December 26, 2017

Universal basic income gaining strength

NY Times -The idea [of a universal basic income] is gaining traction in many countries as a proposal to soften the edges of capitalism. Though the details and philosophies vary from place to place, the general notion is that the government hands out regular checks to everyone, regardless of income or whether people are working. The money ensures food and shelter for all, while removing the stigma of public support.

Some posit basic income as a way to let market forces work their ruthless magic, delivering innovation and economic growth, while laying down a cushion for those who fail. Others present it as a means of liberating people from wretched, poverty-level jobs, allowing workers to organize for better conditions or devote time to artistic exploits. Another school sees it as the required response to an era in which work can no longer be relied upon to finance basic needs.

“We see the increasing precariousness of employment,” said Karl Widerquist, a philosopher at Georgetown University in Qatar, and a prominent advocate for a universal social safety net. “Basic income gives the worker the power to say, ‘Well, if Walmart’s not going to pay me enough, then I’m just not going to work there.’ ”

The universal basic income is clearly an idea with momentum. Early this year, Finland kicked off a two-year national experiment in basic income. In the United States, a trial was recently completed in Oakland, Calif., and another is about to launch in nearby Stockton, a community hard-hit by the Great Recession and the attendant epidemic in home foreclosures.

The Canadian province of Ontario is enrolling participants for a basic income trial. Several cities in the Netherlands are exploring what happens when they hand out cash grants unconditionally to people already receiving some form of public support. A similar test is underway in Barcelona, Spain.

A nonprofit organization, GiveDirectly, is proceeding with plans to provide universal cash grants in rural Kenya.

As a concept, basic income has been kicked around in various guises for centuries, gaining adherents across a strikingly broad swath of the ideological spectrum, from the English social philosopher Thomas More to the American revolutionary Thomas Paine.

The populist firebrand Louisiana governor Huey Long, the civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr., and the laissez faire economist Milton Friedman would presumably agree on little, yet all advocated some version of basic income.


Guillermo Calvo Mahe said...

Strange not to mention Richard Nixon in this article.

Anonymous said...

Can we please dispense with these band aids to cure the gushing wound which is capitalism?

A centrally planned socialist economy could easily pay a guaranteed income, and supply much more to the people.

If productivity gains due to robot labor were justly distributed, utopia would be possible.

Anonymous said...

Glorious workers paradise, eh? Utopia? I can't believe a functioning adult wrote that with sincerity. You'd be (rightly) among the first to go if your utopia was ever realized.

Anonymous said...

Industries make billions from technology which they did nothing to develop. Evey person deserves a share.

Anonymous said...

Universal Basic Income? The owners will just raise their prices.

It is simply NOT POSSIBLE to solve poverty by handing out money. It would end up being just one more giveaway to the owner class, who I'm quite sure are 100% in favor of it no matter what their public position.