There’s a lot of thought and discussion on the Universal Basic Income (UBI) form of social security in very different parts of the world, all with different social and capitalist backgrounds.
UBI would guarantee all citizens or residents of a country to regularly receive an unconditional sum of money, either from a government or some other public institution, in addition to any income received from elsewhere.
While Switzerland rejected the idea of introducing a UBI of 2,500 Swiss francs in June, the Netherlands and Finland are planning trials with UBI in 2017, there are big ideoological differences on the effects this will have for jobs and society.
In the US, progressive voices like Larry Page think UBI offers a solution: “Work less,” which would certainly reduce the amount of time people spent on unsatisfactory jobs and provide more opportunities for people to pursue their true interests. Ray Kurzweil thinks innovation is going to explode when people have less work to do.
Ben Schiller wrote this review of Andy Stern’s new book, Raising the Floor, in which Stern offers a blueprint for introducing UBI, covering the funding side, the politics side, and the out-in-the-streets mobilization side. He’s asking the sort of questions that need to be asked if we’re going to introduce UBI. Stern mentions:
We all, to a certain extent, have a right to income from wealth that “we inherit or create together. I think there will be a huge conceptual agreement at some point that the best way to end poverty and prepare for the future is some kind of guaranteed income.
Joel Dodge in Quartz thinks that Universal Basic Income wouldn’t make people lazy–it would literally change the nature of work. Other voices in the US think that UBI is economically unsustainable, while in Europe we hear different views and opinion on the subject.
According to Loek Groot, an associate professor at the Utrecht University School of Economics who is working with the government on the UBI project, “the Netherlands’ current welfare system wastes too much money and doesn’t do enough to help its beneficiaries.” Groot’s hope is to learn if a guaranteed income might be a more effective approach.
Anthony Painter of the UK’s Royal Society of Arts, for example finds that if you want to incentivise work at every level of income, then Basic Income is simply the best system.
Musician Brian Eno believes that a basic income would free people to use their gifts and talents more effectively, making them both happier and more productive.
I argue that we must place human happiness and wellbeing at the heart of the decision making and governance processes that will shape future investments in scientific and technological research, development, and commercialization because, in the end, technology is not what we seek, but how we seek.
In the end, the question is not exclusively related to economics but as well to the fact that we need to prepare our society for a world with less jobs and more time for people to spend wisely. A world where citizens are not only hooked on entertainment, but a world where we can stimulate people to learn to live, to learn to create things and value, and where we’re able to enjoy life with less time to work to live a happier life.
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