We are witnessing the death of language as words are systematically abused in ways that are contrary to their meaning. Communication requires both sides of a discussion to agree on the meaning of words. We can all understand that speaking Spanish to a Russian is unlikely to result in effective communication. Both sides know that the message isn’t getting through and they can act accordingly. But what happens when two people use the same word but attach different meanings to the word? In innocent cases the result is unintentional miscommunication, but in the hands of politicians the intentional abuse and destruction of language is a weapon of mass deception.
A skilled politician abuses words to build a coalition among people that think they are on the same page, but in reality they are not. This is a form of lying and deception. The intention is to trick other people into believing something that is not aligned with reality. Not only are people deceived, but they lose the ability to communicate with each other! This makes revealing the deception harder. Communication breaks down and the only way to recover is to intentionally define the meaning of words every time you speak.
When people don’t know the meaning of words it takes much longer to communicate. When people disagree on the meaning of words it can completely sidetrack a bigger discussion into an argument about the “proper” definition. Not only do people lose the ability to communicate, they lose the ability to think clearly. Words are handles to ideas and if the meaning of words is muddied then so are the ideas. Corrupting language to achieve a political end is like using atomic bombs to achieve a military end. The collateral damage and radiation take decades to recover from and makes the land you wish to conquer uninhabitable.
With that background in place, let's look at an example of this abuse of language.
Universal Earned Income (UEI) by Dictionary Definition
The following definitions are provided by google which is historically a good starting point for a generally agreed meaning of words. That said, the publishers of our dictionaries and encyclopedias are increasingly changing the "dictionary" meanings of words to fit political agendas. When they do this the real meaning doesn't actually change, but it sets in motion the destruction of the word in a sea of ambiguity. At the very least it is reasonable to expect people to use words consistently and in non contradictory ways. So without further delay, here is what anyone who understands the english language would understand Universal Earned Income to mean:
- of, affecting, or done by all people or things in the world or in a particular group; applicable to all cases.
- gained deservedly in return for one's behaviour or achievements.
- obtained (money) in return for labor or services.
- money received, especially on a regular basis, for work or through investments.
How does this compare with the description provided by a popular third party presidential campaign?
- Universal Earned Income will be provided in equal amounts to every American as a monthly stipend.
- Universal Earned Income guarantees that all Americans will have their essential needs met as members of America’s political and economic system.
The UEI is certainly universal, applying to all people. UEI is income only in the broadest sense of the word income (which has been debased by the IRS’ desire to consider almost everything income for tax purposes). Even the IRS acknowldeges a differece between income and gifts. But what about the word "earned"? What behavior, achievements, labor or services did an individual have to provide in order to earn this income? According to the description, there is nothing one has to do. This is a Universal Entitled Handout.
How much is the handout? Enough to meet the ‘essential’ (aka basic) needs. It is a relabeling of Universal Basic Income using less honest language to appeal to those who feel income must be earned. This deceptive name appeals both to those paying the taxes and those receiving the handout. Few people like to think of themselves as 'freeloaders'. It is far easier to accept money from others if you believe you have 'earned' it. No one likes to give money to people, but everyone considers it just to compensate people who have 'earned' it. The corruption of language is most successful when people become willing accomplices in their own deception.
I have been unable to determine any difference between Universal “Earned” Income and Universal Basic Income other than the name. This fact is further supported from the website describing UEI:
"Universal Income has been supported by academics, business leaders, and politicians from across the political spectrum. Supporters include Milton Freidman (the leading free-market economist), philosopher Thomas Paine, and business innovator Elon Musk."
Here they drop the term “earned” and claim that people who support Universal Basic Income are supporting Universal Earned Income. If these really are two unique concepts, then it would be disingenuous to assume support of UBI is evidence of support of UEI. If they are really the same concept then it is disingenuous to rename it Universal Earned Income.
I asked this presidential candidate about UBI and was actively ‘corrected’ to use the term UEI. Even though I consider this presidential candidate a friend who I honestly believe “means well”, I think everyone must hold others accountable for the pollution of language, especially for political ends. It is my hope that his campaign will either provide justification for the use of the term ‘earned’ and how UEI is distinctly different from the widely known concept of UBI or change their language to indicate that they really mean UBI.
Universal Resource Inheritance vs UBI
Over the years I have written a number of articles about Universal Basic Income. In my first article, The basics of Basic Income, I explain the economic unsustainability and moral indefensibility of the concept from a libertarian perspective. A couple years later I derived the concept of Universal Resource Inheritance by asking questions about Allocating the Unearned Resources of the Universe. It should be obvious that I am not against giving everyone money every month. What I am against is the corruption of our language in an effort to trick people who believe things must be earned into supporting an economically unsustainable needs based entitlement system. I call my concept Universal Resource Inheritance (URI) because it is distinctly different from UBI in that it isn’t needs based and that there is a philosophical origin to a distinct concept.
Universal Resource Inheritance achieves most of the same objectives of Universal Basic Income but does so in a manner derived from first principles and economically sustainable. See my Grand Unified Political Theory for more insight. Note that my “Grand Unified Theory” post is four years old and that more recent thinking has refined it. I have organized my latest thoughts into an upcoming book. Please Subscribe to be notified when the book is available.