disparaging towards democracy this interplay between the ruled and the rulers is present in any human hierarchy. Payoffs could be described as reciprocity or tit for tat.
Yang unapologetically makes democratic vote buying much more explicit, honest, and inclusive. All of which is healthy and needed. Yang is expanding the franchise of payouts. This is the natural next step for a democracy.
These democratic payouts and payoffs are all around us. Its built into the very structure and history of American democracy. Much of 19th century American democracy was defined by clientelism(party member pay-offs) until some very late reforms were passed. The 20th century could be described as the century of entitlements and welfare with the passage of the programs in the New Deal and the Great Society. The late 20th century and early 21st could be characterized as a time of tax cuts, socialized corporate losses, and subsidized credit.
There’s been a growing distrust of our institutions for some time now but by now, on almost all ideological sides, we see a common sentiment that our system and government is close to being completely corrupt and does not work on behalf of the working citizen. Different sides may disagree over the details of who is at fault or what exactly should be fixed but many accept this fundamental premise of corruption and ineffectiveness.
Citizens on all sides are starting to see clearly and in unison that the United States government is largely run for the benefit of its employees, contractors, its political operatives, and their corporate and transnational funders while the working citizen is far from being healthy, self sufficient, or cared for.
Those oriented correctly to USAgov get protection, payouts, contracts, jobs, grants, foreign aid, welfare, carried interest deductions, charges dropped, and bailouts. And what does the average working citizen get? Well, they’re missing out on the loot and they better follow the rules.
From my perspective the relationships that the government has with other interests aren’t in and of themselves bad, evil, or unfair. In many cases they may be very necessary and beneficial. But they become unfair when the working citizen is struggling and derives no benefit himself or herself from that which they contribute their time and energy too.
I’m not so sure we want to put a large amount of working age people in the position of having nothing to lose. This is very dangerous especially when they’re frustrated and angry.
Distributed ownership can align incentives over a long time horizon swiftly and powerfully.
Yang is Hamiltonian and Bull-Moose
Yang is not a libertarian trying to weaken the state nor is he trying to nationalize industries. In the American tradition he’s more of a Hamiltonian or Teddy R . All of them advocate for a strong, energetic, and competent central government with a strong energetic executive at the helm while still respecting the techno-commercial process.
Reading Yang’s policy positions reveal very clearly he’s not libertarian but they also reveal he’s not a marxist, collectivist, or identitarian. He’s not trying to “seize the means of production”, nor is he trying to strangle the state or start a race war.
The left is afraid of the libertarians and ethno-nationalists and the right is afraid of the collectivists and mono-culturalists. Yang isn’t any of these.
Yang has an ideology and belief system but he isn’t an ideologue. He’s a law grad, entrepreneur, and pragmatic CEO who is looking at this failing organization, USAgov, while rationally diagnosing how Trump won with angry and economically vulnerable citizens, and saying ‘hey, I can reorient and redirect USAgov’s flows of receipts and payments, redefine what we measure, and redefine what we value as an organization. And every citizen gets 1,000 a month. How ‘bout them apples?
Yang isn’t trying to endlessly criticize or disrupt the techno-commercial process like a Sanders or Ocasio-Cortez, who don’t even come close to comprehending it, but is instead focusing on the distribution of its creative bounty and the human costs of its perpetual disruption. Nor is he working at dismantling 50% of the Federal Government like a Ron Paul.
Former CEO? Check.
Strong organizational ideology? Check.
Profitable organization? TBD.
How Will the DNC and the “Left” Respond?
Interestingly, Yang is already in a field and party that is heavily focused on issues like income inequality, financial insecurity, and wealth distribution. Yet the non-politician techno-capitalist ran furthest to the “left” on this issue than any of the self avowed democratic-socialists in the field.
They already want to go there, how do they not try to match his offer? Is Bernie just going to stay with his measly and weak minimum wage raises while Yang dangles $1,000 a month out in front of the voters? And if they do match his offer they’ve probably already lost. They’d have jumped in Yang’s game, in his conversation, and his issue.
Imagine you’re a young person, working in retail, with a psychology degree and you have a 100k in student loan debt. Would you want to hear about how your slave wages go up a smidge from an old white male(OWM) and career politician or would you rather hear about getting $1000 a month from a young internet savvy Asian candidate? In the age of identity, #metoo, financial insecurity, and the general seething resentment for the old white male, I see this as a no contest.
Or alternatively, imagine you’re a reasonably informed, well adjusted normal liberal. You’re on reddit semi-frequently and you have some tech and business savvy. Do you really trust Bernie’s ability to understand the technological and economic processes underway in the 21st century? You’re a person thats open minded but cherishes technical understanding and economic acumen. This group is going to find out rather quickly who is with “the times” and who isn’t.
There’s Yang and then their’s that other guy across the stage waving his hands frantically. He’s a dying boomer stuck in an old frame that he has no ability to transcend. You’re thinking, nice guy and he’s certainly tried hard but its time to go home old man. And at the end of the day you’d never let the guy run your internet business let alone a country.
I can’t imagine the current DNC with an OWM like Bernie or Joe Biden as its standard bearer in 2020. An OWM has as much chance of winning the current DNC’s nomination as a young black female did in the 1870s.
It’ll be interesting to watch the bros that worship Bernie, the woke coalition, and the DNC’s corporate and legal establishment argue against $1,000 a month for every citizen. I’ll have my popcorn ready for the mental gymnastics made by the Party that since the 30s has given lip service to massive wealth redistribution.
Yang seems sharp and witty enough to unpack his opponents criticisms swiftly and with class. Getting through the DNC itself will be his toughest challenge but Trump showed its possible to break through the establishment of a major political party and their henchmen in the corporate media.
I can start to see a similar narrative arc forming for Yang as with Trump:
Political outsiders, businessmen with big opening offer, and light, gamer attitudes. Both dismissed as radical, unconventional, politically inexperienced, and of having a low probability of winning by the mainstream.
The Internet has latched on to him, launches and helps form the campaign and the candidate. Social media allows for rapid interaction and learning between candidates and the American political hive mind as well as a route around The Cathedral’s stranglehold over the mass mind.
Luckily for Yang, Trump has paved the way for almost all possibilities, personalities, and backgrounds to be considered and will always take the brunt of the media and the establishment’s hatred. Plus, Yang is an order of magnitude more like-able and probably has an order of magnitude less personal dirt than Trump. But unfortunately for haters of Trump, you don’t get a Yang Wave without a Trump Tsunami in 2016. The Overton window has been completely obliterated and it took an orange gangster and his deplorables to do it.
However like-able and reasonable Yang is, Yang Derangement Syndrome will have to be fostered by the media, Bernie Bros, the woke coalition, and establishment DNC types for the others in the field to have any chance. This is still politics we’re engaging in here. Some turds will have to be flung:
“Average White Guys like Andrew Yang, I can’t support him”- Paul Krugman, NYT
“Yang’s VAT tax might be supported by Putin”- Washington Post(Amazon)
“Is Andrew Yang Alt-Right?” -NBC News
“3 Reasons Andrew Yang won’t win the DNC”- The Guardian
“Is Putin paying the YangGang? We have so many questions tonight” Rachel Maddow, MSNBC
“Andrew Yang won’t beat Trump and I want to reiterate we should definitely invade Venezuela and Syria to show Putin how tough we are”- Fareed Zakaria CNN
I can almost hear these future headlines being typed out by a Democratic party operative right now somewhere in the greater Boston-NYC-Philly-DC area. We’ll see if he has the charm, toughness, and substance to route around the baseless attacks from the DNC’s political and media machine. I think he does but he hasn’t proven his toughness yet. That can only be shown over time in the public arena.
Hopefully the Democratic establishment gives him a fair shot and lets the process play out without massive interference. But I’m not holding my breath.
Yang v Trump
If Yang is the Democratic Nominee in 2020 and is on the debate stage with Trump, voters will choose between two movements and organizations who want to restructure the US government with a strong entrepreneurial executive at the helm leading the effort. I think this potential Yang vs Trump is highly likely, the best possible outcome for the United States given our options, and its the most culturally appropriate.
Yang is one of the few candidates with a chance at unseating President Donald Trump now that the Russian Collusion Hoax is close to a dead horse. I’ll throw Tulsi Gabbard a bone and put her into the category of having a fighters chance. She’s talented, she’s served in Iraq, and DC as well as the media hates her for not wanting to invade Venezuela and Syria. A good start for her but she hasn’t generated the same energy as Yang. As far as I know she still needs more donations to make the debate stage.
Back to the potential Yang v Trump matchup:
One former entrepreneur, Andrew Yang, is calling the supporters of his organization “shareholders” and promising a direct monthly dividend. Would The Donald follow? Or even follow and raise Yang’s offer?
That would be an interesting debate scene to imagine. Which former CEO would the shareholders choose to restructure the United States government? Will a freedom dividend be the great American schelling point? Could Yang start a bidding war for our votes?
If Trump vs Yang is our matchup, the American hive-mind has spoken: It wants a corporate re-org and a strong CEO. And it also wants to secure that “motherfuckin bag”.
The Fourth Turning
It might be the case that there is no solution to the problems we’re facing going into the 2020s and I’m actually very sympathetic to that view but pessimism doesn’t seem to be useful beyond a certain threshold of focus and at the very least seems like the boring and humourless choice.
Hence why I lit this piece up with memes, illustrating how humourful the campaign of Yang and his #YangGang already are. Everyone needs ugly truths to be wrapped in a great joke. Comedy softens the often overwhelming and fatal blow of pure truth.
Just “knowing” there is no solution unavoidably leads to a feeble, inactive nihilism.
However, knowing there is no solution to life’s existential problems, acting anyway, and finding the humour in it all, is the normative doctrine of both Shakespeare and Nietzsche.
“Dionysian man resembles Hamlet: both have once looked truly into the essence of things, they have gained knowledge, and it disgusts them to act, for their action could not change anything in the eternal essence of things; they feel it to be ridiculous or humiliating that they should be asked to set right a world that is so out of joint. Knowledge kills action; action requires the veils of illusion — that is the Hamlet Doctrine, not that cheap wisdom of Jack the Dreamer who reflects too much and, as it were, from an excess of possibilities does not get around to action. Not reflection, no — true knowledge, the insight into the horrible truth, outweighs any motive for action, both in Hamlet and in the Dionysian man. […] Conscious of the truth he has once seen, man now sees everywhere only the horror or absurdity of existence”- Nietzsche, Birth of Tragedy
The Freedom Dividend is without a doubt not “The Solution” because there is no ultimate “Answer”. Many of our problems in post-modernity are psychological, relational, and spiritual. $1000 a month won’t change any of that.
People often blame their own psychological, sexual, and spiritual distress as the fault of the political and economic system and try to seek relief or salvation through political or economic action.
Unfortunately for them, one ultimate political or financial “Answer” doesn’t exist, never has, never will, and anyone that sells you one is probably a con man, a naive true believer, and/or an authoritarian.
Having said that the dream of the Freedom Dividend might be the veil of illusion that gets the citizenry to think, act, and negotiate in their best interest and think of themselves in a totally new way: As a shareholder.
In this way it is an answer. Its a much needed update to our collective vision of ourselves.
In a country governed by and for the shareholder, the time feels ripe for citizens to call themselves shareholders, demand a dividend, and hire a new CEO. Calling ourselves “The People” seems to be ineffective.
It’s been entertaining to watch people across the political spectrum argue against receiving $1,000 a month alongside every other citizen.They have legitimate concerns of inflationary pressures, budgetary issues, totalitarianism, dependency, and degeneracy, but most early critics seem to lob knee jerk reactions with the typical reasoning with the typical phrases in a familiar frame. Most of it so far has been boring, predictable, and not that well thought out, especially compared to Yang’s deep thinking on the issue.
I share similar concerns as the critics but the immensity of the problems and headwinds we have coming for us in the 2020s call for big, creative, and potentially taboo ideas to be brought to the table for vigorous discussion. Just the discussion is a win. Yang is manning up and offering an interesting one. Just like Trump did with his wall and his distaste for the current global economic consensus.
Democracy has to eat the bounty it sees but does not participate in. It will eat, even if it destroys that which created the bounty. Democracy doesn’t care. Especially when it feels ignored, confused, insecure, and angry. Democracy by nature has a high time preference and the hungrier it gets the more it needs to feed immediately.
How we implement redistribution and the language we use are imperative to keeping wealth creating techno-commercial processes alive while still having somewhat of a healthy polity that works on behalf of its citizens. Yang is making sure all citizens have a place at the table.
“No outward tinkerings with the world, and no social ameliorations can give the quietus to the daemon, to the gods and devils of the human soul, or prevent them from tearing down again and again what consciousness has built. Unless they are assigned their place in consciousness and culture they will never leave mankind in peace.” — Eric Neumann, History of Consciousness
We’re heading towards the Fourth Turning no matter what we do, right? Might as well get a 1,000 Yangbucks a month for our troubles.
And hey, who knows, it just might work.
What would you do with a $1000 a month? I’ve got a few ideas. I’m sure you do to.