Tag Archives: Universal Basic Income

The Deeper Side of Universal Basic Income That’s Not Often Discussed

 Joe Martino
August 29, 2020

The topic of UBI has surfaced again as Germany gets ready to begin a trial with some of its citizens. Is there a deeper question behind UBI that isn’t often spoken about? A question that begins thinking outside of our current ideologies?

When most people think of universal basic income we go through the standard path of questioning: how would it work? How would it be paid for? Are we really losing jobs that fast that we need this? What happens if people don’t contribute to society? Does it create more government dependency? What ‘ism’ does this fall under?

All good questions, but perhaps ones that don’t truly look at some deeper thoughts behind UBI as a result of our current way of living. What do I mean by this? I go back to a statement Andrew Yang made in relation to why he was presenting UBI as part of his US presidential campaign:

“We could get the boot off of everyone’s throats just like that. And we have to do it, because we’re in the midst of this historic transformation of our economy that is pushing more and more of us to the sideline.”

Before we get more into Yang, we did a segment of The Takeaway where we spoke about the deeper side of UBI. You can watch it below. I’ll continue exploring the subject in writing below the video as well.

Essentially, Yang is saying that he feels too many people are struggling to do even the basics, even when they have multiple jobs, and thus they can’t even think about exploring taking a breath, doing something they love or are interested in simply because they are always just trying to survive. Of course, some people will say, “go get educated and get a better job” as if education is the path to money. This is merely an illusion as our current economic system not only MUST create economic classes by design, but there must always be those who struggle. Constant growth is a must, and so companies are driven to do things more inexpensively year after year, replacing human jobs with automated jobs. Innovation is driven by the need to make things cheaper so companies can survive, thus pushing people out of work.

This seems like a ‘bad’ thing as people won’t have money to survive, but when you think about it in another way, we’ve found ways to have innovation take over having to spend our lives working. The only thing holding us back at this point is an outdated economic system that does not align with the technological advancement our minds have created.

UBI brings up a deep question: in people’s hearts, why is this idea attractive to them? What is the potential deeper inspiration?

Sure, you can choose to gawk at and judge people, saying they are ‘lazy’ or ‘commies’, but I challenge you to open your mind and go deeper. Is it possible that what we’re really asking for behind UBI is not so much getting free money, but that we’re tired of our current ways of living? We’re ready to live a life we know is possible, where we can thrive as a society without having to slave 40 hours a week to make ends meet? Perhaps people are feeling that a radical shift in the way we live is possible, but is being held back by our ideologies and systems built out of them. Maybe the discussion of UBI is really pushing us to re-imagine our entire system?

Like I mentioned above, we had this discussion openly in a segment of The Takeaway. The intention is not to go over all the existing studies and literature on the topic, but more so to appeal to a greater sense of engagement asking how YOU feel.

Watch the segment here.

Germany Begins Universal Basic Income Trial Where People get $1,400 Every Month for 3 Years

August 22nd, 2020

Amid the deepening crisis, Germany is set to begin a new trial for universal basic income (UBI), which will entail 120 citizens receiving €1,200, or about $1,430, every month for three years.

As the world continues to struggle with an unprecedented recession triggered by the coronavirus pandemic, governments across the globe are scrambling to find ways to minimize the social and financial damage amid the tsunami of evictions, job losses and hunger.

Amid the deepening crisis, Germany is set to begin a new trial for universal basic income (UBI), which will entail 120 citizens receiving €1,200, or about $1,430, every month for three years – an amount just above the poverty line in Europe’s largest economy.

The volunteers’ experience living on the amount will be compared with that of 1,380 other German citizens who won’t receive the stipends. The experiment, which is being conducted by the German Institute for Economic Research, is being funded through private donations from about 140,000 individuals, reports Business Insider.

Political parties and figures both on the traditional left and the right have raised the demand for basic income, and some of its strongest proponents include tech oligarchs and venture capitalists like Peter Thiel, Marc Andreesen, and Jack Dorsey.

Supporters of the plan argue that inequality would be reduced by basic income and it would provide an added layer of financial security for certain people. Supporters of the plan, such as former Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang, also suggest that with jobs in myriad industries slated to be rendered obsolete by automation and computerization, a universal basic income is required to prevent a deeper humanitarian and financial crisis.

Critics on the left have suggested that basic income is a neoliberal Trojan horse that would be a vehicle for dismantling what little remains of the welfare state, offering the “paying people for being alive” stipend in exchange for austerity and the destruction of social safety nets that protect the most vulnerable members of society and offer a small barrier to extreme inequality.

On the right, however, opponents have claimed that the idea is far too expensive and would disincentivize people from seeking work and would be tantamount to subsidizing “junkies, alcoholics, and scam artists.”

However, with many countries experiencing a freefall in jobs numbers – as well as sharply declining consumer demand and household spending – the idea of UBI has gained popularity unseen since the idea saw a surge of interest following the 2008 financial crash.

In Spain, upwards of a million jobs have been lost due to the pandemic, causing officials to mull offering UBI to the country’s extreme poor. However, the plan has seen wide gaps that have left out some of the most at-risk members of society, ranging from workers in the informal economy to undocumented migrant workers.

Italy’s experiment with basic income plans was also widely panned as a revamped form of unemployment insurance, with many people being left out of plans – proving that the program is anything but universal.

However, on a micro scale the plan has been successful. In one small Kenyan village, a Silicon Valley-funded nonprofit called GiveDirectly reportedly had a good degree of success giving villagers the equivalent of USD $22. Economic journalist Annie Lowrey told The New Yorker that the village, which previously lacked paved roads, home electricity, and decent plumbing to one that now “a bubbling pot of enterprise, as residents whose days used to be about survival save, budget, and plan.”

Politicians from across the political spectrum in Columbia have also urged the government to introduce an Emergency Basic Income to mitigate the damage of the COVID-19 pandemic. The municipal government of Bogota under Green Party Mayor Claudia Lopez was the first city in the South American nation to offer basic income to vulnerable households struggling to feed themselves amid the lockdown. The plan also included integrating 581,000 poor households into the banking system, according to a press release from the City of Bogota

The researchers backing the German study hope that their experiment can help sharpen and improve the debate about basic income by offering new scientific evidence.

“The debate about the basic income has so far been like a philosophical salon in good moments and a war of faith in bad times,” Jürgen Schupp, who is leading the study, told Der Spiegel.

“It is — on both sides — shaped by clichés: Opponents claim that with a basic income people would stop working in order to dull on the couch with fast food and streaming services,” he continued. “Proponents argue that people will continue to do fulfilling work, become more creative and charitable, and save democracy.”

“Incidentally, these stereotypes also flow into economic simulations as assumptions about the supposed costs and benefits of a basic income,” he added.

“We can improve this if we replace these stereotypes with empirically proven knowledge and can therefore lead a more appropriate debate.”