Save the humans, not the companies

Monday, March 23, 2020. Edited March 28.

The Estonian government announced that they would pay 70% of salary to every employee who has lost their job directly or indirectly by the Corona crisis. Here is a translated summary of what I wrote in my Estonian blog (I also reviewed the content where my original post wasn’t clear):

Paying the employees of every company is just symptom treatment. If we use up our reserves now, we will soon get into trouble with the next crisis.

The COVID-19 pandemia will –let’s hope it– soon be under control thanks to the work of researchers in medicine. But the crisis won’t be over. A little virus shows us that some of our activities simply made no sense. Some business activities are doomed to change dramatically. Travelling around the world just for fun, spending hours per day with entertainment just to kill our time. Wasting our limited natural resources just for permitting a minority of us to enjoy a little bit more comfort…

It is time to lean back and ask: what does this planet need? How can we operate it in a sustainable way?

Don’t cling to your mistakes just because it took much time to develop them.

Some business branches will die. Whole rows of companies will go bankrupt. But the government’s job is to help the humans, not the companies. Companies –though we call them legal persons– are not humans. They are just fictions, business ideas, greedy giants. A liberal government should make one thing very clear: keeping alive some private corporation it is not their business!

You might ask here “But if companies go bankrupt, who is going to do the work and to make money?” Answer: Not all companies will go bankrupt, and there will be new companies, and some companies will review their activities. The money comes from those companies which are successful. It has never been different. Civilization starts when those whose wealth is above average share some part of it with those whose wealth is below average.

We should rather introduce Unconditional Basic Income in Estonia now. Every citizen gets a monthly wage (let’s say 500€) from the tax office. Employers pay these 500€ to the tax office instead of to the employee. That’s all we need to really get rid of the problem.

When a company fails, let it fail. Nobody gets seriously injured if we have a basic income. The only losers are the company owners. That might look sad for them at first sight, but (1) the rule of the game has always been that the one who dares is the one who suffers when the idea turns out wrong and (2) the owners get basic income as well, they are not going to starve, and they can focus their skills and energy on new projects.

Here is some –translated– feedback from Estonian friends on Facebook:

“The only big problem is that average wage in Estonia is not big enough. Many people get only the official minimum wage.”

Answer: And where is the problem? You mean that the total costs for the government will increase? Of course they will. Don’t believe that the Corona crisis will be for free. But to get concrete: Do you know how many work at minimum salary? And how many get a medium salary? How many are workless? And how many get a high salary? I started a simulation table (disclaimer: it needs more work):

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1-LIYAbB2CUM0kar5UiG_vBuMlvf1ztDlWCm8ljDJDL0/edit?usp=sharing

“Social help in Finland/Belgium/Germany is already now high enough to call it a basic income. And they are in big troubles with whole family trees of people who live at state expense don’t have any motivation of giving back anything to the community. Humans are beautiful and good only when they have the required ethics. A human without that ethic background can as well live as a pig.”

Answer: These “whole family trees of people who live at state expense” are bloated urban legends. Of course there are people who exploit common welfare for their purposes, but they are exceptional and temporary. They are far from being a “big trouble”. That question is as old as humankind. It is Baal (cult of success) against Jahve (cult of solidarity). Christians believe that every human is basically good and beautiful, loved by God.