The Kalos Life Account System

by Alfred de Grazia - from: Eight Bads, Eight Goods (1975)

Alfred de Grazia

I have mentioned earlier that Americans do not yet realize that, to avoid dependency, they have to acknowledge the need to share. Americans have become a nation of dependents without appreciating their condition because they are fighting its implications. Once they recognize the fact, the solution is simple.

Everyone must be taken care of. No one in a republic should deny anyone the right to subsist. Otherwise the republic will be forever instable. The most stable republic and empire that ever existed - the Roman - gave its citizens bread, and circuses too. People sometimes joke about "bread and circuses," but they were a centuries-long reality of guaranteed basic income and the right to participate in community observances to the Romans. If the admission is made - if there is consensus on this point - the stability of the American republic will be easier to maintain.

In a sense, Marxism is correct: the state is the superstructure of the economic system. This is an ancient philosophical discovery, and only a foolish economic and political science such as existed in the nineteenth- and twentieth-century schools would ever deny it. It is also true that the economic system is whatever the psychological and social system make it to be. And, in a sense, these are superstructures of a people's way of ruling themselves.

Once the principle of sharing is confronted and accepted, many other social, economic, and political conditions are compelled to swing into alignment, and for the good. In America..., and elsewhere, the principal decision must be to provide a minimum income to every living soul, from womb to tomb, guaranteed by the will, the skills, and the resources of the society and set at a level that has an absolute bottom and a shifting top.

The plan that would work best for Americans would be a life account system. Everyone would have an income-maintenance balance sheet through life. When not earning, he would draw funds up to the maximum. When earning, he would not usually draw but would pay back his previous drawings. Ordinarily by the end of his life, his account would be balanced: he would have paid back all his drawings. If he did not, then his life account would be closed with a deficit, small or large, which would be assumed by the universal life account system. Drawing from the account would be a voluntary action, as would be paying back money into one's account. 

Without the need for employing persons at unproductive tasks, the production system would be able to offer high wages. High wages would generate repayments that would be true rather than illusory repayments. People would be freed of bureaucratic thralldom. One large computerized record could hold and update the quarter of a billion American entries neatly.

Is this possible? Indeed it is possible, both in a poor country and in a rich one. The Americans, in the strange way they have of confronting reality while avoiding it, have set up many special systems of life accounts covering perhaps a third of the population. Congressman Griffith's study in 1974, for example, estimated that the cost of selling cheap food stamps to persons of low income will increase from $3 billion to $106 billion between 1973 and 1976, and one in every four Americans will be eligible to acquire these underpriced stamps with which to purchase foodstuffs.

Generally, as I pointed out in discussing dependency, the American welfare system works backward and forward from the job, that altar stone of pre-industrialism. Once an American has "a good job," he gets the things that a good job truly means, which is a way of life built around his work. He or she must, or as a pair they must, earn enough to take care of their children if they have them or their pets and car and bungalow, to put a child or two through high school, and contribute to the support of one or more parents, engage in pension funds for their retirement, travel here and there, and pay for the medical and hospital care of their family.

It is a big load for a person to bear, and the government, insurance companies, and employers pitch in with payments all along the line. Peoples' taxes are tied to their jobs and to their purchases. The system is bewildering, as we discovered. And what makes it so bewildering and unsatisfactory for two thirds of the population that lacks the job is that it is centered on the job, and not around membership in American society, which is the all-pervasive bond of Americans.

Americans do believe that they live under a social contract. In fact, the Constitution is written as a social contract, beginning with: "We, the people of the United States..... do ordain and establish this Constitution...." But when it has come to sharing the gains of the social contract among all (the healthy state of dianomia), they often balk and go back to a competitive ideology of "every man for himself and the devil take the hindmost." The Americans, therefore, are ensnarled in contradictions of mind behavior regarding sharing. Life for Americans would be much simpler and happy if they realized and affirmed, once and for all, that they live and die by the collective worth and efficiency of their political community.

Instead, America has tried to create an independent individual by improving his job, and by connecting other improvements throughout one's life to the job. But that system has now bogged down in its own wastes and complexity. To avoid bureaucratic socialism, it must now abolish the selfdelusion, the wastes, and the complexities, and set up a true socialism.

From: Eight Bads, Eights Goods, Doubleday Publisher, New York (1975).

Kalos licia filingeri, alfred de grazia arte povera

40 Stases & Theses, or What Is To Be Done With Our World? #17/40

Licia Filingeri, Alfred de Grazia 1995