UNIVERSAL BASIC INCOME… ARE WE READY FOR IT?
Universal Basic Income (UBI) is an idea that has been around for a while. With automation replacing blue-collar and white-collar jobs, UBI is needed. Forty-eight percent of Americans favor UBI.
Universal Basic Income is a simple system where the government gives people a set amount of money each month. Would UBI replace the safety net? Many details would need to be worked out. The system gives an equalizing floor from which all people start.
How much per month? Some say $1000 a month, some say more and some say less. Child allowance could be $250 or $300 each month. In the late 1960’s President Nixon proposed this system as a “Family Assistance” program. The proposal failed.
A small study of UBI was done in Canada in the 1970’s. The results were good. New mothers had more time at home with their children. High school students stayed in school and were able to graduate. Hospital visits decreased as did injuries and mental health issues. Work such as homemaking and caregiving were recognized and paid for.
UBI has worked in Namibia, Kenya and India. It gives people income security. Child nutrition improves because parents can afford to buy healthy food. Parents can afford school uniforms and tuition. Literacy rate improves. Women are empowered.
Canada is trying it again in Ontario. Participants receive an annual income of $17,000. Finland is also experimenting with UBI, giving 2000 citizens 560 Euros each month. The results are good, especially in mental health and quality of life.Job quality and productivity improves when workers are financially secure.
UBI reduces poverty and income inequality. As Rutger Bregman (Dutch author and TED speaker said, “Poverty isn’t a lack of character. It is a lack of cash.”
UBI encourages skills training. It gives people time to study and attend school. It allows people to become entrepreneurs. It protects people from low wages and gives income security, reducing stress in the family. According to the book Evicted, many people in USA spend up to 70 per cent of their income for rent. A guaranteed monthly income would provide rent money and stress relief.
What would people do with their time? Do you mean you are paying people to stay home and think? Or just to stay home? That might not be a bad idea.
According to Sam Altman, tech guru, UBI could stimulate new ideas and wealth. ”If 10 percent of the people created new products and services and new wealth, that is still a huge net win.” Imagine what could happen if 33 million Americans were paid to think and to create.
Tech leaders say UBI will be a necessity as automation replaces jobs. What else can we do? People need income for basic needs. Consumers need money to keep the economy going. The beautiful thing about UBI is that people are given a set amount of money each month which they then give away. UBI is a stimulus for the economy.
This would call for a new meaning and purpose in life.
It would call for the meaning of life to go beyond being a worker and consumer. People would have time and resources to develop talents and to contribute to the community. UBI would counter fear, scarcity and selfishness. People could better develop social relationships and civic and cultural engagement.
Sources: “A Universal Basic Income Would Do Wonders for the US Economy” in The Fast Company, 9 – 13- 2017
Universal Basic Income, The Nation, August 15, 2017