The Tremendous Potential Of A Universal Basic Income
It is time for us to think big. The policies being implemented by today’s leaders aren’t working to address inequality or bring shared prosperity. Around the world we see rising discontent, rising division, and rising danger.
But our future is not set in stone. We don’t have to accept that things will keep getting worse. We keep failing to solve our problems because we’re using outdated ways of thinking, and we have closed our minds to the tremendous possibilities of rethinking our world.
We have the power to change this.
The idea that can reshape our world for the better is a Universal Basic Income. While it comes in different forms and there are many names (Universal Income Security, Guaranteed Income, Basic Income, etc.), and proposals for how it will be implemented, the underlying idea is that all citizens are guaranteed a basic level of income no matter what. This would provide income security for every citizen, regardless of employment status or other factors.
Often, supporters of a Universal Basic Income are thrown on the defensive by supporters of the status quo. But think about it for a moment, shouldn’t the defenders of the status quo be the ones on the defensive? If the current system was working, we wouldn’t even be having this discussion. A clear sign of a broken and failing system is a rise in revolutionary thinking.
A Universal Basic Income would be a revolution in our economy, and our relationship with one another. It would be a revolution that would address the root causes of our society’s many problems, changing the course of our world for the better.
Now, open your mind, and allow yourself to imagine the ways a Universal Basic Income would usher in a new golden age for humanity.
The End Of Poverty & A World Of Increasing Abundance:
Some people say that you can’t legislate an end to poverty. The facts say otherwise. Here is just one of many examples: According to the National Bureau for Economic Research (NBER), the advent of social security (government transfer payments to seniors) had a clear and direct impact on seniors poverty. Check out the graph below:
You can see that the more support people received, the lower poverty goes.
“The authors estimate that a $1,000 increase in Social Security benefits is associated with a 2 to 3 percentage point reduction in poverty rates for elderly household,” the report stated. “Applying this estimate to the change in Social Security benefits between 1967 and 2000 suggests that the increase in benefits can explain all of the 17 percentage point decline in poverty that occurred during this period.”
So yes, you can legislate people out of poverty.
Whether it’s seniors, children, or adults living in poverty, the evidence shows that people can be lifted out of poverty when the government invests in them directly. And it would also bring big savings.
This is often lost in discussions of a Universal Basic Income. Yes it would be a large investment, but consider the massive costs of poverty. According to a study by the Educational Testing Service reported in the Washington Post, the cost of child poverty in the United States is $500 Billion per year. This means that a Universal Basic Income that eliminated poverty would bring massive savings, not to mention a surge in economic growth and prosperity. And since those with low incomes tend to spend a higher proportion of new earnings, and spend it more often in the local economy, we would see the revitalization of poor neighbourhoods leading to increased opportunity and abundance, leading to…
An Economic Renaissance:
Humanity has long dreamed of a world where abundance was universal and work was handled mostly by machines. Without fully comprehending it or preparing for it, we have been moving in that direction. Nearly 50 per cent of jobs are at risk due to automation. Long-term stable employment is harder to find, while short-term, piecework jobs are becoming more common.
These factors mean that production costs will decline, which could bring real prices down, while corporate earnings surge. This would grow the economy, but without a Universal Basic Income, the income divide will continue to grow as corporate profits are concentrated in fewer and fewer hands, while the vast majority of people see their jobs become more precarious and are pushed out of the traditional labour market. Our current welfare system fails in this new economy, since it’s designed to help with short-term periods of unemployment in between long stretches of steady employment, rather than providing a baseline of income security.
The key is to embrace the advances of automation, while ensuring that corporations, investors, and the wealthy are taxed at a level that enables a Universal Basic Income that guarantees income security for every citizen. Thus, as corporate profit margins increase, production efficiency goes up, and real prices come down, a Universal Basic Income will enable all citizens to benefit from and participate in the advancing economy. Just as Henry Ford understood when he paid his workers high wages, no business can succeed if there aren’t enough people with the money to buy their products.
As just one exciting example of this potential economic renaissance, consider the future of automobiles. If cars move down the same path as computers (rapid advancement at decreasing cost), highly advanced (and increasingly automated) vehicles will become available to more and more people, just as advanced smartphones are today.
A Cleaner Environment:
As our world transitions from Fossil-Fuels to other forms of energy, we need to ensure that workers are treated fairly and provided with support as industries change. Support for policies to protect the environment must be built on broad consensus from working people and must ensure that we aren’t destroying people’s livelihoods. The decline of the manufacturing centre shows how inadequate our current welfare and employment insurance system is to the challenge of global change, as entire towns have been decimated by economic shifts. The Universal Basic Income would provide income stability to areas that saw job loss, creating a buffer for workers who need to retrain, while continuing to bring money into the local economy to keep local stores in business.
A Universal Basic Income creates a foundation to support and sustain advancing automation, which will bring greater efficiency, leading to less environmental impact from manufacturing, and a lower cost to embracing renewable sources of energy. A Universal Basic Income will also give workers more bargaining power, which will mean more options to work from home, reducing the environmental impact of transportation.
A Healthier and Happier Society:
The fear of losing a job and being thrown into poverty, or being stuck in poverty even when working, is a source of massive stress in our society. So many people stay in jobs where they are exploited, mistreated, overworked, and underpaid. Fear is what keeps them there. We have to ask ourselves if this is the kind of society we want. I believe our society should be built on a foundation of hope and empowerment, not fear and exploitation.
A Universal Basic Income will free people from fear. Free from the fear of poverty. Free from the fear of exploitation. This would empower people to achieve things we can barely begin to imagine, and it would make our society a much healthier and happier place.
As reported in Business News Daily, “Nearly half of all workers suffer from moderate to severe stress while on the job, according to a recent survey. And 66 percent of employees report that they have difficulty focusing on tasks at work because of stress. Stress has been called the “health epidemic of the 21st century” by the World Health Organization and is estimated to cost American businesses up to $300 billion a year.”
Here is what Michael Blanding from Harvard Business School wrote in Forbes Magazine about the cost of workplace stress to businesses:
“Our work can literally make us sick. Long hours, impossible demands from bosses, and uncertain job security can take their toll on our mental and physical well-being, leading to stress-induced aches and pains and anxiety. In extreme cases, the consequences can be worse—heart disease, high blood pressure, alcoholism, mental illness.“
And what are the sources of this stress?
“For their latest research, Goh, Pfeffer, and Zenios began by identifying 10 sources of stress that can affect health. Some of these contributors were directly related to on-the-job dynamics, such as long hours, lack of control, job insecurity, and perceptions of unfairness in the workplace. These factors affect health in two ways, says Goh. “They are both inherently stressful on the body, and also lead to unhealthy behaviors like alcoholism and overeating.” Other factors the researchers investigated stretched beyond the workplace, for example, work-family conflict, lack of health insurance, and layoffs or unemployment.”
Alleviating this stress would bring huge savings to the healthcare system as well. This is what happened in the Dauphin Mincome Experiment, as the number of doctors visits declined and the hospitalization rate dropped by 8.5 per cent.
A Universal Basic Income would forge a new relationship between employee and employer, and free people from the pervasive fear underlying our society. The result would be a more hopeful, more healthy, and more happy society. We would be empowered in a way never before known in human history.
A New Golden Age
To recap: A Universal Basic Income could end poverty and create a world of more abundance, usher in an economic renaissance, help us create a cleaner environment, and make our society happier and healthier by freeing people from the fear underpinning our economy.
This would be revolutionary. And with our world heading in the wrong direction, we need a revolution in thinking.
It’s time to usher in a new golden age. It’s time for a Universal Basic Income.
Read more about Universial Basic Income
- Scott Santens’ amazing guide: UNIVERSAL BASIC INCOME FAQ
Photo credit: Sam Howzit (Flickr) https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/ (Text Added)