universal basic income

Since I began depending on Social Security for my income, my dedication to youth justice issues has not exactly been diminished. My biggest challenge has been learning to live within my means, not the target of my efforts. If anything, going onto Social Security has freed me up to pursue what I believe is important to society, regardless of how well (or poorly) it pays.

I have lately been hearing more and more that all people of all ages should receive “Universal Basic Income” (also called unconditional basic income, Citizen’s Income, basic income guarantee, or universal basic income). It is a form of social security in which all citizens or residents of a country regularly receive an unconditional sum of money, either from a government or some other public institution, in addition to any income they receive from elsewhere. In this definition, I emphasize the word “unconditional,” which means that a benefit would be paid, regardless of whether the recipients are TV-watching couch potatoes or stunningly productive entrepreneurs. You get paid for just being alive.

The arguments for Universal Basic Income generally boil down to three points:

(1) Eliminate and reduce poverty and inequality, with dignity and security for all;

(2) Save capitalism, as technology substitutes for human labor and reduces wage/purchasing power; and

(3) Encourage entrepreneurship, lifelong learning, creative and caring work. and civic engagement.

Universal Basic Income probably won’t happen in my lifetime because the idea is surely too morally reprehensible to the red tie guys and gals. They probably support the caste system in India, too. But then, they don’t have any better ideas than “some people deserve to suffer.”

I recently read this article about some things that Elon Musk said about Universal Basic Income. It deserves a hearing.



Elon Musk: Robots will take your jobs, government will have to pay your wage

by Catherine Clifford, CNBC

November 4, 2016

Computers, intelligent machines, and robots seem like the workforce of the future. And as more and more jobs are replaced by technology, people will have less work to do and ultimately will be sustained by payments from the government, predicts Elon Musk, the iconic Silicon Valley futurist who is the founder and CEO of SolarCity, Tesla, and SpaceX.

According to Musk, there really won’t be any other options.

“There is a pretty good chance we end up with a universal basic income, or something like that, due to automation,” says Musk to CNBC. “Yeah, I am not sure what else one would do. I think that is what would happen.”

In a country with universal basic income, each individual gets a regular check from the government. Switzerland considered instituting a universal basic income of 2,500 Swiss francs ($2578) a month this summer. Voters ultimately rejected the plan, but it sparked a broad, global conversation.

Also this summer, President Obama addressed the idea of a universal basic income in an interview with the Director of MIT’s Media Lab, Joi Ito, and Scott Dadich, editor in chief of WIRED: “Whether a universal income is the right model—is it gonna be accepted by a broad base of people? that’s a debate that we’ll be having over the next 10 or 20 years.”

While society is slowly mulling over the idea of a basic human income, technology is rapidly changing the global workforce.

For example, in the future, semi-trailer trucks will be able to drive themselves. And though that won’t become the status quo for a while, it will mean that there won’t be a need for quite as many truck drivers, says Musk.

Some drivers will transition to fleet operators, responsible for monitoring the status of a fleet of trucks, not any one individual truck. If a truck appears to be having issues, then the fleet operator would come in remotely and solve the problem.

“Actually, it’s probably a more interesting job than just driving one [truck],” says Musk.

It’s likely those truck drivers who no longer have a job might see the situation differently.

But the optimistic Musk sees increased automation as an overall benefit to society, even an opportunity.

“People will have time to do other things, more complex things, more interesting things,” says Musk. “Certainly more leisure time.”

A long horizon of leisure time may sound good, but it can also be an intimating prospect. For many, having a job and someplace to be each day is grounding and gives purpose to life.

Indeed, Musk himself is driven by his professional ambitions. He hasn’t needed to work to pay his bills for well over a decade. In 2002, Musk sold PayPal, the online payments company he co-founded, to eBay in a deal that put $165 million in his pocket. Instead of kicking back, he has launched multiple companies and is trying to get to Mars.

Even though Musk’s ambition may be more outsized than most, many Americans would probably also want to continue doing some kind of work. Binge watching Netflix is only enjoyable for so long.
Cat Clifford is the senior entrepreneurship writer at CNBC. She was formerly a senior writer at Entrepreneur.com, the small business reporter at CNNMoney and an assistant in the New York bureau for CNN.


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3 Responses to “universal basic income”

  1. 1 Hat Bailey
    November 10, 2016 at 3:40 pm

    I know my position on this will not be popular here, and will most likely be misconstrued by some who read it. It’s good my desire to be liked and avoid controversy is not terribly strong or I wouldn’t bother. The basic problem with ideas like this is that the idea that forcing “good” behavior as the best way to solve thorny social problems does not produce “good” people, nor does it usually work. You can’t force people to love, or even to care about things they don’t care about. It does not change minds or hearts, indeed it usually produces resentment and anger. Suppression only works temporarily before things break out somewhere and the resulting chaos is worse than the problems that existed before. The other problem is that to turn the kind of power over to so called “governments” to force those who earn by their own intelligent productive efforts, to those who do neither, is extremely dangerous. The people who rise to power in such institutionalized monopolies on force are the power hungry arrogant spiritually bereft people who know what’s best for everyone and are positive that their vision of a perfect world justifies the most cruel and vicious means. Even if it were just ordinary do-gooders who were in charge of the “ring of power” the results would be the very kind of enslavement, whether by one tyrant or a majority, that the founders of a constitutionally restrained republic intended to avoid. If accomplished by voluntary means such a thing could be wonderful, indeed in such an enlightened society who would need money or a “universal basic income” at all? It is not that I don’t care about those who live in poverty and suppression, but I don’t see it as my place to use force and threats in order to make those who have honestly earned abundance to share it with others. To do so would say that my core belief is that most people cannot be trusted to share with those less fortunate unless made to do so at the point of a gun, whether in my hands or in the hands of my agents. I tend to believe that most people who are successful in a loving society will nearly always contribute. Those who don’t in ours often justify their lack of generosity by judgments which come from fighting to try and keep what they have and seeing the efforts of those who don’t have to take by force what they have earned or created. There are some who are very wealthy who got their wealth by criminal means. These people are sociopaths and without empathy and deserve to have their ill gotten gains taken to compensate those they have cheated and robbed, but these are usually the ones who have been able to buy the favors of the power hungry people who they have helped to get into the positions of power in the institutionalized monopolies of power I spoke of earlier. There has to be a better way to solve this problem that relies on the decentralization of power and voluntary means, whether by example, teaching, persuasion, brotherly kindness and love unfeigned. It is my hope that such a day will eventually come in our spiritual and moral evolution.

  2. 2 Willow54
    November 14, 2016 at 4:47 am

    Did I miss something in reading through this concept? It’s an interesting idea, that somehow government is going to sustain us when tech supplants our efforts in the workplace, but surely there’s a fundamental flaw here? Where does the government get the money to pay welfare benefits now? From the taxes of the working population, of course. So, if the working population gradually downs tools in favour of robots and computers, there are going to be more of us seeking welfare payments and less of us able to contribute the taxes to support them until eventually nobody works and contributes. Where does the government get its’ tax revenues from at that point? Clearly this model is simply not sustainable in the long term. The giant corporations would resist any attempt to soak them for tax money to pay out welfare to all the people they fired in favour of robots. I can imagine them relocating off-planet to avoid earthbound taxes. (I’m assuming this utopia is centuries in our collective future).

    If this discussion is alive anywhere, I haven’t heard it. Indeed in my own country things are going the opposite direction. Welfare is in the process of being reformed to the extent that it is no longer possible simply to turn up at the Job Centre every week to confirm that you are unemployed in order to receive your welfare check. They expect you to jump through hoops big time to qualify for the money now. You have to keep a diary of every job you have applied for since the last time you got a check, and if they think your efforts to find a job are too half-hearted, they stop your money as a ‘sanction’. If you don’t turn up on time to appointments with Job Centre staff, they stop your money. There’s a whole industry growing of sanctions, ‘spies’, tests, and assessments, all designed to reduce the welfare bill by significant amounts. They will now even stop your money for daring to live in a house that is deemed to be too big for your assessed needs.

    Does this sound like Stalinist Russia? Well, it’s not, it’s one of the wealthiest countries in the developed world. This is what is happening in the United Kingdom of Great Britain. The gulf between those who have money and those who are deemed to be living in poverty is growing ever wider. We now have a new terminology to describe people who are working but can’t fully support themselves nevertheless. They are called the working poor. These are the people who stand in line on the way home from their factories and offices to receive food parcels from charitable organizations to be able to feed their families. This is the 21st century reality folks, not the pie-in-the-sky idea of Mr. Musk.

    • 3 tape
      November 15, 2016 at 8:21 am

      “From the taxes of the working population, of course.” This is a general problem of our tax systems. The people working are paying for everything, the people making the actual money do not. There has to be a paradigm change, as less and less people will have work. There is just a statistical reality we have to face, and right now the elites are working hard to stop it from happening, worldwide and not just in the USA, which will make a member of that elite their president next year.

      The whole discussion at this stage is academic, at an almost philosophical stage. There are multiple obstacles and unknowns in the equasion. Expect the northern eurpean countries to make the first steps into that direction, as they just have the infrastructure to apply the principles and are in the right headspace to lead it into a fruitful direction.

      However, the denial to even just think about the idea is shrinking.

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