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生活体面,创造力自然来

Rick Wartzman 2016年05月17日

发达国家的政府应该向国民提供基本收入,让他们从事自己想做的工作,让他们发挥出最大的创造力。

上周在苏黎世举办的“工作的未来”大会上,讨论的话题纷纷转向了一个有趣的问题:如果有一天许多人选择不工作该怎么办?

或者,至少他们的工作方式,可能不同于我们今天对“工作”的定义。

前美国劳工部长罗伯特•雷克对300位观众表示:“这个世界上,多数人都在从事自己不愿意做却不得不做的工作。富裕国家能否努力给国民更多选择,让他们可以少做自己不愿意做的工作,去追求自己的梦想?我认为,答案很显然是肯定的。”

理查德继续道,或许人们“想要创作音乐,有的人想要搞发明,有人想要做一些能够给自己其带来启发的事业”,比如参加志愿者活动。但人们做不到,因为他们要靠老板的工资维持生计。

正如苏黎世大会上许多令人印象深刻的声音(比如左翼的罗斯福研究所和右翼的卡托研究所)所阐述的那样,要想给人们提供更多选择,最有效的方式是建立一种我之前曾经讲过的机制:全面的基本收入。在这种方案下,政府将无条件给每个人发放一笔现金,用于支付基本生活需求。

至于你是否接受这种理念,或许取决于你对人类天性的根本认识。获得基本收入后,是否多数人就会游手好闲,无所事事?还是说,绝大多数人会保持高效率,去追求一种目标感和成就感,比如去做一些不属于今天的“工作”范畴的事情?

我相信肯定是后者——所以我才会认为,基本收入这种理念迟早会登堂入室,成为主流。

下个月,瑞士将举行公投,决定是否应该按月为国民提供足以过上“体面生活”的基本收入——目前尚不确定具体金额(瑞士议会将在晚些时候公布)。与此同时,荷兰、芬兰和加拿大部分地区,也开始尝试类似的方案。

在美国,创业孵化器Y Combinator发起了一项为期5年的研究项目,试图弄清楚,基本收入计划在美国能否行得通。美国是一个重视个人自由的国家,但它又在20年前进行了福利体系改革,试图迫使国民从事正式工作。

有两个因素正在推动基本收入运动的发展。首先是人们对于快速发展的科技抢走的工作岗位将超过其创造的就业的担忧。但为什么不反过来看待这个问题,尤其是在机器人可以处理所有枯燥工作的情况下,为何不让人们去发挥自己的创造力呢?其次,我有一种强烈的感觉,即发达国家已经步入了物质极其丰富的时代;只是分配方式不当而已。

但目前仍有大量棘手的难题。比如,基本收入的资金从何而来——是征收广泛的消费税或者金融交易税,还是通过其他来源获取资金?基本收入中“基本”的标准是什么——是让没有其他收入来源的接收者维持在贫困线左右,还是相当于一笔更慷慨的“生活工资”?其他多数社会保障计划是否保持不变,还是由基本收入取而代之?

除了融资和框架问题外,还有一个问题同样难以解决:我们能否重新设想,做一个对社会有贡献的人到底意味着什么?

前服务行业雇员国际工会(Service Employees International Union,SEIU)主席安迪•斯特恩问道:“生活是为了什么?可能是为社区做事,或者陪伴家人,或者实现个人生活富足。但仔细想想,这些“工作”并不属于‘职业’的范畴。

斯特恩告诉我,要想抓住这个巨大的“未被开发的机会”,关键在于“将收入与工作区分开来。因为这两者是截然不同的。”

在苏黎世大会上基本收入的众多支持者当中,至少从表面上看,斯特恩无疑最令人感到意外。因为作为一家劳工组织的领导人,他付出了很长的职业生涯,拉近工作与收入的关系,努力确保SEIU的普通成员,如清洁工、家庭护工和保安等,能够从雇主那里得到越来越高的报酬。

不过,在《奥巴马医保法案》(Obamacare)被签署,并成为法律的那一刻,斯特恩突然明白了一个道理。他最近写了一本宣传基本收入的书《提高下限》(Raising the Floor)。他表示:“我考虑过自己在谈判桌上花了多少时间;然后突然之间,便有2,000万人得到了医保。”

这项立法让许多人不用再担心生病了该怎么办,同样,斯特恩认为,基本收入也可以让人们不必再担心下个月的工资从哪里来。没有了这些担忧,人们可以自由地追求各种梦想,比如创业,或者追求艺术。(当然许多人会继续为正常的雇主工作,来获得更多的收入,但至少他们将拥有更高的灵活性。)

斯特恩说道:“我很好奇这种安全感能够带来什么。谁会成为哲学家,谁将是梦想家?”

有许多人批评基本收入计划,认为这只是乌托邦式的幻想。也有人认为,提供基本收入,会让懒惰和不负责任的人受益。但正如支持基本收入的前希腊财政部长雅尼•瓦鲁费克斯所说的那样,事实上,反对者们需要承认的是,有些钱肯定会落到“流浪汉”的手中,这是不可避免的。

因为各种各样的担忧,瑞士的全民公投预计很难通过。但不可否认,这将是一个重要的里程碑,因为越来越多人会开始重新思考到底是什么构成了“工作”——又应该由谁来埋单?

本文作者里克•沃兹曼是克莱蒙研究大学(Claremont Graduate University)德鲁克研究会(Drucker Institute)的高级顾问。他是五本书的作者或编者,目前正在写一本记述二战结束以来美国劳资双方社会契约的变化历史的书。(财富中文网)

译者:刘进龙/汪皓

At a Future of Work conference in Zurich last week, much of the discussion turned, intriguingly, to a day when lots of people might choose not to work at all.

Or at least they might not do so in the way that many of us currently define “work.”

“Most people in this world are doing work that they really would rather not do, but they have to do,” Robert Reich, the former U.S. Labor Secretary, told an audience of about 300 or so. “Can’t a rich country aspire to give more of its citizens the possibility of doing less of what they don’t want to do and more of what they do want to do? Obviously, the answer should be, in my view, yes.”

Perhaps, Reich continued, people “want to write music, or maybe they want to invent, or maybe they want to do something that is very deeply inspiring to them,” like volunteering. But they can’t, he noted, because they’re totally dependent on pay from their employer.

As articulated by a striking array of voices in Zurich—including those from the Roosevelt Institute on the left and the Cato Institute on the right—the most effective approach for people to have more choice is through a mechanism that I’ve written about before: a universal basic income. Under such a plan, the government would give everyone, unconditionally, a slug of cash to cover his or her essential needs.

Whether you embrace this concept will likely hinge on what you fundamentally believe about human nature. Would most people on a basic income sit around and do nothing? Or would the vast majority seek a sense of purpose and fulfillment by being highly productive—in many cases, by doing wonderful things that we might not be ready to call “work” today?

My bet is squarely on the latter—and it’s why I think that the idea of a basic income will ultimately move from the fringe to the fore.

Next month, Switzerland will vote whether the country should provide people with a monthly basic income—an as-yet-unspecified amount (to be figured out later by parliament) that will allow them “to live in a dignified manner.” Meanwhile, parts of the Netherlands, Finland, and Canada are starting to experiment with similar schemes.

In the United States, the startup incubator Y Combinator is sponsoring a five-year research project to see if a basic income makes sense in a nation that cherishes individual freedom but, at the same time, completely overhauled its welfare systemtwo decades ago to try to push people into gainful employment.

Two factors are driving the basic-income movement. First, there’s the fear that rapidly advancing technology is going to kill many more jobs than it will produce. Why not turn that problem on its head and unleash people to be more creative, especially if the robots are going to handle all of the menial tasks anyway? Second, there’s a strong feeling that the developed world is enjoying an era of great abundance; it’s just not being shared appropriately.

A host of sticky issues remain. How would a basic income be funded—with a broad-based consumption tax or a financial-transactions tax or through some other source? How basic is “basic”—just enough money to leave a recipient who has no other sources of remuneration right at the poverty line, or a sum that equates to a more generous“living wage”? Do you keep most other social safety-net programs intact, or should a basic income replace them all?

Yet as difficult as it will be to sort out the financing and framing, another question looms just as large: Can we reimagine what it means to be a contributing member of society?

“What is life for?” asks Andy Stern, the former president of the Service Employees International Union. “It could be doing something in the community or with family or for personal enrichment. All of that is ‘working’—but not in a ‘job’ as we think of it.”

The key to capitalizing on this tremendous “untapped opportunity,” Stern told me, will be to “separate income and jobs. They’re two very distinct things.”

Of those in Zurich advocating for a basic income, Stern was arguably the most surprising, at least on the face of it. As a leader of organized labor, he spent a long career tightening the link between jobs and income by trying to make sure that the SEIU’s rank-and-file—janitors, home healthcare workers, and security guards—were better and better compensated by their employers.

But Stern, who has just written a book promoting basic income called Raising the Floor, had an epiphany when Obamacare was signed into law. “I thought about how many hours I had spent at the bargaining table, and then in one fell swoop 20 million got healthcare,” he says.

In the same way that this single piece of legislation has made so many people stop worrying about what would happen if they got sick, Stern suggests, a basic income would allow folks to stop being so anxious about where their next paycheck is coming from. And that would liberate them to tackle all sorts of pursuits, including the entrepreneurial and the artistic. (Many, of course, would continue to work for a regular employer to supplement their basic income, but they’d still have much more flexibility than they do now.)

“I’m really curious,” Stern says, “what would that security guard do? Who are the philosophers and the dreamers?”

There are plenty of critics who dismiss all of this as a utopian fantasy. Others hate that under a basic income, the lazy and irresponsible would benefit. In fact, proponents need to acknowledge that some of the money is inevitably going to be handed “to the beach bums,” remarked Yanis Varoufakis, the former Greek Finance Minister, who favors a basic income.

Because of these and other concerns, the Swiss referendum isn’t expected to pass. But it is an important milestone nonetheless, as more and more people begin to reconsider what constitutes “work”— and who should pay for it.

Rick Wartzman is senior advisor to the Drucker Institute at Claremont Graduate University. The author or editor of five books, he is currently writing a narrative history of how the social contract between employer and employee in America has changed since the end of World War II.

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