Thursday, September 28, 2017

Universal Basic Income and The Workers in the Vineyard

Here's an interesting reflection on theology, justice and economics for you...
A friend just posted a Buckminster Fuller quote that spoke to Universal Basic Income (UBI), and since I had been percolating on last Sunday's gospel text it seems I was ripe for recognizing a connection that had eluded me until now.
That parable perfectly describes a UBI scenario. Workers are paid the same regardless of how long they work, which is at the crux of why the parable is an offense to many. But *relative* compensation is not what it's speaking to. Rather it's speaking to *minimal justice.* That can be seen in two places:
First, they payment is "a days wages" which represents the amount needed for basic life for a family, maybe even more. That interpretation is consonant with what Jesus invited us to ask for in The Lord's Prayer, i.e. "our *daily* bread."
Second, it's notable that when the owner hires people at later hours of the day he says that he will pay them "whatever is right." Is it *right* to pay the same for less work? Not in terms of capitalistic wage equity. So in what sense *would* it be "right?" In the sense of UBI, in which it is socially and morally *right* to ensure that everyone has *enough* to live on (again, "daily bread.")
You could also note that this reading does not in fact *contradict* a capitalist ethic & system completely. Yes, it established a "floor" below which no one should have to fall. But it also allows for an Owner who is no doubt better off, financially, than the workers in his vineyard. This is the same sentiment as we find in 2 Cor. 8:15 where we read that "“The one who had much did not have too much, and the one who had little did not have too little.”"
So, there's that.

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