I have posted before on the idea of a universal basic income which is looking to become more of a political reality all the time as politicians along with related think tanks around the world work together to consider what the consequences of such an income would mean on society. Since putting that post up there has been increasing news of different countries experimenting with the idea of a basic universal income. There was an excellent discussion also done in Basic Income: Prospects for a Radical Idea in a Transforming Welfare State for the country of Japan that highlighted a few trends that may at some point see Japan begin experimenting with a basic income. Finland seems to be the furthest in implementing a basic income where 2,000 unemployed there have been given a monthly income. The case is being seen as a test case. And as the “Silicon mafia” as they have been called, build their private estates around the world with private beaches, heliports, submarines and private aircraft, the notion of a basic income may seem like the only alternative.
Universal Basic Income: Far-Fetched or Inevitable?
February 2, 2017
Editor’s Note: Automation is coming, and it’s going to drastically reduce the amount of labor needed for society to function. This will result in many people – particularly unskilled workers – being out of work and having very little to do. This could have many negative ramifications, such as increased crime, substance abuse, and so forth. While I’m still apprehensive about UBI, we need to be prepared for automation and its consequences.
It is a utopian idea, literally, but is enjoying a renaissance as politicians and policy wonks grapple with technology-driven changes that could redefine our very understanding of work.
If robots and machine intelligence threaten to render many white-collar jobs obsolete, then what will people do for money?
Enter the concept of a “universal basic income”, a flat sum paid to all regardless of your existing wealth or ability to work. It is one of the rare ideas that has support from both the libertarian right — which favours tearing up the welfare state — and the left wing.
In France, Benoit Hamon has emerged as the surprise Socialist candidate for April’s presidential election first round, on a radical programme that includes such an income — to be funded in part by a new tax on industrial robots.
National or local governments in other countries such as Finland, the Netherlands, Canada, Scotland and Brazil are already evaluating how such a revenue might work in practice.
Finland is furthest down the road. On January 1 it started a two-year trial to give 2,000 unemployed Finns a monthly unconditional payment of 560 euros ($590).
At the least, advocates argue, a basic income could replace the thicket of unemployment benefits currently on offer in many advanced economies. Those can, perversely, discourage people from retraining in new fields or taking on lower paid work that society needs, such as care for the elderly.
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