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To begin, when we analyze alternative forms of social organization it is useful to separate the feasibility from the achievability of a proposal.3 Gourevitch and Stanczyk cast doubt on one story about basic income’s political achievability, much more than its underlying feasibility. The question of feasibility asks whether a program, once achieved, would unravel through the unintended consequences it generates. It is valuable to ask whether or not a system will prove sustainable once installed, even if we do not have a good theory to explain how it might be established in the first place. For example, we can ask whether this or that model of socialism is feasible, or whether problems of coordination, innovation, or motivation would erode its social reproduction. The question of feasibility is not merely abstract. It is a test any desirable vision of the future must pass, and regrettably, most theoretical models of a socialist economy, however promising, do not inspire genuine confidence in their internal feasibility. In part, this is because these models are so different from ones we know that it is hard to determine where the blockages lie. Thus, in my view, the “realism” of basic income lies not its imminent political achievability, but in its feasibility.


The question of achievability is different, asking instead how we can get from here to there. Serious discussions of achievability begin with the acknowledgement that genuinely emancipatory transformations of the world cannot be achieved overnight or legislated in the next Congressional session. Most analyses of socialist models avoid posing this question at all for the very forgivable reason that it is hard to answer.4 We might make confident assertions about the range of options on the political agenda in the next five years but claims about what might be achievable fifty years down the road are inherently difficult to evaluate. Assessing the feasibility of a single model is hard enough; the question of achievability forces us to consider the transition between two models. But if we are serious about social change we ought to be able to say something meaningful about achievability, and I regard the “non-reformist reform” path as the most promising.

—p.139 Does Basic Income Assume a Can Opener? (137) by David Calnitsky 5 years, 1 month ago