I came across an article this morning about the idea of a universal basic income. It’s not a new concept but it is one that keeps re-surfacing every so often.
The concept leads to a lot of questions: how would we pay for it? What about people who are already wealthy (the 1% kind of wealthy, not the big house in Toronto house rich but cash poor variety)? Would people work less or would they work more?
I can’t speak for the rest of the world, but I will speak for me. $1000 / month basic income would mean freedom to pursue some of my dreams. I would be able to step beyond Maslow’s Hierarchy base line of physiological needs and into the area of safety. It would open the door for me to be able to continue climbing that pyramid.
I remember reading a story about an author – whose name I can’t recall at the moment (if someone knows this story, please remind me who it was!) – who wanted to finish her book and said to a friend that she just needed 6 months and $6000 to do it. A day later, a shoe box arrived with $6000 in it. No excuse now, right?
That’s an unlikely scenario for most of us but it wouldn’t be if universal basic income was a reality. Businesses could be launched, books written, symphonies composed if only we knew that we could buy bread at the end of the day.
The makers of bread make bread, and sell it to stores, so that people with the money to buy bread, can buy bread. If bread isn’t getting bought, less bread is made. If all the bread is getting bought, more bread is made. Those who make the bread aren’t making a top-down decision on how much bread to make. They are listening to market forces, and the decision is bottom-up. This is perfect, right? Just the right amount of bread is getting made and at just the right price. No, it’s not. Why? And how can this be improved?
Right now only those with the means to pay for bread have a voice for bread. We love to use the term, “voting with our dollars”. So is the outcome of that daily election accurate? Does everyone have a voice for bread? No, they don’t. There are people with no voice, because they have no dollars. The only way to make sure the market is working as efficiently and effectively as possible to determine what should be getting made, how much to make of it, and where to distribute it, is to make sure everyone has at the very minimum, the means to vote for bread.
I’m sure it’s a pipe dream that won’t happen in my lifetime, or even my daughter’s but it’s a dream worth at least investigating, don’t you think?
What DO you think?
ADDENDUM: The author of the original piece quoted in this post, Scott Santens, tweeted me this piece: Harper Lee wrote To Kill a Mockingbird thanks to a gifted basic income! Fascinating!
ADDENDUM 2: The author I was trying to remember is Camilla Gibb!