Recently I asked the social media crowd if anyone would like for me to review a particular book. One of my friends’ recommendations was “The War on Normal People” by Andrew Yang, one of the candidates for the 2020 Presidential Campaign. Mr. Yang is an entrepreneur who is making waves in the political pool by strongly encouraging Universal Basic Income, or UBI, which would be an allowance given to all Americans regardless of wealth or status or job. “The War on Normal People” was written to explain why Mr. Yang believes so strongly in the necessity of the UBI and the benefits that could come about by giving what some would consider an “unnecessary handout”. His main focus is the impact of automation on jobs which cause a crumbling middle class, ruin the American infrastructure, and leave workers who might not be able to embrace the technological shift in the economic dust.
As far as providing a book review, my judgment will be pretty harsh. “The War on Normal People” is a non-fiction book that relies on a lot of statistics; numbers can be boring and dry, and I will always stand by the idea that statistics can be misleading. I am not saying that the statistics Mr. Yang uses are wrong by any means, but I try to take into account that many immeasurable factors shouldn’t be ignored when trying to quantify such broad topics as economic and societal breakdowns. Mr. Yang paints a self-proclaimed dire picture of what is happening to the United States economy. The book itself is a boring warning of how fucked up America is with statistical evidence as proof.
However, if I shift away from the book itself and focus on the topic it gives as the reason behind the economic down-turn, I can easily discuss the idea of automation taking the jobs of the “normal” people. This book reminds me of a real-life Chapter One of Manna, a short story about the future of automation that can go one of two ways: Utopian or Dystopian. I strongly advise everyone read that story (by Marshall Brain). Mr. Yang seems to be trying to push people into the Utopian direction but seems to forget the main reason Utopian societies do not exist: the people within the society kinda suck as a whole. We can try to shift from buying into capitalism (haha, haha), but we shouldn’t forget that capitalism works because it is ran by and profited by flawed humans.
“The War on Normal People” can be considered a call to attention more than a call to action. Yes, technology is shifting how we labor and make money in today’s society, and this time in humanity is an opportunity to be a more Utopian society…but Project Australia is a pipe dream (read Brain’s short story). I’ll keep encouraging people to view capitalism differently, to want to care about each other as humans, and to embrace arts and humanities as soul-enhancing ways to live their lives…but society needs to change beyond just my practically non-existent influence. And maybe Mr. Yang is capable of encouraging America to embrace that change.