Ice Cream and Freedom Dividends

I made ice cream today. Yes, I still make ice cream on a regular basis. It is cheaper than buying it and it also tastes better. So why not? On the spur of the moment I made Key Lime Pie ice cream.

It was unbelievably good. 4 people ate it all up in one sitting and when it was gone at least two of them had their faces buried in the bowls. You want the recipe? Of course you do. What a silly question.

I started with base recipe #2. I pretty much use that exclusively now. Easier and (cheaper) than the custard base. To that I added:

  • 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract

After the cream had started to churn I poured in

  • 1 package of true lime

That was it! Delicious, unbelievably good, Key Lime Pie ice cream.

Do you know what else would be delicious? If Big Data paid us for our data.

I was disappointed when Andrew Yang dropped out of the presidential race. When people run for president, if they receive the nomination or if they catch my eye, I read their platform. I can’t say I’ve ever read every platform of a candidate with a fine tooth comb except for once: with Andrew Yang. I read his position on every issue and read every proposal he put forward. It was enticing. I knew when I was done here was someone that was putting forward a vision of America that was so different from anything I’d encountered before as to be unprecedented. And that if he somehow got elected and succeeded, America would never be the same.

His main issue, and what he is most famous for, is Universal Basic Income or UBI. Now, as a conservative, I scoffed at this idea.  However, as I started to do research on it I discovered some interesting and important things:

  1. It was advocated by Thomas Paine in his work Agrarian Justice. Yes, that Thomas Paine. The Thomas Paine whose work was more widely read than any of the other founding fathers. You could say, for Thomas Paine, UBI was just common sense.
  2. Richard Nixon was an advocate of UBI. He was such an advocate for it that he launched, in 1968, an experiment spending millions testing UBI on 8500 Americans spread out geographically across the country as well as demographically. At the end of the trial period they found that it worked. However, other conservative advisors, under the influence of Ayn Rand (a notorious anti-Christian author) pushed back. Instead, Nixon introduced the Family Assistance Plan which was a bill designed to modify Johnson’s welfare plans.
  3. I’m not going to go into this too much here (that’s not the point of this post) but it is worth noting UBI is not welfare. Welfare would be eliminated in a UBI situation. Welfare encourages unemployment (boy the stories I could tell about working with low income people who wanted better jobs but were afraid of hitting the dead zone where they make too much to qualify for welfare but too little to live–literally to live; and so they stay in under paying jobs or simply unemployed). In Yang’s platform people could basically choose: welfare or UBI but not both.

Now, what’s the point of all this? Well Yang dropped out. And then he did something odd. He founded an organization, Humanity First, which promptly started to introduce UBI to select cities and towns in various states.  Today, news broke that he had launched another non-profit, the Freedom Dividend Project. Based out of CA, its goal is to make Big Tech pay people dividends for the use of their data. This was another piece of his platform: if oil companies have to pay you mineral rights for drilling on your land, why are Big Tech companies allowed to sell your data and make billions of dollars off of it while you receive nothing? 

I’ll let Yang speak for a moment on the issue:

Facebook today is a $650 billion company built largely upon the monetization of our data. How much of that value are we seeing? We have increasingly become commodified and packaged for those who want to occupy our attention.

They are not just profiting from these practices. They are also influencing our actions and attitudes by feeding us information that maximizes our engagement above all else. We are being pushed in specific directions to the detriment of our democracy, mental health, and free will. Instead of having things sold to us, we ourselves have become the product, and we are being sold to those with the means to buy access to every detail about our behavior — and to shape what we do next.

The question is, what do we do about it?

Indeed, what are we going to do about it? I know! Wait for the government to act. I know, I’m a pretty funny guy.

Here’s the odd thing about Andrew Yang: it is almost as if he ran for President because he really cared about America and not just himself or his own political capital. He had ideas he believed were important and when he dropped out he made an unusual conclusion: why wait on the government to fix this? Why not just start trying to be the solution now.

And that is sweet. Almost as sweet as my ice cream.

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